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End of the Innocence by John Goode

The following is an email I sent to John Goode after finishing his newest book, End of the Innocence.  For those who don’t know about the series, you really should.  This book is Book 2 in Goode’s Tales from Foster High series.

This is an unbelievably awesome book. I could simply stop there because that says it all. But since people sometimes need convincing, I’ll add a few details about why I say what I did.

While I’m not a fast reader, I finished this one in 24 hours simply because I could not put it down. My spouse even asked me at one point if I was mad at him. I assured him that I was not, that a book had absolutely, completely grabbed my focus. When I finished it I told him that he had to read it.

I read the three previous Tales from Foster High in their original novella form. When they were compiled into Book 1 of Tales from Foster High I read them all again in their new form. The book was great. No, it was better than great. It was very well crafted and few people alive today write as well as John Goode. The book was a great read.

And then Book 2 of Tales from Foster High: End of the Innocence came out. Simply from looking at the title I knew that some heavy things were coming our way. The book is indeed many things. It is entertaining, it is enlightening, it is thought provoking, it is a punch in a gut, it is the story of growth, it is a story of hate, it is a story of fighting back. And it is much, much more.

Kyle, one of the two main characters in the series, comes much more alive and three dimensional in this book. We got a good beginning sense of him in the first book, but in this one he is just simply very REAL. We come to understand a lot about why he does what he does and why he sees himself in such a poor light. There is much more depth to him in this book.

Brad was a more alive already in the first book, but he, too, is a richer, deeper character is this book. There are some new characters added, but I personally found most of them to be somewhat thin. The only new character that I thought had some substance was Sammy. I’m still trying to decide what to think of Jennifer, Brad’s former girlfriend and the role she plays in this story. In book 1 Brad comes out in a rather bold and public manner.  In the process he loses most of his friends, including his long-standing girl friend, Jennifer. She reappears in Book 2 and plays a big role.

Early in End of the Innocence Kyle is taken “under the tutelage” (?) (wing?) of an adult gay man who has had his own bad experience in small town Texas. He tries to convince Kyle that he and Brad are uniquely positioned to make a strong statement on behalf of all gay folks. Kyle disagrees but then proceeds, slowly and with some zigs and zags, to become a young gay equivalent of Rosa Parks.

Not everything that Kyle does and says are entirely believable, but I have never found any book where all of the characters are entirely plausible. But I really admired the Kyle we see in this book. It was a dramatic transformation. I had a problem with the previously shy, reserved, quiet guy who lived with his head down walking on the sidelines in the shadows, suddenly becoming bold and very public in this book.  I had a bit of difficulty believing that such a sudden change was possible.  But I’m considering that perhaps his relationship with Brad is richer and deeper than we are allowed to see (it is YA fiction, after all) and he draws sufficient strength from that to blossom into the man he becomes in this book.

The book has some powerful messages. And as I’ve said before and will continue to say, John Goode writes one hell of a book. His way with words is just almost sensual. He weaves not just a story, but threads that seem to wrap around your entire being, weaving you into the story so that you become part of it. Writing like that is rare, but when I find it I treasure it.

This book and its predecessor are phenomenal books. Everything he has written is great. I’m glad he’s one of us and I just wish he lived next door so I could just sit and have coffee with him. I would love to meet him someday simply hoping that a tiny bit of his skill and ability might rub off on me. I’m an OK writer, but John Goode is a great writer and an incredible storyteller.

One final note: the cover art for these two books is some of the best I’ve seen.  They are a snapshot of the story and tell a tale all by themselves. Paul Richmond, the artist, has real vision, great talent and wonderful skill.

If you haven’t already bought it, just do it – NOW. If you haven’t already read it, stop what you’re doing and read it – NOW. I’ve decided that I’m going to buy several copies in print to give to my local high school library and my local community library. Plus, the next time I go back to visit family in Midland, Texas (a setting much like Foster, Texas), I’m going to take copies with me to give there as well. This is quite a statement for me since I’m rather frugal (OK, cheap).

Thank you, John Goode! I’m so glad that you stopped at three … just read the book and the Author’s Note at the end and you’ll understand and agree.

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

Editing

There is nothing like spending a week going through an editor’s comments on a book manuscript to make you feel like you have no business being a writer.  Taking a step back, I have to say that a lot of what the editor pointed out was useful.  But the editor and I are having a major difference of opinion on how to present the dreaded POV – point of view.

I’m working on a book that has two main characters.  Most of the action takes place from the perspective of these two characters.  But they are not in every scene so there has to be at least one other voice in the narrative.  This editor believes in having one voice, one point of view, one perspective, and no more.  So I’ve spent a week trying to figure out how to rework a book-length manuscript to produce what she wants – if such a thing is even possible.

Enough whining.  Back to editing.

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Reviews

I really need to stop reading reader reviews.  A series of really positive reviews had sort of lulled me into a false sense of security.  And then, when my guard was down, someone wrote a negative review of Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover and gave it a one star rating.  It felt like someone had made a fist and just punched me in the gut.  I lived much of that book; it is my story.

