Author Archives: Sarah

Star Wars: Return of the Love

Happy Holidays everyone!

Let me be the first to wish you all the best in 2016. I know it’s been a long time (well longer than usual). I’ve been busy editing, working, visiting with friends and family (more so the past week than the previous month) and of course obsessing over all thing Star Wars!

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I’ve also been smothered with a Christmas cold 🙁 But I’ve got medicine (and booze) so I’ll be fine. In case you’re wondering I have the shirt above and when you press the hat on the left it lights up! Lovely early Xmas gift from my wife =) Before I get too deep into Star Wars and how it’s affected my writing (and of course a few thoughts on the new movie) I wanted to let you know I did just send the latest version of third vampire novel “The Newfoundland Vampire book 3: The Gathering Dark” over to my editor (I’ll do a post on editing next month) so that means the great folks (which includes me, yay!) at Distinguished Press will hopefully make it available to you sometime in first the six month of 2016.

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Now back to Star Wars 😉 Seriously I have loved both Star Wars and Star Trek since I was little (Trek a little longer I’ll admit) and while my heart was broken and my faith shaken by those travesties called “the prequels”, once I learned George Lucas was out and Disney had taken over, I was ready to fall in love again. I got back into the Star Wars comics, read some of the novels (some are okay), played the video games (some of the new Star Wars app are a lot of fun) and even found myself writing a Star Wars novel (spoiler, I never finished it and I don’t even know what happened to it). Who didn’t imagine wielding a lightsaber and using the force?

When I was writing my first book my previous editor said (I’m paraphrasing of course) “how many times have you seen Star Wars? People don’t always need to have their hands chopped off during a fight!” While I write vampire books (and some short stories) I put in a lot of geeky references and Star Wars was no exception. In fact while my vampires fight with swords, I often imagine what the melee would be light with lightsabers. I also based one of my vampires powers on Star Wars, just as Luke can sense Vader’s presence on Endor (and Vader senses his old master on the Death Star), my vampires can sense each other from miles away.

IWVaderSensesObiwan

Perhaps more importantly though I have always been fascinated with the difference between good and evil, I’ve always wanted to explore what makes a person do terrible acts and I often like to explore the idea that no one is completely without hope or in other words “I know there is good in you. The Emperor hasn’t driven from you fully.” Star Wars presents a fascinating idea, no matter how far you have fallen there is always the chance for redemption, the chance to make it right. While Vader or Emperor Palpatine are extreme examples (as are several characters in my books) there are others that have a taste of the dark side, ones that are tempted by evil or even straddle the line on more than one occasion.

I think for me Star Wars gave the important idea that characters (and stories) can have an arc, things can take an unexpected twist and ultimately end up in places (or acting in ways) you never imagined initially. I’ve always admired Star Wars for having the guys to develop a character like Darth Vader who (for over half of Episodes I-VI) is a villain and yet still be the main character. Vader often wins and ultimately is the hero once more by the end of Episode VI.

While Lucas (I believe) got caught up with technology and special effects far too much in Episodes I-III, he is still a great storyteller that presented a rich world full of interesting characters and ideas that continue to capture the imagination of audiences/readers all over the world.

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So about two weeks ago it happened (You knew I was getting to this) Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens finally came out. I won’t get into my whole review (if you’re seen the movie my review is here, it has SPOILERS! You’ve been warned) but I’m back in love with Star Wars. The movie showed what good writing, action and directing in the right hands can do. Fans new and old alike (and yeah I’m getting old, whatever that means) can enjoy it once more, the arc is growing and the story goes on.

So does Star Wars inspire you? Do you love it? Hate it? Do you reference other materials in your writing? And more important, have you seen the Force Awakens? And if not, GO SEE IT! 😉 Seriously I hope you all continue to enjoy the holidays season and if you’ve ready this a little late, happy 2016!

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Words turn into pictures, when does it work?

