Friday, February 27, 2009

Suffering Economy Hurts Book Sales

Hello faithful readers!

Not too long ago I posted a blog about my vampire novel, Pulse of Evil. I explained how a publisher was considering it as part of a three book series, and was just waiting for the contract -- certain it was a heartbeat away from being offered.

I received word that all new title acquisitions were on hold until summer. The publisher needs to wait and see how new releases in the winter and spring do before signing on any other new projects.

The good news is, although they gave me the opportunity to shop Pulse of Evil out to other publishers, they asked me if I'd consider waiting. They really liked the manuscript and felt, if sales go well over the next few months with their other titles, they'd be in a better place to talk contract come summer.

I have decided to wait until June and see what happens. Publishing is all about hurry up and wait. I respect, and admire the publisher considering my work. I would love to see my vampire trilogy with them. June is right around the corner. And the way I see it, I can spend the next several months getting the second and thrid manuscripts under way.

The bad news is, if I sign in June, or July, the first book won't be out until June or July '10. That's a long, long ways away, you know?

My current publisher, Whitaker House, is also still considering a suspense/thriller manuscript, as is another publisher for a YA novel I wrote called, Sounds of Silence.

I have many burners in the fire. (Nice cliche, eh?)

Keep checking back. As I get news, I'll be sure to share it.

Have a wonderful weekend!


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Clouded Clarity

The worst time to blog for me is late at night, after driving all day, and not getting much sleep the night before. But it is often at times like this -- near exhaustion -- that clarity imposes itself on my, otherwise, cloudy mental state.

I don't know about regular people, but this writer spends many days lost in a haze. I sometimes believe my ideas for stories are born from the fuzz of my consciousness. Not trying to sound deep, but am merely trying to explain something about myself.

In most of the blogs I write, I talk about writing, or craft them in a way that makes me appear to you, my readers, like a writer.

At times like this, I sometimes just want to write. Or share. Maybe it's that I want to open up.

I don't do that often. If ever. Not for real.

I'm good at breaking off relative insignificant bits of my heart and passing them off as soul-bearing. But it's really bits. Always bits. Morsels that wouldn't, shouldn't satisfy anyone listening. I feel like a magician when this happens. They way I talk, act -- behave -- it's convincing. You believe it's me your hearing about. You believe I'm the me that's being displayed.

I write dark thrillers. Pretty much always have. And even now, writing Christian suspense, they're still dark.

It's always about darkness.

The difference is, when I write, I am in control. I can create a world where, in a sense, I am God. I know what's going to happen before it happens. I am in charge of who says, and who does, what.

That, let me tell you, is satisfying.

Do I really think I'm God? Let's not be silly. Of course not. He has a job I'd never want.

If you read my books. If you know me. You will see a piece of me in each and every character. From the dumb dry sense of humor, to the ... well, to the I'm not really sure what else, aside from the dumb dry sense of humor.

But I'm in there. Me.

I have no idea who it was that said, "Writing's easy, all you need to do is open an artery and bleed ..." Or some such thing. You get the idea. It's blood that goes into writing for most writers. A manuscript is like a baby. One we writers have given birth to.

And I'm straying. I'm off topic. Because this isn't a blog about me the writer, as much as it is supposed to be about me. The person behind the writer.

Write about what you know. That's a rule many writers are taught.

It couldn't be any more true. When I was fourteen the first story I wrote was about a teenage dishwasher who becomes a busboy. I was a dishwasher who became a busboy. At fourteen, that's what I'd accomplished in life. That's what I wrote about.

My writing has matured, I believe, along with me. I've done more. Experienced more. Felt more. Saw more. And as a writer, I try to capture events and snapshots of my life and use them in the characters I create to make the story I tell more ... relate-able. Sometimes it works. Sometimes, not so much.

It seems like more and more I focus on my failures, and fears, and hesitations, and short comings, and spill them out into my fiction. Fiction is factual. Has to be. And finding the words and scenes and emotions needed to fill an empty page is not something I struggle with.

