Room for Two FREE on Kindle

My first book, Room for Two, is free on Kindle starting today. It will be available as a free download through Friday, September 26.

It's also available for free in the Amazon stores for CanadaUK, Australia, Japan, France, Brazil, IndiaSpain, Italy, Mexico, and Germany.

If you don't have a Kindle you can download  Kindle app for your phone, tablet, or computer for free.

Read the first three chapters of Room for Two here.

About Room for Two

"Sweetie, I'm home." I tried to put as much kindness into my voice as possible. I didn't want to have another argument - at least not right away.

Silence.

"Sweetheart?"

A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall.

Everything slowed down.

***

When a life is destroyed, when guilt says you played a role in its destruction, how do you face the days ahead?

Twenty-six-year-old Abel Keogh chooses to ignore the promptings he receives concerning his wife's mental illness, and now he feels he is to blame for her choices. If only he had listened . . .

At some point in our lives, each of us face devastating afflictions and must eventually cope with loss. Regardless of how it happens, the outcome is still the same - we are left isolated, alone, wondering what we could have done differently, and where we can turn for peace.

This is Abel's story in his own words. His search for peace and the miracle that follows is proof that love and hope can endure, despite the struggles and tragedies that shape each of our lives.

 

 

Widower Wednesday: Room for Two Chapter 1

Widower Wednesday

Just a reminder that Room for Two is available for the Kindle here. Formats for Nook and other e-readers will be available in the next 10 days or so. A paperback version will be coming late January or early February.

***

One

I don’t remember the last thing I said to Krista, but I know it was not "I love you." Even when I think long and hard about our final conversation, our last words to each other elude me, which is probably for the best.

The last time we spoke was on the phone. There was shouting. A lot of shouting. Though in hindsight it seems like it was all on my end; I don’t remember Krista sounding angry or frustrated. Our conversation ended when I threw the phone down in disgust. When I arrived at our apartment twenty minutes later, I was furious. I slammed the door to the car, feeling the muscles in my arm clench.

In the pale light of the November afternoon, the fourplex had a dreary, mournful look. Brown leaves, having long lost their cheery autumn reds and yellows, were scattered over the matted grass. I looked up at the apartment window, hoping to see some sign of Krista. The blinds were closed and the lights were off. The place looked deserted. My anger began to morph into fear.

I took the concrete steps two at a time to our apartment. I paused and took several deep breaths in an attempt to calm down before opening the door. I didn’t want to come into the apartment yelling. Maybe the whole day had been some kind of misunderstanding.

I inserted the key into the lock and opened the door. The apartment was in the same condition I left it. A pile of cardboard boxes lay flattened and stacked neatly in one corner of the living room. Other boxes, half full of computer games and books, were stacked against the far wall. Yesterday’s newspaper was scattered on the floor; a color photograph of a police standoff was displayed prominently on the front page. The apartment itself was ghostly quiet, as if no one had lived there for years.

"Sweetie, I’m home." I tried to put as much kindness into my voice as possible. I didn’t want to have another argument — at least not right away.\

Silence.

"Sweetheart?"

A gunshot echoed from our bedroom, followed by the sound of a bullet casing skipping along a wall.

Everything slowed down.

I screamed Krista’s name and started toward our bedroom. My legs felt heavy, like I was running through waist-deep water. As I entered the room, the acrid smell of gun smoke filled my nostrils. Krista lay slumped against unpacked boxes of clothing along the far wall.

I screamed and moved to Krista’s side. This couldn’t be real, could it?

Krista’s blue eyes stared straight ahead. Her body trembled as if she was suffering from a mild seizure. My Ruger 9mm handgun laid next to her body on the corner of a white packing box. A wisp of blue smoke floated from the barrel.

I grabbed the cordless phone from the nightstand and dialed 911.

Krista’s body shuddered violently. Blood began flowing from the back of her head, down the boxes, to the floor. The sound of the blood as it hit the boxes reminded me of water coming out of a squirt gun.

"Krista!"

I kept expecting to hear a ringing sound on the other end of the phone but there was only silence. I pulled the receiver away from my ear. Had I dialed 911? What was taking them so long to answer?

I was about to hang up and dial again when a faint female voice broke through the silence. "911. What is your emergency?"

