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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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

Spiritual confessions, from the devoutly non-religious

skeleton holding a sign reading "confession"A confession. Actually, multiple confessions. I know–it all sounds so JUICY! But before I start, a qualifying note—some confessions prior to confession, if you will. First, these confessions ain’t all that juicy. So get your mind out of the gutter (those are reserved for a later time). Second, “confession” brings with it a quality of guilt and need for reparation, either with something bigger or with yourself or with another. That’s not what my confessions—what these particular confessions—are about. Yet there is most certainly a spiritual undertone and undertow to all of what follows. Let’s continue.

First confession. I grew up in Kansas. When young, I regularly attended Sunday School (of the Methodist variety). My parents were friends with the pastor and I remember visiting their house even after they had moved to another city (sidenote: their house had a cool stairway from the kitchen to the upstairs—reminded me a bit of playing Clue and escaping via a secret passage). After my parents divorced, I also spent a fair amount of time at Catholic mass. Growing up, I attended small churches where everyone knew who you were, as well as giant mega-churches where you were anonymous yet (supposedly) somehow part of something so much larger. My best friends in high school were a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Baptist, and a Mormon. I know, it sounds like the start of a joke: so this atheist/agnostic walks into a bar (well, probably not a bar) with a Methodist, a Lutheran, a Baptist, and a Mormon… If Kansas is part of the Bible Belt, then growing up I felt situated squarely in the middle of the buckle.

Second confession. I never liked any of it. It didn’t feel comfortable to me. Ever. Even as a child. While young, I loved exploring the darkened church, running behind the alter and choir area in what felt like hidden walkways that few ever saw or even knew existed. I still remember hiding behind the trees and bushes in front of the church and climbing into the newspaper recycling container with my best friend Rob. I liked trying to figure out the fire escape with its counterweight. But beyond the cool, young boy explorations, I didn’t like it. I felt uncomfortable wearing the gown-like garment (aww, let’s face it, it was definitely a gown, nothing “gown-like” about it) as I walked down the aisle to extinguish the candles on the alter. The special candle snuffing device was cool, though, as was the smell of the wick after it went out. “Lock-ins” were cool because I got to play basketball all night long. “Lock-ins” weren’t cool when we had to stop and talk about religion. Hide-and-seek in a church is pretty much more awesome than anywhere else. It’s creepy late at night and there are a million places to hide, hoping that the girl you like will find you before anyone else. It’s not nearly as cool to stop and join together in prayer.

Third confession. All of these feelings made me feel alone and lost and confused at times. One friend was going on a mission. Another friend’s brother went to divinity school. Another friend was so devotedly involved with his church that he always felt the most religious of all of them to me. This same friend gave me a book a few years later, an attempt to save me, I think, but done in a way that never made me feel uncomfortable or pressed upon. My mom gave me a plaque with the religious connotation of my name. I’ve kept it, and the Bible I was given as a child, all of these years, but simply have them boxed away. I tried to read the Bible from cover to cover once, maybe twice. I didn’t make it. And so what was I in the midst of all of this? A fraud? Not really, because I never professed to believe like the rest. They knew I wasn’t religious. It was more like I was the one who missed the day at school where everything was explained. I somehow just didn’t quite get it. Or, I was the one who saw the punchline that everyone else missed. Either way, there was a certain outsider status that I felt, though none of them ever placed it upon me.

Fourth confession. One of the above-mentioned friends told me years later that he thought of me as the most spiritual of all of them. Took me completely by surprise. I’d never thought of myself that way. I moved to the Pacific Northwest but I hadn’t become a new-age hippie or anything. Where did this come from? It did two things, though: 1) it altered my understanding of my friend, who before I would have guessed as being the most dogmatic and proscription-driven (he didn’t drink, smoke, etc). His concept of religion and spirituality turned out to be much broader and inclusive than I had ever guessed (broader, certainly, than mine since I could never conceive of myself as “spiritual”). 2) it made me think about what, in fact, was “spiritual.” Nothing dramatic happened, but I think it planted a seed.

Fifth confession. I’ve come, when I’m most open and at my best, to believe in trusting the “universe” and keeping myself as open as possible to it. That’s when the best things in my life have occurred. It’s hard to do, though, with guilt about the past and worries about the future and anxieties about my self-worth robbing that comfortable melding with the present that has been fuel for when the tumblers of life click into place and things move unimpeded toward the beauty and love that means more than anything else in life to me—whether that’s being filled with thankfulness when staring at the ceiling and asking that I be a good enough father to teach my soon-to-be-born son about love and ask that he feel love surround him like a bubble throughout his life, or putting all fears aside and risking myself in a relationship by fully letting go in the pursuit of unprotected love (big difference, kids, between unprotected love and unprotected sex: yes on the former, no on the latter).

Sixth confession. I want to believe in something bigger. (Have I indeed become a NW hippie after all?). For me, that something bigger is love and understanding that nothing happens in isolation. I think about my novel Ghost Music and I see those undercurrents swirling through the plot and character growth. The past, present, and future chase one another. The main character, Marcus Brace, has to learn to heal his wounds and risk himself with another woman again. At one point (in a pop culture nod toward a Brady Bunch episode where the kids break a vase playing ball in the house and try to glue it back together) Marcus wonders whether what has been fractured grows stronger for that break or remains forever fragile afterward. I say, with all due acknowledgment to the more typical Biblical aphorism, that you reap what you risk. Willing to risk fragility is its own type of strength. Be willing to be fragile, my friends. And in that, know that you are strong and there is love coming back to you.

Thanks for stopping by. Please help out by spreading the word about my blog and my soon-to-be-released novel Ghost Music by emailing the link above or sharing via Facebook, Twitter, Google+. And always feel free to email me with any questions or requests. 

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.