Au revoir, Sky Mall: A musical tribute

It’s over…

The Sky Mall has filed for bankruptcy.

sky mall plane

And the immortal words of Pablo Cruise come to mind:

No, I don't know why they're nekkid.

No, I don’t know why they’re nekkid.

“And all your friends
They calling you a fool
Cause you don’t know
A good thing when you’ve
Got it in your hand”

And speaking of musical truths, I felt the only way to convey my heartfelt appreciation to the Sky Mall for the bounty of blog fodder over the years was an homage set to music.

My first instinct was to create a video slideshow set to the haunting “I Will Remember You” as sung by Sarah Mclachlan, but I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t have that kind of time.

sara mclaughlin

So instead, I’m asking you to sing along with the following karaoke track of Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight by The Beatles replacing the more commonly known lyrics with ones I’ve provide for you below. (Work with me, people!)

 

Without further adieu, I give you my musical tribute to Sky Mall. Last (sniff), in a series.

 

You’re welcome…

Golden Sky Mall

Once there was a place,
to shop for Sasquatch,

sky mall big foot

Once there was a place,
to shop for combs

sky mall hairmax laser comb

Weep pretty darlings, go on cry

sky mall celebrity crying 1

There’s no more shopping in the sky…

Siamese slankets filled the skies

sky mall siamese slanket

Creepy Elvis sang and sighed

sky mall singing elvis

Weep pretty darlings, go on cry

sky mall celebrity crying 2

There’s no more mall up in the sky

Once there was a place,
with magic toilets

sky mall magic toilet

Once there was a place,
for endless pools

sky mall endless pool

Weep pretty darlings go on cry

sky mall crying celebrity 3

There’s no more dog beds in the sky

sky mall dog bed

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

sky mall sumo table

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall zombie

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

sky mall exerciser

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall skeleton gnomes

I never give you my pillow,

sky mall travel pillow

I only send you my invitations

sky mall cover

And in the middle of the celebrations,

sky mall celebration

I break down

sky mall ostritch pillow

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

carry that weight for a long time

sky mall neck brace

Boy you’re gonna carry that weight,

carry that weight for a long time…

sky mall luggage scooter

*****

A fond farewell, Sky Mall. Your pages were scanned by millions.

sky mall autographed

Too bad no one ever bought anything from you.

Ever.

Cheaters never Win

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Neither NFL team I was rooting for on Sunday won.

Not that I had any strong allegiance to any of the four teams playing for their respective division titles. It mostly came down to picking Green Bay for sentimental reasons and Indianapolis because the Patriots just bug me–the team as a whole and Tom Brady in particular. Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 1.03.24 PM

Now it turns out that the NFL is investigating allegations of cheating by the New England Patriots. The focus of the investigation is whether the team intentionally deflated footballs used in Sunday’s game, which to me seems incredibly silly considering that the Pats tromped the Colts 45-7. I hardly think properly inflated footballs would have made much of a difference. Indianapolis was simply outmatched and outplayed on this particular Sunday. If New England cheated, they didn’t need to, and if found guilty, the punishment will most likely be the loss of a couple of draft picks. They’re still going to the Big Game.

“Deflate-gate” is just the latest in a string of accusations of cheating by the Patriots and will likely come to nothing. What’s the big deal? Should we simply follow quarterback Tom Brady’s lead and laugh it off?

"I think I've heard it all at this point. That's the last of my worries. I don't even respond to stuff like this." --Tom Brady

“I think I’ve heard it all at this point. That’s the last of my worries. I don’t even respond to stuff like this.” –Tom Brady

Maybe. But maybe not. I don’t know what will come of this latest investigation, but I do know that in previous controversies involving the Patriots the team wasn’t technically cheating. They stay within the rules, but many question whether they conform to the spirit of the rules and fair competition.*

That’s what bugs me.

It’s only cheating if you get caught.

Wait, check that. It’s only cheating if you get caught AND they can prove beyond any doubt that you cheated, in the meantime, quit your whining and accept that WE ARE WINNERS! I’m not picking on the Patriots, the world is awash in people taking short cuts, taking advantage and jumping through loopholes to get to the top.