"Send help!" I screamed into the phone. "My wife just shot herself!" My voice shook as the words tumbled out of my mouth. I pressed my hand against Krista’s seven-month pregnant belly, hoping for some indication that our unborn daughter was still alive. I couldn’t feel any movement.

"What is your address?" the operator asked.

I opened my mouth, but no words came out. We had moved into the apartment a week earlier, and I hadn’t memorized our address. Then, amid all the chaos, there was a moment of clarity. I remembered the landlord had written our address on the back of his business card when I signed the lease. I pulled the card out of my wallet and relayed the information to the operator, my voice sounding calm, as if I were giving her directions to a party. Then the moment was gone and panic returned.

"She’s pregnant," I sobbed into the phone. "She’s pregnant."

The 911 operator asked if I knew CPR. I did. I knew what to do — breathe into the mouth, push on the chest — but instead I did nothing. I just sat there horrified. Krista’s eyes now had a dull look to them, as if the blue had suddenly turned gray. Then her body stopped shaking. The pool of blood continued to grow. The operator’s words faded into white noise. I knelt at Krista’s side for what felt like hours, waiting, hoping to feel the baby move.

At some point I became vaguely aware of the distant wail of a police siren. It grew louder until it sounded like it was right outside the door. Then everything was quiet. I stood, frantic that the police had driven past. I took several steps toward the living room when I heard a quick knock followed by the sound of someone opening the front door. A moment later a police officer entered the bedroom. His eyes went from me to Krista to the gun lying near Krista’s head. He stood in the middle of the room, as if he wasn’t sure what to do. \

"Help her!" I screamed.

The officer moved to Krista’s side and put his fingertips on her neck to check her pulse. I took a step toward him, wanting to help. His eyes darted to the gun.

"Get out of the room," he said firmly. He said something into the radio that was attached to his shoulder, then brought his ear to Krista’s mouth to see if she was breathing. He pulled her legs, as if moving a piece of delicate china, so she was lying flat on the floor. The box where Krista’s head had rested was soaked with blood.

"Get out," he repeated. This time he looked right at me and pointed to the door. I took one step back.

"Go!" he said.

I took another step back. It was like I was in a dream, running toward a cliff. Even though jumping off was the last thing I wanted to do, my legs kept moving until I toppled over the edge.

I took a third step when I heard a noise just outside the bedroom door. I turned and nearly bumped into another police officer. He rushed past me as if I didn’t exist. The two officers talked quickly, quietly. I could not understand what they said. All I could hear was that one gunshot over and over. Its echo blasted the walls inside my head.

The first officer started chest compressions while the second breathed into Krista’s mouth. I stepped back into the living room. A third officer brushed past me on his way to the bedroom. He returned a moment later and told me to sit on the couch. I sat down. The third police officer stood between me and the bedroom. He was young with blond hair. Most of his attention was focused on whatever was happening in the other room. Occasionally he glanced back at me.

It was then that I realized I was still holding the phone to my ear. The 911 operator was talking, asking me questions. Her voice was still calm and collected. It pulled me away from the chaos inside the apartment.

"Are the police there?" she asked.

"Yes."

"Are they performing CPR?"

"I don’t know. They told me to leave the room."

"Has an ambulance arrived?"

The living room window was located directly behind the couch. I turned and peeked through the blinds. Three police cars were in the middle of the street, their red and blue lights still flashing. A dozen people had gathered on the far side the street and were pointing to the apartment, shrugging their shoulders. I could hear other sirens in the distance, growing louder.

"I don’t see an ambulance," I said.

"I’m going to stay on the phone with you until it comes," the operator said.

The blond police officer took a step toward the bedroom. He spoke with the other officers and then said something into his radio. I heard the words "ambulance" and "quickly." The rest of his words were drowned out by the approaching sirens.

More police arrived. Soon the apartment was filled with blue uniforms and silver badges. The air was a cacophony of wailing sirens. One of the officers said something about getting the crowd to remain on the other side of the street and immediately two officers headed outside. Another siren — this one different from the others — grew loud, then abruptly ended. I pulled the nearest corner of the blinds aside just as the ambulance stopped in front of the apartment. Without another word to the 911 operator, I hung up the phone.

