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Monday, January 30, 2017

Hello/Goodbye

This is hard for me.

On the one hand, this is the last post I’ll do on Under the Sun.  I’ve enjoyed writing in this blog.  I loved talking about the things going on in the world and in my life, and it’s helped me overcome massive insecurity and anxiety about sharing my writing.  I’ve learned a small bit about self-promotion, and hopefully, I’ve left a smile on faces or made people think.

And while I’m going to shut down this blog, I’m not vanishing.  I’m starting a new one on my new author website.   And everything that’s here will remain here.  Just saying.

Thank you so much for taking the time and the interest to listen to the random thoughts rattling around my brain.  I do sincerely hope you'll come with me to the new address, which will be opening on February 2nd: www.authorfranklynthomas.com.  


I’ll make sure to turn the lights out as I leave.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Progress Report: The New Site

Hey, you guys!

It’s another bi-weekly progress report!

I’ve completed two short stories this month: Red Light Confessional and Father Figures.  The first has an escort dealing with her strangest client: a priest on his deathbed.  The second is a sort-of sequel to my first novel, The Fab 5Red Light Confessional will be available to read on my website in February along with two other stories, and Father Figures will be up in March.

Wait, whaaaaat?

Yes, I’m relaunching my website.  I’ve taken the advice about trying to build an author platform, and one of those bits of advice is a one-stop shop for hawking my wares and showing off my stories.  I made a promise that this year would be the year I made more of an effort to make the business end of writing work.  The new site will be up on February 1 and will include writing samples, character profiles, release updates and a new home for my blog.

Which means, yes, I’m in the process of packing the boxes for Under The Sun.  It’s almost moving day.  I will say this, I’m not going to strictly post about writing, or more specifically, what I’m writing.  There will be progress updates, sure, and talks about the craft, but life also happens and I’ll talk about that too.


At any rate, I hope you’ll join me at the new site when it’s up and running.  Cheers!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Place In History

There have been only a few “Where were you?” moments in my lifetime.

9/11.  President Obama’s inauguration.  These are the watershed moments in my lifetime, events that changed my perception of the world.  And eight years after the last one, another inauguration is poised to do that yet again.

Say hello to President Trump.

I’m going to make this as non-partisan and non-political as I can.  This is a “Where were you?” moment.  It is the end of an historic presidency with one of the most universally-beloved public figures in recent history, and the beginning of a new one, with someone who is one of the most divisive figures in recent history.  It is a history-making moment in ways that are too numerous to count.  And while I will not watch the actual ceremony, nor will I watch the ball afterwards, I will be entirely cognizant of where I am when he takes the oath of office, whether I’m taking a nap, or making a sandwich.

However, I encourage you all to be aware of where you are, because for better or worse, the world you live in is going to change.  It may not change all at once, or even in ways that are immediately noticeable, but change is most definitely imminent.  And we should all be aware of not just where we are, but what we’re doing and how we got there.

I remember when I was in high school, and I talked to someone who remembered where they were when Kennedy was assassinated.  I remember talking to people who remembered where they were when Reagan got shot.  Hell, I remember where I was when the Notorious B.I.G. was murdered.  And I’m sure we all remember the events in our lives leading up to and immediately following the first tower impact, as well as what we were doing when Barack Obama took the oath of office.

This is one more of those times.

Take stock of where you are and what you’re doing, because you’re going to want to tell your children about this.  This is going to be historic.

No one said all history we make must be good.


Monday, January 16, 2017

Allow Me To Reintroduce Myself

All my hip-hop heads have a conditioned response to the title.  But this isn’t a post about Jay-Z.

I went home to New York City for the second time in the last three months.  I love being there.  Every time I am, I rediscover parts of my city (and ostensibly, parts of myself) that I simply adore.  The subway, Times Square, Union Square, Downtown Brooklyn, all of these places and many more have played essential parts in my development.

I go back to New York to reconnect with parts of myself that don’t go over as well in smaller venues.  Qualities like brashness and a high-strung nature don’t necessarily play so well in other cities, and it’s a shame.