Between 1999 and 2005, Lance Armstrong was credited to have won the Tour de France an unprecedented seven consecutive times.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.11.25 PM

He became a larger than life symbol of excellence and overcoming adversity, all the while consistently and voraciously denying any accusations that he used performance enhancing drugs. He even went so far as to sue journalists, friends and colleagues who accused him of doping. If he was cheating and getting away with it, there had to be a massive cover up involving numerous people, which is exactly what happened.

In the aftermath of his finally admitting that he was cheating all along, he not only brought shame on himself and the sport of cycling, but sullied the name of LiveStrong, his cancer awareness charity which has raised over 500 million dollars. (They have since cut ties with Armstrong.)

Cheating created an international superstar far beyond the sport of cycling, but Armstrong will forever be remembered for his deception, not his contribution to the sport. Meanwhile, a $100 million law suit and an arbitration for multiple millions more threaten to take away his considerable personal fortune.

Winning isn’t everything.
Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.02.10 PM
Especially when it costs you everything.

*One notable exception: The NFL determined that the Patriots illegally videotaped opponents from 2002 to 2007. Roger Goodell fined the team $250,000, and stripped New England of a first-round draft choice. Coach Bill Belichick was fined $500,000, the largest financial penalty against a coach ever.

Why I hate writing, Part 15: Experts, reviewers and other trolls

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

image courtesy of photo bucket.com

The novel got some good reviews, some mixed reviews, and some pretty nasty reviews. The New Yorker’s was literary water boarding: “…doesn’t even seem to have been written; instead it gives the impression of having been shouted onto paper…what remains is a debris of sour jokes.” (The author) dwells on that particular review in his memoir: “I am tempted to drown in my own particular gloating laughter even as I set this down. What restrains me is the knowledge that the lashings still smart, even after so many years, and if I ever pretend to be a jolly good sport about them, as I am doing now, I am only pretending.”

Catch-22The above quote was taken from a forward written by Christopher Buckley (novelist and son of William F.) for the 50th anniversary edition of “Catch-22″ by Joseph Heller.

To put this into context, consider that this debut novel is the 88th best selling book of all time and came in at number 74 on The Guardian’s 100 Greatest Novels of All Time.

Not that any such accolades matter much to a real, bonafide writer. Despite claims from people peddling self-affirming, Jack Handey-esque books that tell you you’re a writer simply because you write, I believe the universe has a way of weeding out those who are only attracted to the romanticized notion of being a writer. Anyone who tells you that being a writer is as easy as thinking/acting like one is trying to sell you something. Perhaps a book about being a writer. (Which ironically makes him a writer, but not you.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 2.25.11 PM

Which is not to say writers should not be encouraged. God knows they need all the encouragement we can give them, but if you consider yourself a writer and spend more time searching for validation than actively involved in the craft of writing, maybe you’re not cut out for this. On the other hand, if you live in fear that the world will soon discover the fraud you know yourself to be, you may just make a life for yourself.

“If you find yourself asking yourself (and your friends), “Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?” chances are you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.”

“Are you paralyzed with fear? That’s a good sign. Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember one rule of thumb: the more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.”

–Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

If it seems as if I’m attempting to discourage you from writing, I’m not. There are stories that need to be told in unique voices the world cries out for. But if you’re new to this you need to know that it’s not for the faint of heart.

Prepare to be lonely, discouraged, disheartened, ridiculed and rejected. Go forward with the knowledge that people with infinitely less talent and skill will be more successful than you, that the old adage “Life is Not Fair” is painfully played out daily in the world of publishing.

Equipped with this knowledge, do it anyway.

And if you beat the odds and make it, don’t rest of your laurels. Do it again.

***

Editorial Note: I am not suggesting that writers should not read books about writing. There are some great books (and blogs) chock full of information and instruction on all aspects of the craft–from plot and structure to editing to building successful platforms. But you probably already knew that…

Just for grins, I went back and read the first of this series: Why I hate writing, written way back in July, 2010. You’d think I would have matured since then. But really? Not so much.

Childbirth, Ice Skating and the Halo Effect

People who grow up in Southeast Texas do not ice skate well.

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

I’m sure there are some notable exceptions, but none come to mind.

Skating fail 2

When you grow up in a climate where the largest body of water to freeze over in winter is a birdbath, things like snowball fights and outdoor ice skating are activities relegated to characters in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

Which is not to say that the Houston area is devoid of ice skating.

