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Response To A Challenge: Review Of Fried Windows

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From time to time I review things. Novels, music, concerts, plays and a few off the wall experiences have been fair game in the past. But I have never officially, publicly reviewed any of my own work, until now. I’m doing this on a dare, in response to a personal challenge. I will not post this review of Fried Windows anywhere like Goodreads, Amazon or anywhere else for fear of someone assuming I’m more vain than perhaps I am. I humbly submit this only because I think it might be enlightening to hear the author’s thoughts.

Of course, I’ve read Fried Windows – so many times I’ve lost count, not that I was really trying to keep track. I dare say I have read it more than anyone else ever will. I’ve read previous versions no one else has seen save for a few beta readers. I know what was deleted during the final edits and where the skeletons are hidden. What was removed and replaced in prior revisions now exists only in my memory of the original story. Also, what  triggered the creative process that resulted in the original draft is part of the story of my recent life. I’ve shared some of these insights in the past, of how I left a bad situation that was killing me and on the way produced a novel. But I have never given the work a formal, critical review.

Here goes:

Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce) by Elgon Williams is urban fantasy meshed with various other genres including mystery and science fiction. The result is entertaining though the plot, at times, becomes complicated and twisted as the storyteller fuses the various element together and have it make some modicum of sense. Then again, does fantasy need to make sense?

Strawb is the standout supporting character. Her eccentricities are the glue that binds the amalgam, giving necessary cohesion to the storyline. Without her presence Brent, the hero, would drift aimlessly through a fantasy world he barely recalls, bouncing from one experience to the next while trying to piece together the puzzle he made of Lucy’s life.

Lucy is as an innocent child at times. After all, she is disconnected from any real world underpinnings.  This allows her to be free but she also laments what she knows is no longer within her. Brent is as attracted to her as he ever was as a child when she was his imaginary friend. But within his Carlos persona, Brent finds the desire to stay with her in the Inworld nearly irresistible. In the course of remembering things from the past Brent/Carlos realizes he was at least complicit and possibly responsible for what changed  Lucy and why she is trapped in only one world. In the process he appreciates that what he did as well as what he did not do now exposes his real world children to fates similar to Lucy’s.

Despite the seriousness underlying everything, Fried Windows was always intended to be a lot of fun. What if someone offered you a special gift of reconnecting with childhood? It’s a fantasy that perhaps we have all permitted. In a world of mortgages, car payments, bills and responsibilities, what sane person hasn’t wanted to escape for a while? In the background, as Brent experiences being a kid again it alters him. A lot of what he does seems crazy – even to himself. As readers we are left to question what is real and what is not about this curios man and his strange story. What did the mysterious organization called The Program do to him? How much responsibility do they bear for Brent’s apparently tenuous grasp on reality?

At one level we might just as well accept that Brent is bonkers and leave it at that as we go along for the ride of a lifetime. But the possibility that he is not, that what he perceives is a veiled reality that the rest of us ignore, opens endless opportunities for us to explore. And as a writer, exploring unbridled imagination is a way to find artistic expression.

I won’t give any overall star rating to my own work. I find the awarding of stars counter productive, anyway. How can one equate the works of two different authors and determine that both being excellent deserve the same rating. Also, as a reader, there are stories I like better than others but that does not diminish the effort that went into creating the story. No doubt some will find areas that could be improved in Fried Windows. Each of us might write this story differently. But I feel the book does its job, establishing the foundation for what is yet to come as the real world learns more about Brent Woods and his multiple layered fantasy universe.

There, was that so hard? At the risk of seeming self-aggrandizing, I am posting this review. If it comes off as self-promotion, so be it. I would have never written Fried Windows if I did not intend for others to read it. Certainly, I would have never gone through the extended process of publishing it if I did not believe in the story. Whether you buy it as an eBook or paperback, rent it, borrow it or whatever, I hope you enjoy the experience of reading it. I also hope you learn not to assume things about the nature around you. What we believe in is a matter perspective and perception, after all.

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#FriedWindows #ElgonWilliams #author #NewReleaseBooks #MustReadBooks #Writing #BookReview

 

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The Zone – Being Creative On Autopilot

 

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Fried Windows strikes a few chords with a lot of people who read it. What’s interesting is how many different things people take from it. Some have asked me If I planned that, or did I intend for this to be in there. Not wanting to be as evasive as this sounds, the answer is yes and no.

