Guest Post: J.W. Nicklaus, End of Virtual Book Tour

J.W. Nicklaus was kind enough to stop by on my humble blog for an interview, as promised a month or so ago, at the beginning of his tour! I hope you enjoy the following interview.

SI: First off, just to get things warmed up, I know you’ve answered this question multiple times over the course of your blog tour, but I’d like you to give a short explanation of what your book is about, in case there are readers of mine who have only recently joined me.

J.W.: There’s an old sales maxim that says you must “ask for the sale,” so here it goes: “Buy the book!”

I guess that’s more of a declarative statement than a question, huh? Never was much good at sales.

The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between is a collection of short stories which revolve around the dichotomous themes of Hope and Love. One of the really neat things about the blog tour was seeing how clearly the reviewers picked up on the underlying messages in the stories. Most of them had descriptions for the stories ranging from “love lost” and “destructive love,” to “wishing for love.” One of them hit the nail on the head when she stated the stories weren’t so much about “romantic love, but hopeful love.” So don’t think they’re all sappy love stories. As others are finding out, there’s quite a range between the front and back covers. ;^)

SI: How do you feel now, at the end of your first online book tour? Excited? Let down? Were the responses what you were hoping for?

J.W.: I had way oversimplified the task when it first began. All the writing is done before the tour actually begins, so I thought it would be a snap to simply check the stops and make comments when needed; commenting is one of the coolest parts of blogging, getting feedback on what you’ve put out there for public consumption.

But there’s a lot of other work involved if you stand any chance of having people drop in during the tour. There’s an old advertising campaign that simply states “Know what happens when you don’t advertise? Nothing.” So I had to put the tour schedule on my web site and then come up with some entertaining way to try and convince folks to visit the stops from my blog.

I’m here to tell ya, that takes some work. And I had the easy part. Dorothy Thompson (my tour coordinator) had 4 other authors touring at the same time I was.

I’m excited and intrigued by what the future holds for the book. The tour was a good way to get my name out on the internet. Try searching for “J.W. Nicklaus” and see what comes up. Having all that online exposure now makes it easier to use as a reference as I being exploring other promotional endeavors.

On the other hand, as much work as it was I’m also a little dismayed that it’s over because it was so interesting to see all the different comments and peoples’ takes on the subject at hand any given day. I got to interact with some really nice folks. Perhaps the most memorable responses came from my post at The Bookworm, regarding RIF, and one reviewers reaction to my story 10:18. Lots of people remembered the Reading Is Fundamental organization (they’re still around today!), and the reviewer was angered by 10:18, although she’d didn’t elaborate as to why. I also received a lot of feedback on my article regarding reading devices and the shift in publishing dynamics. I didn’t think that was going to get much readership at all, but it brought out lots of passionate responses. Suffice to say that it appears most readers are definitely attached to their physical books.

SI: You’ve mentioned a wish to finish that novel you’ve been working on. Is it already in the works or are you currently focusing on The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between‘s promotion?

J.W.: Currently I’m steeped in promotional efforts for Ember Between, and likely will be so at least through the end of this year, and most likely for the foreseeable future. I already have one event scheduled for November with another author.

In the meantime, when time permits, I’ll dabble with the novel here and there, I’m sure. There’s another short story I really want to finish, too. But I’ll tell you what . . . if you and your readers hang around a while I’ll post a chapter or two of Eden when I feel it’s ready. That’ll be waaaaaay in advance of any manuscript submission. So you may get to see it in its raw form. I would really love to have it ready for submittal within two years, but there’s a lot of life to take care of every day, and only a precious small slice of it to dedicate to writing. I will get to it though, I promise you that.

And now, some lighter fare . . .

SI: Do you prefer writing by hand or with a keyboard?

J.W.: My penmanship leaves much to be desired. Does that answer your question? LOL!

When there’s no keyboard handy (I don’t tote around a laptop) I will resort to using old school technology?pen and paper. Here’s a little something for those still paying attention: The last piece in my book is titled In the Name Of Love. It’s a piece about love for one’s country. I wrote that all by hand after walking around Washington D.C. all day. Wrote it upon the banister of the north stairs leading to Capitol Hill. Of course I later typed it, but its initial incarnation was done the classical way ;^)

SI: Do you like to write at home or outside somewhere?

