Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Yeah, We Did Selfies

I was looking through a box of old pictures and ran across an old selfie I took circa 1993. You can't tell from the picture, but I was actually riding my motorcycle along a highway somewhere in Ohio. Ohio is one of the few states which still doesn't have a helmet law.

Distracted driving? Yes. Do I recommend anyone else doing it? No, of course not. It was incredibly stupid, especially given the fact that I was using an old film camera propped up between the handlebars, but I was young back then, and bulletproof. Or so I thought.

You see, since I was old enough to remember, I knew I was going to write novels someday. I believed it so much that I actually thought nothing could kill me until I had written at least two. Don't laugh, I believed it. Maybe it was true, because I did a lot of really stupid stuff.

I'm more careful now. I have to be because I've written three novels. Maybe you've read them.

* * *

Carl Purdon writes novels he describes as Homegrown Fiction. Visit his website and see what you're missing.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life is Like a NASCAR Race

I've blogged before about realizing your potential and reaching beyond it. No doubt you've heard always give 110 percent, though, like me, you may wonder if it's possible to give more than 100
Even Frogs Read
percent. But let's not get bogged down in semantics.

This past Sunday I sat recliner-bound, watching the NASCAR race as I do most Sundays. One of my favorite parts of a race is the after-race driver interviews. Drivers at that point haven't had time to decelerate from the heart-pounding pace they've been on for the past three or four hours, so they tend to be candid. In short, they speak their minds and we, the fans, get a glimpse of who they are mad at and why. Who among us doesn't enjoy seeing our sports heroes mix it up a bit?

Sometimes you'll hear a driver say he finished better than he should have. He may have finished tenth yet he is all smiles because his car was a top fifteen car at best. Next week he may finish seventh and be upset because his car was better than his finish.

Not every driver can be Jimmie Johnson (google that if you don't know who he is and what he has accomplished in a race car). Racing is a team sport. Just like a quarterback can't win a football game on his own, a driver can't win a race without a solid team effort and almost-perfect equipment. Even the smallest mistake can mean the difference in winning and losing (in NASCAR, losing begins with the driver who crosses the finish line second).

I don't recall which driver said it this past Sunday. It doesn't matter. Each week it's someone different. I took a twelfth place car and put it in the top ten. What did he mean by that, and why is that a life lesson?

Sometimes a driver can take a twelfth place car and win a race, but those times are few and far between, and usually involves rain. Every driver on the track wants to win. Hopes to win. The winner is the only one who gets to take the victory lap and smoke their tires and hug the Sprint Cup girls in the winner's circle, but the plain and simple truth of it is that only a handful of drivers have equipment capable of winning week in and week out. So what do all those other drivers do? Why are they out there trying so hard?

When a driver finishes a race ahead of his or her equipment, he or she has reason to be proud. It means they took what was given them and outperformed. They didn't look at Jimmie Johnson and throw up their hands because they knew they probably couldn't beat him. Instead, they buckled down and gave 110 percent.

Face it, not many of us have the business savvy of Bill Gates, or Warren Buffett. Few have the mind of Stephen Hawking. Not every writer can be John Grisham, or James Patterson.

So why try?

In life, as in a NASCAR race, each and every one of us should take a realistic inventory of our talents and abilities, then work tirelessly to finish ahead of what we think possible. Do that, and you are almost certain to be successful. You may even find that pushing your limits reveals potential you never dreamed you had. Ability is like a muscle. It needs exercise. Use it or lose it.

Last but not least, don't fall victim to the nonsense some people throw out about successful people being successful because they were lucky, or because someone gave them something. Don't buy into the you didn't build that rhetoric flung about by those who profit from class warfare. Behind every successful person is a lot of hard work, long hours, and tireless effort to move beyond what most would consider good enough.