No one has led a perfect life. Life is not meant to go your way all of the time.

It's just that sometimes, I'd like to see the pain, the misery and the anguish of life let up a little. Just a little. As a person, a human, I need a breather every once in a while. I need to be let up from out of the deep depths for even a chance to fill my lungs with oxygen.

I'm laughing right now. I've taken a moment to go back and read the rambling rant I've written. And the truth of what I said at the beginning continues to hold true.

This is merely a morsel. A bit I've broken off from my heart and am now attempting to feed to you, my readers. But what insight have I given you?

That I'm in pain?

Who isn't? Everyone is in some kind of pain. Headed for some kind of pain. Or just getting over something painful. Again, that's life.

I've heard people say that artists (if you wish to call me an artist) can create art because they are a tortured soul. (This is yet another quote, or saying that I am badly messing up. But it's past midnight, and I'm in no mood to research the Internet for more accurate accounts. Not now. Not tonight).

So why write this blog, anyway?

I have no idea. It was in me, though. I thought about it on my drive back from Binghamton tonight. Three and half hours alone in the car, I had time to think. Time, for me, can sometimes be nothing more than an enemy.

Sympathy is not something I am looking for. Or empathy. And I am not trying to cause anyone concern. I'm actually just trying, and not succeeding, to open up. To share.

One reason I believe my marriage failed was centered on this very point.

I love to say that the leading cause of divorce is marriage. (That quote, I got right).

But I've heard the stats. Communication is key to successful relationships. And when it comes to communicating, ironically, I fall short. Every time. I fall very short.

There has got to be a bright side to this blog. I'm trying to look at it like a story. I'm writing it. Therefore, I am in control of the blog's outcome. Putting a positive spin on the despair I've just "penned" is within my power.

And yet, as I look across the room at my bed, I realize that getting sleep -- me falling to sleep right now -- is the highlight, it is the only positive outcome. The day is over. Half the night, too.

But, hey. There's always tomorrow.

I'll end this with something I always say. One day at a time. It's all we can do, all we can be expected to do.

Thanks for reading.

Have a great night and God bless.

Thomas Phillips

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Booksigning in Binghamton

I was contacted months ago by a friend, author Kevin Lucia , about doing the third annual Broome County Catholic Schools Barnes & Noble Book Fair.

It is an honor.

Aside from me, I will be sharing a table with critically acclaimed YA novelist, Claudia Gabel.

This will take place on Saturday, February 13th, at the Barnes & Noble in Vestal, NY ( 2443 Vestal Parkway East, Vestal, NY 13850. 607-770-9505).

The event raises money for Catholic schools in the area.

There will be events and activities all day long, from open mike for poetry written and read by students, as well as some contests, and -- of course -- book signings by Claudia and myself, which begins at 5:00 PM.

If you know anyone who lives in the Binghamton (Vestal) area, feel free to share the information. The more people that come out and buy books, the more money the schools will raise. It's a good, worthy cause. Support is essential!

It's a long drive. 172 miles one way. I'll take prayers for wonderful, sunny weather. Those who know me -- know what I drive -- know that my roller-skate of a car needs dry pavement to keep all four wheels on the road at all times :-)

Again, feel free to share this information with friends and family in the area!

Take care!

Thomas Phillips,
Author of The Molech Prophecy

Little House on the Prairie v. Friday Night Lights

In seventh grade, once a month we got what was called the "Weekly Reader." In it, among other things, were script portions from upcoming movies and TV shows.

I remember reading a portion of "Little House on the Prairie." This was just before the show made its way to TV. I also remember my seventh grade teacher bashing the show once it aired, saying that people in that time period were not as clean as the show depicted.

I will never forget the night the show was fist shown on television. My dad, a Michael Landon fan, made us watch it. I can remember not wanting to watch it, despite having done a read-along play of it in school. But after watching it, we -- my family -- was hooked.

Every episode was better than the last. And in every episode, as much as I tried to pretend it wasn't happening, I cried. Especially whenever Micheal Landon cried.