Houston Galleria

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 7.56.01 AMIn the early 1970’s, visionary real estate developers built the famous Houston Galleria, with its overpriced retail establishments encircling the centerpiece of this three-story shopping utopia: the ice skating rink, because little rich girls have dreams, too.

There have been other Houston ice rinks in the 40-some years I’ve lived here, most of them fell victim to a lack of interest and downturns in the local economy. Only the Galleria rink has endured. Being smack dab in the middle of one of Houston’s most popular tourist destinations has helped secure its survival.

Fortunately there are a handful of other ice skating rinks in Houston, one of which is only 20 miles from my home on the outskirts of western suburbia. (Twenty miles may sound like a long way, but if you think that, you don’t live in Houston. Anywhere worth going to is at least 20 miles away from you. This city is HUGE. Also? The rink is actually 30 minutes from my house, not 20 miles. Because this is Texas, and we measure travel in time, not distance. But I digress.)

This other skating rink is also located in a shopping mall. Nothing attracts bored teenagers with a pocketful of gift cards on winter break like a shopping mall with a giant Starbucks and an ice skating rink. Which is not to say that any of these teenagers are particularly good at ice skating. As I mentioned before, people from South Texas do not ice skate well. But this does not deter them from strapping on rental skates in the misguided belief that they really are much better than past experiences would indicate. My 13 year old daughter has been ice skating with her friends on numerous occasions, and she will tell you that she is a “pretty good ice skater”. I’ve seen her skate. If by “pretty good ice skater” she means “I only fell down a handful of times”, then yes, she is pretty good. Much like women of childbearing age, teen skaters suffer from what researchers call the Halo Effect.

Halo effect

In both scenarios, hormones cloud the memory centers of the brain and block recollections of intense pain and humiliation. It is said that the Halo Effect in young mothers is to ensure the survival of the species. I can only surmise the phenomenon in teenagers is wholly for the benefit of the onlooking parents of said teenagers.

Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor?

Hello again. Hello

I’ll give you a few minutes to get that song out of your head…

Neil Diamond

And if the Neil Diamond reference was completely lost on you, you’re probably too young to relate to me and I’m not sure we can be friends.

For those of you who used to read this blog back when people actually read blogs and not just snippets of information via social media, Hello again. For those of you who didn’t even know I had a blog, Hello. (See what I did there?)

2014 was a mostly silent year for me on the writing front. There were numerous times when I wanted to rant incessantly about any number of things–trust me, I have an opinion about just about everything. But lately EVERYONE seems to be ranting incessantly about something, and I didn’t want to be just one more cranky voice among the masses.

People were generally more pissy in 2014. The Chinese calendar may have denoted it the Year of the Horse, but let’s be honest. 2014 was the Year of the Grumpy Cat.

image courtesy of grumpycats.com

She was a media sensation, her fame culminating into its predictable conclusion: a truly horrible movie meant to cash in on all the fuss. It wasn’t the cat’s fault, it was her people.

People ruin everything.

But since January 1 is a chance at new beginnings, I am choosing to begin anew; to see the good and share it with you via my little spot on the Internets. Okay, maybe not all good, but I’ll be sharing again in 2015.

As always,

Sorry/You’re welcome.

Happy New Year!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas (and not in a good way)

I’ve posted this before, but clearly my message is going unheard and/or unheeded, because you people are still committing horrible crimes against fashion under the guise of holiday spirit. So, since you’re still pulling your ugly sweaters out of storage, I’m pulling this post out as well:

Breaking my Silence

Yesterday, I posted the following tweet:

I’m going to write a post tomorrow that needs to be written. It may offend some people, but I’ve got to take a stand.

About most things, I am willing to speak out, but on this particular subject I felt the damage might be too great; the cost too high. But then I received the following reply from @peacegardenmama:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1929-1968

Thank you, Roxane. Your tweet gave me the courage to finally end my silence; to speak out against what might be the greatest abomination of the Christmas season.

I’m talking about, of course…

The holiday sweater:

First introduced as a form of seasonal birth control in communist China, they soon made their way across the Pacific to Europe and the New World. But this still does not answer the question of why, in a country where its citizens have the freedom to wear anything they choose, people would voluntarily wear one of these things.

