Monday, August 30, 2010

The 'What Now' Syndrome

"Papa, when he was about my age. Taking a break from writing in Paris during the big war against Nazi aggression."

Do any of you writers feel a cold droplet of sweat run down the spine of your back when you complete a big a draft of a new novel? I know I do. I'll be a sad son of bitch but I just can't I explain it, other than I must be a little bit warped in the head. or so my ex-wives remind me on a daily basis.

Shouldn't the completion of a new book send me seeking out my cell phone to call my travel agent? Come to think of it, I just did that. But what I mean is, shouldn't I be looking forward to relaxing a little? You know, sleeping in a little, having a couple drinks? Take in some fishing? A movie or two? A couple of nice dinners out with my girlfriend? A trip to somewhere exotic?

I guess it all has to do with the "what now" syndrome. Like Hemingway once said, in this writing business chuck full of highly critical academic jerks, you're never judged on what you have done, but always what you are doing.

Therefore, while I have a long rewrite to look forward to on my new project The Dead Souls, I am now scrambling to work on something else first. The lucky winner will probably be the second in the, Dick Moonlight, Moonlight Falls, series, or Moonlight Rises.

Hey, I shouldn't be complaining. My new books, like The Remains, are bestsellers. I've just signed two new contracts for two more books with my new publisher. Plus I now have a movie scout. I remember when, not too long ago, I used to complete a novel and wait for the onslaught of the "big quiet."There was no money coming in and my wife use to hang me in effigy out on the front lawn (Course now that I'm just a tad more successful she's been on-again/off-again hinting about a reconciliation. I wonder how her boyfriend feels about that!).

Times have changed. I make my living as a full-time writer. But one thing hasn't changed. I want to always be working on something. Writing is who I am and what I'm all about as a human being. Some people might think this wrong. That I should be a father, a husband, a citizen, or what have you first. But I choose to be a writer first. I can't imagine myself living any other way.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What is Suspense?

"Hitch...The Superman of Suspense who
paved the way for jerks like me!! Jeeze, what's he gonna do with that rope?"

A promising youg MFA in Writing graduate student asked me if I would answer a few questions for him regarding his academic thesis, which stems around the topic of "suspense." I guess it shouldn't surprise most of you thriller, mystery and noir fans, that not a whole lot of information can be found on the subject in the stuffy, closed-in world of academia.

So here goes.

1. Is there really such a thing as "literary suspense?"

I'm not entirely sure what "literary suspense" means. Other than it means the precise key ingredient variety of suspense that's found in genre fiction, be it mystery, thriller, romantic-suspense, etc., that can also stand up there with the high-brow, quote "literary" unquote, fiction.

From a personal POV, my first big novel, As Catch Can, was bought by Delacorte Press back in 1999 and was considered a "literary thriller." What this means is that I wrote what was then called a "Hitchcockian thriller" that contained both the necessary stuff to satisfy both the readers of genre fiction and literary fiction. In other words, the novel contained lots of conflict, drama, suspense, sex, violence, humor, lies, deceits and deceptions, and all those other things that make a thriller an exciting, can't put it down, read. Chapters were short, and sentences tight and taught, the dialogue as crisp, tough and in some cases, as cryptic as a Hemingway short story. But it also contained vivid imagery (I did my own MFA thesis on "imagery""), the occasional but not over-abused use of metaphor, and an emotional subplot of a man who is up against it all while having recently lost his wife to cancer. Delacorte promoted the books as a literary thriller reminiscent of Hitchcock's "North By Northwest" perhaps to open up the market to both literary fans and genre fans who might be willing to try out a new novel by an MFA grad who was also a rather serious minded freelance journalist. Author Alert: look for the re-publication of As Catch Can from StoneGate Ink in just a few weeks!!!!

Even my newest bestseller, The Remains, contains all the essential elements of a hard-boiled thriller, while quickly becoming popular with the more literary crowd. Once again, it's also been compared with Hitch's work. It's got pile-driving plotting, short chapters and plenty of action. But the story revolves around a painter and painting as an art. It's also told from the point of view of a female art teacher. Hardly the stuff of tough guy thriller fiction.

