An Accidental Identity Crisis

Twenty-three seconds into the accident, the nascent writer Joshua Alexander jumped for joy. Concentrating on the significant damage to the bumper of my Explorer proved challenging amidst the ever-maddening screams of “THIS IS MY MOMENT! I HAVE ARRIVED!” The poor kid who pulverized his car with my bumper, some student from George Washington University home on break, apologized repeatedly for his lapse in attention; though to be fair, I’m still not sure if he directed it to me or to the crumpled remains of his car. I consoled him, insomuch as I was capable with all the celebratory screaming coming from Joshua. To his credit, the kid remained stoic, clearly at war with the beside-himself-father in his head, taking complete blame when the officer arrived, while I stood at the back of my vehicle analyzing the damage.

“This is great. Fantastic. The best thing that could have happened.”

I countered that, citing that car accidents are not great watermarks of joy for anyone. Not that Joshua cared.

“This will pay for the conference. You should thank that kid.”

I hadn’t considered that. Granted, my bumper looked a bit as if the horrors of life had consumed its soul, leaving its remains to melt into a perpetual frown.

“It’s just a bumper. What do you even need it for?”

As far as I could tell, the moment offered an example as to the primary reason bumpers existed. If I learned anything from Bumper Cars as a kid it was to never play Bumper Cars with my older brother. He had this fixation on ejecting me from my car, or better, the entire ring. Of course, he also had a fixation with swinging me in circles from an arm and leg until my glasses flew off and I started crying, so maybe the Bumper Cars weren’t the issue. In the moment, however, I found my first appreciation for the lessons those ricocheting cars offered.

Still, I had a hard time arguing the point. It was just a bumper. What’s a bumper in comparison to a week’s worth of writing education that would certainly land me a contract with a publisher? Three days later, when the Insurance adjuster handed me a check for $1,100, Joshua’s elation caught up to me. The internal war began. Bumper vs. bills vs. writing conference. Bumper lost in the opening round, if for no reason than it shut Joshua up for a while, and the worst it could do was follow me wherever I drove, its downward slope of sadness perhaps warding off any other unwanted visitors. Bills … those were a trickier obstacle. Apparently, those are supposed to be paid? That’s what I’ve heard. Somewhere.

I guess I should probably mention I had quit my job three months prior in order to write a book. That seems important, in context. Bills and all. Sudden money at hand and the like. A lack of employment certainly made income a pestering nuisance in relation to actually paying for things. You know, the important things like bills. Food. Collectible Star Wars figures. Even writing conferences. Especially those lasting a week long and costing a thousand dollars. An amount I happened to have in my bank thanks to a careless kid fiddling with his radio at forty miles-per-hour as his car rudely greeted the stopped Explorer in its path.

Maybe I shouldn’t have quit my job, I thought for the one-hundred and thirty-first day in a row. As decisions went to this point in life, it ranked up there with the best of Not Good. Sure, I finished a first draft of the book (two if you count the less than stellar 1st person draft I finished in 21 days), and by the time the conference rolled around two months later I would have a good edit complete. The timing fit. The conference–my first ever–would offer me a chance to pitch it to agents and New York Times bestselling author David L. Robbins, who would be the judge in a fiction contest. My book, Anointed: The Passion of Timmy Christ, CEO was good, by my estimates. Okay, so I thought it was perfect. Something to behold. To cherish. To love and to squeeze and to call George. Surely the agents would agree and the whole suffering for my art thing would be worth it, just as I had envisioned. That singular dream in which I quit my job, wrote a book, went to a conference and BLAMMO … agent. Agent would become Publishing Contract. Publishing Contract would equal Advance. Advance would balance out Voluntary Unemployment. Success would follow.

THIS IS MY MOMENT.

Did I have a choice? Sure. I had many. Many, many, many, many of which began the day before I quit my job. Did it feel like it? No. No, between Joshua’s screaming and my inability to see the world of possibility as more than a single light at the end of a short road, the Universe basically sat on my head, declared itself the Master of My Destiny and urged the chariot onward. All of this wouldn’t have happened otherwise, right? Everything happens for a reason, after all.

RIGHT YOU ARE UNIVERSE!