At first, the blight of the holiday sweater was only observed in the weakest of our society–those not in a position to make sound, educated decisions about their wardrobe choices. I speak, of course, of the very young:

and the elderly:

So what of the rest of society? I have a theory:

Having worked in the fashion industry for several years (and by “having worked in the fashion industry” I mean “I worked in the Junior Department of a local department store”), I know that home interior trends tend to follow clothing fashion trends. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:

From the runways and red carpets of one fashion season:

To the trendy, overpriced furniture stores the following season:

I think it’s important to remember that this is a one way street. Clothing fashions can trend to home fashions, but when you try to flip this trend, the results are often disastrous:

As a Christian, I find it disheartening that Christ followers seem particularly vulnerable to the mysterious allure of the holiday sweater.

Attend any Women’s Ministry Christmas Tea, luncheon or cookie exchange, and I dare you to swing a wiffle bat without hitting an attendee NOT wearing a holiday sweater.

I think this particular phenomenon can be traced back to a misinterpretation of scripture. The Bible speaks of the Holy Spirit dwelling within you and treating your body as a holy temple. Perhaps in later translations it states, “the Holy Spirit shall come to dwell on your person. Maybe you should provide a comfy chair and a big picture window with a cat sitting in it.”

(Of course, this is pure conjecture on my part as I don’t own a copy of the New Living Translation Bible.)

I know I have focused on women’s holiday sweaters in this post, but in conclusion I want to urge men, women and children alike to think long and hard before the Christmas card photo this year. One hundred years from now, is this how you want to be remembered by future generations?

No, I didn’t think so…

The revealing Billy Coffey multiple choice interview

Over the past five years, Billy Coffey has done a variety of interviews. In addition to multiple online and print interviews, he has also appeared on the PBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., a morning news show in in Richmond, VA and has participated in a few radio phone interviews. I remember listening to his first on-air live interview when his debut novel, Snow Day came out. The scheduled interviewer had read the book and liked it. Unfortunately, something came up at the last minute and she had to bow out. Instead, the interview was conducted by a guy who knew nothing about the book, Billy or how to conduct an interview. He was clearly unprepared and more than a little distracted. He spent most of the interview talking about himself and at one point, stopped to feed his cat.

Stock image from google images. Not the actual interviewer.

Stock image from google images. Not the actual interviewer.

Yes. You read that right. He fed his cat, which you could hear meowing in the background. Billy was a real pro and tried his best to steer the conversation back to the book, but I swear I haven’t cringed so many times since I heard Roseanne Barr sing the National Anthem.Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.41.52 PM

Aside from that rocky start, I’ve found Billy’s interviews to be interesting and informative. Most tend to focus on story lines and the craft of writing, which makes sense–he’s a writer trying to market his books, after all.

But I thought we would take a little detour from all things literary and writerly and do a little “out of the box” multiple choice Q&A with everyone’s favorite fancy redneck, Billy Coffey.

Bill, (can I call you Bill?) thanks for taking time out of your busy day to answer a few questions here at katdish.net!

Like I had a choice. I’m busy, so let’s hurry this up. Unlike some people, I have a job.

And don’t ever call me Bill.

I suppose you’re right. Helping make other people’s dreams come true really isn’t a job. It’s more like mission work. It sure pays like mission work. And speaking of me, here’s your first question:

****

1) Which TV work relationship do you think best reflects our working relationship?

A) Shaun Spencer & Burton Guster from Psych

B) Jack Bauer & Chloe O’Brian from 24

A) Jack Bauer & Chloe O'Brian from 24

“DAMMIT CHLOE!!!”

C) Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Art Mullen & Deputy Raylan Givens from Justified

Chief Deputy Art Mullen: Just what part of “under investigation” confuses you?
Raylan Givens: So many things confuse me, Art.

D) George Costanza and George Steinbrenner from Seinfeld

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.20.15 PM

Mr. Steinbrenner: Nice to meet you.
George: Well, I wish I could say the same, but I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past 20 years you have caused myself, and the city of New York, a good deal of distress, as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduce them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego!
Mr. Steinbrenner: Hire this man!

E) Dr. Frasier Crane and Agent BeBe Glazer from Frasier

Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 10.15.05 PM

Bebe: Frasier, we have to talk.
Frasier: Are you aware that you are in the men’s room?
Bebe: Oh, please, if I paid attention to signs with little pictures on them – I would never get a parking space.