So in short, yes, a novel can be considered both literary and suspenseful. Look for both in the best suspense novels that stand the test of time, like The Last Good Kiss, by Jim Crumley and To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway. Look for only the suspense part in novels that will be forgotten in time. No need to list the little buggers here.

2. What are some techniques a writer can use to build tension?

I posed this question on Facebook just a little while ago and each response differed from the other. In general though, most agree that writing short chapters, and short, sharp sentences definitely service to build tension, as opposed to long, flowing, obnoxious, Dickins-like sentences that tend to put you to sleep.

This is personal, but I prefer to work in the first person, especially with an unreliable narrator who cannot be trusted and who might not always be in the right, but who is after something that is inevitably righteous, even if he or she has to break the law in order to find it. Not knowing if you narrator is going to turn out to be the one who actually killed the cat will always make for a riveting read. Check out my critically acclaimed and bestselling noir novel, Moonlight Falls, for instance. Again, it was compared to Hitchcock!

Another technique is to put in all the violence and the action. I once had a writing teacher at MFA school who insisted that I only "imply" violence and action, not dramatize it on the page. For reasons beyond my control I followed his advice all that semester. But once it was over, I put all the good stuff back into my manuscript. He's now long forgotten as a writer. I'm a bestseller.

3. Is the role of suspense different in mysteries than it is literary fiction?

Suspense is dramatic conflict of one kind or another and every good story, literary or not, needs conflict. Otherwise there's nothing novel to write about. Even if you're subject is a plain old orange, you can find suspense: just what is it you're going to find underneath all that skin after you tear into it with your bear, bleeding hands?

You're not going to find much in terms of who-dunnit suspense in literary fiction, but you will find suspense, even if it's a band of orthodox Jews and Romans who band together to crucify an upstart Jewish carpenter.

4. Is suspense a necessary universal component of all fiction, no matter the genre?

Yes. Otherwise it's poetry. There must be a reason for a novel to be written. That reason usually stems from a conflict or the birth of a suspenseful moment. I.E. A man comes home from work to discover his wife has packed up the kids and left him for good; A young woman walks into a coffee shop and believes she sees her former boyfriend. When she confronts him, he denies having ever seen her before; When a young woman begins receiving strange text messages, she starts to believe that the man who abducted she and her twin sister 30 years ago is back. And this time, he wants to kill her (the premise of my novel, The Remains).

So there it is. My take on suspense. Right or wrong. But from a very personal point of view, I prefer not to read something that doesn't have suspense in it. It's like eating a chocolate chip cookie without the chips. It just falls flat and is uninteresting. A plain vanilla cookie with no color, drama or sweet richness. In a nutshell, if you haven't worked up a good sweat after reading something, it ain't worth it!

To work up your own good sweat, get The Remains by clicking here! Kind of suspenseful ain't it?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Marketing 101 for the New Publishing Model

Sex sells. But so do books, when you market yourself!

Ok that title sounds pretty academic if not banal. But damn if I don't get a lot of you fellow authors asking me to lend them tips on how to market your own books. Truth is, the whole idea of me giving an author...any author...advice, makes me laugh. Aside from a couple of major publishing successes right out of the MFA School gate, it's been a struggle for years and years. Until recently, that is.

But then, let's talk about recently. What's changed over the past six months that's made me go from thinking, Well, I can supplement my freelance journalism income by publishing a book here and there with a small press, to, Well, I can supplement my freelance journalism with my fiction?

What's changed is this: the new publishing model of Kindle and E-Books backed up by a great looking trade paperback and audio product. Having signed with a new publisher that has broken with the traditional New York publishing model has not only sparked a renewed interest in my books. It's made me a bestseller on not just one, but five Amazon lists, not to mention my novel The Remains being a hard boiled "Hot New Release" for eight weeks now and counting.

However, the model, as exciting as it is, isn't enough to make a book, E-Book or paper, sell. One must also market one's self like a pimp on crack. No one taught me how to market myself, I've just made it up as I've gone along. So, that in mind, here's just a few of my... secrets:

First: Social marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Goodreads... you know the score here. We all have accounts at all of these sites and more. And anyone who knows me, knows full well that I'm not there necessarily here to make friends (although I have many, many friends on these social networking sites...You know who you are!!!). I'm there to network my work. While perhaps on average of once a month, I'll get a short email from someone who scolds me for promoting my books, I always respond the same way: How many ads for Budweiser, Pampers, and Playtex Tampons do you encounter on any given day or night on the TV? Simply said, if you the author don't create your own buzz and maintain it, you're dead in the water. While it's true, I've been published a couple of times with major publishing houses in New York, my audience is not necessary built in or a given. And when I signed with my new publisher I made it a goal to land new readers and hopefully fans, everyday. And I've accomplished that by connecting with like minded pros and readers on these social networks. It also gives you the opportunity to create book release events, sales pushes, giveaways, and more. A huge tool and you can't beat the price: free!

