Friday, September 30, 2011

Lookin' Out My Backdoor

(Doo doo doo. Anyone else hearing CCR?)

I love the sky. Whenever you step outside, it's half the world, and it's never the same from one day to the next, one hour to the next. And when it is, everyone gets depressed because it's usually due to fog, smog, or living someplace where it's constantly overcast. Why would anyone do that?

Here in beautiful Cache Valley, if you don't like the sky, wait five minutes. (Okay, that's what they say about weather. It's sort of a joke. It's actually true about the sky.) Even on days when there's not a cloud in sight, you still get to watch night descending like a curtain in the west or rising in the east. I didn't notice this until I was in Australia and away from my mountains. The flat land and clear air made it easy to see the shadow of the horizon on the sky, but it happens here as well.

The sky is a canvas on which God paints an ever-changing mural to reach through our eyes and into our hearts. Do you ever feel like you can't look fast or wide enough to take in a rushing sunset or flaming sunrise? That's when I grab a camera. Usually, I step out onto our back deck.

Sometimes I step onto the front porch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Almost There

I printed out a copy of my manuscript and marked it up while reading it aloud. This morning I moved most of those changes to the computer. I'll finish up tonight or tomorrow, and then there's another change I'm thinking about making.

And then I'll be done.

And then I start looking for someone who can sell it to a publisher for me. I am both eager and reluctant to begin this process.

Someone should invent a machine for it. Writers could slide their pretty manuscripts into a slot, and in three seconds the machine would spit it back out along with a slip of paper like an ATM receipt. It would have the name of the very best agent for you or it would say, "Sorry, please try again."

No waiting. No wondering. No shadowy doubts lurking backstage.

But that's impossible, soforgetIevenmentionedit. I love waiting!

It's the wondering I don't like.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Torn Sky

Today, I give you another photograph! Hooray!

This particular photo, you may notice, is the background of this very blog! Why? Because it reminds me of DRIVERS. It looks like the sky was torn wide open and is bleeding. There's a distant clear like freedom, but you don't know if the clouds are withdrawing or moving in. There's darkness everywhere but that narrow strip, and that's where you want to be. (And the mountains nicely complement the clouds.)

I shot this one from my back porch with a 5 megapixel Nikon Coolpix. That camera's really showing its age, but has always taken good photos. My wife has grabbed lots of amazing pictures of the kids with it even though the shutter lag is terrible.

For awhile, I had a logo that I threw together in Illustrator on top of it. Anyone remember this?

I wanted it to look like flames, kind of. And the font is meant to look like old machine-readable type, appropriate for a book with robots in it. And the crosshairs, well, that's what you see from the driver's seat. (I'm not really a graphic artist, but I pretend sometimes.)

And here's the composite image. Feel free to download it and use it as your desktop wallpaper while you eagerly await the release of DRIVERS sometime in the future. I know you want to.

Oh, and here's a bonus picture I didn't take. It's the vehicle the ARV3s in my book are based on.

That's right. They're REAL. Javelin missiles and all.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Interview: Jolene Perry

Occasionally, we here at the Imaginary Friends blog get the chance to interview an author. Some of you may remember the previous interviews. Both of them. If so, please be assured that this interview is NOTHING LIKE the previous interviews.

Okay, so it's actually pretty similar, but there's one big difference:  This time, we have a REAL AUTHOR!

Jolene's Book

Jolene B. Perry is the author of uncounted millions of books, one of which will be available in PRINT on October 8th. It's called The Next Door Boys. Jolene also has a fabulous blog. (But don't go there yet! You might not come back!) She lives in Wasilla, ALASKA, which pretty much proves that she's crazy.

And if that's not proof enough, on to the interview!

First, Jolene, what would you like me to call you in the interview to mark where your answers start? I could use your initials, JP or JBP; your name, Jolene or Jo or even Joe, just to confuse people; or something completely arbitrary like a ^, or #,...or $&@#. You know, whatever you want. Jol, Jole, Jolly P. 