Greetings again faithful readers,

(What can I say? I like old-fashioned phrases) I thought about what to say this month for a while. There are some big changes coming here at Distinguished Press but I ultimately decided this is neither the time nor the place. As for me, like everyone else I’m working on Xmas shopping (I buy what I can online), hoping snow doesn’t show up for a while (I lie, we’ve already had some here but thankfully it melted) and of course anxiously awaiting the new Star Wars movie (which I’ve had tickets for since October). Aside from all that I’m editing, doing blog posts, interviews and of course writing to you now.

WinterisComingStarWars

Which brings me back on point. With all the comic-book movies and TV shows I got to thinking, what is the successful formula for turning a book/comic book into a movie/TV show? I’ve seen hundreds of movies, my wife and I usually go at least 2 a month (often more) and I watch lots more on Netflix. If there’s a book I love, I often check to see if it was or will be made into a movie or TV show. I’m also a huge comic book fan, so the past 14 years it’s been a steady flow of comic book movie/TV shows/novelization movies, so I’ve had plenty of opportunities to compare, admire and contrast.

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There are so many I can’t go through them all but I think I have to start with Lord of the Rings. This is perhaps the most well known fantasy novel series ever, they have been around for almost 80 years and have inspired countless writers, other stories, toys, authors and also an enduring (and immensely fun) game called Dungeons and Dragons. I’ve read and loved them since I was a child and studied them in high school and university. Suffice it to say I was very pleased to see them turned into movies.

When I watched them I knew I couldn’t help but compare them to the books, there were differences and changes I didn’t like. Overall though Peter Jackson did a marvelous job, I fell in love with the story all over again as I saw the people, creatures and stories I loved so much brought to life. Then there came the plan that the Hobbit (the prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy) would be made into not one, not two but three movies!?!? For those that don’t know the Hobbit was written for Tolkien’s children, it was the shortest of the novels and certainly did not have enough material for three films.

Of course they said they would invent new material, take stuff from other Tolkien material and the appendices at the back the Hobbit, but really I knew the truth, 3 movies means a hell of a lot more money than 1. Don’t get me wrong I watched all three of them and I enjoyed them but I knew the truth, Jackson wanted get paid to do 3 movies and forced the story to fit. Sure the story of the Hobbit is there but it could have be easily told in 3-3.5 hours, not 8.

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Let’s take a different example where (at least so far) it wasn’t stretched out and an obvious example of Hollywood greed. I dearly love Batman (as you may know if you’re read my books The Newfoundland Vampire and Killer on the Road, both are on sale now for 99 cents!) and I was thrilled when my favorite comic-book story of his (well Frank Miller but you know what I mean) The Dark Knight Returns, would be made into an animated movie (I’m also very excited for the upcoming Batman VS Superman movie, which is also supposed to be loosely based on the comic). I loved this comic, I’ve read it many times and I think the movie (which was split into two parts as the comic is that long) was a masterpiece. I wouldn’t dare spoil the story if you’re unfamiliar with it, if you want to see story converted right into film, this animated movie is the one to see.

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I had a big discussion on this with a friend of mine. What’s the best thing for a director/producer/movie company to do? Be extremely faithful to the source material or due your own interpretation? I think being too slavish to the book/comic can be a determent (though as a fan I love it when that actually happens). Some things are just not able to be filmed and I know that a movie is supposed to make money, in many cases the general public hasn’t read the book/comic and they don’t care how faithful it is. Then there are the big fans who will scrutinize the movie for not being close enough to the source (and I know I do that sometimes).  I think ultimately it’s a compromise between what is in the source material and what will work/be successful on screen.

To bring it home, what do you think about movies based on your favorite stories? Do you clamor for more or think enough is enough? I’m always willing to give them a chance and always want more. And I can dream, I know it would be a dream come true if one of my books was ever made into a movie/TV show/play. I know there would be changes but as long as the important parts stayed I’d be happy, well that is as long as I was getting paid…kidding! The struggle between creativity/integrity/money is a topic for another time, until then I’ll eagerly await Batman and catch up on a really good show based on a comic called Jessica Jones (which is on Netflix now, don’t let your young children see it though!). Until then I bid you all good night.

