My latest novel Bluegrass Betrayal had the good fortune of winning an International Indy Finalist Award and a National
33 years ago today, at five in the morning, on a bitter cold day, my life was changed dramatically when my only child, Elizabeth came into this world. She was five weeks early and weighed five pounds and five ounces, and I Immediately began to wonder what my first 32 years on this earth were all about, because nothing else seemed to have mattered. Now I wonder how she ever learned to walk, because I don’t remember ever having put her down. Last month she graduated from the University of Kentucky at the top of her class while working full time and raising two children, one of whom is a special needs child. Today I thought it appropriate to honor her on her birthday.
When I was on the road with IBM early in my career, I was aboard a flight to New York one morning in May when I was inspired to write a song about her. As the plane lifted off from Bluegrass field, I noticed puffs of clouds that appeared to be hanging on the greenery below, contrasted with the azure blue of the sky and these are the words I wrote. It’s sung as a slow Irish lullaby.
Oh the soft cloudy vapor that hangs on the heather
And blends with the bonnie blue skies
Are so pretty and fair – so crystal and clear
Like the blue in Elizabeth’s eyes
Many are the miles her magical smiles
Have carried my heart by and by
And I’d crawl everyone – all over again
Just to gaze in those beautiful eyes
When I am gone to the stones and the sun
And I’m laying deep down in the rise
You will still hear my song – I’ll be playing along
Through the blue in Elizabeth’s eyes
As I enter heaven – the angels all singin’
“Glory to you goes the prize”
Don’t you know I’ll believe it – I’ll have already seen it
Through the blue in Elizabeth’s eyes
Today we are growing – our happiness flowing
Expanding the binds and the ties
May the world always see – the love within me
Through the blue in Elizabeth’s eyes
This past weekend, Judy and I went to see the move, The Help. I didn’t really think I would enjoy it because I’d heard it was a “chick flick” but went along anyway to enjoy the time with my wife. How wrong I was to find out that this movie was so much more than anything I’d imagined – it was entertaining as well as thought provoking. I had lived through that time period and remember well the “white only” signs of the past and how disrespectfully humiliating people of color were treated. But I never really saw how the better half of our society felt about and treated the people who cooked their food, washed their clothes, and cleaned their houses, and just how superior they felt to them.
Reconnecting with feelings I’d once held about those days, I marveled at how the times have changed and how much better I feel about those changes. But somehow my conscience still haunts me about why it took so long, and whether we are truly all that much better: Whether those who were forced to ride in the back of the bus, and were forbidden to eat in restaurants have forgiven those who trespassed against them: And, whether those who bullied others have made the acts of contrition necessary to be forgiven well enough to finally forgive themselves.
I have read many times that one cannot judge a book by its cover, but I beg to differ. My case in point is the artwork brought forth by Sharon Bradley in the design of my book covers. Sharon manages to capture the essence of the story in her brilliant artwork, and I am the fortunate one.
I would like to draw your attention to my first novel and the first story in the Kentucky Chronicle series, The Thoroughbred Conspiracy, a plot to control the Thoroughbred industry through the administration of a genetic poison. I wracked my brain for over two years trying to come up with a worthy cover caption, but to no avail. That is, until Sharon read the story and presented the current cover to my wife, Judy and I one evening. We were mesmerized to say the least.
The sequel to The Thoroughbred Conspiracy, and the second story in the Kentucky Chronicles, Bluegrass Betrayal, concerns two characters from the first story, Callie Collquit and a handsome man named Darkside, who fall in love and are whisked away on a Southern Caribbean cruise where they enact their steamy relationship aboard a luxurious ocean liner. Does this cover capture the storyline?
The third Kentucky Chronicle, Unbridled Terror, brings forth several characters from the first two stories as it deals with a sinister group known as the Knights of the Caliphate, who are hell-bent on destroying the city of Louisville, during Derby week, seeking revenge for being duped in the first two stories. Once again, notice how the cover brings forth the storyline through the artwork.
It’s not always that a writer can find an artist who can capture the heart and essence of a storyline in the cover artwork, but Sharon Bradley surely does it for me.
