The Ones That Got Away: What If You Had a Second Chance?

Have you ever thought about what your life could be like if you had the chance to do it over? What mistakes would you correct? What regrets would you re-do? What would you do if you could do it all over again?

That’s what Scott Thompson wonders. Scott is the protagonist in my new novel, The Ones That Got Away. He’s just gone to bed in the guest bedroom after another fight with his wife, Kathy. He’s lying in the dark and thinks how much better his marriage and his life would be if he had married any one of the three women he seriously dated before meeting Kathy.

Melanie was his college sweetheart. She was smart, sexy, and adventurous. She could also be a handful when she drank; loving and amorous one night, volatile and angry the next. But when things were good with Melanie, they were very good.

He met Holly when he was in law school in Chicago. Holly was driven and in control. She had a plan for her life and she wanted Scott to join her on the journey.

Liz came into his life when he was first practicing law. She was a sweet and upbeat woman who was full of life. She loved her job as a teacher, and had plans to move into administration. The thing about dating Liz was, they never fought. Scott had never been with a woman he got along with so well.

He’s thinking about these three women as he drifts off to sleep. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds himself back in his college apartment. And lying next to him is a naked Melanie.

This is the start of Scott living his life over and over again. What changes will he make? Who will he build a relationship with? How will he try to change his life…and the world?

The Ones That Got Away comes out on June 1. It’s available as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon or your favorite bookstore.

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Book Cover Reveal

We are only a couple of weeks away from the publication of my newest novel, The Ones That Got Away. Writing this book was a long, difficult slog. Even so, I’m happy with the way it turned out, and I’m excited for the publication date (June 1, 2020) to arrive.

Today, I want to introduce the cover for the new book.  Here is the cover for the ebook version of the book.

I would share the print version cover, but it’s in a format that this site doesn’t like. Oh well… How do you like the ebook version?

The last couple of weeks before a book is published are exciting and nerve-racking.  I’ll share more news with you as we get closer to June 1.

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The Latest on “The Ones That Got Away”

For a change, I have some good news concerning my next book. I finally finished it!

The book went off to the editor (again) a couple of weeks ago. He made quick work of the manuscript, sent it back to me, and I made the necessary changes.

Recently, the manuscript was sent off for final proof reading, and copies of the book have been sent to beta readers. The next step is to get a book cover. That should happen in the next two or three weeks.

As we get closer to the publication date (6/1/20) I’ll have more news for you, including a synopsis of the story and a cover reveal. Things are starting to get exciting!

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The Latest on “The Ones That Got Away”

The book I’m currently working on, The Ones That Got Away, has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever written. Since beginning the novel, I have electronically lost the manuscript twice (once my fault, once not), I’ve moved, gotten sick, had a death in the family, and suffered from a streak of laziness that has gone on for months. All told, the writing of this book has taken more than four years so far. The good news is, I think it’s finally nearing an end.

The Ones That Got Away asks the question, how would you live your life if you were given a second chance. What would change? What would stay the same? What I’m finding is that the answers are much more complicated than I first imagined.

I’m in the home stretch of writing the book. It’s gone to the editor once, I’ve made a bunch of changes, and I continue to make changes. My plan is to have the book finished and ready for publication by June 1, 2020. As I write that date, I realize how soon it will be here. There’s still lots of work to be done, so I’d better get busy.

I’ll post more info about The Ones That Got Away as we get closer to the publication date.

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A New Cover for Driven: A Novel

My book, Driven: A Novel was published in November 2017. The story takes place in Miami in the early 1980’s, just as the drug trade in South Florida was really taking off, and becoming much more dangerous. The main character, Alex Booth, dreams of becoming a professional race car driver, but he lacks the financial wherewithal to make a go of it. That is, until he’s offered the opportunity to fund his racing by smuggling drugs.

When I originally published the novel, I wanted a cover that represented the Miami lifestyle in the early 80’s with palm trees, lot’s of neon, “Miami Vice” fonts, and, of course, a race car. The book cover choices I was given weren’t the greatest, so I went with this one:

Even early on, I wasn’t crazy about the cover, but it came closest to checking all of the boxes I wanted. Since then, I have grown more and more unhappy with the cover. So, I’ve finally done something about it. I commissioned a new cover that isn’t nearly as gaudy as the first, but still let’s the reader know a little bit about the story. I think the new cover is more subtle and understated than the original, and does a better job of representing the story the reader can expect.

And without further ado, here’s the new cover:

So, how do you like it?

Over the next week or so, I’ll be replacing the old cover with the new one on social media, as well as on both the print and ebook versions of the book. Also, in a day or two, keep an eye out for an update on my latest work in progress. And, as always, thanks for following along.

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My First Flash Fiction Story Has Been Published

I’ve been toying with writing short-short stories. This kind of writing is commonly called flash fiction and it’s usually a thousand words or fewer per story. The length varies depending on the publishing outlet. Some places restrict the word count to 100 or less, while others go as high as 1500 words.

In any case, the general length is shorter than a full-fledged short story, which presents challenges to the writer. Every word has to carry its own weight. There’s no room for superfluous language or red herring plot lines. With flash fiction, the story has to be direct and to-the-point, but the characters still have to be well developed and the plot has to be complete and logical.