F) All of the Above

G) None of the Above

I’ll go with G, assuming that I’m Gus, Chloe, Art, George, and Frasier.

****

2) You have an irrational fear of

A) The Zombie Apocalypse
Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.42.01 PM

B) Big cities
Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.45.57 PM

C) Eccentric medium Tangina Barrons from the movie Poltergeist
Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.49.44 PM

D) Ice Cream Trucks
Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 9.53.12 PM

E) All of the Above

F) None of the Above

Are you kidding me? I couldn’t even get through that list without dry heaving. E.

****

3) When traveling on business, after leaving the airport you typically

A) Check into the hotel, find the nearest Starbucks with wifi, sit down and get some writing done.
Working from Starbucks

B) Hail a taxi and ask the driver to take you to a few local hot spots or points of interest.
Taxi

C) Look up a few locals and ask them to meet you for lunch or dinner.
Dinner with Friends

D) Go straight to your hotel room, order room service then barricade yourself in your room by pushing the largest piece of furniture you can find up against the door.
Barring the door

E) All of the Above.

F) None of the Above.

D. Isn’t that what everyone does? I mean, come on. It’s THE CITY. If city folks came to where I live, they’d do the same.

****

4) You’ve written about your father before. Most recently in an article you wrote for The Good Men Project, A Father’s Long Shadow. Which on-screen father/son relationship would you say is most representative of your relationship with your father?

A) Andy Taylor and Opie of The Andy Griffith Show
Andy and Opie

B) Martin and Dr. Frasier Crane of Frasier
Frasier and Martin

C) Jackson and Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS
Gibbs and father

D) Sheriff Buford T. Justice and Junior of Smokey and the Bandit
Buford T. Justice and Junior

E) All of the Above

F) None of the Above

I wish I could say the Gibbs’s, but I could sue the writers of Smokey and the Bandit for basically stealing my childhood story.


****

I’ve saved the hardest question for last.

5) If you were only allowed to watch three television shows for the rest of your life, but were given access to all episodes, which three would you choose and why?

FrasierMonk

Psych

PerceptionLost

CastleFringe

Ed

Person of InterestElementary

24NCIS

The OfficeSeinfeld

Twilight ZoneSherlock

The Andy Griffith ShowJustified

Sweet fancy Moses. Okay—Justified, Castle, Ed, Sherlock, and Frasier. Yes, that’s five instead of three. But that’s what you deserve for not putting any sci-fi AT ALL on that list. No Battlestar Galactica? No Eureka? No Star Trek?

I’m done with this interview.

***

I suppose I’ll allow the five rather than three, even though in some circles The Twilight Zone and Fringe would be considered sci-fi.

I keep forgetting what a hopeless nerd you are.

NOT Billy as a child. Just a reasonable facsimile.

NOT Billy as a child. Just a reasonable facsimile.

It’s the hat that throws me off, I guess.

Thanks again for taking time for this interview, Billy. And no, you really didn’t have a choice. Now get back to work.

Newman!********************************************

For those of you who are still with us, now is your opportunity to win a signed copy of Billy Coffey’s fourth novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly. Just leave a comment here. A winner will be chosen at random on Thursday, March 27, 2014.

But wait…there’s more! Win a Kindle HDX from Billy Coffey in “The Devil Walks in Mattingly” Giveaway!

Win a Kindle HDX!
The Devil Walks in Mattingly Billy Coffey

In the meantime, it would be great if you could help get the word out about the book by sharing links via social media, reviews or just good old fashioned word of mouth. I’ve provided some links below:

Billy’s website: http://billycoffey.com
(Be sure to sign up to receive new posts via email. He writes good short stories, too!)

Twitter: @billycoffey

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/mattinglyva/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/billycoffeywriter

Join the Launch Team: Devil Walks in Mattingly Launch Team

Thanks for helping spread the word about Billy’s latest (and greatest, I think), The Devil Walks in Mattingly. I’ll notify the winner via email next Friday.

Good Luck!

How Sweet the Sound: An interview with Amy K. Sorrells

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 9.40.18 PMAs promised earlier this week, today I have an interview with the lovely and talented Amy K. Sorrells.