Two paramedics, black bags in hand, ran to the apartment. An officer directed them to the bedroom. A minute later one of them quickly exited. Through the blinds I watched him retrieve a stretcher out of the back of the ambulance. The sight of the stretcher gave me hope that Krista was still alive.

"Is she going to be all right?" I asked the officer who was still standing watch. His attention wasn’t on me when I spoke. His head snapped back at the sound of my voice.

"What did you say?" He seemed surprised that I had spoken.

"My wife. Is she going to be all right?"

The officer approached and squatted in front of me so we were at eye level. His pale blue eyes told me everything before he spoke. "I’m sorry," he said. "She died a few minutes ago. We did everything we could to save her. But there’s a chance the baby is still alive. We’re going to transport your wife’s body to the hospital."

I took a deep breath and looked at the floor. I told myself that at any moment I would wake up screaming. I waited for everything around me — the apartment, the police, and the voices in the bedroom — to fade into blackness. But the noise and color and the smell of gun smoke remained.

I looked up at the officer, hoping he’d tell me it was all a joke, but he wasn’t looking at me anymore. His attention was focused on the couch. I followed his gaze. Next to me lay a gun case and a plastic bag filled with 9mm bullets. The lock to the gun case lay between them. The bullet casings sparkled like gold coins.

"Why don’t you sit over here?" the officer said. He pointed to a glider rocker next to the couch. I sat in the chair — the one Krista and I had bought so we could rock our new baby — but wasn’t able to take my eyes off the gun lock and the bullets. In my mind, I pictured Krista kneeling clumsily next to the couch, her protruding belly in the way, unlocking the case, and then methodically loading the clip with bullets before walking back to the bedroom.

The phone rang. The sound was piercing. Someone had set the ring on high. The police ignored it. I waited for the answering machine to pick up. It didn’t. I waited for the person on the other end to hang up. The phone continued to ring. A police officer came back from the bedroom and said something to the blond officer. The ringing drowned out their conversation. I stood up, half expecting to be ordered back to the chair, but the officer’s attention was on whatever was happening in the bedroom. I walked to the phone, picked up the receiver mid-ring, and hung up.

The next thing I knew the blond officer was standing by my side. I thought he was going to say something about the phone. "I need you to move to the kitchen," he said. "They’re going to move your wife’s body to the ambulance. You don’t want to see this."

I didn’t want to go to the kitchen. I wanted to ride with Krista to the hospital. I wanted to see my baby daughter brought into the world alive and healthy. I tried to remember how many minutes an unborn baby could survive in the womb without oxygen from its mother.

"Sir," the officer said. He motioned in the direction of the refrigerator with his head.

My body obeyed the command and walked to the kitchen.

The small kitchen was in the far corner of the apartment but set up in such a way that I was shielded from the living room. I leaned against the electric stove and stared at the floor.

Grunts emanated from the living room as the stretcher made the tight corner to the front door. There was a metal clang as the stretcher bumped against the wall.

"Careful," someone said.

Yes, be careful, I thought. You can save the baby. Maybe, by some miracle, you can save Krista, too. Modern medical science can perform miracles.

The stove was beginning to dig into my back, but I didn’t move. The officer looked into the living room, then back at me. The sounds of the people carrying the stretcher faded away, and then the front door closed. Silence filled the apartment.A minute later, the ambulance siren roared to life, then quickly faded into the distance.

I returned to the glider rocker. I tried not to stare at the objects on the couch when I walked past and instead focused on the conversations of the police. One of them said, "What are we going to do with him?" and motioned toward me. The other officer shrugged.

The remaining police milled about the apartment. No one spoke to me. It seemed like I sat in the rocker for hours before one of the officers said, "I need you to come with me." I looked up. There were only two officers in the apartment now. The officer that spoke to me was thin with curly brown hair. His eyes were hidden behind a dark pair of sunglasses. I thought it odd that he was wearing sunglasses indoors. The other officer held a large roll of yellow crime scene tape in his hands.

"Where are we going?" I said.

"The hospital."

