Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas with the Angels

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Christmas with the Angels

So it's Christmas time
the happiest time of the year
but I don't feel too happy
since you're not here
but I tell myself to put away all the tears
cause you're spending your first Christmas
with the Lord and the angels this year

And the angels will be singing
clear and strong
and the angels will be singing
and you'll be singing right along

And so I tell myself
to put away the tears
cause you're spending your first Christmas
with the Lord and the angels
this year ...

Words & Music: Nick Wilgus (c) 2014

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Are radio stations in Mississippi self-censoring the gay-friendly country song 'Follow Your Arrow'?

Kacey Musgrove's gay-friendly Follow Your Arrow was named Song of the Year at this year's Country Music Awards -- but a lot of us in the Magnolia State had never heard of it.

How could this happen?

How could folks who listen to country music each and every day on the radio draw a blank over a song that was named Song of the Year?

Here's how:

Some radio stations down here won't play it. Musgrove's Merry Go Round gets routine play, but the gay-friendly Follow Your Arrow? Not a chance.

The media is Mississippi is known for timidity. Radio stations are apparently no exception. Very often what's not reported is far more important that what we see in our newspapers and televisions or hear on our radios.

For most of the media in Mississippi, gay people do not exist. Far easier to pass over the matter in silence (and, conveniently, not have to worry about offending advertisers) than to be forthcoming.

By self-censoring, the media hope to ... what? Spare viewers and listeners from having to consider the fact that gay people exist in their midst? Do these media outlets believe the people of Mississippi are too stupid or too childish to be able to cope with this information? Do they believe they are doing us a public service by keeping silent?

Do Mississippians want their media to treat them as though they were children who need to be protected from the realities of the world?

And why, knee deep into the 21st century as we are, do the media in Mississippi feel the need to censor themselves?

What are they afraid of?

Saturday, September 13, 2014


Wanna energize your writing? Simple. Talk to me. Or have your characters talk to each other.


It works.

To my mind, nothing slows down an otherwise promising book of fiction than endless descriptive paragraphs. Not matter how pretty, how witty, how elegant, I can only take so many of those before I start to yawn. Why? Because I care about people, and I want to know about people -- the narrator, the characters, what they're thinking, feeling, going through, planning, scheming, anguishing over.

And I don't want you to TELL me what they thinking and feeling. I want you to SHOW me. And I want you to do it through dialog.

A quick example:
Joe sat at the kitchen table angrily sipping his coffee.
His partner rolled his eyes, grabbed his keys off the counter and left.
Okay, as far as it goes, but how about this:
"The way I feel right now, I want to take this coffee cup and bash your fucking teeth in," Joe snapped.
"Take a number," his partner replied, grabbing his keys off the counter.
Dialog keeps the action moving and creates a sense of intimacy that descriptive passages often fail to achieve.

When I read dialog, the pages fly by.

I used a lot of dialog in SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, my recent bestseller about a gay single father whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend. I knew I had a great story to tell, but I didn't want to be the one who told it -- I wanted my characters to do that. After all, it was their story, not mine.

I chose a first person narrative so that the narrator could speak directly about his thoughts and feelings. And I resisted the urge to have him "explain" the thoughts and feelings of the people in his life, preferring they speak for themselves.

If you're looking for ways to brighten up your writing -- give it zest, energy, movement -- dialog is a potent tool.

In real life, dialog is how we encounter others, how we learn about ourselves. Life is a long conversation with those in our lives. Each conversation adds to the sum total of who we are and how we understand ourselves, and how others understand us.

It works in life; it works in books, too.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why I Wrote 'Shaking the Sugar Tree'

Be sure to check out the article I wrote for Gays With Kids, called "Why I Wrote Shaking the Sugar Tree."

"Yet a funny thing happened on the way to writing my angry gay novel – I found it impossible to write about a father and a son and not see the wonderful humor and joy involved in such a relationship." 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Win a free audio book version of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE

SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, about a gay single father in the South whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend, recently became a best-seller, and to celebrate I'm giving away two copies of the AUDIO BOOK.