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The Weird Part

https://jenniferlgadd.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/2015-10-27-19-04-30.jpg

I am an introvert, through and through. I think that’s one reason I’m a writer. I’d rather communicate via email, letter, poem, story, or novel over actual personal interaction about 99% of the time. Because, well, PEOPLE. People wear me out. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a shy bone in my body. I am, however, very, very introverted.

What I’m noticing is that I’ve now reached the part of publishing a book where I have to go out and greet people. And talk about the book. And smile. And, oh lordy, these sillies want me to SIGN MY BOOK!. Me! That’s practically an autograph! It’s too much attention. I very much dislike being the center of attention, and it’s uncomfortable for me. I’d as soon the earth open up and just swallow me whole.

I had a lovely little author event last evening at my own personal public library, the West Wyandotte branch of the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library. I did some of the writing and researching for the book in that library, so when I thought about an author event, that’s where I wanted to go first. They loved the idea, and the YA librarians went out of their way to make it a good event. I had anticipated a schedule that involved a little talk on my part, a reading, and some Q&A, but folks seemed to be trickling in whenever they could make it, rather than showing up right at the start time.

I was okay with this because it meant I could be more the host of an open house event, and it would be more informal. I could spend more face-to-face time with those who had showed up. It was going great with the old friends who had dropped by. We were chatting, about life, about the book, about lots of things. And then it happened. Someone suggested that I do a read-aloud from the book. Even though I had initially been prepped mentally for it, I had already let it go and decided it was all going a different direction. I have no doubt that I had my best deer-in-the-headlights look on for a while. Then I sat down and read a bit.

It was fine, of course, but there was still that part of me that wanted to turn the spotlight OFF. How about I sit in an another room and read into a microphone? Or maybe phone it in? Anything just to get you to STOP LOOKING AT ME. And these were my friends there!

The thing is, a big part of indie and self-publishing is the promotion. Authors have to get out there and publicize themselves because there isn’t a high-powered, well-financed PR department doing it for them. I can get all that without relishing it particularly. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do it without being embarrassed, though.

All in all, I’d just as soon be writing.

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“Advice is a form of nostalgia…

…dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.” That’s a quote from one of my all my favorite songs, “The speech song” by Baz Luhrmann. I’ve been listening to it since it came out in 1999 (and was even played on the radio a bit), if you ever get a chance, give it a spin. I’ve lived my life almost completely by that song (and I think I’ve done okay so far).

Hi everyone,

It’s  a cold, windy day here (there were flurries here this morning and it’s only October!). Halloween, Xmas shopping, Xmas and of course winter are fast approaching. People love the fall, not me, sure the leaves are pretty but I like hot, sunny weather anything else gets me down a little. But you’re not here to listen to me pontificate, today I’m going to talk about writers and advice, both giving and receiving.

KingAdviceWriting

I’ve done lots of conventions, given plenty of talks, been part of panels, book signings, book launches and book readings. I’d say the most common question I get is, “what advice would you have for a young/new writer?” (ok they didn’t say /new but I’m too OCD not to be complete). Say what you want about his writing, I think he gives great advice. He wrote a book just called “On Writing: A Memoir of the craft” and I highly recommend it. I would, however, also tell writers to, however, not get caught up in style books and writing handbooks and classes. If you want to do English in University then do it but there’s no substitute for writing and reading every day.

Writing doesn’t happen in a vacuum, the idea of a writer holed up in a dark corner spending years of his or her life working on a story with no input from others is (I hope) over with. Get to know other writers, I’d say in particular local ones. Local ones have the most time and interest (usually) to talk with you and are often very nice people. One of the best pieces of advice/encouragement I ever got was from a local author, one I had contacted when I finally got serious about writing.