It’s a common saying that you can’t go home again. There’s a degree of truth to that, I guess, if you’re referring to home as a building of apartment.  Eventually, the people that made your house a home leave, your neighborhood changes, and that part of your life fades into memory.  But home is more than just a place, home is a feeling, a sense of being in the right place.  And every time I come home I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be, even if it’s for a weekend.

Now, if only I could afford it for longer than that.

In the meantime, I reintroduce myself to the city, and by proxy, myself. I can see all the ways I have changed for being away, good and bad.  I may not be as impatient or excitable anymore, I may not have as much direct access to stimulus anymore, but I can appreciate clean air now, and even quiet to a degree (in small amounts). 


Unfortunately for the people in the much smaller town in which I currently reside, though, I now have a six-month supply of being a New Yorker in my system.  Please forgive me.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Thank You, Beta Readers!!

A couple of months ago, I sent out a bunch of copies of my lasts manuscript to beta readers.  It’s hard to edit your own stuff, and anytime you spend 5 years working on a project, you become way too close to it to see what really works, and what doesn’t.

Some of my betas have gotten back to me, red pens and questions ablaze.  They’ve questioned things about characters and events, about the necessity of certain scenes, even about little nuances in the premise.  I’ve listened to every suggestion I’ve gotten, and even though I may not use them all, the fact that they’ve taken the time to read through and critique my work means that I’ve taken all the critiques very seriously.  So, to the beta readers who have gotten back to me, thanks!

Some of the beta readers haven’t gotten back to me yet, and it’s cool, I get it, life is busy.  I thank you anyway for taking an interest.

So now comes the painful work of making those big structural changes that need to be made, and putting together the last draft I’m doing without professional help, be it from an editor or a psychologist.  Hopefully, I can have that done by the end of the month.  No pressure, right?

I can’t thank you enough, all the people who volunteered to help make this the best novel it can be.  As promised, I will thank everyone who got back to me individually in the acknowledgements page of the final finished draft.


Cheers!

What I Read in 2016

In 2015, I did a GoodReads Readers’ Challenge, where I tried to read 12 books in a calendar year.  I did 10 or 11, but I liked the experience so much that I decided to do it again.  This time, I crushed the goal by August.

So then I said, “Why stop there?”

I bumped the goal up to 16, and got there in October.  I was feelin’ froggy, so I shot for 20.  I got to 17 before life took over.

As with last year, some were surprisingly bad, some were shockingly good, and one book made me wonder why I even write.  I read 10 books that were part of 2 individual series (so, yeah, there’s that).  I’ve read hundreds of thousands words that weren’t my own.  I wrote reviews of some of them early on, so I’ll post blurbs from those here.  But for the ones I haven’t reviewed yet, this is where it starts.

Here we go…

Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon: I started this in late 2015.  It’s a hefty read, incredibly dense, and follows Archie Stallings and his failing record store on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland, California. The other book of Chabon’s that I read, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, was a fantastic bit of wonderful that fell into a “stick with it, you’ll love it category.”  Like Kavalier and Clay, Telegraph Avenue took a while to find its footing.  Unlike Kavalier and Clay, the payoff wasn’t worth it.  The author seemed less concerned with storytelling, and more concerned with showing us that he’s a talented writer.  That culminated in a chapter that consisted of an 11-page sentence.  11 pages.  One sentence.  I was incredibly disappointed.  There is good stuff there, though, the relationships between the characters feel real and you ultimately do care for the struggles of Archie and his family, but the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.  Goodreads rating: 1*

Assassin’s Code by Jonathan Maberry:  From the review posted on February 16, 2016:  I've become a big fan of the Joe Ledger series. I look at it as the popcorn movie in my TBR list. Are we getting deep, life changing events? No. Are we getting radical philosophical shifts? Of course, not. But what we are getting is fast-paced, highly entertaining action. And I'll take it.  Goodreads rating: 4*

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines:  From the review posted on February 17, 2016:  One part Avengers, one part Dawn of the Dead, sprinkle a little of The Warriors in there and you have Ex-Heroes, an entertaining novel that clips along at a rapid pace.