Fueled by the need to risk it all, to bypass sanity in favor of chance (LIVE NOW FOOL!), I registered for the conference and submitted the first fifty pages of my manuscript for the contest.

Sort of.

Technically, yes? Officially … not so much.

The thing is … the thing I should mention is how incredibly tired of me I had become. I saw myself every day. In the mirror, staring back for that brief flash before looking away, lest I thought myself some kind of creepy pervert offering longing glances from the other side of the glass. I talked to myself incessantly daily (yeah, yeah talked … that’s the ticket), whether I wanted to hear me or not. I cooked for myself, cleaned for myself, got sick of my needy self and needed a break.

So, I sent Joshua Alexander to the conference. I’m not sure if I thought he would generate better results, or if it would simply be nice to not be me for a week. Truthishly, I can’t really recall a specific thought of why I should do such a thing. Maybe I took a back seat to the process and Joshua jumped in. I don’t know. I just don’t know. I’m just weird like that, I suppose.

Regardless of reason–and likely absent it as well–I made my way to the conference full of cheer and lofty dreams, toting my completed manuscript in a wooden box as if it were the lost Ark of the Covenant. I checked in under my name since Joshua, for all of his robust enthusiasm, still lacked both an ID and a bank account, settled in and made off for the Opening Remarks with another hundred plus writers. All of whom were likely themselves because they were smart that way. I sat next to a behemoth of a figure–a tall, muscular man stretched out across two chairs. As I have established, socializing is not my strong point. Joshua, on the other hand, seemed to have no issue with the complexity of Hello and jumped right in.

“Hi. Joshua Alexander.”

Good for you, Josh. Well done.

The man shifted, shook my hand, introduced himself as David L. Robbins and immediately launched into praise for my submission, about how he had planned on finding me to discuss it, and stating his wonder at the luck we would sit next to each other.

It’s possible, at this point, I considered dropping the Joshua persona to ensure Mr. David L. Robbins, New York Times bestselling author, knew who I really was. I offer the possibility of such a though only because I don’t particularly recall if I though much of anything at all. Not with Joshua in charge.

THIS IS MY MOMENT.

So, I let him run with it. Let him talk throughout the Welcome, carrying the conversation onward into my work, its strengths and weakness, the nuances of the craft of writing, echoing David’s belief that conferences were vital to the growth of a writer, and I don’t know, tacos or something. It went on for hours. The next day David even invited me to go watch him golf in between sessions. I became the envy of the entire conference, buddied up to David like a excitable, loyal, puppy. Everyone knew my name, curious about what I wrote, how I had managed to so quickly win the favor of such a notable author.

They were the best two days of Joshua Alexander’s life.

They were, in fact, the only two days of Joshua Alexander’s life.

On day three, David woke up and decided to invite good ole chum Joshua to breakfast. Strange thing though. The front desk had no room for a Joshua Alexander. David insisted they were wrong. Had them check and check again, taking potential misspellings into account. Nope. No Joshua. Confused and slightly embarrassed, David fell into full research mode, following the trail of Joshua Alexander to one Zachary Steele, in room whateverever. He called me. He grilled me. Questioned what reason a man with my name would possibly have to go under any other name, then laughed at me. For the rest of the week. As he told each and every person about the ludicrous tale of Zachary “Joshua Alexander” Steele. For the next few months, as we kept lines of communication open. For the next few years as our friendship grew, as he became a mentor to me as a writer. To this day, some sixteen years later, as the memory pops up and he needs a good laugh at my expense. His last words on this planet to me may very well be, “Tell Joshua I said hi.”

I will always accept life as a never-ending ride of Cause and Effect. For instance, I make really odd decisions, the effect of which tends to rail off into the deep recess of Shitsville. I get to relive them, marvel over them, and perhaps even grow from them, but damn. Just damn.

Every once in a while, despite myself, I get to follow a train of Cause and Effect that isn’t all bad in the end.