Second: The Virtual Tour. I can't say enough about investing in a virtual tour for your new or re-published novel (both my novels As Catch Can and Godchild are to be published by StoneGate Ink in the coming year). VTs allow you an opportunity to guest blog and be guests on blogtalk radio. They get you reviewed in high profile blogs and online newspapers including some major syndicated ones. They also create a buzz on the ever burgeoning and powerful "Mommy Blog" network.

Third: Cough up the dough and have a trailer teaser made of your book. Everyone is doing it, as they used to say in high school bathrooms. Simply put, with Kindles books about to outsell all forms of paper, trailer teasers are now a downloadable tasty treat for books lovers. Plus its cool seeing your name and your book on the big screen. Sort of.

Fourth: Blog your glutes off. I mean it. Create a FB page soley devoted to your blog and put up a new post every couple of days or so. What's that, you don't know what to write? Then hit up your competition for ideas. Example: the other day, my boy Aaron Patterson, a bestseller in his own right, wrote about "Sundays" on his popular blog, The Worst Books Ever. And I don't mean hot fudge Sundays (although he's probably scarfing one down right now!), but just your average any given Sunday. Not having anything to blog about that day, I completely and blatantly ripped him off and wrote about what else, Sunday. Turned out to be one of my more popular blogs and it resulted in selling some books. Now I can afford a few hot fudge Sundays of my own.

Fifth: You're gonna have to make time. All the above takes time. Gobs of it. I'm lucky in that I'm a full-time freelance journalist and I can take a lot of time out of my day to bother people enough that they say, Oh man, I'm gonna buy this guy's book just so he stops bugging me! Ha! Seriously though, consider the alternative. Day jobs eat up a lot of your time too. Your can either be a full-time writer or a full-time wannabe. Take your pick. Making time to market will assist you in fulfilling the former, and pasting the latter on your Been-there-done-that-crap bulletin board. How much time is enough time? My daily goal is to set aside a couple solid hours each day to market and perhaps a little more on the weekends when people are impulsively buying books.

Sixth: Invest in a website that allows you to update without being a computer geek. Enough said there.

Seventh: This is optional, but it doesn't hurt to invest in a local publicist. It can be a pricey investment and it just might cost you pretty much the profits on a year's worth of royalties for one whole book, but in the end, it's worth constructing a solid publicity platform that begins in your own backyard. My editor at Delacort once told me that you begin by selling books in your hometown and like the stone that makes the ripple in the pond, you work your way out from there. My local publicist, Megan Baker, at Baker Public Relations in Albany New York, has managed to do just that, getting me on TV, in magazines, and newspapers. Peopke know me around town as "that writer guy" now. And that's pretty cool. It sells books.

Eighth: Yah, it kinds sucks, but hit up the bookstores for signings. This is my least favorite activity granted, not because I dislike bookstores (I can get lost for an entire day in one!), but my experience is that these events can be hit and miss. However, despite the exploding popularity of E-Books and Kindles, paper books aren't going anywhere. And our indy bookstores need our support!

Nineth: Volunteer. Give away books. Give speeches at your local rotary or church or high school or where ever. Be public. You might also blurb other author's books. Or offer them a pro-bono manuscript critique now and again. The point is to give and in the giving you will get something back.

Well, I can bet I forgot a thing or two, but by all means chime in and perhaps offer up a marketing secret or suggestion or two. There's plenty of room on the shelves for all of us so better to help one another than compete. For now anyway, I'm going to check on my Amazon ranking under "Hot New Releases!"

Got The Remains? Click here!!!!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Living Inside Vivid Dreams

"Is it real. Or is it Memorex?"

