20 Questions With..., Everything That Counts

20 Questions With…Melissa Algood

 

This is usually the time that I tell you how much I love the author that’s answering my 20 questions, or how we met, but this time I’m taking over.

I’ve throughly enjoyed reading my friends answers, because they all have done it so differently.  Honestly I didn’t expect them to put so much thought into their answers, or trying to figure out the ‘right’ answer, when in fact there is not right or wrong.  I intended for the author to interpret the questions however they wanted to, not for my ‘permission’ on how to answer.  Therefore I did cheat on pretty much all of the questions (if there is a way to cheat on questions that don’t lead to a grade).

So thank you to all of the authors that I’ve highlighted before, not only for being good sports, witty, and insightful, but for being my friend.

The first time I remember saying that I wanted to be an author was when I was about eleven or twelve.  I never imagined that people would really read my stuff, I mean at least not while I was alive.  Sylvia Plath has always been a favorite of mine, hence naming my publishing company Mad Girl’s Publishing after her poem ‘Mad Girl’s Love Song’.

I am very happy to announce that I’ve publishing my first book-which will be officially released on August 24 at River Oaks Bookstore.  I hope that you’ll join me to celebrate the release of ‘Everything That Counts’ from 4-6 pm.

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I don’t really know what else to say-other than that writing isn’t something ‘fun’ for me-it’s a necessity due to the people that live out their lives in my head.  Thankfully at least some people like to join me on the journey – thank you for that.

So without further adieu I answer the infamous 20 questions

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Twenty Questions With…Melissa Algood

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours?   ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams.  I remember reading the introduction (yes I’m such a dork I read the introduction to novels) in which he said that the story of Fiver and Hazel was originally something he told his daughters as he put them to bed and they begged him to write it down.  Also ‘Fool On A Hill’ by Matt Ruff-it throughly transported me and I wanted to take a ride like that as often as possible.
  2. How old where you when you started writing?  Young, maybe 11.  In middle school a tutor mentioned how detailed a piece I wrote for English was (I described a door creaking open as if a rat were being crushed in the frame).  I also wrote little short stories for my first boyfriends mother (a dramatized version of a woman crossing the street was my first).  In high school I pledged to write a poem a day which helped me the most overall, and I still read the poems if I want to go back in time.
  3. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with.  Richard Adams, Matt Ruff, Nicola Yoon, and Courtney Summers.
  4. What would you eat? Probably not rabbit…I’m picturing a sleep over environment which includes pizza and sodas.
  5. How do you plot out your work? I usually don’t.  I get a scene in my head, and I’ll play it over and over again until it is as clear as an Oscar winning film and then I write it.  Although this often causes a lot of work once I’m ‘done’ with the first draft so from now on I really need to do an outline first (but I did do that for ‘The Bakery Assistant’ which I have yet to complete and I lost the outline).  
  6. Do you write in the morning or evening? Whenever I can, but usually after I’ve had my coffee.  But I have written many a scene while a color client of mine has been processing (I’m a hairstylist in ‘real’ life)
  7. Is there music on? This is the most important part of the writing process for me-I will spend more time on a playlist then virtually any other planning of a piece.  It will get so intense that a song will forever be intertwined with a character or scene.  I have posted the playlists for ‘Blood On The Potomac’  and ‘Everything That Counts’ on this blog.
  8. What inspired your last story?  A client inspired ‘Everything That Counts’ but I’ve been working on a lot more short stories which seem to be inspired by the copious amount of true crime podcasts I listen to (My Favorite Murder, Up And Vanished, Serial, Undisclosed, True Crime Garage, Last Podcast On The Left)
  9. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. ‘All The Rage’ by Country Summers and ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ by Jay Asher because both stories are so fucking important for everyone on Earth to read especially young adults.  ‘All The Rage’ is so poetically written although the content is something most people won’t read because it’s a difficult topic.  Similarly Asher’s novel does shine a light on many things that American society wants to put in the dark and he does it so intelligently that you’re enraptured.  ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ by Jandy Nelson is achingly beautiful more like an epic poem, or a song, than a novel.  And I wish I could create another world like George R.R. Martin, but I can’t plan ahead that well.
  10. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? ‘The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’, ‘House of Cards’, and ‘Master of None’ on Netflix.  I’m also the biggest fan of ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Sons of Anarchy’ (which I binge watched while writing ‘Everything That Counts’), and ‘The Sopranos’ and my all time favs ‘Daria’ and ‘My So-Called Life’ and ‘Lost’ (which I binged while writing ‘Blood On The Potomac’).  As far as films I love ‘Donnie Darko’ although I’m not really sure what happened, and anything by Wes Anderson.
  11. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece?  I kinda like Miles Teller for Blake, but I’m not sure if he’s tall/lanky enough…maybe he’s more of a Nat Wolff. Rachel Hurd-Wood or Daisy Lewis for Sophie, Britt Robertson for Zoe.  
  12. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? I would say all of them, but for different reasons.  ‘The Bakery Assistant’ needs more research (so if you’re a lawyer on the east coast lemme know) ‘WinterGull Lane’ because it took me to such a dark place.
  13. Which was the easiest? Most of my short stories are quick as lightening, which might be why I write them so much more often.
  14. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? ‘The End’ is a short story I won an award for about a young boy who grows up during the apocalypse.  I didn’t get hung up on how it all went down, but what it’s like to actually live after everyone else is dead.  At a book release the wife of another author told me that she loved that George still found it important to look at the artwork that still existed on the walls of the hotels in Las Vegas, because what’s the point of living if you don’t have the opportunity to enjoy art.
  15. What are you working on now? The novels that I mentioned before, and to write enough short stories to publish my collection called ‘Everyone Dies’.
  16. What story do you have to write before you die? All of them
  17. What’s your best fan story? When I sold an anthology to a teenage girl at a Comic Con in Houston and she shared with me her journal of poetry that she carries with her, then later that day came by to told me how much she loved my story.  Or when I read my piece ‘Thomas’ at the Spider Road Press award ceremony and one of my friends told me that it was the only piece that made her cry.
  18. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? ‘We trudged onto the darkened stage covered in blood and glitter.’ from the story ‘Even Aliens Watch Reality T.V.’ my man’s favorite story that I’ve ever written.
  19. Have you ever based characters off of real people?  There are attributes that are based off real people, and I talk a lot so I listen to how people talk and infuse that into my work.  So yes, but not enough to have anyone worry.
  20. Who’s your favorite character?  I’m gonna cheat and say that I have a fav from each piece-Samantha Locke ‘Blood On The Potomac’, Blake Morgan ‘Everything That Coutns’, Claire Fisher ‘The Bakery Assistant’, and Stormy O’Dell ‘WinterGull Lane’

