Monday, April 4, 2016

An Evening with the SModfather

I was all set to dive into Part II of my little mini-series “Excelsior, From the Page to Your Ears” (For those of you who are new to my page, I’m going through the different steps I took to make the audiobook for my novel “Excelsior” into a reality – with myself playing the roles of narrator, editor, and producer), but then I remembered what I have coming up on April 10th. So if you don’t mind, I’m going to take a detour in preparation for this big event. But if you think about it, it may not be such a change after all.

This Sunday, Kevin Smith is coming to town, and Cheryl and I will be in attendance to see him.

Now, for those of you who are sick to death of hearing about Kevin and are just rolling your eyes at the mention of him, you may want to just stop reading now. I won’t blame you. I know he’s an acquired taste. I’m sure he knows he’s an acquired taste. I happen to admire him very much. He’s made me laugh for over 15 years since I sat down and watched Dogma, becoming a fan at that very moment, and I’m excited about the possibility of making a statement to him and asking a question.

What do I mean about “making a statement?” Well, in recent years, during his Q&A’s that take place around the time when he made and self-distributed Red State (which is awesome, by the way), he made a point to talk about artists in general. Being a content generator (movies, television, internet radio, books, etc.), he’s very much aware of how difficult it can be to stay inspired in a time when people go out of their way to discourage you. What he said has been repeated in his appearances, on podcasts, and in his book “Tough Sh*t.” Someone was nice enough to make a meme out of it, which is below…

Kevin also talked about how there’s so much “why” in this world. “Why would you do that?” So go out and find someone who will say “why not” to you instead. “Why not do that?” He remembers the feeling of validation when Scott Mosier was onboard with his idea to make a small movie taking place in a convenience store. And he wants every artist to feel that same validation when it comes to their own ideas.

My “why not” is a two-parter. The first was the rewrite of “From Parts Unknown.” From the average perspective, that story looks like a failed project because it came out in 2002, sold a few copies to friends and family, and then faded away into obscurity. (Well, there’s no “looks like,” it WAS a failed project, but looking back on it, I’m happy it was. If more people knew of, bought, and liked that 2002 version, I may not have felt the need to revise it to the extent that I did.) Anyway, by the time “Excelsior” was re-launched by Rocking Horse Publishing and looked like it was going to be a modest success, I was encouraged to write the sequel as soon as possible, but I had an un-finished project that I felt was worth completing - the re-write of “From Parts Unknown” – and it was Kevin’s ordeals with writing his project “Hit Somebody” that inspired me to turn this new-and-improved story into a five-part serial. By January 2015, I was finally finished with Part 5, and the complete serial was released as an eBook by Rocking Horse Publishing in November 2015. Finishing it and giving it a home were huge victories for me, and I was able to move on to the “Excelsior” sequel not long after that.

The other “why not” in my life was my decision to narrate my own audiobook of “Excelsior.” Obviously I’ll get into the finer details in later blog posts, but this was something I had been kicking around in my head for years, and when I got the green light from my publisher to proceed, I knew I was on to something.

RHP – my literary home – had become my “why not” champion. They took on “From Parts Unknown,” they let me narrate my audiobook, and who knows what else they have in store for me in the future?

The main thing I want to tell Kevin when I see him on Sunday is this: We all have the potential to be the Wayne Gretzky of our own lives. We can score big goals and we can assist others with scoring theirs. But every now and then, we all need a Walter Gretzky to give us some much-needed advice, to steer us in the direction to be what we want to be in life, and that’s where Kevin comes in. His success has inspired me to seek out my own passions, find what drives me, and not give up when I’m feeling discouraged. That “if I don’t do this, I’m really gonna regret it” feeling is normal for an artist to feel, and his words consistently remind me of that.

So yeah, if you’re reading this, Kevin, hi. And hope you don’t mind the spoiler alert for what I’m going to say on Sunday night. I obviously have no idea how this will all play out until it does, but whatever happens, I’ll let you guys know.

One more thing. Back when he announced he was going to self-distribute Red State, Kevin felt the need to have a totem in hand to give him the strength to make this turn in his career. His totem of choice was the last hockey stick Wayne Gretzky used as an Edmonton Oiler. When I see him on Sunday evening, I’ll have my own totem on hand when I tell him basically everything I said here: my copy of “Tough Sh*t” on audiobook.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Excelsior: From the Page to Your Ears, Part I

In the early 80s, when I was in first grade, my cousin Matthew (who left us in 2005 and who inspired the creation of Matthew Peters in “Excelsior”) was undergoing cancer surgery. To keep his mind off of what was happening, his mother – my aunt Helene – asked me to put together some books on tape that he can listen to while he recovers. I had some children’s storybooks of E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Star Wars saga, and she wanted me to just copy the cassette tapes that came with them. I, however, had a different idea.