Please forgive me if this blog somewhat incoherent but I just woke up from a nap. During the nap I dreamt that I left the toaster oven on while I was sleeping. A big fire ensued. In my dream I could smell the acrid odor of burning metal and plastic. The oven wasn't in the kitchen of my "dream house." It was in my basement bedroom, and I was asleep beside my girlfriend while upstairs I could hear my ex-wife screaming at someone. I kept trying to put the fire out and yelling for my ex to help but she couldn't hear me...

Funny how dreams help shape our waking lives. The subconscious in which they are created can be a funny thing. It can help us get through serious anxieties. It can be channel through which to express heartbreak or anger. It can even serve as a warning to impending doom.

In my new thriller, The Remains, my protagonist, female sleuth and victim, Rebecca Underhill must endure several vivid nightmares which recur every night for a week. When she is inside the dream she feels herself caught up somewhere between the awake and not awake. She is often paralyzed by the dream and questions whether or not the events that make it up are derived from her brain or reality.

While one dream is most definitely created in her mind (a dream in which she and her late twin sister Molly are walking through the deep woods behind their farm before coming upon an abandoned house), another is very realistic (Rebecca spots the shadow of a man standing inside the doorway of her bedroom. His voice is raspy, like a smoker. She can smell the cigarette smoke on him. She wants to scream at the man, but her voice won't come. She wants to get up and run but she is paralyzed. This is the man who abducted she and Molly when they were kids, and held them in the basement of that house in the woods).

Rebecca uses her dreams as warnings. They lead her to the knowledge that the monster who abducted her is back, and he wants to harm her again. He wants to kill her! In this manner, the past hasn't come back to haunt Rebecca. It's come back to killer her !

This past weekend, my girlfriend and I went to see Inception. It's a sci fi movie about controlling dreams, manipulating them, even living inside them. Between The Remains and this movie, I am now looking at what I dream about in a new light. I believe it's important to listen to your dreams and not be afraid of your nightmares. I believe it's important to train yourself to control them, not allow them to control you. In this way you not only work on living with your worst fears, you learn to overcome them.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Confessions of an Amazon Ranking Addict!!!

The "Hot New Release!"; The Hot New Addiction!

I have to admit. Since The release of my new thriller, The Remains, in E-Book and Kindle, I've been addicted to checking my Amazon ranking pretty much every hour, on the hour. It feels good seeing your new novel listed as a bestselling "Hot New Release" in hard-boiled fiction or romantic suspense or even drama. And it feels really good seeing it climb the charts. It gives you a kind of high, especially when you remain in the bestselling rankings for nearly two months.

But what about those slower days. You know, the days when the sales aren't that stellar, and you drop off the top ten or twenty or even thirty for a time. It can reek havoc with your digestive system. And it can leave you, for an hour or so anyway, a little depressed.

Does anyone really understand how the Amazon ranking thing works and why it's become so important and addictive for authors to constantly be checking up on their numbers????

I know I'm not alone here. I speak with authors all the time who are always checking their rankings. I ask them, how are you doing on B&N or in Smashwords. They always say, "I don't know."

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Traditional Writer Selling in A Non-Traditional Marketplace

Home of my old bosses. Same as the new boss? Not by a long shot!

It wasn't that many months ago that if anyone asked me if I self-published my own books, I would have hit them over head. Ok, maybe I wouldn't have hit them over the head, but the sneer I would have delivered might have caused even more damage.

Truth is, I vehemently loathed the idea of self-publishing as much as I did vanity publishing. In fact, after publishing two major novels with two major New York presses, I went an entire 6 years without a publishing a word of fiction, simply because my agent could not find a way to push another one of my novels through since I hadn't earned out my 250,000 large advance on the first couple. Simply said, the publishers were shrinking and didn't want to take anymore chances on a 6-figure advance guy no matter how good the book.

When things got real bad, friends and relatives suggested I self-publish and earn what I sold. I refused on the grounds of pride, and lost my wife because of it.

Just recently I finally signed several new contracts with two different traditionally based indie publishers for the release Moonlight Falls and The Remains. To my surprise, the novels have done great, the former having become an Amazon bestseller briefly and the latter going gangbusters, thus far spending 7 weeks as an Amazon hard-boiled bestseller and on occasion, a romantic-suspense bestseller. And the novel hasn't even been released in print. An audio deal has been sold and now foreign rights are being sold as well. A movie scout has taken the project on.

