Exposing Myself

Time to come clean. (Or shouldn’t it be “come cleanly”?) Time for me to allow anyone to read chapter one of the book I have worked so hard on for so long–for a majority of my life, in fact. And so the addition of another page to this blog giving Chapter 1 of “Ready or Not” in its entirety.

True, a peek to this link will give anyone access to the first chapter and a portion of the second. But this forum is interactive in its nature, unlike the static Amazon Kindle page. So have a look at what I have cared about for so long. It stands before you naked and unadorned; it is what it is. Has it wrinkles? Has it age? Does it possess my vitality from my 20’s when I so hopefully journeyed forth on my project?

You judge. And if you like what you read, you know what you must do to complete your investigation of my disemrobement.

New Page: Chapter 1 in its entirety

Chapter 1 of “Ready or Not” may be read on its own page.

Click to the right of “Home,” this blog.

Ready or Not” is copyright 2012 by Todd L. Ehlers. The novel’s cover illustration is copyright 2011 by Liza E. Paizis.

5-Star Review

Established fantasy “Steampunk Snark” writer Wendy Callahan has written a five-star review of my novel “Ready or Not” on its Amazon page. Many thanks, Wendy.

Dead Wrong, by Wendy Callahan

Dead Wrong, by Wendy L. Callahan

Titled: “Not everything is as it appears…

Poor editing* tends to be a big complaint when it comes to self-published or “indie” books, so I am pleased to say first and foremost that is not a huge problem here. There are a few issues and some redundant sentences, but the story mostly flows along without too many errors. The formatting is also well done – no problems with strange characters or fancy text.

As for the story itself, it starts off with a terrible incident that draws you right in. It makes you wonder why this happened and how the main character, Ann, will deal with it. She is obviously an immature pre-teen who has just experienced the most traumatic event of her young life. It is the kind of thing you don’t expect to happen in small town America, yet it has happened to her.

From Chapter 1, an intriguing tone is set for the story – one of private misery and small-town secrets. You can tell Ann wishes desperately for a very different life. Her mother, Tam, is preoccupied with her own local self-importance and rising “above” the townsfolk, who she looks down on as nobodies. The welfare of her children is the least of her self-centered concerns.I was really engrossed by Ann’s story. From the start, I hated her family, and that feeling of angry futility only got worse as I read.

However, Ann is only one of many characters in this book. There is also Allen May who I wanted to like… and who disappointed me even more than Ann’s family. But Ann’s own personal tragedy is the common thread that ties the other characters’ tales together.

“Ready or Not” is almost like a collection of inter-related vignettes that painfully collide. There is no idyllic family life or childhood here; just desperation that ultimately leads the two main characters to spectacularly self-destruct.

If this is an accurate portrayal of middle America small-town life (I grew up in a large university town myself), all I can think of is a line from Dar Williams’ song, “Iowa”, where she sings, “And we walk in the world of safe people, and at night we walk into our houses and burn.”

All in all, this is a heart-wrenching read and a reminder that not everything is as it appears on the outside.

*She went on to explain to me in a separate post more about editing.

Self-editing is hard and it’s always great to have a critical beta-reader to go through and point out any problems with grammar, sentence structure, continuity, etc. I rely on at least 3 beta-readers, and I have 2 writers who use me to beta.

But your editing is really good! So many indie books out there are very, very sloppy these days. Your book makes me wonder why you didn’t seek out an agent or publisher, because it’s obviously that good.


Courtesy Wikepedia

When I was writing (and rewriting) my book, I often found myself at Holy Mass receiving inspiration about how to handle a particular plot issue. This happened so often, in fact, that I felt that the project was sanctioned somehow. Further, single lines–or touches upon existing lines–would occur to me. Do other writers feel this? I am certain Christian-based writers would attest to a similar experience. How about others? When inspiration comes, it is endemic to creativity, and the creative potential comes from our maker.

Far too many times this occurred for me to count; I can only recollect one particular for certain, though, worthy of recounting that won’t also be a spoiler.

A loss of virginity occurs during “Ready or Not.” Yet this was not my original intent. I had every hope I could get a protagonist through the experience having withheld his integrity. But it wasn’t to be. It wouldn’t have been the Truth as a youth would have weighed it, both given his character and the themes of the novel. Considering the location I was in (the Church), I took this realization as inspired.

So I plotted it out as I had received it. I took care not to be titillating, for erotica is not what I sought. Realism almost precludes that genre.

Have I wrought a kind of Christian Realism? Christian Determinism? One day I will explore that possibility further. The concepts seem to clash, and yet I feel that such is the case.

New Mothers: Is this how you Feel?

Having birthed a book, I love it so. It rests on Amazon’s e-shelves, fully formed, as prenatally prepared as I could muster as a man. I assume it is healthy, but I worry. And shall I always?

Already consigned to public review, my babe has been pulled from me–for my rest–to be viewed in the maternity ward. I want passers-by to notice my child, my child, and not any other. But the baby’s a baby to anyone else. Do they know its potential, its heroic destiny knit from my womb?

Consign it to eternity and let man and God be its judge. Yet I will always love it for being with me for so long, swimming, enlarging, kicking, and birthing.

Were you worth the pain, sweet book? Yes; I love you no matter what this fallen world may do with you.

(Look at the little darling: isn't it cute?)

Born 10/04/2012 to Todd Ehlers

Much appreciated post: “How Truth Works (and How it Fails) in Fiction,” in three parts

From the blog the living notebook

How Truth Works (and How it Fails) in Fiction, Part I. An excellent treatise on the traits of realism and its uncomfortable symbiosis to creative writing.

Fiction writers will recognize the tension between the autobiographical (disguised as fiction) and the imaginative creativity to entertain a reader.


ImageReady or Not: cover detail by Liza Paizis

In 1981 I visited home having recently moved out for the first (and final) time. Two siblings remained, one my youngest sister. I was 20, and she 15.

My sister was upset about something that had happened to a grade school girl in the neighborhood. As I recall, she indirectly knew this girl from having known older siblings in the family closer to her own age.

Her eyes were angry and upset at the same time. She said the girl in question, no older than 13, had tried to kill herself. She didn’t succeed, but what horrified my sister most was why she had attempted her life. The girl had been raped some weeks or months earlier (I think the latter) but, out of shame and some guilt, had sequestered the fact. Her mood had become severely altered in the meantime, however; her parents and siblings knew something was wrong. The girl had changed. Family tensions had reached some sort of crescendo, so one or both of the parents demanded answers.

She told the truth. The girl had been walking home from the grade school following some after school function, that time past, and had been raped by someone lurking in bushes, shrubbery, or a copse of trees–I forget the details. I know the route well, having walked it myself for over 8 years, and I know the many shadier expanses a predator could have lurked inside. When she had dumped out her awful secret, the parents did not believe her. They sought some other explanation and wouldn’t hear any more of the story–the truth. This girl had then tried to kill herself. How I know not.

I had been as furious and sick-hearted as my sister was. Pity for this girl and fury at this wicked world welled up in my heart and has always remained for any such victims, especially the young. I told myself on that spot (I remember where I sat in my parents’ living room and the angle I viewed my sister’s face as she related this tragedy) that this will be fixed in a story. Or, at the least, addressed.

I wasn’t as upset by any lurid specifics of how the assault happened, for this scourge has been with us as long as we’ve been fallen; I wanted to fathom how a home life and a pair of parents couldn’t believe their daughter’s awful trauma: her secret, oozing sore of memories.