If you would like to visit her website, or contact her, she can be found here… http://www.sharonbradleydesigns.com/
P.S. tell her I sent ya. Rob
I notice how many different hats I wear when I write my novels. Most of the time, I simply build the story A through Z without care as to the many aspects necessary to produce a quality book. But, as soon as the editing process begins, I have to shift my focus as well as my attention to varying viewpoints. For example, I must ensure that the story remains logical with regard to time. I can’t have a scene beginning in the morning and ending at night unless I have taken pains to explain that in the storyline. I know what I meant to write, but does the reader – a question I ask myself during every scene. Also, I must be cognizant of when the story is taking place from minute, hour, day, month and season. Once the storyline is consistent and logical I can move on.
I always have one or two people read for me whom I can count on to provide additional direction. This is extremely helpful, but finding those individuals who know how I write and can provide what I need is not always easy. My wife, Judy, is my right arm in this regard. Once the story is logical from front to back, it’s time to change hats and edit from the reader’s point of view, and I am always concerned whether the story is interesting. If the story isn’t interesting, it’s time to start over, as most people, including me, don’t like to waste time reading something that’s non-entertaining, uninspiring or boring. I like to create tension and drama in the opening chapter and bait the reader at each chapter’s close with something that makes her/him want to continue reading to the climax of the story.
Chapter design is an art in itself and lately I have become quite fond of short chapters (3 – 4 pages) which allow the reader to break more frequently. I notice that lengthy chapters usually wear me out which might cause me to lose interest as I am a horribly impatient reader. Along these lines, I try not to place what I call road blocks in the reader’s path, including superfluous sub plots, characters, etc., and words the reader, most likely, will have to go to the dictionary to understand. Something else I refuse to do is overburden the reader with too much setting. I live in the Bluegrass of Kentucky, arguably one of the most beautiful places on earth and the backdrop setting for most of the Kentucky Chronicles, but I don’t overdue setting description as I feel it can erode the storyline which may lose a reader. I never want to lose my readers.
Spelling errors are an author’s nemesis, and regardless how confident you are in the artist who designs your artwork, always triple check every aspect of the cover’s text – never take this step for granted, the author is where the buck stops. I use two word processors when writing, Microsoft Word and Adobe Framemaker. Even with the dual approach, properly spelled words used improperly still find their way onto the pages of every story – it’s just a fact with which we all must live. Catching these words, like the when you meant then, is extremely hard. One method is to read the chapters last to first so that you don’t get caught up in the storyline.
Sometimes I read each chapter out loud which is always helpful as it changes my focus enough to provide a slightly different view. Whenever I can, I always allow two or three people to read my final edit before it goes to a professional editor. This is, of course, after I’ve read the book at least a dozen times. I’ve learned the hard way not to skip the most important step – hiring a professional editor. Do yourself a big favor, and don’t try to cut corners by eliminating a professional editor. This person can make or break a solid piece of work.
I have developed a checklist of procedures I follow just before the book goes to print. This usually involves making sure that all pairs of quotes are in place both in front and back of the quoted text. I want all character’s thoughts italicized, and the headings, fonts, footings, and page counts accurate. If I include text that calls for special characterization like bolding, indented or centering I ensure those are all accurately in place. I don’t include a table of contents in my work, so I’m not worried about that, but I have designed a template for my title, copyright and dedication pages.
Story writing is, indeed, a gift not everyone shares, but, if you ask me, editing is every bit as important as the ability to write a good story. Good luck and keep writing.
I just found out that my second novel in the Kentucky Chronicles series, Bluegrass Betrayal, is a finalist in the USA “Best Books 2011” awards. This is the fourth award this story has won. Please visit my website for all the details and to read about my work. This is where you can order printed books which I personalize, sign, and can deliver anywhere in the world. http://www.robertmonahan.net.
Also, if you would like an E-reader version of any of my work, please visit me at http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/RobertMonahan/.
Here are a few of my favorite authors. Do yourself a favor and check them out.
It gives me great pleasure to announce to you the creation of Lullaby Tiger Publishing. I will be publishing my stories under this banner, and ask that you join with me in this celebration.
