Sunday, March 08, 2015

Author Interview with James C. Duckett

Today I'm interviewing author James C. Duckett, in part because he's a cool guy with a cool book, and in part because he once saved my life, and I owe him. He's recently released his memoir, Pushing the Wall, and that's what we'll be chatting about today.  And then you can enter the Rafflecopter at the end. 

What gave you the idea to write a book about your marathon experiences?

After finishing my first marathon, I wrote down some notes as things to remember. What worked, what didn’t, what took me by surprise, and what I wish I had done to prepare better. I told a couple of people and they wanted to see the notes, but I told them they weren’t much to get excited about, and they probably wouldn’t "get" half the stuff I put anyway.

A few years ago, I was running sixteen miles with a friend while training for my second marathon. About a mile into our practice, his leg cramped and he backed out, leaving me to run fifteen miles on my own. About ten miles into that, the music kind of annoyed me, so I just shut it off and started to think. I’m not sure what the thought process was, but I decided that it wouldn’t take much to turn my notes into a story. Maybe, if I gave enough back story, an entire book.

Six miles later, I had a title: “Pushing the Wall: A Guide to Running a Marathon Without Training” or something like that, but I wanted to use “Pushing the Wall” because of a conversation I had right before the race.

From the time you got the idea until the time the book was published, what was the writing process like? How much time do you estimate you spent drafting, choosing a cover, etc? Was it time-consuming, or do you feel it was fairly quick? 

I got home from my run and told my wife, “I think I’m going to write a book about that marathon.” I then wrote a preface and Chapter 1, which focused on why I started to run, but why I had to stop running at the end of high school.

I took that to my critique group, who I thought would scoff at the idea. I was in the middle of a YA at the time, but they told me to drop that story because this needed to be written. So I grabbed my notes, disappeared for three nights, and wrote the entire thing. One nice thing about memoirs is that you don’t really need to outline.

When I wrote “The End,” I bragged about it on Facebook and then wrote the one person I wanted to edit my book: the fabulous Tristi Pinkston. Have you heard of her? (Me: thinking ... thinking ... the name sounds familiar, but I'm not sure ...) I’ll try to look for some links so you can look her up. She’s pretty cool. You’d like her.

She had a 6-month waiting list, and the book was 8 chapters long, so I figured I could get it through my critique group before Tristi got a crack at it. I did have another editor, who was looking for work, take a look too and helped me find places to clean it up.

Then Tristi edited it. Then I put in her suggestions. At Storymakers, I pitched it to an agent/editor. She told me that it would be a good fit for their company and that I should look to make it longer. It was 27,000 words long, and she suggested this should be 40,000. (It’s now 40,500 words long.)

I added some training tips, which moved it to about 35,000 words, and then I pitched it to another agent from New York. He wanted it! But I decided to self-publish this one and hope he’ll still be interested in my future works.

Then I let it sit for a couple of years and worked on some other things. This New Year, I decided to release it on my birthday, figuring nearly two months would be sufficient.

I wanted a nice photo for my cover, so I hired a local photographer I’ve worked with before. He shot the photo, but so did the local newspaper. I caught flak from people for two weeks about that. Even my own grandparents saw it, and they live two counties away. They wrote and were, “Did you run a half marathon last weekend, because this guy in the newspaper looks exactly like you.”

I had Rebecca Blevins do another edit (Me: she's also awesome) and she had me flesh out a couple of scenes and it came out to 40,000. 

It was rushed a lot more than I wanted. I didn’t sleep for nearly two months. I’m still trying to wind down. But I met my goal!

There are a lot of messages throughout the book that relate to life and not just to running. Which of those messages do you consider to be the most important? If I came away from your book with only one thought, what would you want that thought to be?

Oh, good, you caught that. Basically, if you’ve got a dream, don’t let the roadblocks convince you to not follow them. Sometimes it isn’t following the conventional path that others have followed. Sometimes you have to find and follow your own path. Don’t let anybody tell you, “Sorry, find a new dream, this one isn’t for you.” If it means a lot to you, find a way to make it happen.

If I had a second message, I think it is okay to try something crazy now and then. When you do, backup plans are nice.

What other races do you plan to run in the future, and what “races” do you feel you’ve run—and won—in your everyday life? What challenges have you overcome that have helped create the person you are today?

Releasing this book was a HUGE deal for me. It fulfilled my longest-awaited bucket list item (Me: shouldn't that be a "Duckett list"?) of publishing a book. I’ve made mistakes along the way, with running, writing, and other areas of my life. I’ve decided to learn from those mistakes instead of letting them stop me from moving forward. The fact that I still want to run, write, and live my life the way I want speaks volumes after how many people told me to just give up, don’t bother trying, or don’t do anything stupid. Life’s too short to not try stupid stuff now and then.

What are you writing now?

I’m finishing up a romance novelette for a pretty cool anthology due out next month. I’m plotting, outlining, and picking characters for an adult psychological horror that I’m really excited about. I hope to make that my next book.

James, I wish you a ton of success with this book. I really enjoyed working on it with you, and I believe its message is one that everyone should hear. Again, here is the purchase link.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What is Pornography?