* * *

I write novels about people dealing with their limitations, real and learned. I hope, in the process, to also entertain. To learn more about my novels, and for links to purchase (or sample) them, please visit my website at

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A Humble Legend

I'm not much of a concert-goer. In my youth I attended several Hank Jr. concerts, along with a sprinkling of others, but that was a couple decades ago.

My iPhone has a mix of songs and artists. On it you will find artists such as Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, 'Til Tuesday, The Bangles, Sinead O'Conner, Hank Jr., Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Church, Jason Aldean, Rolling Stones, Pearl Jam, Prince, Miranda Lambert, Eagles, Johnny Cash, Alan Jackson, Nirvana, Carrie Underwood, Pistol Annies, .... you're beginning to get the idea?

Add to that list, Merle Haggard. When I was a kid, we listened to Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride on 8-track in the Ford LTD all the time. I still love his music today.

in concert at Mississippi State University
Merle Haggard and The Strangers
A few months ago I was watching one of the music awards shows and saw Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, and a couple other legends do a song together. Honestly, it wasn't their best (but then most of the live songs fail to live up to their studio versions). I remember thinking what a shame it was that a lot of younger people probably heard them singing and wondered why they were up there. They probably had no idea how different music would be now without those men.

I looked at my wife and told her it would be nice to see Merle Haggard in concert while he's still with us. I never imagined I would get the chance. Then, a month or so later I saw a tweet by Merle's son, Ben, who plays lead guitar for The Strangers (Merle's band), announcing Merle's new schedule. I said to myself as I clicked the link to his website, that if he came within driving distance we were going. Imagine my surprise when I saw that the first date on the tour was at Mississippi State University in Starkville, Mississippi. That's about an hour and thirty minutes from our house.

I bought tickets the day they went on sale.

Going to the concert, I really didn't expect much. Merle Haggard is, I believe, 78 years old. I didn't care if his voice sounded the same. I just wanted to see him live.

My wife admitted on the way to Starkville that she really didn't know any Merle Haggard songs. She went because I wanted to go.

The picture above shows Merle and his band onstage. I won't lie to you and say he sounded like he did forty years ago, but he did sound good. He did a good set. He was funny. He was polite. Polished, from decades of practicing his craft. One thing that surprised me was the number of young people I saw there (though it was on a college campus). What surprised me more was that I saw the young men sitting in our vicinity snapping pictures, tapping their feet, and giving every indication that they enjoyed the show.

I loved every minute of the concert. Every second. Every time Merle began a new song I hoped it wouldn't be the last, but of course it couldn't last forever.

As the lights came up and he ended the show, the audience stood and thanked him with vigorous applause. That's when Merle Haggard showed how truly great he is. With a very soft and humble tone he said, "Thank ya'll for standing. That was nice."

I'm not one who gets star struck. I've never wanted to go backstage and meet an entertainer, but I left the auditorium that night knowing I had just stood in the presence of greatness. I would have given almost anything just to shake his hand, but that was not to be, so I walked back to the car with my wife, thankful for the experience. My wife left a fan. She bought one of his CDs and kept saying how much she enjoyed the show.

Merle Haggard is a legend, yet he spoke to his audience like it was he who was thankful to be with us.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Going Home Again

They say you can't go home again, and maybe you can't, but yesterday I went back to my old high school.

Father and son
A few weeks ago I was invited to speak to some eleventh graders at South Pontotoc High. So much has changed since I graduated in 1982. So much remained just as I remembered it.

The cafeteria was bigger. The nice ladies in the serving line asked my wife and I what we wanted, which was definitely a change from the way it was back then. Back in the day, we ate what they put on our tray or we didn't eat.

My wife and I, along with our home-schooled sixth-grader, Logan, arrived at 7:30 am. Our host, Mr. Martin Rodgers, greeted us at the office and escorted us to his classroom. The hallway looked like a smaller-scaled version of 1982, though I know it hadn't shrunk. It felt a bit nostalgic to be back in one of the classrooms where I'm sure I had a class at some point.
talking about writing

In all, I spoke to three English Lit classes and a psychology class. During the first class I was so nervous I'm not really sure what all I talked about. By the time the last class rolled around I was exhausted. I honestly don't see how teachers do it day in and day out.