It was then, too, that my mother told me if I was going to be a writer, that I needed to be like Michael Landon, and write books that were wholesome, and impacting.

Recently, a dear friend of mine turned me on to a newer TV series. Friday Night Lights. I'd seen the movie. It was all right. Nothing great. Not like "Remember the Titans," or "The Express."

The series, however, contained more.

I registered with and started watching Friday Night Lights from the beginning. Season one, episode one.

I am now just about done watching season one. And all I can say is ... Wow.

Not since Little House on the Prairie, have I ever been so emotionally impacted watching TV.

Yes. I love LOST and 24, but Friday Night Lights is ... well, intense.

I am not afraid to admit that every episode, yes, every episode, has brought me to tears.

Does that make me a Sap. It might. It does.

But the passion and intensity of the show is inspiring and impacting. Yes. Impacting.

Many of you may already be fans of the show. Many of you may not.

I love football.

The show is about a Texas high school football team.

Football is a major part of the story, but only as a vehicle. It moves the plot.

I just wanted to take a moment in my blog and compliment the writers of this show for creating a cast of characters, and host of real situations, and putting it all together in a way that ... well, in a way that, as a writer, I can only dream of one day doing ...

Okay. That's my blog.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Who Doesn't Love A Good Vampire Story

I am not one to count chickens before they hatch. Eggs, maybe. Chickens, never.

Recently, after networking with a fellow author friend (at this point, I will not name names), I was asked to submit a proposal to a very prestigious publisher.

See. I am a huge fan of horror. And before ever realizing there was a Twilight epidemic, I'd begun writing the vampire novel I call, The Pulse of Evil. Unfortunately, vampires and Christian fiction are not seen as a great mix. However, the vampire's natural enemy has always been God. So I felt confident I might be on to something. My current publisher passed on the proposal. Thought it was too edgy. This is unfortunate. Whitaker House is an exceptional publisher with a long list of phenomenal authors, many best sellers, and a staff that is so friendly and helpful and responsive ... (But I hope to continue my relationship with them -- just not with the vampire books!!)

After looking at the proposal, the editor asked to see the entire manuscript. Which I sent. Breath held.

Staying current on books being released in my "field" or genre, I saw that Eric Wilson (I am a huge fan of his work), announced the release of a vampire series. Field of Blood. Wilson is one of the best Christian suspense writers I've ever read. (He is also the best selling author of the novel versions of the movies Facing the Giants, and Fireproof).

Anyway, timing is everything in publishing.

With the new found thirst for vampire novels (Stephanie Meyers, Eric Wilson, Charlie Huston, etc.), the publisher reviewing my submission scheduled a phone conference with me in early January. This, a good sign.

Although, to date, no contract has been offered, the editor and I have continued to discuss the idea of getting The Pulse of Evil into print.

Just today, just moments ago, we emailed. It looks promising, is all I can say. And the sales/marketing team at the publisher are interested in a three book series, where the book covers will be pre-designed to keep each in sync with the other ...

If they are talking cover designs at this point, and still talking to me, I can't help but feel hopeful. (I am praying about it, too. Night and day).

One thing I proposed was that Pulse of Evil be the series name, and that each book have its own subtitle. For example:

Pulse of Evil: Book One: Confession
Pulse of Evil: Book Two: Surrender
Pulse of Evil: Book Three: Redemption

At least, that's what I pitched.

Again, still praying.

I promise once a contract is signed, I will give you so much more information. For right now, know that I am hard at work trying to bring my next book to print. And know that the publisher considering my vampire tale is a quality press, with some extremely talented authors under them -- authors that I would love to be counted among, and some day be worthy to be alongside of!

Hey--thanks for listening. Enjoy the day! (In Rochester it is a sweltering 32 degrees and sunny!)

God bless,

Thomas Phillips

One Day At A Time

I meet a lot of people who, once they find out I write books ask, how in the world do you write a book? It baffles them.

If I am absolutely honest, most days, it baffles me.

