Thursday, February 25, 2010

Vincent Zandri stops by... (and a giveaway)

Moonlight FallsReaders, please join me welcoming Vincent Zandri, author of Moonlight Falls who's guest blogging here today!

Moonlight Falls is the Albany, New York-based paranoid tale (in the Hitchcock tradition) of former APD Detective turned Private Investigator/Massage Therapist, Richard “Dick” Moonlight, who believes he might be responsible for the brutal slaying by knife of his illicit lover, the beautiful Scarlet Montana. The situation is made all the worse since Scarlet is the wife of Moonlight’s boss, Chief of Detectives Jake Montana.

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Biting the Nail: The Discipline of Writing
By Vincent Zandri

“Where do you get your discipline?”

That’s the question I’m asked most frequently about my solitary writing life. Most people who work according the programmed schedule of job and career find it inconceivable that a person can actually roll out of bed, face a blank page, and begin to make words. Yet, as writers, that’s what we do. We create and in order to create we have to have discipline. Discipline to work alone, according to our own rules, according to our own high standards, according to our own priorities and curiosities.

Acquiring discipline isn’t so hard when you are passionate about your work—when you have a desire not only to write well, but to do it better than anyone has done it before. At the same time you have to develop a skin of armor in order to feed the obsession. The first most important lesson of the disciplined writing life is learning that you’re not always going to be successful. Most of the time you will fail and must face the resulting rejection head on. That’s the most difficult thing about discipline: carrying on with your work unabated, even in the face of rejection.

So where does my discipline come from?

As clich├ęd as it sounds, I can only tell you that it comes from deep inside. It’s not something I have to work up, so much as it’s something I have to feed on a daily basis. Discipline means waking up early every day, day in and day out, and writing. It’s writing everyday in isolation no matter what’s happening in my life. Be it sick kids, angry spouses, insolvent bank accounts, a broken toilet, a terrorist attack… I write no matter what. Hemingway called this sometimes impossible but necessary process, “biting the nail.” And anyone who has the discipline to write every day no matter what, understands what biting the nail is all about. Writing, like the discipline it requires, can be an awfully painful process.

Back in 1992, I wrote in my published essay, A Literary Life, “In the morning, weariness begins with darkness. It surrounds me inside my kitchen like a weighted shroud, cumbersome and black. It continues as my fingertips search and locate a light switch next to the telephone, above my son’s hi-chair. White light stings my eyes when I flip it up. There is a clock above the sink…I interpret a big hand and little hand that have not yet made 6:00AM.”

Those were the days when I wrote in the mornings, worked a fulltime job and received rejections everyday. But still, I crawled out of bed and wrote. I guess all these years later, I can truthfully say, discipline is what I had in the place of sleep, in the place of comfort, in the place of security and success. Discipline was and remains the bedfellow I seek when I am at my most lonely.

Eventually the discipline would reap its rewards.

In the 12 years since I’ve earned my MFA from Vermont College, I’ve published three novels, with one on the way this winter. I’ve been translated into numerous languages. I’ve published almost two dozen short stories, countless articles, essays and blogs. I’ve traveled “on assignment” to China, Turkey, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, Africa and more. Along the way I’ve met wonderful people, seen wonderful things, witnessed atrocities, unspeakable disease, hunger and corruption. I’ve written about much of it. Some of it, I’ve simply stored away in my brain for some future story or novel down the road.

For all its rewards, discipline demands stiff payment.

Because of my priorities, I’ve failed at two marriages and many more relationships. I’ve lost friends and lost the faith and trust of family members who have come to think of me as unreliable or flaky at best. Because after all, I tend to use a holiday like Christmas as a time to work, and when family events like birthdays come up, I might be traveling or locked up in my studio with my significant other…Well, you know her name. It starts with a D.

I have managed however, to find a way to balance time with my kids. Not that it’s always been easy. Children are a distraction, no bones about it. But they are also fuel for your discipline. I’m not entirely certain that I could have achieved any kind of success without them. Children open up emotional vaults that would otherwise remain sealed shut. You need to expose the contents of these vaults in your prose.

My writing simply wouldn’t be the same without kids. Now that they’re almost grown up, I still keep them as close as possible without smothering them. When it comes to my children, my philosophy has always been, hug them, tell them you love them, and make them laugh once a day. You’d be surprised how well this works. Also, don’t be afraid to tell them the truth. They know when you’re lying. If you can’t spend time with them because you have to feed the discipline, be honest about it. They will appreciate you for it and come to respect you.

Case and point: it’s a beautiful Saturday afternoon and I’m writing this article. My children are home, just outside the closed door of my studio, where I can hear them engaged in some sort of friendly argument. I’m not doing anything with them per se. But I’m here with them, for them.

This month alone I will write and published 36 short architecture and construction articles, three major blogs, present a revised version of The Concrete Pearl (my fifth novel) to my agent, write one or two features, engage in pre-publicity for Moonlight Falls, and maybe, if there’s time, pen a new piece for my personal blog. In between all this, I’ll juggle time with the kids, time for exercise, time to tip some beers with friends, time for a few road trips, time to be by myself and read. Have I mentioned the discipline required to read books?

One word of warning, the discipline, no matter how beautiful a bedfellow, does not always respond lovingly. Even after you’ve scored a major book contract or two. During my second marriage, I suffered through a writer’s block that lasted five long years, a period during which I published not a single word. The block just happened to coincide with my oldest son’s nervous breakdown and the onset of severe depression (see “Breakdown,” http://www.blnz.com/news/2008/11/12/Breakdown_8563.html). At that time, as I came close to going broke (after receiving a mid-six figure advance for As Catch Can), I never once stopped working, never once veered from the discipline of waking up every morning and trying to write. “Trying” being the key word here.

