The Next Great Novel You Haven’t Heard Of Yet…

Have you ever wondered where that great novel came from?

You know the one I mean. You weren’t planning to read it, it wasn’t even on your radar, in fact, until someone from your book club said, “I’ve heard good things about this one.”

You weren’t planning to read it, until your mother said, “Check out this book. It’s a life-changer.” Mom’s a little hyperbolic when it comes to books sometimes, so you put that recommendation in the back of your mind and thought, Maybe.

Meanwhile, this novel you never saw coming keeps climbing the best-seller charts, and eventually, maybe even months later, you give in and crack the book open. What will you find as you journey through it?

By nature, you are a skeptical reader. You want to love everything you read, but you know you won’t. That’s not how books work. There are different books for different moods. Different books for different times in your life. Sometimes, when you read a book has as much say over whether you’ll connect with it as its characters or the prose do.

And, let’s be honest, big-seller or not, some books are just plain bad. You know which ones I’m talking about here.

With that tiny preamble, let me tell you a little something about me.

I’m a writer.

The words come slow and through much effort, thanks to my cerebral palsy and my not-so-great eyesight. But I am a writer.

The first thing one must also be if they’re a writer: they must also be a reader. They must understand what’s being written, who it’s being written for, and why it sells… or, sometimes, why not. We all know that great book we love that almost no one else has ever heard about.

Anyway, years ago, I did this. I looked around at the books I loved (Mitch Albom, Richard Paul Evans, Erin Morgenstern, Audrey Niffenegger, to name just a few), and what I found was this. Every one of those authors told stories that were both personal to them and universally recognizable. This gave me an idea.

Write a book for everyone, a book that will show anyone who’s interested what it’s like to live differently abled in an able society.

Write a book for everyone, a book that will show anyone who’s interested the importance of relationships. The way love can change the world one life at a time.

Write a book at once beautiful and truthful.

Write a book that will make someone in a book club say, “I’ve heard good things about this one.”

That will make the mother of someone you’ve never met exclaim, “Check out this book. It’s a life-changer.”

It took twelve years and so many late nights when I wasn’t sure I’d see the other side of a deep and dark tunnel. But I have, at last, written the book that was written in my bones–in their marrow–long before it surfaced as a task I needed to complete.

The next great novel you haven’t heard of yet is called What Death Taught Terrence.

It is no spoiler to tell you the main character dies. This happens on page one (I hope that first page hooks you!). It is no spoiler to tell you this novel owes much of its DNA to properties like Field Of Dreams and It’s A Wonderful Life. What if George Bailey lived in the present-day and what if he was handicapped? Would his life still be wonderful? Could he find the meaning in it?

Why I’m writing this blog post on this dark night: simply put, I need a platform.

It used to be, as an author, the books one composed spoke for their creator. When there were less people publishing, when publishing’s  profit-margins weren’t razor-thin, the work spoke for the one who worked to produce it.

Now we can instantly connect with millions. I could instantly publish a book I know has the potential to change lives. At the same time, you might not know I’ve written a word. You might not know there is such a book out there to be read, even though you’re a reader.

I work with an agent. I spend my days reading and making good books great for other authors. Despite my palsy and my not-so-good eyesight, my skills as an editor are something in which I have much faith. As do those with whom I work. I know what I’m doing.

By the same token, you might not have heard of me yet. It is likely you haven’t. You might not have heard of my dear friend Terrence or of what death taught him and how the lessons he learns can benefit you and those you hold dear.

Someone said to me today that I needed to begin building a platform. This is someone I trust and respect. If she says it, it’s probably true. “Before your book comes out, let people know who you are.”

And so here we are. You’re reading these words and you’re thinking, Maybe I should read that book!

I would be deeply honored if you would. As both an author and a reader, I do not take for granted the time readers invest in stories. As a differently abled person in  an able society, I know my story might seem, on its face, different to you. A little out there. I promise you it is a universal yarn. If it doesn’t change your life, I respect that, and I respect you for giving my friend Terrence a chance.

But it might just change your life. It might. In small but profound ways, just as it changed mine while I wrote it.

To me, any novel with the potential to change lives might just deserve the moniker of  The Next Great Novel You Haven’t Heard Of Yet.

