Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Interview with Frank L Cole

I recently interviewed fellow Man Cave Author Frank L. Cole and wanted to share it here.
Not only is Frank the author of the popular Hashbrown Winters series for grade school children, but he's about to break new ground with a second series as well.

His next book The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter is being released from Cedar Fort Inc. this March, and I'm sure it's going to be a success.

Let's find out more about this awesome author right now.  Please welcome Man Cave member Frank L. Cole!

Frank, you're already well-known for the Hashbrown Winters series. Your new book, The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter, is being released in March.  How does it feel to have four books under you belt?

It's really hard to believe I have 4 books published when 2 years ago I had come to the conclusion I may never get published. Everything happened so fast and it just boggles my mind.

Can you tell us a little about The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter?

The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter is a little older than my Hashbrown Winters series and has a lot more action. Here's a very short synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Amber Rawson has a passion for archaeology, with a particular talent for deciphering ancient codes.

So when Dorothy Holcomb, Amber’s beloved archaeology instructor, is kidnapped by a shadowy organization called The Architects, Amber is determined to unravel the mystery. With the help of her sarcastic friend, Trendon, and a slew of other strange clues and peculiar characters, Amber embarks on the hunt for the Tebah Stick; a Biblical artifact capable of global destruction.

That's it in a nutshell. This is probably my favorite book I've written so far and if I had to compare it to something, I'd say it's a little bit Goonies meets Indiana Jones, but definitely not as cool as those two movies. Because, come on, is there anything cooler than Goonies and Indiana Jones?

What made you branch out from your already successful Hashbrown Winters series?

The Guardians was one of those stories that snapped me awake one night and wouldn't let me rest until I finished it. I seriously wrote the whole book in a month.

So, to answer your question, I had to write the story for my family's sanity. There's only so long my wife can take of me clacking away at the computer while my kids run around the house, eating cereal off the floor.

Don't get me wrong, I love Hashbrown, Snow Cone, Whiz, and all the gang and those stories gnawed on my brain as well. I do plan on writing a couple more of his tales in the future, but I wanted to write something bigger and test the waters.

Can you describe your writing process?

It really depends on when the fever hits. I can play around with ideas and dabble with dialogue and various scenes for stories on any given night and not really accomplish much.

But when a story takes root and I can see all the possibilities unraveling in my head, I seriously become a man possessed. Generally, I try to brain dump as much information as possible down on the page during one sitting without care for grammar, or scene development, or description. Whatever's flowing is what I type.

Then, after a few "brain dump" sessions, I'll go back and try to decipher everything. Some of it stays, but a lot of it is pushed into a miscellaneous junk file from where I can pull stuff from later. My sister calls me a "bleeder". Meaning, I write, edit, write, edit, write, edit until something comes together out of the madness.

What are some challenges you faced on your road to publication?

I think I've been rejected well over 100 times from agents, publishers, family members, strangers.  You name it and they've rejected me. Granted, most of my rejections came from the first novel I wrote called The Gothian Box, which deserved every single rejection it received and then some.

Probably the biggest challenge I've faced with publication is marketing my books after they're in print. That's a tough obstacle involving a ton of time and energy. How does one spread the word to the masses with only a facebook account and a blog? That, my friend, is the million dollar question and I wish I had the answer.

What have you learned about the publishing industry that you didn't know before you got your contract?

Hmmm. I think I've learned there are literally thousands of people trying to get something published and most of them are quality writers with really great ideas. It's intimidating.

I've also learned for most people in the industry (myself included) writing an awesome story is only the beginning. Marketing your project, putting it in people's hands, presenting yourself in as many places possible is the very next step.

You've done a lot of book signings.  What's one memory that stands out from them?

I got yelled at by a 90 year old man who told me kids shouldn't take time to read my garbage. It was my first Costco book signing and the man wanted to know what I was sampling. I handed him a pencil and he broke a tooth on it. (Okay, that last part of him eating the pencil is not true.)

Probably one of my coolest memories happened when I helped out at a Brandon Mull signing. While directing the line, a couple of kids recognized me from presenting at their school and had their mom take a picture of me and sign their books. Yeah, that was cool.

