neverland publishing

Writing Wednesday Writer's Plug

Now that Memorial Day is over and June is here, many of you are planning vacations - to the beach, to the mountains, to the back yard.  When that happens, a grand old American tradition is to get one's hands on novels with page-turning plots, colorful characters, humor, and maybe even a bit of mystery and action.  Ideally, romance is sprinkled into the mix with healthy portions. I would like to make two recommendations, knowing that these novels include all of the above ingredients for a good read.  I know this because I wrote them, and here they are:  Signs of Struggle in which the protagonist, Thomas O'Shea, who has lost his family in a tragic car accident, comes upon a beautiful woman, bloody and screaming, running down a country road.  He considers not helping; after all, he has his own issues, but his heroic side wins out, one thing leads to another, and he discovers an enormous plot to sell tens of millions of dollars' worth of prime Iowa farmland.  He starts snooping into the situation and then people try to discourage him.  Attempts are made on his life, but O'She is a tough guy with nothing to lose as he struggles with the loss of his family, drinking, women, and his guilt for precipitating so much violence in the little town where he now lives.  Ron Rash (Serena, The World Made Straight, Above the Waterfall, The Cove) says "Signs of Struggle is both a gripping murder mystery and a compelling study of one man's recovery from tragedy.  John Carenen is a gifted writer and his novel is an impressive debut."

My second recommendation is the sequel to Signs of Struggle and is entitled A Far Gone Night.  Suffering from insomnia, O'Shea goes for a late-night stroll and finds himself pausing on a bridge over the river that runs through the peaceful Iowa town of Rockbluff.  When he glances downstream, he sees the body of a dead girl. Teaming up with his friends Lunatic Mooning and Clancy Dominquez, an old buddy from Navy SEAL days, the men set out to bring justice to the dead girl, a quest that takes them to the Chalaka Reservation in Minnesota, seedy businesses adjacent to the Chalaka Casino, and straight into the world of organized crime.  Quirky characters fro my first novel, a fast-paced story, and laugh-out-loud moments continue to enliven the complex world of Thomas O'Shea.  Wendy Tyson (Killer Image, Deadly Asset, Dying Brand, A Muddied Murder) says, "Carenen has done it again.  Beautifully written ... A Far Gone Night doesn't disappoint."

So, whether you are headed for the beach or just enjoying your front porch, I am confident these two novels (the third in the series is at the publisher) will bring pleasure to your summer reading.  You can find them at Amazon books, of course.  If  you I've in the South Carolina Upstate, where I live, you can pick up both novels at both Fiction Addiction and Joe's Place in Greenville and My Sister's Store in Travelers Rest.  Also in "TR" as we call it, the novels are available at As the Page Turns (Southern Writers section) and The Cafe at Williams Hardware.  Just ask if you can't find them.  They're there.

So, I hope you'll pick up these novels, enjoy them, and say "I'm Facebook friends with this author!"

Happy Humility

Did the excitement of having my debut novel published on Monday go away? Nope. It's still there. And my Book Concierge is scheduling readings/signings here in the southeast, with more to come in the spring when I'm free of teaching duties and the book has had more exposure. Now, please remember if you are so inclined to purchase Signs of Struggle, consider supporting the small, indy book publisher in its competition with the big guys. Neverland Publishing is the place to go, although SOS is also available through Amazon and, very soon, Kindle.

I've been humbled many times in my life. Having bad eyes and trying to hit a curve ball was pretty humbling. Lots of cases like that, but being humbled by having something very good happen to me is much, much better. Everything about this novel is humbling; that Neverland Publishing took a chance with me and proved to be fine people; that several people I respect said nice things about the story (Ron Rash, anyone?), and that others are as happy for me as I am for myself.

I know what I deserve, and this is a lot better than that. Blessings, everyone.

Into the breach...