With all the fervor going on right now about the release of a certain movie coming out on Valentine's Day (which I won't name, because it's already getting all the Internet attention it can stand), I've seen a theme repeated over and over on social media. "It's not really porn. So what's the problem?"

I'm going to take this discussion away from that particular nameless movie and discuss the broader question--what is porn? The dictionary defines it as media that depicts people in sexual situations for the purpose of arousing sexual desire in the viewer. That's a pretty straightforward definition, not too hard to understand. Basically, if you're watching it and you're becoming aroused, it's porn. And even if it wasn't created for that purpose, if you're aroused, it's still porn. 

Lots of people can eat cabbage. (No, that's not a massive change of subject. Bear with me. I'll make a point.) I can't eat cabbage, at least the standard light green stuff. I can have red cabbage and I can have Napa cabbage and I can have bok choy, which is in the cabbage family, but if I eat your basic, regular cabbage, I get a migraine. Cabbage is healthy, right? For many people, it is, but for me, it's not. It's unhealthy.

Let me relate that back to the topic at hand. Some become sexually aroused more easily than others. They may have to be careful not to watch certain television shows because those shows elicit feelings they've chosen not to have with anyone but their spouse. Maybe that show doesn't bother their friend, but they themselves avoid it because it's not good for them. It's their cabbage. Because it's not good for them, because it leads to sexual arousal for them, it's porn to them. That's as far as the cabbage analogy goes--I'm not saying that porn is healthy for some and unhealthy for others. My point is that we can become aroused by things that aren't labeled "porn." It doesn't have to be "porn" to create that response.

I'm not going to go into a long debate over whether porn is harmful or leads to greater sexual fulfillment or whatever. There are tons and tons of articles on the topic, and you can read them at your leisure on the Internet. Basically, if you believe it's *harmful, you'll find stuff to back you up. If you believe it adds spice to your life, you can find stuff to back that up too. I'm also not going to go into religious ramifications--we all know what those are, and while I agree with them 100%, they're easy to find and I wouldn't be able to make any statements better than the ones that have already been made. 

What I am here to say is that we need to become clearer in our understanding of what porn is. If you're reading something or watching something and you find yourself becoming aroused, that media is porn to you. I'm not talking about the little heart flutters when you read about a great marriage proposal. I'm not talking about a contented sigh after seeing him confess his love under a starlit sky. I'm talking about situations where you find your own body responding in a sexual way. It could be a small response or a major one--anywhere on that spectrum is arousal, and if you have made the choice to stay away from porn, you should avoid the media that created that response within you.

Again, not here to moralize. This is your choice entirely. For me, as an individual, I've chosen to avoid it. Your choice may be different. I'd just like for us to make those choices knowing clearly what we're choosing. We can't delude ourselves into thinking that we're doing one thing when we're really doing another. We each need to decide for ourselves where we stand, and then stand there. It's too easy to get pulled to one side or another, debating and splitting hairs. If we each know where we stand, the question is answered.

You're the only one who knows what qualifies as porn to you. You're the only one who can make that determination, and also the choice what to do about it. My choice is made. I state it with respect to others who have chosen differently or haven't yet decided. I hope we can all be respectful of each other's personal moral decisions, remembering how very hard our Savior fought to that we might have the opportunity to make choices like this for ourselves.

*The statistics linking pornography to sex crimes are startling, and we have to admit that there is a strong connection. However, that topic is far too broad to cover in this one simple post, so I haven't mentioned it. I do leave this footnote so it's clear that I'm very, very cognizant of it. Not everyone who does porn will commit sexual crimes. However, nearly all of those who commit sexual crimes also do porn. Again, not the purpose of this post.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Pinkston Family Christmas Card

Hi, everyone!

This year has been ... wow. It's been a year. In lieu of cards (although, to be honest, when do I ever really do cards?) I'm posting this here so you can all see it and know that we're thinking of you.

We started out the year of 2014 living in our trailer home in Orem. Matt served as the ward employment specialist and I was the second counselor in the Relief Society, and we both loved our callings and were happy to be able to do some real good. I released Tulips and Treason, the first in the Omni Orchids series (spinoff on Secret Sisters), and kept growing Trifecta Books, my publishing company. Matt worked for GoPro, doing customer service for their cameras, and then later found a better job working for Digis, doing customer service for the Internet.

In the early summer, we got a very wild idea and decided to move. We've been thinking about it for a while, but things hadn't quite panned out. After a lot of prayer, we decided it was time to make things pan out. We started dejunking our house and doing some minor repairs, and put it on the market in August. Literally six days after we got an offer, we moved out ... Yeah, it was a really fast process, so fast that we ended up living in a friend's basement for two weeks while we found our new place. Thank goodness for friends!

Our new home is located in Bountiful, and we really like it. It's an older home, but has been updated in several ways, and has four bedrooms (one more than we had before), a family room (which we didn't have before), a giant laundry room/storage room (we were able to get rid of our storage unit), and covered parking. Hooray!!

It's also really close to the Bountiful Temple, and we've spent a lot of time there feeling the Spirit and soaking in the peace there. The kids and I liked to sit on the grounds and talk about cool gospel stuff ... until the weather got cold. (That's where the pictures of the kids, below, were taken.) We've been here since the middle of September.