You were recently on ABC4 Good Things Utah.  What was going through your mind before and after the interview?

I was beyond nervous and had less than 24 hours to prepare for it. ABC4 called me on Monday afternoon and I was interviewed the next day. I actually mimicked throwing up in front of the live studio audience, just to ice my nerves. That was good for a laugh.

Afterwards though, I realized it wasn't so bad. I just have to be myself and let things play out the way they're going to play.

[Editor's Note: Vomit is often funny.  The interview was great, and you can watch it at Frank's blog by clicking here.]

What are your future plans?

Always writing. I've almost finished the outline for the second book in the Guardians series and I have some pretty decent ideas for another Hashbrown book as well.

Plus, I just recently finished a first draft of a new teen horror novel. You add that with the constant need to get out to schools and signings and my schedule's pretty full. Oh well, I love it!

Anything you'd like to add?

Thanks for the awesome questions and the invite to hang out on this blog!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Gotta Be Me

Okay. Here goes.

Introductions are tricky things for me. I never know where I should start? If at a party, typically I'd start off by stating my name and occupation (Frank Cole, author) and then I'd make some comment about the lovely spread. Can't do that here can I?

Do I go back to my younger years in Kentucky when I grew up under the parenting of a southern mother from backwoods parts unknown and a tough, half-Sicilian father from Brooklyn. Do I throw out random stories about myself? Like when I was attacked by a psychotic turkey in the mountains of the Philippines, or when I made it on national television as a 14-year-old because I slapped a sweaty, professional wrestler on the back a little harder than he would've liked?

Or do I start simpler?

Simpler always suffices.

I fancy myself as a storyteller. Not a great one, but I'd say decent. I've always loved books and not just because I enjoy reading stories. I love holding them and staring at the covers.  Sometimes I like to throw them at the walls when they tick me off, which is part of the reason why I haven't broken down and bought an e-reader yet. Temper, temper. It's because of this love of books and storytelling that drove me to take a stab at writing.

I wrote my first completed novel almost 10 years ago and started the journey of publication shortly after. It was brutal. Rejection after rejection. I tore into that novel every day. I cut scenes, characters, changed beginnings, endings, point of view. Nothing worked and I grew frustrated with the story in general. I figured after a few rejections I'd start seeing some interest, but no. Not a bite.

During a particularly difficult time in my quest to get published, I began writing The Adventures of Hashbrown Winters as a release. I pulled from my own experiences, changed a few names to protect the innocent, and then went AWOL with the exaggerations. The result: A fun little tale about elementary school drama. To my surprise (serious surprise), someone (Cedar Fort) accepted Hashbrown for publication a little over 2 years ago. From that I learned an important lesson. You have to enjoy what you're writing. Is Hashbrown a literary masterpiece? Pssh! Please. Am I a literary master? Give me a break. Do I even know how to write? Barely. But because I loved writing the story, used my own voice to tell it, and didn't care about how over-the-top ridiculous I sounded, Hashbrown was born. I love that kid. I now have three Hashbrown stories published and in bookstores.

I also have a new series coming out in March called The Guardians of the Hidden Scepter. It's by far the most creative thing I've ever written and I'm so excited for people to read it.

For me, writing stories and getting published is living the dream. Yes, sometimes the dream is a good one, like when I can fly or when I'm winning the Kentucky Derby on foot. But other times, I'm at my grandma's house and the whole place is flooded and all I'm wearing is a sleeping bag. You get me?

I'm thankful for the chance to hang out on this blog and hopefully I'll share something worth your time to read.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who says daydreaming is a bad thing?

Growing up, I would daydream--a lot. Sitting in class, I'd look out the window and see something that would spark my imagination and off I would go on some adventure. There is probably some sort of medical term for that now. And it would have to be an acronym. The medical people love their abbreviations and acronyms. I guess I would be diagnosed with having DREAM syndrome (because the word "syndrome" makes it sound really official). What would DREAM stand for? Well, let's see. How about Dysfunctional Recognition Edification Activity Murkiness. Or perhaps Dude Redirects Every Attention Much.  Maybe even Doesn't Really Eat Apple Mush.

