On Writing

I am always eager to pass on my recommendations for novels or new authors, which I’ve discovered. I am finishing up The Final Case: A novel. Like many of the novels I read, I stumbled on it by accident. But the book caught my eye for three reasons.

The first reason, while the book “fictionalizes” real life events, it follows closely a local legal case were an evangelical family abused their children in the name of God, to the point of causing the death of their adoptive Ethiopian daughter. It was big story in the local and national news about eight years ago. The book namedrops many places that we here all know and visit.

The second reason I like the book is that it is very well written. The author is David Guterson, whose first book was Snow Falling on Cedars, which was also made into a great movie. I’m not sure why this book has a rating of just 4 stars on Amazon (my own books have done better but my early books were not written as well as David writes this one).

The third reason is that I’ve always been intrigued with human behavior, especially when people have a dark side beneath a self-righteous veneer. This is why I love candor so much. But this distance between one’s true self and the projected self doesn’t just happen in religious circles, but there are people of all walks of life who exhibit this kind of behavior. The family in this story allowed their mental illness to commandeer a religious system to sure up their own elevated sense of piety as well as to project a saintlier image of themselves to the public, while committing the most heinous abuse inside the home. In a paradox, the most evil people in the country would have known better than to treat their kids the way this deeply religious family did. But it is a sad story.

Regarding my own writing, there has been a development that was a milestone for me. I have been working on a novel, The Runner Stone (the working title) for a year and a half with 22 rewrites under my belt. This is much longer than I normally take, where I’ve written books in 2 months, but usually take about a year. This was going to be my last hurrah. I have not tried to publish a book with a mainstream publisher in more than 13 years. I had a publisher accept that book (Butterflies in the Belfry) but we didn’t agree on terms and I (foolishly, I must add) turned them down to publish it under my local label, Mount Erie Press. Since then, I knew that to financially support my writing (I’m talking about breaking even, not making money) I would have to go bigger.

I do love the art and act of writing. It has kept me sane, seriously. My manuscripts were my crack in my dark world through which I could suck in some sustaining air over the past three years. While Denise tells me to write for myself, I just can’t do that. I know that other artists, singers, visual artists, and etc. feel the same way. That without an audience, their drive to express and to grow, dies.

I submitted the The Runner Stone manuscript to an acquisition editor who works for a major publishing house. She is not the one who would decide what they published, but knows what it takes to get published, having done that work for years. So I hired her to go through the first three chapters of The Runner Stone and to give me her honest opinion if it had the quality to make it. Editors are very honest. I had one years ago tell me, “Mike, you’re not a writer. Give it up. This is terrible.” I have come a long ways since then and have worked very hard. If this editor had given me negative feedback then I knew it was hopeless. I would have thrown in the towel on my writing. However, she didn’t say that. While there is room for improvement on this manuscript, and I expected that, she told me that it was very good and suggested it was publish-worthy. So, for now, I will keep on writing.

The way it works in the publishing industry is that I must now pitch this book to many agents, each getting thousands of such pitches per year. If one takes it, then they will pitch it to publishers. But I’m excited to move ahead. I do love writing.

Thanks for listening. I’ll keep you posted about my book. Mike


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