I wanted to read them myself. I knew I’d do a good job with it, and I thought it’d benefit my cousin to hear a familiar voice. So while I was at my grandparents’ house, I set up a tape recorder, found a quiet space, and read three different books. I even put in a little noise to prompt him to turn the page (even though he wasn’t going to have the books themselves on hand).

The feedback from Matt and his family was beyond expectations. I was told that he listened to the tapes over and over, and they helped him keep his spirits up while undergoing chemotherapy. That kind of reaction stayed with me ever since, and it gave me the confidence to perform in Drama Club during grade school, take Drama I, II, and III in high school, and study Theatre in college.

After college, I made the transition from acting to writing, eventually self-publishing two novels – “From Parts Unknown” and “Excelsior” – in 2002 and 2010. But one nagging question stayed in the back of my head during all of this: “Wouldn’t it be cool if you got to narrate your own audiobook?” Just like you did for Matt back in the day? Unfortunately, while living in New York City, I wasn’t able to pursue that venture. I knew my equipment in our apartment wasn’t going to be adequate (especially since our building didn’t have the thickest walls, so we would have to deal with noise from our neighbors above and below us), and even though I had studied acting, I knew I would need some real vocal training to see if I was good enough to even try something like this.

Who knew that, when we made the move from New York City to St. Louis in 2011, I would have access to everything I ever needed to make this a reality?

TO BE CONTINUED…

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Now, Where Was I...?

You wouldn’t know it by looking at my blog, but it’s 2016 and quite a bit has already happened this year. A new job, new responsibilities, new exposure, new projects. If you’re following me on Facebook (and if you’re not, you can find me HERE), you probably already know a lot of what’s happening. But just in case, here’s a brief recap:

My last blog post was in October, and during that time, I was searching for a new job after my position at First Congregational Church was changed to require someone with a pastoral background. The day after my wife and I celebrated our 8th anniversary, I got the call from CHAN Healthcare, offering me the Sr. Administrative Assistant position. I’ve been at CHAN (a subsidiary of Crowe Horwath LLP) since November 11, and it’s been nothing but a great time, especially now that our finances have stabilized. Am I making as much as I did at the church? No. But my stress level is far below what it has been since 2012, and I’m feeling so much better about myself and my abilities.

You might recall that I reached my Kickstarter goal to raise money for voiceover lessons. I had the lessons in October, and they were a dream come true. It felt wonderful getting behind the microphone and learning how to improve myself in that field, and one day before I started working at CHAN, I recorded both my animation demo and my commercial demo. Cheryl brought it to my attention that the space in the basement that’s directly under the staircase would make for a great sound booth, so our big project in the next month will be setting it up and purchasing new equipment that would allow me to stand up and narrate. Whether it will be an audiobook, local commercial, whatever the case, having this will allow me to do so much more than what I’m doing now.

So what am I doing now? Well, a LOT. Throughout February, I’ve been using my smaller setup in the home office to record my own audiobook narration for “Excelsior.” I’m also working with my editor to pump some extra dimension to the world of Denab IV as we prepare “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey” for submission to my publisher. Hopefully, in the next couple of months, we’ll be in a good position to send it in. Once the audiobook is finished and edited – when the soundbooth is good to go – I’ll have a better understanding of when I can really sink my teeth into starting up my life as a voiceover artist.

Oh yeah, there’s one more thing. Remember when I said that I’m feeling much better about myself and my abilities? Well, my completed five-part serial “From Parts Unknown” now has what “Excelsior” couldn’t get: a five-star review from ReadersFavorite.com. This 550-page story has been called “very entertaining and thrilling,” and I couldn’t be happier to get this kind of validation. I understand this is a very niche story, but I also believe in it very much and I hope you’ll feel the same about it when you pick it up on eBook from Amazon. You can read the complete review HERE.

Told you there’s a lot going on, and there's much more to come. Looking forward to filling you in on the STL Rebels and a big event with the Authors of Jefferson County...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Am I Doing?

I have to be honest. I've been throwing the idea for this blog post around for at least a whole month, but just when it was time to sit down and start writing it, the same three words would come yelling out at me: No. One. Cares. So you got hit by a setback in work. Big deal! You got a lot of good stuff going on too. Nobody wants to read your wishy-washy “Boo-Hoo, Woe is me” followed by “But I got some stuff lined up,” especially when the stuff being lined up isn't set in stone yet.

And then I would get locked up, walk away from the document, and try working on something else. Anything else. The dishes. Yes, I would rather do the dishes than put my thoughts down on the screen. What kind of a writer am I?

But then, last Sunday night, I started reading a blog post by Wil Wheaton called “Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life.” I was fascinated by what I was reading, not just because Wil's a hell of a writer and very relatable, but because he's pretty much on the same journey that I've been on since the start of last summer. And when I brought this post to my friends' attention on Facebook, they started reading it for themselves, then started liking and sharing it.