 

 

You can follow me on this blog, on TwitterFacebook, and you can buy all my work on Amazon

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Everything That Counts, pictures, Signing Events

Party Time for ‘Everything That Counts’

A novel takes a long time to come to fruition, and the story of Blake Morgan’s last year of high school was no exception.

I began writing ‘Everything That Counts’ as an escape from my heart pumping novel ‘Blood On The Potomac’, but it ended up taking on a life of it’s own, and I’m very proud of  this novel.  It is my love story to Annapolis, geeks, and for anyone that’s made a big mistake yet is attempting to redeem themselves.

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If you’d like to see a snippet of the novel you can check out First Chapter of ‘Everything That Counts’ (although it has been edited since then so it’s going to be even better!  And get your playlist ready because music plays a big role in the novel, get your headphones ready when you click Soundtrack to ‘Everything That Counts’  

 

I hope you’ll join me on Thursday August 24 from 4-6 pm at River Oaks Bookstore in the heart of Houston.  I will do a few readings, and I did buy a new dress just for the occasion, so please join me for the birth of a novel.

 

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Everything That Counts

Soundtrack to ‘Everything That Counts’

Some of you might not know this, but I spend a lot of time coming up for a playlist for each novel.  It could have been the beat, the title, lyrics, or just the way the song made me feel as I was writing ‘Everything That Counts’.

Granted some of them might not be my taste, but as a writer you have no control what’s going on in your head, nor what your characters like to listen to at a party. On the other hand I did majorly fall in love with Rivers Cuomo and Weezer.  At this point I’ve listened to so much of their music for such an extended amount of time that I know all the lyrics to pretty much every song (well from before 2005).  Needless to say I owe a huge thank you to Weezer who really helped shape Blake, when I first started writing him I couldn’t connect with him until I found a band that really encapsulated him.  I thought, ‘What would a geek listen to?’ and I thought of Weezer first.  After listening to their songs I noticed that their album ‘Make Believe’ really worked well with my story, and fatefully enough it was released in time to make sense for my novel which is set in 2004-2005.  It’s almost as if they wanted to be included in Blake’s story…

Many of the songs are now eternally linked to a specific scene in the book i.e. whenever I hear ‘Milkshake’ by Kelis I think of a specific party that Blake attended.  Ironically a pivotal point of the novel.  Those songs are denoted with a (+).

Some songs are mentioned by a character, or referenced in the prose.  Those songs are italicized.  A few have a location real or ficitous- the geography is in (parenthesis like this).

I highly recommend you check out all the music that influenced ‘Everything That Counts’ which will be released in August, 2017.  Stay tuned for more details.

 

‘Everything That Counts’ from award-winning author Melissa Algood

I’d been treating life like a chess game, forgetting to live in the moment when I had a chance. I had to change all that.

Blake Morgan is the biggest geek in all the graduating class of 2004, possibly in all of Annapolis, maybe even the entire world.
He decides that talking to a girl, doing something unexpected, getting something other than an A+, and do something brave during his senior year will make him into a whole other person. Maybe even cool.
Yet each time he checks something off the list he hurts the few people who love him just the way he is. A loser.
Is he able to repair the damage? Is changing who you are worth it? Can Blake be an astrophysicist and have a supermodel as a girlfriend?
He’s stupid enough to wreck his life, but is he smart enough to put it back together?

 

 

And now for the official playlist for  ‘Everything That Counts’

 

Chapter 1-August 2003

  •    Imitation of Life by R.E.M +
  •   Caring is Creepy by The Shins
  •    Green Grass of Tunnel by mum + (Magothy River)
  •   For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is)[Remastered] by Pete Yorn
  •   Cause = Time by Broken Social Scene
  •   What You Waiting For? By Gwen Stefani
  •    The Way We Get By by Spoon
  •    Strict Machine by Goldfarp +
  •    Somewhere Only We Know by Keane + (a white oak in front of Blake’s house)

Chapter 2-September 2003

  •  Are You Gonna Be My Girl by Jet +
  •  Think I’m Paranoid by Garbage
  • Black Rooster by The Kills (Cape St. Claire High School)
  • We’re Going To Be Friends by The White Stripes+
  • Buddy Holly by Weezer +
  • Doin’ the Cockroach by Modest Mouse
  • Undone (The Sweater Song) by Weezer
  • Can’t Hold Us Down (feat. Lil’ Kim) by Christina Aguilera (Annapolis Mall
  • In Da Wind by Trick Daddy (Cape St. Claire High School)

