One Of These Days, I’ll Be A Publisher: My Mission Statement

One of these days, I’ll be a publisher.

To publish my book(s), sure (if need be), so that when I write them they’ll be assured a place to go, a shelf to sit on, that hands, bags, buses, trains, and planes will carry them far beyond my four walls.

But also so that I may find and bring to the world other people whose words sing to me. In this endeavor, I shall endeavor to work by a mission statement, which reads as follows:

Mission Statement:

  1.  I will work with friendly people, and only friendly people, because the world doesn’t provide enough antacids not to. If I lose out on a book because someone is unfriendly, I’ve gained a year of life by never having to hassle with them.
  2.  A good writer knows pain and does not wish to inflict it, though they may wish to illuminate it.
  3. A writer is appreciative of good reviews but never loses sight of their humanity, which allows them to tell stories. Writers are imperfect people who know how to communicate to others this imperfection so that readers may see it in themselves or someone they know and be made stronger, smarter, or any number of adjectives by the experience of reading and discovering.
  4.  Writers need to write, genre be damned. If a book is good, who cares where it fits? All that matters is that it fits somewhere on a shelf so that it may later be taken down from there and enjoyed.
  5.  Make sure each book speaks to your soul. Your soul is a reader’s soul and will know more about what feels right than any focus group.
  6. But hone in on those readers you know to be your audience. They are your most important focus group, whether they know it or not, and they will steer you right; readers want to read good books and rid themselves of the opposite.
  7. Remind every author you work with to trust themselves while editing. They’ve got the blueprint for a great book. Editing will make it greater… if they trust the process.
  8. Fight for the books you believe in.
  9. If a book doesn’t reach the audience you intended, trust that it reached those it was meant to and move on proudly.
  10. Last but not least, never forget that reading–however or whyever one may read; for escape, for love, for thrills, for chills, to learn, to turn the page in your life–reading is there to befriend, soothe, and bolster. It increases confidence, critical thinking, and encourages emotional honesty. If you can find books that will do this, you will have found the right books.
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My Heart Is In Everything I Do!

Maybe you’re like me.

My heart is in everything I do. Whether that means being a sibling, a son, a boyfriend. A baseball fan, a football fan, a lover of great theater and art. As a writer, my heart is in everything I write. If it’s not–or if I find out in mid-composition it’s not–I won’t write it.

Why continue something whose only end is sure doom?

Doom, in what sense? you may be asking. For a writer, doom is incompletion.

Writers write to be read. We work every passage so that everything we want to communicate is there on the page to read and comprehend. Most of the time, after I’ve finished drafting something new, it’s still not all there yet, what I wanted to say, and I need an editor or a compassionate reader to tell me so.

“I meant to say this!” I’ll scream. “That’s how it reads in my head.”

“Well,” says the reader, in a tone much softer than my own, “that’s not how it reads on the page.” And, as a writer, how it reads on the page is all that matters.

 

Why am I going on about this today? The answer, like most answers beyond the most elementary, is simple yet complicated.

Simple in that I have done the complicated part. I have written the novel that speaks my truth better than any memoir ever could. Through drafting, it now speaks louder and clearer than ever. My heart is in every page, paragraph, passage, punctuation mark.

Complicated in that, in order to reach readers in the way I want, I must convince someone who doesn’t know me and who–as yet–has no vested interest in my success to take a chance on me, to give themselves over to the possibility that this relative unknown might actually know what he’s doing.

My novel would sit firmly and happily on the shelf next to the books of  Richard Paul Evans (his Christmas Box was an inspiration for a kid in the fifth grade) and Mitch Albom. His first best-seller, Tuesdays With Morrie, is a book I treasure, and Albom’s The Five People You Meet In Heaven showed me that Heaven could be discussed without its having to be “religious”.