As an added bonus, by leaving a comment on this post, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win an autographed copy of Amy’s debut novel, How Sweet the Sound from David C. Cook Publishing AND a yummy combo tin of pecans, including Milk Chocolate/Dark Chocolate/White Chocolate/Honey Toasted/Praline/Roasted & Salted/Creamy White fresh from the B&B Pecan Farm in Fairhope, Alabama. (If you don’t like pecans, I’m willing to have them shipped directly to my house and take them off your hands. (I’m generous like that.)

I came across Amy’s blog four years ago and was immediately drawn to her lyrical and honest writing. We sort of hit it off right away, and I’ve been a fan ever since. There are many good writers I’ve stumbled upon through blogging, but if you asked me to choose my absolute favorites, she’d be right up there at the top of the list, even in light of her continuous overuse of emoticons in correspondence, done just to annoy me.

Amy is the winner of the 2011 Women of Faith writing contest, former weekly newspaper columnist, RN, and a member of the RAINN Speaker’s Bureau. She lives with her husband, three boys and a gaggle of golden retrievers in central Indiana.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.28.32 PM

Now, on with the Q&A:

Katdish: The first thing I ever read from you (besides a blog post) way back in 2010 was a non-fiction manuscript about dealing with brokenness. What lead you to make the leap to fiction? Do you imagine yourself writing non-fiction in the future?

Amy: How Sweet the Sound did begin as a non-fiction work which centered around finding hope and joy in the midst of brokenness. As I delved further into the publishing industry, I began to realize that my chances of a publishing house picking up my non-fiction story were pretty dismal, considering most non-fiction works are either by or about someone who is already famous. In industry terms, I didn’t have a “platform.”

Still, I believed in the message of that manuscript, that it is possible to find not only hope, but joy, in the midst of pain and brokenness. I also knew that fiction has a lot better chance of being picked up by publishing houses, and that if a story is well written, platform doesn’t matter nearly as much. So, I set about studying the craft of fiction. I’d already been studying it for my non-fiction, because even those books need well-told stories, even plots, to make them engaging. I read books on the craft, stalked fiction author blogs (including Billy Coffey’s), read piles of novels in the genre I hoped to write. Soon I had a new goal: turn my nonfiction into a novel.

Now that I’m finishing up my second novel (as yet untitled, and scheduled for spring, 2015 publication), I don’t know that I’ll ever turn back to nonfiction. Anything is possible of course. After all, I never thought I could write a novel. But fiction writing is an adventure all its own, and the imagination, the sculpting, the creation involved in novel writing is one I doubt I’ll turn away from, as long as my brain keeps working well enough for me to keep writing. :)

Katdish: Well, as a big fan of novels, I’m glad you made the move to fiction. It’s funny that you mention Billy Coffey, because his first published work was submitted as a memoir, but his publisher asked if he would be willing to make it into a work of fiction. He was extremely hesitant about it at first, but I pleaded with him to take their advice and insisted that the only way it would have been a better idea is if I had thought of it first. The rest, as they say, is history. He’s now a bonafide novelist. (That’s not really a question. I just wanted to put that out there.) Moving on…

I fell in love with the characters in How Sweet the Sound, particularly Anniston. Any plans to revisit her and her family in later novels? (Say yes.)

Amy: I’m sorry to say, at this point (never say never), I have no plans to write a sequel or follow-up novel about any of the characters in How Sweet the Sound. The story is so strong, I don’t think any subsequent book would do any of them justice. I also feel like the story needs to rest where it ends, that part of the longing readers may have for a sequel can be best met with the readers own imaginings of “what happens next.” :)

Katdish: That’s disappointing news. Perhaps it’s the fact that the story is so strong, the characters so compelling that I’m just not ready to say goodbye to them yet. Which is why I’m planning to start a How Sweet the Sound fan fiction site, where quality of story or characters won’t be an issue. You’re welcome.

And speaking of non-traditional publishing routes, in a publishing world awash with self-published authors, what made you hold out for a contract from a traditional publisher? Any advice to fellow writers about the pros and cons of either route?

Amy: I live to disappoint you, Katdish.

You’re welcome.

Here’s the thing about traditional publishing. Waiting for an agent and getting through all those dozens of rejections is excruciating. Waiting for an editor is a veritable thorn in the side. Landing a contract is thrilling, but the editorial process that follows that is heart-rending. In the midst of all the rejections and waiting and heart-rending, friends and family begin to tire of your laments. They want to know when–IF–your doggone book is ever going to be out. They even wonder if you’re lying about ever having written one. After all, no one has seen it. And inevitably, eventually, they ask:

“Why don’t you just self publish?”