Chapter 3- October 2003

  • A Lack of Color by Death Cab for Cutie
  • If You Find Yourself Caught In Love by Belle and Sebastian
  • Here I Dreamt I was an Architect by The Decemberists
  • Do You Realize?? By The Flaming Lips
  • The Scientist (Live) by Aimee Mann +
  • Exit Music (For A Film) by Radiohead +
  • Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz (St. Margrets)
  • Upward Over the Mountain by Iron & Wine +

 

Chapter 4-November 2003

  • Roses by Outkast
  • Stronger by Britney Spears + (Zoe’s favorite song)
  • 12:51 by The Strokes

 

Chapter 5-December 2003

  • Photobooth by Death Cab for Cutie +
  • Stay Together for The Kids by Blink-182
  • Hate It Here by Wilco +
  • Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty & The Heatbreakers (Ego Alley)
  • A Perfect Sonnet by Bright Eyes + (Magothy River)
  • Swan Lake composed by Tchaikovsky
  • Pyramid Song by Radiohead
  • Radio Number 1 by Air
  • Mad World (feat. Gary Jules) by Michael Andrews +

 

Chapter 6- January 2004

  • Gretchen Ross by Michael Andrews + (Sophie)
  • #1 Crush by Garbage+
  • The Sweat Descends by Les Savy Fav
  • You Were Meant for Me by Jewel
  • Poupée de cire, poupée de son by France Gall (Lily)

 

Chapter 7- February 2004

  • Weak and Powerless by A Perfect Circle
  • Dark Moon, High Tide by Afro Celt Sound System
  • Hey Jupiter by Tori Amos +
  • 2 + 2 = 5 by Radiohead
  • Teenage FBI by Guided By Voices

 

Chapter 8-March 2004

  • Come On Let’s Go by Broadcast +
  • Step to My Girl by Souls of Mischief
  • Change Your Mind by The Killers
  • Milkshake by Kelis +
  • Hate to Say I Told You So by The Hives
  • Porcelain by Moby
  • Save Me by Aimee Man (Sophie’s favorite song)
  • Get Over It by Ok Go

 

Chapter 9-April 2004

  • D.I.D.A.S. by Killer Mike & Big Boi
  • Star Guitar by The Chemical Brothers
  • The Way You Move (feat. Sleep Brown)[Club Mix] by Outkast
  • The Power Is On by The Go! Team
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 by The Flaming Lips
  • She’s Got Issues by The Offspring
  • Maybe I’m Amazed by Paul McCartney +
  • No One Knows by Queens of the Stone Age
  • Lost Cause by Beck +
  • Just Because by Jane’s Addiction
  • Superstar by Sonic Youth

 

Chapter 10-May 2004

  • Can’t Get Used to Losing You by Andy Williams +
  • My Boo by Usher & Alicia Keys + (Downtown Annapolis)
  • Till Kingdom Come by Coldplay
  • We’re Going To Be Friends by The White Stripes
  • If She Wants Me by Belle and Sebastian
  • Creep by Radiohead
  • Only In Dreams by Weezer +
  • Crystal by New Order
  • Pictures of You by The Cure
  • Come Pick Me Up by Ryan Adams
  • In the Backseat by Arcade Fire
  • Beverly Hills by Weezer
  • Clocks by Coldplay
  • Simple Things, Pt. 2 by Dirty Vegas
  • Perfect Situation by Weezer
  • My Best Friend by Weezer
  • Falling Away from Me by Korn
  • Here Comes Your Man by Pixies
  • Pardon Me by Weezer
  • Wonderwall by Oasis

 

 

Chapter 11- June 2004

  • Something About Us by Daft Punk
  • The Damage In Your Heart by Weezer
  • Center of the Universe by Built to Spill
  • Uptight (Everything’s Alright) by Stevie Wonder
  • Ocean Breathes Salty by Modest Mouse
  • Haunt You Every Day by Weezer
  • Cherry Blossom Girl by Air
  • Everything Hits At Once by Spoon
  • Golden by My Morning Jacket
  • Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  • Such Great Heights by The Postal Service

Chapter 12-July 2004

  • Black Dog by Led Zeppelin (Blake’s House)
  • Just Like Heaven
  • Kissing the Lipless by The Shins

Chapter 13-August 2004

  • Susanne (Single Version) by Weezer
  • Hard to Explain by The Strokes
  • Cybele’s Reverie by Sterolab +
  • Fade Into You by Mazzy Star +
  • Sunrise by Pulp
  • (Girl We Got A) Good Thing by Weezer +*

 

 

 

Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

When setting ‘takes over’

IMG_1587My debut YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’ will be released this August.  It’s been a difficult but highly rewarding journey, but I know that the best is still yet to come.

Last September I visited my parents in Annapolis, Maryland and was reminded of the beauty that is the city.  I attended high school there thus found it a natural place to set Blake’s story.  I found myself weaving a detailed tapestry of background when it came to the Maryland that Blake resides.  Hopefully when you read the novel you’ll also be transported to a place you might never would have envisioned would be beautifully mesmerizing, yet it is.

Until August I decided to share with you some pictures I took last September while in downtown Annapolis and Eastport.

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I’ll keep you updated on the novel and share the cover of ‘Everything That Counts’

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soon.

20 Questions With..., Everything That Counts, pictures

Twenty Questions with Jason Brandt Schaefer

We first met at a writers conference while waiting to pitch our respective novels.

Apparently the first thing I said to him was, “Nice suit,” as I leaned back on the sofa that lined the floral wall papered wall that faced the ballroom in which agents held our futures in their hands.  I wore my traditional skinny neon colored jeans, Chucks, and an oversize shirt.  (Full disclosure I’ve only seen him in a suit that one time.  I wouldn’t use the word ‘uptight’ to describe him-precise would be more accurate.)

“Thanks,” he nodded and smiled.  His face softened and my conversation starter had worked, we began talking thus getting my mind off my pitch.

