I Need Some Blurbin’ Help!

Let me save you some time and have you stop reading right now unless you fall into one of these two categories:

  1. You are someone who DID read my novel when it was released as Hearts Left Behind
  2. You are someone who DID NOT read my novel when it was released as Hearts Left Behind

Yes, truthfully I need input from both crowds.  I am working on updating the back-of-the-book blurb (aka the BOtBB to those of us in the publishing game) and I am struggling a little.  Not the favorite part of the job for many writers.

Anyway, if you are in the first category, I’d love to know if you feel the blurb at the bottom of the page accurately describes the story you read.

Is it accurate?

Is it accurate?

Keep in mind that the blurb isn’t necessarily meant to cover all of the elements of the plot, but rather to spark some level of interest in potential readers.

 If you are in the second category….does the below spark your interest.

After the tragic death of his son Ethan, Tucker Gaines returns to his childhood home of Willow Grove to stay with his grandparents. In the comforting womb of this small Midwestern town, Tucker can grieve.  In the safe haven of memory, he hopes to heal.

Soon after arriving, Tucker hears of a former schoolmate who has also recently lost a child and he is moved to leave an anonymous note of sympathy and comfort at the child’s grave.  And with this simple kindness, Tucker has unwittingly kicked-off the phenomenon that comes to be known around town as The Grave Letters.  Soon the Willow Grove cemetery is decorated with Grave Letters – one of which is left at the headstone of the man convicted of having killed Tucker’s childhood love Katie Cooper. 

That short letter sends Tucker down a path that he comes to believe will lead to him to peace.  If he can solve the mystery of Katie’s death, Tucker will find purpose in Ethan’s.

Or so he thinks.

I’ll end with this… When you are an unknown author (as I am) and a new blogger (as I am), your blog readership is, well, minuscule.

BelindaBlurbSo you are essentially begging for blogoshame (™ Derek Rempfer 2014) when your post specifically requests user comments and you are confident (as I am) that you will only get comments from Laurie Hopkins Farrell (God bless your heart, Laurie) and, if your lucky, maybe two other people (YOU could be one of them!)

My fate is in your hands, people.

Say hi to Tony and the girls for me, Laurie.

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Hoping for a Faceball!

My son Quinn scored his first goal for his middle school soccer team the other day.  He was playing center forward and when the right forward crossed the ball from the far corner, Quinn positioned himself perfectly in front of the goal and waited for his moment.

The ball flew just over the reach of the goalies outstretched arms and there was Quinn poised and ready to put it in the goal.  He knew it was going to take a header to get it in the net.  He turned toward the ball, braced himself, closed his eyes and…

GOOOOOOAAAAL!!!

YES!  HE SCORES!!

But here’s the thing…remember that part about how he closed his eyes?  Well, the poor lad didn’t so much head the ball into the goal as face it in.

(Does it make me a bad dad that I am giggling as I write this?)

He ran back to midfield giving high-fives to his teammates with one hand and rubbing his face with the other.

(Seriously, I am really laughing my butt off right now).

But the bottom line is he scored.  He did everything he could to make sure that he was going to.

  1. He worked hard and paid attention in practice, so he knew exactly where the center forward should be in that situation.
  2. He executed what he had learned, planting himself right in front of the net.
  3. And then he hit that ball with his FACE!

Okay, so maybe that last part wasn’t necessarily the plan.  It wasn’t perfect.  

But he could get away with being a little imperfect because of everything else he had done leading up to that moment.imperfect2

 

There was a lesson there for me.  I am doing everything I can possibly think of to put my novel in the right position to be a raging success.  And now, I’m just standing in front of the net waiting to try and score.  I’m trying to keep my eyes open, but even if I blink…

 

 

FACEBALL!

FACEBALL!

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Hi, Coach Derek!

We all have dreams for lives.  Dreams about what we need to be happy.

Like really happy.

A lasting happy.

As you probably realize by now, one dream I’ve always had is to be able to make my living as a writer.  And while that is still a goal I am working toward, I’m trying to get better at appreciating those here-and-now happy moments. I’m working toward detaching the writing dream from words like:

- Happy

- Value

- Success

It’s a maturation process, I suppose.

I’ve had a whole lotta happiness in my life – I just haven’t always done a great job of recognizing and appreciating those times.  I suppose that’s partly because most of those things that have brought me joy came from things that I always expected.  I took for granted that I would someday fall in love, that I’d have children, that I would have a home and cars and a big-screen TV and a fridge with an ice-maker and all the other accouterments of the American Middle Class.