But first, some news:

The press in Mississippi, where I live, has finally noticed.

Writing for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, Leslie Criss says:
 "Clearly, the author has a flair for storytelling. He also possesses an ability to weave words together in a way that makes his work not only readable and interesting, but also powerful. I can’t say this about all authors whom I’ve read, but Wilgus has an amazing ability to write life into his characters. I immediately felt a connection with most, if not all of them. I cared about them, and I thought about them long after I’d finished the book."

R.H. Coupe, writing for the Jackson Free Press, says
"I read his most recent book ... on a flight to and from New Jersey. At times it had me laughing so hard I woke up the drooling drunk who had fallen asleep on my shoulder. Later, the flight attendant brought me some tissues to wipe my eyes and asked me if I was all right. The book is terribly painful at times—the kind of pain that comes from the helplessness of seeing a parent rejecting a child."

SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE has picked up numerous five-star reviews on book review blogs like The Tipsy Bibliophile, who says:
"There were many things I loved about this book. I loved the writing and I loved the setting. I completely enjoyed the raw and fierce love Wiley had for his son. All good, GOOD things. But Wiley himself, man, that guy went straight for my soul. I could relate to him in such a deep, and basic level it was staggering at times." 
See also reviews on:
Prism Book Alliance - "I have never read a book like this!" 
Gay List Book Review - "Absolutely loved it!"
Mrs. Condit Reads Books - "One of the most amazing books I've read in a while."
The Novel Approach - "My introduction to Mr. Wilgus's work was nothing short of extraordinary."

In other news, the AUDIO BOOK format of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE was recently released. Narrated by Wayne Messmer, you can find it on

Fans of SUGAR TREE will be happy to know a sequel is on the way. It's called STONES IN THE ROAD and it's all about what happens when Jackson Ledbetter's parents from Boston pay a visit. Here's a little taste:


To win one of the two audio book versions of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE up for grabs, find your way to my Facebook page and leave me a message or a comment stating that you want to win. (If the link doesn't work for you, search Facebook for "Nick Wilgus" or "Wilgus World".) 

I'll put your name in the pot. The two winners will be selected by a random drawing this Friday evening (August 1, 2014) at 8pm (my time!). I'll post a status update with the names of the winners so be sure to check back to see if you've won. If you have, you'll have to provide your email address so I can email you a code and instructions for 

Good luck!

And thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

THE DEPTHS OF EVIL: A backgrounder on the influences that led to the writing of the novel

Like most novels, THE DEPTHS OF EVIL is the result of many influences.

The idea came as I walked along a beach in Thailand at night. I wondered what it would be like if people began to come out of the water ... and not just people, but vampires. And not just vampires, but vampire children. Seemingly innocent and helpless ... until they attacked en masse and dragged me into the dark depths of the tide, never to be heard from again.

Since JAWS, I have been abnormally afraid of water, especially ocean water. Who knows what horrors lurk beneath the surface, what beasts, what leviathans, what monsters? 

Why not, I thought, write a novel about vampire children who live underwater, who emerge late in the night to prey on unsuspecting beach-goers?

The vampire children who inhabit THE DEPTHS OF EVIL are not sweet, pretty vampires like the ones gracing the pages of TWILIGHT. Neither do have the grace and charm of Lestat. No. They are nasty, their sweetness and innocence lost to the demands that their insatiable hunger places upon them. They are vicious little killers.

The second influence that led to the writing of this novel was an abandoned mining town where I lived with my family as a child called Edward's Lake, just outside West Branch, Michigan.

Incredibly, the place now has its own website.

Here's a photo of the lake itself:

We lived in the house at the turn in the road that goes down to the mining facility. It was abandoned in the 1970s when we lived there: wild, rough, not the clean-cut looking place in this photo.