Two years after civilization fell, Los Angeles became split into two communities: The Mount, a converted movie studio lot watched over by a mismatched team of super heroes-- The Mighty Dragon (glides, invulnerable, breathes fire), Cerberus (scientist in a giant armored suit), Gorgon (vampire stare), Zzzap (living electric dynamo), Regenerator (heals himself and others) and Stealth (genius billionaire fashion model turned ninja)-- and the Seventeens, an LA gang that seeks to expand its turf in this new world order. Between the two groups lies the rest of LA's 5 million residents, all dead, all walking. But things get a little weirder when the zombies -- the ex-humans-- start talking. And making demands.

I like superheroes and I like some zombie stuff, so of course I liked this book. It screams of an idea that's too good to pass up, a "why didn't I think of this?" sensibility. There are some small issues to be sure regarding an improperly reflected diversity in the city of Angels, but overall this was a very enjoyable read.  Goodreads rating: 4*

Ex-Patriots by Peter Clines:  Original review posted February 17, 2016: I gotta say, this has been plenty of fun!

Ex-Patriots, the second book in the Ex-Heroes series, continues a couple of months after where Ex-Heroes left off. The super powered heroes of The Mount -- a community of zombie apocalypse survivors in L.A. -- are recovering from their war with the Seventeens, a street gang in the city who had their own survivor community and were led by Peasy, a man with the ability to control the zombies. They are contacted by the remnants of the US military, an enhanced soldier project called Krypton, led by Captain Freedom (actually his name) and Agent John Smith of DHS and DARPA. After agreeing to visit their base outside of Yuma, Arizona, the heroes find that there is more going on than they were led to believe, complete with a mad scientist and a small army of zombie soldiers, as well as a villain with mind-control powers.

Yes, it was predictable, but it was an extremely fun read, if for no other reason than the fact that I'm a big comic-book nerd. The action clips along at a frenetic pace and there aren't any lulls. And two books in, Zombies vs. Superheroes still holds up as a concept. Goodreads rating: 3.5*

Adultery by Paulo Coelho:  From the review posted on February 27, 2016:  Adultery is the running inner monologue of a woman in her 30's who has everything she can ask for -- perfect children, a husband who adores her, a fulfilling career, the ability to flit about the world at a whim -- and yet is terribly unhappy, largely because she chooses to be.  She inexplicably one day blows a politician (who happens to be the ex-boyfriend from high school that she was so into that she fantasized about him constantly through her adolescence), and that kick-starts a vicious cycle self-hatred and bad decision-making, all while her doting husband tries desperately to help her find her way of whatever depression and melancholy she happens to be in.

I find characters who do the  super-entitled pity party ("woe is me, I have everything) to be grating, especially when they narrate the story, as in Adultery and  Douglas Brunt's Ghosts of Manhattan. It's hard to empathize with them as a reader because for me at least, it's impossible to understand them, especially when at the end, they haven't changed very much because their lives are so insular, so perfect, they're not required to.  Adultery's narrator, Linda, almost ruins two marriages -- her own and her lover's -- and never has to face the consequences. She's spared the humbling embarrassment of having to say she cheated, while putting her lover in a position to lie to his wife's face.  At the end of the day, her relationship with her husband somehow ends up stronger because she realizes that she has it all and decides it's not a prison.  I mean... come on.  Goodreads rating: 2*

From here, I read the remainder of the Joe Ledger series (Extinction Machine, Code Zero, Predator One, and Kill Switch) and the Ex-Heroes series (Ex-Communication, Ex-Purgatory, Ex-Isle).  To sum up: big dumb fun.  No new ground broken.  3 stars.