I will regret doing this later - BUT my nickname in elementary school from the girls I did 4-H with (yep) called me Joleenie Weenie Fettuccine. So, you COULD shorten my answers to JWF. Also, when I was in high school I did show jumping (had an amazing horse that stood at 17'2" - he was awesome) my nickname there was Lean Mean Jumping Machine Jolene - so, you know, the abbreviation would be a bit longer LMJMJ.
Jolene (who has cool shoes, apparently)

Okay, JWF, now for some questions.


(BS? Where did you get that? My initials? That doesn't seem fair.)

BS: Are you still working on all those books?

JWF: No. Not THOSE, books. The other ones. The new ones. The old ones are collecting dust at 24,000 words, the new ones will be collecting dust at 24,000ish words any day now.

BS: When will I be able to walk into a bookstore and buy them?

JWF: Uh . . . the dust covered ones?? YEARS. The Next Door Boys?? In your neck of the woods in October - HA! Hopefully my mainstream sometime the very end of 2012, or maybe 2013, you know, if we all live past December.

BS: What are they about?

JWF: Uh, so, there's this girl . . . and she meets this . . . umm, boy . . . and I think that she's going to have some sort of problem you know? Something that will make her NOT like the boy . . . yeah . . . and the guy? He just got burned, and so he's not ready for a relationship, and then . . . well, I'm not sure, but there's bound to be an amount of kissing, and probably, but not definitely a happy end, or something like that . . .

BS: Are you friends with Sarah Palin? Why don't you just ghost write a book for her?

JWF: Because I might strangle her first?? So, there's that. Her husband goes snowmachining at their cabin in Petersville, so believe it or not, that's the only place I've ever seen them - two and a half hours north of the town we both live in. Though - she's never here anymore. Oh. And no one can see Russia from here, aside from Google Earth.

BS: How much money do writers like you make?

JWF: Oh, you're going to get excited about this. Ready?? I figure that I'll make just over a dollar a book for The Next Door Boys. This type of fiction usually sells between 500-1000 copies. There's exceptions, of course, but that's the norm. I get my FIRST royalty check seven months after the release date of the book. So, that'll be say, May 2012. When I get that check, I'll hop down in my newly purchased coach-fare ticket, to do a book signing in your area, in hopes that it pays for my rental car. Pretty sweet, huh?

BS: I'll mark my calendar! Where do you get your ideas?

One of my favorite books I got the idea for while Mike and I were talking about old eighties movies in the Taco Bell drive-through. It turned into one of my FAVORITE books - Night Sky, which comes out later this year. (smooth selling my new book, right?) I wanted a book that STARTED with a bad ending, to see what happens after the guy plans a night with his best friend, who he's been in love with, and she ends up with the other guy. You know, like Duckie in Pretty In Pink (who totally should have gotten the girl). I got one idea while thinking how one thing could have totally changed my high school experience (Want To Be). I wrote a book after hearing Breakeven by the Script (Knee Deep, goes on sub next week :) So, yeah. from my life, but twisted. From songs, and from the Taco Bell drive-through. I could give you a list as big as my project list, but that would be boring to everyone but me. 

BS: What's the greatest thing about being a writer?

JWF: I love the escape I get from books, but being a writer you get to immerse yourself in the story in a whole different way. It appeals to my creative side, and to the side of me that loves precision, order and math. Though - I'd argue that the higher up in math you get, the more creativity you're allowed in solving problems. I know, I know - I used to be a math teacher, what can I say?

BS: How long does it take to write a book?

JWF: Depends drastically. I wrote the first draft of The Next Door Boys in two weeks. BUT spent months overhauling it. I wrote the first draft of Joy (at publishers being read hopefully sometime this century) in 8 days, and the MS has only been tweaked since then. I started another project a year and half ago that's sitting at 24,000 words (a third of the way done) and I have no idea how long it'll take me to get back to it. Right now I'm bouncing between three projects (not recommended) so it'll be hard to say how long it takes. Also, I probably took this question WAY too seriously.
One month to first draft.
Read to Mike.
Two weeks of pretending it doesn't exist.
Go over it. 
Send to Heather who works for shoes (she's a reader not a writer, and helps me make sure the story all ties in)
Go over with her corrections.
Let it sit.
Read again.
Send to another reader.
Go over.
Let it sit.
Read again. Pretend that each page is the ONLY page the editor will see. SO HORRIBLE AND TEDIOUS.
Send to my agent :D

BS: Do you still ride horses?

