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, 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

17 comments so far. Thank you, Blogger Bernita, Blogger emeraldcite, Blogger Adam Hurtubise, Blogger Moni, Blogger Kelly Parra, Blogger Jeff, Blogger anne frasier, Anonymous JLB, Blogger Frank Baron, Anonymous Nienke, Blogger spyscribbler, Anonymous jamie ford, Blogger Dawno, Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins, Blogger Shesawriter, Anonymous Anonymous, Anonymous FAPORT International,

Let me know what you think

Leave a comment


at 5:56 PM Blogger Bernita said...

Mark, glad to see you are still alive, kicking and writing.

at 5:59 PM Blogger emeraldcite said...

Mark, glad to hear that you're well and working on some cool stuff.

at 6:31 PM Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...

The new book sounds really cool, Mark.

at 10:53 PM Blogger Moni said...

You're a brave soul. Could be all that military training that has made you fearless. ;) Glad to see you're doing well. Congrats on the big interviews.

I agree with the rest, your book does sound interesting.

take care :)

at 12:37 AM Blogger Kelly Parra said...

Mark, it's good to hear from you! And glad to hear about the new book. I'm still rooting for your fiction career!

at 5:07 PM Blogger Jeff said...

It's good to see you posting again, Mark. Good luck with your new novel.

at 8:30 PM Blogger anne frasier said...

hi mark! nice to see your post. i tried to leave a comment yesterday, but bogger wouldn't let me. sounds like things are going well. don't overdo it. i'm a mom -- i can't keep from saying things like that. get enough sleep and take your vitamins.

at 4:51 PM Anonymous JLB said...

So glad you stopped in to say hello! I'm sorry to hear that the Picolata is no more, but it sounds like you have more than enough writing projects to keep you busy. Happy writing!


at 12:04 PM Blogger Frank Baron said...

It's al-iiiiive!


Glad that all sounds well in your universe. :)

at 3:39 PM Anonymous Nienke said...

Nice to hear from you buddy! Sounds like you are enjoying life and still honing your craft. Keep us up-to-date. Perhaps we'll know you as the famous photo-journalist before the famous fiction writer?

at 7:39 PM Blogger spyscribbler said...

Wow, that certainly sounds exciting, swimming with the alligators! Your new book sounds intriguing, too.

Best of luck!

at 6:44 PM Anonymous jamie ford said...

Sorry to see Picolata go away. But thanks for letting me be a part of it. Best of luck!

at 3:17 AM Blogger Dawno said...

*waves* I was happy to see your post - hope all is well.

at 10:18 PM Blogger Joanne D. Kiggins said...

Hope you're doing well, Mark. I see you updated your blog about the same time I did mine. I think it's time we both start getting some work done around here. Hope all is well.

at 5:11 PM Blogger Shesawriter said...


Are you coming back? We miss you.

Love and hugs,


at 7:07 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I came across your blog on Absolute Write blog list. I see you're a cowboy poet (and a journalist). I used to work as a journalist. I'm not a poet, but I've written blog articles and a book about old-time cowgirls. My book, Cowgirl Dreams is about to be published (I'm so excited!!) and is based on my grandmother who rode steers in Montana rodeos during the 1920s.


at 5:04 AM Anonymous FAPORT International said...

Glad to see u alive!!


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