Does What Death Taught Terrence rise to this level?

I know what my answer is. What’s yours?

 

Stay informed on all things What Death Taught Terrence and be the first to know when the book comes out by liking Terrence at http://www.facebook.com/whatdeathtaught

 

 

 

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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

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.

A Year Of Blogging…. And A Glimpse Into My Work….

Hi, all:

I apologize in advance for the length of this one. There’s a good reason, and I hope you’ll give it a read, because your opinion(s) matter(s) greatly to this guy.

In the past year I:

Started this blog,

Lost my dog,

Wondered if I could publish without the prolonged finding-an-agent prologue.

I saw great shows (be they movies or plays or football and baseball games)

Knew awful lows,

And wondered at the words I chose,

A writer’s near-constant self-query.

I love writing. It is the single best thing I know how to do, besides making my friends and family smile, and when I feel like I have something to say (which isn’t always but does happen often) I like knowing they’re curious where my thoughts are.

Like, right now, I’m hoping and wishing for the self-driving car. For the freedom of, “I can go anywhere I want.”

I’m crossing my fingers that there are readers eager for the words in my head,

That they exist, and delight as much in reading new sentences

As I do in seeing my fresh words read.

In knowing that my characters more than a few reader’s dreams shall haunt.

I am scared, if I’m being genuinely honest. I’m scared that my stories, which many a friend tells me are worthy and worthwhile are instead nothing but the erstwhile dreams of a kid with cerebral palsy looking for acceptance and kindness, and searching for his own truth, finding it to varying degrees only.

I have completed a novel. For me, the truest distillation of my “stories” yet. I believe it is what it needs to be; it is what it was always meant to be. However, there is that nagging voice, that over-the-shoulder editor, that doubter extraordinaire, who says, Really? Wasn’t your story also always meant to be read by the most people you could possibly entice to read it? You don’t write just to pat yourself on the back, do you? And so far who’s read it besides a few selected among that friends and family group you want so much to make smile?

With this thought heavy on my mind, I offer to you a glimpse, the first tiny sliver, of a story that came together over seven and a half years touched with and by self-discovery, faith–in myself and others–and an all-too-uncommon willingness to fail in order to succeed.

I would love to hear your thoughts on my novel’s first chapter, printed here. It begins with a poem.

I could tell you life is fleeting.

But that’s a truth everyone knows.

It doesn’t bear repeating,

Isn’t worthy of a refrain

Read while a tired body lies in repose.

As it’s a fact that too often shows

How little control we mortals maintain.

-An excerpt from the poem Nothing Is Forever by Madeline Mailer

Chapter 1.

Death, Part 1

                

                  Terrence McDonald is 55. The year is 2045.

        

         The TV is on, and I’m on the couch, leaning as far back as I can. My heavy, indecisive brown eyes—their lenses blurred ever since my tumultuous entrance–flutter between open and shut. I am half-watching half-listening to a football game on a Sunday afternoon. Was that the doorbell?

“Who is it?” I call out, expecting to hear my daughter Megan’s voice. These days she is the one person who visits me. The only person who knows I’m making my home in this little oasis fashioned from wood felled by my own hand.

“Terry, it’s Mom. I’m here to help you move.”

         My mom? That’s not possible. She’s…

         Wait, to help me move? Oh, God.

I rise from the couch and glance back at my lifeless body. Five-foot-eight standing up, but now it’s slumped over, grayish-blue. A few stray locks of the black hair my father gave me spill over into my unseeing eyes.

         Shit. I still had more I wanted to do, damn it! Was it my cerebral palsy? We’ve co-existed forever. Has it somehow—in its slow, indirect way—finally done me in?

I turn back around toward the TV, and I see my mom materialize in front of me, a concerned look on her face.

“Are you okay?”

“No, of course not!” I scream. “So is that it? I’m dead. Just like that?”

She doesn’t say anything, but her silence says everything.

“How? How did I die?”

Mom puts her hand on my shoulder like she always did when I was a kid and I was upset and needed some time to calm down. “You don’t remember?”

“No, Mom. If I remembered, why would I ask?”

She is silent for another beat. “If you don’t remember… then it’s probably best if I stay quiet for now. My job is to take you Home.”