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I know that picture above is a little blurry. What Hemingway (someone else who gives good advice on writing) is saying is that you can’t just use your imagination. You have to experience life, I think some of the best writing I’ve done is based on places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had. The world is full of wondrous people, nature can be inspiring, a place, even just seeing how people live in other parts of the world does so much to broaden your mind. Sometimes I feel that not becoming a serious writer until I was 34 was a good thing, I was lucky enough to have a lot of experience to draw on.  Even now I find when I get back from a vacation I have an idea for a story or chapter, a place that needs mentioning or a person that would be fun to incorporate. Don’t get me wrong, you still need to use your imagination, spice up the world, exaggerate events, or just plain kill people (in your stories of course! That’s not illegal.)

What other advice do I give? I tell people to work hard, write what you love (and don’t write unless you love it), be patient and get plenty of feedback (among lots of other things.) I also say that for 99% of writers (probably more like 100) you have to have an editor. King talks about how you need you to have an ideal reader, the person you really write for (besides yourself). For me that is my editor, I eagerly await her reaction (I’ve had 4 female editors and 1 male). I’ve learned plenty from my editors (currently the wonderful Kathy, who did a wonderful job getting “Killer on the Road” in re-release, ship-shape, available in November!) about grammar, writing style and lots of other important author lessons.

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To finish up, the quote above is true. People who give you advice usually mean well, they’re trying to help. I’ve found though that often times people are limited by experience or simply don’t understand what kind of writer/person you are. So be careful taking any advice, don’t act rashly. Think out any big decision, I once had someone tell me I should get rid of my editor because she wanted me to change parts of the story. That guy had no clue how writing works and I ignored his advice. Writing, like anything in life, is a learning process. Learn what you can from others and pass it on. I’ll end with this, nothing you write is ever perfect. If you have the chance (and the interest) to improve on someone you wrote do it, you’ll be glad you did.

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Happy Halloween

On behalf of Distinguished Press, I wanted to say happy Halloween! Am I saying it too early? No, silly. All of October is a celebration of Halloween, or at least it should be!

Here’s a little Halloween poem I wrote for all of you. Enjoy!

 

I saw a spider on the door

As I reached for the knob.

It spun its web, trapped my hand,

And turned it into one pink blob.

 

I ran to the back door,

Only to be greeted by an army of wasps.

They flapped by my shoulder,

Reminding me that nature is boss.

 

I stared at an empty box

Left in my living room.

And then it opened on its own.

The flaps– like a ghostly flower– bloomed.

 

Spiders, wasps, and ghosts in boxes,

All of this is true.

To cleanse myself from evil.

I jumped in the shower with you.

 

Then my lover said, “come to bed.”

So I crept into the sheets.

But a clown’s face greeted me

With teeth as bloody as beets.

 

I screamed when It bit me,

And the spider cast a web.

Then the wasp formed a nest

And the clown in my bed said:

 

“Happy, happy Halloween

I hope you like my friends!

We’ll be here with you

Until the very end!”

 

A smiling jack-o-lantern

Sat on the window sill.

And with blood running from my face,

I knew that I was so very ill.

 

It was Halloween, all right,

Our greatest fears had come to be.

I had spiders, wasps, and clowns

Horror was all I could see.

 

But I laughed as blood soaked the sheets

And told them they were fools.

You’re messing with the wrong man.

I break all of Halloween’s rules.

 

And so I became the horror

That walked down the street,

To torment and freak

All of those who were meek.

 

On this night, our fears came true.

Do you have strength to fight them?

Because on one night, you will see

The evil only you can imagine.

 

Joe Chianakas is the author of Rabbit in Red, the first book in a horror trilogy with Distinguished Press. Get it here.

Be on the lookout also for Ashwood, an upcoming horror release just in time for Halloween by author C.J. Malarsky! Check out her author Facebook page here!

 

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It’s That Time Again–NaNoWriMo!