I quit my job to write a book, with the express purpose of getting said book published, thereby jump starting my career and minimizing the damage caused by Voluntary Unemployment. In order to facilitate this, I decided I should go to a conference to get noticed. Unable to afford said conference due to having no job, I made use of accidental money to fund my way. I changed my name for no reason, met the author I wanted to meet, made a sizable impression both due to my work and the fundamental identity crisis masquerading as me, and made a friend of David L. Robbins. David created James River Writers in Richmond, Virginia, invited me behind the scenes, to their conference, gave me time with other notable authors (um, hi there Tom Robbins) and awesome people, and taught me the craft. All of which made me a better writer. Fueled by the need for more, the hunger to be better in all aspects of life, I made other questionable decisions, one of which netted me a bookstore I called Wordsmiths Books. During my tenure as owner of Wordsmiths, I met a publisher interested in Anointed. She published it. Publisher’s Weekly gave it a good review. My career as a writer found first gear.

THIS IS MY MO … oh, wait. No.

SEVEN YEARS FROM … is that right? Seven years? Sevenish years, you say? Right.

SEVEN PLUS YEARS FROM NOW WILL BE MY MOMENT.

Sometimes the wrong way can be right. Just, like, way longer.

Welcome to the world, Broadleaf Writers

I have ideas.

Many of them become stories. Some of them blog projects following my work-in-progress. Some of them become real things. Some of them stew in my brain for years before finding a port worthy of docking. A place where like-minded individuals may come aboard and assist me in making my dear sweet eager idea a reality.

Today, I get to unleash another into the world. Today, the Broadleaf Writers Association becomes a reality.

Sweet.

What is Broadleaf? Why is Broadleaf? How is … never mind, you see where this is going.

To simplify things here: Broadleaf Writers is an organization dedicated to educating and inspiring writers to become better writers. We believe the path to publication is paved in the perfection of your craft. We believe no writer should stand alone in the pursuit of their passion. We believe writers should explore the style they feel is best suited to their skill, that any genre may contain brilliance, and that nothing soothes a writer’s soul more than the opportunity to commune with other writers.

Through seminars, workshops, networking and peer groups, and much more, Broadleaf Writers is meant to be the home every writer has been looking for. And to kick it off, we will host the First Annual Broadleaf Writers Conference in September 2016! The site and date will be announced soon, as will the first of a growing list of fabulous, experienced, writers who will serve as speakers and mentors.

We’re still a bit under construction (aren’t we all?), but we’re very eager to get started. In addition to the above, we will be opening membership enrollment soon, in order to grant writers greater access to information on Broadleaf, educational opportunities, and discounts on the programs we offer. In the meantime, we’ve started a Facebook page, we’re on Twitter, and we have established a website at broadleafwriters.com! Please give them a look, like, follow, sign up for our newsletter (on the website!), and help spread the word. If you would like to donate to help fund our organization, we would be most grateful! There’s a donation button on the website, or if you would like to discuss it via email, I can be reached at broadleafwriters@gmail.com. If you have any questions, comments, thoughts, ideas, or any other word I’ve managed to forget in the sentence, email me, comment below, message the Facebook page, tweet to us, we’re easy to find!

There are so many talented, passionate, writers in the area, in neighboring states, in the Southeast, and we want to shine a spotlight on every one. Whether a New York Times bestseller, a product of the small presses, self-published, or one of the many seeking to become part of the process somewhere, we are all one family. One group. One idea seeking a port. Come aboard. This is going to be one hell of a ride.

Though this idea did stew in these here brain meats for more than two years, I would be remiss in failing to mention my wonderful Board of Directors. Though still in its infancy in size and scope, Broadleaf would not exist without their time, energy, and dedication to this dream. So a very heartfelt thanks to Alison Law, Ricki Schultz, Bill Bridges, Barbara Friend Ish, and Collin Kelley. You are all so wonderful, gifted, and a thrill to work with. LET’S GO TEAM!

If you have an interest in potentially joining the Board, offering your time on our Conference committee, or volunteering as the need arises, please feel free to email me. With all that we hope to accomplish in the coming year and beyond, it will take a small army of individuals working together to build our family.

So as to avoid spending two thousand additional words worth of your time detailing all that Broadleaf can be, all that gives me the tingles when I think on it, I’ll leave it there for now. Please do contact me if you have questions. Help us spread the word. Like us on Facebook, follow us on twitter, sign up for our newsletter. Donate if you can. Every single dollar will make a difference.

