Monday, March 28, 2011

An Invitation

If you've stumbled upon my blog from anywhere other than my website, www.MarkPettus.com, you may not know that the best way to keep track of me these days is to follow @MarkEPettus on Twitter.

Want a look at my new novel? I'm now seeking representation for A Texas Lovesong.

Mark Pettus,
Monday, March 28, 2011


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Monday, May 04, 2009

Hello from paradise

This a test of the emergency blogging network. This is only a test, in the case of a real blogging emergency you would be instructed to leave a comment and let me know that you've stopped by.

I've been busy for the past couple of years. If you're curious what I've been doing, check out my resume link. I've had a lot of fun, but it's been a lot of work.

Leave a comment. I'd like to know who still has me on their list after all this time.

Take care 'til next time.

Mark Pettus,
Monday, May 04, 2009


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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

This is ground control to Major Tom

Here am I floating on my tin can,
far from the world.



Actually, I'm sitting at my dining room table, hiding from the world. My antenna is up, and I'm still receiving signals, but I'm afraid my transmitter is working only sporadically. I seldom have the time, and when I have the time, I lack the motivation, so I don't - blog that is, not about swimming pools, nor movie stars.

My life: I'm still working full time for that big, unnamed newspaper in the South (actually I work for a mid-sized weekly news magazine/tabloid that is published jointly by the Florida Times-Union, and the St. Augustine Record). Because of our magazine-like format, I get to exercise my creative skills and my photographic muscles a lot more than the average newspaper reporter.

Last week I shot and wrote a cover story about the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park, and its efforts to protect the extremely endangered Chinese Alligator. There are less than 120 of these animals still alive in the wild, quite possibly making them the most endangered vertebrate species on earth. To shoot the story, I had to go into the pens with the gators. I don't know if its because I'm incredibly stupid, or because I was cursed with the Steve Irwin gene, but I felt surprisingly little fear, despite being surrounded by prehistoric reptilian eating machines. Three weeks ago, I confronted several road-side solicitiors who claimed to be collecting money for charity, but who refused to tell me where the money was going. They were much more frightening than the alligators.



In addition to my photo-journalism duties, I've started writing book reviews and author interviews for the Times-Union. In recent weeks I've interviewed Pulitzer winner Jane Smiley, in conjunction with my review of her book Ten Days in the Hills, and Jon Clinch, author of the acclaimed debut novel Finn.

I'm not the book editor. Unlike at most magazines, and some newspapers, where book editor is the title given the in-house reviewer, the T-U's book editor actually edits. His name is Marc Cook, and like me, he does something else for the paper full-time. He and I share a passion for great books. Unfortunately, being a professional reviewer means occasionally reading some not-so-great books as well. The two books mentioned above are great. You can subscribe to the Times-Union if you want to know which books I think are not. Usually my stories are also available at www.jacksonville.com, but not always. My Jane Smiley interview wasn't, but it was picked up by Verizon.

I am writing another book, tentatively titled The Embed. I expect to finish the first draft sometime in April. It's a story about a small-town reporter who volunteers to go to Iraq, and finds himself in way over his head. I'd call it a suspense novel, except I am by nature more interested in what happens inside my characters than to them, so the suspense seems secondary to the emotional journey. Right now I feel like I'm walking the line between commercial and literary. Of course, the final product may be completely unlike my current vision. I think its good, but we'll see.

I'll try to drop in more often, and visit you at your blogs when I can. Thanks for stopping by.

Mark Pettus,
Wednesday, February 28, 2007


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Monday, November 13, 2006

I don't care what you read in the obituaries

I'm still alive.

What an interesting ride it's been.

If you're here, I'm going to assume you already know that after I started putting together the Picolata Review, I was offered a new job. When I took the new job, I felt like I had enough energy to do both, plus blog, plus write On the Bluff, and continue seeking an agent for Transit Gloria.

Unfortunately, I was wrong. In the weeks that followed I published two issues of the Picolata, and put together a third. Before that third issue was published, I ran out of energy.

I went to work exhausted, and came home too tired to do more than eat and go to bed. I began losing weight. I lost 27 pounds between the end of August and the third week of October, and despite my near total exhaustion I wasn't able to sleep more than a couple of hours a night.

People I barely know began commenting on my weight loss and appearance, and asking if I was okay. I finally took their concern as an indication that I might not be - that I might, in fact, be far from okay.

On October 20, I saw my doctor. He ran a series of tests, and when he tested my blood glucose level it was too high for his monitor to read. He sent me to a nearby lab for more testing (stat!) and my blood sugar was over 720 mg/dl. If you have a diabetic in your family, you probably already know what the doc told me - that I was about to have a stroke. Patty LaBelle hawks glucose monitors on television, and says she was diagnosed as a diabetic after she collapsed on stage with blood glucose level of 500 mg/dl.