Exhaustion and nerves aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and wouldn't trade it for anything. The students were well-behaved and polite. A few asked questions. A few said they wanted to read my books. A couple came by to shake my hand afterwards and thank me for coming. One hung back to tell me I made him want to read.

If I made one connection, said something to reach one person, then the day was not wasted.

My wife Sharon
A few days ago one of my old high school friends asked me if I ever thought I'd be going back to South Pontotoc as a speaker. No, I didn't, but I'm glad I did.

For more about me or my books, or to invite me to speak at your event, visit my website.

Friday, August 15, 2014

5 Elements of a Good Review

Norton Road
Most of us probably won't take the time to leave a review for that book we just read. It's the same as with any other product or service -- we pick up the pen (or pull out the keyboard) when we feel cheated, or think a product or service was so bad we have to vent. In the old days, it usually meant writing a letter to the company, or calling customer service and giving them an earful.

How many times have you written a letter or made a phone call to tell someone how much you liked their product? It's easier now, because there are lots of places to write reviews online. Amazon will send you an email and ask you to review products you've purchased. They make it easy. Is it any wonder their customer service is so outstanding?

But is it important? You bet your boots it is. Reviews, both good and bad, let a company (or in my case, author) know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong. Businesses are very keen these days to monitor social media (especially Twitter) for mentions of their products. Sometimes it might not seem like it, but most businesses WANT to deliver a good product at a competitive price. Why? Because it makes them money.

Book reviews are critical to an author. When is the last time you purchased a book on Amazon without reading at least a sampling of reviews? And if you think your review won't matter, you are wrong. Sure, maybe a few of the top authors get so many reviews and sell so many books that they don't bother to read them anymore, but most authors, like myself, depend on them.

So how do you write an effective review?

1)  Be honest. Yes, the truth may hurt sometimes, but false praise not only misleads other potential readers, it misleads the author. That doesn't mean you should write a nasty review of a book you didn't like. No book will suit every reader. Explain why you didn't like the book. Be kind. On the flip side, if you liked a book, explain why. As much as I love reading that you liked my book, what I really want/need to know is why. What parts did you like most?

2)  Avoid spoilers.  Some reviewers get carried away and reveal too much of the story. Don't forget that most of the ones reading your review are trying to decide whether to read the book or not. A good rule of thumb is not to give away anything that surprised you, or caught you off guard. Read the author's description of the book and try not to reveal anything not in that description because it was probably left out for a reason.

3) Who are you?  Provide a brief mention of what kind of reader you are. If you typically read suspense and happen to be reviewing a fantasy book, mention it. Especially if your review tilts toward the lower star range. If you are an avid reader, or only read once in a while, say so.

4)  Mention other books you liked. If I read a review by someone who liked or disliked a book I've also read, their opinion carries more weight with me, because it shows we have similar tastes.

5)  Proofread. Okay, so you may not be a writer, but most readers are intelligent enough to write a review that is readable. It doesn't need to be formal, or perfect, but the author may want to use a portion (or all) of your review to post on Facebook or Twitter to attract other readers. I've had reviews that said wonderful things but were so full of errors that I couldn't use them (though I appreciated them every bit as much).

I would like to post a review of Norton Road that I found on Amazon this morning. It immediately brightened my day. The bold was added by me, to highlight the parts of the review that stood out to me.

I saw this book mentioned on Facebook by a trusted friend. I bought it on Amazon. I thought it was one of the best books I had ever read.the author made the people he wrote about come alive.I felt like I could relate to them even though they were so different than anyone I have ever known in my circle of family and friends. This author was in my opinion born to write. He is just that talented.I am an avid reader and always have at least one book going at all times.I am so critical of just authors who bore me with simple little stories that you know how it will advance and end after the first few chapters.Norton Road is not one of those books.I usually forget a book as soon as I finish it,but I find my self thinking about this story frequently even though it has been several months since I read it. This is so rare to find an Author with this gift.
First, the review mentions how she heard about the book. Word of mouth sells books.