Regardless, I loved to make up adventures. The first real attempt to do so was in the 4th grade where I wrote a short story about how I was captured by aliens (and so were my friends) and I went about saving them. My real life friends liked the story so much, we went on to write twelve more short stories together which we titled, The Chronicles of Space Adventure (or COSA if a medical person got a hold of the title).

However, I ran into a bit of a snag when it came to writing. I have a mild form of dyslexia. One way it manifests itself is in spelling, which was (and is) a mystery to me. And for better or worse, English classes often included spelling tests as part of their grading system, so you can only imagine what kind of grades I earned.

It wasn't until I took a required creative writing class in college my sophomore year that I even thought I had the ability to use my imagination to create written stories. After being told by my several of English teachers that I really should pursue something in the science fields, I actually had a teacher that saw something else in me. In our final project was to re-write a well known short story of our choice from a different point of view. I chose The Lottery. When I got my version returned to me, it had a perfect score--something the teach rarely awarded students (note: spell check is your friend--something I didn't have in High School). He told me I had a gift. It's amazing how one person can make such a difference in your life.

As for my published novel, The Hidden Sun, it is the result of five years of writing in-between all the various demands on my time. And of course, while editing it, I got the idea for the second book, The Waxing Moon, which is in its final editing stages now. What does that mean? Well, of course that I've started on my third book.

To echo my fellow man cave authors, writing is a boat load of hard work. It takes dedication and patience. It requires putting on a thick skin when people criticize your work, while also listening to your heart of when to heed people's advice or stay true to your vision of your story.

I can't say how honored I am to be part of the man cave group. These men are extremely talented.

It's going to be a fun ride.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Beginning

I have written stories for about as long as I can remember, at least the last few months.

When I was a kid, I started out doing G.I. JOE fan-fic, Indiana Jones type treasure hunting yarns and some pseudo-Tolkien inspired fantasy outlines.

In a lot of ways, that's still what I do-very action oriented yet indomitable character driven tales. It has to have punch and bring the blood and thunder as it were-I cannot be bored. I write the stories that I want to read. Quite often I catch myself wanting to watch a movie that doesn't exist or read a book on a certain time period and subject and 'Lo and Behold' that book doesn't exist either. What do I do? I write it. I'd like to think the whole reason I have a novel published, Heroes of the Fallen (with more on the way) and a half dozen short stories coming soon is because there is a passionate fire behind them. You have to want these stories to be told...and it does take skill, talent and TIME, but there has to be a fire burning, you have to sit down and WRITE.

That's was the biggest obstacle for me in my 20's. I always knew I would write books, I had a drive to tell the stories I wanted to read-BUT-I kept making excuses and saying I would write when I had time, when I was older and was just sitting around.

How foolish of me-when am I ever just gonna be sitting around?

Throughout my 20's I had a lot of adventures, but my point is, that IF you really want to write you have to sit down and do it.

I didn't really get after it until I was 28. I would go into my favorite local restaurant in the evenings, order a drink and usually something simple like soup and pie-I got everything for free because the waitress's liked me (Yes, I was that guy-the one who gets free pie) and I would tune out the world and write.

Now the stuff I wrote back then will never see the light of day-but the point is even back then I was learning-voice, pacing and characterization and perhaps most important of all I was forming a habit of discipline when it came to writing.

My hope for here at the Man Cave Author blog is that we can all share some writerly wisdom and reap what we sow. Keep your sword sharp and your pen handy.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Journey Begins

As long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer.
At times, I wanted to be a publisher too.

At about nine years old, I started my own periodical, The Kids' Magazine, which consisted of neighborhood news as told by the kids on my street.  The top story was "Mrs. White Falls Down."

Mrs. White was an elderly woman on our road and a real grouch.  From the day I learned to walk, her lawn was a "no kids zone."  She confiscated any toy with the audacity to touch her property and was always quick with a warning to stay off her grass.