I followed the officer outside. I half-expected to be greeted by the crowd and flashing red and blue lights. Instead, there were only two police cars parked parallel to the curb; the lights on the top of the cruisers weren’t flashing. The crowd I saw earlier had returned to the surrounding apartment buildings. I wondered if I’d seen any people at all. Maybe my mind had been playing tricks on me. With the exception of the police cars, the street looked just like it had when I arrived. The officer opened the passenger side door of his vehicle. I looked back at the apartment and watched as the other officer taped off the door with crime scene tape.

Room for Two Available on Kindle

For the first time Room for Two is now available on the Kindle. This is a format that many of you have asked about for years and now that I have the rights back to the book I'm happy to finally make it available for those who want to read it that way. For those who would prefer a paperback copy or another ebook format, those will be coming in January 2014.

For those who are unfamiliar with the book, you can read a summary of the book as well as first three chapters here.

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Help Me Choose a Winning Book Cover Design

As many of you know, a new edition of Room for Two is coming out in just a few weeks. I've narrowed down the potential covers to 6. Please take a moment and vote for your favorite. The poll closes Monday evening so vote now.

Your vote could help decide which cover is used.

Thanks in advance for your feedback.

Update: Apparently 99 Designs decided to do some site maintenance today. It will be a few hours before you can vote. Sorry for the inconvenience. You'll be able to vote again in a couple of hours.

Update 2: It's back up. VOTE!!!!

New Edition of Room for Two

Good news! A new edition of Room for Two is coming out in a few weeks. For those who aren't familiar with the book, Room for Two is the story behind the death of my late wife and how I met Marathon Girl. It’s about my search for peace and the miracle that follows. It’s proof that love and hope can endure, despite the struggles and tragedies that shape each of our lives. An ebook version will come out later this month, followed by a paperback version after the New Year.If you haven’t read Room for Two you can download a PDF of the first chapter here. As part of the new edition, I’m crowd sourcing a new cover for the book. If you’re a graphic designer or know someone who is, you can submit cover designs for the book here. Initial entries are due no later than Thursday morning. There’s a $290 prize for the winning design so if you’re interested in participating, now’s the time to get started.

And speaking of Room for Two,  there are still limited quantities of the first edition available. If you’d like signed or personalized copies of any of my books as gifts for the holidays or for yourself, you can them here. Shipping is just a flat $3.50 no matter the number of books you order.

Room for Two Back in My Store

For those who have been wanting signed copies of Room for Two, the good news is that I finally have some copies available for sale. The bad news is that I only have a small number of copies available. If you've been wanting them, you can order them here.

And, yes, still of out copies of Marrying a Widower but should have those in stock sometime next week.

Room for Two is a Memoir

In answering a reader’s questions about book categories, LDS Publisher writes:

If your book is about a personal life experience or event, is in story form and written in first person, and follows what really happened very closely, it's a memoir (classified as non-fiction). (Example: Running with Angels by Pamela H. Hansen)….

If your book is based on a personal experience or event, written in first or third person, some liberty is taken with the facts to make it flow better or to hide the identity of certain participants, it's a novel based on true experiences (classified as fiction). (Examples: Torn Apart by Diony George; Room for Two by Abel Keogh)

For the record, Room for Two is a memoir, NOT “a novel based on true experiences”. LDSPublisher isn’t the first person to make that mistake and I’m not sure why some categorize it incorrectly. But it is a memoir so far as I understand the term.

Book Publishers Wake Up! The Future of Reading Is Digital!

The Future of Reading is Digital

In the latest issues of Wired, Clive Thompson writes:

Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?

To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark's perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.

Every other form of media that's gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn't happen to books is that they're locked into ink on paper.

Release them, and you release the crowd.

I hope every publisher in the world reads Thompson’s article and breaks out of the old, archaic ways of publishing and marketing books.

Most publishers still don’t get it. Sure, they’ll publish a chapter or two online. Maybe even make slick trailers to get some hype. But only one publisher that I’m aware of allows the entire content of their books to be published online. Publishing entire novels online and giving people a chance to share that content or hype it on social networking sites is, as far as I know, unheard of.

Yet there’s never been a better way to market books to people then the Internet. Posting an entire book online and providing a way for others to share or highlight portions of that content on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites is a great way to build an audience and SELL books.

In an industry that suffering from cutbacks and lagging book sales, publishers worry about losing books sales if they post the content online.

Guess what? They won’t.