What's that famous movie line?

Both of these books were available to the majors in NY but all passed. I imagine that now, they might be scratching their heads a little. But I can't blame them. The reality is that considering the dismal climate in New York, publishing me might have been too much of a risk. Now, with my new found success, they might feel differently.
A lot differently.

But back to self-publishing. Just a few weeks ago I sent a copy of my first published novella, Permanence, to a guy who knows how to transfer printed copies of books into HTML. My plan, as revolutionary as it sounded, was to put this long out-of-print novel up on Amazon for sale. In other words, I was going to GASP self-publish.

But then something happened in the form of a phone call. My publisher and I had a long, frank conversation in which he explained that by self-publishing, I would actually be costing myself sales. By traditionally publishing all of my out-of-print books with him, I would not only quadruple my exposure, I would sell far more books while still earning a very good profit since the majority of sales would be E-Book. And yah, he and his company would earn a lot too. That's the way the system works.

But there's another reason why I backed away from self-publishing. I'm no genius. When I write I books, it's important that my agent read it and critique it. After several go around, hopefully I'll have something deserving of publication. In other words, the traditional system works for me, even if I am publishing traditionally via agented deals within the new non-traditional publishing model of E-Book first, followed by trade paperback down the road.

It feels great to be back on track and back in the game.
It feels good to have fans and readers all over the world.
It feels good to be wanted.
It feels good to be making money.
It really feels good to be a bestseller!!!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Twins: A Powerful Bond!!!

Are you a twin?

Do you have a sister or brother who shared the same womb as you? Are you an identical twin? Physically the same in every way as one another? Do you share the same thought process, the same likes and dislikes? The same taste in food, music, writing, art, movies, ... partners?

I tried to explore this very same biological phenomenon in my new, now bestselling thriller, The Remains. I've known several sets of identical twins over the years, and have always been amazed at how similar they are in every way, even down to the way they dress.

One of my best friends, Kevin Ryan, originally of Staton Island, New York, has an identical twin, Kenny. Kevin tells me that they were so alike as kids, right down to the type and style of leather jacket they wore to high school, they would often sit in for one another during certain classes. Now that's a twin for you! That's a powerful bond!

In my new thriller, my protagonist Rebecca might not be not be sitting in on a math class so that her twin sister Molly can skip and go smoke cigarettes, but they do share a special relationship that can only be imagined by those born without a twin sister or brother. Even as the novel opens, Molly is already 9 years dead of cancer, but somehow Rebecca can still communicate with her. Rebecca isn't sure if there's a heaven or not, but if there is, she is convinced that Molly occupies a space in it, and that Molly is still protecting her, watching out for her, talking to her.

So when Rebecca begins receiving strange text messages, she doesn't believe they might be coming from some crank. Instead she believes that they could in fact be coming from her sister.

Of course who knows if there's life after death. No one (other than perhaps Jesus) has come back to give us definitive proof. Like God, life after death is a matter of faith. I know I believe that something is out there to welcome our souls when we finally pass on. What's the point of life if it is fleeting?

I believe that for twins, it might in fact be possible to communicate after one of the two has died. I believe that the souls of twins are somehow connected and shared, like a heart that can be pieced back together after it's split down the middle.

I believe that through her sister Rebecca, Molly Underhill lives on.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

To MY Readers: Thank You!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not sure what it is about Sunday mornings that make people, or me anyway, reflect. Of course, I'm always thinking about what I have yet to accomplish and what I've already managed to accomplish, however successful or otherwise. But on Sunday mornings the whole process is that much more pronounced and in your face.

Some people go to church and think a lot there, and others like me go for a long run and hit the gym and in many ways that's like going to church. Still others just lie in bed and dread the coming week. I thank God I'm not included in the latter category.

This morning, while I sip coffee on the stone terrace outside my apartment, I thank God that I have a new publisher, a couple of new books that are doing great, new books in the works, old books being republished, new trips to look forward too, new friends to make, healthy kids and parents, my own health, and even now at 46, lots of hopes and dreams and goals.