Little pink houses for you and me

Little pink houses for you and me

But here’s something I didn’t expect….

Outside of those Little Pink Houses expectations and my personal BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), when I think about those experiences where I can attach the words:

- Happy

- Value

- Success

I think about the experiences I’ve had coaching kid’s sports over the years.  I think about:

- Sarah whose mom left her family and moved out of state after signing Sarah up for AYSO soccer.  How I was able to help out by giving Sarah rides to practices and games and providing her with a pair of cleats that my own daughter had outgrown. And I remember watching Sarah’s dad erupt when she scored her first goal.

- Victoria, who somehow ended up on my team for 3 consecutive years in Park District Basketball.  Victoria was not athletic and had little confidence in herself as a basketball player (and perhaps beyond).  But she was tall and strong and I love a challenge.  She never turned into a superstar, but she did end up playing traveling basketball and other school sports.  And every time Victoria would see me out in the world, she’d go out of her way to come up to me and say, “Hi, Coach Derek!” (jeez, makes me teary eyed just thinking about it).

- Christian, who…well, I can’t really point to one thing with Christian.  I just love the smile he would get on his face or the little fist-pump he would give when I told him he did a good and that I was proud of his effort.

There are literally dozens of other examples I could give, but I think you get the point.  I don’t mean for this to sound self-congratulatory.  Believe me, there have been kids that I didn’t connect with and a few things I’ve done as a coach that I’m not super-proud of.  But why risk making you like me less?

Anyway, I’m sharing this because I feel so blessed to have had those opportunities.  I know that in some small way I’ve made a positive impact in the lives of a lot of young people.  That’s a dream that I never really had.

But it’s one I’ll never forget.

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Things Have Gone Exactly As I Expected!

So way back on February 1st I wrote the below, but – funny story – I seemingly neglected to hit the “publish” button – something I just recently became aware of. At any rate, I think it’s still worth sharing…

Dear Friends,

Just a quick entry to let you know that I won’t be making any more blog entries until the afternoon of August 31st, 2014.  I’ve just got a lot going on right now and I expect that to be the case for the next 211 days.  I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone thinking that I’ve become just yet another blogger who didn’t commit to the process.

To give you a little insight into what I’m talking about, this is some of what I expect to happen in those 211:

- Based on the first round of edits, I expect that we will hit a few more snags and schedule conflicts with my book (Where The Broken Lie) that will cause the release date to be pushed back – probably even past August and into September or October.  

- My wife and I will be spending a lot of time going to our son Quinn’s traveling baseball practices and games.  They had an okay year in 2013, but they seem improved to me and I would be shocked if they didn’t finish the season exactly 15-7.

- Speaking of youth sports, I’ve really missed coaching soccer in the Fall these past 3 years.  I could probably be easily talked into volunteering to coach Quinn’s team and leading them to a 3-0 start to the season.  Sitting here on February 2nd, though, it’s hard to project out much further than those first 3 games.

- I am going to invest a lot of time and energy into my writing career.  I’m going to learn a lot about the craft and the industry via podcasts, blogs, and ebooks.

- I am going to put more time into my next project which will actually be a YA novel with some elements of magic and mystery.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.  I’ll be gone. Then I’ll be back.  And then I’ll be better.

Honestly,

Derek

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Good News! You’re In Disney World!

Do you ever have one of those moments where you’re a middle-aged father of three who is making a decent living, currently pursuing a lifelong dream on the side and thrilled about it, blessed with great family and friends, and then you realize you’re going to die one day?

ME, TOO!!!

But then I think to myself, “Man, this life….this whole place….I mean, this is Disney World!  And, yeah, fine, the park closes around 10, but until then…until then I’m an 8 year-old in FREAKIN’ DISNEY WORLD!”

You're in Disney World!

You’re in Disney World!

(Except 8 year-olds should not say FREAKIN’.  Nobody should, really.  It just doesn’t sound classy.  Anyway…)

So, yeah, we’re all in Disney World and sometimes our feet and our knees and our back hurt from all the walking and we’ve got to take a seat on a bench for a bit.  But let me caution you….don’t get too comfortable on the bench.  There’s just too much going on around you.  Don’t wait for all your aches and pains to go away before you get up and go get in line for Splash Mountain.

Get up now and go explore.  Go ride something (even if the lines are long).  Go see a show (even if it’s lame).  Go get yourself a tasty treat (as long as you’re eating a balanced diet).  But whatever it is, do it now.  Get off the bench and do it NOW!  If you get moving, you’ll have time to do and see everything you want to do and see. Because remember…it’s a small world after all.

