Monday, November 30, 2009

Tiger Woods Puts Golf on Front Page over Holiday Weekend

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving that was filled with great food, football, the Macy's parade, and maybe even a little golf if the weather allowed! Amongst all of the festivities, there was one major golf story that was splashed across the newspapers and television stations. How could I go without mentioning it here as well?

As most readers already know, Tiger Woods was involved in a single-car accident early Friday morning. He had just pulled his Cadillac Escalade out of the driveway when he proceeded to hit first a fire hydrant and then a tree. His wife, Elin, told police that she used her husband's golf clubs to smash his back windows and get him out of the car. However, there is speculation that her involvement in the situation did not begin there. Authorities want to investigate whether the lacerations on Tiger's face resulted from the car accident or from a domestic situation that occurred before he left the house.

While Tiger Woods is refusing to speak to the Florida Highway Patrol, he did issue a statement on his website which said, "The situation is my fault, and it's obviously embarrassing to my family and me." The FHP is working to obtain records from the emergency room to determine if Tiger's admission of responsibility is accurate.

When I first read this story, I could not help but think what the regulars at Prairie Winds Golf Course, the setting for my three published books, would have to say about it. Captain Jer would probably have something demeaning to say about Tiger's wife and then share his own story of a drunken accident. Curt would remind the guys to cut Tiger some slack until all of the details were known. Overall, though, I don't think Tiger Woods would receive much sympathy from that crew.

What are your thoughts on the Tiger Woods story? Is his reputation tarnished forever? Or, can he get past this with a good PR campaign?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Everyone Needs a Mentor

You’re asked, “Who has made the biggest difference in your life?” Do you have an automatic response? Are you fortunate to have that one name that pops into your head? Has someone impacted you and made a noticeable difference in your life path?

For many people, their mother or father played this pivotal role. For others, perhaps it was a teacher, a coach, or a pastor. Celebrities and the examples that they set in their profession and personal life also influence us, for better or worse. How many young girls want to be just like Hannah Montana and how many grown men wish they were Peyton Manning?

In my second novel, Finish Line, readers are introduced to teenage boys Justin Ventimiglia and Keith Pucchio. They are enjoying an aimless summer and their lack of constructive activity leads them to vandalize a neighbor’s house.

Enter Curt Schroeder. He is the manager at Prairie Winds Golf Course and the man who is given the task of supervising Justin and Keith as they work to pay for the cost of their bad decisions. Through his own battle with cancer and his unbeatable work ethic, Curt becomes a role model for the boys. He teaches them about the importance of not giving up before the job is complete. In other words, always reach the Finish Line.

I imagine if I write a book one day that takes my readers twenty years ahead in the lives of Justin and Keith the two men will both admit that their summer with Curt influenced how they act to this day.

Each of my three published novels—Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey’s Course—has a social message to share with readers. I hope you enjoy them and maybe take away some food for thought as well.

The stories parallel life in America.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Golf and Writing -- The Three "Bs" They Share

Thinking of the "Four Ps" that were shared by both the game of golf and the act of writing a novel was a good mental exercise for me, so I've decided to expand the idea to other letters of the alphabet. Today, I want to share my brainstorming that focuses on the letter "B" and concepts that apply to my two favorite pastimes.

Bargain -- While I love being a writer, I admit that once in a while you do have to make deals with yourself in order to stay motivated. If you aren't in the mood to sit down at the computer on a particular day, tell yourself, "Finish editing this chapter and then you can drive to the course for a round of golf before the sun sets."

Branding -- I've mentioned before on this blog the need to develop a brand for yourself. What is unique about you or what you offer to the readers? I believe that I present a unique series of books by placing emotional stories of human relationships within the context of a golf course. The same need to stand out holds true on the golf course. All of my fellow golfers can admit they love to get the "how did he do that" look! Do you have a signature approach towards your shots?

Bounce Back -- Every writer is going to receive some harsh criticism from time to time. Sometimes the remarks are justified and can help to make your work better. Other times, they are harsh for no apparent reason. Either way, you need to take the comments in stride, use them when you can, and keep typing! There also are days on the golf course that you want back. Maybe you missed an easy put while playing your biggest golf nemesis. You've got to shake it off and come back tomorrow.

It's been fun to come up the commonalities between golf and writing and helped me to reflect on why I enjoy both so much. Can you think of other "Bs" that apply here? Share them with us!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

What Can We Learn from the Grumpy Old Man?