I’d practiced it enough, if I didn’t know it a few moments before I’d meet an agent then I figured I didn’t know it at all.  Therefore befriending a fellow writer seemed like a good idea to calm my nerves.  Jason and I have stayed friends, and in fact one might say that it flourished over time.  Although we have different writing styles we both love music, art, and ideas of stories that we’re contemplating.  We’ve critiqued each others work, and he’s edited my upcoming YA novel ‘Everything That Counts’ (he did a great job so any mistakes that might end up in print are my fault not his).

He’s not only an author, but a visual artist.  You can see some of his work by clicking here and checking out his Instagram.

Basically he’s cool, intelligent, and totally cool with the copious amount of times I use the word ‘dude’.  Now check out his answers to my 20 questions…

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Twenty Questions with Jason Brandt Schaefer

 

  1. Every writer has that one book that made him or her want to be a writer, what’s yours? Oh, man. I cant say that I DO actually have ONE book that made me want to be a writer, but there have been several along the way. First, some of my favorite memories of my childhood are listening to my mother read to me, and it wasnt always childrens storybooks. She read Tom Sawyer to me one year, and I dont think we got all the way through it, but there was one scene that cracked her up something fierce and it has always stayed with me. Tom was playing with his friends, and for some reason pulled down his pants, maybe to relieve himself (or maybe all the boys were naked already; I havent re-visited the book since), but he lit upon a nettle, then rose up howling in pain. My mom found this tremendously amusing. Because I found Mark Twains 19th-century narration difficult to follow, I had to ask her why she was laughing so hard she was crying. As she wiped her face, she explained we had bull nettles on our eight acres, and Mom totally identified with Toms anguish. She hadnt sat on one (not to my knowledge, anyway), but everyone in my family had been stung somewhere on their bodies, including me. The laugh was a small thing, but it showed me how words have the power to invoke emotional responses, and our tie to Toms plight through our own experience, decades and decades into the future, blew my mind. This was a book written by a guy who was now dead, a famous dude we were studying in class, whose name I had read in history books and had heard everywhere, and he knew about bull nettles! So I saw that our lives were in that book, too. It was exciting. Mom read Jurassic Park to me, too, among many other Crichton novels, and seeing the movie version, the dinosaurs come to life, made the power of narrative all the more real to me. I was drawn to the cinematic style of Crichtons other novels, and compared the movies to the books every chance I could get. Eaters of the Dead is, in my opinion, one of his greatest literary experiments since it draws from archetypes you find in Beowulf, and The Thirteenth Warrior was pretty transcendental. Finally, in high school, when I was reading Stephen Kings The Dark Tower series, I realized literature is not only about writing to an audience; its about communicating with and responding to other literature. He drew inspiration from a Robert Browning poem, Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, but if I remember correctly from Kings memoir, On Writing, he never intended it to be an adaptation of the poem, though it certainly is an interpretation of it. He had the lines, or the sentiment of the lines, rolling around in his head one day and set pen to paper, and realized LATER he was basing his book series on the poetic hero. That was FASCINATING to me. King also pulled lines out of T. S. Eliots The Waste Land. So its been a long, low-burning affair with literature novels, poems, and films that has driven my study of writing and my writing career to date. Ill add here that Emily St. John Mandels contemporary novel, Station Eleven, has finally given me a model for the KIND of novel I want to write, so if I had one book, Id say that one has been the most influential, but then, I read it only last year.

 

  1. How old where you when you started writing? I first began with a journal, I think. I was probably eight or nine. I remember sitting in the sun by the pool at our outdoor iron table, which my folks still have, writing down my thoughts and not knowing for what purpose. Dear Journal, Im not sure what to say here…” That sort of thing. The answer, I now know, was less about recording my experience (since Id had precious few at the ripe old age of nine), but had everything to do with the PRACTICE of writing. Trying to figure out ways to plot my thoughts silently, using written words. I think I was inspired by Doug Funnie to begin a journal, though. You know, that old Nickelodeon cartoon? Someone told me Doug reminded them of me (not far from the mark; an awkward, private, unathletic dreamer of a child), and I thought, well, if I am to become the realization of Doug, Ill have to begin a journal. The short stories came after, Im sure, and the poetry came in college, after I made that Stephen King/Robert Browning connection senior year of high school and began reading all the poetry I could get my hands on. I was like, if Kings reading poetry, I should be reading poetry.

 

  1. Name four authors that you’d love to have lunch with. Stephen King, naturally, then Louise Erdrich, author of Love Medicine and The Round House, Amelia Grey, this contemporary writer who pens the nastiest, most beautiful short stories Ive ever read (you can find them in Gutshot, her most recent collection), and James Hannaham, author of Delicious Foods. Id love to eat with Crichton if he were still alive, and I already met Emily St. John Mandel, who declined to answer a few interview questions for an academic paper I was writing on her book. I understand she was busy, but Im still a little sore about that, so I think our lunch date would be a little tense. I worry she wouldnt have time to pass the salt. I like my salt. Damn, I can only name four here? Can I eat at like a twenty-foot dining table with every writer I admire? Can we do hors doeuvres and wine in an art gallery and mill about, trading ideas as we run into one another? I want to meet and eat with all the writers I admire, provided they have good table manners. (I think novelists probably do; its the poets I worry about, those whimsical manipulators of language. Id be too afraid theyd bend a fork the way they bend a metaphor just to see if they could re-invent a way to eat their salad. And I abhor conversations with people who say things like, Prose is ugly in its attempt to bring MEANING to something. Words dont MEAN anything. Because language cant really be UNDERSTOOD, per se…” This is not productive conversation, and it doesnt encourage anyone. And Ill admit Ive said things like this myself. At dinner, even!)