They’ll actually sell more books because more people will be exposed to it. I’m willing to bet they’ll even find a market for some of their books that they didn’t know existed before.

Writes Thompson:

You're far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you're far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.

Still publishers wring their hands when they think about posting the entire conents of their books online. "What about Napster?” they say. “It almost bankrupted the record industry.”

Here’s the dirty little secret of the free online music days: CD sales actually rose during the heyday of free digital music. That’s right. People bought more music because they had a chance to sample it first. Musicians who would have languished in obscurity suddenly found an audience because more people heard about it.

Instead of embracing the new technology and trying to find a way to share music and make money from it (like creating slick online stores where people could by songs and albums), the record companies sued the hell out of everyone they could think of. Instead Apple came in and filled the gap and turned their company around. Now Apple is raking in billions of dollars that could have gone straight to the record companies and musicians if they had embraced technology instead of fought it.

Right now publishers are in a unique position to develop technology that allows people to read books, share portions of the content on their websites or social networking sites, allow readers comments and feedback, and link to places where their books can be bought. Something akin to Google books, only on steroids.

And for the record, I have no problem taking my just completed novel and working with a publisher to post the entire contents online for people to read. As far as far as I’m concerned, it will not only help me sell more print copies but give me a chance to see who the book really resonates with. My guess is that, like my memoir, Room for Two, I’ll discover a completely underserved market that is hungry for its contents.

The challenge is finding a publisher who’s willing to be the vanguard and embrace the digital revolution that has consumed the rest of the world.

Blogging for the Open to Hope Foundation

A couple months ago I was approached by the Open to Hope Foundation about writing a blog for those who had lost a spouse. (I was a guest on the foundation’s radio show last November. You can download the MP3 of the program by right-clicking here.) I was hesitant to accept. Between my widower blog (no longer updated) and Room for Two I didn’t think I had anything left to say on the matter. Besides, I’ve been happily married to Marathon Girl for five and a half years. I haven’t thought of myself as widower since the day she agreed to marry me. In a lot of ways, I’ve put that sad chapter of my behind me. Thought thoughts of the late wife and daughter occasionally enter my mind, 99.9% of my thoughts are on making a better life for me and the family I have now.

I also have a novel and other writing projects that take up most of my free time. Even if I had something to say, I was unsure I’d have the time to write regular blog posts.

Then I checked my email.

There were three new emails in my inbox. Two were from women dating widowers. One thanked me for writing an essay that helped her see that her widower boyfriend wasn’t ready to commit to a serious relationship and she was going to finally end it. The other was from a woman asking for advice about her widower boyfriend’s behavior and whether or not she should be concerned about it. The third was from a young widower who thanked me for my website and telling me it had given him hope that he could one day again be happy.

These kinds of emails flood my inbox every day. (I’m not complaining about them – just stating a fact. If you have something to say, you can contact me here.) In the back of my mind, I thought the number of widower related emails would stop after my book came out and this blog focused on other things than widower related issues. But every day there are new emails in my inbox similar to the ones above and I realized there are a lot of people that are hurting out there.

And I thought back to a wintry afternoon six years ago. I had just spent most of my Saturday afternoon searching for something – anything! – online that would make me feel that I wasn’t the only young widower in the world. Something that would give me hope that tomorrow would be a better day and if I just put one foot in front of the other and stuck with it.

I found nothing.

And in that brief moment of grief and anguish I vowed if there was some way I could help someone else from feeling the pain and loneliness I felt at that exact moment, I’d do it.

So I called to the foundation’s director and expressed my concerns about writing a blog and we came to mutual agreement. I will write an occasional blog post (three or four times a month as time allows). And instead of making it a traditional grief blog, I’m going to focus on putting your life back together and moving on instead of becoming bogged down with self pity and the “woe is me” attitude that infects so much of grief literature and makes it completely worthless – often hindering people from putting their lives back together.

It’s going to be very different from typical grief blogs. It’s going to have an attitude.

So be warned.

If you’re content wallowing in grief and self pity then the blog’s not for you.

If you don't want to think of yourself as anything other than a widow or widower, then find another grief blog to read.

If you don’t want straight up advice about learning to put your grief aside, making the most of your life, and becoming happy again, then do not read it because I’m not going to mince words.