Matt has really had his share of adventures this year. In addition to putting up with me, he got to manhandle our belongings into the new house, do a copious list of honey-dos, use his mad skillz to get the small car off the freeway and parked safely when the engine decided to blow, changed jobs from Digis in American Fork to Unisys in North Salt Lake, cope with the gearshift in the van when it decided to come completely off in his hand while driving on the freeway (our cars have had a hard year too), and has been a real trooper through it all. He's become very adept at using the train and bus systems in our area while we've had all this car drama. In the meantime, he's still growing his freelance genealogy business and loves working with his clients, finding their ancestors in unusual places all over the world. He's writing a book about genealogy for beginners, and will be publishing it at some point during 2015. He'd also love to write some books about the areas where he does genealogy, but that'll be another year or two down the road.

As I mentioned, I've been busy running my publishing company, and decided that since I wasn't busy enough, I should take on a new pen name (Paige Timothy) and start writing sweet romances. It's a new venture for me, one that I didn't anticipate doing previously, but it's been a lot of fun. I'm still doing a ton of freelance editing. During the move, I really hammered my body, particularly my back and hips, and by early fall, I was pretty much bedridden. My chiropractor diagnosed me with sacroiliac syndrome, which basically means that my hips don't know how to behave themselves. I have been helped a lot by my chiropractor and a cranial/sacral therapist and am starting to see some improvements. At the moment, I'm down with a bad virus, but that's temporary, so we won't even worry about it.

Caryn turned eighteen this summer, which I can't believe. Who said she could do that? She graduated from seminary, and after she returned from her final year at girls' camp, we went to the Humane Society and adopted a dog for her. The dog's name is Belle, and she's perfect for Caryn in every way. Caryn is settling in to our new area really well. She's attending the young single adults' ward, and plans to serve a service mission next summer when she turns nineteen. She has continued with her artwork and writing, and wrote fifty thousand words in November to win National Novel Writing Month.

Ammon went on Pioneer Trek this summer and had a great time. He also finished up his first year of seminary and started his second, recently turned sixteen, got his patriarchal blessing, and will soon be ordained to the office of a priest. He's six foot three now ... yes, that's right. He's very, very tall.  This irritates Caryn, who is fully one foot shorter than he is, and he's constantly mistaken for the oldest in the family. He is in the process of looking for a job, and he's still very much into electronics and building things with bits and pieces of wires and things that I don't even know what they are, but he does. He's currently learning Javascript.

Joseph turned thirteen this summer and hit a growth spurt. He's now taller than Caryn (okay, it's time we just faced it. Everyone's going to end up taller than Caryn at some point or another. Sorry, kid.) He's been really active in Scouts, and he's getting the hang of things in our new ward. He's still a very avid reader, and he's been drawing his own Pokemon. His health has continued to improve (hooray!) and he's doing awesome. He still loves bearing his testimony every month in fast and testimony meeting.

Benjamin just had his tenth birthday, and he's now a Webelos. He loves playing on his DS, writing original songs on his electric keyboard, and basically keeping us laughing. He's making new friends in Primary, and gave his first official sacrament meeting talk a couple of Sundays ago when our family was asked to speak. He is naturally a really good speller - his editor mommy is glad for that.

So, that's what's going on with us! We've gone through so many changes this year, it's incredible to fathom. I guess we're living proof that if you want to make a change and feel it's the right thing to do, you should go for it. It's been scary at times, really scary, but we've been blessed every step of the way. The Lord is good.

We're excited to see what happens in 2015, and we wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a fantastic New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Cover Reveal: Water So Deep by Nichole Giles

I'm super excited to take part in this cover reveal for Water So Deep by Nichole Giles, who is one of my bestest writer buddies! I've gotten to see this book come to life through several different stages and love it.She has a writer's voice that is unlike any other - I love reading her stuff. And you can preorder here!

Author Bio:

Nichole Giles, the author of the Descendant trilogy, has lived in Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and Texas. She loves to spend time with her husband and four children, travel to tropical and exotic destinations, drive in the rain with the convertible top down, and play music at full volume so she can sing along.   

Social Media Links: 
Here's the cover!!
Seventeen-year-old Emma Harris is drowning on dry land. No one knows what’s happening to her, and she’d like to keep her evolution from human to mermaid a secret, but the truth is getting harder and harder to hide. From her adoptive family, from her friends, and especially from the irresistible James Phelps. Her time in the ocean is spent dodging a possessive merman, while her time on land is split between caring for her special-needs brother and squeezing in every last possible moment of human life. She soon realizes falling for James is unavoidable when he constantly comes to Emma’s rescue and somehow manages to see through her carefully constructed icy facade to the vulnerability she lives with every day. Everything about James makes Emma yearn for a life on land she just can't have. When Emma’s brother disappears on her watch, James is the only person she trusts to help her save him. But even if they can save her brother, nothing can prevent her return to the sea. Whether she likes it or not, Emma is changing—unable to breathe without yielding to the tide—and it's only a matter of time before she's forced to surrender forever. Preorder here!

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