Any author of fiction will tell you about his or her method of writing – where and when they do it, and what the experience is like. For some it is scheduled at a certain time of the day. For others it is more spontaneous and serendipitous Others will tell you about being in The Zone.

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It’s a place that, if you’re lucky, you get to where the words flow well and almost everything you write is pretty darned close to perfect and magical in the first rough draft. No, it doesn’t last for more than a couple of hours or  maybe four. When you emerge from the state you are drained and pretty-much unable to write anything else. But what you’ve written is a keeper.

That’s not to say it might need some revision. It’s not to say that something else might need to connect with it to complete the vision you wish to convey. But you know you won’t discard what you just wrote. It is good enough that even in a raw state you just feel there is something special about it. It shines.

Maybe if you stayed in The Zone all the time you’d burn out or wind up a babbling idiot – not that I’m not getting there for other reasons. I believe writers and other artists can force their minds into an alpha wave state similar to dreaming but do it while conscious and functioning. While there we lose track of everything else and the creative energies of the universe flow through us.

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Okay, that’s out there. I’ll grant that. But I know there are some artistic folks reading this nodding their head right now

What separates authors from writers is the ability to find The Zone on a fairly regular basis. For a while, because of a lot of other issues in my daily existence (I won’t call it a life because it certainly didn’t merit being called that) I drank in order to get there. I believe other artists use drugs or alcohol to read a near meditative state of consciousness. Others can find it in different ways. When I wrote Fried Windows, for example, I had quit drinking. In response to a personal challenge I wrote a poem and from that exercise I reconnected wight he feelings and sensations of being a child. Also, I relayed that the child I had been fifty years ago was still there alive and well inside of me.

I’m not saying that a writer can’t produce good stuff worthy of accolades if he or she was not in The one while writing it. It’s just being there kicks things up to another level. When you can  connect with The Zone daily for a period of time what you write has universal appeal. Others will pay attention to it and enjoy in a special way.

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I don’t know if being The Zone is a gift or blessing; it just happens. After a while, if you have been practicing putting your feelings into words and expressing everything you sense in as much detail as possible, you make the connection. Reading the words of other authors who are adept at doing what you strive to achieve will help you get there. But at some point you really must shut out the world around you and allow whatever it is that compels you to write, your inspiration, to drive the process.

Being in The Zone is a high and like a drug it gives you an emotional surge and a physical rush. After you’ve been there you can’t wait to get back there. Connecting regularly with your muse or whatever you term what it is that gives you the experience is something you cannot turn away from. I sort of think that inspiration is only a guide, showing you the way that will lead you to The Zone. It takes some effort and concentration to be creative but that lays the foundation for finding you way top the euphoria of achieving art at a higher level of consciousness.

My mind is far from the adventure land that some may believe it is. I will admit to not being normal and even state proudly that I have never wanted tone considered normal. There are a lot of things going on in my head including fears, self-doubt of unrealized potential and misguided ambitions. In everything I have done in life, though, I have attempted to be the best I could b. Writing has been the only thing I have done that allows me to feel accomplishment without questioning why I did it. I answer to no one else when I write. I do it because I must for my survival as a human being.

A while agoI wrote in this blog about not being in competition with other writers. I truly believe that. Every writer had his or her reason for doing what they do. All that matters is that we write better today than we did yesterday or the day before. If we can continually improve we will eventually write something others will want to read. A part of that is finding the path to The Zone. Once there it’s obvious why we do what we do. It’s like everything else in the world shuts down. We float in our imaginations for hours.

There is are not breaks from the moment of being in The Zone. The phone may ring but it goes unanswered and unacknowledged. Cars drive by outside your house or apartment but no one hears. Anyone with the great misfortune to know and live with you will be ignored. While in The Zone hours elapse that seem like they passed in seconds. The duration is evident from the pages generated and the feeling of satisfaction when the words are read even if you wonder where some of them came from.

The Zone is unlimited and not exclusive to those of us who can dream wide awake. It is a level of heightened awareness that transcends being alert. All artists experience it. I’ve known professional musicians who feel it when they have written hit song, for example. When it comes it seems easy and you wonder how you ever missed making the connection before.