Obviously, Wil's much more known than I am, but if some good news about his regaining control over his life could positively affect me, maybe my good news about dealing with a bad situation could do for the same for someone else.

So, some of you may already know some of this news through my posts on Facebook, and some of you may not. Either way, here we go...

Back in the 80s, when the late former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, wasn't angering Giants fans by denying the Super Bowl XXI champions a parade down the Canyon of Heroes ("If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachie"), he was riding the subways to and from work and asking NYC residents, "How'm I doin'?" Recently, I realized that this could be a question on the minds of those who are following this blog, since I haven't updated it in quite some time. What have I been up to, you may ask? Turns out, quite a bit.

For starters, as of last August, I no longer work at First Congregational Church of St. Louis. I'm not going to go into any details, and I'm certainly not going to say anything negative about the church. It's been a great three years, I made a lot of connections and friendships, and if it weren't for FCC giving me a chance, we wouldn't have the house that we have now. Nevertheless, it was time to move on, and I've begun seeking out new full-time opportunities. I won't go any further than that here, simply because I don't want to jinx anything.

With no current full-time work, that leaves extra time to write. Or, it would have left extra time to write if I wasn't feeling so guilty about not working that I've been consumed with job hunting. However, I realized earlier this month that I was just flailing when it came to sending out my resume. I was pushing it in all directions, whether it was a job I could see myself doing or not. So I relaxed, I reduced my resume-sending to places where I knew I wanted to work (I know, weird), and the responses I've gotten so far have been much more fulfilling. This sudden feeling of relaxation has allowed me to get much more writing done, and just last week, I FINALLY reached 50,000 words on “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey.” Now, does this mean that I'm almost done with this one? Ohhh, no. I still have a long way to go, but I'm encouraged by my accomplishment of all three stipulations I gave myself before I started writing Chapter One: “Ever Upward” had to be longer (absolutely), it had to go deeper into Excelsior's mythology (that it does), and it had to be darker (bring a flashlight).

Those of you who are Facebook friends have no doubt seen my recent barrage of pictures. That's because – for the first time in over ten years – I'm happy with how I'm looking. One of Cheryl's friends turned us on to paleo at the end of June, and while I'll say we haven't been following it exactly to the letter, the change has been remarkable. The day before we started was the last day that we had soda (with Sprite / Sierra Mist being the only occasional exception), we started cooking more (and cooking together, much to the chagrin of our dog Bear, who resorts to peeing on the nearest piece of furniture to get attention), and the substitutions we've been making in our food choices have made such a difference.

With this change in eating comes an urge to keep getting better, and so Cheryl and I started running every other morning, using the C25K app on our phones that we've had there for months, and it's accelerated the weight loss quite a bit. As of now, I'm down 35-40 pounds, I'm a little over 20 pounds from hitting my personal goal, I'm fitting in clothes that were tight when I got them back in 2009, and I'm feeling better now at 39 than I was at 29.

Now that I'm looking better and feeling better, I'm also moving better and dancing better. Cheryl & I are not only more active than ever with the St. Louis Rebels West Coast Swing Dance Club, but we're now board members with the club, and earlier this month, I have been officially certified to be an instructor! Who knew that I would be teaching first-time dancers to WCS less than four years after it finally clicked for me? Also, last September during the Meet Me in St. Louis Swing Dance Championships, I was bumped up from Newcomer to Novice in the Jack & Jill competition. Just like my first teacher told me, “Stay in a division until they kick you out.” Well, they kicked me out, and I feel like I got called up to the major leagues. I'm now dancing alongside men and women that have been doing this for so many years before I even started, and just having the opportunity to share the floor with them is a real honor. (It also helped that, because of the weight loss, I got to wear a shirt to the competition that I hadn't worn since 2006.)

But wait, there's more! During the first week of September, I came across a mention on Twitter about voiceover lessons in St. Louis. (I'll go into more detail later about how voice acting has been such a big part of my life since childhood.) And not just in St. Louis, but in Clayton Studios, a place Cheryl and I drove past time and time again while taking a trip to the Goodwill near the church where I used to work. I contacted the director of the classes, we had a long conversation where he patiently answered any question I had, and then gave me the price for the classes: $1100.

Obviously, with only one full-time income right now, it wasn't feasible for us to put that kind of money down. I had to admit that this dream couldn't be pursued just yet... but then, I had an idea. I would set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for the lessons, and in return, I would narrate a short story of up to 500 words for $10 or a story of up to 1000 words for $20. Once the campaign went live, a friend and fellow author, as well as a very talented cover artists and book trailer producer – Rachel Bostwick – donated four of her deluxe trailers (valued at $100) to the campaign for $50 each, and asked me to provide the voiceover for the trailers. What am I going to say, no? Of course not! Between the pledges from different authors, generous donations from family members, and money earned from selling copies of “Excelsior” to students at a local elementary school, I hit my $1100 goal with just over a week to go!

