Tony Vanderwarker – Rural Virginian

Sharing his trials and tribulations of trying to break into the literary world, author Tony Vanderwarker spoke Jan. 24 at Victory Hall in Scottsville. The event was part of an ongoing lecture series sponsored by the new Focus Contemporary Gallery.

- by Heather Harris / For The Rural Virginian

If you like Mad Men, you'll love Ads For GOD

Kirkus Review

In this comic novel, a jaded adman gets a chance for redemption when God taps him for his marketing campaign.

Dinsmore “Dinny” Rein is 55, divorced and demoted since he’s been freezing up in meetings at his Chicago ad agency. At the company, run by the loathsome Steve Sinkle and sexy creative director Ester, Dinny is derisively referred to as “Noodles” because one of his two remaining clients is a pasta company. Exhausted and irritated, Dinny agrees to meet the baritone who keeps calling him on his cellphone. The old man says he’s God; to get people back to church, he wants Dinny to do an ad campaign. Dinny is skeptical at first, but he then learns that $10 million has shown up in the agency’s bank account. The next morning, Dinny wakes up to find he looks 35 again, “jelly-donut belly” and wrinkles gone. Emboldened, he strides into the office and gets Sinkle to give him the resources he needs. He produces an evocative, successful image campaign; meanwhile, girlfriend Patti gets a similarly miraculous youthful makeover, too. Yet Dinny is dogged by problems, as Sinkle and Ester work behind his back to do an alternate campaign. Worse still, God proves to be less than all-powerful, with a slippery hold on the human forms he inhabits, and his campaign monies are provided through questionable means. By novel’s end, Dinny emerges more successful, yet a bit bemused, especially because he receives a call for help from another religious figure. Former adman Vanderwarker—perhaps best known for Writing with the Master (2014), about John Grisham helping him with one of his other novels—brings plenty of insider perspective to this snarky, rollicking tale. Just when the deus ex machina seems shaky, that becomes precisely the point, and the novel turns into a rather biting social commentary. The character study of Dinny disappears somewhat in that transition, although perhaps that’s also intentional given he’s merely a Job stuck doing a job for God.

An amusing satire about the ad business, with clever twists on its gimmick and dead-on barbs about our brand-obsessed culture.

- Kirkus Review

Two Nukes Jettisoned Over North Carolina in 1961

It has long been suspected that nuclear weapons flown on B-52s and B-47s during the Cold War were involved in mid-air mishaps and accidents that resulted in bombs being dropped over the United States.

CNN and Fox reported this week that the National Security Archives revealed that in 1961, one B-52’s wing came off in mid-flight over Raleigh and the crew jettisoned two Mk 39 thermonuclear weapons. One bomb’s arming mechanism was activated when it hit and another parachuting down came close to also detonating. The two bombs had three times the explosive force as the one dropped on Hiroshima and had one or two detonated, miilions of Americans on the Eastern Seaboard would have been affected. CNN’s story was titled Two Nuclear Bombs Nearly Detonated in North Carolina.

Until Monday, the government had kept the weapons program classified. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara admitted a couple years after the incident that “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross, a nuclear explosion was averted.”

Operation Chrome Dome was the secret Air Force program flying armed nukes from bases in the U.S. to points near the Russian border during the 1960s. So that we had armed nukes in the air at all times in case of a Russian attack, the planes would fly to Russia, hover just off the border waiting for an order, and when none came, return to the U.S., refueling over Europe. Planes were in the air 24-7, who knows how many at one time, twelve or fifty? But it was our defense against the possibility of a Russian attack and took its toll on SAC pilots and crew as well as on the bombers As in the B-52 over Goldsboro, planes literally came apart in mid-air because of structural fatigue.

Sleeping Dogs, Tony Vanderwarker’s novel which he co-authored with John Grisham, tells the story of a lost nuke jettisoned in a similar situation by a B-52. An old pilot, locked away in a VA hospital by the Pentagon to keep him from revealing what he knows about a lost nuke, is befriended by a nurse who hears him muttering something about a bomb. She goes on a website run by a disgraced Pentagon whistleblower, Howie Collyer, and discovers the threat lost nukes pose.