NaNo-2015-Participant-Badge-Small-SquareI’m gearing up for the 2015 National Novel Writing Month. This year, I’ll be tackling a ten-part hi-lo story I’m tentatively calling Space Cadets. It features three very different teenagers, who, at first at least, can’t stand each other. They eventually learn to overcome and appreciate their differences and wind up having a series of adventures in and around the Terran colony on which they’ve grown up.

It might turn into a series of shorts, rather than a full-length novel, but we’ll see. Hard to say at this point. I’m something of a “pantser,” so who knows? (A “pantser” is a writer who doesn’t plan very much ahead. I do have a vague idea where I’m going, but no detailed outline or anything like that. If I did, I would be a “planner.”)

What’s a hi-lo book, you’re wondering? It’s a book with high interest and low readability. They’re excellent for older struggling readers such as my students. Older protagonists, teen-level language, and deeper, more sophisticated plots and themes–all wrapped in a reading level of about 4th grade, in this case. It allows kids to read something engaging, something written just for them, rather than some “baby” book. I’ll do anything to get a kid to read, even write the book myself!

To be honest, I’m not at all confident of logging that relentless 1,667 words a day, every single day, for the entire month of November. Still, the local NaNo group here in the Kansas City metro is an awesome group of folks, and I want to hang out with them at Scooters, drink mochas, and write as much as I can. I figure that anything I crank out is more than I would have written if I weren’t doing NaNo at all. It’s all good, given those terms. And maybe I’ll have a third series to toss my publisher’s way when I’m done.

See you on the other side of 50,000 words!

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Why do you write?

Greetings all,

I’m back from a wonderful holiday around BC (Canada) and a cruise to Alaska. If anyone is thinking about a trip to either of those places I’d highly recommend it (though maybe for Alaska to go in July or August) and tomorrow I’m off to a convention (about 6 hours away from where I live), so busy times! For this month, getting back on topic, I’d like to talk about why I write, it was something that came up at a convention and in Stephen King book I read (and is an important question for any writer I think.)

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If you’re curious the book by Stephen King is called “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft“, I’d highly recommend any writer (or aspiring writer) check it out, if you don’t like King. Back on topic, I’ve always had a love of literature. It started (like lots of people I’m sure) with comic books (Archie and then superhero titles) and then novels (and some Hardy Boys and Choose your Adventure stuff). I love to be creative, at first I just wrote a journal but soon moved into short stories, poems and later novels.

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The above reasons are (mostly) true but there are more. You write any story you’re in control, the characters, the plot, the setting, it’s a great feeling to write something exactly the way you want (well if you want to be published it might be a little different but close enough). To see your ideas come to life (even just on the page or screen) is a wonderful feeling and fills you with excitement. I do also hope that my writing has an affect on at least a few readers, I have strong ideas about the world and how it could be better and if other people feel the same, then maybe the world can be a little better. I wrote my first book The Newfoundland Vampire ( the sequel, Killer on the Road,  soon to re-released by my most excellent publisher, Distinguished Press, what? You knew I always put in a plug!)  because I had a story to tell and something to say and I’ll keep writing as long as that’s the case.

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I’ll admit there’s another reason, I’m needy, in particular I need feedback, comments (hopefully praise) and even constructive criticism (please don’t come up and just say you suck, I’ve had that happen and it stings). I think most writers are needy and crave attention, it’s a big reason of you why get stories publish (or self-publish). I am thrilled when I get a new review of a book (especially if it’s a good one and goes on for a more than a few sentences).  I had a book launch party and having everyone show up because they care about your writing (I did a reading there) is also an incredible feeling, I’m looking forward to having at least one more.

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Overall though, I write because I love do to it. I’d tell anyone that writing for the money is  bad idea, sure it’s nice to be rewarded but the money should never be the goal. I’ve read about that writing brings you joy, healing your mind and body and make you a better person. I don’t know if all those things are true but I know that if writing is a chore or all you see is dollar signs, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.