JWF: I have access. I have people who would LOVE for me to ride their horses because they know who I am. Okay, that just made me sound snobby. Several things stop me. 1. I need a place for my kids to go while I ride, and right now, I use that time for writing. 2. It's expensive, I'd get sucked in quick and we just can't afford it. 3. I can never own a horse again, because I have really expensive taste in horses, and it just isn't going to happen. Also, when your hobby costs that much, you end up doing JUST that when you have spare time, and there are a million other things I like to do - climbing, mountain biking, hiking, rafting, chasing my kids around the museum, hanging at my parents cabin (no roads there, snowmachine only) so, no. No riding. I might change that next year when Jack goes to Kindergarten, and ride once a week or so. I miss the jumping bad.

Thanks for stopping by Jolene! Have a safe trip back to Alaska!

(I'm gonna have to think of harder questions next time.)

Monday, September 19, 2011

An Unusual Weekend

I had an unusual weekend. Heck, it wasn't just unusual, it was unique. Completely. Ohhhh, and it would take too long to tell about it and I'm not sure I should, so I won't.

Okay, so I will. Sort of. Skipping the details.

I helped take the Boy Scouts on a fifty mile bike ride. (They made it, which is really impressive for twelve and thirteen-year-olds on mountain bikes.) Along the way, we were asked to help in the search for a missing person. And then we found her.

Cool, eh?

Yeah, I left out most of the story.

I'm responsible, at least partly, for the spiritual education of those boys. Two weeks ago, I taught them a lesson in church about showing respect for women and girls. I didn't mince words. I told them the girls they knew at school were more likely than them to deal with eating disorders and depression and that they could have a huge impact for positive or negative on those girls. I even told them girls were more likely to attempt suicide. That wasn't the whole lesson, but it was a big part of it.

On Saturday, the lesson continued. The young woman we found had tried to kill herself. She was injured, but alive and conscious. And I use "we" loosely, because I never saw her and only two of the boys did. The rest of us were half a mile up the road.

A couple of the young men were a little traumatized by the encounter. Had the injury been an accident, it likely would have been easier to process. Yesterday at church, we talked about it with them.

I didn't lead the discussion. (I don't think anyone in that group, boys or adults, knows my history in that regard. This blog is available for anyone to read, but I don't regularly send people here.) It was led by the man in our group who found the woman and talked with her until the ambulance arrived. And he did a good job. He emphasized the fact that no matter how worthless you feel, people still love and care about you.

The adult leader of the young women's group also joined us. Her day job is helping girls who have eating disorders and depression. She told them again just how big an impact they can have on their peers. She's never experienced depression herself, but she gave an excellent description of what it's like.

I told the boys that depression is a disease that people can recover from. I said the woman we'd helped could go on to live a long, happy life.

And if I could, I'd say the same thing to her.

So it was kind of an amazing, emotional weekend for me. I don't know what the scouts got out of it and I probably never will. I can't give them experiences like this on purpose or know what they'll mean in the long run. I'm only partly responsible for their education.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Toto Deserved It

I had a life-changing realization early this morning. The exact moment of my paradigm shift is hard to pin down exactly. It gradually came to light as I drifted from sleep into consciousness, and the more alert I became, the more urgent and important this thought seemed to me.

You know how in the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, Elmira Gulch comes to Dorothy's house to collect Toto and take him away to be put down. And Dorothy's all freaking out and everyone's mad at Ms. Gulch.

A Victim of Animal Cruelty
Well, the dumb mutt deserved it for biting a cyclist!

That's my life-changing realization, and I'm going to make it my mission to vindicate Elmira Gulch. All these years, we've all been on Dorothy and Toto's side. In reality, Ms. Gulch was the good guy. She was the victim, standing up for her right to live in safety, and we've vilified her for it!

Put Toto down! That's what I say.

Of course, by the time I got in the shower it didn't seem so important anymore. Just really funny. I'm sure it had something to do with riding my wicked-witch bike home after dark last night.

My Wicked Witch Bike
See, I have this other side of me that you people who only know me from this blog have never seen. (No, I'm not a witch. Silly.) It's not a secret life, it just doesn't have much to do with writing. Except that it's pronounced exactly the same:  riding.