I didn't have a stroke, and after several weeks of insulin therapy and the best medications our modern science can provide, I'm out of immediate danger. I am a diabetic, and will be on medications for the rest of my life. My life expectancy went down by 10 years with my diagnosis, and my chances of having a heart attack or stroke went up by 40 percent. Those are sobering statistics.

I wasn't obese, or even overweight. I'm athletic, an outdoorsman, and I quit smoking years ago. Other than a family history of diabetes, I really had none of the traditional risk factors. I did have one, though, which doctors only recently realized can trigger adult-onset diabetes: stress. Lots and lots of stress.

The news isn't all bad. I'm okay now. I'm forcing myself to take things a little less seriously. I've gained back 10 lbs, and feel pretty good. I'm still reporting the news, and have even appeared on television twice recently, once as a moderator for a candidate forum, and Friday I appeared on Week in Review, a local weekly news roundtable. I just watched myself on tape, and to my own eye I look like a leaner, harder version of my old self. In the words of Dabney Coleman's character from Modern Problems, "I ain't no freak. I'm a damned good looking man."

Thanks for stopping by and leaving notes while I was away. I saw them, and appreciated them, and I apologize for not responding sooner. I just didn't have the energy.

Please take care of yourselves, and remember the words of Warren Zevon, who said, "Enjoy every sandwich."

Mark Pettus,
Monday, November 13, 2006


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Friday, August 18, 2006

Oh my, look at all the dust.

I've been away so long I scarcely remember how to do this blog thing. I've got to brush away the cobwebs, and dust off the keyboard.

Here's a quick update on my life. In late May, the managing editor for a weekly news magazine/tabloid called me to ask if I'd be interested in coming to work for him.

This was mere days after I began putting together the Picolata Review. For the next several weeks, I was so busy negotiating, editing the Picolata, and doing my job at the newspaper that I barely had time to check my own email.

On July 5, I started my new job as a photojournalist for the weekly - a joint publication of two major daily papers. A week later, I landed on a story that became the cover and center spread that week. The story drew kudos from the entire editorial staff downtown (headquarters of the 600,000-reader daily that is the larger of our parent papers). It was about a woman whose family farm is surrounded by land owned by a real estate developer, and the developer's threat to charge her with tresspassing for using their road to access her farm. Her family has used the same road for the past 98 years.

Since then, I've been jumping from one hard news story to the next. Hard news stories - which is exactly what they sound like, hard hitting stories likely to hurt feelings and stir controversy - take an extraordinary amout of time to do well. You have to check your facts, and balance your coverage, and dig for quotes, and then check it all again so you know your story is up to date at deadline. I've been starting to work on Monday mornings at 8 a.m., and putting in 12 to 14 hours a day every day. I've also racked up an extraordinary number of miles and hours staring through the windshield.

I'm not complaining. This is work I consider important - shining a light on injustice, and helping people understand the forces at work in the world around them. I'm writing for a living (which makes me the luckiest man on earth), and I'm writing about things that matter. I'm not editing (uggghh - I don't miss it), but I am getting to use some damned nice photographic equipment (men and boys, price of toys...)

I've also had some interesting opportunities. This past Monday, I was a moderator for a televised debate/forum hosted by a civic association. Two other journalists and I got to grill candidates for two hours, and now even more people than usual are stopping me in the grocery store to say how much they liked my work - or hated it. It's an odd feeling to walk into a building and have everyone there know your name, even though you've never met any of them before.

I've also been invited to join the panel on our local talking-head show on Sunday mornings. All that's left for me to achieve the upper reaches of the liberal media elite is for someone to cancel their subscription to my blog because they think I'm biased - no, wait, that happened last week when I published Charles Baxter's comments about President Bush in the Picolata Review.

Oh, well. If you want to fight with the big dogs, it helps if you look good in a spiked collar. Or something like that. I think I've done pretty well for a small town boy who broke into this business not all that long ago... I think I'll tell that story to you folks soon. If I have time.

p.s. Last Friday I wrote an update to my story about the lady and her struggles with the real estate developer. On Saturday, someone burned her house down. The fire department tells me the fire was intentionally set.

Sometimes there are consequences to what we write. Remember that, even if what you write is poetry or science fiction. Writing moves people, not always in the direction the writer wants them to move.

Mark Pettus,
Friday, August 18, 2006


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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Sorry - just spam tonight.

The second issue of the Picolata Review is out.

www.PicolataReview.org

I'll try to update soon - new job, new responsibilities.

Take Care, Mark

Mark Pettus,
Tuesday, August 01, 2006


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