J.W.: At home I have all the comforts and distractions you could possibly ask for. Food or drink is never far from reach, nor is music. The surroundings are (obviously) very familiar, so it’s comfortable. I think I tend to be more focused and contemplative when writing away from here. I’ve traveled with a laptop a couple times and found it very interesting to sit in a hotel lobby and write while immersed in foreign surroundings. I’ve even sat in two different Business Centers and wrote. Simply being up and about stimulates creativity for me, so I think that plays into my external writing focus.

SI: Where would you travel to right now, if you could?

J.W.: I would love to go pretty much anywhere that would have me in for a book reading/signing. I’m  far more inclined to be attracted to areas of greenery, though, and of course, large bodies of water. I wouldn’t mind traveling to Minnesota, or New York, or even Texas (I could visit my brother). I think it would be a blast to travel to Boston and visit Fenway with my son. We’re not Red Sox fans, but it’s a classic ballpark . . . Wrigley would do nicely, too!

And finally, a couple questions about your perspective on writing . . .

SI: Writers are a self-criticizing bunch, just like other artists. Were there times during the writing process when you couldn’t stand something you wrote? Were you pleased with the final outcome of each of your stories?

J.W.: I think all of us are our harshest critics. I’ll give you a concrete example: There are a couple of stories in the book that I think are a little weak, but I also think they’re entertaining, so I’m willing to overlook my critical perceptions of them. In both cases I did some re-writing, and they are stronger for it. I could have spent months doing continuous revisions, but there comes a point when I have to step back and ask “will the reader enjoy this, or is my nit picking getting in the way of what may be a good story?”

And no, I won’t reveal which stories they are . . . evil, huh!

If ever I write something I really can’t stand, I just don’t return to it. I won’t finish a story that I think isn’t working or isn’t up to my standards. No point in it. As for the collection as a whole, I am truly proud of them. For me there is no denying that, at a minimum, this book will be one tangible thing I leave behind which will give people an idea of the kind of person I truly am. To that extent, I have to temper my desire for perfection with the acceptance that nothing in this world is perfect . . . and I’m genuinely at peace with that.

SI: Finally, has the long and grueling process of writing and putting together this book had a negative effect on your daily life, or are you ready to jump back into the fray and keep on writing?

J.W.: It’s been the furthest thing from negative. It has assuredly kept me busy, and sometimes up past my bedtime (I enjoy my sleep!), but the rewards have been worth all the effort. It’s a whole different kind of scary when you put your words and ideas out for all to see and consider?but to see people really embrace the book and enjoy it, man, is that one heck of a payback.

There really isn’t any way for me to not write on a daily basis, whether e-mails or blogging. On those occasions when I don’t write, I am always reading. Most times that means I’m reading your blog, or Joy’s, GBU’s, Laurie K’s, etc. There’s also a group I belong to that shoots stuff back and forth every day, so there’s always something interesting going on.

I once remarked to Joy that I read her blog more often than I comment, and she told me to go ahead and leave a small comment, just so she knows I was there. She adores getting comments, and she has the readership to prove it. The one thing I didn’t tell her is that I don’t comment if I don’t feel I have anything of value or interest to say. It doesn’t mean I don’t like this post or that, but I just wasn’t feeling like I had an opinion worth sharing. And that doesn’t hold for just her blog, but all blogs or sites I visit. I don’t know how some of these folks keep up with their blogrolls!

Ms. Slightly, thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to guest post and do this interview with you. Both were a lot of fun, and I hope your readers will enjoy it (and I hope my book!). I know that some day I will get to return the favor. Those who may not read my blog can find a link to it at the right in your blogroll, or they can also visit my site, to learn a little more about me or get a signed copy of the book!

Thank you, J.W., it was a pleasure having you!

One Down, Six to Go

Tuesday, April 14th, I visited the first college on my tour: Occidental College in Eagle Rock, CA. I won’t go into too much detail, as I’ve already written about my love for the place in various notebooks that I’ve got around me on this trip, but suffice it to say that I was extremely impressed with the campus, the students, the dorms, the classes, basically everything.

I’ve been told that when I find the right college, I’ll just KNOW. I don’t know if that’s true, because I loved the first place I was at already, and I suspect I might be just as impressed with the others. We’re in Boston currently, and planning on visiting Boston University tomorrow. Even though we’ve only seen a tiny bit of the city today, I already like it – walkable, but big, trendy looking but some parts seem sweet and old-town-America.

