I’ll admit I was a little late to the Harry Potter train (pun intended). Well, a lot late. My mom tried to get me to read the books after the third one came out back in, I believe, 1999 and didn’t let up until I finally agreed in late 2010. By then all the books had been released, which was probably a good thing. I’m not good at being patient and I can’t imagine what it was like having had to wait 10 years between the first and final books. I’m kind of horrible that way. But I ended up falling very hard for the series and devoured all seven books in about two or three months.
Being the nerd I’ve always been, I’ve since done a lot of behind the scenes reading about the characters, settings, spells, history, etc. I really love digging into fictional worlds, especially when they’ve been created with the kind of care and attention J.K. Rowling put into these books. But something I’m not super fond of (and I’m probably alone here) is the extra “off page” information she’s given out about what happens to the characters after the final page of Deathly Hallows. As far as I’m concerned, if something isn’t written in a book, it’s up to the reader to fill in the blanks. It’s why I don’t answer questions about what happens to Brian and Tess – or any other character – after the final page of Waiting For Spring. Those stories belong to you.
This is about the tenth time I’ve done the I’m Going Grey thing. This time I think it’s going to take.
I’d like to say that my decision to let the grey grow in is because I want to be a healthier, more natural person. It’s not. I’ve finally become too lazy to keep up with the coloring and too cheap to pay someone to do it for me. I was thinking about adding some funky colors to the whitest parts from time to time. Bright red for Valentine’s Day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, purple for Grape Jelly Day. That kind of thing. But that would mean taking a break from the whole lazy thing and I’m not quite ready for that.
I’m materialismally challenged. (Shut up, spellcheck! That is totally a word! So is spellcheck!)
Recently a good friend of mine sent a text inviting me to go shoe shopping with her at the mall.
ME: Ew! I hate the mall. And shopping. And shoes.
HER: But they’re 30% off!
ME: What’s the sale price?
HER: Around $60.
I didn’t go, of course. She knew I wouldn’t. I’ve never paid $60 for a pair of shoes in my life, not even for my wedding. My go-to store is Goodwill. Look at this awesome outfit I got from there right before Christmas. $2.99 for the shirt, $1.99 for the tank top, $4.99 for the jeans.
But that doesn’t make me cheap. It just means I was able to take the money I saved on clothes to buy this sweet $32 necklace from SurlyRamics.
And it’s not just clothes. I got this really cool chair for free:
And used the money I had set aside for furniture on this set of Harry Potter books. It was $120, but it came with a Hogwarts trunk! It’s a cardboard trunk, but still!
Also, the cool multi-colored patchwork pillow on the chair up there? $42.
So I’m not cheap. I just have really weird financial priorities.
Back when I used to blog here a lot, I wrote chiefly about the experiences I had working graveyard shift at the convenience store down the road. The truth is I really hated that job. As much as I tried to shine that shit up into gold…Jesus, I hated it.
I hated waking up when it was dark and heading into work.
I hated falling asleep just as the sun was coming up.
I hated the phone calls that would wake me up at 10am.
And I hated the store itself, really. The place was about 25 years old and falling apart, because the corporate office didn’t think the store in Shitberg Boonies, Maine was worth fixing up. The walls by the sink were moldy. The windows were drafty. The floors were so stained that they never looked clean, even when I bothered to mop them. And the freezer was always acting up. I can’t count how many times we had to spoil literally thousands of dollars worth of food (including Ben and Jerrys ice cream!!!!!) because it just decided it didn’t feel like working. Much like me and the floor mopping thing.
Well, the freezer didn’t actually decide not to work. The poor thing was just neglected. My boss called the main office to complain about it all the time, begging them to pay for a professional to look at it and figure out what the hell was wrong with it. The last time he did this was three days before the store burned to the ground. The culprit? That’s right.
Faulty wiring. In the freezer. Fucktards.
That was about two-and-a-half years ago. Since then I quit my day job to write full time (a topic for another blog on another day) and the store has been rebuilt. Well, a new store has been built on the same site. I go there as a customer several times a week and it’s a great looking store. Brand spanking new with freshly painted, non-moldy walls, air-tight windows, and bright, shiny floors. And freezers that work perfectly.