I imagine everyone who works toward traditional publication has a different answer. Mine are twofold for choosing that path: 1) I wanted my book to have the greatest reach, the widest sales opportunities, the biggest chance to bless the most amount of people as possible. This can’t happen–unless you have tons of money to hire publicists on your own–without the force of a team of people at a publishing house behind your work. 2) I wanted my book to be the best. I could not make it the best on my own. I needed editors. I needed proofreaders. I needed input from industry professionals who know–and know well–how to turn a manuscript into something excellent. Going solo is great, but I needed and wanted the critiques from seasoned professionals who would work with me to make sure what I’m offering to readers is not only good, but excellent.

As far as advice, I would say if you can’t handle–nor even welcome–critique gracefully, then you should self publish. If you have thousands of dollars to spend on editors on your own, and then thousands more to spend on marketing and promotional services, then you should self-publish. If you are a professional looking to get a non-fiction book involving your business into the hands of your customers quickly, then self-publishing might also be for you. But if you work well with teams; if you can take constructive critique, heed it, and use it to improve your work; and if you have patience for the years it takes for a manuscript to reach bookstore shelves, traditional publishing is worth it.

Neither method is perfect. Neither is right or wrong. Every writer has unique needs and expectations for their art. But for me, traditional publication has been the most difficult, yet rewarding path of my life.

Katdish: So what you’re saying is that while the traditional publishing route is much more difficult, the quality of the finished product is worth the blood, sweat and tears associated with it? I admire you for sticking with it. Having read an early version of How Sweet the Sound, I will say that it was a solid, well written story before the editing process. But I will also say that editors are the unsung heroes of the publishing process, and whomever it was that convinced you NOT to kill off one of my favorite characters early in the book did you a big favor, because I was pretty mad at you for doing that. Having read the finished novel, you are now officially off my crap list. (You were only on there in pencil, not the usual black Sharpie. All is forgiven.)

Thanks for taking the time for this little Q&A, Amy. I’ll close with the most important question. Where can folks pick up one or 50 copies of How Sweet the Sound?

Amy: How Sweet the Sound is available nationwide at brick-and-mortar and internet stores such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and in e-book format, too!

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You can catch up with Award-winning author of How Sweet the Sound: A Novel Amy Sorrells at her website, Amy K. Sorrells
Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Leave a comment for a chance to win an autographed copy of How Sweet the Sound and a tin-ful of deliciousness from B&B Pecan Farms. I will end the drawing at midnight next Thursday, March 20, 2014 and notify the winner by email. But if I were you, I’d play it safe and go ahead and pick up a copy or two of the book today.

In like a lion

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.18.28 PMThis month is chock full of book releases. Among these books are authors whom I also consider friends. Virtual friends, but friends none the less.

I’ve been at this blogging thing for just shy of six years.

Six years.

What began as simply a way to transfer my long, annoying comments from other people’s websites onto one of my own has turned into so much more. Blogging has introduced me to so many amazing, wonderful people and has changed my life in ways I never expected.

If you were to suggest to me that I would be involved, even in a small way, in the career trajectory of people who actually make money from writing, I would have laughed and told you to get your prescriptions refilled. Who knew that this lifelong lover of stories would morph into a lover of storytellers and an immense respect for their craft?

Writing is easy. Writing well is an art form.

The list of favorites is long and varied, but this month I’d like to highlight some of my favorites.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.17.06 PMToday is Billy Coffey’s day. His fourth novel, The Devil Walks in Mattingly is released to public today. It is by far my favorite book he’s published to date, and I’ve probably read everything he’s published, usually multiple times. To read a story of 90,000+ words and not tire of it or its author just goes to show the immense talent of said author. It’s a talent I recognized (along with many others who visited and continue to visit his website) over 5 years ago, and it is a talent that still surprises me on a fairly regular basis.

Screen Shot 2014-03-10 at 11.28.32 PM

 

Later this week, I’ll introduce you to another favorite: the lovely and talented Amy K. Sorrells and offer you the opportunity to win an autographed copy of her debut novel, How Sweet the Sound along with some delicious southern goodies. Stay tuned.