Justin Ventimiglia and Keith Puccio were two teenagers who were looking for ways to pass the time during a long, hot summer in Missouri. With questionable parental supervision and the typical draw towards trouble that most teenagers experience at some point, the boys made the unfortunate decision to vandalize the home of their cranky, elderly neighbor.

The "punishment" for their juvenile prank was to get a summer job to pay for the damages. The boys spent the remainder of their seasonal vacation working long hours at the local golf course.

Thus begins the storyline for my second book, Finish Line.

We all have joked about the "grumpy old man" who yells at the neighborhood kids to stay off his grass. But, maybe the guy gets a bad rap. I think are some things that young people everywhere can learn from their resident grouch (almost every street has one!). Here are a few life lessons that only such a character can offer:

1. Appearances do matter. -- Whether we like to admit it or not, the people we meet every day do make judgments based on what we look like. A beautifully maintained lawn, like a well-manicured person, does make a positive statement.

2. Spending quality time alone is important. -- Loners don't necessarily seek friendship. Their private time may allow them to hone a skill, perfect a hobby, or become well-read.

3. Make sure you are insured. -- Any grouch probably knows he is the target of attacks by the kids who live around him. Having a good home owner's policy is critical for someone who needs to repair broken windows or re-paint siding on a regular basis!

What are some other life lessons we can learn from the grumpy old man? It's time to turn his reputation around and make him a teacher instead of an outcast!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Four Shared "Ps" of Golf and Writing

My last post included several similarities between playing golf and writing a book, and asked all of you to think of ways in which one of your passions could translate into a publication.

I've thought about the connection between golf and writing some more, and developed a list of the "Ps" that anyone must incorporate into their participation in either activity. I know that I found all of these concepts to be true when writing my three published novels.

Practice -- If you want to lower your handicap and impress your buddies on Saturday morning out on the course, you need to practice your swing regularly. Take some time after work or during your lunch hour to hit some balls at the local range. Walk out to your backyard and work on your grip and stance. Practice also is required for writers. Aspiring authors are told to write something every day, just to keep that creation of expression fresh.

Perseverance -- It takes years of studying the game to reach a point at which you are happy with the way you move the golf ball across the greens. You need to keep asking for pointers, entering tournaments, and just getting out there. In the writing world, you first need the mental strength to work through an entire novel. Then, once you finish the book, you also need perseverance as you contact potential publishers and agents.

Patience -- Whether you are frustrated that your golf ball keeps hanging just a bit to the left or you are stuck on how the next scene of your novel should play out, you should sometimes stop for a deep breath and then come back to the problem. Anything worth doing is going to take time and effort.

Perfection -- Even when a devoted golfer has the best game of his life, he still will find a flaw in his performance. He always wants to do better. Writers are also their own worst critics. A published book is such a personal offering and you want it to be flawless. It is usually a good idea to walk away from the keyboard when you get frustrated and come back later with a fresh set of eyes.

There probably could be a similar list for nearly every letter of the alphabet (OK, maybe "X" would be difficult). Can you think of anything to add?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Writing a Book and Playing Golf Aren't So Different After All

One of the most common pieces of advice given to any new author is to "write about what you know." Creative work is going to be more genuine and credible when focused on a topic that is familiar. An author's mental energy is more likely to remain high if the story closely parallels a passion.

With this simple piece of advice planted in my mind, it was easy to develop the setting of the Prairie Winds Golf Course. My passion for golf sets the backdrop for a wide range of human emotions and challenges that play out within the pages of Lifetime Loser, Finish Line, and Tuey's Course. Whether or not you are fan of the game of golf, you will find a story or character to which you can relate.

When reflecting on my dual interests in golf and writing novels, I began to realize that the two activities intersect in more ways than one. Here are just a few of the similarities between writing a book and playing the game of golf:

  • Improvement happens when you practice every day. If you are a golfer, I am sure you get to the practice range as often as possible. When developing your writing skills, taking just a few minutes to journal in the morning will keep those ideas flowing.
  • Weather affects your ability to participate. A golfer is not going to hop in a cart and drive out to the greens in the middle of a thunderstorm. (Well, if you've read my books, you know that maybe Captain Jer would.) On the other hand, I know of some writers who create their best work sitting by a fireplace while rain hits the windows.
  • It's more fun to participate than to watch on TV. I love watching the Masters on the television every spring, but I sure would much rather be in Augusta playing. Same thing is true for writing ... I'm not sure that I would want to sit and watch someone write for two hours even though I love to take to the keyboard myself.
To my fellow writers out there, regardless of your genre -- what commonalities have you found between the writing process and the topics about which to write? Maybe you haven't thought about it before, but I am sure you can think of a few examples in no time!