Also on this shelf would be the beautiful memoir When Breath Becomes Air. Or the newest of this crop, The Bright Hour by Nina Riggs. (That being said, my book’s genre has always been something of a quandary. Is it inspirational? I hope so. Is it the kind of book you’d want to read in your book club? I deeply believe so.)

No, I don’t know what it’s like to die as the previous two authors do. Because, thankfully, I haven’t had to experience that eventuality yet. But I’d like to think that being born with the cerebral palsy I have, living with it, and experiencing life in the “I want to do everything but know that some things are off-limits to me, and that’s just the way it is” way I must has given me a perspective with which readers will identify.

My main character, Terrence McDonald, must learn two lessons in the afterlife, those lessons gleaned from the life he’s just left. What are these lessons, and why is his learning them a must?

I hope you’re intrigued and want to find out more, whether you’re a reader, an agent, a publisher. I love what I do. My heart is in it fully. And I’d love to find a team of people who want to be in it with me!

And, dear reader, know that such a team begins and ends with you. Without you, writers would just be weirdos who wander the streets aimlessly with something to say and no one to hear them.

 

 

 

Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

Another poem. I love this one!

Time: Our Most Precious Resource

 

We’re told when we’re kids

To Remember,

For sure,

How time is our most precious resource,

Call it our resource de jour.

More precious than water,

More precious than food.

More precious than everything else that is good.

 

Some may call time an affliction,

Those who can hear

The ticking beat of time

Creeping closer each year.

But, If it is,

There is no cure.

Time will outlive us all.

 

If you can’t beat time, what can you do?

Connect with others

Doomed to the same fate

As you.

Find the people who love you

And spend

As much time as you can

With them.

For, once time is up,

It cannot be spent again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Future: A Poem

I love poetry. Somehow, it allows you to say just what you want to say and nothing more.

The Future

Would that you could see the future,

What would it be that you’d see?

A bright winter day half a year away,

Your unborn child,

Aged ten,

Up in a tree?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would you cheer it or would it cause groans?

Would you feel the bliss of your betrothed’s impassioned  kiss

Or cry at the year’s-later scene

When  it was cancer’s choice,

Not hers,

To leave you alone?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Would your family be the one you dream of,

As if they were conjured from your mind one lonely night,

Brought to life in that moment by your very sight?

Or is family something we build piece by piece,

And the most important piece is love?

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your future self would say,

“Of course this is the future.

How could it have turned out any other way?”

 

Would that you could see the future,

Your wife and child smiling back.

“We’re waiting for you in the future, dear.

Confidence that you’ll get here?

Oh, honey, for such confidence we do not lack.

Timmy turns ten this Sunday.

He’s excited for the tree house you’ll build.

Meanwhile, your book just found a bestseller list.

Your publisher is absolutely thrilled.”

 

This last one is the future I see,

Beautiful yet incomplete.

The particulars and minutia have yet to set themselves.

But, as far as I’m concerned,

It can’t be beat.

 

I say that not knowing the truth

Of the future that will stand in its place;

Whether its hallmark will be

A warm southern breeze

Or an Alaskan night cold as ice.

No one can know the future.

Would that you could.

It comes down to chance and choice.

But I hope and pray that the true future day

Will somehow be

Just as nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Working On My “Elevator Pitch”

If you’re not a writer, you might think of an elevator pitch as a person’s thirty second attempt–while in an elevator–to sell something. Themselves, a product, a TV show. An exec (or an agent, to put this back into writer-speak) may say, “You have thirty seconds. Go.”

I have been honing my elevator pitch for just this type of moment. (Since I can’t drive, I can’t get to a ton of writer conferences, so I need to rely on queries and any sort of networking I can do.) Those of you who either know me in real life, or read this blog and so know me virtually, will probably also know that I am attempting, with all I have, to sell my book, my labor of love for the past ten years. Recently, said piece underwent a title change. It is now called “Two Lessons For Terrence McDonald.” I love and believe in it with all my heart.

