Friday, January 20, 2012

roll on

It is officially bragging time. The infancy stage of my writing career just took a step towards being a toddler as I have completed my first YA manuscript.

At 186 pages and 65,600 words, it is almost my largest writing endeavor. As far as personal records go, it is the fastest I have ever written that much and it is my longest manuscript written with the aid of character bios and chapter outline notes. Here is a picture of some of those notes.
I am saving them just in case the novel is a hit. This will allow my sons years from now to go into a pawn shop and sell them for a big chunk of change. Mental note: I better sign the pages. You might notice two different color papers. This is intentional.

The yellow pages were the first set of notes I used. These helped me to convert a two character 500 word flash fiction story into a 20 character beginning of a novel. Eventually the chapter notes became so disorganized that I transcribed the parts I liked onto the white paper on the right and continued from there. All said it is about 50 sheets of paper and span about six months of my life.

Just a quick anecdote about the ultimate conclusion of my WIP. Luckily work was slow this week and I got to finish writing at my desk This led to a problem for me yesterday, as I rounded third and headed for home. I was writing the second to last chapter and it was a tear-jerker. I was sobbing as I typed, hiding behind my monitor to avoid being seen. Then I saw a car pull up and realized I had a 10:00 am meeting. As the front door opened I ducked into the men's room and applied cold paper towels to my face to bring down the redness around my eyes. It was an emotionally draining meeting as I had to leave my characters in their sorrow for an hour and a half before I could return.

Alright, the first draft is done. Now it is time for serious editing work to begin, but first, recognition for two blessings God provided me. The first is my superlative wife, Paige Soule. She is incredibly intelligent in literary matters and is perhaps the most supportive and encouraging person in my life. To her credit she pulls no punches when it comes to critiquing my writing. She also reminds me at regular intervals that long before I ever considered writing a children's book manuscript, she beat me to the punch and wrote her own.

The second is her sister, my hip-cool-sister-in-law, Christa who is a very talented author in her own right. I say author because unlike me, she has all the trappings of author-hood including an agent. Paige and I would not know half of what we do about the world of book writing and publishing without having watched all she has gone through.

I have a feeling as my wife Paige is reading this blog she is yelling, "What the fu** are you doing writing a blog?!? Start working on the revisions!" I have little experience with how other editors speak to writers, but mine tends to have a little bit of a potty mouth. That's probably due to the fact that she is also managing my writing career and to date has done some wonderful things. If there is any justice in this world she will end up as a professional editor as I think she is brilliant.

Consider the fact that I am a writer who is not only sleeping with his manager but editor as well, and suddenly my life is very exciting. The editor I am being intimate with is a little more compassionate in the bedroom as she knows what I am capable of with a little guidance. On the other hand, the manager can be a bit of a bear in the bedroom as with her, it's all about deadline and opportunity.

With that being said, let's all raise a glass to my Editor and Manager who are working diligently on a deadline. Amazon's new author contest is ready to start accepting entries and those in the know think it is a perfect fit for what I just completed. I will be busy so don't expect a new blog post for a while.

I'll see you in February after I turn 45.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

left handed

Odd how the simple turning of a calendar page can set one's mind to thinking about the past and what part it may or may not have played in getting you to where you are today. On this past New Year's Eve, I had such a recollection and yet, I am still at a loss as to why I had this particular recollection. Maybe it is due to my turning 45 this year. Who knows?

This much is clear to me. The combination of sharing a New Year's Eve glass of Bailey's with my wonderful wife while sitting next to perhaps the most beautiful Christmas Tree I have ever seen in my house, and thinking about the excitement in my children's eyes as I set off fireworks to celebrate the last night of 2011, got me thinking about why I shoot pool left handed.

To answer why I shoot stick as a lefty, let me share with you, this story.