Contacting Collyer, the two decide to kidnap the pilot to see if he can lead them to the nuke. What they don’t know is that a sleeper al-Qaeda cell has been monitoring the website and his email so they follow the three.

When the Pentagon is alerted that Collyer has kidnapped the pilot and that al-Qaeda is tracking them, they go into action.

Sleeping Dogs dramatizes the frightening alternatives: who will get to the bomb first, Collyer and the nurse who will bring to light the threat the bombs pose, the Pentagon which will deep-six the incident and continue to bury the issue or al-Qaeda which is intent on detonating the bomb, incinerating millions and making the Eastern Seaboard uninhabitable for centuries?

“I knew there was a real threat posed by these lost nukes and I’m glad the government is finally bringing the situation to light,” Vanderwarker says. “Who knows how many other bombs are out there, I hope my novel will help keep the pressure on to keep the bombs as fodder for novelists like me and not the source of some terrible tragedy in the future.”

Tony Teaches Local Authors

Tony gives back to aspiring authors and writers in Charlottesville Virginia by sharing his insights and writing knowledge in a free series of workshops. Come join him before it is over!

Event Details

WhereThe Charlottesville Barnes and Noble (see event here)
When: April 27th, May 3rd, 10th, 17th @ 9:30am – 10:00am
Who: All interested aspiring and seasoned authors

David Moody from Authorspress Publishing will provide publishers insight at all sessions, giving insights about preparing, publishing, distributing and marketing books.

Workshop resources will be provide at each session and various references will be listed here on Tony’s blog:

Self Publisher References/Notes

Prepare your manuscript in your editor of choice. It is recommended that you try out Scrivner to help you productively prepare and organize.

Book Cover Design – strongly recommend hiring a professional book designer who can design both interior layout of the book and the complete cover and dust cover.

To familiarize yourself with some of the basics of book cover design see these third party references:

Authors need to be resilient and get multiple levels of editing and proof reading. Here are some examples of third party editing services:

Test your print run and have it proofed by an independent who just proofs (reads it) again after receiving proof from printer.

You book designer will take care of ISBNs, pricing barcodes, imprints, copyright, etc.

See you on Saturday!

Author Tony Vanderwarker in Virginia Living Magazine, June 2014

Author Tony Vanderwarker is presented in the June 2014 edition of Virginia Living Magazine. In this 6 page featured article you will discover details about Tony’s craft as an author, career as a Chicago advertising agency founder, and the elegance of his self architected home on his Keswick Virginia farm. Below are some image captures from the article.

Tony Interviews with WritersCast.com

Tony speaks with WritersCast.com about his authoring journey…

Interview Clip

Tony Vanderwarker had a successful career in advertising before he decided to write fiction. I think advertising is an interesting training ground for a novelist since in so many ways, advertising is about telling stories that are powerful and compelling and of course get across their emotional content very efficiently. Everyone seems to want to be a writer these days, and I think there are a lot of really good books being written and published by late blooming authors, who had successful careers in one field or another, but who always really wanted to write. And doubtless, there are more than a few that are not so great.

Tony Vanderwarker has a great story to tell – not just in his novel, Sleeping Dogs, but in how this book came to be written…

Tony Vanderwarker on CBS 6 News

RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) – Author Tony Vanderwarker published two books, just this week, thanks to his neighbor, best-selling author John Grisham.  He shared his incredible experience of being mentored by John Grisham while writing a thriller in  ’Writing With the Master.’ The other book out this week is that novel,  “Sleeping Dogs.” You have the chance to meet  Tony Vanderwarker on February 8th, 1pm at Barnes and Noble at Chesterfield Towne Center, and then  at 4pm at Barnes and Noble in Short Pump. He will also be at the Fountain Bookstore in Shockoe Slip on Tuesday, February 25th,  6:30pm.

Tony Vanderwarker: Master Class

“I was sitting at lunch with John one day, and he asked how my writing was going,” Tony Vanderwarker said. “I didn’t want to tell him that I was on my seventh unpublished novel, so I just said it’s been a little bit of an uphill. He said he’d be glad to mentor me, write a thriller with me.”