 

  1. What would you eat? TACOS! I dont care who you are; everyone enjoys tacos. Wed have to have pork, fish, beef, seafood, and vegan options, though. And corn and flour tortillas. And lots of napkins. Itll be fun to see who picks what. I imagine King and Grey would eat with violence, given the content of their stories. Not sure about Erdrich or Hannaham. They strike me as wholesome, balanced people, so maybe theyll indulge in fish or tofu and use lots of napkins.

 

  1. How do you plot out your work? I write LOTS of notes, then put them together. These notes can be lists of major events or beats within scenes, investigations into character that could become scenes in longer work or short stories in themselves or woven into the texture of a book through backstory. Ive tried beginning a book and trying to let it flow, but my time as a journalist trained me to write from notes, so this doesnt work very well for me. So I consider my notes to be a sort of interview with myself, with my characters, in which I ask them where theyve been, what theyve done, where theyre going, what they wore last Tuesday, what they carry in their purse, what vacation they plan to go on next October, what they think of this particular work of art. The more random the questions, the more refined the characters become, and the more refined the characters, the clearer the plot becomes, and the clearer the plot, the more easy it is for me to write it all down and find unity of theme and structure. I guess Im holistic in that respect you can never see a novel all at once, but I like to know where Im headed and why before I set out on the journey. The real adventure is the journey, anyway, not the stops along the way, or even more depressing, the end.

 

  1. Do you write in the morning or evening? I seem to be the most productive in the early afternoon, but only if Ive slept in until at least 11 a.m. I am aware this is ridiculous, and I’m always trying to find the real answer to this question, but for me there is no best time to write. The best time is when theres no one around and no one expected to show up at the door, when its relatively quiet or theres some gentle background noise to let me know people are still alive in the outside world while Im in my head, when Im fed and relaxed and comfortable and have had at least two cups of coffee. Sometimes I feel like I have to be bored to write, but Im not sure thats quite true, either, and yet not sure its completely false. Why did humans invent novels in the first place? The correct answer, of course, is to share their experience of the human condition, but lets get real. Theres no better cure to sheer, absolute boredom than to imagine an entire world chock-full of excitement. Maybe thats why I feel I have to be bored its not the boredom, but the stability which grows from it, that I need. I have to be stable while I spin the world around in my mind, or else Im going to get dizzy and fall down.

 

  1. Is there music on? Sometimes I put music on, and sometimes Im in a coffee shop with music on. I cant listen to music when its repetetive or commands my attention. It brings me out of my daydream too much. If Im going to work with music on, its going to be something that can make me dance without occupying my mind. I do much better with ambient noise traffic, people talking, wind and rain, waves.

 

  1. What inspired your last story? Ill tell you about two of my shorter pieces, Lament for Reunions and Audrey Watched. I wrote Lament in response to the death of my grandfather and the drunken night I had with my cousins where we all realized though we come from the same place (geographically as well as hereditarily), we might finally be too different now to get along. I kept wondering, What do I do with that information? And I wrote the piece, just listing the strange and scary observations I was making that made me feel like an alien in my own family, a list of things perhaps I was the only one observing, and I got a really moving, emotional lyric essay out of it. (Though I sometimes call it fiction because the images and the plot, if it does have a plot, are taken out of context and manipulated to a degree.) And in writing the essay, I realized this is how I mourn things in my life I intellectualize and bargain, I put people and events in boxes and turn them around to see them from all sides, I stain microscope slides with little scenes from my own life and investigate why they happened that way, and what I could have done differently and what might have happened had I done that differently. Audrey Watched was similar, though it is more solidly a work a fiction. Im a musician, sometimes, and I lost a friend a while back to depression, anxiety and substance abuse. He was a musician, too, and wed played in a relatively successful group before things fell apart. Keeping the band together and everyone happy is the real business of music, not performing the songs. And a lot of times battling depression and confronting demons is a part of that. So I wrote this story of a Houston blues musician in a downward spiral. Because thats such a common theme in todays literature, I had to find a new way to write this old story, so I chose to tell it from the perspective of his guitar, named Audrey. She doesnt have any emotions, and she never responds to the protagonist, of course, any more than a guitar would in real life. What she does do is provide a keyhole into the world of his suffering, which made for a terrifying, claustrophobic story. Im working on a novel now, which I wont get too far into, but its also based on personal experience my parents shift from Lutheran Christianity to Wicca, a neo-pagan Earth religion. This happened when I was a teenager, and likely is the greatest reason I became a writer. To unpack complicated formative experiences like these.

 

  1. Name three books so good you wish you wrote them. At this point, I see any book on the shelf and wish Id written it, only because Im so hungry to get my work out there. I deeply admire Station Eleven, and Ill add Cormac McCarthys The Road and Hemingways The Old Man and the Sea to that list, but I dont wish Id written them because theyre amazing works of literature. Im glad they were written by others and that I can call them heroes for their achievements and that their work provides examples of what kinds of books Id like to write in my own way. Im not a jealous person, and I celebrate every writer who has their work out in the world. That said, I do wish I would have written the screenplay for this new movie, Captain Fantastic (2016), because Id already developed a plot very similar to the ending of that movie, and I felt the way Id written it was better and more fitting for my novel. Its not like he stole the story from me or anything. I dont know the guy, he just got to it first. The world is an echo chamber; similar inventions are inevitable because our needs are similar. Of course, seeing someone else doing first what I had already planned to do was pretty damned frustrating. Now I have to find a new way to end my novel, but I know the new way will be better than the original because fresh solutions always are. Thats heartening to me.