She had slipped one day, and soon, an ambulance blared its way into our quiet neighborhood.  As the adults gathered around the scene complete with flashing lights and siren, the kids were told to go home.  I distinctly remember telling my friends that the grown-ups had no right to keep us away.

 "We're the generation of the future!" I said.  "The future has a right to know!"

After that, I wrote a story about the incident and went door-to-door selling The Kids Magazine.  (For the record, Mrs. White wouldn't buy it.  She said she had lived it and didn't care about the kids perspective. What nerve! ha ha )The magazine only lasted one issue, but it still stands out as a fond memory from my youth.

I continued writing one story or another throughout my life; I studied fiction in college and expected to write an epic fantasy one day.  But when the post-college bills began rolling in, I looked around and saw one simple truth--no one in my home town was willing to pay for wizard stories.  That's when I turned to the newspaper.  (What can I say?  I like checks.)

Since 2007, I've written for various newspapers, writing human interest stories on an array of topics.  I've even snagged interviews with some famous people like Olympic gold medalist Seth Wescott and UFC Fighters Marcus "The Celtic Warrior" Davis and Tim "The Barbarian" Boetsch.  (Pretty manly stories, huh?)

While on the hunt for articles, I became friends with some Mormon missionaries and my home turned into a local haven, a place where they could feel welcome.  That's when I decided to write my book, Who's at the Door?  A Memoir of Me and the Missionaries.

I finished the manuscript in December 2009, let it sit for a month, edited it, and researched what publishers might like it.  By February 2010, Cedar Fort offered me a contract.  I was floored!

Now here I am today--a published author, a freelance writer, and even a member of the Man Cave.  Life is good.

I want to thank my fellow man cavers for joining me in this project.  There's some real talent here, and I'm excited to be part of it.

Stay tuned to hear from another Man Cave author.

Monday, January 10, 2011

From Storyteller to Author

My name is Michael Young and I'm excited to kick of "Man Cave Authors".  We are a group of five published authors, dedicated to showing what being an author is like from a man's perspective. In addition to myself, we have Dan Harrington, David West, J. Lloyd Morgan, and Frank Cole. We hope that we can help inspire other men (and women too) out there to pursue the amazing journey that is publishing.

Each of the five of us will take turns posting, and this month we're going to start out by telling our stories about how we became authors.

By today's standards, I grew up in a huge family.  Being the oldest of eight children, I was often called on to be the combination babysitter/entertainer, and spent many an afternoon and evening keeping my siblings entertained with stories. Sometimes we would even go out back on our trampoline and act them out.  I've always been blessed with a vivid imagination.  When people ask me where I get my ideas, I just shrug.  I wish I knew.

I started actually putting my ideas down on paper, or more accurately, word processor, in high school.  I took a few great writing classes and, one day, I decided I was just going to start to try to write a novel.  It took me about a year of working on it every day in the evenings, but I finished it: Face Value, a novel of 170,000 words. Looking back on it now, it definitely needs some work. I don't know if it will ever be published, but it was my first step in building my skills and confidence as a writer.  I realized I had the discipline to make it happen.

I had the idea for "The Canticle Kingdom" pop into my head one day while I was working at Target.  It was my second year of college and I was very busy between work and school.  However, I churned out just a little bit every day and over about a year's time, the first draft came together.  I attended a publisher's fair at my university and there met representatives from Cedar Fort to whom I pitched my manuscript.  They took it and sent it back a little later with a request for a few rewrites.

I took a few months to revise and then sent it back.  I must have checked my email 20 times daily for a response, but finally in July of 2009, I got the green light.  "The Canticle Kingdom" came out in February 2010 and it's been a crazy journey since. But that's another story.

Since then, I have been typing away at a number of other manuscripts and I hope to have some others out on the shelves soon.  Looking back, I think the biggest thing I've learned from the experiences I've had is that writing is a lot like the tortoise and the hare.  It is the slow, consistent commitment to every day writing that will help you get your projects done.  Intense, but infrequent bouts of writing will not bring the same results.

If you'd like to read more about my writing, please visit my personal blog at

Thanks for reading and check back later to hear from another one of the Man Cave Authors.