“I am home,” I shoot back.

“You don’t understand. Where I’m taking you… this is a different kind of Home. This is the place where you’ll find out what happens next.”

“Is there any way around this? Any way at all?”

These words are as close as I’ve ever come to arguing with my mom. That’s because arguing with her does not come naturally to me. And, considering the life I have, I never thought I’d hear myself plead for it.

“No, Terry. I’m sorry, but there’s not. You know that, if there were a way, I’d tell you what it was. But this has been decided.”

I pull away from her. Am I frightened? No, not exactly. But I am… disheartened.

Before I can get too far away, she takes my hand. “Come with me, Terry. I love you.”

It’ s been so long since my mother said those words to me—I love you—that I’d forgotten how true and convincing they sound in her voice, and how much I missed them—and her.

Without warning, we’re not in the cabin anymore, and I find myself in a house so familiar I am comfortable in seconds. The smells are familiar. The floor plan. The art on the walls. This is a replica of the home I shared with my wife, before she got sick and I moved into the cabin.

“See, it’s not so bad,” Mom is saying. “I picked it out and furnished it myself. Just for you.”

It is a nice place. Much nicer than I’m used to these days, that’s for sure. Not that I have anything but a vague idea where we are.

Now that I’ve calmed down some, it isn’t just this new house I’m appraising. I’m also getting my first real good look at Mom in twenty years. Hers is a face looking as youthful today as it appeared in the photograph announcing her entrance into womanhood—taken in her eighteenth year. I remember seeing this picture in a family album decades ago.

“You’ve got all the comforts you’re used to,” Mom explains. “Along with a couple you might have forgotten about.”

“So this is where I’ll be living now?”

The frown on her face hints at the fact that things aren’t that simple. “Well, that depends on your appointment, but I sure hope you will. Your father and I are just down the street.”

“Dad’s here?”

“Yes, he made it.” She smiles.

“My appointment?”

“Everyone has an appointment when they first get here.”

“What happens? Who is the appointment with?”

“I can’t tell you, Terr.” Mom takes a seat in the first of three chairs arranged in front of my large television screen. This is the only liberty she’s taken in the design. The original home had two chairs in front of this television, because two was enough for Mattie and me, but I sense Mom gave me the extra seat in case I should have company over. “Those who have been through their own appointments, like me, are expressly forbidden from sharing any details with newcomers, like you. Each one is different based on the soul and the life it concerns.”

“Ah.” Now I’m nervous. And not just because I get the feeling at this moment that Mom is spouting some section of a well-rehearsed monologue. I wonder if, at this appointment, everything in a person’s life is considered.

“Yes, everything is considered,” Mom says.

I shoot her a confused glance. Did she just read my mind?

“Oh, I’m sorry. We don’t often use spoken words or languages here. I mean, we can. And we will, especially in cases when explanations or announcements need to be delivered to a large number of people. God prefers spoken language Himself. But it’s more common, for those who have been Home a while, to communicate telepathically. I thought that was what you were doing.”

I shake my head.

“Well, in a few days, once you’re feeling acclimated, let me know. You can call me on this.” Mom produces what looks like a cell phone. “That’s a direct line to me and me alone. When you’re ready, I’ll come and pick you up and take you to your appointment.”

“Okay.”

         But first, she thinks, get some rest. You look terrible.

I am a little tired, but what do you expect? I’m dead.

“You’re getting the hang of our telepathy already.” She laughs, gives me a hug. “I’ve gotta get back to cook your father’s pot roast, or he might go a little nuts.”

Sounds like Dad. A hungry Carl McDonald means an irritable, hard-to-deal-with Carl McDonald (I was going to say hard-to-live with, but the word doesn’t fit).

Mom pats my shoulder and disappears. This new Home is going to mean some big adjustments for me.

                                    ***

 

I’m going to guess it’s taken me the better part of three days—spent resting and recuperating from life–to convince myself I’m really dead and, secondly, I’m ready to face whatever might be in store for me. I have to guess at how much time has passed because, as it turns out, this new home of mine–furnished by my mom–does not include a clock. Not one. I only discovered this flaw after she departed, so there was no way to readily remedy it. Stores specializing in electronics aren’t plentiful in The Afterlife.

