Saturday, June 28, 2014

Dad And My Writing

June 28th has always been a special day. My Dad's birthday.

When we were young, it was always a time for our family to get together (my larger family, that is, which always included my Mom's brother, Uncle Leslie, and his family. His sons, my cousins Rodney and Kevin grew up more like extended brothers than cousins, so whenever I thought of the family getting together, they were always a part of it - especially on special occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter and my Dad's birthday)

My Dad died unexpectedly on an operating room table. It's something I've been dealing with for a long time. Before that, my biggest fear for the longest time had been losing my father. And that was the spark of the novel Morning Son, which I wrote more than a decade ago.

Morning Son is the story of a man who is tasked with spreading his dead father's ashes at his father's favourite fishing spot -- only, his old man's favourite fishing spot was a secret, so the novel's hero ends up leaving his wife and daughter behind to go on a quest to see if he can learn this secret locale -- only, he uncovers other disturbing secrets from his father's past that he wonders might be better left alone.

Dad reading a scene from Morning Son
I had been working on one of the first drafts of the novel when my Dad, Rodney and I were staying at a cabin on Manitoulin Island. They were hunting and I was writing. Although the novel is fiction, some elements had been based on things from my Dad's life, such as a motorcycle accident that had almost killed him when he was in his early twenties and left him with a leg injury that would plague him his entire life -- I thus had my father read a few of the scenes that had been based on real life, like the accident in order to help ensure I properly captured the essence. (I had constructed it from reading the gigantic court transcript of the case)

I shopped Morning Son around to a few publishers, several of whom thought it interesting and with some merit, but none interested enough to publish it. I put it back in the drawer and haven't looked at it in years. I think it's a decent novel, and certainly unlike most of my writing, because it's mostly contemporary fiction, with perhaps a bit of a mystery to it.

But last November, during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I ended up writing about my Dad again. Only this time, it was to explore something that kept happening to me shortly after he'd died. I keep "seeing him" everywhere. Wish fulfillment, of course, because I wasn't ready to have lost him. But my mind kept imagining scenarios where he wasn't really dead and thus there was a chance that the two of us might get together again some day.

And that's how my novella length thriller Evasion was born.

Evasion opens with the following text...

Scott Desmond was looking at a dead man.
    He shook his head, swiped at the sweat running down his forehead and into his eyes, tried to focus more clearly on the sight before him.
    There was no mistake about it.
    The man he was looking at across two sets of train tracks was none other than his father - a man who had died almost eighteen months earlier.

Evasion, trade paperback version - front cover and spine
Evasion explores what happens when Scott Desmond starts looking into his father's death, convinced that he man can't possibly be dead, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Just as he feels he is getting somewhere, people in his life, starting with his boss, begin trying to kill Scott. He is forced to run, wondering if he'll be able to stay alive long enough to figure out what happened to his father.

I hadn't planned on doing anything with it for a while (particularly since I already had two books coming out from traditional publishers and also releasing the 10th Anniversary Edition of my self-published One Hand Screaming all slated for later this year).

But I had posted the novel to Wattpad in the hopes of getting some beta reader feedback and perhaps even winning some money from a post NaNoWriMo contest they'd offered. I figured if I won I could use it for editing and cover design costs for the book. Only, a Wattpad employee found the story, liked it and wanted to feature it in the Thriller category on May 26th.

So I rushed it to an editor, revised the cover and got a cleaner version of the book ready.

It exploded in reads and, to date, has received more than 71,000 reads, over 1000 votes and 270 comments. Wow.

One of the more popular comments including many that ask if the book will be available to purchase and also what happens next.  (Inspiring me with plans to write the sequel to the novel this coming November during NaNoWriMo 2014)

Evasion - trade paperback back cover
The book is available to be read completely for free on Wattpad.  It's also available as an eBook on Kobo and Kindle. (Versions coming for other forms in the near future) And a print version is also now available.

I also thought I'd test out using some book design templates I had read about from designer Joel Friedlander. I had been following his blog for a while and heard many positive comments about his templates and services from trusted folks in the different writer communities. Friedlander has created a series of Word templates that allow authors to easily create print-ready documents for both a book's interior and exterior.

So last weekend, I spent a few hours fooling around with the templates and then loading them to Createspace, a POD solution offered by Amazon.

The templates were simple and easy to use. Despite knowing how to use Adobe InDesign to create a cover flat layout, I used Friedlander's Word template for covers and followed the handy online instructions. I ended up with a template that worked quite nicely and did not look like a cookie-cutter outline. There's enough flexibility within the base template to allow someone to be able to come off with a decent looking design. I was suitable impressed and can highly recommend these templates to authors who don't already have expert support in making print-ready files.

Then I accidentally published the thing.

Yes, in the process of going through the proofing on Createspace, I had meant to order a proof copy (which I did), but I accidentally hit the APPROVE PROOF button and the book went into publish status.

So I hadn't really been planning on letting the thing go live yet. I've been waiting since 2007 for my first novel I, Death, to be published by a publisher I have adored working with. And it's coming later this year.  (I suppose, since Evasion is a novella, I, Death will still be my first novel)

The proof arrived the other day and I looked at it for the first time last night - on the eve of my father's birthday. I was blown away by how gorgeous it turned out.

Evasion is dedicated to My Dad. Writing the book has been a cathartic experience, and testing out the templates and the process to make it into a print ready book has also been incredible.

Interior of Evasion - a Picture of Mark and his father Eugene

On the inside "About the Author" section, I used a picture of me and my father at the BBQ.  It was taken a few years before he died and reminds me of the fun we had on those late June afternoons, hanging out with the family, sharing stories and jokes, drinking a cold beer and enjoying those precious moments together.

When I return to the universe of Evasion this coming fall, I'm certainly going to enjoy further exploring the relationship between Scott and Lionel Desmond, a fictional father-son relationship that has already brought me so much joy in writing. When I look back at it, stories my father shared with me have ended up being used in so many different stories. There are elements of him almost everywhere in my writing.

No, writing Evasion or the next book in that series that explores the father-son relationship between Scott and his father won't bring my Dad back. But it's always fun to dream and wish and imagine.

Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you. I miss you. And I thank you for so many wonderful memories and for the endless inspiration.

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