Finally, though I have permission to do so, I won’t be reposting the content on this blog. However, I will post the first paragraph or two and link to the latest entry for those who are interest in reading it. (As soon as I complete some other projects, I will create a URL on this website for them, however.)

Also, I have about 30,000 words of material that I cut from Room for Two before it was published. Some that content will probably find a home there – in a slightly modified form. (My first entry is a part from my book that was cut from the book and tweaked for the blog.) For those who have read the book and want to read vignettes that were cut between the first draft and the published manuscript, I’ll let you know when those are posted too.

The website I'll be writing for can be found here.

You can read my first entry here and my second one here.

I’ll let you know when the third one is up.

Room for Two Virtual Book Tour

Starting tomorrow, Room for Two is going on a virtual book tour. Below are the names of the reviewers (click on their names to read their blogs) that will be reviewing Room for Two over the next 30 days. Many thanks to Candace for setting this up!

I'll update this post with links (along with the links on the side of this blog) to the actual review once they're up.

  • July 15: Tristi Pinkston Link Updated!
  • July 16: Shirley Bahlman Link Updated!
  • July 17: Nichole Giles Link Updated!
  • July 19: Muriel Sluyter Link Updated!
  • July 20: Marta O. Smith Link Updated!
  • July 21: Stacy Anderson
  • July 23: Michelle Jefferies Link Updated!
  • July 24: Stephanie Humphreys
  • July 25: Karlene Browning Link Updated!
  • July 26: Kerry Lynn Blari Link Updated!
  • July 27: Michael Porter Link Updated!
  • July 28: Melanie Nelson
  • July 29: Heather Justesen Link Updated!
  • July 30: Anna Marie Junus Link Updated!
  • July 31: Karen Hoover Link Updated!
  • August 1: Alison Palmer Link Updated!
  • August 2: Rachelle Christensen Link Updated!
  • August 3: Mary Greathouse Link Updated!
  • August 4: Joyce DiPastena Link Updated!
  • August 5 Teri Rodeman Link Updated!
  • August 6 Danyele Ferguson Link Updated!
  • August 7 Jewel Adams Link Updated!
  • August 8 April Pohren Link Updated!
  • August 9 Cheryl Koch Link Updated
  • August 10 Sandra Sorenson Link Updated!
  • August 11 Anne Bradshaw Link Updated!
  • August 12 Kim Thompson Link Updated
  • August 13 Ali Cross Link Updated
  • August 14 JoAnne Arnold
  • August 15 Candace E. Salima
  • August 16 Janet Jensen
  • Writing Confrence and a Contest

    Read below to see how you can win a free copy of Room for Two. This might strike some as a strange confession, but I’ve never been to a writing conference before. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to check one out but, for one reason or another, things have never fallen into place so I could attend. So I didn’t know what to expect when I presented at and attended Cedar Fort’s writing conference on Saturday.

    Thankfully the writing conference turned out to be a fabulous experience. I did a good job on my presentation (or so everyone told me) and it was nice to meet people whose blogs I read or have only communicated with via email. Additionally I was also able to meet some writers whose books I’ve read and others whose books I’m looking forward to reading. (There’s a big pile of new books to read on my nightstand – which Marathon Girl has already begun to devour.)

    The best part though was a piece of advice the keynote speaker gave at her presentation on what all successful writers have in common. Her advice gave the extra push I needed to make some small changes in my life and sprint toward finishing the first draft my next book. (I wrote an entire chapter last night!) Coincidently, this same piece of advice was subtly reinforced by an article in an essay titled “The Running Novelist” (sorry, no online version is available) by the Japanese writer Haruki Murkami in the June 9 & 16 issue of The New Yorker that I read Sunday afternoon. (No, it’s not running.)

    I’ll tell you what this common trait is and how Murkami applied it to his life, and the small changes I've made in my next entry. Until then, I’ll offer a free copy of Room for Two to the first person that correctly guesses what trait all successful writers have in common. Guess by leaving a comment below.

    Note: Those who attended the writing conference are ineligible to participate. :-)

    Update 1: Per an email I received: 1) Yes, you can guess more than once but each guess has to be a separate comment. 2) I'll announce the winner (if any) on Friday.

