Saint Jim – Published: January 7, 2017

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What is Saint Jim About?

( Book Jacket Text )

Jim is a homeless addict. His drug of choice is healing people. But a gift bestowed can have a mind of its own. For some, he may only see colors, but when the disease manifests itself as an entity, then he’s compelled to action.

Each time his compulsion to heal overtakes him, it drives him further into a spotlight he wants to avoid. The Reverend Baxter, by mistake, believes he’s healed a dying boy at the shelter, and it pulls Jim in deeper.

Jim’s brilliant idea to be the reverend’s assistant, will give him access to all the desperate people seeking miracles. Fame and power may consume everything.

Writing Saint Jim

In the Summer of 2009, I began my writing journey. I had several ideas in my head, but the one that jumped out and grabbed me was about a homeless man with an addiction to heal people. I started Saint Jim with a first chapter that read more like a short story. Next, I strung the following chapters along as continuation of the previous ones. The story and the characters began to drive themselves. This is the kind of magic you hear about and great to experience. I kept the whole project secret until the Fall because I didn’t want to tell anybody until I knew I could actually finish it.

I completed the novel. almost a year later in my spare time,  My writing critique group and beta readers gave me feedback. What I found was the magic was just beans. Magic beans, but beans none the less. The story worked, but it was full of passive voice, clichés, and disconnected plot points. Now, I had to plant those beans and carefully nurture them to germinate, take root, and emerge from the dirt. Another year passed of edits, beta readers, more edits, some more edits, and endless polishing.

Publishing Saint Jim

With a complete manuscript, I moved to getting it published. I sent query letters to literary agents to see if I could entice just one to ask for a partial or full copy of the manuscript.  Nothing really came from it. The novel got set to the side, and I started my second.  Agents say they want authors who have multiple novels in their pocket, so I finished my second novel and began my third.  All the while, I continued with the traditional publishing route through queries and agents in what seemed to be an endless circle.

I toyed with the idea of self publishing a couple of years ago. It stalled because I enjoyed writing too much. Then I realized, what’s the use of writing something if nobody can ever read it. My fellow writers were self publishing, so I created a cover, got a copy-edit of the manuscript, and read this book again and again until it made me sick. I tried my best to scrutinize the details to deliver a quality product in both paperback and Kindle editions for Amazon.

Marketing Saint Jim

The paperback minimum price I could sell it was $8.72 so I rounded it up to $8.99. The minimum price for the Kindle Edition to be part of the KDP marketing with Amazon was $2.99, so I set it to that price. If you purchase the book, then the Kindle version is free.

The journey was long and full of frustrating turns, but I finally have completed this leg of the race. It’s all been a learning process. I’m still not finished as I have to figure out the marketing portion of this equation. More work to do. This post is the first step.

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Saint Jim – A Droste Effect Press Original

The Homeless Are Among Us

What I’m Writing …

I am getting ready to self publish my first novel, SAINT JIM, within the next month. I believe it’s good enough, but finding an agent to represent it is difficult for an unknown author. Currently it’s with an editor going through a Copy Edit run to make sure all the typos are culled from it.  The novel is about a homeless addict.  His drug of choice is healing people.  He is bestowed the gift of healing and sees auras on those that need his gift, but when an entity appears in, on, or around people in need, it compels him to action.  He hears a voice in his head saying, “Help Them.”

rethinkhomelessness

So A Few Weeks Ago …

I had stopped at a local store to pick up something to eat on the way to work.  I noticed a couple of guys talking.  Upon leaving, one of the two, a high school kid, was passing me while telling the other that he had no cash but would pick up some food.  I glanced more closely at the guy.  He was wearing ratty coveralls.  We made eye contact.  Damn.

“Excuse me,  I need a ride … ” he said softly. I pretended not to hear him and got into my car.  He ran up the passenger window and waved and I shrugged my shoulders and pulled out and left.  I almost got out of the parking lot and I felt this pull on me.  It was almost like in my novel.  Don’t  know if it was my conscience or God or guilt that intervened, but I felt a force saying, “Help him.”

