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Time To Start This Thing Up Again

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.

And I’m happy to be back.

 

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Signed copies of WAITING FOR SPRING now available!

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 rjkellerauthor@gmail.com (rjkellerauthor at gmail dot com).

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PRETTY MUCH TRUE… release (a spotlight on Kristen Tsetsi)

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.

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Pretty Much True… is the war story that’s seldom told–the loss and love in every hour of deployment, and a painfully intimate portrait of lives spent waiting in the spaces between.

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. 

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8/20/12 New Paper Rats Video: Writing Advice For Real Writers

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.

Authors from around the world offer memorable and enlightening words of wisdom for new and established writers. (Featuring special guest stars Craig LancasterIan HealyHelen SmithCarol HoenigCaroline LeavittEthel RohanElisa LorelloTimothy GagerHannah Goodman, and April L. Hamilton.)

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600 Hours Of Edward by Craig Lancaster

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.

Kindle

Paperback

Audio

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Should Writers Have Muzzles?

Originally posted 8/1/12 at New Wave Authors.

Yesterday on Facebook, I posted a link to an article about New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to have hospitals lock up baby formula in an attempt to encourage new mothers to breastfeed. I also posted my opinion about this proposal. The comment section quickly lit up with opinions from both sides of the issue. And about fifteen minutes after I posted the link, I received the following private message:

I am sorry to tell you that I have decided to unfriend you. I sought you out [on Facebook] because I enjoyed your book and wanted to hear more about your writing not because I’m interested in seeing you go off about your personal opinions or political views all the time.

I’ll admit this surprised me, because I generally don’t “go off” on political issues on Facebook (the exception being LGBT rights, which I consider to be a civil rights issue rather than a political one). A quick perusal of my personal Facebook Timeline will reveal my love of pie, bacon, and geek culture, links to writing and publishing related articles, and occasional plug for my book. Don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty well-informed about current events and have very strong opinions that I’m not afraid to voice in my everyday life. My car would be plastered with bumperstickers proclaiming these opinions forth to the world if my husband and kids didn’t keep me in check (apparently they devalue a car and embarrass teenagers who are being driven to school). But I’ve never been comfortable with online political debates. They almost always follow this pattern: Person A states his opinion, Person B chimes in with his support, Person C strongly, but usually respectfully, disagrees with A and B. Then Persons D – Z begin the inevitable pile-on. Political buzzwords like “liberal agenda” and “heartless conservative”, as well as idiotic buzz-non-words like  “libtard” and “conservokook”, are thrown around. Someone makes an impassioned plea for unity that almost everybody ignores. Someone pulls out the Nazi card. Cue finger-pointing and chest-thumping, a little more name calling, and…scene! Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a wrap. I find the whole thing tedious, and I try not to invite tedium to my wall.

But mostly this guy’s PM irritated me. I’ve always been under the impression that writers are human beings and citizens of the world with the right to talk about their opinions about political issues, or any other issue they’re interested in or concerned by. Personally I enjoy reading the political and person opinions of other writers, particularly novelists. Not because they’re well-known or worthy of more esteem than the average person, but because their inherent command of words and language enables them to make their points more succinctly, usually precludes the use of annoying buzzwords, and nearly always makes for interesting reading, whether I agree with their opinions or not.

I realize that not everyone feels this way. Unfortunately, writers who are politically vocal risk alienating a portion of their audience. In the olden days, it took an interview with a national reporter to cause a stir. Five years or so ago, a blog post. These days, however, a casual Tweet or status update can do the trick. Hell, on Facebook it doesn’t even require addressing people directly. Every time you “LIKE” a photo, update, link, or page, that activity ends up in the newsfeeds of your friends. This means they’ll all know whether you’re pro-life or pro-choice, if you’re boycotting Chick-Fil-A or supporting them, if you’re an atheist or a believer. They’ll even know if you’re a secret Nickelback fan.

Part of my problem is the semi-sloppy way I’ve managed my Facebook account. My friends  list is a strange amalgam of family, friends from “real life”, online friends, other writers, and people who (like the gentleman who sent me that PM) are only interested in hearing about my books. When I signed up for the account, I didn’t think ahead to the challenges that odd combination would set up for me. I could, I suppose, create a new account and invite only those people I know well to be my friends there, keeping the existing account as a professional one. But I waste enough time on Facebook as it is with one account, and besides, that’s why I supposedly created a separate author “fan page.” Also, I really like meeting and getting to know people online from various backgrounds and whose opinions are different from mine. I think most people do. It’s how we grow. Segregating my personal and professional online life may be a safer way to go, but it’s much less rewarding.

And, most importantly, I like to give my readers credit for having enough intelligence to separate my personal opinions from my work. They deserve that.