Sleeping Dogs (AuthorsPress Publishing) is the name of that thriller. Vanderwarker’s the author. And the friend who helped him with it is John Grisham. What’s it like to have John Grisham as mentor?

Find out, because, in addition to Sleeping Dogs, Vanderwarker has written Writing with the Master (Skyhorse Publishing), and let the subtitle say it all: “How One of the World’s Bestselling Authors Fixed My Book and Changed My Life.”

Writing with the Master could change yours, if…  Read More @ memphisflyer.com

Writing With The Master: American Library Association Review

According to the prestigious Booklist, the source for American Library Association reviews, Writing With The Master is a captivating unique accompaniment to the novel Sleeping Dogs. A must read of every budding writer. Read more of the review below.

The Booklist Review

Perhaps every budding writer fantasizes about having a successful veteran author looking over his or her shoulder, offering warnings to help avoid the pitfalls of composing and submitting a first novel. Imagine, for instance, penning a crime thriller while John Grisham offers you advice on building suspense. For Vanderwarker, a former ad-agency owner who cashed in to focus on writing, this proved to be no idle fantasy; Grisham actually did help him pen his debut novel, the soon-to-be-released Sleeping Dogs.

Since both were already friends and neighbors in Charlottesville, Virginia, some form of mentoring was perhaps inevitable, but Vanderwarker wisely waited until Grisham offered. Although this short but captivating story of their collaboration sometimes feels like a rushed, albeit unique, accompaniment to the novel, it’s brimming with invaluable literary lessons and amusing anecdotes, such as Vanderwarker’s wry descriptions of the ego bruising he endured from Grisham’s blunt criticism and prodding to construct a whopping seven outlines for his novel before he actually began writing it. Must reading for both aspiring thriller authors and die-hard Grisham fans.

— Carl Hays
American Library Association Booklist Reviews

Writing Prompt – don’t figure it out

The prompt to end all prompts. Don’t bother trying to figure it out.

Where you’re going or what your pay dirt will turn out to be. Too much depends on stuff that’s way over the horizon, beyond your line of sight and your understanding.

In a million years I couldn’t have imagined ending up where I am now. More than improbable, it was impossible—until it happened. Then it was, okay, well I didn’t quite expect to end up here but this is where I am–so be it. And the unexpected is half the joy of it. So let it happen. If you try to force it, you’ll make it go away. If you attempt to imagine it, you’ll get it wrong. So put the figure it out away and do you the know what. Give you a clue, it has five letters, okay?

Writer's Block

Let’s face it. Writer’s Block isn’t a reality, it’s nothing but an excuse us writers hide behind when we aren’t able to stare down the blank page. It’s a handy concept to haul out when you find yourself mired in your own mud. Writing is hard, no question about it. As Stephen Fischer says, “The paradox of writing is that you are trying to use words to express what words can’t express.” Like a stonemason whose rocks refuse to fit together or a violinist whose strings keep breaking each time he touches his bow to them, words ultimately fail to precisely capture what they are intended to express.

So writing is a “can’t win” challenge for a writer and having an innate tendency to shy away from the impossible is an understandable human trait. Living in horse county, I go to a bunch of horse shows and its always interesting to me to see a horse pull up short when faced with a jump. “I just don’t feel like jumping over that goddamned thing,” it appears they are thinking. My jumping friend Sandy explains that it’s fear, they’re afraid they won’t make it over, or they’re having a bad day, or their feet hurt and they’re worried that landing will make them hurt more. Or they just plain spook. Or all of the above.

Same with writer’s block. Hillary Rettig is quoted on Wikipedia as saying, “Writer’s block” itself is a misnomer because “block” implies one monolithic cause, and most people who struggle with their writing really suffer from many causes. She says the condition is better thought of as a kind of “spaghetti snarl” of those causes, which include: perfectionism (itself, a conglomeration of many causes), ambivalence (about the topic one is trying to write about, or publishing it, or writing itself), time constraints, resource constraints, ineffective work processes, unhealed traumatic rejections, and a disempowering context. Each of these causes is entangled with the others, and can reinforce them . However, she says the spaghetti snarl model is ultimately a positive thing for writers because snarls can be untangled, and the more you untangle the easier the remaining untangling gets.

