Reviews, Views and Adventures in Content Creation

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Alex Tasks: What's Next with "Own the Scrawny"

Now that I've finished writing Own the Scrawny, I'm focusing on a long list of what I'm calling "Alex Tasks," (after our main character) a long to-do list that I need to complete before we actually publish the book. I just finished reading the book aloud as a final review, which forced me to concentrate more closely on the manuscript than I could otherwise. For me, at least, it's otherwise easy to skim over a missing or misplaced word. It was also an excruciating experience, and tends to heighten a whole host of writing-related anxieties...

Here's just a hint of the anxieties I'm now facing:

  1. I need to finalize Own the Scrawny for publication. The paperback and the ebook require different format preparation before the hand-off.
  2. I still need to finish writing the acknowledgments for Scrawny.
  3. I need to compile and order changes to My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain, including a new cover to match the boy on the Scrawny cover, about a dozen fixes to actual book content, and the addition of the "Alexander Adventure" banner and icon.
  4. I need to finalize the Food Chain audiobook, and send it for publication (it will be available on iTunes, Audible and Amazon for digital download.
  5. I need to record the Scrawny audiobook, which I'm hoping to publish simultaneously with the paperback and ebook.
  6. I need to set-up ISBN numbers for the  Scrawny paperback and ebook, and then begin to establish an online footprint—with Goodreads, for example.
There's much more to think about, not the least of which is developing a strategy for promoting the book, and putting that plan into motion.  

It's a bit nerve-wracking, especially at this particular moment when I don't know if people will even like the darn thing! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

"Who Took Johnny" Documentary Review/Commentary

A change of pace today...

Recently, I had the opportunity to see the documentary, "Who Took Johnny," the first feature-length film to look at the unsolved mystery of Johnny Gosch, the twelve year-old school boy that ventured out early one morning in 1982 for his regular paper route — and never returned.

If you were around then, you'll remember the story. Then, as now, there was no evidence pointed to what had happened. There were no witnesses. He was simply gone.

For the first several days, the local police in Des Moines, Iowa refused to classify the disappearance as an abduction, then a common practice in law enforcement. Johnny's case wasn't initially treated with the urgency that we would expect today.  Ironically, his case would help to change that assumption, and recognition
that action is critical during the initial hours and days of a disappearance.

Months and years- and then even decades dragged on without an answer. Johnny's mother, Noreen, became an activist in child exploitation, and was one of those responsible for the creation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which fights against child abduction through awareness and prevention. Johnny's was the first face to appear in a wide-ranging campaign to place the images of missing kids on milk cartons.

Noreen also has claimed that a fearful Johnny Gosch visited her once as an adult, telling a story of being abducted and sold into a network of the the rich and powerful, forced into sex slavery for years. A few years ago, someone sent her 80's era photographs of bound boys, one of which she identified as Johnny. There have also been independent witnesses who claim to have been imprisoned in the same network.

Noreen's claims don't constitute hard evidence, however. Some have suggested that she has repeatedly been the victim of those who would exploit the fears of a desperate mother. While she claims the photographs are of her older son, her ex-husband denies the resemblance. 

As a documentary, "Who Took Johnny" is a frustrating journey. There is, of course, no conclusion. The case is still unsolved. A year later, another boy was taken under similar circumstances. His case, too, remains unsolved. There are no working theories.  The case of Johnny Gosch, despite it's notoriety, remains cold.

There can be no glimmer of hope. All prospects related to his fate are bleak—from murder shortly after his abduction to exploitation in a nefarious network, or even his survival as a deeply damaged adult. He would be over forty today.

Long term imprisonment or even brainwashing doesn't seem as outlandish as it may have when Johnny disappeared. We've seen women held in cage-like enclosures for a decade. Shawn Hornbeck was freed four years after being abducted and ultimately brainwashed into submission.

Anything is possible.

Perhaps what haunts me the most about Johnny's case—and the many others that still remain unsolved—is that, inevitably, the world moved on as they were held, tortured and exploited. It moves on today as unknown numbers of children and adults in this country are held against their will by both disturbed individuals and underground networks.

There are extensive efforts today to fight child exploitation. Law enforcement around the world has tracked down and arrested entire networks of the same description that Noreen has described. When Johnny disappeared, such investigations were rare or non-existent. Today, millions are aware of the concept of human trafficking.

Yet the central question, "Who Took Johnny?" remains unanswered. Whether his remains lay somewhere unclaimed since 1982, or he is alive today, mired in the wreckage of a world he didn't create, the documentary serves as a reminder that these highly publicized stories aren't simply sensational headlines and dated school photos.  Johnny was a living, breathing human being.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alexander's Adventures Continue!

It's been almost two months since I posted a blog - which is somewhat surprising to me, since I have a wide range of topics I've been wanting to share with you. "Own the Scrawny" is moving closer to completion, of course, but I also have a range of overdue news and views I'll bring to you over the next few days. It's been both a busy and harrowing time (if you work freelance, as I do, you know what I mean - more on that, too).
Today, I'll bring you up to date on both "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" and "Own the Scrawny."

"Own the Scrawny," if everything goes well, should be out on or about January 1st. 

I'm recording audiobooks for both "My Life at the Bottom of the Food Chain" and "Own the Scrawny," narrated by the author. I've just finished recording "Food Chain," and I have some independent ears giving it a first listen before I send it off for distribution.  The recording experience was both great fun and infuriating. It also pointed out to me how the story and the characters have evolved in "Own the Scrawny."  As soon as I have the final manuscript for that book, I'll start recording. I'm hoping release of the audiobook can be simultaneous with the paperback and e-book. 

I'm in the process of switching over the artwork on the original book so that it matches the second book. The first book featured a boy that I essentially found out of an online catalog. The boy that appears in "Own the Scrawny" (known on YouTube as DrewDudeTV) and shortly on the first book, is someone who participated in a photo session specifically for my "Alexander Adventures." The photos, by the way, were taken by DrewDudeTV's brother, known on YouTube as Fur. If you're on YouTube, show your appreciation for their fine work by subscribing to their channels!

To tie the books together, editions going forward will include an icon of Alexander, along with An Alexander Adventure. I decided not to simply indicate "Parts," since I think each book can stand alone (though "Own the Scrawny" does immediately follow "Food Chain").

In a future blog, I'll share a bit of how I'm hoping to market the new book. Alexander's reaction to online trolls is a key element of this story - a topic which is particularly timely. 

I'll have more in the coming days–thanks for your continued support!