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Where The Broken Lie Wins AIA Book of the Month Award!

Well, sort of….

Before I connected with the fine folks at Immortal Ink Publishing, I had been doing everything I could to market the book myself.  As part of that effort, I had submitted Hearts Left Behind (original title) for review by the Indie Reader.  Recently, the Indie Reader published their review and I was thrilled to see that they gave it their highest rating of 5 stars.  Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Author Derek Rempfer conveys the parent-child relationship with haunting power, highlighting with deep sensitivity and extraordinary insight, just how children create their parents and even become them; how death affects the living; and how a grief over a lost child changes a parent . . . even years later.

Click here to read Maya Fleischmann’s full review.

IR-Approved-Sticker-212-150x150

Additionally, I also found out that the Association of Independent Authors named Hearts Left Behind a Book of the Month Award winner.

Click here to see AIA’s Book of the Month Award winners.

I am obviously very honored by all of this.  And it makes me even more excited about the upcoming release of Where The Broken Lie, because thanks to my new partners at IIP, it’s going to be even better.  Can’t wait for it to find new readers.  If you’re interested,

Click here to be notified when Where The Broken Lie becomes available

Friends, self-promoting is something that I struggle with.  Most authors do because we tend to be introverts.  Some of us are neurotic and most of us our insecure about ourselves and/or our work.  We’d rather believe in the romantic notion that our work will naturally find a large and adoring audience.  The simple fact is, it doesn’t work that way in most cases.  We all want to be Hugh Howey, Amanda Hocking, and William Paul Young, but getting there takes a lot of work and even more luck.  And it takes doing things that go against our natural tendencies at time.

All of which is to say, I hope I’m not coming off as too “salesy”.  It’s a tough thing to balance at times.  I want to find a readership and connect with them on a more personal level, but that can’t happen until I have that readership.  :)  If you have thoughts on this, please feel free to share them here in the comments section or by emailing me at DerekRempfer@yahoo.com.  If there are other writers out there who would be willing to share your struggles with this issue, I encourage your feedback as well.

Stay in touch.

https://www.facebook.com/derek.rempferwriter

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Where-the-Broken-Lie-by-Derek-Rempfer/198719446978404

That’s a wrap.

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The 411 on the 855

In early December, I received the round one edits of (my literary mystery) Where The Broken Lie back from IIP.  Somehow, the editor – for the sake of anonymity let’s call her Louise (in fact, let’s call her Louise Caiola – author of The Making of Nebraska Brown and part of the management team at IIP) – anyway…somehow the editor managed to find 855 ways to improve my novel in her first pass through.

Now, this so-called “Louise” also happens to be the person who first reached out to me about having IIP represent my novel.  Louise and I had connected via Twitter and – long story short – I sent her a free copy of my novel.  A week or so later, Louise contacted me and we had a 30 minute phone conversation about the book and what IIP could do for me.  NOBODY in my life has ever complimented me so much about anything (Tam, Mom – you hearing this?).  She went on and on about how much she loved the story and the writing itself.

“Please, tell me more, Louise.  I have all day.”

Now, she did mention that there was a little bit of clean-up to be done.  And when Louise returned that round one review of my document, I discovered that she and I have a very different understanding of what “a little bit of clean-up” means.  Or perhaps it’s a Midwest vs East Coast thing, I don’t know.  All I do know is that when I opened the doc and saw the number of edits, my first instinct was to check the total word count to see which number was higher (chalk one up for Word Count!).

Here’s the thing though…I agreed with 99% of her edits.  In fact, rather than being discouraged by the process, I was highly charged to have found someone who “got” the story and cared about it enough to give it the tough love it needed.  And that was just round one! I still have (gulp) two more rounds of editing to go through!

Hurray for more editing! the blogger typed.

Seriously, though, I understand that the process is going to result in a better story for the reader which – at the end of the day – is what I care about most.  Well, that and the royalties, but mostly that thing about a better story.

I’ll end by directing your attention to a couple things:

1.  On the right side of the screen, you’ll notice a section called “Out Takes and Short Stories”.  Nothing cryptic here.  This section contains links to a couple short stories I previously had published as well as some parts of Where The Broken Lie that will not be in the finished product.  But I liked them enough that I wanted them to see some light.