If you’ll indulge me for just a moment, I will share with you my elevator pitch. Here goes.

“When a middle-aged man dies unexpectedly, he must discover the two major lessons in his life. If he fails, he will not be permitted into Heaven and will never see his family again.”

What do you think, reader? I am genuinely interested in your opinions.

There’s a lot more to this book, but if I were going to distill it down to its barest bones… there you have it!

On a slightly different note, as I sign off, today, May 3rd, marks fourteen years since the passing of my beloved grandfather, Papa Dick. To him I say, “You always encouraged me. you never told me I wasn’t good enough, and when you’d hear something like that from me, you called me out on it. I am hopeful that, somewhere up above, you’re watching, and that you’re working just as hard as I am to find my beloved book a home. I love you, Pop. Forever and always,

Your writer and your proud grandson.”

Derek

Disneyland Is Where I Feel Freest

When I was a kid, there were certain things I took as gospel, even though none of them were in The Bible. These were:

-My Papa Dick could cook anything. (Always was true, always will be true.)

-Bob Barker would host The Price Is Right forever. (Until Drew Carey comes along and turns  slightly less than a quarter of the airings into shows with themes. It’s kinda weird, but the new games are kinda cool.)

-The Mariners would be in last place forever. (This particular belief was proven wrong in my thirteenth year, 1995, when the baseball gods decided to smile on our little hamlet.)

-My dad was going to be a famous writer someday.

-I was going to be a famous writer someday. (Not because of him, or thanks to him, but one of us might ride the coattails of the other, and that was fine.)

-Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth.

 

Of those beliefs, I’d like to briefly discuss the last three, the final one in detail. First, yes, I believed then, and believe still, that my father, and myself, can be famous authors. It is one of my deepest dreams that this will become so for us. I don’t know if I desire fame so much as the security that can be found in doing something you love and being paid for it.

I didn’t turn to writing because Dad was writing. I came to it because it was always easy for me, and I love it. Then, as now, I love it. I have finally written the story for which I feel I was put on Earth. It is mine to tell, and I’ve told it. The only mystery now regarding my book: Who will read it, and what will they say when they do?

Where did I learn to believe in dreams? From my dad and my papa and the people who love me, sure. But where else was this belief reinforced?

Disneyland.

The happiest place on Earth.

In my opinion, it’s part of the Disney culture to champion dreams. And I love that.

Being handicapped, you get used to hearing what you can’t do. It is a refrain, and nowhere is it louder than at amusement parks: “You can’t do that. Sure, it looks fun, and other people are doing it. But you would be a liability.”

“Why?”

“If you got hurt, you might sue, so it’s just easier to tell you no from the outset.”

It’s like places blame the disabled for being disabled, as if it’s something we did or let happen knowingly, with full knowledge of what our disability would mean in life going forward. So many doors will be closed to you, but you know that, right?

At Disney, they take this happiest place on Earth stuff seriously. They mean it. Being handicapped is no disadvantage. For once, when I’m there, I feel as though I’m on equal footing with the able-bodied.

This is a thank-you, not just to the folks of Disneyland but to all of Disney, for always making this handicapped guy feel welcome, ever since I was a kid and first walked with Mickey down Main Street U.S.A. Having just spent the better part of last week in California with my loving girlfriend, we made memories we won’t soon forget. Thank you all for helping to make that possible. I feel at home in your midst, and I always will!

A Handicapped Guy Who’s Always Loved The Fast Rides!

P.S.

If Hyperion Books (a Disney-owned publisher) ever saw fit to make my book available to the world, I would be eternally grateful. Just putting that little thought out into the universe and seeing what might come back, considering the fact that I’ve always felt a part of the Disney family!)

 

 

 

 

The Book I Love Most

Why Artists Are Artists

or

Why I Continue Searching For A Publisher For The Book I Love Most

The book I love most is homeless.

Searching for its shelf-home.