I’m happy to report that my first attempt at a flash fiction story has been published. The story is “Kissing Gigi.” It was published by Flash Fiction Magazine. You can find it here.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Writing this book has been a lesson in patience, frustration, anger, and disappointment. It has also shown me that sometimes, good things can come from bad situations.

The book I’m talking about is The Ones That Got Away. It’s my latest novel, and I’ve been working on it, in its various iterations, for five years or more. It’s about a man who’s part of a bad marriage. After having an argument with his wife, he goes to bed in the guest room, and wakes up in his college apartment, just twenty-two years old, and ready to live his life over. All of his memories are intact. All he needs to do is decided who he’s going to share his life with in his second (and third, and fourth) chances at life.

A while back, I wrote another blog post detailing my frustration with writing the book. In a nutshell, I had written about 40% of the book before I lost it all due to a computer malfunction. The good news in that post was that the second version of that 40% I lost was better than the first. So, although it was frustrating and infuriating, at that point, things had worked out. Since then, things have just gotten more frustrating.

After writing the previous post, I’ve dealt with even more snafus. At one point, I lost two full chapters due to my own inability to save my work. Then, I lost four chapters of edits. Recreating the edits wasn’t difficult, but it was annoying to have to do it again.

In August, the manuscript was finally done, and I sent it to Sean, my editor. I was feeling good about the book until I got it back from Sean. He had cut over 17,000 words, and suggested that I add several more chapters. Man, was I disappointed. I had wanted to have the book available by October 1 (after initially missing the March 1 deadline). Now, it looks like the book won’t be available until after the new year. UGH!!!

Okay, deep breath.

Sean and I talked about the changes he suggested, and I agreed with about 90% of them. Sean suggested edits are going to make the book better. It’s going to tell a fuller story. And the writing is going to be better. So, despite my frustrations, the results are going to be worth the headaches.

As things stand now, I’m still working on Sean’s edits. I’d like to say that the book will be ready January 1, 2020, but with the holidays just around the corner, I’m setting a new publication goal date of March 1, 2020. That’s one full year after I had intended on publishing the book, but I’m convinced it’s better to delay putting out a great book than it is to quickly publish a mediocre one.

Okay, back to work.

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Happy Publication Day to On the Road

Sixty-two years ago today, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road was published. All these years later, it is one of the best loved and most popular American novels ever written, and it remains the seminal piece of literature produced during and about the Beat Generation.

My novella, “Back on the Road,” which can be found in the novella collection Road Stories, was heavily influenced by Kerouac’s work. In the novella, a group of friends, all recent college graduates, set out on a road trip to follow Kerouac’s protagonist’s, Sal’s, route across America. On the way, through adventures and mishaps, they learn about the country, each other, and themselves.

Happy Publication Day to On the Road. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. And while you’re at it, check out Road Stories to read “Back on the Road.”

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Don’t Sell Me a Car. Tell Me a Story.

I hate being sold anything. I like buying things, but I hate being sold things. That’s why I like the following two ads from Audi. Rather than telling me (and everyone else) what we should buy, Audi is telling us a story. They’re not beating us over the head with reasons their car is better than others or giving us other reasons to buy an Audi. Instead, they’re speaking to our emotions, telling us a compelling story about people we don’t know, but who we start caring about almost as soon as the story begins.

Stories are powerful. They express truths that can’t be conveyed with more direct language or sales techniques. They speak to our hearts, something that sales talk or logic can’t do. They give us reason to buy, even when our defenses are up making sure we aren’t being sold anything.

This first video ran during the Super Bowl a few years ago. The car Audi would like to sell us is at the center of the video, but not the center of the story. In order to make us care, stories almost always have to be about people (or animals). Audi is selling cars, but they’re telling stories about people.

In this commercial for the Audi RS6 Avant, they go a step further. They’re selling a car, and the story is about a young man growing into an adult. But Audi goes the extra step by making us care about a station wagon. I just read an article indicating that station wagons are a dying breed, but after I watched this extended commercial, I started thinking that maybe I need a station wagon. That’s quite a feat because I do not like station wagons. So, if the commercial affected me this way, it’s having the same effect on others.

Well done, Audi. Keep the stories coming.

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Happy Birthday, James Baldwin!

Had he lived, today would have been author James Baldwin’s 95th birthday. If you’ve never read Baldwin, do yourself a favor and pick up the short story, “Sonny’s Blues. If you’d like to read it online, take a look at this website. The story is annotated, but still well worth reading.

My favorite passage in the story takes place at the end. The narrator is at a club watching his brother, Sonny, play piano in a band. The gig, like the story itself, starts out slow, and then builds little by little, finally reaching it’s crescendo as the story ends.