2.  If you know of anyone that you think might be interested in my novel, I would very much appreciate your help in spreading the word by sharing the links below:

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My Journey To Where The Broken Lie

It’s a fun journey I’ve been on these past couple months as I prepare to have my first novel published.  The path is one that I could not have even imagined years ago when terms like eReader and eBook were not yet part of our literary lexicon and referring to Amazon could only mean either the rain forest or the river.

 typewriter

I get a lot of questions about the path and the process and so I thought I’d take the opportunity to address a few of the more common questions I get asked.

WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT?

You know, I’m still not good at answering this question.  It doesn’t really fit neatly into any one particular genre, which is part of the reason I didn’t have success pitching it to literary agents.

[Quick sidebar for those unfamiliar with the traditional publishing process.  Historically, if you wanted to get your book into bookstores and/or into the hands of readers, your only real option was to write a query letter to a literary agent and try to entice them into asking for at least a sample of your manuscript - say, the first 25 pages or so.  If you're fortunate enough to land an agent (never happened for me), the agent then has to pitch your book to a publisher (Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) and try to entice them into publishing your book.]

Anyway, I consider my story to be a literary mystery (literary fiction + mystery = literary mystery) in the spirit of such books as Peace Like a River, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Lovely Bones.  It’s about a man who tries to “go home again” after he and his wife lose a child.  They separate and he returns to his hometown to be alone with his grief.  But that process takes him into a past where lies are uncovered, secrets are revealed, and doors long closed are reopened.

HOW LONG DID IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE IT?

The soul of the book began in 1998 after my wife Tammy and I lost our son Ethan.  I wrote a lot during the grieving process and the book contains much of what I produced during that time.

chapter one

That said, it was probably around 2001 when I began trying to formulate my various writings, journal entries, concepts and ideas into a novel.  I sent my first query letter in December of 2007 and my last query letter sometime earlier this year.  Yes, it was very painful, but with just enough encouragement along the way to make me keep on keeping on.  When I learned about the Amazon KDP select program which makes it easy (and free) to self-publish an ebook, I decided to give up on the traditional process and just make my book available through Amazon.

SO HOW IS IT YOU HAVE A PUBLISHER NOW?

I know, right?  So here’s what happened.  In July of this year, I published my book to Amazon and immediately began doing everything I could to market the book.  I won’t get into all the details, but there is a lot of work behind that.  In fact, most authors will tell you that writing the book is the easy part.  At any rate, as part of my efforts to expand my platform (writing a blog, creating a new facebook page, getting active on Twitter, etc) I made the acquaintance of the multi-talented Louise Caiola.  Long story short, Louise downloaded my book from Amazon and liked it enough that she invited me to work with Immortal Ink Publishing (IIP) to have it published.

SO WHAT’S GOING ON WITH THE BOOK NOW?

Now that I’m working with IIP, I have unpublished my book from Amazon.  Over the next 2-3 months the manuscript will be going through multiple rounds of editing and revisions that I am confident will make it an even better story than it was before (which is VERY exciting for me!).  That new story will be published with a new title (Where The Broken Lie) in February of 2014.  Initially it will only be available in ebook format and print-on-demand (meaning you can order a physical copy of the book online and have it mailed to you).  If it does really well, then perhaps someday we might even see it on the shelves of your local bookstore.

Ok, that’s all for now.  Do you have additional questions you’d like me to address?  Or perhaps you’re an author who’d be willing to share your own experience?  Please feel free to leave a comment or email me at DerekRempfer@yahoo.com .  I am truly honored by the interest people have shown.

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Dr. Brilliant and Mr. Fraud

When I was a senior in high school, I did a Creative Writing assignment about a guy who was procrastinating about doing a Creative Writing assignment.  It was one of those things that I had known about for a week or more but put it off until the last minute – not exactly an unprecedented event in my academic history.

I didn't have a computer in high school, but you get the idea.

I didn’t have a computer in high school, but you get the idea.

I was completely embarrassed to hand it in.  I felt it was clear evidence of a lazy student with a penchant for procrastination.  My teacher thought it was brilliant.  So brilliant, in fact, that she read it in front of the class a couple days later.  I still remember the looks my buddies gave me as Mrs. Etheridge was reading – nay, performing – my piece.

Seriously, dude?

Seriously, dude?

And I don’t blame them.  I wrote about all the things I chose to do instead of write my paper – eating popcorn and then flossing my teeth (for probably the first time in my life), cleaning my room, reading all of the non-sports sections of the newspaper, etc.  How could Mrs. Etheridge not see right through this?