My first novel, under the Lullaby Tiger Publishing logo, is entitled The Thoroughbred Conspiracy, a story about a plot to control the Thoroughbred breeding and racing industry through the administration of a genetic poison. This is the prequel to Bluegrass Betrayal the International award winning story, currently on sale at Amazon.com, and on track to become a Lullaby Tiger novel by the end of August.
Also available is the third story in the Kentucky Chronicles series, Unbridled Terror, a story about three brilliant stallions each poised to run the Kentucky Derby. However, sinister plots are a-foot which place the race in jeopardy, not the least of which is a terrorist cell known as the Knights of the Caliphate who want to exterminate the city of Louisville. There is also an evil mob boss who steals one of the favorites, and is hell-bent on winning the race at all costs.
All of these novels are available on my website… http://www.robertmonahan.net, where you may order a personalized and signed copy of each.
Two novels are available in Ebook format through Smashwords, and are on sale at $2.99.
Just follow these links..
The Thoroughbred Conspiracy https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79133
Unbridled Terror https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/79151
Won’t you also take a moment to spread the word about my books to everyone you know? Thank you so much for your support.
Stay well my friends… Rob
Always A Gentleman
I recently spent some quality time with my eight-year-old grandson. We went to a few of his favorite restaurants, the playgrounds, and to the movies. He spent the night with me and we camped out in the downstairs den. During our time together, I tried to instill in him the desire to become and to always be a gentleman. I think it went through one ear and out the other much the same as it did when my dad tried to instill the same thing in me, many years ago.
He said to me, “Poppy, I don’t want to be a gentleman.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I don’t want to have to hold the doors open.”
I thought this was quite astute coming from an eight-year-old, but I had to remember that he was the only male in a house full of women, which includes his 14 year-old sister.
“That’s not the only things gentlemen do,” I said, thinking that would really change his mind.
“Gentlemen do,” I had to stop and think about all the things I could tell him that gentlemen are supposed to do, but he wasn’t listening. And why would he? I didn’t listen when my dad told me what to do. So, how did I grow up to become a gentleman? It was nothing my dad said, and he said plenty. It was the way he behaved. So much of him instilled itself in me by the way he lived his life… the way he spoke, smiled, the decisions he made, and the way he treated my mother and everyone with whom he came into contact.
My mom and dad raised four sons, and each one of us tried to be like dad in every way. As soon as we could crawl, we stood behind his right shoulder whenever we went anywhere in the car; this was well before car seats and seat belts. We went with him, each one of us, until we reached early adolescence. He had a steady string of followers as we are all four years apart, almost to the exact month.
Dad was very special to us and we admired him until the day he passed in 1996. He was our hero in many ways, not the least of which was due to his efforts during WWII. He was in the invasions of North Africa and Anzio Beach where he’d won the Bronze Star and received a battlefield commission to Warrant Officer. He would often regale us, at bedtime, with stories of how he’d drive behind enemy lines with no headlights, quite often without his driver who would conveniently find his way to sick call whenever the mission was deemed too dangerous.
Dad was the most influential person in my life mostly because he was very concerned that I and my brothers all become gentlemen, and that when we were confronted with the choices of life, that our decision would be based on “doing the right thing,” rather than doing something more convenient, or taking the easy way out. I would like to impart that message to my grandson, but need to do so through my actions instead of my words. I just wish I could spend more time with him because, you see, his dad overdosed on narcotics two years ago.
To this day, I give my father credit for doing more to shape my character than anyone I have ever met. It was never what he said, it was always what he did, and how he did it.
I humbly dedicate my first Blog to the memory of Francis James Monahan, and include a poem I wrote for him several years ago. He died a week before it was finished. It’s entitled, Father…
The pages of my heart you turn
And in so doing, still I yearn
For days when I could sit upon your knee.
And when in memory I allow
To stroll back through what’s over now
Yesteryear, So joyful and so free.
I wander sweetly home again
To play the image and pretend,
Your gentle wisdom lights my fostered mind.
And yet, I only wish I could
Recapture there my childhood
And place my hand in yours just one more time.
Stay well, my friends.
I am ready to publish another novel!