The book I love most is written,

But, like a vagabond,

It wanders and roams.

The streets of my mind are dead ends to it now.

For it is fully formed.

Nothing on these roads can aid it anymore;

Not even the bonfire of creativity that is

My newest story,

Unfinished,

Off to the side,

Can keep it warm.

It needs a place where it can be

Fulfilled,

Given autonomy

To achieve its highest and best.

Where it can parade into a reading of itself full of confidence of zest.

Its new lease on life will be courtesy  of

An agent who sees the merit,

An editor who agrees,

A publisher who puts it out

Without calling for any author-paid fees.

It will dance into the hands of readers

Who haven’t lived the story

But who have lived their stories and so,

Through lives that have seen similar fates

Can nonetheless relate.

Story, in all its forms,

Is connection.

It is: You are not alone.

Story invites you

To roam the streets of another’s mind

In search of a new thought,

A retrofitted, better home.

The Portion Of The American Electorate That Annoys Me Most: White Men

“How can you say that?” I can hear one of my former “Facebook friends” (read: antagonists) blurting in a comment at reading my headline. “Are you ashamed of being a white man? Is that why you’d write a blog like this?”

No, I am not ashamed of who I am, or the life I lead. I’m proud of it. But I’d wager to bet there are a good number of white men out there, whether they be young, old, or middle-aged, who hold a great deal of regret about their own lives. This leads them to a vote for Donald J. Trump. Let me explain.

What was it that Ronald Reagan so desperately wanted when he first came into office? For the government to get out of the way of progress, out of the way of the business owner. And government did this. Regulations were repealed. Oversite largely dumped. But this also meant one simple thing:

With government out of the way, there would be no safety net. And that was fine, because these businessmen (Donald Trump among them) didn’t need safety nets. The assumption being that those who worked hard would succeed, those who did not would fail. And all would be right with the world.

In the years since, we’ve learned that Reagnomics doesn’t work, the middle-class is all but dead, and now people wonder how it all happened.

My response: It’s not about how it happened. It’s about how we fix it going forward.

A house divided on itself. That is what we are. Divided by class, by race, by political view. And we can not be expected to stand if we allow this condition to persist in our nation.

So we must root out the causes of our division. And, in this country, that means the use of democracy. we vote for the person–man or woman–we feel is best qualified to take the country in the right direction.

As Mitt Romney won them in 2012, Donald Trump is up with white men, especially the non-college-educated set. They see in him a savior of sorts. Someone who actually stated, at the Republican National Convention, that the country is broken and he alone “can fix it”. They believe this because, on the surface, Trump’s record is business-y, and if he wasn’t good at business, at fixing things, at continually succeeding, would he have gotten to where he is today?

I argue that, when you’re allowed to not pay taxes for eighteen years, it’s awful easy to look successful. Whether you are successful is another matter entirely.

Another point: There is a subset of this demographic angry with our current president. Now, the question is, are they mad at him because they truly think he wasn’t born in this country? If they still believe that, there is plenty of evidence, including his birth certificate and a beautiful autobiography, to prove otherwise. He was born in Hawaii in 1961. Hawaii became a state in 1959. End of discussion on that point.

Here’s the stickier question. Are they mad at him because he’s been more successful than they have, and he has a different color skin than they do? I know how I would answer that question, but before you spit out a response full of vitriol, take a step back. This is not an attack on anyone. It’s just a question.

Moving onto a different subject, let’s take a quick look at Mr. Trump’s opponent. Mrs. Clinton is far from warm. Her attempts to appear so often fall flat. She is dishonest at times. Find me a politician who’s been working thirty years in Washington and isn’t dishonest, and I’ll find you a unicorn. A live unicorn!

Hillary’s handling of her e-mails is not the greatest, either. She’s not all that tech-savy, we can agree.

And if you want to go back to her time as secretary of state, hers was not a perfect term. We all know that. The facts surounding this term have been litigated. Whether she’s been been proven to have done something wrong is a matter of personal preference.