Another student in Mrs. Etheridge’s class wrote a piece about eating a bowl of ice cream.  I don’t recall how long this assignment was supposed to be – 3 to 5 pages maybe – but whatever it was, she wrote the entire thing about enjoying that ice cream.  She went into rich detail about scooping out the ice cream, the texture, the color, the flavor, etc.  I thought to myself, “Wow, that is fantastic!  Why can’t I write like that?” And also, “I could totally go for some ice cream right now.”

Now, my memory being what it is, it’s possible that I’m not remembering all of this COMPLETELY accurately (that’s back-to-back adverbs if you’re keeping score at home), but it boils down to this – I felt like a fraud who got lucky.

Mostly.  Moooostly I felt like a fraud.  But somewhere deep inside, a small part of me actually believed Mrs. Etheridge.  There was the seed of a writer in me and Mrs. Etheridge shined a little bit of light on it that day.  And I started believing that maybe I could be brilliant.

Brilliant2

In terms of my writing, I still believe I could be brilliant.  In fact, at the risk of sounding immodest, when I re-read some of the things I’ve written I do believe I have at least approached the border of brilliant.  I’m pretty proud of the book I’ve written and I can’t wait for it to get into the hands of readers because I know it’s going to touch some people.  And I know it’s part of my legacy and will be read by my kids, their kids, their kids’ kids, etc.  It’s a book that comes directly from my experiences in life and my thoughts and feelings and interpretations of those experiences.  And this is where Mr. Fraud comes in.

Dr. Brilliant and Mr. Fraud

Dr. Brilliant and Mr. Fraud

Dr. Brilliant believes he was meant to write.  To author many, many books.  But Mr. Fraud keeps saying that he’s meant to write just that one.  That he’s not capable of writing creatively beyond his own experiences and he just doesn’t have that many interesting experiences.  There are only so many Mrs. Etheridges in the world.

The good news is that I’m determined to find out who is right.  Or, at the very least, find an audience who appreciates my particular brand of fraudulence.

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I Was Going To Marry Vanna White

When I graduated high school in 1987, marrying Vanna White was part of my five-year plan.

Vanna

I remember writing that in one of those memory books that graduating seniors are often gifted.  The only other two goals I remember documenting were that I would be driving a lamborghini and making my living as a successful author. Can you guess which of those I was serious about?

That’s what we do, isn’t it?  We get these crazy dreams that we’re too embarrassed to even acknowledge.  But once in a while we muster up the courage to float a trial balloon and see if we can get even just one person to say, “Yeah, I can totally see you married to Vanna White!”  Or maybe even, “Yeah, I read that thing you wrote. It didn’t suck.”

Is it just me?  Am I the only one who likes to downplay my BHAGs or bury them in the middle of a to-do list?

  • Clean gutters
  • Change oil in car
  • Write a best seller
  • Fold towels
  • Sweep the garage
  • Google Vanna…

Friends, we need to be proud of our BHAGs!  We have them for a reason!  They have been imprinted upon us!   I PROMISE YOU that someday the science of genetics will advance to the point that they will find a BHAG gene within all of us.  And when studied under a super-duper powerful microscope, we will all be able to read our individual BHAGs the way you read the back of a cereal box today.  Things will be so much easier then, but don’t let the current state of the science discourage you!  Get started now!  Just remember that the point isn’t necessarily to achieve our BHAGs.  The point is to pursue them with vigor.  You’re always going to find something of meaning along the way.  And you’re always going to be an inspiration for someone else.

Attempt

Some of the goals I had when I was 18 are with me still at 44.  I’ve never really been a “car guy” and thus never really had much interest in owning a lamborghini.  And I’m content with how things have worked out between me and Vanna.  But that book thing…man, it’s still there, even as some of the motivations behind it have changed.  I don’t necessarily want to write a best seller (but wouldn’t complain if I did).   I want to write something that touches people.  A beautiful read that changes how people think and feel about something.  And perhaps most importantly, I want to inspire my children and others to do the same.

Tory – you CAN be a psychiatrist!

Chloe – you CAN play first base for the Bandits!

Quinn – you CAN pitch for the Cubs!

Others – you CAN ____ !

About six weeks ago, Louise Caiola and Rebecca Hamilton came into my life and said to me, “Yeah, I read that thing you wrote. It didn’t suck.”  They validated my book BHAG and I want to pay it forward.  So, can we start a conversation here?  Please boldly share your BHAGs in the comments section below.  And please lift and encourage everyone else who dares.  

That’s all, folks.  Now, talk amongst yourselves…

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