But for now, I’ll ask you to hop on over to Billy’s place and find out where you can pick up his latest and greatest. (I’ll be giving away an autographed copy of his book as well, but you’ll have to wait until next week for that.)

On a personal note, I want to thank you for stopping by my little corner of the blogosphere, either for the first time or the hundredth.  I don’t say it often enough, but I sincerely appreciate you taking the time to do so.

Afraid of getting hurt

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

A week ago Tuesday:

As he does five days a week, my son emerges from his room around 6:00 a.m. dressed in shorts and shirt courtesy of the school’s athletic department. His first class of the day is football. On most mornings that’s a good thing: roll out of bed, put on your athletic clothes, eat some breakfast and go. But this is not most mornings.

It’s Day One of Hell Week.

The term Hell Week is a bit of a misnomer. While most of the players would say the intense workouts consisting of everything from bear crawls and up downs, tire flips and sleds to good old fashioned power lifting, sprints and jumping rope is hell, it typically doesn’t last a week. Instead, it goes on until the coaches decide it’s over. If one or more of your teammates isn’t putting forth his best effort, everyone pays for it with added days. It’s a way to simultaneously strengthen the team and thin out the herd. Some set themselves apart, others decide it’s not worth it and quit football altogether. Most just keep their heads down and endure.

Knowing my son, it came as no surprise when I saw the anxiety on his face last Tuesday morning. He’s been through hell week before, but as a freshman with an all freshman class. This year he’s in there with the big boys–all upperclass linemen. He’s going to have to prove his worth against bigger and more experienced athletes. Still, it’s the first day. Getting stressed out to a point where you can’t even eat breakfast isn’t going to do you any good.  I told him as much, not that any of my advice penetrated the fog of anxiety he was in.

As expected, Day One was “hellish”. They were divided up into 4 groups: A, B, C and D–“A” being the best. My son was put on the “B” team, which considering that “A” consisted of mostly varsity players, I thought was pretty good. But by the end of class, he had been moved to the “C” team. When he got home, he didn’t want to talk about it. “I just have to do better”, he said.

In some situations, I would have left it at that–let him lick his wounds and try again tomorrow. But not this time, because there is absolutely no good reason he should have been moved down. I say this not because I’m one of those parents who thinks my kid is better than he really is. I say this because I’ve spent the last two off seasons driving my son to and from strength and conditioning training five days a week; watching him build muscle, speed and agility performing most of the drills the coaches are putting them through now. If he got moved down, I knew it had more to do with the muscle in that big head of his than any of the muscles used to push sleds and flip tractor tires.

I couldn’t let it go. I pressed him. I asked him what was so hard about the first day of hell week. They didn’t do anything he hasn’t done before.  He finally told me what the problem was.

Son: Mom, I’m afraid of getting hurt.

Me: You’re afraid of getting hurt? After going through a year of weight and speed training specifically designed to prevent injury? After putting in more time in a year than many of your teammates put in their entire high school athletic careers you’re afraid of getting hurt? After two seasons of playing football essentially injury free you’re afraid of getting hurt? If you go into hell week thinking you’re going to get hurt one of two thing will happen. You’re either going to get hurt, or you’re going to perform under your potential and all that training will have been a big waste of time and money.

By Wednesday, he had been moved back up to “B” team with a personal goal of being moved up to “A”, provided that hell week continues past Thursday. We’ll see what happens.

You can’t play a contact sport like football if you’re afraid of getting hurt. What you can do is trust your hard work and training.

You can’t stand up and sing in front of a crowd if you’re afraid of forgetting the lyrics or singing off key. What you can do is rehearse the song so many times that it’s forever burned into your mind.

You can’t write a book if you’re afraid of being panned by critics. What you can do is write the best story you can, and then you write it again with the knowledge that there’s no such thing as a universal audience for a book. If someone doesn’t like your work, it’s because it’s just not for them.

You can’t ride a bike, learn to drive, interview for a job, save a life, fall in love, lead someone to Christ or make a difference if you’re afraid of getting hurt.

Life is full of hurt. When we choose not to pursue something out of fear, we feel the hurt of regret for what could have been.

And that’s the kind of hurt we can seldom overcome.

image courtesy of google images

image courtesy of google images

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