Dodgers by Bill Beverly:  Powerful read.  Bill Beverly puts together a twisted coming of age story involving teenage gangbangers on a cross-country road trip from South Central LA to Wisconsin to assassinate a key witness to a crime.  I couldn’t put it down.  It’s the kind of book that sticks with you for months after you finish it.  Goodreads rating: 4*

The Travelers by Chris Pavone:  Slick novel about an accidental spy that makes a job in publishing seem extravagant and glamorous.  Travel journalist Will Rhodes finds himself embroiled in international intrigue when he finds out that Travelers Magazine is a front for a private spy ring, and his wife is one of those spies.  It’s a fun read that I got through in about a week.  Chris Pavone’s style is very engaging.  Goodreads rating: 3.5*

Moonlight Serenades by Thom Carnell:  From the review posted on July 8, 2016:

This collection is a guided tour through one man's process of dealing with grief, and in that tour, some of the images he uses will stay with you for weeks. From the opening story, which left me audibly exclaiming in public, to the centerpiece, a very clever noir called "Clown Town," Thom Carnell's Moonlight Serenades is incredibly addicting, and sticks with you like a great meal.  Highly recommended.   Goodreads rating: 5*

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch:  Six hours, from start to finish.  Far and away the best book I read in 2016, and there are some heavy hitters in this list.  Physics professor Jason Dessen is abducted and finds himself transported to a life where his wife is not his wife, his son’s not born, and nothing is quite the same.  And that’s about all I can say without confusing you or spoiling the story.  Like The Martian from last year, this is a must-read.  Drop everything.  Do it now.  Goodreads rating: 5*

Chasing Embers by James Bennett:  Modern fantasy tale about a man who is secretly a dragon and can shift form at will.  A breakdown in a magical pact sends various factions of witches and assassins to kill him in service of a newly reawakened dragon queen.  Fantasy was never my thing, but this was fun.  The prose and storytelling was a bit dense, though.  Goodreads rating: 4*


And there you have it!  That’s my list from 2016.  Let’s see if I can do better this year!

Monday, January 2, 2017

New Year's Resolutions 2017

For me, 2016 was ugly.

There’s the stuff that happened that affect all of us, such as the Brexit and our election.  There’s the rash of celebrity death.  But then there’s the personal stuff, the things we could have done better, the opportunities we wish we’d capitalized on. The stubborn last 10 (or 15, or 20) pounds we couldn’t quite erase.

So, like every year, this year we make a list of all the things we’d like to make different.  And this year, like every year, I’ll do that.   In 2017, I want to…

Write more.  I have a few projects I’d like to finish in 2017, but it’s damn hard sometimes to pull up the desire to write.  Fatigue and life tend to get in the way.  This year I joined a 365-day writing challenge, where I’m pledged to get out at least 300 words a day through either my personal journal, blogs, or my projects.  Accountability is the best motivator.

Lose weight.  I’ve had a hell of a time trying to lose some weight.  It’s rough; I work overnights, I like bad food, and I really like to sleep more than not.  But as I get older, it gets harder, and I can’t use the difficulty as an excuse.  Ideally, I’d like to get myself back into basketball shape, into softball shape, and into a shape other than round.

Speak up.  I have a terrible problem; I want to be liked way too much.  Part of it is about not wanting to offend people, especially fans and potential fans.  However, that restraint has found its way into my personal life, and I am far too accommodating when it comes to other people’s comfort, and I’ve sugar-coated, watered down, and reduced the volume on my own opinions.  It’s become a terrible habit.  It stops now.

Be healthy.  I’ve spent the last year in grind mode.  I’ve worked as often as I can, to the point of it being unhealthy.  It’s a lot of 12-hour night shifts, packed into short spans of time; on several occasions, I’ve worked 26 of 30 nights in a month. It started to affect my overall health negatively.  I was having dizzy spells and issues with energy.  I’m going to relax more this year.

Grow the “business.”  I’m a good writer, I think, but a terrible author.  What I mean is I’m not so good at the part of the job that involves selling.  I’m using 2017 as an impromptu course in Book Marketing in the Digital Age.  Let’s see what can be done.



I may not accomplish everything I set out to this year, or I may not have set my bar high enough.  I can’t answer that on January 2nd.  But I will work my butt off to make 2017 a better year.