Win a Copy of Vanessa Blakeslee’s New Book, “Juventud”

Vanessa BlakesleeWant to win a free copy of my friend Vanessa Blakeslee’s new novel Juventud? All you have to do is go here and share Vanessa’s book trailer on Twitter. Seems easy, doesn’t it.

In the meantime, check out Vanessa’s book trailer below, and pre-order her novel here.

By the way, my friend Shawn McKee edited Vanessa’s book trailer. He’s a knucklehead, if ever there was one, but he did a great job on this video. Don’t tell him I said that. It’s important to keep him down and unsure of himself.


Happiness, Grief, Joy, Despair

In my novella, Tierra del Fuego, the main character, Matt Cravens, is having trouble dealing with the twin emotions of grief and betrayal, after his wife, Lisa, who he suspects of having an affair, dies in an auto accident. When he feels grief, he is reminded that Lisa was cheating on him, which brings out the betrayal he feels. But when he feels the pain of Lisa’s infidelity, he experiences guilt because he is focusing on something other than the love he feels for his wife, and the grief he is struggling with over her death. His emotions are a jumbled mess that eventually lead him to run away to one of the most remote places on earth.

Johan SchwartzThis past weekend, I felt dual, contradictory emotions like Matt, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. My friend, Johan Schwartz, ran his final race of the year in the Pirelli World Challenge Championship. When the three weekend races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in California were complete, Johan had won the championship. This is no small feat. World Challenge is one of the top sports car racing series in North America, and it is incredibly competitive.

Johan is originally from Denmark, but he moved to the United States, away from his home and his family, to pursue his passion for auto racing. He has dedicated himself to building a career in motorsports, and all of his sacrifice and hard work is paying off in a big way.

I couldn’t be happier for him. After he clinched the championship, I sent Johan a note congratulating him, and told him how proud I was of his accomplishment.

A few hours after communicating with Johan, I heard the terrible news that Scott Dinsmore had been killed in an accident while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. I didn’t know Scott well. He was a friend of a friend. I had been introduced to him a few years ago, and immediately liked his approach to life.

At a young age, Scott decided that he wanted to help others discover their passion, and do work that really mattered to them. He started a company called Live Your Legend, and proceeded to help thousands of people.

When I first met Scott and he learned that I had a passion for writing that I wasn’t pursuing, he encouraged me to do whatever I had to do to find the time and space to write. He didn’t have to be encouraging. Heck, he had just met me. He could have easily muttered a few pleasantries, and been on his way. But he didn’t do that. Instead, he took the time to listen, and he genuinely cared that I do what my heart was telling me I should do.

Scott and Chelsea DinsmoreSeveral months ago, Scott and his wife Chelsea sold their home and most of their possessions, and went on an around the world tour that was supposed to last a year. They globe-trotted for eight months until they landed in Tanzania, where they were going to climb Mount Kilimanjoaro, one of the items on Scott’s bucket list. Sadly, rather than claiming that bucket list item, the mountain claimed him.

For a brief period over this past weekend, I was feeling on top of the world. I had just published my first book, and my friend Johan had won a racing championship. Life was great, then suddenly it wasn’t. My happiness, joy, and sense of accomplishment were mixed with the grief and despair I felt over Scott’s untimely death. Since then, my emotions have been tangled and disordered. One minute I’m happy thinking about my book or Johan’s success. The next I’m grieving the loss of Scott and his boundless joy and energy.

Scott packed a lifetime of passion and adventure into an all-too-short thirty-two years. If he taught us anything, it’s that we should take action now to do whatever it is that is most important to us in your lives. I’d like to think that the successes Johan and I experienced over the past week are the result of us taking such action. Despite the fact that Scott lost his life on the mountain, he too was following his passion and doing what he loved. And although I grieve his loss, I don’t think he would have wanted it any other way.

As a way of paying tribute to Scott’s life, here is the Ted talk he gave in October 2012. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Thank You! Thank You Very Much!

Elvis Thank YouThanks to you, I just had an exciting three days. This past Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, my book, Tierra del Fuego, was being offered on Amazon for free. During those three days, you all downloaded the book so many times, that it climbed to #5 among all Kindle literary short stories, and #9 among all Kindle contemporary fiction-literary books. I couldn’t have been more pleased or surprised, and I couldn’t be more grateful for your support.