But, honestly, I find myself missing the old store. It was half the size and falling apart, but it had character. It was homey. Customers hung out there to chat. Now they’re – that is to say we’re – just in and out. It’s way too bright and almost too big and looks and feels like any other one-stop store in any other town. Don’t get me wrong, the cashiers are still really nice. One of them literally gave me the ice scraper out of his car a few weeks ago when I complained about not being able to find mine. But it isn’t the same.
If missing a moldy, drafty, dirty store doesn’t make me old, I don’t know what does.
There once was a time when I blogged here pretty much every day. That was a long time ago. A couple of years ago it began to dwindle down to a couple of posts a week. Then a couple of posts a month. Then to…well, pretty much nothing.
There are several reasons for the decline in output, chief among them being I plain old didn’t feel like blogging. That’s not a good reason, I know, but there it is. About a month ago, though, I realized how much I missed it. That’s right. A month ago. And still I didn’t post anything. A few times I sat at my keyboard with the intention of writing something here, but ultimately the evil I Don’t Feel Like It part of my brain kicked the crap out of the I Really Miss It part. And that’s not a good feeling. Because, seriously, I really do miss it.
Tonight I realized that nothing will change unless I hold myself accountable in some way. So here’s how I’m going to do that. I am publicly declaring that I will post something here every weekday for the next year. On the good days the output could be novelesque. Other days I might manage a sentence. Or a picture or video. Some days I’ll talk about writing and publishing, or host someone else who will talk about those things, others it might be about this stupid frigging diet I’ve been on. Or my slow acceptance of my grey hair (I’m really doing it this time!). Or pie. But it will be something. Every weekday.
Just in time for the holidays, you can now purchase signed copies of WAITING FOR SPRING. Exciting, I know! The price is $12.00, plus $3.95 for shipping. Simply click on the PayPal button below to get started. (Another button is available at the bottom of the WAITING FOR SPRING page.)
Get your copy while supplies last!
If you’d like your copy personalized, add that into the message box at PayPal or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org (rjkellerauthor at gmail dot com).
I am pretty excited. Today Pretty Much True…, a novel by my friend, colleague, and Paper Rats partner Kristen Tsetsi, is being released into the wild. I can’t say enough good things about this book, and I’m not alone.
“Hauntingly spare and shimmeringly powerful, Tsetsi’s book does what the best books do–it hurls you into a world you may only think you know or understand, and makes it living, breathing and absolutely engrossing.” -Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You
“A powerful novel with wonderful echoes of Vietnam and our country’s tortured response to that war.” – Paul Griner, author of The German Woman
“Completely engrossing, a totally spellbinding escape into another world.”—Stacy Leiser, The Leaf Chronicle
I asked Kris to tell us a little bit more about her novel and the inspiration behind it.
Pretty Much True…, at its most surface level, is about a woman waiting for her lover to get back from war. Why this story?
For two reasons, really. First, I’m very attracted to, and captivated by, human drama and the truth that lies silently beneath the surface of almost every relationship conflict. Those very private, complex factors that build and steam.
Second, I believe love pain has to be the most intoxicating, distracting, passionate, discombobulating emotion we’re capable of experiencing, and it’s something I’ve always been compelled to write about. When I was in a marriage I no longer wanted to be in, that desire to escape appeared in my short fiction. Another time, when I recognized the difference between married love and real love, one of which I had and one of which I wanted, that became short fiction.
When the man I’d loved for a decade finally became mine only to deploy to Iraq three weeks later, I was thrust into the most torturous experience of my life, both emotionally and psychologically. The nature of the uncertainty has only been matched by the month my father spent in ICU with less than a 5% chance of living. Combine that kind of uncertainty with the romantic love of two people who have been, by all accounts, star-crossed for a decade. (Can there be a more complicated, messy love than one interrupted by war? Likely not.)