It is actually going to happen, friends. My debut novel, Signs of Struggle, is going to be available on Monday, October 15th on Kindle through Amazon and paperback wherever books are sold (stay tuned for a listing of book tour spots at independent bookstores).  It's been a long road going from a beginning writer back in high school creative writing class to a published novelist. Talk about living a dream. This coming Friday a dear friend and fellow novelist is hosting a Launch Party to celebrate the occasion, and I look forward to being among fellow writers and friends (the same people, often) to celebrate.

I am grateful to the enduring and wise encouragement over the years from my wife, Lisa, who kept saying, 'John, you're a good writer - better than some who are being published.' Wonderful wife, for sure. And my daughters, Rowe and Caitlin, have been right there with Lisa.

I encourage you to pick up a copy. Signs of Struggle is a good read. And thanks for reading my blog.

Have I stopped writing, satisfied with publication? No. I will always write. Another project is in the works as I speak. Writers write.

Mars Mock-Up and a Bloodied Babe

Now that it's been established that the glorious Mars landing by "Curiosity" has been exposed as another NASA hoax (remember the ones about men walking on the moon?) perpetrated by some miniature robots photographed in Death Valley, we can all get back to other things. Like the Olympics, which I no longer watch. Trampoline? Ping-pong? Kickball (soccer)? I'd rather watch reruns of "What Not To Wear."

Back to reality:  I promised a few pages from Chapter One from my novel, Signs of Struggle, and I hereby deliver them. Just enough to get you started. A synopsis and a bit from Chapter Two are available at the Neverland Publishing site. Publication date will be sometime next month. More on that later. For now, here's the start.

                                                                Chapter One                                  “No one ever told me grief felt so much like fear.”                                                                 - C. S. Lewis