 

  1. What television shows, movies, or albums do you believe are written well? If you havent seen The Wire, I strongly recommend it. And Breaking Bad, of course. Im watching Girls right now and learning a lot from it. Were kind of in a new golden age of television. Some call it the platinum age, and Ill agree. With movies, American Beauty is such a strong film, it has remained at the top of my list for a long time. As has Forrest Gump and Dances with Wolves, though Ive grown more critical of stories like that that feature a white person going into an unfamiliar world only to win the day. That doesnt happen in real life. Historically, white people basically take whats not theirs, ruin everything, build on the ruins and say, Look at the great job weve done. Not to get too political, but see whats happening right now. This is why its so important for readers and writers and basically everyone who believes in a free, diverse world, to read literature and watch shows and movies by people who are different from you. Im a white man, and for the past two years Ive been reading and watching work by women, LGBTQ people, and black people pretty much exclusively. I feel its my responsibility to next read more from Jewish and Muslim writers. Ive gotten off topic. I believe John Coltranes Blue Train is written well. Jazz is very narrative, but also poetic. It breathes and searches like an organism, an extremely human music, the music of risk-taking, failure, and improvisation, and it requires huge amounts of concentration, study and practice. Give Moments Notice a listen. What a gorgeous composition!

 

  1. Which actor would you cast in the protagonist role of your most recent piece? For my novel-in-progress, maybe Crispin Glover would fit the tall, thin, pale character of Jonah Holloway, though Im not sure Id call him the protagonist. On the first page, we learn he has been murdered. The book features a first-person narrator, Micah Holloway, who investigates the origins of her familys decision to become Wiccan, and the consequences of that change. Much of the plot involves these stories, so its a large cast. Wait. It just occurred to me. Jennifer Lawrence would be perfect for Micah, and incidentally, Jonah is her father. Maybe Crispins too old for that. We havent seen him in a while.

 

  1. Which of your pieces was the hardest to write? This novel Im trying to bang out is pretty damned difficult. Only because its the most complicated story Ive ever worked on, and the plot is a beast. Emotionally speaking, Lament for Reunions got me pretty depressed, but then maybe I was depressed already and writing it helped guide me through it.

 

  1. Which was the easiest? That said about the emotional investment required for Lament, I wrote and drafted that piece to submission-ready in less than two months. I OBSESSED over it, maybe because it was more present in my head than anything. It was the perfect time to write that piece because it sort of grabbed me by the neck and didnt let go. Or maybe I was the one who grabbed. Either way, we helped one another become better, stronger individuals because we depended on each other in our time of need, like a father and a daughter, maybe. Thats ridiculous. Stories arent daughters.

 

  1. Which of your pieces did readers ‘get’ when they told you their thoughts on it? The complete ones. The ones I knew were ready to put out into the world, no one ever has trouble understanding. Its the works-in-progress, the early drafts that raise eyebrows and elicit questions. I will say when I read Audrey Watched to the public for the first time (holding a reading is a requirement of my MFA program), my sister-in-law leaned over to my brother and whispered, Your brothers a pretty fucked-up dude. They told me this after the reading. So I guess she got it; she was deeply disturbed by it, which was the goal of the piece. When people say they get your work, they should not only understand everything that happened, but the reason it happened, and what it MEANS that it happened. And I dont think thats too much to trust an audience with; as writers, its our job to meet the audience halfway. Maybe not even halfway maybe more like 45 percent of the way. Because when people are shoved off a cliff and asked to fly, sometimes they grow wings. Literarily speaking, of course.

 

  1. What are you working on now? Besides the novel, at the present moment, Im trying to get four different short stories published and trying to build a body of visual art. Since January 2016, Ive been researching and experimenting with ways to make stories into three-dimensional sculptures. I have a theory that objects can tell highly complex stories if they are intricate enough, and that patrons can read the story by spending time with the object. I have a few ideas but so far, Ive been dabbling in concrete poetry. Less narrative, but still just as visual. Im basically painting with words. Its a fun exercise and it brings me closer to language, feeling my way through it and living with it for a while. We all do it as we draft, but likely not to such intensity. The concrete poets whose work Ive studied are INSANE. And maybe I am a little, too.

 

  1. What story do you have to write before you die? Ill settle for this first novel! From time to time, an idea will grab ahold of me and Ill plot it a little, sometimes getting pages of plot notes out. I have plots like this for a six-book YA series about a boy who finds his way into the world of faeries and becomes their king (that suddenly sounds like one of those great white hero stories I was just talking about, so thats a problem), and for a novel about a door-to-door tutor who gets involved with an extremely wealthy family with ties to a corrupt underworld. The only thing linking them together is the innocent, damaged child hes tutoring to take the SAT. Before I die, Id like to write all of these stories Ive already imagined but havent had a chance to write yet.

 