Looking back on those difficult years, I realize I wasn’t writing so much as I was just typing, but the process helped me cope with some very difficult and serious issues in my life. If nothing else, the discipline to write can be a mighty powerful therapy.

Eventually the damn breaks, as it did in my case, and I made a return to good writing and publishing. I’m not making millions by any means, but I make a decent living as a freelance journalist and novelist, and that’s all anyone can honestly ask for.

The late great Norman Mailer also understood about the financial ups and downs of being a fulltime writer. But more importantly, he understood about the discipline of biting the nail. He wrote 2,500 new words a day right up until the end when his kidneys failed him. It wasn’t the disciple or the talent or the mind that gave out, it was the 84 year old body. I’m told he died with a smile on his face. Not the kind of smile that accompanies peace of mind, sedated painlessness, or “going to the bright light.” But the kind of smile that only a disciplined writer can wear; the sly grin that means you’re about to embark on a brand new adventure, and that you can’t wait to write about it.

*******************

Moonlight Falls author Vincent Zandri is an award-winning novelist, essayist and freelance photojournalist. His novel As Catch Can (Delacorte) was touted in two pre-publication articles by Publishers Weekly and was called "Brilliant" upon its publication by The New York Post. The Boston Herald attributed it as “The most arresting first crime novel to break into print this season.” Other novels include Godchild (Bantam/Dell) and Permanence (NPI). Translated into several languages including Japanese and the Dutch, Zandri’s novels have also been sought out by numerous major movie producers, including Heyday Productions and DreamWorks. Presently he is the author of the blogs, Dangerous Dispatches and Embedded in Africa for Russia Today TV (RT). He also writes for other global publications, including Culture 11, Globalia and Globalspec. Zandri’s nonfiction has appeared in New York Newsday, Hudson Valley Magazine, Game and Fish Magazine and others, while his essays and short fiction have been featured in many journals including Fugue, Maryland Review and Orange Coast Magazine. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Vermont College and is a 2010 International Thriller Writer’s Awards panel judge. Zandri currently divides his time between New York and Europe. He is the drummer for the Albany-based punk band to Blisterz.

www.vincentzandri.com
http://vincentzandri.blogspot.com/
http://twitter.com/VincentZandri
http://www.facebook.com/vincent.zandri?ref=profile
http://www.myspace.com/vincentzandri
An advice we could all use for sure! Thanks for stopping by, Vincent. It was great hosting you.

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GIVEAWAY
(* New Changes regarding Winner Notification etc. Details at the end of this blog post.

Prize : A copy of this book will go to one lucky reader.

To Enter : Leave a thoughtful comment or question for the author.

For Extra Entries: (please leave a NEW comment for each extra entry you do)
Deadline:   Midnight CST of March 25, 2010.

Eligibility:  US only.


*** I'll no longer email winners to get their address. Instead, winners will be announced in a blog post. It's up to the participants to check back to see if they've won. Read more details HERE.
 
Note - This book was received for review/feature consideration.
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29 comments :

  1. I have a question for Vincent:
    When you are working on so many projects at once, how to you keep your stacks of notes, etc., organized? That's the problem I have yet to find a solution to. As I write this, my piles of notes are encroaching on my keyboard, leaving me not much elbow room to breathe. The pieces of paper are in stacks that mix together so that I must sort through them each time I work on something.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I sort of keep a minimum of notes and try to compartmentalize them in my head, if possible. In general, if something is important enough for me to remember I remember. But that's not always the case. Instead of keeping separate notes, I type or write them right on the ms itself...keeps everything together....
    :)
    Vin

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  3. I am a follower of this blog.
    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  4. I am a Subscriber to this blog.

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  5. Will be checking out your Moonlight books. "Home" is north of Albany a ways.
    Do you feel that Discipline is the most important part of writing? Is it more important than inspiration?

    librarypat AT comcast DOT net

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  6. This is really dedication. I am not that dedicated..LOL.. I would love to win this book as I do love thrillers. Thanks for the opportunity to enter.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  7. 1 ENTRy- I Subscribe to A Book Blogger's Diary feed

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  8. 1 ENTRY - I Subscribe to A Book Blogger's Diary Email Updates


    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  10. 1 ENTRY - I Follow this blog

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  11. I left comment on "Heart Magic Skills".

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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  12. I left comment on this one. Author Angela Henry talks about Mystery Writing. Very interesting reading.

    misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

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  13. dedication is important for the work ethic, however, inspiration is the fuel....
    V

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  14. Great post and sounds like a very interesting book. Thanks for sharing.

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  15. Twitter follower and tweeted = http://twitter.com/DonnaS1/statuses/9663597111

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  16. Posted here: http://donnasbloghome.blogspot.com/2010/02/contests-found-this-week_22.html

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  17. Do you have any plans for writig historical fiction,currently my students enjoy identifying the fictious elements and verifying the factual accuracy in novels such as Cleopatra's Daughter and the Heretic.
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  18. e-mail subscriber.
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  19. Google Friend Connect follower.
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  20. Facebook fan.
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  21. Feed subscfiber via Google Reader.
    enyl(at)inbox(dot)com

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  22. I have high respect with writers especially those who write novels. It must be really tough to spend writing and working on your characters' lives. I am also amazed how they keep the stories in momentum.

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  23. "Acquiring discipline isn’t so hard when you are passionate about your work" I agree. Nothing's really easy, but our passion makes our tasks really easy. You guys agree?

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  24. Interesting that discipline doesn't always produce - 5 years of writer's block... How do you stay motivated when it seems you're not succeeding?

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

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  25. Follower.

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

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  26. This is fascinating.
    I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.

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  27. It must be really tough to spend writing and working on your characters' lives.

    ReplyDelete