Now I will be the first to admit that I am not a professionally trained writer and I make mistakes.  I’m sure there are things that the editors and I missed – that just happens.  There are probably ways I could have plotted things differently, but I chose to follow the story mostly as it happened and mostly in sequence.  I did shuffle some events around to make them fit in more smoothly. I welcome comments, even negative ones, if they come with some detail about what the reader disliked and why.  I’m delighted to find problems so that I can fix them in future writing efforts.

Maybe someday I’ll have worked up enough strength to go back and read what the reviewer wrote in his review that he published online, but it will not be today.

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Reviews

Some reviews can be so difficult to read, but I’ve been getting some wonderful comments on Amazon.com from readers on The Most Popular Guy in the School series.  The most recent from October 21st reads:

“A touching and captivating story, not just a love story but a life experience, this could be any one of us. It is nice to read about people who care, not just sex and lust. You must read all three books to appreciate the value of love, not only between the boys, but the people who support and protect them.”

Some of my other writing has received very mixed reviews so these feel absolutely wonderful and make me feel great.  Thank you all.

 

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Most Popular

Recently I purchased some great graphics from Shutterstock to depict the concept of popularity concept for my series The Most Popular Guy in the School.  Here is the first of those (others will follow over time):

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Reviews

I love it when people read my books.  I also hate it when people read my books.  You’re probably thinking, “Um, excuse me, but …”  For me, writing a book is something like opening a window or doorway into my innermost thoughts.  It’s like inviting strangers in to see how my soul.

With some time I got used to the idea of people reading my books.  Some people loved the books, some found them OK – that’s the way it works.  But when I read a negative review I want to know more.  I want to pick up the phone and call the person and ask them to explain to me in detail what they meant by this point or that point.  Not because I want to pick a fight, but I really, really, really want to know what it was that didn’t strike them as believable.

All of the reviews of Book One of The Most Popular Guy in the School series have been great.  I’ve only had a few reviews of Book Two.  Today I read one that gave it three out of five stars and had the following to say: “The story continues with Mark and Bill starting college. It all starts terrific for them but then trouble strikes.”  So far so good.

The reviewer continued:  “The trouble is in the first place too contrived, plus the author makes the characters behave out of character so he can increase the stress they’re under but it just stretches credibility a bit too far.”  I’d quite honestly like to know more about this so that I’d know what to do differently in another book.  I think I know what they’re talking about but I’d love to have a conversation to know if it was some particular element they didn’t like or the overall scenario I used.  That’s what I hate about reviews.  They give you a snippet of a thought, sort of a teaser without a chance of ever getting to know more.

They conclude with “What happened to the close knit family we learned about in the first book? They don’t take an interest in the kids anymore?”  This is a fair point.  I have to agree on this one. I didn’t know what to do with the parents after the kids left home so I opted to mostly leave them out of the story and focused instead exclusively on Mark and Bill moving cross country and striking off on their own, finding their own way in the world.  In some ways, Moira serves as a substitute mother/parent for Mark, so I guess I didn’t feel quite as much need to weave his New York family into the story.  But don’t worry – they’re back BIG TIME in book three.

This particular reviewer ended up by saying that he “still enjoyed reading the book …”  All I ask is that everyone remember that I am a brand new writer so I’m probably going to make a lot of mistakes along the way to learning how to tell a perfect story.  But it is a journey and I like learning so that should help.  If only writer’s didn’t have such fragile egos!

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A Star is Born is Released!

My latest book, A Star is Born, was released on Friday, September 14th.  This brings the trilogy about The Most Popular Guy in the School to a close.  But I’ll tell you a secret – I’ve written a little bit more about Mark and Bill and I feel even a few more tales waiting to be told. Yesterday when the UPS man brought my author copies of the book I was so pleased and proud when I opened the box.  Then today I found a serious error on the cover so they’re going to have to be reprinted.  I’m just glad I caught it in time before many copies had been sold.

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Bookmark for A Star is Born

 

The art folks at Harmony Ink Press are top notch.  I’ve been impressed with all of the covers and all of the bookmarks, Facebook art, and other stuff they’ve produced for this series.

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A Star is Born

We are on track for the third book of The Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy to be published on Friday, September 14th.  Entitled A Star is Born, this book takes us along with our two main characters as they discover some of the joys and pitfalls of being out in the real world.  With the freedoms come some temptations and risks that they had not anticipated.

 

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Wonderful Reader Review

A reader left the following review on Amazon.com after reading Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, book one of The Most Popular Guy in the School trilogy.  Charles A. Lane, I don’t know who you are, but thank you! You just made my day.

“I read this book straight through last night. It really breaks the formula. The sarcastic humor is funny. The drama is about real problems in all society. The drama is both hopeful and profoundly disturbing. People are not black and white, except for the cheerleader and school board chair. Even the jocks are capable of change. The sex is not page after page of over the top passion, which many authors feel will sell a mediocre book. In fact it is rather mild and full of love. I have become jaded about reviews and don’t write many anymore, but feel the need to write this one.”

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