What about you? Why do you write?

 

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Rabbit in Red

Another author with Distinguished Press is about to have their cherry popped! Joe Chianakas’ debut novel and first book in the horror mystery series Rabbit in Red is about to hit shelves.


 

Bill Wise has blood in his past, so he turns to horror films to wipe it clean. Jaime Stein has felt the betrayal of death, so she too takes refuge in the on-screen deaths of others. Now Bill, Jaime, and seventeen other horror-loving teens have gathered at Rabbit in Red Studios, the brainchild of eccentric horror producer Jay “JB” Bell, for the terror-filled, blood-drenched contest of their lives. 

JB has presented this competition as a race between the best of the best that will reward the winners with cash, internships, and a career making the movies they love. But things aren’t always as they seem at Rabbit in Red, and soon life starts to imitate art. Will Bill and Jaime be strong enough to confront real horror to save their friends, or will they all fall victim to JB’s twisted plans?

Rabbit in Red

Rabbit in Red

Check out the excerpt below!


This was the moment! He seized a knife that was on the kitchen floor and stabbed the hand—his own hand!—pinning it to the floor. He hesitated a moment, looking at this image in front of him. It was the strangest thing Bill could have imagined. There he was, on the floor of JB’s game chamber, but all around him he only saw the infamous cabin in the woods from The Evil Dead. And he had stabbed his own hand, but thankfully he felt no more than a sharp pinch. The knife was virtual, but the glove was real, and whatever technology JB programmed in it, the glove reacted in perfect real time to everything happening on screen.

He knew what he had to do next, and he was both excited and terrified at the idea. This was the epic moment with Ash in The Evil Dead. He had to cut off the possessed hand. That was the only way to get rid of the evil, to not become fully possessed. With his right hand pinned to the floor gushing out blood, Bill reached for the chainsaw that Ash had used earlier in the movie, which of course happened to be right next to him. Remembering this iconic scene from those younger memories when he and his friends cheered, Bill picked up the chainsaw with his left hand, bit on the cord and yanked it back with as much force as he could to start the gas-powered hacking device and brought it down on his right arm. The screeching noises, the loud mechanics of the saw, the crunching of bone, and the splattering of blood coalesced in a cacophony of noises, an orchestra of pain.

Bill cut off the hand.


About the author:

JoeC

Joe Chianakas is a professor of communication at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, IL. He’s a super fan of horror and literature. Rabbit in Red is his first published novel. He likes writing in all sorts of genres from horror to traditional coming-of-age. You can find Joe online at www.joechianakas.com or www.facebook.com/chianakas/


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This ‘n’ That

Almost too tired to write this up, to be honest, but here we go. It’s the start of another school year, and that leaves me with so little time and energy to write, edit, or anything remotely related. Not even blogging, obviously, since it’s been over a month since my last entry.

Kids are good. Quite a few are actually big, big readers, and they’ve been drooling over my classroom library with over 2,000 books and checking them out like they’re going out of style. I’ve had some kids make recommendations of books they’ve read and enjoyed, and their eyes about pop out of their heads when I flip open the iPad and One-Click them right then and there. So that’s fun.

One series I’ve started adding to the library on student recommendation is the Surviving Southside books. It’s a series of very intense hi-lo books–books with young adult protagonists that are written at lower reading levels for struggling readers. It stands for “high interest/low readability,” and they are a lifesaver for teachers of reluctant readers. Anyway, the first one, entitled Beaten, is about a teen girl who winds up in an abusive relationship. I read it, and I felt the topic was dealt with honestly and sensitively, providing positive, hopeful information and without sensationalizing the subject. I’ve already ordered the next few on the strength of that. My own interest was piqued by the fact the books in the series are all written by different authors.