Second, she said she felt like she could relate to the characters. As an author, I love hearing that because it means I achieved one of my primary goals. If you can relate to a character, you form an emotional bond.

Third, she mentioned being an avid reader. She knows something about books.

Fourth, and this part is what made me scream YES! (quietly, of course, so as not to gather strange looks) because that, to me, is the ultimate goal -- to create characters so real you'll catch yourself wondering what they are doing, as if they are real. In some small way, they are real.

And lastly, I highlighted this one because it just flat out made me feel good. We all like to feel appreciated .... that what we do matters.

For more information about me or my books, including how to purchase them, please visit my website and/or Like my Facebook page.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

10 Questions: Sharon Purdon

Sharon Purdon -- author's wife

Booneville, MS
The Ark, Booneville, MS

It's been a while since I've conducted a 10 Questions interview. When I launched this series a couple of years ago I wanted to interview interesting people from all areas of the writing world. Most of my interviews have been with other authors. This time I wanted to interview the wife of an author, and thought what better person to answer my questions than the woman lying beside me?

I'm a bit nervous, because I intend to post the interview with the answers she gives. No content editing. No please hon you can't say that.

She knows things about me no one else knows, but hey, I get to control the questions so I'm okay, right?

Let's see.

#1:  Tell us something about your background. Where you were born? What interesting places have you lived?

Biloxi, MS
Let's see ... my background would be a book in itself, but for now...... I was born in good ole Booneville, MS. Growing up, we lived ALL over the place; Booneville, Florida, Chicago, Booneville, Hattiesburg, Booneville, Memphis, Booneville, Caledonia, Alabama, Rienzi, Petal, & Booneville.  Somehow, we always ended up back in Booneville, so I guess that song: "You Can't Go Home Again", doesn't know how many times I've went back home. And then I met Carl and have lived in Randolph for thirteen plus years and guess what....We've talked about moving to Booneville.

Gulf Shores, MS
I guess the most interesting places I've lived would be Hattiesburg and Petal, Ms. Probably because of being so close to places like USM (my favorite college), Lake Shelby, and Biloxi.......I love going
to the Coast!

#2:  Are you a book person or movie person?  

I guess I'm more of a movie person. Not that I don't like to read, because I do and I do. It's just that when I start reading, I don't like to quit until I've finished and that just can't happen often. Reading a good book and having to stop before I'm finished is like getting into a good movie and having to turn it off before I've finished watching it.  *Book lovers don't be hate'n on me*

#3:  Of the three books your husband has written, which is your favorite and why? No fair to say all of them.

I love all three, but I guess my favorite would be "The Night Train". One reason would be because it was his first and I remember how excited we were when he published and we actually held that first finished book in our hands! Another reason is because I can relate to how Jayrod felt. Kids don't know how cruel they can be or the impact of their bullying. Sadly... adults can be just as cruel...

#4:  There are pros and cons to everything in life. What do you consider the biggest pro and the biggest con to being the wife of an author.

The pros to being an author's wife is watching his dream of writing come true and come to life. I've read a lot of his writings over the years and have always believed he'd be able to get his work published one day. I knew he would. I also believe they'll be made into movies some day. Another pro is seeing him stand in front of people speaking about his love for writing and watching people line up for him to autograph his novels for them. I'm very proud of my husband!
The con to being an author's wife is the time he has to spend away from doing family things and I know he needs quiet time, but it's hard to keep kids quiet, especially with hyped-up boys! Lol

#5:  Would you say your husband spends not enough time writing, too much time writing, or just about the right amount of time writing?

I'd say too much time writing until I read what he's writing and then it's like...go, go write some more!!

