Thursday, March 13, 2014

Honored to be mentioned

       One of my books,  Great News Town, is highlighted in the current issue of Writers Digest Magazine. It is one of eight Honorable Mentions in Genre Fiction in the Self-Published Book Awards.
         I was informed of the award last October but I wasn't really excited until just now when I opened my copy of the magazine and read about this year's winners.
       The Grand Prize .went to former Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, a pioneer of charter schools. Her book, Zero Chance of Passage, was decades in the making. Junge authored the country's first charter school law in 1991. To celebrate the 20th anniversary, she wanted to document charter schools and set the history straight. She used self-publishing to have control of the process. That is indeed an impressive project, with an impressive staff and sales of more than 7,000 copies. It sets the bar high.
         A contest is only as good as the competition, and recognition only as good as the organization making the honor. I've read Writers Digest Magazine for years. It has long been a leader in developing the writing craft. That's part of the reason I decided to enter this contest. Some of the contests available to self-published authors are scams. 
          More than 2,500 entered the Writers Digest contest this year, so the 46 honorees represent only a small fraction of the competition. Genre Fiction is a formidable category including all the most popular books -- romances, fantasy, science-fiction, mysteries, thrillers.To be among a handful of honorees in that field is indeed an honor.
         If you haven't had a chance to read Great News Town yet, you might want to check out the  serialized version , which has been publishing weekly on the internet for almost two years.  Click on the link and you can read the 10 latest episodes. Spoiler alert! The serial is just about to reach its exciting conclusion. You may not want to buy the book after you know the ending, but I am betting you'll want to buy the second book in the series,  One Shoe Off. The third book, Full Moon Friday, will be released in June.
          Great News Town was inspired by a real series of murders which happened in Joliet, Illinois, in 1983. For more details on the background check out this site.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Love story

       As I look up at tonight's beautiful full moon, I can't help but think of another Valentine's Day in the full moonlight. Full Moon Friday, my next book, happens on a full moon Friday the 13th which just happened to fall on February 13, 1987.
       As I mentioned before, everything goes wrong and the staff of the Jordan Daily News is caught up in a monsoon of mishaps. But after Friday the 13th comes to a close, the clock keeps ticking. That's right. After swirling through a madcap Friday the 13th, Full Moon Friday ends on Saturday morning. Valentine's Day. All the craziness fades away and the story winds down to the basic elements. Love. Love times four. Four couples all facing different stages of romantic relationships.
      Full Moon Friday is really a romance. And it will be released June 13, 2014.
      Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy 13

    Today's the day -- February 13.
     My next book, Full Moon Friday, takes place on February 13. But not this February 13. A very special February 13 in 1987. A day when the cycles of the moon converged with the calendar to create the strange electricity that can only happen on a full moon Friday the 13th. Everything goes wrong. 
      A forest is on fire. A school  bus is missing. A movie star visit turns into a shootout and a body falls out of the sky. Just the typical newsday in Jordan, Ill. And the staff of the Jordan Daily News is covering the stories, solving the mysteries.
      The  characters from Great News Town and One Shoe Off return for one crazy, madcap day.
       Full Moon Friday will be released on a very special date in June, when the full moon once again converges with Friday the 13th. So mark your calendars now. June 13, 2014. It's coming!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Fini -- for now

       Finally! I sent the copy for Full Moon Friday to my editor today.
        It's a long process from concept to release party , as any writer will tell you. But Full Moon Friday has a built-in deadline.  It takes place on a full moon Friday the 13th, which doesn't happen that often. The next one is June 13, 2014. There won't be another one until 2049.
          So if I want to release the  book on the obvious best possible date I need to stay on schedule. I finished my rough draft on January 1 as planned. But the rewrite process didn't go exactly as planned. A few more plot glitches than usual. And mysterious misspellings such as using "lead" when I meant "led." Don't remember that problem before.
           This book has been fun to write. It's all about the things that go wrong when the full moon coincides with Friday the 13th. The staff of the Jordan Daily News is back with lots of fast-paced action.  Many of the strange phone calls and events are based on true tales gleaned from journalists, cops, nurses and others. Truth is stranger than fiction!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Disorder in Key West