I'm also grateful to the many fans and readers who have bought my books (especially The Remains which has been an Amazon bestseller and Hot New Release for weeks and weeks...) and gracefully, not to mention patiently, put up with my rather aggressive online marketing approach. I owe you guys my life and I won't forget that you deserve the best writing I can produce. Anything less than that would be like cheating on your spouse.

So, I'm about to go for a run, and soak in the sun on this beautiful Sunday in upstate New York. And once again to my readers:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!!!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Remains Goes Hollywood? Well, Maybe...

An offer he should not have refused!

Maybe it's because me and the boys watched The Godfather last evening that this morning I'm thinking movies. It might also be because yesterday afternoon my agent called to tell me she's presently packaging my newest bestselling thriller, The Remains, into a major motion picture prospect (details should be posted on Publishers Marketplace soon, or so I'm told).

I've been down the movie route more than a few times, only to have had my foot just about through the door when said door slammed me in the face. My novel As Catch Can, had three back-to-back reads from DreamWorks, and looked like a sure sale, but in the end, the firm decided to punt. My other novels enjoy similar Hollywood success. But Hollywood is a funny place and an even funnier business and I never look at reads and interest other than with a huge bag of salt.

Sometimes however, I feel a kinship with Vito Corleone's Godson, the crooner dude with the good looks and the "olive oil" voice. If only there were a Godfather I could seek council with, ask him to help me score a Tinseltown buyer for my new book. Maybe all it would take is a few phone calls and perhaps a face-to-face with a producer on behalf of his counciliary, and just like that, I'd be the newest Hollywood sensation. Or, if the producer refuses to buy, he might just wake up with a bloody horse head in his bed.

Ok, back to reality.

My guess is that sooner or later I will have one of my books produced into a film. Not to blow my own horn but The Remains would indeed make a great movie. It boasts all the essential plot elements: strong female lead, pile driving tension, strong evil antagonist, feel-good-lovable supporting role in the form of an autistic savant painter turned hero, a great story, and much more. Good title too.

Like all novelists I often get the question: who do you see playing he roles of your characters in the movie? Just last evening I got this question from a fan who was having a beer in a bar in Cape Cod (he was also kind enough to buy me a beer...Oh the perks of being a writer!).

Ok, so here goes: here's who I picture starring in the movie version of The Remains (forgive me if I spell any of these names wrong. I never read People Magazine!:

--Angelina Jolie starring as Rebecca Underhill
--George Cloony starring at Michael Hoffman
--Danny Devito starring as Francis Scaramuzzi
--Robert Deniro starring as Joseph William Whalen

Ok, you sorta gotta kinda read the book to know what I'm talking about. But just giving you a visual sense of who might be look good in these roles might afford you some idea of what the book is all about.

Anyway, for all you producers out there who are considering taking a look into a good book by an Italian American author, I hope you think about perhaps optioning the novel. If not, then I'd better be going. Mr. Corleone prefers to receive bad news right away.

Monday, August 2, 2010

To Write or Not to Write!!!

Chips off the old Block Head!

Whenever I take my kids on vacation to the beach, I'm always reminded of the "Charlie Don't Surf" scene in Apocalypse Now. You know the one where the gung-hoe Robert Duval military character tells the famous-surfer-dude now turned reluctant Army grunt, he can either surf, or he can fight.

The same kind of thing goes though my head when I finally find time to relax. I can either chill out, or continue to work at a frantic pace. And since I write pretty much everyday when I'm not on vacation, it's tough to shift gears and not write a word. Thus the blog you are reading right now!

I do however have several projects I could be working on, not to mention my new novel. But there're also other things that I can't step away from just because I'm soaking up the sun and sand. There's the dreaded Amazon numbers which change every hour (The Remains has been a Hot New Release and a bestseller for more than a month). There's keeping up with my social networks, the emails and calls to the agent for royalty statements and payments. There's movie scout contracts to sign and galley prints to proof. On top of this, is a new digital short to put out on Kindle, plus a new DS to write for my new publisher. After that, I have no less than 36 short pieces to write for my journalism clients including three professional blogs.

Ok, so the point to all this is that the work is always there, calling my name, taunting me. But my kids will not always be here as "kids," so sometimes you just have to forget about that Amazon rating, or reviewing some stupid contract or even working on the new novel. Sometimes you have to step away from the work in order to come back to it. Sometimes you have to thank God for what matter's most.

The kids.