BWA Logo

(Insert Non-Snarky Humorless Title About Self-Publishing Here)

I try to be serious. Really, I do. I’m just not very good at it. My mind wanders, and I start thinking about all the things I could fit in a can of peanuts. Minus the peanuts, of course. I’m not stupid, after all. Then, my once proud, informative, title about a forthcoming Self-Publishing seminar turns into The Devil is in the Peanuts, or 100 Ways to Freak Out Your Cat With an Empty Peanut Can, or the more functional There is No Peanut, Only Zuhl. None of those have anything to do with Self-Publishing. I can see no amount of philisophical twisting that will bind my peanut to the topic. Yet, I persist, and now I have a full paragraph about nothing but my wandering mind’s affixation with an empty peanut can. So…

Riiiiiiggght

 

Yeah.

Anyway, my point was to talk up an upcoming event that is useful to all you local writery type people in the area. Saturday, June 7th, from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. in the Decatur Library AuditoriumThe Georgia Center for the Book will be hosting a seminar on Self-Publishing, moderated by my inconsistently focused brain and whatever function of my physical self I can pull together on that day. We’ve assembled a panel of four gifted and knowledgable minds to discuss the various points of the Self-Publication process, and whether or not it’s the right course for you to take. Whether you’re waffling over Self-Publication vs. the Commercial Industry, wondering about the pros and cons of staying digital via the ebook, starting your own Indie Press, or simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of Self-Publication possibilities and in need of some clarity, you’re going to want to join us.  The Publishing Industry is in flux, after all, and having the chance to further your understanding of where you should take that manuscript you’ve worked so hard on is essential. Maybe you find that you’d rather stick to the grind of finding an agent, seeking that Big Publisher Contract, and letting the process carry you forward. Excellent! Our panel is well-versed in that process too! Ask all the questions you want! After all, there’s a great deal of benefit in staying the course, and having the opportunity to explore your options will only bring you greater confidence in that decision. However, even notable authors, such as Daniel Wallace (Big Fish), have explored the Self-Publishing route.  Wallace has found a great following for his latest work, pitched through the crowdfunding website InkShares. The Hybrid Author has the choice, from manuscript-to-manuscript: Commercial or Indie?

What you need are options. To better understand those options, you need information. That’s what this seminar aims to offer. Now’s the time to chase your dream, in whatever form you wish it to take. With knowledge comes great power. Or more peanuts in your can. HEY! I just tied it together!

Good job, brain.

So, short of yammering on about all-the-things-not-topical, I present you with the four esteemed guests who wish to fill your head with peanuts (Get it? The Empty Can is now your head! Because … just … never mind.).

S.R. Johannes

  S.R. Johannes

 

S.R JOHANNES is the award-winning author of the Amazon bestselling thriller series, the Nature of Grace, featuring the titles Untraceable, Uncontrollable, and Unstoppable. She is the winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Awards (Young Adult category) as well as a Silver medalist in the IPPY awards for YA Fiction. She was nominated for 2012 Georgia Author of the Year (Young Adult category), a Finalist in The Kindle Book Review’s Best Young Adult of 2012, and a YA Finalist in the US Book News Best Book of 2012. 

 

 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley

 

COLLIN KELLEY is the author of the novels Conquering Venus and Remain in Light, which have just been re-issued in new editions by Sibling Rivalry Press. His poetry collections include Better to Travel, Slow to Burn, After the Poison and Render, chosen by the American Library Association for its 2014 Over the Rainbow Book List. A short story collection, Kiss Shot, is available exclusively for the Amazon Kindle. A recipient of the Georgia Author of the Year Award, Deep South Festival of Writers Award and Goodreads Poetry Award, Kelley’s poetry, essays and interviews have appeared in magazines, journals and anthologies around the world. He is currently writing his third novel, Leaving Paris.

 

Bill Bridges

Bill Bridges

 

BILL BRIDGES is an award-winning writer and narrative designer of numerous games. He was one of the original developers of White Wolf’s World of Darkness and is the co-creator and developer of the Fading Suns science-fiction universe. He is a Fellow at Atlanta’s Mythic Imagination Institute.