  1. What’s your best fan story? To be honest, Im not sure what you mean by this, so Im going to have some fun with this. Sense 1: one of my fans approaches me Im an emerging writer, just now getting out into the world, so I havent really be approached by fans. I had a fellow student buy one of my concrete poems from my graduate show and ask me to sign it. That felt pretty amazing. And I made forty bucks. That same residency, I had another student who I can only assume was a fan of me, though likely not my work since theres no way she could have read any of it, narrate my life in third-person as I was preparing my cup of coffee. She snuck up behind me and without introducing herself said, He pours his milk and sugar into his coffee with patience and precision, each movement deliberate, as though he had performed this action a thousand times before. Youll notice I forget completely what I said back to her. That was pretty weird. Sense 2: I, as a fan, approach one of my favorite writers I already mentioned Emily St. John Mandel, so Ill give you the full story here. Mind you, I dont blame her for this. It was just the slightest bit rude. Me: I love your book! Im writing a paper on it. Emily: Thats good to hear. (Smiles, signs my book.) Me: I love the way you handled objects and used them as a tool to link the past and the present. Emily: Well, it seemed like a good idea. (Hands me back the book.) Me: Id love to email you some interview questions so I can get more into your style. Its for my MFA. Emily: You know, I have a three-year-old; I barely have any time to write anything for myself. Me: (laughing nervously) Oh, of course, it was a shot in the dark, I know youre a busy woman, Id be busy, too, I dont have kids, but I understand, et cetera. Youll notice Im writing very long answers to these interview questions. Thats what it means to be a good literary citizen. But then, Im in my quiet apartment, alone and childless. Sense 3: a story involving a fan, the device used to push air around a room When I was about six or so, and Dad was still in the Air Force, his commanding officer came over with his baby daughter. This man is very tall, and the ceiling was very low. So when he lifted his daughter up above him, as fathers who love their daughters do, he poked her head right into spinning blades of the fan. If youve ever shoved your hand into a running fan to stop the blades for a second, you know what this sounds like, and how much it must have hurt his daughter. She immediately started screaming and screamed for hours. Shes fine now. Holds a Masters degree from an international business school and shes working in Germany. She speaks two languages. Maybe we should put all our babies heads into fans.

 

  1. What sentence have you written that you feel encapsulates your style? Lets say this one, from Audrey Watched. This passage comes after the protagonist has sold Audrey to a pawn shop, and he returns many months later to see if its still there and if he can buy it back: As he perused the guitars on the wall, his eyes carried the same determination as a wild animal searching for its old burrow, the place where its mother had raised her cubs. A glimmer of hope expecting to come up disappointed.

 

  1. Have you ever based characters off of real people? All the time! I find, though, that basing a character on a real person is in some ways an analysis of that persons psyche. As you become close to the character, you begin to understand more deeply the person the character is based on, for better or worse. Thats a tremendous responsibility, and sometimes it can ruin relationships. But this, too, is inevitable. If were not basing characters on others, were basing them on ourselves. And ourselves are built by our relationships with others. So to write a character, a true, strong, complicated, human character, ALWAYS comes from reality, ours or another

 

  1. Who’s your favorite character? Right now, Im identifying most with Micah Holloway, the narrator of my novel-in-progress. As she is searching through her familys reasons for changing religions, Im coming to terms with my own family. Its an enlightening investigation for both of us.

 

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You can find out more about the author on his Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/thejasonbrandt/ , Jason Brandt Schaefer, and preview his visual art and photography on Instagram, @theJasonBrandt. Contact him at jasonbschaefer@gmail.com to purchase or commission artwork, or for editing or proofreading inquiries.

All images are the property of Jason Brandt Schaefer

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Everything That Counts, novel, pictures

A treat from ‘The Bakery Assistant’

A few days ago a friend came into the salon (I’m a hairstylist in ‘real’ life) and we were both discussing our works in progress.

I’ve been spending a lot of time with the latest undertaking ‘Wintergull Lane‘ which I’ve been pecking away at for NaNoWritMo (you can check out my progress here).  But she reminded me of another piece which I call my albatross.  ‘The Bakery Assistant’ is the story of the tragically broken Claire Fischer who is doomed to be a perpetual teenager until she meets someone that shows her that living life is worth it.  That’s the elevator pitch, but in actuality I’m projecting there to be a book two, ‘The Fighter’, which will conclude Claire Fischer’s story as far as I can tell…

Either way now that I’m doing the finishing touches for ‘Everything That Counts’ (take a peek at the novel here) so ‘The Bakery Assistant‘ will be on deck.  Until then here’s a morsel from chapter two of

 

        After I pulled the fresh loaves and rolls from the ovens, and passed them off to the day shift, we trekked three blocks to a corner diner that had been a destination appreciated by locals who loved ‘kitsch’. The waitress set a glossy menu in front of me, and Aaron. The booth only had room for two, but apparently not for two people that each hovered around six feet tall. As we situated ourselves like acrobats in the booth his knee hit mine.

“Sorry,” Aaron mumbled.

“It’s okay.”

His lone dimple winked at me. “Are you blushing?”

“No!”

He chuckled. “Well if you weren’t before then you are now.”

I concentrated on the paisley pattern on the bench Aaron sat on in the hopes it would cause the blood to evacuate from my cheeks.

“I’m starving,” he flipped open the picture laden menu.

“I thought it was just coffee.”

“You don’t mind do you? I’ll pay for you if you want.”

I shook my head and pressed my hands into my lap. “I’d prefer to pay for myself.”

“Okay.” His curly black hair, strong Roman God-like features including a jaw carved from marble, and delicious looking lips hid behind the menu again. I tilted my head down, reading the options, but continued to hold my posture as if I were attending a luncheon for beauty queens.   Before I could get past the first page of artery clogging items, Aaron sighed, and set his menu back down. “So what do I have to do to take you out on a real date, Claire?”

Apparently I didn’t need to eat anything before my heart stopped pumping blood.

“I’m serious.” He leaned back into the booth upholstered in retro paisley fabrics. The dozen booths were either bright orange, or avocado green, and each had a jukebox that you could feed and hear your song of choice. He’d picked ‘I Fall to Pieces’ the second we sat down, but it had only begun to play now. It made me wonder how long he’d planned this dinner.

“Should I get formal stationery, and mail you my official wish to take you on a date?” He took off his flannel lined, corduroy jacket, squeezed it between him and the rust colored wall the booth bench was anchored to. Then he folded his hands together underneath his chin.

