Two weeks until launch!

Patrick_Linder_PhotoWe’re getting close to the launch of Ghost Music at the Wordstock literary festival in Portland–only two weeks to go! Things are falling into place, and it’s amazing to see each piece come together. We finished the front cover for Ghost Music this week. I love it–it has just the right atmosphere for a mystery. I submitted my headshot for the back cover of the book (see pic above), as well as the short blurb that will be there. Pitches to press have gone out. Praise from early readers has been included on the book cover. The PSWA Award seal is on there as well. It’s all starting to feel very, very real.

If you’re in the Portland area, I’d love to see you at Wordstock. And though things are coming together nicely, I’ll need your help after the book launches: spread the word, leave a review on Amazon, post and tweet away. Word of mouth is the best way to find good books and I hope you’ll help others find Ghost Music after it launches.

Stay tuned–we’re getting very close now!

–Patrick

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Getting close to a book launch!

Great news–I signed a contract with Oak Tree Press and we’re planning to launch my book at the Wordstock Festival in Portland in early October. I can’t wait! I spent time last weekend going through the galley copy of Ghost Music. Next step: reviewing cover art. More details coming as soon as I have them. 🙂

Title page of Ghost Music

Ghost Music wins an award

Great news! My novel Ghost Music was awarded third place for a non-published fiction book at the Public Safety Writers Association annual writing competition.

I’m hoping the “non-published” part changes soon. I don’t have a contract in hand yet, but I’ve been talking with Oak Tree Press about launching Ghost Music at October’s Wordstock conference in Portland. Stay tuned!

Overseas and underwater

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Floating on the Mekong

Sorry for the long absence. I owe you some updates! Here goes:

  • I took some time off from all writing while I went on a trip through Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It was an amazing experience. Angkor Wat was incredible, the killing fields were even more powerful than I thought they would be, and Vietnam had Communist flags flying but capitalism ruled all of the streets. I also had a few martinis on the rooftop bar seen in The Hangover 2. All told, it was a great trip. Well, minus the jet lag. That was terrible.
  • I’ve had a few essays featured on the online arts journal Rebelle Society. I was lucky enough to have one of my articles classified as a “Classic,” and they picked up another essay soon after the first. They’ve also asked me to be a regular contributor, which is incredibly flattering. That’s where some of my writing time is now going. If you haven’t seen my work at Rebelle, I would love for you to check those essays out (and share them if you like them).
  • I am getting closer and closer to having my novel published. I’m continuing talks with Oak Tree Press and it looks like there could be an October release date for my mystery Ghost Music. I’m incredibly excited and, while I wait, am continuing to refine my thoughts on marketing the novel after it’s released. Prepare yourself for giveaways and other goodies.

Basically, I wanted to let you know that I’m back, that I’m still writing, and that I really appreciate you stopping in to read my work/musings. I’m no longer underwater while trying to move between my job, writing, parenting, etc.–you know, life. Thanks for sticking with me. More posts, more frequently–that’s what I’m aiming for here. Stay tuned 🙂

–Patrick

Building your writing platform: writers as marketers.

wooden platform“Platform” is the buzzword in publishing and writing circles at the moment. It’s tossed around so casually that you might find yourself nodding along with the crowd but lost once you’re by yourself. If so, I’m here to help.

So what’s a platform? Think of your platform as the structure you’ve created to reach potential readers. The bigger the platform, the bigger the potential reach. You probably have several “planks” already, even if you don’t know it. Do you have a Facebook account and mention your writing on there? Do you tweet about writing or books? Do you have a blog? A LinkedIn or Google+ account? You should. All of these are free. They make easy, foundational planks to promote your work and connect with those who are interested in your writing.

There’s good news for writers looking to create a platform. The best advice I have is something that should be second nature to you: write, write, write. It’s obviously one of your strengths: play to it. The caveat? You can’t spend all of your time writing the great American novel; you also need to spend some of your writing time and talents to connect with others. Write responses to blogs you follow. Write and contribute to forums. Write tweets and write additions to re-tweets. You are your own best advocate. Get your name out there and connect with other writers, other reading groups, other folks who love the written word. Despite what television and the “internets” want us to believe, there are tons of us book/word lovers out there.

Even better news: I’m convinced that writers can be great marketers. Why take my word for it? Well, I have experience at both. I’m a writer, by both proclivity and profession. I’m a marketer, by both inclination and occupation. Yes, that makes me a “marketing writer” and “communications manager” (my official title). I’ve spent years thinking about and exploring how narrative works, in both novels and in real-life. I have a PhD in English, a certificate in marketing management, and a novel (hopefully to be published this summer) under my belt. Writers, I adamantly tell you, make fantastic marketers.