I didn't start out writing novels. Not really. At fourteen, I wrote a horror novel about zombies trapping people inside a party house. I wrote that on an electric typewriter. Imagine.

But, at fourteen, I also wrote my first short story. It was about a busboy (working at a party house). It was published in the Cardinal Mooney High School magazine. I have a couple copies stored away, and right now the name of the publication escapes me.

From there I went on to write and sell short stories. Honed my skill as a writer, and slowly built a publishing portfolio.

I grew up with a reading disability. Hated reading. In 7th grade we read The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton. That turned me around. After that I became an avid reader. I gobbled up books. I finished reading the other novels by Hinton (That Was Then This Is Now, Rumble Fish, Tex, Running Star), and then moved on to Stephen King, and Dean R. Koontz. Robin Cook and John Saul. Robert Parker and James Patterson. David Morrell and Joseph Wambaugh.

I had set a goal at fourteen, that by the time I turned 30 I would be a published novelist.

I worked on several book length stories. Most came in at around 50,000 words.

It was difficult making the transition from short-story writer to novelist. Whereas with a short story, you have between 1,000 and 5,000 words to tell your tale, a novel needs to be over 65,000 words.

When I was 29, I'd completed and submitted the manuscript of Mind Play, to more than 100 publishers and agents. And I'd received back as many rejections. Or so I'd thought.

Feeling a bit discouraged and like a failure, I accepted that I might not be cut out as a writer. I decided to quit. Step back. Re-assess my goals.

In the fall of 1999, I received a call from the publisher at Dry Bones Press. Jim Rankin. He said he'd been in a recent move and just came across my manuscript. Rankin explained that, over Sunday breakfast, he sat down and started reading Mind Play. He did not get up from the table until he'd finished the entire story. If it was still available, he'd like to publish it.

When I finished crying, I told him, yes. He could publish it.

Mind Play was released February 2000. That June, I turned 30.

While I still wrote and sold some short stories, my focus as a writer altered. I concentrated my efforts on novel-length works. In 2001, Tenth House was released by Dry Bones as well. Also in 2001, Third Ring was published by Barclay Books. And in 2002, Johnny Blade. In 2003, I got my first contract for a hardcover novel from Quiet Storm Publishing, and a deal for a Middle Grade reader series. Adverse Impact was a legal thriller. Hardcover. And Jay Walker: The Case of the Missing Action Figure, were both released that year.

(I wrote the Jay Walker book using the pen name, Grant R. Philips).

When I think about it, it has been a long, slow, but exciting career.

My first short story was published in 1984. My first novel in 2000. And here we are in 2009, and I'm still plugging away.

But the funny thing is, since 2003, I have not been able to write a short story.

So when I meet someone who writes short stories, I am baffled, and tend to ask them, how in the world do you write a short story?

It's all relative, isn't it?

Hey--have an awesome day and a wonderful and safe weekend!

God bless,

Thomas Phillips

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Harvest Show (Pt. III)

It was time for me to take a seat on the set next to the two hosts that would be interviewing me, Kelly Morgan and Stefan Radelich. After the assistant producer clipped a mike to my sport coat, and attached the battery to the back of my pants, I stepped onto the stage, and immediately felt the heat from the lights. (This might explain why, off stage, the place felt more like an igloo.)

While we were still on a commercial break, Larry used my digital camera to snap photos of me with the hosts.

I'd asked the assistant producer earlier where I was supposed to look during the interview. Just make eye contact with hosts? Look at the camera? Keep my eyes closed?

I was instructed to constantly look at Kelly and Stefan. Never at the camera.

Naturally, as soon as I got comfy in the leather chair, the mike battery unclipped off my pants.

Ten seconds left of the last commercial.

I fumbled with the clip and finally just left it behind me and hoped if I sat on it by accident, it wouldn't cut out sound.

Then we were live.

Kelly and Stefan spent the next twelve minutes asking me questions that ranged from my growing up with a reading disability, and hating to read, to Wicca, research and the plot for the Molech Prophecy.