When I wrote the core sixteen short stories that followed the first 5000 words of Fried Windows I had those feelings daily for about a month. At times during the revisions, when I was writing connective pieces and additional story elements, I felt it again. It was like I knew the connection was there and what was emerging was magical, beyond anything I had ever written. That’s why I had no doubt the book will be successful. Everyone who reads it shares the magic that somehow passed through me while I was in The Zone for those periods during its composition

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Fried Windows Comparisons

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I’m flattered when readers compare Fried Windows to The Wizard of Oz or Alice In Wonderland – the original books not the movies. Like those masterpieces the story has a touch of political satire and along with the playfulness there is some dark overtones. Like Dorothy and Alice, Brent is on a quest to discover something about himself as well as what the heck is going on.

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Although the book does not contain offensive language or adult scenes it is not a children’s book. I suppose there are precocious ten year olds who would enjoy the book but I considered the base age group for the story was high school aged. There is a lot going on in the book so I feel it is intended for more developed minds. There is a pule metaphor throughout the book. I think you have to be more mature to notice and resolve the riddles.

I’m a little surprised that people think Fried Windows is a children’s book. Although I have edited some children’s and middle grade books in the past I have never really written anything designed specifically for younger readers. There is a special art to that and I’m not sure I am blessed with it. My next book Becoming Thuperman may be as close as I ever come to writing a Middle Grade or Young Adult book. The main characters are kids discovering they have some super human abilities. What kid doesn’t dream about that. But it’s really not a kids book either.

Ironically, another book that is close to being in production, Spectre of Dammerwald, started out to be a children’s book. I had completed the draft of One Pack, which is now five books. I was working on the draft of The Last Wolfcat, which is now three books. And I was editing a MG book for a friend. I did a detailed substantive edit for him and suggested adding in a couple of chapters to increase the intensity of the climax. As a result the idea was suggested that I should try to write a children’s book. I was at a point in The Last Wolfcat that I realized I needed to know a lot more about the main characters’ pasts, things that happened before One Pack begins. So I set out to do what Tolkien did with The Hobbit, writing a children’s book as a prequel to the trilogy – in my case an octology in progress. So I started writing Spectre Of Dammerwald and about two chapters into the story it was clearly not going to turn into a children’s book. As the inspiration continues it became two books that rounded out the ten books that are The Wolfcat Chronicles.

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Brent, the main character in Fried Windows appears in The Last Wolfcat. Characters from One Over X who are friends with Brent appear in One Pack. Without giving away any secrets, there is a character introduces in Spectre of Dammerwald who is Brent in disguise, but you really don’t find out who that is until later on in the One Over X saga.

Yes, the stories are interconnected in some ways. Even Becoming Thuperman connects to the Brent Universe in a tangential way. In Fifteen Days of Danielle, a story about Brent as a college student, he mentions a cape-less superhero who talked with a lisp – Thuperman. Also in Becoming Thuperman, Will’s mother knew Terry Harper, a physicist who appears in One Over X and The Wolfcat Chronicles as well as some other books, in high school and they stayed in touch for many years after.

In general the supporting characters in one series end up being main characters in another. I figure if you are going to create an alternate universe and populate it with characters, there are billions of individual stories that can be told. I’m working on a few of the stronger associations.

#newreleasebooks #mustreads #friedwindows #ElgonWilliams #fantasy #WizardofOz #AliceInWonderland

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Another day, another five-star review for Fried Windows

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This one comes from Jeff Skinner, Toronto, Canada based author of the soon to be released The Vaccine’s Agenda:

Don’t let the title fool you, this book is quirky and fun. It’s not the serious tome the title implies. I started the story with a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel, where you enter a world of pure imagination where everything is possible. The Carlos storyline was an interesting twist, and most authors would be content with this storyline. Elgon takes us further; the book changes to include the darker side of thought and the effects they can have long after you think you stop thinking. Elgon is able to take the reader on a ride, straddling the line between dream and reality, where the confines of one are not as defined as they are for most of us.

As a father with a young daughter, I was drawn in by the danger in this book and how Elgon was able to make it feel real.

This was a book I enjoyed reading and would gladly recommend to my friends.

#fivestar #bookreview #FriedWindows #ElgonWilliams #newreleasebook

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Remember May 30

Google this date in history (or go to Wikipedia and have a look) and you’ll find a lot of things happened in the past to make it significant. Actually do that for any date in history and you’ll be amazed at what you learn.