     All I want is peace. All I want is to be left alone with the privacy and quiet that goes with it. So I gave myself the gift of a leisurely drive in the countryside. What could be more benign?      I needed time to recover from my Georgia-to-Iowa nonstop road trip and two days of fruitless house hunting in Rockbluff. I needed cheap therapy, and a late springtime wandering in the hill country seemed like a good idea. I thought it just might work better than counseling, pharmaceuticals, or maybe even a cold six-pack.       I had left America’s Best Bulldog, Gotcha, perched on her pillow back in the Rockbluff Motel, our home the last three days, and escaped into my country cruise. That’s all I wanted – a drive in the bucolic backcountry – something I’d often enjoyed before the move to Georgia. Something good, back when I had a family. Before the troubles came. Before a lot of things. So I took off, leaving Gotcha to catch up on her beauty sleep.      The May morning was glorious as I meandered down gravel roads, weaving through dense stands of hardwoods alternating with fields of fertile farmland. Thick pigs wallowed in fresh black mud, and grazing dairy and beef cattle concentrated on generating more butterfat and bigger briskets. Living industry; blood and breath.      I drove randomly for a while, serenity at every turn. But then, on a blind curve, I met a speeding, skidding, silver Corvette that nearly ran me off the road. I couldn’t blame the driver. Hard to improve on springtime and sports cars. I glanced in my rearview mirror and saw the ‘vette disappear into its dust cloud behind me.      I continued, rounding a gentle, deep-shadowed bend, and slowed to a stop to admire a mailbox seated squarely on a brick column. I had time. The surname “SODERSTROM” was calligraphied on the side of the mailbox in the midst of flashy cardinals, burly bluejays, and pink wild roses. Good Iowa name. Not many Soderstroms in south-central Georgia.      Just then, a movement in the shadows caught my eye. I glanced up into a tunnel of shade produced by the oak-lined lane leading away from the mailbox. And there she appeared, tall, blonde, and full-breasted, emerging quickly from the shadows. A sprinting screamer, bloody and berserk.      And her face? Fear and terror, and agony of some kind. Edvard Munch should have painted her instead of the sexless being in “The Scream.” He would’ve sold more t-shirts.      My highly-cultivated selfishness took over and I paused, wondering if I could escape and avoid whatever problem was pushing that woman toward me, closer and closer. It would be so easy. I wanted to leave, free of any duty, responsibility or moral compunction to help someone else in pain. Her problem, not mine.      My decision bounced around in my mind like lottery ping-pong balls waiting to be plucked. I froze. I muttered to myself, pounded my palms on the steering wheel. I knew I was going to do that which I did not want to do.      The woman loomed twenty yards away, fifteen, closing fast. Too late for my escape. Maybe I had let the decision be made for me by deliberate dawdling, linked together with its sluggish brother, procrastination.      I slammed the shift to park; killed the engine, stepped out of my pickup truck onto the gravel, pocketed my keys, my blood pressure in my ears, beating out a regular rhythm of “dumb ass, dumb ass, dumb ass.”  I looked up into the sky and silently asked,  What am I doing here? No answer. Imagine.      I was reminded of the poem by A.R. Ammons, “Coward,” herein completely recalled:  “Courage runs in my family.” I should have split.      The woman, lithe, long-legged, and swift, ran beautifully and with purpose, her footspeed driven by some revulsion back there, at the farm. She drew quickly to me, her bulging breasts fighting for freedom under her pale pink t-shirt. I took two steps toward her and then the woman, shrieking words I could not understand, a kind of gory glossalalia, smacked into me in an awkward embrace. I staggered back, repositioned my glasses, and simply held her, overcoming my urge, even then, to flee.      I wanted peace. Now this woman took it away, falling into my arms and covering me with blood and pulp, screaming words I finally understood: “Where are they!  Where are they!”      I shuddered, even in the growing heat of the day and with the warmth of her panting body pressed against me, almost enough to make me overlook the goop now pasted on my chest and arms.  The tormented expression on her face would have stopped my heart a few months ago. Not now.      I drew my head back and looked at her. The congealing bloodstuff smeared her arms, up to her elbows, and splattered on her tight t-shirt and light blue jeans. I pulled back my head a bit in distaste. I do not have the gift of mercy, unless it is directed toward myself.      She trembled through our grim embrace. I took her shoulders and pushed her to arms’ length and looked into her face to try to stop her panic, to give her a stable point of reference, her stunning green eyes wide and filled with fear, and comprehending more than I could understand. Her outstretched hands and forearms, slick with spilled life, reached out to me as she sobbed convulsively. Then she pulled me tightly to herself again and I said, “It’s okay.”      I am beyond stupid.

Cover, Causes, Conundrums and Credits

I promised you that I would soon have my book cover available, and that is now the case. If you want to see what the book will look like, go to and click on the "Titles" spot, scroll down a little and look for me on the right. I also now have my editing "suggestions" to address, but the publisher had very few suggestions, so I should have it all back to them this week. I also promised to offer to you the first chapter soon, and that will be coming before much longer. This post is a potpourri of ideas that jump into my warped brain. For example, surely you have watched news programs that cover fires and plane crashes and car wrecks. Often, they wonder out loud about the "cause" of any of these, and then dribble on and on about what might have been behind the problem. This makes me wonder why they can't be candid and concise. Cause for plane crashes? Gravity. Cause for fires? Heat. Cause for automobile accidents? Physics.

When we lived in Macon, Georgia, the telephone book had this listing under government offices: "Gun permits/Marriage Licenses." I am not making this up. Those departments were in the same office in the Bibb County Courthouse. This was brought to mind as I was looking for a bidness in the Greenville, South Carolina phone book where I noticed that "Demolition" and "Dentist" were on the same page. In more ways than one.

Finally, at the end of movies there is an unending trail of credits to people who were involved in making the movie. Sometimes I watch to get an idea of what it really takes to make a movie and why it's so expensive. Lots of people have to be paid. Anyway, the role I would like to have someday would be the "gaffer." I don't know what a real gaffer does, and I don't want to know. But I see the gaffer as an old fart with a stubby cigar in his teeth, a weathered derby propped back on his bald head, three-day whiskers, and a brown paper bag in a pudgy hand. I could do that.