  
It must be something in the water.
    Ever since Ernest Hemingway lived here in the the '30s, people have associated Key West with writing and writers. They're more plentiful than six-toed cats, especially in January during the annual Key West Literary Seminar. The list of authors participating this year is mind boggling: Carl Hiaassen, Sara Paretsky, Elizabeth George, Michael Connelly...practically everyone on my bookshelf.
      Most of the seminar sessions are sold out, but on Sundays they have free events open to the public.  It was my great pleasure today to attend the public session and hear poet laureate Billy Collins, Gillian Flynn (author of the very dark and twisted Gone Girl) and the absolutely delightful, kilt-wearing, Alexander McCall Smith.
       Smith -- who is best known for The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Botswana --  just can't help being entertaining. Instead of a speech, he wrote a story set in Key West -- a little mystery of the Apple Mac Bandit -- which he read to the crowd. He got such a kick out of the jokes he'd worked into the story that he would always start laughing at the set up until he could barely read the punchline. Once again he reminds us that a plot needn't be complex or dark to be entertaining. A good story is all in the telling.
        I just finished reading Gone Girl and was amazed that such warped characters come out of the mind of such a personable, attractive young woman. She told us she wrote her first short story in third grade. The heroine was a little girl who gets attacked and eaten by wolves. She's definitely not afraid of the dark side. Her characters in Gone Girl exhibit the horrors of the mind rather than simple blood and gore. There's actually very little violence in the book, but I found it horrifying -- especially the resolution at the end.
        The seminar was particularly inspiring to me as this month I am working on rewrites of my third novel -- Full Moon Friday, the latest chapter in the Jordan Daily News Series.Flynn said she enjoys the rewriting process, writing whole chapters she knows will never be in the book just to see how well she knows what her characters will do in any given situation.
         So, as I return to my rewriting process I'll hear Flynn telling me to know my characters and Alexander McCall Smith encouraging me to have a good time telling the story..

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Have you seen this tree?

     
Somebody stole my Christmas decorations!
        I know that sounds like a poor imitation of a great Dr. Seuss classic, but evidently the Grinch is alive and well in the Florida Keys.
        The land of scraggly pine, leafy palms and plentiful poisonwood seems an unlikely setting for a holiday hooligan. I doubt the The Keys have ever seen snow. Even in the last ice age. That's what makes it so attractive to Michigan snowbirds. This is our third winter in The Keys, and our second year renting the same house. Since we knew we were returning, and the owner only rents to a limited number of friends and family, we decided to leave some bulky items -- a kayak and a  bait freezer -- as well as a small box of Christmas decorations. The kayak and freezer were waiting for us, but the Christmas decorations disappeared.
         This wasn't a box of rare German glass ornaments or crystal. Just a plaid tablecloth, a fake flower centerpiece, a lighted table decoration and a small wooden tree  I miss that tree. It was only a foot tall, but I purchased it at a craft fair 25 years ago when my son was just a little kid. It's a puzzle tree, made of carved pieces that fit together in several different tree-shape configurations.It was a conversation piece at many holiday celebrations. And now it's gone.
         Losing the Christmas decorations won't spoil my holiday. I learned the lesson of the Dr. Seuss story. Christmas isn't about stuff; it's about friends, family and faith. If someone out there is so deprived (depraved?) that they need my decorations to be happy, then I donate them gladly. I have my health, my guy and faith in God. And thanks to The Keys, I'll probably be enjoying beautiful weather on Christmas, too.
          So, enjoy my decorations, Mr. Grinch.
        

Friday, December 13, 2013

Lucky 13

I know Friday the 13th is supposed to be bad luck, but  this one has been pretty fantastic so far. We're enroute to our winter home in the Florida Keys. We left Wednesday morning in a go-back-to-bed blizzard. But Steve was determined to get on the road. Barely a half hour east of Grand Rapids the blizzard waned. We still had a little snow off and on all though Ohio and into Kentucky. When we got up Thursday morning it was a bone chilling 6 degrees. It was only a little better when we awoke this morning in Macon, Ga. A whopping 22. But as the day progressed, the sun came out and the frost disappeared. We visited with a friend in Jacksonville, Fla,where shirt sleeves were adequate. Steve changed into shorts and sandals for a tour trolley in St. Augustine. It feels so good to be warm again.

I am hopeful we've seen the last of frost, at least until April Fools when we return to Michigan!

And hopefully this Friday the 13th will be a lucky inspiration for me to finish the final chapters of Full Moon Friday, my next book in the Jordan Daily News series. It is set on a Friday the 13th that coincides with the full moon. I plan to release the book next June when the full moon will once again coincide with Friday the 13th.