For today’s date I hope that along with the beginnings and endings of wars, the various burnings at the stake of some famous people like Joan of Arc, the establishment of Decoration Day which eventually evolved into Memorial Day , and the first running of the Indianapolis 500, that people will recall it as the official date Fried Windows In A Light White Sauce by Elgon Williams was launched. Certainly, I’ll remember it.

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It has always been difficult to publish a book, get it noticed and sell it. As the process of publication has trended more toward producing a variety of material for the reader it has also become increasingly more difficult for a particular book release to be noticed. So, this launch day is a bit different. It is without a great deal of hoopla.

Yeah, there will be some events and contests and such. I figure those will draw some attention and maybe a few dozen will participate. That’s reality. I hope those who do will buy my book and read it. If they do the majority will like it and hopefully tell their friends and family to buy it. They will read it and like it and tell their friends and family and so on. That’s how a book becomes popular.

Despite all the modern technology that has led to the plethora of reading material available on Amazon, where my book officially launches today, the method of an author becoming known for a particular book has never changed. It all rests, as it should, in the hands of the reader, doesn’t it?

Without any fear or delusions of grandeur, I humbly submit for your analysis and review what I think is a significant achievement in fiction. Like it’s title and cover, Fried Windows. (In A Light White Sauce) is something different and special. It is a book about a middle-aged man being afforded the opportunity of a lifetime – reconnecting with his inner child.

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From a Misread Headline to a Manuscript and Beyond

There’s a new book coming-out soon. Nothing new about that – there are millions published each year. What’s different about this one is the odd title, Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce) and the by line – it’s mine.

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Like every book I have written it was a labor of love though the creative impulse came unexpectedly. The core of the overall story – sixteen chapters really – were composed in less than a month in the early spring of 2012. I left a dead-end retail management job after more than four years and I had pretty much decided to pursue writing as a career. As is so often the case, it wasn’t the best of times to make such a choice.

The quirky title of the book fits the unusual story. It came from a misread news headline that, of course, drew me right in. I wondered what Fried Windows were and immediately pondered how one would serve them. In a light white sauce! – yeah, it was one of those days.

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Somewhere along the way I was sidetracked, deviating far from my personal goals. Some of that I did because of three kids I believed in and a marriage I no longer did. I took that one last job in order to continue supporting my youngest while she finished high school. She lived with me for a couple of years afterwards before moving away, joining her older sister who was beginning graduate school up north. That event triggered something of a midlife crisis for me. Immediately after hugging her and her sister goodbye, I felt like I was left pretty much alone.

Certainly, I was not alone. My son still lived about fifteen miles away; he was also in graduate school. My ex-wife with whom I still communicated occasionally was on the east coast about an hour and a half away from where I was. My sister and brother-in-law lived on the west coast and my great niece was in the greater Miami area. Still, for all intents and purposes I was alone.

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My job frustrated me. I don’t know whether I had ever been satisfied though at first I believed a lot of the bull about being promoted, being given my own store, and the company’s desire to change its ways to become more modern and competitive. At first it seemed like that was happening, albeit slowly. Later on it became clear that it was a district effort that was not aligned with the corporate direction. The district manager was replaced. A company man took over and word went out that there would be changes. Foremost was an antithetical concept for me that I hadn’t had to deal with since leaving the military: we were being paid not to think but to execute on directions from above. That predisposes that upper management is always right and has an unambiguous direction in its policies – which was not the case at all. Ignoring feedback from the front lines is the formula for disaster in any campaign.

Anyway, there were other reasons for my eventual resignation. Many of those related to my unhealthy lifestyle that had evolved form working crazy house, making time to write trying to write, which was something I enjoyed, and dealing with the stress of working a job in which there did not seem to be any progress. A lot of what I was experiencing related to my desire to do what I always wanted to be before getting married and going to college. A little over two years ago it seemed like the last chance I might ever have to become a professional writer – a sort of now or never proposition.

Almost a month after quitting by job, I wrote a short story under the Fried Windows title. At the time I belonged to a writer’s group. I posted the story in two installments with the break roughly where the chapter breaks are now in the book. It received favorable reviews and some suggested I continue writing about the characters. Over the next few weeks I continued writing what I believed were related short stories. Afterwards, I shelved the project and continued working on revisions of The Wolfcat Chronicles, a ten book series I began seriously working on in 2002 though, honestly, the story has roots back to a character profile I created in a writing course at Purdue University in 1977.

