My writing process

 

Image

Recently, my friend Liz Fountain tagged me in a “blog hop” series where various writers answer questions about the way they write. Here are my answers.

 

1.) What am I working on?

At the moment, nothing. (Unfortunately.) Since my writing is a “glorified hobby” and not a major source of income, I have to do work that I’m not so passionate about during the day. Recently, I started a new job at a mill. In an effort to learn how to operate my pellet-spitting machine, I’ve decided to put my writing on hiatus and free up some space in my mind. Later, after I’ve conquered the machine and grown accustomed to my new job, I’ll start another book. (Or maybe just a short story. I haven’t decided yet.)

 

2.) How does my work differ from others in its genre?

So far, I’ve published two novels, Under the Electric Sun and Citizens of Purgatory, on Amazon. 

Under the Electric Sun is a dystopian, post-apocalyptic, science fiction story set in a massive underground city beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. While the “after-the-end-of-America-as-we-know-it” scenario is vaguely similar to Hunger Games and other dystopian novels, my book contains a lot of offbeat humor inspired by Douglas Adams. The main character in Under the Electric Sun is a cybernetic raccoon named Tristan, a government-issued tutor. Tristan and his dim-witted student, Jake Sheldon, throw sarcastic barbs at each other throughout the book. When Tristan and Jake climb a secret staircase and see the surface of the earth for the first time, they enter the ruins of an affluent gated community where the locals have turned swimming pools into gardens and golf courses into wheat fields.

Meanwhile, Citizens of Purgatory takes place in Alabama in 2003. I don’t really know which category to put this one in. I suppose you would call it a slapstick Southern gothic comedy. When I was writing it, my biggest inspirations were Garrison Keillor’s radio stories and Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

 

3.) Why do I write what I do?

I grew up with Doctor Who and Douglas Adams. I’m fascinated with science fiction, especially humorous science fiction. But I’m also madly in love with small town Americana, so I enjoy writing Southern gothic fiction too.

 

4.) How does my writing process work?

I start off with a vague idea of who the characters are and how the story will unfold. I write one chapter at a time, writing a rough draft of the chapter and fine-tuning it before I move on to the next chapter. Then I go back and overhaul all of them, moving through the manuscript one chapter at a time again. Sometimes I take brief vacations between chapters to avoid a nervous breakdown.

You can click here to order my books.

 

(The photo above is a paper typewriter made by Jennifer Collier. She’s a genius.)

Advertisements

The Black Keys

The Black Keys

Here’s a colored pencil drawing of one of my favorite bands, the Black Keys. I heard an interview with them on an NPR show called American Roots last weekend. I don’t remember everything they talked about, but they said they loved 1950s nostalgia. I’m fond of the 50s too, so I decided to draw a picture of the Black Keys and throw in some classic Americana.

This post might not make any sense at all. I have a miserable headache right now. I’m going to bed. I hope you’re all doing well.

Free e-book

Image

From April 10 through April 14, the Kindle version of Citizens of Purgatory will be free.

Nick Youngblood, the main character, just moved to Moccasin County two years ago. He works as a sportswriter at the local newspaper, even though he doesn’t know anything about sports. He stretches out his articles by packing them with lots of adjectives. Since Nick is relatively new to the small community, he hasn’t met many of the locals yet. One morning, as he drives to work, a wild-eyed stranger crashes into the back of his car. The man identifies himself as Angus Rayburn. After hurling insults at Angus Rayburn in the middle of the highway, Nick learns that Angus is a notorious murderer who only served a brief stint in prison. Nick’s heart is filled with terror as he realizes that he’s insulted a very dangerous man.

As Nick struggles to cope with the situation, he throws up on a cheerleader at a football game and loses his job with the newspaper. Next, he finds a job at a textile mill, the same place where Angus works. On his first day, Nick encounters Angus in the men’s room. The demented ex-convict pins Nick against the wall and promises to gouge out his eyes if he ever sees him outside the mill.

While Nick lives in a constant state of panic, worrying about Angus Rayburn, other fears and frustrations also plague him. He spends countless hours thinking of Ashleigh, a girl who sat in front of him in his high school algebra class. Nick desperately wants to find her and marry her. But, most of all, he wants to flee Moccasin County and move back home before Angus cuts out his eyeballs.

You can click here to take a look.

I hope you’re having a fantastic week.

How I became a sports fan

When I went to college in the late 90s, I wrote for the school newspaper. We only published one issue a month, but I poured all my energy into my articles and editorial columns, obsessively re-writing and polishing them late into the night, while guzzling Surge and eating bacon sandwiches from the gas station. I focused on the school newspaper with such single-minded passion that I neglected all my real classes … and therefore I flunked out.

After the college politely told me to go away, I started working at a potato chip bag factory, helping a man named Big Dan operate a giant machine called a laminator. The job wasn’t very complicated. I spent most of my time cutting sheets of plastic with a dull knife and prying lids off glue barrels. But Big Dan’s moods varied wildly from one minute to the next. Sometimes he danced and sang. Sometimes he burst into fits of rage, screaming at me and showering my face with drops of spittle. Every day, I dreaded Big Dan and his volatile mood swings.

Desperate to escape from the potato chip bag factory, I begged the local newspaper to hire me. I also drove to the surrounding towns, begging the newspapers there for a job. I wanted to write for a living. I told editors I would be happy to sit in a spider-filled basement and type obituaries as long as I could get out of the factory and squirm into the newspaper business.

Finally, an editor in a nearby town (a town I had never visited before my begging tour) said he needed a sportswriter. He asked me if I knew anything about sports. Smiling and fidgeting, I said, “Um, well, no, not really. But I would be happy to learn!”

Thus I began working as a sportswriter in January 2001. I wasn’t just a sportswriter … I was the only sportswriter at this particular newspaper.

I was also the sports photographer and the guy in charge of page layout. I covered the sports page with lots of pictures (big pictures) since my articles were so short and meager. At first, my stories only contained the final score, the names of the players who scored the most points, and a quote from the coach. Whenever I asked the coaches for their thoughts about the last game, I wrote down everything they said. Their terminology baffled me, but I nodded enthusiastically and pretended I knew what they were talking about.

I grew better over time. I learned that “PAT” stood for “point after touchdown.” I learned that a baseball team scores runs, not points. I learned to park my car as far away from the field as possible. I also learned a wide vocabulary of terms from Sports Illustrated and big newspapers which I incorporated into my own articles. For example, when a football team scores a touchdown, it’s better to say they posted a touchdown … or they lit the board … or they chipped away at the other team’s lead. These punchy little expressions fascinated me. The language was far more interesting to me than the games themselves. I never became an expert on sports, but I learned how to sound like one.

I loved and respected the athletes and the coaches and the work they did … but I never truly became a sports fan myself. I did become a devoted fan of the sports language, though.

I don’t work at the newspaper anymore, but I do like to listen to sportscasters on the radio sometimes. When I hear them throw around expressions like “lock horns” and “square off” and “buzzer beater” and “wild card,” it almost makes me want to go back to work at some seedy little newspaper office and bang out stories about games.

But not quite.

***

My new novel, Citizens of Purgatory, is based on some of my ridiculous experiences in the newspaper business. It’s available in paperback on Amazon. You can click here to order a copy.