I'll go into further detail about how the voice lessons are going in a later edition, but honestly, I've never felt happier than I do right now. Of course, I'll feel better once I know what's going on with the job hunt, but these lessons are doing more for my confidence than I ever thought imaginable.

There's more to come in the near future, but I wanted to get this blog page going again, since that's part of the “39 Bucket List” I wrote after my birthday last August. I also wanted to let all of my newsletter subscribers know that I'm taking a break from my monthly newsletter for a while. All new material will go here instead of there, and I want to use this time to build my online presence back up instead of working for a few hours to put something together that only 20 or so people will actually read (If you're one of the 20 or so, thank you and I hope you've been enjoying it!). So, like I said, there will be more to come. I promise! And if there's something specific you'd like me to discuss here, by all means, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Power and the Paranormal Book Signing September 5!

The Power and the Paranormal Book Signing
Date: Sat, September 5th
Time: 1 pm-3 pm
Location: Main Street Books, St. Charles

Contact: T.W. Fendley or twfendley@gmail.com

Meet four local authors who write about young men and women with the power to change the world for good.

Featured authors at The Power and the Paranormal signing are Camille Faye, (paranormal), Candace Carrabus (fantasy, adventure, romance), George Sirois (science fiction and young adult), and T.W. Fendley (fantasy and science fiction). Enter drawings for one of four free Main Street Books gift cards.

Camille Faye grew up in a haunted house, which sparked her fascination with the paranormal. In VOODOO BUTTERFLY, Sophie is a Mind Changer who must experience transformative love to fight evil.
T.W. Fendley loves ancient American cultures and trekking the Yucatan, Peru, and American Southwest. In ZERO TIME, Keihla must unlock the secrets of Machu Picchu to save two worlds from the powers of darkness. In THE LABYRINTH OF TIME, Jade must restore the Firestone’s power before the First Men return to judge humanity.
George Sirois has been creating his own characters since 1985. In EXCELSIOR, Matthew thinks Denab IV and its savior are solely from his imagination until he learns Excelsior’s lifeforce lives within him, and he is the key to Earth’s survival and Denab IV’s salvation.
Candace Carrabus writes stories and rides horses–frequently simultaneously. In THE ROAR OF SMOKE, Tressida must master her lethal smoke spinning ability to prevent a war, and save the horses and everyone she loves. In RAVER, Lauren is taken from our world to another where she must call their lost horses before an entire country dies.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Excelsior is a Semi-Finalist!

I'm so happy to announce that "Excelsior" has been named a semi-finalist in the Young Adult category of the 2015 Kindle Book Awards! Out of all the entries that were sent in, and I'm sure there were many since this genre is wide open, my novel was listed among the 20 moving on to the next round. So I want to thank all of the judges who saw something in this book that was worth exploring further, and I hope those who are reading it for the next round are just as entertained.

On another note, this weekend - Fourth of July Weekend - "Excelsior" will be on sale on eBook for just 99 cents. From July 3 - 5, it's yours for just a quarter of the original cost. If you haven't gotten it yet, now's the time! Just click HERE to access the page.

But wait, there's more! Click HERE and you'll get the first part of "From Parts Unknown" for FREE! That's right, FREE!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Take the Pledge!

If there's one thing that many writers have in common, it's their constant issues with procrastination. As much as we try to push past it and get things done, we spend more time whining about not writing on Facebook than putting those words to good use and actually, oh, I don't know.... WRITING!

This has been a real struggle for me ever since I succumbed to the urge to tell the stories that have been sitting in my head in one form or another for almost thirty years. But the one time I succeeded in getting out of Procrastination Station for a sustained period of time was in June of 2008, when I wrote the first draft of “Excelsior” and won the Southern Cross Novel Challenge (NaNoWriMo in June instead of November).

So since I'm not starting a project from scratch at this point – I'm editing everything I've written so far of “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Exclesior Journey” before getting back to writing it – I wanted to issue a little challenge to everyone else out there who is dealing with the same crippling habits I am. Starting on Monday, June 1, I will be editing what I have so far in chunks of at least 1500 words per day. And at the end of each day, I will post the progress in my blog. After I finish with the editing, then I'll be writing at least 1000 words each day until the last day of June.

Now, about the challenge. We all know that there is strength in numbers, and when we're not enabling each other, we're pretty awesome together. Therefore, I want as many fellow writers as possible to join me on this endeavor. If you want to sign up, just add your name, e-mail address, and your own personal word count, and then I'll send you the Google Form to track your progress at the end of each day.

There will also be a Facebook group dedicated to this challenge, so you'll have a place to vent and get encouragement throughout the month.

What do you say? Want to take the pledge? Then click HERE to sign up!