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Monday, July 23, 2012

Chapter 2 of Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Chapter 2 is at least done in draft- ready to read to the West Side Gang tomorrow night.

One of the trials of mysteries in series is how to bring in the backstory for the characters without just doing a boring info dump. This chapter has Ana and Cora driving to town, and talking about the bloody hatchet. In the process, they cover a lot of Cora's history. Hopefully it's not too dull, and it moves the hatchet to the Sheriff's office.

Here's an excerpt:
    “I’m surprised the Post Office delivered it. I heard they were really cracking down on vague addresses, and packages without a return label,” I said. But I thought maybe rural areas were still more forgiving.
    “There wasn’t a street address, and whoever sent it knew I have a museum, but they still addressed the box to Mrs. Gerald Caulfield.”
    “That is funny. Maybe it’s some kind of warning for Jerry.”
    “Then they don’t know that I’m not speaking to him,” Cora said through tight lips.

How do you feel about the backstory in mystery series? Do you like bits woven in as the plot unfolds, or do you prefer getting a hefty dose of information right at the beginning of the book?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Received the Proof for Elements of Life

Elements of Life Cover
I just received a proof sheet for the Elements of Life anthology. I have one poem in this book! These are stories and poems that were winners in Accentuate Services contests. Some of my stories have been winners, but these themes, birth, life, death, were just before I began entering.

However, after the fact, they called for some poems to be used as fillers, and one of mine was accepted. It's called "Now Then When" and was written in one of my darker moods.

It takes a long, long time to get stories from contests to/through editing, and actual printing of a book. I'm glad to see something of mine in this anthology, and I will have several stories in the next volume.

The book can be pre-ordered for a discount at Twin Trinity Books

Monday, July 16, 2012

Books Leaving Footprints

Promotion is such a huge part of making sales for INDIE authors. My publisher page, Books Leaving Footprints is where people can find all my writings that are available, a long author bio, interviews, publicity materials, and info on how to book me as a speaker.

Today, I updated the home page, making sure that my recent publications are there. I organized the page better, by categories.

Check it out!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fall Off the Couch Laughing is Published

Fall Off the Couch Laughing
Fall Off the Couch Laughing is a collection of ten humorous essays written over the last several years. Most previously appeared in the Ludington Daily News in my monthly column "Get Off the Couch." One essay has never been published prior to this collection.

Titles included are:
• Do Ticks Go to Heaven?
• The Top Ten Reasons to Stay On the Couch
• sKumquats and InYourFace vs My www
• Snowshoes? Just Give Me a Couple of Months
• The Arrival of Unwanted Body Parts
• Neologism Snowclone - Ramblings of a Cold Brain
• Not Sleeping at Sleeping Bear
• The Evolution of the Sock
• Not Men of the Liberated Mind Set
• The Hike from Heaven or Hell- You’re Invited

Although eBooks aren't generally a great venue for picture books, these essay collections include photographs. This book features ten carefully selected pictures.

My monthly column has been running for six full years, totaling more than 70 installments. I'm slowing collecting them into sets with similar themes. Columns are not available online unless you have an e-subscription to the newspaper. These collections are economical, and gathered into topical groups.

Only $1.89. Only on Smashwords.

Fall Off the Couch Laughing
Get Off the Couch with Joan

Monday, July 9, 2012

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp - Chapter 1

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Yes, I've gotten started on the fourth story in the Anastasia Raven mystery series. This book is the most complex yet, and should also have some really fun parts. However, I've had trouble with the motivation to really get busy.

Despite several pages of notes on how the plot unfolds, one still has to eventually get busy and actually write. I'm doing it!

Here's the opening:
    “Points of crinkly tissue paper peeled open under my fingers like the white petals of a flower around an irregular umber center. The curved stem ended in a rubber grip. My breath escaped in a ragged gasp as my brain rearranged the imaginary flower into the actual contents of the carton. I pulled my hands away from the hatchet, its blade stained a dark reddish-brown. It was a good thing I’d placed the box solidly on Cora’s desk or it might now be on the floor. I sat down with a thump in the rolling office chair and skidded into the wall.”
You can buy book 1, News from Dead Mule Swamp, for only 99¢, the second story The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp is free, and the third installment is Paddy Plays in Dead Mule Swamp. Find them at Smashwords, or Amazon

Monday, July 2, 2012

Review of A House Divided Against Itself


A House Divided Against Itself by Bob O'Connor is a book for serious Civil War buffs. O'Connor takes the fairly well-known story of the Culp brothers, John (Wesley) and William who fought on opposites sides of the conflict, and expands the known history into a fictional narrative. The story also involves Mary Virgina (Jennie) Wade, the sweetheart of Wesley's best friend "Jack" Skelly. Jennie Wade was the only civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg. The brothers actually faced each other twice in battle during the conflict.

Over ninety letters written by the principal people have survived. O'Connor uses those letters to create first person narratives by each of the people. From chapter to chapter the point of view changes to give each person's perspective on the same events. Other well-known writers use this technique to create extremely accurate stories, and yet they must be considered fiction, as exact dialogue, etc. is only implied in the historical record. Allen Eckert is an example of this kind of writer, although Eckert weaves the stories together into one chronological tale.

A House Divided gives the reader a personal perspective on an enlisted soldier's life, both on the Yankee and Confederate sides. A wonderful addition is an image with nearly every chapter. Sometimes these are photographs of a person featured in the chapter, sometimes maps, or contemporary drawings of places where events in the chapter occurred. At the end of the book, modern photographs of the graves of most of the people are shown as well as vital statistics.

The cover art is taken (with permission) from a painting by Mort K√ľnstler, and provides an great eye appeal for the cover.

To be honest, this book is less novel and more history. Although the events leading up to Gettysburg are quite dramatic on their own, the book is pretty much a re-statement of the letters. This provides excellent accuracy, but there is no building of a particular dramatic moment with a crisis and denouement. One must just take the events as they occur.

I also felt that the different voices were very similar, which lent a flat tone to the book. I wanted Jennie to be more feminine, and William to be more stiff and arrogant, and Wesley to be more consistently colloquial and defensive about his decision to fight for the Confederacy.

Nevertheless, for anyone who likes Civil War history, this is a more personal account of this somewhat famous family than has been previously presented.

Bob O'Connor lives in Charles Town, West Virginia, close to most of the sites of his books about the Civil War.

He has been involved in public speaking for years and years. Since 2006, his speaking engagements have spanned 11 states and the District of Columbia. He speaks at libraries, schools, civic organizations, Civil War Round Tables, book clubs, and to most anyone who will listen.

A House Divided Against Itself is available on line at or at It is also available on all e-book formats.