(Oh, stop! It IS pronounced the same by me and most red-blooded Americans. (That's for my wife, who pronounces her Ts.))

I love bicycles. Do you know the formula for determining how many bikes you need?

b = n + 1

Where b is the number of bikes you need, and n is the number of bikes you have. That's why I have two road bikes, my ride-to-church bike (the wicked witch bike), a John Deere bike frame (I know! It's so cool!), and a recumbent trike (which my wife has commandeered), two more bikes for my wife, and at least two or three bikes for each of my kids. That includes an awesome tractor-bike my son drives around all day long. He even drives it up to the bus stop to get his sisters after school. Oh, and there's a Schwinn Varsity that I'm going to put a mailbox on someday.

I used to ride upwards of 150 miles a week commuting 30 miles round trip to work each day. Then I started writing.

Now I'm soft around the middle.

I kind of feel bad and miss riding. I miss being in shape. (I don't miss coming home dripping saltwater so much. Usually.) I just love writing more, and my time is limited. I still ride to church! It's a mile and a half away. *sigh*

But here's a picture of me in my glory days, wearing my super-suit:

Mr. Incredible
(That's during Lotoja, a 200 mile bike race that I did. Once.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

More Photos

This is supposed to be a writing blog, so why am I posting photos? Because sometimes they just fit with what I'm writing.

My novel In Memory has an ensemble cast of characters. (Its reincarnation will split them up into smaller groups, giving each their own entire novel, but that's another story. Pun intended.) Awhile ago, I got an urge to give my blog an In Memory-themed background and pasted silhouettes representing each character onto a photo I had. (Some of you will remember that background.) 

Here's the original photo, which I took from the roof of the Doncaster Shopping Centre in suburban Melbourne, Australia in late 2000. It was shot on 35mm film, 200 or 400 ISO. The camera was a compact Pentax with auto focus and exposure. The scan was made from the negative. It's a pretty typical Australian sunset.

And here's the wallpapered version made with stock-photo silhouettes:

The feel of the sunset was exactly right for the book. The suburban setting was right, too. And I hate putting photos of actual people to my characters, because they're never quite right. The silhouettes work nicely. (Though I did have to swap one of the heads to get the hair right.) The guy on the far left is Peter, the bad guy of the book. His head and shoulders are currently my Twitter profile pic.

I also considered the photo below, which I also shot in Australia with the same camera. This is looking southeast from the highway between Finley and Tocumwal, New South Wales.

The storm is nice, but the sunset works better with people.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My Readers are in Boxes

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, normal people get locked in a box called depression. The reasons vary. Maybe it's a negative pattern of thinking, stumbled onto or learned from someone else. Unrealistic expectations is a common one. There are physiological reasons, too. Illness. Grief. Things that should go away but don't. Frequently, there doesn't appear to be any reason at all, even to the person in the box. All they know is that they're in their own private hell and there's no way out.

Some other people get mugged and stuffed into the box. Once inside, they can easily forget how they got there. They frequently blame themselves, even when it's obvious to everyone on the outside that it was the muggers' fault. It's a personal hell decorated with memories.

The boxes are about the same for both groups. Once a person has spent enough time isolated in the dark box, their eyes adjust. Not completely, just enough to read the sign over the most visible exit. It says "Death."

I just happened upon a blog post prompted by an attempt to ban the book SPEAK from public school libraries. It was about rape. It was courageous and moving and made a compelling argument for keeping books like SPEAK available. Because some teens need to know they're not alone. Because it sure feels that way when you're in a box.

It made me think. "My characters have nothing like that, no horrible past for readers to latch onto. Maybe I wasn't hard enough on them. Not edgy enough."

Then I thought again. "No. They don't have a horrible past because that wasn't my experience. Other people can tell their stories. I tell my stories."

I knew that already. I mean, DRIVERS is already written. I've already solved the problem of how to make getting locked quietly into a box interesting. Depression is hell, regardless of how one got there. I simply put a face on that hell, so my readers will know they're not alone—and it's not their fault.

I've never seen a book that did that. Not for people in the first group.