What can be said as a positive for Hillary is this. She wants the job. She’s been preparing her whole life, whether she knew it or not, to be president.

As for Mr. Trump, he has been preparing all his life, too, in a manner of speaking; surrounding himself with empty-suit yes-men and women comfortable telling him he’s the greatest thing since Edison invented the phonograph. Should anyone deviate from this belief, they are immediately jettisoned.

He is allowed to do whatever he wants.

Decry women.

Brag about grabbing their genitals and getting away with it. This is not “locker room talk”, by the way. No one I know talks like that. If you’re honest with yourself, no one you know does, either. And if someone you know does, maybe you shouldn’t know them.

Mock the disabled. I’m disabled, sir. Let me tell you that being disabled does not mean I lack intelligence. I’m intelligent enough to know you’re the kind of man who grew from an insecure, sad little boy. No one ever showed you what it meant to be “different”. If they had, you might be a different person, maybe even a tolerable human.

But probably not.

This election won’t turn on what white men do, who they vote for. I’m just confounded by their choice to do it. While I’d personally love for them to consider voting for someone else if they’re leaning Trump, I understand that’s a long-shot. I’m just asking them to step back and ask what it is about Mr. Trump that so energizes them. What will he do for me?  Forget his success. What will he do for me personally?(Admittedly, what energizes me about Mrs. Clinton is her not being Mr. Trump, and I have no illusions that she will personally do anything for me. How could she? She doesn’t know who I am. Donald Trump has no idea who any of us are, and he wouldn’t care if he did, unless you want to donate to his campaign or something you do can be monetarily beneficial to him.) If you’re socially conservative and you don’t like how this country’s leaning, let me offer you an alternative to Trump.

Sit this one out. Come back in four years. If you still badly want to remove Hillary, find someone who will speak for you and vote for them. But understand that Mr. Trump speaks now–and has always spoken–for himself. Giving him the power to speak for all of us is giving him the power to ruin a 200-plus-year experiment that has gone pretty well so far, all things considered.

Please don’t derail it.

As for the Clinton voter who’s still debating whether they’ll turn out on Tuesday, because can they really trust her, my answer is simple: Trust her drive. Trust that she wants this job way more than a man who is probably privately shocked to find himself in the running for it. Trust Donald Trump himself when he said Hillary would make a good senator that she will also make a good president. Trust that, while no one is perfect, least of all Hillary, she will learn fast and be up to speed before President Obama has cleaned out the oval office. Come home to her.

Because we didn’t work this hard defending this country to let a petulant, ill-tempered racially insensitive, sexually frustrated, not-as-rich-as-he-claims, not-as-successful-as-he-claims bafoon dupe half the country–the half in which non-college educated white men still think themselves superior to more successful people–and wrest the reigns of power from a capable steward.

Open Letter To A Safeco Field Usher

This was a busy weekend for me. Attend the Mariners home opener on Friday. Hang with my mom and a couple of my siblings Saturday. Then hang with Mom back at the ballpark Sunday to see King Felix Hernandez make his first home start of 2016.

I go to a fair amount of games. This means that I–and the person I’m traveling with; on Friday my uncle, on Sunday my mom–are always well prepared. We bring a clear bag for easy searches upon entry into the park. In the bag is my binoculars and radio (important to me since I’m legally blind, and these implements greatly enhance my enjoyment of the game). Sometimes, you might be able to find a ticket or two to an older game loitering in the bottom of my bag, because I’ve forgotten, or haven’t had time, to toss the papers in my recycle bin.

Sunday I got tickets in section 147, row 10. Who knew my section marked the boundary line of the newly expanded King’s Court on days when King Felix starts? I sure didn’t. This seat location entitled me and my mom both to our own “King’s court” shirt and “K-cards” to wave like crazy people whenever Felix got to two strikes on a hitter. Mom was told to go to the team-store, take her ticket with her, and she would receive our merch.