My paternal grandparents first came to Chicago in the early part of the 20th century, before the great depression. My grandfather was a construction laborer and grandmother was a hotel chamber maid. Here, in Chicago, they had two children, my father Ernest, and my aunt Mary. With the onset of the great depression, my grandmother returned to her native Austria with her two children and her husband remained in Chicago. A few years later when my father was seven years old, my grandmother would return to Chicago, leaving her two children behind. The next time my father would see his mother was when he was 18 years old, relocating to Chicago with his younger sister to reunite with their parents.

In the time they were apart, my grandmother did very well for herself. She and her brother purchased and operated a transient hotel with bar and restaurant called The Blue Danube. Located at 2300 North Cicero Avenue, it was situated across the street from the Western Electric Hawthorn Works which at the time held the record as the largest factory under one roof in the United States. In the photo to the right you see the massive factory structure and its imposing tower. My grandmother's building was the one at the right edge of the picture with the billboard on the roof.

Their clientele were neighborhood locals and Hawthorn Plant employees alike. Rumor also has it that one of the storefronts located on the side of the building was at one time leased to members of the Capone Outfit for the repair of pin ball machines. Truth be told, my father found a slot machine under a burlap sack in that storefront when the building was finally sold. That is another story, however.

After arriving in the city of big shoulders, my father set to work helping his mother and uncle in their business while furthering his education. He first learned English and then obtained a high school diploma at a YMCA high school. Then he began attending classes at Northwestern University which was interrupted when he was drafted to serve in the Army during the Korean conflict. While in Basic Training he met a man from South Dakota who would eventually marry my aunt and become my Uncle Roger.

Both of them were originally a part of the 101st Airborn but dad's background of German as a first language played in his favor. Instead of being deployed to the active theater of war in Korea, he was instead stationed in Germany with the Signal Corps laying out power lines in the Black Forest and playing his part in the Cold War.

With funds available from my grandmothers business, he purchased a Dodge Coronet Sedan while stationed in Germany. His Sergent only allowed him to have it if he could use it whenever he wanted to visit his girlfriends so his wife wouldn't know he was stepping out on her. Dad would also use the car to visit the places in Austria his family lived in, usually coming back with a trunk full of wine bottles. On one such visit, a family friend introduced him to a wine maker's daughter, the young woman who would become my mother, Eleonore.

When dad was done in the army, he and his new bride returned to the Chicago area to start their lives together. They would eventually have three children of which I am the youngest. Mom would spend her days with her mother-in-law who still spent her nights tending the bar as she had for 25 years. Mom and dad would help my grandmother manage her business as well but by this time the business was a pale shadow of what it once was. The Western Electric plant was nearly shut down.The neighborhood was in ethnic transition. On top of that the business was not worth as much as the property that it sat on was. As it turned out, the Blue Danube was in the proposed right-of-way of Chicago's long planned and ill-fated Cross-Town Expressway.  In the end, after my grandmother passed, the building would be sold quickly and promptly torn down. The last time I saw it, or rather the property, was in 1989 when I was in college. It had become a used car lot.

Well before that time, however, I spent quite a few childhood days in the bar. As I was too young to be left at home alone like my brother and sister. I would tag along with my mother and father, calling out from the back seat of the car when I would see the huge red neon Magickist Carpet Cleaning sign on the Congress Expressway that indicated our exit at Cicero Avenue was near.

There wasn't much I could do in the bar so I would hang out and drink Pepsi in glass bottles and play with my grandmother's German Shepard, Sheba. Occasionally I would talk to the permanent residents who still lived in the hotel rooms over the bar when they came in for their first drinks of the day. I only remember two of them. Janie was a character. Just think of any bar-fly and you have her in your mind. Her perfume was abundant and her smile forced, but she was always pleasant to me.

The other was a guy nick-named Poochie. He taught me how to play pool. I was barely old enough to see over the top of the table but he took the time to teach me a thing or two, including how to hold a cue. He always had quarters for the table and liked showing me how he could complete bank shots.

One more thing about Poochie, unlike me, he was left handed.