Once my husband—who was “just” my boyfriend, at the time—had been home for a year and I was able to release the after-effects and look at the experience from an artistic perspective, I knew it had to be a story. Not only because it had all of the elements that make the kind of story that would have me riveted if I were to read it, but because there was so much truth to explore, so much about a war story people had never been exposed to before in all of the soldier stories they’ve read or seen in theaters. It’s part of the larger war narrative that’s been largely absent and that is every bit as valid.
Pretty Much True… isn’t a Dear John love and war story. It’s not about missing someone, pining away, or sticking yellow ribbon magnets on a bumper. It’s about a state of not knowing, of losing control, of the friendships and love that form or fall away in a world that, to those who are closest to war’s effects, has become a funhouse mirror reflection of the world they knew before.
If Pretty Much True… were a movie, what cable channel would it play on?
The creator of Unfunnyme.com, Tera Marie, recently said of Pretty Much True…, “If books were people, Pretty Much True… would be the love child of The Bell Jar and The Things They Carried.” So, I’d have to say HBO. There’s a lot of intensity in the story, and HBO handles intensity amazingly well.
A cross between The Bell Jar and The Things They Carried. So, it’s character-driven.
Very much. There’s no “In a world when…” plot to speak of, but there are several character arcs launched from the springboard of the war, and each character has his or her own personal conflicts that are exacerbated by the war. They also have their unique ways of dealing with those conflicts, whether that means, for example, making a decision about a romantic relationship or coming to terms with nagging demons.
Some nasty politics surrounded the Iraq War. How political is Pretty Much True…?
Politics appear without making the book a political statement. It would have been impossible to ignore that aspect. When the person you love most is, as you see it at home, in constant danger of dying, and politicians and TV commentators are yammering on about the war like it’s a game of RISK, that has an impact. It’s just as much a part of the war story as bullets flying in a war zone.
Who is most likely, and least likely, to enjoy this book?
Early copies were read by readers whose interest has long been genre fiction, and they wrote to tell me that the story had captured them. Men have read advance copies and have expressed things to me in emails that led me to believe they enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, women. So, the two demographics I might have expected would be cool toward it have surprised me by becoming the most likely to enjoy it.
Those who may not enjoy it as much are certain military spouses who mistakenly think this is commentary on all military spouses or significant others. The protagonist’s behavior, a vehicle used to communicate a larger feeling, would probably not speak well of a group of people, were the character intended to represent them. But she isn’t. Just as Full Metal Jacket is one story about specific characters and their war experience, just as Casualties of War is another story about specific characters and their war experience–and not commentary on all soldiers of all wars–,Pretty Much True… is a war story about very specific characters, and a certain set of war experiences. There are many, many war stories. This is just one of them.
How much of Pretty Much True… is true?
All of it is true, and none of it is true. (I’m not trying to be clever. It’s just true.)
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I couldn’t be more excited, and more honored, to be published by Missouri Breaks Press. Pretty Much True… has had a few years of publishing struggles, with more than a couple “almosts,” and to finally land with Craig Lancaster’s indie press, to have someone of his judgment and experience want to publish this book I’ve believed in and continue to believe in, means more to me than I can say. I will be forever grateful.
Find Pretty Much True… at Amazon.com and other online bookstores, or order it from your local bookstore.
Kristen and I had a blast with this episode of Inside The Writers’ Studio. It isn’t every day you the chance to work with ten very talented–and hilarious–authors. We consider ourselves unbelievably lucky.
Before Craig Lancaster was my friend, he was my competition in a contest for self-published books at The LL Book Review. His book (then called 600 Hours of a Life) was getting a lot of buzz in the comment section, which made me jealous, so I figured I’d download it to see just what this joker was all about. I didn’t own a Kindle at the time, so I had to read it off my computer monitor.
I didn’t move from the chair until I’d finished reading it. My eyes and ass were sore as hell, but it was worth it. I now count it as one of my all-time favorite books.
It was no surprise when the book was picked up by Riverbend Publishing a few months later and I was even more excited when I learned that it was acquired by Amazon Publishing a few months ago. Today is its rerelease day and I highly recommend you grab a copy.