Instead of answering I stared at the edge of a rosebush tattooed from mid-forearm to above the elbow. I couldn’t see his shoulder through his t-shirt, but I assumed it was decorated in the same pattern of permanent ink. Each red petal was outlined in black, while each individual rose was the size of the coffee cup in front of me that the waitress filled before she hurried to the next table. I knew there had to be a story behind the blossoming flowers bound together with dark green vines and thorns that adorned his perfectly tanned olive skin, but it didn’t feel right to ask. He dressed like a hipster with dark jeans, a gray shirt with the word ‘RIOT’ printed in bold black along his chest. A knit beanie that matched the ebony color of his hair so perfectly it was hard to tell where the material began and his curls ended.

Aaron tilted his head to the side. “Maybe you could give me your father’s number and I can ask him?”

“That would be difficult.” I hadn’t realized I’d spoken until the words had already escaped my mouth.

He leaned forward, and furrowed his brow. “Why?”

I don’t know why I told him the truth, considering only Edie and Mario knew exactly what happened. For the remainder of the meal it was as if I watched us interact from above, or in a movie. But there wasn’t an actress willing to play the most boring woman in D.C., and Dylan O’Brien refused to take the part of her love interest because he was too homely to impersonate Aaron. Thankfully I didn’t go into explicit detail during my out of body experience when I confessed.

“My father’s dead.”

 

From ‘The Bakery Assistant’ by Melissa Algood 

Everything That Counts, pictures, Uncategorized

What’s going on with ‘Everything That Counts’?

I’m proud to announce that my debut novel-a romanic thriller- ‘Blood On The Potomac will be released on May 21 through Inklings Publishing and will be available for purchase on Amazon.com.

But right now I’d like to talk about another novel-my debut Young Adult novel-‘Everything That Counts’.  In the novel you meet Blake Morgan the biggest loser in all of Annapolis, Maryland; maybe even the world.  We follow him throughout his senior year of high school as he makes the decision to finally live life rather than plan out every detail as he has with his future plans to become an astrophysicist.

I met with Kimberly Morris who offered her professional advice as a manuscript consultant.  Her feedback (the best of which I’ve included in this blog) was invaluable and thus I will re-work the novel to make sure the voice is consistent throughout before I hire an editor and eventually self-publish it.

At this moment in time I believe I can have it ready for you guys to read by late 2018, but until then here is a scene that really gets to the ‘core’ of Blake, through his conversation with classmate and crush Zoe Malone-the hottest girl in school.

 

 

That Saturday, Zoe and I were in my Dad’s car driving to the illustrious Annapolis Mall when she said. “I like you, Blake.”

My breathing stopped. No girl had said those exact words to me. I knew Sophie liked me but it wasn’t as if she liked me. She just enjoyed my company for some strange reason. But, Zoe was different. Zoe was free. Everything was an option for her, and that concept was highly intriguing to me. I let my eyes wander from the road toward her.

“I like you too, Zoe.”

She bit her lip briefly. “It’s just I got my heart broken by my last boyfriend which really sucked.”

“Sorry about that.” But I wasn’t really. I mean, since he dumped her she was available for me to date.

“Thanks. You know, when I told my Mom, she was like,” Zoe whined and puckered up her face as if she’d swallowed a lemon, “‘that’s what you get for being stupid enough to go out with an asshole.’” Then reverted to herself. “Which wasn’t helpful, like, at all. So, when I saw you I knew you’d be different, because you looked really smart.”

We’d been in the car a few miles and already the conversation had taken me to uncharted territories far beyond imagination. “Thanks?”

She leaned close enough that I could smell her perfume. It smelled like cotton candy. “I don’t mean for it to sound bad. It’s just that I don’t do well in school all the time, and feel so frazzled about it. But, you seem to know what you’re doing. It’s like you’re going somewhere, Blake. And that’s what makes me like you. You’re gonna be something when we grow up, and I want to be something too. I want to be remembered as something more than the blonde airhead that giggles all the time, you know?”

“I know exactly how you feel. I think that a lot of people feel like that, it’s just that not everyone says it.”

She giggled. “I can’t believe I make sense to someone as smart as you.”

“You’re smart, too. I mean we have English together, so you’re just as intelligent as me.”

“Maybe you’re just bad in English. I mean I bet you get that poem we were supposed to read. You know the one about the heart inside the heart, which totally grossed me out. I mean who carries around a heart, of like, someone they love?”

She was right. I didn’t understand language and the way it would evoke emotion when one might read or say a word. Much less why writing so incorrectly would ever be appropriate. Phrases held no power; it was only how they might be interpreted by others that gave them any meaning. And who’s to say that what someone wrote would ever be read? And who did e.e. cummings think he was to write so oddly thus making it impossible to understand his work and therefore get me a ‘B-’ on a test?

Although, my stomach turned into a tangle of knots the moment Zoe started this dialogue. I mean our plan was merely to grab something to eat, and watch a movie not divulge our deepest secrets. It was the same feeling I got the first time that I heard ‘Undone (The Sweater Song)’. When I opened my mouth next I put to rest all my preconceived beliefs about a well chosen sentence, the hierarchy of high school, and that the loser never got the girl, because I’d never felt more confident. “We’re not as different as you think, Zoe, about poetry especially. And that’s only one of the reasons you’re the most amazing girl I know.”

Her smile was wider than I’d seen it before and her dark eyes glittered like the night sky. “You really mean that don’t you?”

“I will never lie to you.”

“You know, if I was ready for another boyfriend, it would totally be you.”
Zoe saved me the unending embarrassment of responding like a geek by leaning over the gearshift, and kissing me. It was just long enough for me to get the taste of cotton candy on my lips before the slender fingers of her right hand turned the radio dial. She made a noise I thought might shatter the windows. “Oh I love Christina Aguilera!”

For a moment I contemplated the lengths a man would go to be in the company of a pretty girl, and the possibilities that her acquaintance might entail.

 

Her mouth on mine for the majority of the day seemed well worth listening to a pop star.

 

 

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