So, as the title suggests, one down, six colleges to go.

Guest Post: J.W. Nicklaus

When I first came to WordPress I did what I suspect most people do pre-blogging—I did some ‘reading around.’ If you’ve never ‘read around’ then you’re missing out; it’s much less complicated than other ‘around’ activities and the worst thing you can contract is a screaming case of lost time.

Anyhow, I came across a blog titled SlightlyIgnorant. The name alone was enough to intrigue me. I couldn’t tell you what the first post was that I read but to this day I frequent her blog, and I am genuinely thrilled to have been asked to guest-post here. Anyone who has read my comments to some of her posts knows of my appreciation for her talents—yes, I’m something of a fan :^)

This is the first of two guest posts I’ll be doing for Ms. Slightly. Beginning April 1st I’ll be doing a blog tour in support of my debut book The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. Appropriately she has asked me to relate how the book went from nebulous thoughts to bound printed word.

It was a stormy night, filled with the kind of thunder that makes the stars shake . . .

Okay, not really, but I’ve always wanted to lead off a story with something like that. Truth is I hadn’t the slightest inkling I’d ever attempt to have my stories published. Each time I’d write one I’d stow it away and re-visit it some time later, for revising or perhaps just out of simple nostalgia. What I discovered, though, was that when I shared this story or that, reader response wasn’t so much positive as it much as it was mostly emotion-based. This was a pleasant, if not unplanned, outcome; an ego-stroke, assuredly, but you didn’t need to spray me with India ink to make me realize the upside to such a gift. If I can make only one person smile, or another warm from the inside out, then how could I not want to repeat it?

I suppose the deeper question is Where does the inspiration come from? The easy answer would be “from experience.” The more esoteric answer, and more revealing, is that I draw from my personal well of hopeless romanticism. Where that comes from I can’t honestly pin down. Some stories are indeed based on actual experience: Blind and In the Name Of Love are two such examples. I could regale you with summaries of each one but then it wouldn’t be as fun to read them, would it! I will tell you that Blind stems from an incident that occurred one night as I left work. I happened upon a blind man who lived nearby but who wasn’t sure where his house was. Turned out we were standing right next to it. The oddness of the encounter prompted me to work it into a short story, mostly because I had the distinct impression I was meant to run into this gentleman.

Other stories, like Emissary and Winter Rose had their genesis in stories of utterly disparate narratives. I had entirely different ideas about each of them when I started writing each one,  and both evolved into something much more meaningful as I worked through them. Emissary, a story about a man who loses his beloved wife at sea, began as a story about a man who scales a suspension bridge at night only to sit atop one of the towers and question his life’s purpose—the original title was to be Bridge and Emissary. While I may return to the initial concept someday I am very pleased that Emissary is the first story in the book. Without a doubt it showcases my ‘voice’ and reveals a sliver of the romantic in me.

Winter Rose began as a tale about a man who’s capacity for hope had gone fallow, until he finds a solitary rose growing from under a blanket of snow. Suffice to say you’ll find no such imagery in the final story of the book, but I think the end result is far more emotionally gratifying.

Eventually I came to realize, after looking at a good number of short stories I’d written, that there existed a common thread of Hope that ran through most all of them. Some were just fun, some clearly uplifting, and a couple slightly darker. As the idea of querying possible publishers began to fester I lit upon the title and stuck doggedly to it: The Light, The Dark, and Ember Between. It is nothing less than fitting. While the idea of putting my words out for all to see can indeed be frightening, I have come to the calm acceptance of two key facts:
(1) Not everyone will like my style, much less the stories themselves
(2) Conversely, there will be some who do . . .on both counts

I hope that many of you will tag along this month as I make my way through this virtual tour. I can’t possibly dream of having the kind of readership that Ms. Slightly, <a href=”>Joy Erikson</a> (you’ve <i><b>got</b></i> to see the one-way glass toilet!), <a href=””>The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly</a> (she’s <b>not</b> a morning person, but she’s got a wicked sense of humor),  or <a href=””>Ugly Ass Opinions</a> (a veritable Zion of Common Sense) have. But I hope, in my own way, to entertain those of you who choose to follow along or even read the book. I’ve vowed to be as punctual as possible about posting tour stops on <a href=””>my own blog</a>, so I certainly hope to see some of you along the way! :^)

My thanks again to Ms. Slightly for the opportunity to prattle on about my book.