Don’t be intimidated by marketing. Use your writing skills and think of it as an exercise in narrative. If you’re a writer, then you’re a storyteller. That gives you a huge advantage when thinking about marketing yourself and your book. Here are a few questions to get you started (or if you’re already started, these should be easy for you to answer):

  • What story do you want others to tell about your novel? I know, this is a bit meta: what’s the story about the story?
    • Don’t think of “story” in a negative, un-true way. I’m simply suggesting that you should know up front what story (or “history” if that makes you feel more comfortable) you want people to understand about why you created your book, how it came to be, why it’s important, etc.
    • What story do you want readers to understand about you? How does that story (set of facts) tie into the story from the bullet point above?
    • How do your stories (both the novel you wrote and the life you’ve created) fit with or contest the stories (again, plural) of other authors you come in contact with?

I’m fascinated by this connection between authorship, promotion, platform creation, and narrative. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Lots more to come on this topic, with lots more concrete suggestions on platform building.

While you’re here, take a look at other recent blog topics (list is on the left-hand side, under the menu!)

–Patrick

The past you like, the past you hate

pencil erasing the phrase "the past"

The great thing about America, they say, is that it’s a land of second chances. People come here to make a fresh start. Your ancestors probably did. And it’s a land that loves to forgive, to let people try again and start over after their mistakes.

That’s a lovely theory. But how do you “start over?” There’s no reset button to life. There’s no way to erase the past. There are real-life reasons (financial and familial and familiar) why most of us can’t just fold up our tent, hop a train, and start a new life in a different town. And even if you could, would that really be escaping from the past? You tote your past with you everywhere you go. It’s the invisible baggage that no porter will ever carry for you; only you get to push and pull and tug and lug it from place to place.

Whitman, one of America’s first great poets (and a personal favorite), famously claimed that he was large, that he contained multitudes. Beautiful. Lyrical. It’s a fundamentally democratic poetic statement, abundant and amenable to differences. I loved it as a college student. I love it as a theory.

The darker side that I overlooked in my first enthusiastic embrace? What if you can’t stomach some of the past (personal, cultural, national) that you contain? How do you make sense of not just the good that you have done but also the errors, sins, and mistakes that you have committed?

In my novel Ghost Music, characters try different tactics: some attempt to ignore the past wholly, some are swallowed by the past and lose the present, while others learn to balance what happened (good and bad) with the present. It’s a delicate issue, this effort to contain not only the multitudes that you like, but also those that you want to excoriate and burn and vomit away.

Yes, Mr. Whitman, we do indeed contain multitudes. At times, though, it is easy to wish we did not, that we could be simple, happy, uncomplicated monads, blissfully unaware of the past and able to leave all mistakes behind. Ghost Music shows the impossibility of that wish. It is a novel not just about past sins, but also about learning to forgive (both yourself and others) and attempts to reconstruct.

Tattoos, pain, and writing

I have a few tattoos already. I have plans for a few others: when I qualify for the Boston Marathon, I’ll get a tattoo that captures that moment on my calf; when Ghost Music is published, I’ll get a tattoo celebrating that dream. Those of you with tattoos are probably familiar with this question—people often ask me if getting a tattoo hurts. My answer isn’t exactly what they’re looking for. For me, there’s a powerful connection between my writing, my tattoos, and that question about pain.

I’m not talking about physical pain from getting a tattoo (though I will say that getting a tattoo on the side of your torso isn’t the most fun). Rather, my tattoos have me simultaneously celebrating and second-guessing how I’d like to live my life. Both tattoos are related to my writing. I mentioned before that I am an emotional writer. When I’m at my best, I’m ready to burn with emotion, explode with the passion and pain of feeling, and willing to grab hold of the live wire of emotional existence with bare hands. The tattoo on my torso is meant to capture this: Icarus is flying into the sun, wings melting and feathers falling. Though the original story isn’t intended this way, I take Icarus not as a cautionary tale but as a promise to myself: I’m willing to scorch myself and push to the point of no return in pursuit of emotional intensity.

My other tattoo has a literary bent as well: on my upper left arm, a stone gargoyle sits hunched over, sadness in his eyes, eating his own heart. A response to Stephen Crane’s “In the Desert,” this tattoo reminds me of how I feast on emotion and have a love-hate relationship with feelings of sadness. “Love:” the intensity of the pain often shakes lose new creative directions for me. Hate: feeling the pain is overwhelming at times.

A few caveats to this creative process. First, let’s not romanticize the method. I don’t like feeling lousy. It’s not a mystical muse that I want to court or think is special. Yes, “pain is real,” but when you’re in pain feeling “real” isn’t so cool. Second, you have to take that emotional energy and compress it, hammer it out into a cohesive plan. I’m a planner when I write. I know the general framework of where I want to go and how I want to get there. I use the emotional upheaval as a planning block: how does emotion X fit into plot Y and advance character Z?

For me, this becomes the best of all possible worlds: it makes the writing less mechanical, it balances pure emotion within a broader perspective/plan, and it makes room for an important tweaking of that platitude to “write what you know.” More on the last point in a later post…