    Update 2: Four of the five comments are close. Yes, writing every day is important. But think of a specific trait or characteristic that describes the ability to do that. This trait isn't something that is unique to successful writers but to successful businessmen and women, sales people, and other highly successful professionals.

    Questions from Weber State Univesity Students

    Weber State University

    Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to talk to a literature class at Weber State University that is using Room for Two as one of their books. I was very impressed with the students and their questions, comments, and insight they had. The following are some of their questions and my answers I thought others might find interesting.

    Q: What audience did you have in mind when you wrote Room for Two?

    A: I was trying to write for a very broad audience. I wanted to tell my story in such a way that even those who have never lost a spouse, child, or had a friend or loved one take their own life could enjoy it. It seems to have worked. Though I’ve received a lot of positive feedback from young widows, young widowers, and suicide survivors, most of the emails I receive have been from people who don’t fall into any of those categories. No matter what group the reader falls in, however, the vast majority of respondents tell me the book has touched their lives in very positive ways.

    Q: Why did you write Room for Two?

    A: The biggest reason was that I read or, rather, tired to read a lot of “memoirs” about losing a spouse soon after my late wife’s death. I found most of them to be completely worthless. Most of the time the writer would try to make him or herself out as a “wronged hero.” I felt authors were being less than honest about their experience and were hiding their own faults and imperfections. Because of this, I had a hard time relating on any level to the story they were trying to tell. I wanted to write a book that, in my opinion, showed the human side of the surviving spouse as well as the pain that that accompanies the death of a loved one.

    In the case of books that dealt specifically with losing a spouse to suicide, I thought the authors were trying to make excuses or justify the actions of their loved ones that killed themselves. Some of the books went as far to romanticize suicide. I find that to be extremely dangerous. The reasons people take their own life is very complex and trying to rationalize or validate their actions is impossible without being able to talk with that person. And since they’re dead, that impossible. Instead of justifying the actions of my late wife, I tried to portray the devastating effect suicide has on those left behind.

    Q: There’s a strong religious undercurrent in Room for Two. After reading the book, one can tell that you’re very religious but you don’t much in the way of specifics about what faith you belong to. Was that intentional?

    A: Yes. Outside of the mountain west, most people don’t know much about the LDS (Mormon) Church. I didn’t want to alienate or distract readers who are unfamiliar with the church. Hence the reason I used very generic terms to describe my religious affiliation. Those who are familiar with the LDS church will, I think, know what faith I’m a member of rather quickly.

    Q: If you were to rewrite Room for Two for a Mormon-only audience, what would you change?

    A: Nothing.

    Q: How did you come up with the title for your book?

    A: The working title of the book was Running Forward. However, that never seemed to fit with the story I was telling. One day I was editing a part of the book where I was struggling with making room in my heart for another person. Though the exact phrase “room for two” doesn’t appear in the text, while reading that paragraph, those words formed in my mind as I read it. I immediately knew I had the perfect right title for my book.

    Q: I really enjoyed reading your late wife’s poem “Ten Toed Children of Eve” that was in Room for Two. Have you considered about publishing the rest of your late wife’s poetry?

    A: I’ve thought about putting a website up that contained her poetry and some of her other writings. Right now it’s more of a time issue. I have other writing projects are more pressing.

    Q: Which writers have influenced you the most?

    A: Orson Scott Card, Ethan Canin, and my dad.

    Q: How do you find the time to write?

    A: I make time. Once my kids are in bed, I spend some time with my wife and then write until I can’t keep my eyes open. It’s easy to talk about being a writer but hard to actually put in the hours required to write something worth publishing. I went to school with a lot of “writers” that were more talented than me. However, I’m the only one with a book. Though talent has something to do with getting published, most of it has to do with dedicating the time to writing, editing, and rewriting your manuscript.

    Q: Are you writing more books?

    A: I’m currently writing a work of fiction. If I can hold to my self-imposed deadlines, I should have a publishable manuscript sometime this summer.

    Q: Do you have any plans to write a follow-up to Room for Two?

    A: Yes. After I complete this work of fiction, the plan is to write another book that picks up where Room for Two left off. The main focus will be on the early years my marriage to Julie. The working title is Seconds because the book is going to focus a lot on second chances, second marriages, second loves, etc.