As I kicked around the plot for THE DEPTHS OF EVIL, I decided to have a team of journalists investigate such an abandoned town, and I made up a backstory -- that many people had gone down into the abandoned town and never returned; that many children in the area had gone missing over the years with no one knowing quite why. My team of journalists planned to do a feature story.

From there, it was only a small step to place my nasty vampire children in that lake ...

What happens when the team of journalists visit the lake on a hot July day? Well, you'll just have to find out for yourself ... believe me, it isn't pretty.

THE DEPTHS OF EVIL, published by Double Dragon Publishing in Canada, is available in ebook format, with a print version on the way.

As always, if you enjoy my work, be sure to leave a review on or

Friday, February 28, 2014

Are the media in Mississippi sitting out another civil rights battle?

As I paid for my newly-printed super-duper press kit announcing the release of my latest book, I knew I was wasting my money - and I was not wrong.

The press release was intended for publications and media outlets in the state of Mississippi where I live. I hoped to announce to my fellow citizens the release of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, a romantic-comedy novel about a gay single father whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend.

Here's how it works: When a company or an individual wants or needs press attention, one writes a press release and attaches appropriate documents - an author's photo, a photo of the book cover, graphics, whatnot. As a former newspaper editor, I am quite familiar with the flow of press releases that come over the transom. Editors must pick and choose, of course, because there's simply not enough room to print all of them. Some press releases are more newsworthy than others. Some have clearly been put together by deranged lunatics. Others announce new services in the community of interest to readers, company expansions, new restaurants, art shows, the latest releases at the cinema.

I knew, going in, that the competition was fierce, but I had to ask myself: How many Mississippi authors have released a novel lately? Doesn't Mississippi pride itself on its authors? And wouldn't newspapers in my own backyard -- even the one in my home town -- want to share my happy news with their readers about a local who did good and got a book published?

A month has gone by, and thus far, the answer seems to be ... "apparently not."

Does it have anything to do with the main character being gay? Is the great state of Mississippi not ready to cope with the fact that gay people exist? Do these media outlets believe that ignoring the lives, struggles and achievements of gay people will make the whole "gay thing" go away?

I spent a year editing a small newspaper in Mississippi. I know the answers to my questions. Most newspapers and media outlets here are so dependent on advertisers to survive they are reluctant to run stories that might offend people, that might challenge the status quo, that might raise uncomfortable questions or issues. They are extremely cautious and not a little timid.

Perhaps their survival depends on it. I understand that. What bothers me is the perception created among readers when the news media shies away from controversy. If we don't talk about gay people, it's easy to pretend they don't exist, or they're not important, or that they have nothing to say. If we don't talk about gay people, how are we going to deal with bigotry and prejudice and move Mississippi into the 21st century?

More generally, if newspapers are not allowed to talk about the realities on the ground, how can their readers consider themselves informed? What's the point of buying a newspaper if all it does is confirm the status quo and refuses to educate readers about the issues of the day?  Are Mississippi media consumers content to be spoon-fed this daily diet of the status quo, or do they, perhaps, want something more?

Not all media outlets are so timid, of course. Mississippi Public Broadcasting (MPB) is a good source for news, and I'm quite fond of the Jackson Free Press and blogs like Deep South Progressive. We need more media outlets like these. A lot more.

I mailed out twenty press packets to media outlets near and far. I also emailed some personal contacts in the media business -- people I've met, people I've worked with, people I've encountered on Facebook.

Thus far, I have heard back from two people.

One fellow somewhat sheepishly told me that the owner of his publication was a fundamentalist Christian who wouldn't touch my press release with a 200-foot ice pick.

The other agreed to have a look at a review copy of my book, which I supplied at my own expense. If this person liked the book, I might hope for a review or perhaps a small mention.

And what of the folks at the newspaper where I worked for a year? They didn't respond at all.


Is my book, perhaps, so awful, so poorly written, so utterly lacking in any literary merit whatsoever that no decent person would dare mention it in polite company?