Here’s a bit of “Sonny’s Blues” from the annotated version:

“All I know about music is that not many people ever really hear it. And even then, on the rare occasions when something opens within, and the music enters, what we mainly hear, or hear corroborated, are personal, private, vanishing evocations. But the man who creates the music is hearing something else, is dealing with the roar rising from the void and imposing order on it as it hits the air. What is evoked in him, then, is of another order, more terrible because it has no words, and triumphant, too, for that same reason. And his triumphs, when he triumphs, is ours. I just watched Sonny’s face. His face was troubled, he was working hard, but he wasn’t with it. And I had the feeling that, in a way, everyone on the bandstand was waiting for him, both waiting for him and pushing him along. But as I began to watch Creole, I realized that it was Creole who held them all back. He had them all on a short rein. Up there, keeping the beat with his whole body, wailing on the fiddle, with his eyes half closed, he was listening to everything, but he was listening to Sonny. He was having a dialogue with Sonny. He wanted Sonny to leave the shoreline and strike out for the deep water. He was Sonny’s witness that deep water and drowning were not the same thing–he had been there, and he knew. And he wanted Sonny to know. He was waiting for Sonny to do the things on the keys which would let Creole know that Sonny was in the water.

And, while Creole listened, Sonny moved, deep within, exactly like someone in torment. I had never before thought of how awful the relationship must be between the musician and his instrument. He has to fill it, his instrument, with the breath of life, his own. He has to make it do what he wants it to do. And a piano is just a piano. It’s made out of so much wood and wires and little hammers and big ones, and ivory. While there’s only so much you can do with it, the only way to find this out is to try; to try and make it do everything.

And Sonny hadn’t been near a piano for over a year. And he wasn’t on much better terms with his life, not the life that stretched before him now. He and the piano stammered, started one way, got scared, stopped; started another way, panicked, marked time, started again; then seemed to have found a direction, panicked again, got stuck. And the face I saw on Sonny I’d never seen before. Everything had been burned out of it, and, at the same time, things usually hidden were being burned in, by the fire and fury of the battle which was occurring in him up there.

Yet, watching Creole’s face as they neared the end of the first set, I had the feeling that something had happened, something I hadn’t heard. Then they finished, there was scattered applause, and then, without an instant’s warning, Creole started into something else, it was almost sardonic, it was Am I Blue? And, as though he commanded, Sonny began to play. Something began to happen. And Creole let out the reins. The dry, low black man said something awful on the drums, Creole answered, and the drums talked back. Then the horn insisted, sweet and high, slightly detached perhaps, and Creole listened, commenting now and then, dry, and driving, beautiful and calm and old. Then they all came together again, Sonny was part of the family again. I could tell this from his face. He seemed to have found, right there beneath his fingers, a damn brand-new piano. It seemed that he couldn’t get over it. Then, for a while, just being happy with Sonny, they seemed to be agreeing with him that brand-new pianos certainly were a gas.

Then Creole stepped forward to remind them that what they were playing was the blues. He hit something in all of them, he hit something in me, myself, and the music tightened and deepened, apprehension began to beat the air. Creole began to tell us what the blues were all about. They were not about anything new. He and his boys up there were keeping it new, at the risk of ruin, destruction, madness, and death, in order to find new ways to make us listen. For, while the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to tell, it’s the only light we’ve got in all this darkness.

And this tale, according to that face, that body, those strong hands on those strings, has another aspect in every country, and a new depth in every generation. Listen, Creole seemed to be saying, listen. Now these are Sonny’s blues. He made the little black man on the drums know it, and the bright, brown man on the horn. Creole wasn’t trying any longer to get Sonny in the water. He was wishing him Godspeed. Then he stepped back, very slowly, filling the air with the immense suggestion that Sonny speak for himself.

Then they all gathered around Sonny and Sonny played. Every now and again one of them seemed to say, amen. Sonny’s fingers filled the air with his life, his life. But that life contained so many others. And Sonny went all the way back, he really began with the spare, flat statement of the opening phrase of the song. Then he began to make it his. It was very beautiful because it wasn’t hurried and it was no longer a lament. I seemed to hear with what burning he had made it his, and what burning we had yet to make it ours, how we could cease lamenting. Freedom lurked around us and I understood, at last, that he could help us to be free if we would listen, that he would never be free until we did. Yet, there was no battle in his face now, I heard what we had gone through, and would continue to go through until he came to rest in earth. He had made it his; that long line, of which we only knew Mama and Daddy. And he was giving it back, as everything must be given back, so that, passing through death, it can live forever. I saw the moonlit road where my father’s brother died. And it brought something else back to me, and carried me past it, I saw my little girl again and felt Isabel’s tears again, and I felt my own tears begin to rise. And I was yet aware that this was only a moment, that the world waited outside, as hungry as a tiger, and that trouble stretched above us, longer than the sky.

Then it was over, Creole and Sonny let out their breath, both soaking wet, and grinning. There was a lot of applause and some of it was real. In the dark, the girl came by and I asked her to take drinks to the bandstand. There was a long pause, while they talked up there in the indigo light and after awhile I saw the girl put a Scotch and milk on top of the piano for Sonny. He didn’t seem to notice it, but just before they started playing again, he sipped from it and looked toward me, and nodded. Then, he put it back on top of the piano. For me, then, as they began to play again. It glowed and shook above my brother’s head like the very cup of trembling.”

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