I pulled back into the lot and drove back to the store where he stood getting the food from the kid.  I pulled into the parking space and waved the guy to the passenger side.  He said he needed to get to a cross-street near the Tollway, because that’s where his stuff was. I thought about for a second and my gut instincts said he was harmless.  I told him to get in.

On the drive there he told me his name was Brett.  He had come back down to this area to get his coveralls because the weather was changing and he didn’t want to get caught in the cold,   I asked him if downtown had some shelters he could stay in.  Brett said that he rather be homeless in North Dallas. The homeless in downtown were hardcore and some were into drugs, and he did not need that temptation.

Brett mentioned that others had told him he was too young to be homeless.  I figured him for about twenty-four close-cropped hair and clean-shaven.  Unknown to him, he pointed to my neighborhood as we passed it, and said he used to live there.  He rattled off the names of my children’s elementary, middle, and high schools.  He continued saying that he had no family.  His grandparents had died and his parents had written him off.  His brother had got out of jail and he hoped he could team up together to get off the streets, but his brother was caught up in drugs now, too.

Being on the street was tougher than he thought.  He mentioned that he had to be careful to eat properly and drink plenty of water,  The ride was greatly appreciated and told me it made his day, because he said it would have ordinarily taken all day to walk it. I gave Brett whatever cash I had, and he left my car with a smile on his face.

We are all sinners and saints.  It depends on which voice we want to listen.  I have guilt about my initial reaction.  I was a jerk.  We can remain afraid and do nothing, or we can extend our humanity to others.  If a child is crying alone on the street, most of us would stop to help them. Homeless people cry out, but not in the same obvious way as children. They have emotions mixed with pride, shame, and helplessness that debilitate them. Sometimes a kind word, a sympathetic ear, and a few dollars are all that is required to make their day.

Don’t forget that they are out there.  They are not relegated to just downtown/urban areas. They are in the suburbs and may have once been your neighbors.  We are entering the season of giving.  We can all work to be more like saints and try not to ignore them.

I searched on “homeless in suburbs” and got this as the second hit in the list:
Hidden Homeless Grow in Number in North Texas Suburbs – Dallas Morning News

Is Tolerance Enough?

 

Tolerance For All

Tolerance For All

I read a story about a family reunion at a California campground being terrorized by a man threatening them with what appeared to be a shotgun and yelling racial slurs. The community there  established a GoFundMe page for the family and staged a protest to make sure that the world outside their community knew that this one jerk didn’t represent them. USAToday Article

One protester had a sign saying, “Tolerance For All” and said things like, “If you can’t tolerate people having a good time …  go home.”  The sentiment was pure, but being a wordsmith of a sort, I can’t help believing that we are using the wrong word, here.  “Word Choice” ( WC ) as my critique group would write on the page.

This is only one example of what is out there and I’ve seen it applied several times to people of other religions, race, or sexual orientation.  And it continues to bother me.

If I told a complete stranger that I tolerate them, do you think they would feel all warm and cozy with me in their presence?

If I told a Muslim friend that I tolerate his/her religion, would they be comfortable discussing their faith with me?

Declaring to a co-worker of a different race that I tolerate them, will that give them a sense of inclusion to my work family?

When someone comes out and reveals that they are gay, and I tell them that I tolerate that, will they trust me?

The answer is: no, No, NO and Hell No.  Tolerance is not enough and it is not the right word.  I believe it should be, Acceptance.

Acceptance for All

What’s wrong with saying that you accept someone’s faith, race, or orientation.  I am not saying that you claim to understand them.  I’m just saying that we accept, consider, and include their right to express their ideas and thoughts into our everyday lives.  Acceptance does not give anyone the right to infringe upon your right to pursue your own happiness.  It just means that if someone else is different from you and not hurting you, then accept them into your heart.

To tolerate someone I believe falls short of the mark. The world will be a better place if we accept more than we tolerate.