Apparently not. Not if the folks leaving reviews on and are anything to go by. The vast majority of my reviews have been a solid five stars.

Here's what Susan65 on Amazon said:

"Nothing I can say will ever come close to adequately describing the brilliant awesomeness that is this book. I feel like I hit the reader’s jackpot and am a better person, a better reader, and a better reviewer for having the privilege of experiencing the life that is Wiley Cantrell, and by extension, Jackson Ledbetter and their son, Noah. It’s not very often a book gets a strangle hold on me but this one grabbed me from the get-go, and wow, what a strong grip that wouldn’t let go." 

Many readers have gone on in similar veins. Even Jonathan Odell, Mississippi author of The Healing, was enthusiastic:

"I LOVE Nick Wilgus’s touching, hilarious, heart-breaking, over-the-top but totally believable gem of a novel. These characters, and the perfectly lyrical language they speak, won’t quit you just because you finish the book. They’ll move into your heart and take up residence."

The kind souls at The Tipsy Bibliophile were very kind:

"Recommend it completely and it is solidly in my all time favorites list. Wiley, Noah and all their people are unforgettable." 

Since the media in Mississippi are holding their tongues, allow me to use this blog post to announce the release of my new novel, SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, published by DreamSpinner Press

Here's a peek at the cover:

Here's the blurb:

Wise-cracking Wiley Cantrell is loud and roaringly outrageous—and he needs to be to keep his deeply religious neighbors and family in the Deep South at bay. A failed writer on food stamps, Wiley works a minimum wage job and barely manages to keep himself and his deaf son, Noah, more than a stone’s throw away from Dumpster-diving.

Noah was a meth baby and has the birth defects to prove it. He sees how lonely his father is and tries to help him find a boyfriend while Wiley struggles to help Noah have a relationship with his incarcerated mother, who believes the best way to feed a child is with a slingshot. No wonder Noah becomes Wiley’s biggest supporter when Boston nurse Jackson Ledbetter walks past Wiley’s cash register and sets his sugar tree on fire.

Jackson falls like a wet mule wearing concrete boots for Wiley’s sense of humor. And while Wiley represents much of the best of the South, Jackson is hiding a secret that could threaten this new family in the making.

When North meets South, the cultural misunderstandings are many, but so are the laughs, and the tears, but, as they say down in Dixie, it’s all good.

SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE is available in both print and ebook formats.

Order here.

Just because my book features a gay character doesn't make it a bad book. SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE is all about family, love, needing someone, meeting someone, struggling to survive, raising a special-needs child. It's funny. It's heart-breaking. It's universal.

I don't fool myself into thinking that the publication of one book in the state of Mississippi is an earth-shaking event that demands the attention of the media. It's not. Many books have been published over the years, and have no doubt received the same indifference.

My point is this: Mississippi has a choice. If it wants to know about gay people, it can do what it has always done and tune into Bryan Fischer and the American Family Association and be told how horrible and disgusting we are.

Or -- here's a thought -- it could let its gay residents speak for themselves.

It could pay attention to filmmaker Diana Salameh, who is working on a documentary about gay people in Mississippi called A RAINBOW OVER MISSISSIPPI.

It could write about Papa Peachez, a gay rapper and musician in Jackson who recently released an album called ALLONE.

It could spare a few column inches now and again for Mississippi writers like Kevin Sessums, who wrote MISSISSIPPI SISSY.

And, on the rare chance that a Mississippi writer bases a novel in Tupelo and writes about being a gay parent, it might consider setting aside one of the paragraphs in the news briefs column for a small bit of recognition. It might even want to do a book review.

After all, we're here and we're Mississippians, and our lives, struggles and accomplishments are just as important as our neighbors. And we're perfectly capable of speaking for ourselves.

To its shame, Mississippi sat on the back bench during the Civil Rights struggle in the 1960s.

Will it do so again as another battle rages?