When I published Tierra del Fuego, I had very few expectations. Naturally, I hoped people would enjoy the book, but I didn’t expect it to reach the upper levels of any categories on Amazon. The fact that it did proves two things to me: First, it proves I have a lot of very good friends who are willing to support my efforts, and second, it proves you just never know what might happen.

Now that the book is back to its normal paid status, it’s no longer in the upper ranks of books on Amazon, but that’s okay. It had a great three day run, and now I need to work to expose it to a wider audience. If you are so inclined, please share the book with your friends and family. If you enjoyed the book, there’s a good chance others will enjoy it as well.

Also, if you read the book, please post a review on Amazon. Even a short review can be very helpful. The more reviews the better.

Thanks again for your support. It is greatly appreciated.


It’s Alive (and it’s Free)!

Tierra del Fuego CoverThe official launch date for Tierra del Fuego is next Tuesday, September 15, but I wanted to give you a heads up that the book is live right now. And for the next three days (beginning tomorrow), you can get the book for free.  Of course, you’re probably asking, “What’s the catch?”  There’s really no catch, but there are a couple of reasons I’m doing this.

First, you’re really cool, and you deserve a gift. That’s right. You’re being rewarded for being so cool. Congratulations! You’ve earned a free gift.

Second, the book needs reviews. If you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate it if you’d submit an honest review of the book to Amazon. It would be greatly appreciated, and reviewing the book is exactly the sort of thing that a really cool person would do.

Pick up the book for free, enjoy reading it, and if you are of a mind to, please leave a review. Taking these three easy steps will make the world a better place for our children and our grandchildren. And when all is said and done, isn’t it really all about the kids?

P.S. – Don’t forget that Tierra del Fuego will only be free Saturday (9/12), Sunday (9/13), and Monday (9/14). After that, the price shoots way back up to $1.99. You can find the book here.


What’s in a Name?

You Named Me WhatWhere do stories come from? That’s a question authors are often asked, and I’m not sure anyone has ever come up with a good answer for it. A question I was recently asked is in that same vein. I was talking to a friend, and he asked, “Why Tierra del Fuego?”

“What do you mean?” I asked

“Where did you come up with that name? You don’t speak Spanish. The main character isn’t Spanish. What does it even mean?”

“It means ‘land of fire,” I said. “I called it that because much of the story—maybe the most important part—takes place in the Tierra del Fuego province of Argentina.”

“Do you think anyone will know that before they read the book?”

It’s a fair question. Maybe I should have come up with a different, less obscure, title. I chose Tierra del Fuego during the very earliest draft of the story, and it just stuck. But from the beginning, I liked the title.

When my friend asked me the question “Why Tierra del Fuego?” I became curious. So I hopped on Amazon to see if there were any other books by the same name. If there were, I wanted to see what those books were about.  As it turns out, I’m not the only one who thought Tierra del Fuego was a good book title.

In 2000, the Argentine novelist and human rights activist Sylvia Iparraguirre published a novel entitled Tierra del Fuego. I had never heard of Iparraguire or her book before doing this research, but I learned that her version of Tierra del Fuego won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize, which is an annual award given to women authors writing in Spanish. The award carries with it a prize of 100,000 pesos, which I believe is equivalent to $38.17 (That’s a joke. In today’s dollars, it is worth $5903.76). The book also received the Best Book of the Year Award at the Buenos Aires Book Fair (I should be so lucky).

Iparraguire’s Tierra del Fuego is a fictionalized version of the true story of Jemmy Button, a Yamana Indian, who was abducted from his home by Robert Fitzroy, captain of the HMS Beagle. In the book, Fitzroy takes Button back to England in an attempt to “civilize” him, and then returns him to Argentina as a “bearer of enlightenment.” I’m not familiar with the story, but it apparently doesn’t end well.

Another book entitled Tierra del Fuego was written by Francisco Coloane Cardenas, a well-known and well-respected Chilean novelist and short story writer. The book is a collection of short stories involving shipwrecks and other hardships that all take place in and around the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego (not to be confused with the province in Argentina).