Wait, that’s not true. Maybe they are. I don’t know what lies beyond these four walls yet. I’ve barely moved since I got here. But I am as prepared as I’ll ever be for my personal appointment, so I pull out the cell phone Mom gave me for just this situation. It doesn’t require dialing. My connection to her is immediate.

“Terry?” she says.

“Hi, Mom.”

“You’re ready for your appointment?”

“I guess.”

“Okay.” She pauses, a bit too long for your run-of-the-mill pause. Something’s bothering her. “Okay, I’m glad to hear it.”

“What’s wrong? You’re gonna pick me up, right?”

“I was planning on it, but it looks like your Grandpa Jack needs to be picked up today.”

“Oh, you mean he’s-”

“Yep.”

“I’m sorry, Mom. Boy, he lived forever, didn’t he?”

She laughs. “Pretty darn close. I’m just glad he got to go out the way he wanted; peacefully, in his sleep. Anyway, your dad and I have to be there for him, but I’m sending your old friend Charlie out to you. He’ll get you where you need to go, no problem.”

Charlie. How nice it will be to see him again. It’s been a long time. This isn’t the only thought I have upon hearing Charlie will be here soon, but it’s the only thought I feel comfortable sharing, in case Mom can read my thoughts through the phone as easily as she could standing in the same room.

“Okay, thanks. Tell Grandpa Jack I say hi.”

“I will. And you call me when you and Charlie get to your appointment. Otherwise, you’ll have me worried.”

“Sure thing.”

We hang up, and I wait. There’s the sound of tires churning gravel and a knock at the door twenty minutes later… I think. I answer it.

“Charlie Ewell’s limousine service.” He smiles and nods his head toward a jet-black vehicle closely related to a town car that’s parked nearby.

I step back. Blink my eyes. Once. Twice. He’s still there. My mind doesn’t know how to make sense of this.

It really is Charlie. Well, of course it is. Mom told you he was on the way. Yet despite my mom’s assurance, there is this part of me that snickers at most religions, labels them NOT FOR ME, and I never warmed all the way up to the idea of Heaven. Therefor, even after seeing her again, I doubted that my old friend Charlie would show up. You’re telling me Charlie will be here! Charlie? Yeah, right.

Just like I couldn’t bring myself to argue with her—Charlie can’t possibly be on his way, Mom!–I can’t deny it now.

“It’s you,” I say.

“Sure it’s me,” Charlie says, as though he’s just shown up to my most recent—and last?– birthday party, cheer on his face, a gift in his hand.

“Like, really you.”

“Yeah. It’s really me.”

         “How?”

“I know it’s a lot to take in when you’re new,” he says, “or when you’ve just come back. I was so glad when your mom called and asked me if I would pick you up. I’ve missed you so much.”

“Same here,” I admit. The initial shock of seeing Charlie is ebbing slowly, like adrenaline leeching out of my bloodstream after an earthquake.

“It’s so good to see you, Charlie.” We enfold each other in a backslapping, how-have-you-been hug.

When we’re apart again, he says, “And you, Terry. It’s just now dawning on me how odd this circumstance is.”

“True. But under what other circumstances would we see each other?”

“Good point. In one of your dreams, maybe. You ready to get going?”

“Sure. Is there a set time we have to be there? My mom always said it’s better to be early than late, no matter what the occasion.”

He throws his car keys in the air, catches them, as we make our way down my temporary home’s front steps.

“Don’t worry about time anymore,” he reveals. “Time is a human invention. It is seldom kept here.”

“That would explain the lack of clocks.”

“Which always throws newcomers off. And don’t be nervous. Sure, no one who’s been through an appointment can tell you what your appointment will be like. That’s because appointments are unique to each soul, but they aren’t to be feared. Your appointment is a place where you will get the chance to ask questions and learn.” Charlie flashes a quick grin. He opens one of the back doors for me, and I see that in the car rides an elegant woman. “Terrence McDonald, this is my wife, Patty Ewell.”

Patty turns in her seat, puts out her hand. “It truly is a pleasure to meet you, Terrence. I’ve heard a lot about you.”

I give her my hand, as is customary, but can find no words. I’ve never met Patty before. She passed away the night I made Charlie’s acquaintance.