So let’s assume you’re “blocked”—what’s the creative laxative you take to get things moving again? First is understanding that you’re not alone, every writer trembles a bit when facing the blank page. Second, you have ultimate ability to crash through the block by simply beginning to type. Your fingers become your bulldozer. Say you’re starting a novel. Try typing the title page. Good, now go on and name the first chapter. Don’t worry, you’ll change it a million times before it’s over. Then bang out the first sentence, then the second. Maybe it’ll suck but you can fix it later. Suddenly you find you’re over the hump, over the jump, broken through writer’s block, untangled the snarl and moved through it.

Will you keep what you’ve written? Too early to tell. But as time passes and you’ve moved through your plot and accumulated two thousand or ten thousand words, your book will begin to take shape and you can go back and recraft, rejigger and refine or take the whole thing, junk it and start over with a new approach.

I started my second comic novel on advertising and wrote about twenty pages when I realized my main character was an unlikeable asshole so I chucked it and began again. But the first draft cleared a path for me and it was a breeze laying down a new road forward.

So the lesson is, writer’s block is of your own doing and you have the total power to undo it. Keeping the wall up between you and your writing is a willful choice on the writer’s part.

But ask yourself since writing is so goddamned hard, why in the world make it harder? Hemingway has a good trick I’ve adopted. Every day, stop writing when you see daylight ahead. That way it becomes so much easier to pick up the next day where you left off and keep writer’s block locked in the closet where it belongs.

Writing Prompt – tenacity

So here’s a prompt on how to write.

Here’s the thing. Barbara O’Neal wrote it. “Writers write. They write and write and write and write, until they write themselves into their own understanding of who they are and what they bring to the page.”

Took me fifteen years of write, write, write until I wrote myself into Tony Vanderwarker the writer and woke up to what I could bring to the page. I even quit for a couple years because I got dejected by seeing no light at the end of the funnel. When I’d finished my first book, I asked my brother what I should do and he said, “Write five more.” I wanted to punch him through the phone. He turned out to be dead wrong. It ended up taking me seven before the publishing gods smiled on me.

Writing Prompt - Your Voice

Now let’s come up with a prompt on what to write.

Everyone of us has a little voice deep inside that’s formed by our upbringing, experience, education and years of just slogging through life. That voice is what makes every one of us special with a unique view of the world. My voice is definitely whacky, off-balance, rude and often wicked. I think from my mother leaving me with friends when I was little. Her friends had a farm with big Rhode Island Red chickens and an Albanian gardener named Teedee who had no teeth. Teedee would take Tony down to the coop every morning to feed the chickens. Scared the living crap out of me since the chickens stood two plus feet tall and I was a tiny toddler. It was like being surrounded by bull elephants and it scarred me for life.

So that’s where my voice comes from, out of sheer panic at the thought of being pecked to death by tall chickens. Maybe check your own subconscious, see what you fear the most and I bet your voice will be snuggled right alongside. So once you grab a hold of the voice, then force it to look this way and that and make it tell you what it sees. And that’s what you write. It’s easy.

So here’s a prompt on how to write. Here’s the thing. Barbara O’Neal wrote it. “Writers write. They write and write and write and write, until they write themselves into their own understanding of who they are and what they bring to the page.” Took me fifteen years of write, write, write until I wrote myself into Tony Vanderwarker the writer and woke up to what I could bring to the page. I even quit for a couple years because I got dejected by seeing no light at the end of the funnel. When I’d finished my first book, I asked my brother what I should do and he said, “Write five more.” I wanted to punch him through the phone. He turned out to be dead wrong. It ended up taking me seven before the publishing gods smiled on me.

The prompt to end all prompts. Don’t bother trying to figure it out. Where you’re going or what your paydirt will turn out to be. Too much depends on stuff that’s way over the horizon, beyond your line of sight and your understanding. In a million years I couldn’t have imagined ending up where I am now. More than improbable, it was impossible—until it happened. Then it was, okay, well I didn’t quite expect to end up here but this is where I am–so be it. And the unexpected is half the joy of it. So let it happen. If you try to force it, you’ll make it go away. If you attempt to imagine it, you’ll get it wrong. So put the figure it out away and do you the know what. Give you a clue, it has five letters, okay?