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For the next year what was left of my personal life pretty much fell apart. I experienced the worst parts of economic demise and personal embarrassment. I was essentially homeless by choice doing some couch surfing among my relatives. One can only do that for so long. The experience afforded me some time to finish revisions. One of the last things I worked on was Fried Windows. I wanted to submit the initial short story to a magazine. I always believed the story was good enough to be published somewhere.

A friend who lives a short train ride away from Toronto consented to editing the piece for me. Afterwards, I figured it was in pretty good shape for critical scrutiny. So, I submitted it, sincerely expecting that it would be published. My next concern was having something to submit as a follow up, envisioning the sixteen original stories as installments that the magazine would want after all the positive feedback they would receive my first short story. Yeah, I live in my own world a lot.

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While revising the pieces I found some continuity of story line. I wrote a couple of bridging pieces and what was a collection of short stories took shape as a novel – one starting with chapter three of the present book because, after all, the first two chapters were a short story that I expected fully to be published in a magazine.

The same day the rejection notification from the magazine came I finished revisions to what had grown into a twenty-eight-chapter novel. The story connected well into the overall Brent Woods universe of my other unpublished fiction ventures. I was disappointed, of course, but at the same time elated because now I had an excuse to include the short story that began it all as the first two chapters of the book. I repackaged it, renumbered the chapters and prepared it for self-publishing.

In the background I had been working on building a fan base through social media. Part of that was building up my Facebook and Twitter following. Already I had many friends who were authors and some who were publicists and small publishers as well as a couple of smaller houses with affiliations with the major publishers. Those were not really great connections for getting a book published but you start with what you have. Also, I had been seeking a literary agent for the past three or four years, discovering that finding a good one was probably the only thing harder than landing a publishing contract with one of majors which is something more difficult the gaining admission into an Ivy League school.

Somewhere in the few moments between finishing the revision of Fried Windows and setting it up for eBook publishing I receive a tweet from a small publisher based in my favorite city, Austin, asking for new manuscripts. The name of the house intrigued me enough to check them out. In the process I discovered they were a traditional publisher with a very different mission statement that focused on building author brand rather than selling books alone. Deciding that I liked their ideas for growing their business, I read and followed the submission guidelines and reformatted my manuscript accordingly. I sent it to them instead of self-publishing it. I figured I could wait a few weeks for the rejection I’d come to expect. In the meanwhile I could move on to other projects.

There’s a funny thing that happens in most author’s lives surrounding rejection. Eventually you do grow numb to it. You warp the universe around you to actually set a goal of receiving the maximum number or rejections possible for any submission. It makes sense in a way. If you try every avenue you might find that one yes. You get to the point that when you don’t receive another rejection letter to add to your growing collection you’re almost pissed-off. But then, in the next moment of disbelief, you re-read the acceptance letter as the surprise turns more toward suspicion that 1) you must have read the thing wrong or 2) there must be some catch – start looking for the fine print. Paraphrasing the immortal Grocho Marx, you wonder if you want to belong to any club that would have someone like you as a member. You’re so accustomed to hearing that your baby is ugly you disbelieve that anyone could actually like it. Even more surreal was that it had been less than two weeks from submission to acceptance. That’s unheard of in an industry that routinely takes a week to decide to get around to thinking about doing anything and several months to actual years to finally produce a novel. So, I remained guardedly optimistic going into a conference call regarding the acquisition of my book.

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Although I had experience in self-publishing I didn’t have good results. The failure was not necessarily the quality of the material but the lack of promotion behind my releases. After all I was still growing my network of followers and establishing my author’s brand. That takes time. I didn’t lack from material to publish, though. At that point, I had twenty manuscripts ready to go. It was just that when I was working sixty to seventy hours a week. I had plenty of excuses for why I didn’t have the time or energy to put forth in becoming successful. I had been stuck in the trying stage of reaching my goal for so long I had grown roots and settled comfortably in obscurity. With the successful negotiation and signing of a publishing contract all that ended. Someone else believed in one of my books. Together we were going to embark on a journey toward producing a novel. A publisher was committing to provide professional editing, cover design and marketing. And so, the long journey of taking a raw manuscript through to a finished novel began.

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Fried Windows (In A Light White Sauce) launches May 30, 2014 from Pandamoon Publishing. Sharing the dream begins then.