Chicago ’71 – Short Story

After “Chicago ’71” was published upon winning the 2014 Grand Prize at the Texas Writers Journal, the rights reverted back to me.  I just have to provide a first publication credit to TWJ.  So here is the link and credit to the piece for those who are interested:

CHICAGO ’71 – Duke Droste

NOTE: I’ve been asked what is history and what is family lore.  The story is a collection of historical facts about how families survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  Parts that are mixed in from family stories passed down to me:
– Herman was my Great Great Grandfather.
– A canary was found and kept in a jar.
– The furniture was buried in the dunes.
– The oriental rug was a fixture of my Grandmother’s house for a long as I can remember.

Chicago ’71 Wins Grand Prize for Texas Writers Journal

I was just notified today by the Texas Writers Journal that my short story, “Chicago ’71” was selected as the Grand Prize Winner for 2014.  The piece was selected for the quarterly publication in July which made it a finalist for the 2014 Annual Competition.

TWJ is only for Texas writers, and I’m really honored that my short story was selected by them as their annual winner.  It helps to receive validation that one’s writing has merit.

Chicago ’71 is a historical fiction based on family stories passed to me from my mom’s side of the family who survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  I mixed it with research I did on the fire, how it spread through the city, and what some people did to survive.

The prize is $500, Award Certificate, a year’s subscription, and a copy of the 2014 Annual publication.  I’m really excited. This is the first time I have received actual money for my writing.

Check out my Bio at TWJ

Texas Writers Journal's Grand Prize Winner for 2014

Five Whys versus Five Y’s

Five Whys versus Five Y's

The concept of Five Whys is for quality analysis and finding the root cause of a problem. Let’s take a software defect. You find the first “Why” for the bug.  Maybe it’s a missing test case. The second “Why” derives off the first so you ask why was the test case missed?  The answer might be that the test case was missing because you didn’t understand that your software feature interacted with another feature.  Once you go five levels deep on your “Why” analysis, you should find the true root cause of the issue.  I’m also a software development manager and quality of the product is paramount. Understanding how the bugs get there in the first place lets you catch them earlier in the process.  Once they get into the field they are exponentially more expensive.

It got me thinking that you could apply these same principles to your personal life.  For example let’s just say you are unfulfilled with your job.  You might go through this process and realize at the fifth “Why” that it was your choice of major to study or that you wish you had gone to different university.  You could use this analysis and figure out the root cause of things you don’t like about yourself.  Now for most people this may be a depressing exercise because it dwells solely on the past.

I had a thought about the reverse effect.  What if you looked forward but instead of using “Whys”, we use the Five “Y’s”. To me a “Y” is a fork in the road; a place to make a decision.  What if I looked at each decision each day and wondered what might be the outcome of my choice.  Let’s take my wife. ( Yes, take her please – Henny Youngman ) No, seriously, let’s say she asked me to help her with something.  First “Y”. I have the choice to say yes or no. Maybe I’m tired and I say no. The Second “Y” might bring me to an argument with her.  She may be hurt that I wasn’t willing to help, but now she’s hurt by something I said, because I chose (Third “Y”) to say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment.  ( Hey, I’m a guy.  It goes with the territory ).  Now, she asks me to sleep on the couch.  I could choose to apologize or sleep on the couch. Fourth “Y”.  My pride forces me to choose the couch which is not very comfortable.  Let’s say I get a crick in my neck from an uncomfortable night’s sleep and I don’t notice the step down in the den and fall, breaking my leg. Fifth “Y”.

The moral for me is to make better decisions in life and hopefully it will lead to a more fulfillment and enjoyment during my journey   A corollary lesson: Don’t piss off your wife or you’ll get your leg broke.

 

Chicago ’71 – The Texas Writers Journal

Just wanted to announce that I got a new publishing credit.  My historical fiction short story of the Great Chicago Fire, “Chicago ’71” was chosen for the quarterly publication in the Texas Writers Journal for July and is eligible as a finalist for the overall winner of 2014.

The story is based on family lore handed down through my mother’s side about the Chicago Fire of 1871.  I mixed it with research I did on the fire, how it spread through the city, and what some people did to survive.

I’m excited about getting a new publishing credit to add to my bio for my agent queries about my YA paranormal/fantasy novel, “Dream Across This Mortal Coil”. Every little bit helps.  The following link is an Author’s Bio on the TWJ website with links to other published works. Duke Droste Bio

Chicago '71 - Texas Writers Journal