 

 

 

 

Barbara Friend Ish

Barbara Friend Ish

 

BARBARA FRIEND ISH is the author of the Compton Crook Award Finalist novel The Shadow of the Sun and the 2015 novel The Heart of Darkness. She moonlights as Publisher and Editor-in-Chief for Mercury Retrograde Press. Books edited by Barbara have been covered by Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, and electronic and print outlets worldwide. Her cats run her life.

 

 

The seminar will begin at 11, running for an hour as I lead the panel through a section of questions. We’ll break for 30 minutes, come back and devote the final hour and a half to your questions. Each of the panelists will be available after the seminar, should you have any further questions, or wish to purchase any of thier books. If you have any questions about the seminar, you can email me at steelez@dekalblibrary.org.

Hope to see you there!

Catching Up on the Writering

So Kate Gosselin is “freaking out “ over her show being cancelled.

I really don’t care.  I just couldn’t come up with an intro.

Although, seriously?  She’s upset because her career has been derailed?  Watch the video.  It’s amazing how much she sounds like…well, like Kate Gosselin.  Woman’s nuttier than a can of almonds.

It’s been some time since life has allowed me the time and energy to focus on writing, as well as the myriad other projects I want to work on.  Now that I’ve left my post at The Corner Bookstore, I’m going to dive headlong into the wordy pool and see what comes of it.  The primary objective right now is to finish Book 1 in The Storyteller series, which is tentatively called The Heart of Darkness.  I should, all things being equal, complete that manuscript some time in October (preferably before I head to Richmond, Va for The James River Writers Confererence).

As I manage that daunting task, I mean to pick up the pieces of the abandoned Bookstore series of videos (newest one below) and continue building a platform with which to turn my bizzaro experiences as a bookseller into a television pilot.  Think Arrested Development meets The Office and you’ll get a decent idea. Something that allows for a good bit of insanity but is more character driven than built around the location. I hope to have a new video up every Wednesday.

Additionally, I’ll have a few posts to add to The Adventures of Ducky Thomas, including his long overdue story of traveling to New York City.  That post, for what it’s worth will be called The Massive Warship, and has an awful lot to do with his visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The hope with Ducky is to translate his adventures into chapter books. I think the world needs stories about an adventurous duck. Ducky agrees.

Now that Flutter is out and selling, I will be returning again to the world of Timothy Webb and telling what may, or may not, be the final book in that series. I’m rather fond of Timothy and Natasha, so I may violate ever known rule of writing just to hang on to them. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, The Christ Corporation Series has a Facebook page. Like it. I’ll be posting updates there.

Finally, staring me in the face with the depth and deadness of a salivating zombie is a story that takes the traditional Zombie Apocalypse for rocking ride where it’s never been before. Not sure yet if I want to write the novel or the screenplay, but as I have information to offer, I’ll be tossing it up here on the blog.

…of which I will be visiting more often. Obviously, right?

So with nothing in my way but myself, all of these projects will be complete or underway within the next six months.  I’m piling it on and looking forward to what comes of it.

Oh, and in the near future I’ll be looking for you to determine what absolutely ridiculous show I show blog about on a regular basis. That one is wide open.  Anything from Springer to Gossip Girl, from The View to 90210. It’s not my call. It’s yours. I’m not sure who I hope to entertain more with that, but I’m quite positive it will be me.

That said, here’s the latest in The Bookstore series, called Potter is Hotter. Time to decide between Cullen and Potter. And pretty dresses.

Ducky Thomas Goes to Richmond

This is Ducky Thomas:

 

This is Ducky Thomas. He is a duck named Thomas.

 

Recently, Ducky Thomas had an adventure.  He went to Richmond, Virginia on a trip.  It wasn’t the grandest of trips, but it was exciting all the same.  He went on this journey with me, as I took to the town as a speaker at the James River Writers Conference.  Unfortunately, however, he did not attend the conference, as it cost quite a bit of money to pay the way for an attendee, and, well, ducks are just not allowed in the library.  So, while I was away, he manned—er, ducked–the hotel room where he…well, I suppose I should let his words speak for themself:

“I’ve never gone on a trip before.  For that matter, I’ve never gone anywhere before.  Before this weekend, I had only been out of the bedroom, where I stay, just once to sit on Zach’s desk.  He said he wanted to take my picture, which was okay with me, but ducks aren’t much on make-up, and don’t often pose for pictures, so I was a bit nervous about it all.  And that was just for a picture!  Imagine how I felt when he asked me if I wanted to go to Richmond! ‘Golly!’ I had exclaimed.  ‘I don’t even know what a Richmond is, but I sure do want to see it!’  So, sure enough, he told me I could go, and went to something called, ‘Target’–which I believe is not far away, but must be a magical place, seeing as how he returned quickly with a wonderful black traveling house with wheels for me to ride in.  Who knew there were such things in the world!  It had plenty of room for me to rest comfortably, and I was able to keep all of Zach’s belongings safe during the trip–though I do have to admit that the darkness made me sleepy, and aside from some bumpy moments, I slept quite a lot.  Fortunately, no one tried to open the house, and before I knew it, Zach was opening the door and I opened my sleepy eyes to see something amazing!  It was a brand new place, much bigger than the bedroom I’m usually in!  And, it had a really big window that let me see one of the most amazing sights I have ever seen!  Ever ever!

 

This is what a Richmond looks like!

 

 

There were lots of what Zach called, 'outtomobeels.' That's the rolling things over there!

 

 

Whoa. Richmond.

 

Well, boy, was I excited!  I just sat in that window ALL day long!  And when it got dark, everything got all sprinkled in little lights everywhere.  It sure was incredible!  Zach was gone most of the time, where he said he was spending time with the Righter people, who like to talk about the Righter things.  Apparently, Zach knows something of this Righting, because he was very excited about all that he had done while he was there.  He was almost as excited as I was about seeing the Richmond all day!  Well, anyway, he told me that he sat on a panel about religion, which does sound kind of unpleasant, and maybe a little painful, but he didn’t seem to be bothered by it at all, so I guess it’s not that bad.  I listened as he talked about his adventures that day, and then the next day too.  He spent an awful lot of time with the Righters, where they talked about the Right way to do things, I suppose.  It’s good that people try to be Right, I’ve been told, so it’s even better that they have conferences to discuss it.  Zach said that the people there liked him so much that they bought all of the books that were for sale!  Yay for Zach!  He said that there were more panels that he sat on (I still don’t know why he sat on them, but, I’m just a duck, and will not understand, I guess).  There was one on Fan Tah See, which is, according to Zach, about make-believe stuff that is in stories, and sometimes has dragons, magic, and shallow vampire characters that only little girls like.  And then there was the one on Die A Log, which is a funny name to me.  I mean, from what I could tell from my perch over the Richmond, it seems to me that logs–which I know from a television show that I watched with Zach, come from trees–are very pretty, and very helpful to things.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to kill one.  But Zach made it sound kind of delightful, and said that the Righter people asked a lot of really neat questions about Die A Log that he, and two other Righters by the names of David L. Robbins, and Lauren Oliver, answered.  I don’t know them, but they sound neat!

Well, he just seemed to really enjoy his time, which was wonderful to hear, because I was beginning to worry that I might be having too much fun looking at the Richmond–more fun than Zach–and that made me feel bad.  I didn’t want Zach to miss out on the fun, either.  He did sit with me for a while watching the sun rise one morning, which was really neat!  I had never seen that before either!  I was glad he got to see it too, though he had to leave before I could tell him that.  But I think he already knew.  So, I guess that was pretty much it, after that.  Zach said he met lots of new people, and that there was something funny about something he said the Righters called a, ‘humanzee.’  I don’t know what that is, but as I’ve said, I’m a duck, and I don’t really know too much about things. Zach told me, as he was putting me back in the black, boxy house, with wheels that he hoped that he could keep in contact with his new friends, and that some of them were really nice, and pretty good Righters that needed to simply believe in themselves a bit more.  I liked the way that sounded, and so I just smiled at Zach, closed my eyes, and fell asleep.  The next thing I knew, we were home again.

I don’t have to stay in the bedroom anymore.  Now I get to spend time on Zach’s desk while he does his Righting.  It makes me happy. But not as happy as knowing that Zach has promised to take me to other new places too!  I can’t wait!

 

It's a big world for such a small duck.