#6:  Tell us one thing about you that would surprise most people

I'm very, very shy.

#7:  Tell us one thing about your husband that would surprise most people.

He's NOT shy. That would even surprise him!

#8:  If you woke up in the morning insanely wealthy, what would be the very first thing you would buy?

The first thing I would buy would be new vehicles for all of my family.

#9:  Imagine yourself sitting down with an acquaintance who tells you her husband is trying to write his first novel. What advice do you give her?

Biloxi, MS
Be supportive and understanding because there will be times when you'll want to go somewhere or do something as a family and he'll want to stay home and write. Oh, and take his connections to the internet away because if he's going to be spending time away from you writing, he doesn't need to be on Twitter or Facebook. He needs to be writing! Carl! He'll need someplace quiet, because it's close
to impossible to keep kids quiet and I have to admit it's hard to keep from interrupting him.

Be patient. It'll be worth it some day!

#10:  Let's do something different. There has to be a question you were hoping I would or wouldn't ask. Ask yourself that question (please let us see the question), then answer it.

Q: I was hoping you'd ask me how much I love you!
A: I love you more than I could ever show you. More than you'll ever know.

* * *

Follow Sharon on Twitter.

For more information about me or my books, including how to purchase them, please visit my website and/or Like my Facebook page.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

What's Stopping You?

School starts tomorrow in our neck of the woods. We've had a mild summer here (almost like fall at times) so there was plenty of opportunity for the young people to enjoy themselves outside (supposing they can see their gadget screens outside). Now it's time to buckle down and learn something.

Is education wasted on the youth? So many of the crucial building blocks to a quality life experience seem to be delivered during our developmental years. During the time in our lives when we still think life is a video game, that money grows on trees, and food magically appears in grocery stores and all mom has to do is go pick out what she wants.

Wearing my author hat, I've had the honor of speaking at a couple of schools. I've got another such event coming up at my old high school, which is a special honor. As I was thinking of what I might say to the kids, I caught myself wondering if it really matters what I say. Will they absorb it? Any of it? Not if they are like me when I was their age.

Wouldn't it be nice if wisdom (which is really just a culmination of life experiences) was a commodity we could package and deliver to our kids? They would consume it and suddenly understand what we mean when we tell them school is important, drugs and alcohol are bad, and money is something you work to earn and not something you deserve just because you have wants.

I think it's safe to say most of us older folks didn't listen when our parents, teachers, pastors, grandparents, aunts, and uncles gave us advice we now realize would have made such a difference in our lives had we applied it. It's good for us to remember when talking to our kids that the only way they can gain life experience is by experiencing life. It doesn't mean we stop trying. It means we try, hope they listen, and try to understand when they don't.

If you're over forty you've most likely caught yourself thinking how great it would be if you could start over, knowing what you now know. We catch ourselves seeing our kids as that chance. It breaks our hearts to see them experience the inevitable pains that come with reaching adulthood. Then, as young adults, the learning curve steepens and the consequences become so much more than scraped knees and bee stings. But would it really be better to start over knowing what you know now? Would you have as much fun? Would you have the "remember when" memories that seem funny now but not so much back then?

Imagine if you could take a break at forty and get twelve years of intense education without having to worry about keeping the lights on and food on the table. Just think how much harder you would work, and how much more prepared you would be when you reentered the workforce. Perhaps you can't ditch your job and go back to school full time, but it's never too late to increase your education. More so today than ever, there is a wealth of information literally at our fingertips. All we have to do is read. Absorb. Commit.

Our kids are going back to school. Maybe you can't start over and live your life again, but you can take the advice you give your kids and apply it to yourself. It's never too late to work harder, learn harder, play harder, and make a mad grab at your dreams.

What's stopping you?

* * *
I've written three novels chock full of characters learning life lessons. The Night Train, Norton Road, and Blinders. For more information on me and my writing, visit my website, Like me on Facebook, or follow me on Twitter. If you're brave, change that last or to an and.