So she did that.

While she was gone, a couple people came by and said I was in their seat. Now all of our stuff (my bag, my mom’s purse) were underneath the seats we had been occupying. I was sure Mom had simply made a mistake, and I told them once she came back and I could check the ticket for our exact seats, I would move. The people were fine with this. “We’ll go get something to eat,” they said.

The usher–the same woman who, not five minutes earlier, told my mom to go up and get the shirts, acted like she was about to blow a gasket. “You have to move! These aren’t your seats!” She then picked up my clear bag, saw the tickets for opening day that I hadn’t removed from the bag (I sat on the 200 level Friday night) and pointed out to one of her cohorts, “These tickets aren’t even on this level!”

“If you’ll give me a second to explain-” I tried.

“You need to move!”

“I get it,” I said. “My mom is-”

“Where is your mom?”

“She’s up in the team store, where you told her to go, getting our stuff.”

“Oh… and it’s probably busy in there, isn’t it?” she guessed.

“Probably,” I agreed.

Just then, a very nice woman came up to me, held out her hand and said, “I hear you might be moving down the row. My name is Cindy.”

I introduced myself and told Cindy I’d be down the row just as soon as my mom came back, and it was nice to meet her. The overzealous usher said, “What’s going on now? What’s going on?”

I felt like John Goodman in The Big Lebowski. I wanted to tell that woman to: “Shut the F**ck up, Donny!”

If the Safeco Field seating host (that’s a nicer title than I’d give this particular woman)  truly has the goal of making the Mariner experience the best in baseball, as the team claims, perhaps they could learn to respect the fans who occupy the park in which they make a wage and treat them like guests rather than unwanted trespassers.

It’s just a thought.

 

 

 

 

What Guys Say… And What They Actually Mean

So I’ve found there’s something of a disconnect between what women will ask of us men, what we say in response, and what we actually mean. As we approach another Christmas, I thought I might be able to help. At least I’ll hopefully make you chuckle while you pick up that last trinket for Aunt Mildred. (Does she like clocks? She’s getting a clock, because F this, and the store is closing in five minutes, anyway.)

A woman asks a guy, “Would you mind if we had a dinner party next weekend?”

The guy knows what the correct answer is. He knows that saying, “You know, I’d rather not; I’d like a couple of nights in this weekend” will get him a couple of uncomfortable nights on the couch. So he says, “Yes, honey, that’s fine.” Do not confuse this response for enthusiasm. It is not.

She asks him to go anywhere on a Sunday in football season.

He says, “Okay, honey. We can take a drive up the coast.” (for example). He has either A. Figured out the game he cares about will be on the radio, is DVR-ing it and will do all he can not to figure out the score before he can get back home and set himself before his TV’s glow, or he has slipped into a waking coma, out of which he will come the following Tuesday, after all that week’s football is played, and he will think, What have I done???

She invites him on a hike. He senses this is a test, kind of an Am I important enough to him that he’ll do this? and he wonders, Why do women test us men? Do I like hiking? No. Will I do it? Yes. Because I like her enough to gut my way through it. Hopefully she won’t mind next weekend, which I’ve planned to be, and during which we will be recovering from any and all injuries sustained today, in front of netlix. And that’s non-negotiable.

If he says he wants to go with you to a ballet or an opera, it’s because you asked, not because he offered, and he’s hoping you’ll want to go with him back to his place after. He’s also hoping he won’t fall asleep during the ballet or the opera, since in doing so he would lose all points gained.

By contrast, if a man asks a woman if she wants to watch football and she says yes, figuring it will earn her points with him, she is mistaken. All he will think is: Sweet. I found me a woman who likes football. And he’ll offer her a handful of Doritos while they listen to Joe Buck drone on about how good Aaron Rodgers is.

I write this blog as a public service.