The thing I found interesting about Coloane’s (for some reason, he rarely went by Cardenas) short story collection is that Tierra del Fuego is not officially the title of the book. When the book was originally published in 1945, the title was La Tierra del Fuego Se Apago (Tierra del Fuego Has Burnt Out). When the book was translated into English and French several years later, the title was shortened simply to Tierra del Fuego.

The final entry in the “Tierra del Fuego Sweepstakes” (there actually is no sweepstakes) is a book by Peter Lourie (not Peter Lorre) that is a short history and travelogue of the island of Tierra del Fuego (as opposed to the province or archipelago). The book is very short (only 48 pages), contains mostly photos, and is intended for an audience of fourth to seventh grade students. I’m hoping people don’t get my book mixed up with Lourie’s. Fourth graders should not be reading my book, and there are no pictures.

If you decide to purchase my Tierra del Fuego, don’t get it confused with these other books. Rather than reading the story of a man struggling to deal with his emotions after the death of his wife, you may end up reading about a kidnapped Yamana Indian, stories of shipwrecks in the frigid waters of the South Pacific Ocean, or just looking at pretty pictures of a remote island. Choose wisely.


What’s It All About, Louie?

Tierra del Fuego MapI launched my Facebook author page yesterday, and I was pleasantly surprised at the response I got. Lots of people wished me well in my writing career, and a few had questions.  People asked: “Where can I buy Tierra del Fuego?” “What is the book about?” “You can write? Who knew?” I was gratified by the response (even the snarky comments), so I thought I’d take some time to answer these questions.

What is your book about?

Tierra del Fuego is a novella about a man who suspects his wife of cheating on him. He’s getting close to finding out the truth about his wife when she is killed in an auto accident. He is distraught over her death, but is also consumed with feelings of betrayal over her suspected infidelity, emotions that drive him away from his job and his home in Chicago. He seeks refuge in an epic road trip that culminates at the literal end of the road in southernmost Argentina.

Here’s the tentative description for the book:

“Matt Cravens has always trusted his wife, but lately she’s been acting strange. He fears she’s having an affair, and when he confronts her, she promises to tell him the whole story when she gets home. But she never makes it home. When she is killed in an auto accident, Matt is consumed with feelings of grief and betrayal, emotions that prompt him to leave his home and his job, to find answers in one of earth’s most remote places. Will Matt find the answers he’s looking for? If he finds them, will he ever be able to return home?”

Where can I buy the book?

Tierra del Fuego will be available beginning September 15, and will be available as an e-book exclusively from Amazon. However, you’ll soon be able to get the book for free. Free? Yes, free. Stay tuned for more details.

You can write? Who knew?

I have enjoyed writing for a very long time. I’m not being modest when I say I have very few marketable skills. It’s sad, but true. Writing happens to be one of the handful of things I enjoy doing, and can do competently.

In a future blog post, I’ll expand on the story behind why it has taken me so long to finally get around to publishing some of my writing. It is a heartbreaking tale of villainy and intrigue. Okay, maybe that’s overstating the facts. For now, I’ll just say that I have wanted to be a writer from my earliest days in grade school, but forces beyond my control have conspired to keep me from heart’s desire. Oops, there I go with the overstatement again.

The bottom line is that I love to write, and I’m finally doing something about my lifelong ambition to be a published author. I hope you enjoy the results of my efforts.


A Very Exciting Time

Tierra del Fuego CoverThis is going to be a short post, but I wanted to share a little bit about my excitement over the upcoming publication of my novella, Tierra del Fuego. Writing for me has been a lifelong passion. Even as early as grade school, I knew that I enjoyed writing. Unfortunately, I was led away from the writing path at a rather young age, and I didn’t find the path again until about ten years ago. Since then, I have dedicated myself to writing, seeking out opportunities to learn and grow.

All of that work has paid off.  Over the next several months, I will be publishing much of the writing I have been working on over the past decade. I’ll also be working on a novel that should be out in September of 2016.

This really is a very exciting time. I’m happy I get to share it with you, and I truly hope you enjoy the stories I’m writing.