Sunday, January 24, 2010


I'm sitting here at the computer in my bedroom watching the clock tick toward midnight. Outside the rain is falling so loudly that I can hear it over the sound of the heat pump fighting its constant battle against the cold. It's a night for shutting the house up tight and pulling the blankets even tighter as you settle in to listen to the lullaby of the rain beating on the roof.

Instead, I'm watching the clock. It took me a minute to write the preceding paragraph. Wonder if I can write another one inside of a minute.

Tonight I'm waiting on the Amazon Breakthrough Novel of the Year Award contest to open for entries. I'm entering The Crownless King in the young adult category. This year there are two categories, young adult and general fiction. The competition is limited to only 5,000 entries in each category and the first prize in each category is a contract with Penguin Publishing and a $15,000 advance. The advance would be nice. The contract would be even better. It would give me the chance to turn my passion and hobby into something that would pay the bills and then some.

So I'm watching the clock. That paragraph took two minutes.

The rain is really coming down outside. As the Saints beat the Vikings tonight to earn a trip to the Super Bowl the National Weather Service put up emergency alerts for a Flash Flood Warning for our area. I've heard a forecast calling for a couple of inches of rain tonight. Add in all the snow that's been on the ground since Christmas and was finally erased by rain earlier this week, that's a lot of water. It's no wonder we're under a Flood Warning.

Hmmm....two minutes seems to be about average for these paragraphs.

Right after graduating from high school I went to work as a reporter for the local paper here in Covington, The Virginian Review. The job was nothing glamorous, mostly work in the sports department handling Little League games. But it did allow me to call myself a "Sportswriter" and then later a "Local News Editor" who was responsible for two pages of the paper each day. I learned to right pretty quick in those days. I even scooped the AP twice on a couple of big stories. I learned after nearly five years that being a reporter wasn't how I wanted to spend my days.

The Good Lord made me a writer when He put me on this Earth. It may not be the job I hold that pays the bills, but it is what I am. At the present time I work for a surveying outfit, mostly as a draftsman and at times part of the field crew. I like to think that I'm working toward getting my surveying license and having that for steady income. However, my dream that trumps everything is to be a bestselling novelist.

Wait...actually it was to be an astronaut but I think that rocket's long since blasted off.

Hmmm...those two graphs took five minutes to put down. Still not bad.

Fifty-one minutes to go until it opens for entries.

Outside of stuff for school I've only ever entered one other writing contest in my life. It was the 10th annual F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story contest, held annually in Rockville, Maryland. The contest is open to writers in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia. I think I may have been 21 when I wrote A Second's Thought and took home the second place prize of $200. My parents took me to Rockville to attend the conference and I was fortunate enough to meet Pat Conroy, an amazing author who inspired me to write The Crownless King from the first person perspective.

The most difficult thing about the contest was writing the "pitch." The rules of the contest only allow a 300 word pitch to sell your book to the judges. Ever tried taking a complex idea that took you 62,000 words to explain the first time and paring it down to 300? It's nearly impossible. It's like answering the most common question an author hears..."What's your book about?" People are looking for a quick and easy answer (most of the time) and it's nearly impossible for me to give it to them. It took over 62,000 words for me to answer it when I asked myself that question the day I took up my pen. There's never an easy answer to that question.

I am a writer. It's what I do. It's who I am. But 300 words to get the judges to pass my manuscript to the next level where they actually start reading it?

Now I know how Brett Farve tonight felt when he rolled out of the pocket to his right on third down with fifteen yards to go with the game (and the season) on the line very late in the fourth quarter. He threw the ball back across his body and against the grain threw only his ninth interception of the year. The Vikings lost it in overtime and the Saints move on to the Super Bowl.

Hope my 300 words find a little more success than that pass.

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