Luckily, they were questions I'd answered a million times before. Being comfortable with the questions helped me relax, and focus. And before I knew it, the interview was ending. It was over.

After the taping of the show, and Larry headed off to the airport, I was given a tour of the studio. LeSea is an impressive facility with stations across the globe. I will not get into all I learned, but encourage you to read up on the history of this network. Before leaving I was given a DVD of the show which included my interview and was off to the airport.

So. It's 10:30 AM. My flight out of Indiana is at 3:28 PM.

I have a book with me, Charlie Huston's Six Bad Things. (I'd finished reading Every Last Drop on the flights down). But I was tired and if I read too much, I knew I'd fall asleep.

The plan was to get something to eat, hit the gift shops -- because I knew my kids would expect something on my return -- and walk the airport people watching, read and eventually board my flight.

Unfortunately, if you have never been to the South Bend Airport, there is only one sandwich shop, one gift shop. So I ate, bought some small gifts and walked the airport twice.

Now, it was close to 11:00.


So I sat by United Express and took my book out of my bag. My airline tickets were my bookmark. I studied them.

Departing South Bend: 3:28 PM
Arriving O'Hara Chicago: 3:25 PM

I looked at it again. Panic filled me. Someone messed up my tickets. How in the world could I leave at 3:28 and land three minutes earlier? Impossible!

I ran up to the United counter. I showed the woman at the ticket booth my tickets. "Someone made a mistake on my tickets!" I wanted this cleared up. I didn't want to be stranded anywhere. I knew I had plenty of time before my flight left -- but you never know.

The woman smiled at me in the way older people smile at kids who have done something cute. "That's because Chicago's in a different time zone."

"Well, yeah," I said. I needed to pull this off so I didn't look too stupid. "I just assumed the tickets would show a consistent time ..."

Didn't work.

"But if you want," she said. "We can get you to Chicago on a flight leaving in a half hour?"

I exchanged tickets and took an early flight to O'Hara. I figured, at least in Chicago airport (which is Huge, Rochester, Huge), I could people watch, roam around and read if I wanted with plenty of activity going on all around. My flight out of O'Hara to Rochester was scheduled to leave at 4:54 PM ... or would it be 3:54? To be honest, at this point, no clue. I just knew that, no matter what, I'd be there and ready ahead of schedule.

I landed in O'Hara and thought, hey -- maybe I could exchange my late flight for an earlier flight to Rochester. I wasn't going to hold my breath. But when I asked at the counter, I was told a flight was leaving for Rochester in two hours. I was told they'd transfer my suitcase to that flight and that I'd be all set --but to check before boarding to ensure my suitcase made it.

I wasn't getting on a plane without my suitcase in the belly of the beast. As it turns out, you can't anyway. I suppose that makes perfect sense, when you think about it.

A half hour before boarding time, I checked with the United employee to see if my bag had transferred successfully. It hadn't.


She said she'd check again in a half hour. She made some calls. Put some stuff into the computer about my bag and told me to have a seat. (I thought, whoever she called, and what ever she entered on her computer, wouldn't make a difference. Looking for a single rectangular shaped, black suitcase was hardly any one's priority...)

I was the last to stand to board. I asked the woman if she could double check on my bag. This time, I did hold my breath. I did not want to sit in an airport any longer, and just wanted to get home.

The bag had made it. It was on the plane. I was assigned a seat on the 737--No one sitting near, or even across from me -- and before I knew it, I was landing, safely, back in Rochester.

Overall, the experience had been awesome. I love to travel. Had never been to Indiana (or Chicago, lol), and had never been interviewed on a National TV show. If I never write again, if I never have anything new published ever again, I don't care. I really don't. I've been blessed time and again, and have done things others have only dreamed of doing.

Listen, thanks for reading this "The Harvest Show" series. Please stop back regularly, as I am committed to blogging on a much more regular basis!

If you haven't read The Molech Prophecy, it is in stores nationally, and can easily be ordered online!

Have a wonderful week!

Thomas Phillips
Author of The Molech Prophecy