I have an author event lined up in October at my local public library. Pretty pumped about that. They do tons of publicity in the libraries and online, so that’s exciting and a little embarrassing. It’ll involve some Q&A, a read-aloud, and book sales. I imagine it’ll also involve treats of some kind if I want kids to come out (and I do.) I’m thinking of having some bookmarks and posters made with the book cover on them for publicity and for give-aways. The big deal, though, is that it means real, actual books made of paper, and I’m going to be a screaming mess when those babies come in the mail!

I also realized a couple of days ago that National Novel Writing Month is just around the corner again. I made such a mixed-up hash of the second Were-Children novel last November by not writing in any particular order that I was hesitant to sign up again this year. Then I remembered how enjoyable it was to attend the write-ins and meet folks, that I decided I would. This time around, though, I’m going to be a “plotter,” rather than a “pantser,” I think. What I have in mind is a series of hi-lo science fiction shorts–eight or ten books–that I’ll write all as one thing to reach the 50,000 words. I figure it’s my “novel,” and I can make it what I want, right? I’m spending September and October doing some outlining, researching, and note-taking so I’m ready to go for that. It’s a long slog, and it seems brutal and relentless at the time, but it sure feels good to have it done. I’ve always gone by the Dorothy Parker quote: “I hate writing. I love having written.”

It takes five things to make a list, doesn’t it? Hrm. Okay. Here’s a picture of my dog.
luna

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Why I Want To Be Successful

One of my favorite joys as a professor is writing a student a wonderful letter of recommendation. That’s one of the surprises for which no one prepares you. I love the moments when a hard-working (we hope) student walks through my office door and asks politely and hesitantly, “Do you think you could write me a letter of recommendation?”

I smile and nod. “My pleasure.”

And it truly is. I get to work with the next generation of ambitious leaders as they pursue their dream jobs, and there is little else that gives me the satisfaction of being able to help them achieve that. And not just through classroom lessons, but through that essential reference, the teacher communicating with a future employer and saying, “You’ve got a great candidate here.”

My first novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. “Is this really happening?” But it’s terrifying, too. I ask myself, “Do I need this? Do I really want this?” People are going to see the inside of my head! There will be critics—oh, so many critics! Can I handle all of that?

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One of my college classes. I’m in the back with the maroon shirt. This is my dream job!

Yes. The answer is yes because I think of the smile on a student’s face after they read the rave review I had written for them. I’ve worked hard to be in a position where I am lucky to help others get to where they want to be. I’m lucky to already have my dream job. But I made the decision to never stop developing and chasing new dreams. I set a goal to be a published author, and now it’s happening. I hope for success, of course, but I have to ask: “Why do I want to be successful as an author?” It’s not ego or pride, is it?

No, it’s more than that.

I dream not (just) of being on a bestseller list (although of course I’d be thrilled!). I dream of a day when I can help other writers and artists accomplish their dreams. Isn’t that what would be the absolute coolest thing about being J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? They could get on a Twitter account any hour of any day and make someone a bestseller with a single tweet. Can you imagine?

Oh, I’m sure it’s a terrible pressure, too. But what a beautiful gift.

That’s also why I’ve fallen in love with my publishing home at Distinguished Press. We fight for ourselves, sure, but we’re also fighting for one another. I’ve told my students that when we collaborate with others, when we strive to help others, then we also help ourselves.

If we fight for the success of others, then we, too, will find success.

One day I hope that I possess the beautiful gift of recommending an artist to the world and consequently am able to help that artist achieve all of his or her dreams. THAT is my dream.

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

Fan art for Rabbit in Red, which releases on September 29!

I’ll look back on all the enthusiastic people that have always been my side, and I’ll do anything I can to help them out.

That’s why I want to be successful. That’s why I fight to share my first book with the world and hope to share a dozen more.

I’ll hope you be with me as I take my first steps as a published author.

About the author: Joe Chianakas, 36, teaches communication at Illinois Central College. His first published novel, Rabbit in Red, releases on September 29. Like him on Facebook here, and follow him on Twitter for the latest exciting news!

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