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Friday, December 20, 2013

Interview with Aaron Paul Lazar- Award Winning Mystery Writer

Aaron Paul Lazar Aaron Paul Lazar (photo provided)

Through a blog party for writers, I recently became acquainted with Aaron Paul Lazar. We've discovered a number of interests in common, including reading and writing mysteries. Because of his ties to Upstate New York, where I grew up, I bought one of his books and I've been hooked ever since. If you haven't sampled his works, you really should. They are very good. The mysteries are satisfying and Aaron's ability to give the reader a wonderful sense of place is outstanding.

He's won multiple awards for his writing, including 2012 EPIC Book Awards WINNER Best Paranormal for Healy's Cave (Sam Moore mystery), and 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Awards: Honorable Mention, Eric Hoffer Legacy Fiction for Tremolo: The Cry of the Loon (Gus LeGarde mystery, and a coming-of-age tale). He's written mystery books in three series, a stand-alone romance and three non-fiction books about writing. Three more books are scheduled for release this year. Read more at Aaron Lazar Books

I asked if I could interview him, and here are my questions and his answers.

JHY: I see in your bio that you began writing as a release of your emotions following a period of great loss in your life. I think many people will identify with that, but I'm wondering why you chose to begin writing mysteries.

APL: Joan, I have always read mysteries, and only mysteries! I’m a mystery addict, and so were my parents. The house was always full of books, and my mother and father had their noses buried in PD James, Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, and John D. MacDonald books every day. The bookcases were full of them, and I devoured them all. As a child, when the “Arrow Book Club” flyers would come out at school, I’d bring them home with a dozen books circled, and even though we didn’t have much money to spare, my parents always bought every single book for me that I’d circled! Usually they were mysteries about horses or dogs. I also would devour boxes of books my parents would bring home from auctions. Once we got a whole collection of The Hardy Boys and I was in heaven!

Double Forte a Gus LeGarde mystery Double Forte, book one of the Gus LeGarde mystery series
JHY: One of the things that impressed me about your writing is your ability to give the reader a unique sense of place (in Upstate New York for the Gus LeGarde mysteries). Have you always lived there?

APL: I was born in Boston, grew up in the quiet countryside nearby, and spent summers at my grandparents’ camp in Maine. Dale and I were married when I graduated from Northeastern University in 1981, and we moved to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate NY when I took my job with Kodak the same summer. We started our family here and I’ve called this place home now for 32 years, and can’t imagine living anywhere else. I also base my Moore Mysteries series right here. Tall Pines mysteries always start out on a little house on Honeoye Lake, then migrate up to the Adirondacks, another favorite place of mine.

JHY: Are there particular things you do consciously when you are describing a location for a book?

APL: No, the words just sort of pour out of me, always from real memories that bubble persistently beneath the surface. If I’ve been somewhere that I loved, it usually sticks with me. I try to migrate into my character’s head fully – and as I write I imagine what he sees, tastes, smells, hears…and hopefully my readers can enjoy the same types of images that are floating around in my brain.

JHY: I also read that you are an engineer at Kodak. How do you work full-time and still write?

APL: Oops, I need to update some of my bios that are out there! I’ve been gone from Kodak since 2009, when they laid me off along with my entire group. I’ve been happily employed at a small German company since 2010, doing engineering and customer liaisons across the seas between Germany, Thailand, and the US. I love my new job and cherish the people here.

For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery For the Birds a Tall Pines mystery (with Adirondack settings)
I’ve always worked full time and managed to put out a few books each year, and it still works. I get up early and get all my chores done, then take an hour each morning to write in the dark and quiet. Nowadays I write with my dogs near me (or on me!) beside the wood stove. It’s very peaceful. I also love writing on vacation up in the Adirondacks on a chair overlooking The Sacandaga River. Extremely peaceful and invigorating at the same time.

JHY: People don't usually think of engineers as people with great imaginations. Would you like to comment on this?

APL: When I was growing up, I didn’t want to be an engineer. First, I hoped to be a cowboy. Then, I dreamed of all of the artistic possibilities – painter, music teacher, writer, horse farm owner. Unfortunately, none of the above seemed like it would support me. So – I was surprised to find a love of physics and math (hated them in high school) when I went back to night school after starving for a while. (literally!) At that point, engineers were in huge demand, so I went for it. I was pretty good at it, but I really did love the arts first and foremost.

It was surprising to me to find many of my Kodak colleagues had the same passions! My boss was a secret painter and stained-glass window maker. A fellow engineer was a closet musician. And so on. Almost every one of these “boring and predictable” engineers was very artistic and creative. They enjoyed their work, yes. But they really shone when it came to their secret passions! I believe that stereotype before I got to know them, and discovered I was more like them than I’d expected.

JHY: How many books have you written, and in what genres?

APL: I’ve written twenty-one books, if you count my writing guides, Write Like the Wind volumes 1, 2, & 3. Three are nonfiction writing advice books, seventeen are full-length mysteries, and my newest novel— The Seacrest—is a romantic suspense. I’m now working on book twenty-two, another standalone romantic suspense.

JHY: Do you enjoy one of these more than another? Do you have a favorite of the books you have written?

APL: I love them all. Writing is writing, for me. It doesn’t matter what genre. I wrote mysteries for so long, and started writing articles/blog pieces about eight years ago. That was quite different and I enjoyed it immensely. I decided for book twenty-one that I’d branch out. I’d always wanted to write a love story. And I did it!

Asking about my favorite book is almost like asking me to pick a favorite child. Oh, man. Impossible. I guess if I were forced today to pick a few of my books that I might hold dear to the heart, I’d say Essentially Yours and Don’t Let the Wind Catch You, two very different mysteries.

JHY: Do you have a work in progress that you'd like to share?

APL: Yes! I’m tentatively titling this one Bittersweet Hollow, a romantic suspense set on a horse farm in Vermont. It’s about Portia Lamont, a young woman who has been missing for four years. She arrives home—thin and traumatized—to find her mother has cancer. Boone Sterling, the neighbor whose been helping her parents keep the horse farm afloat, may be the one person who can help her recover. Little by little, the family discovers the horror of what happened to Portia. It’s their love that will heal her, in the end.

JHY: Is there some other type of writing you'd like to try some day?

APL: Yes – I’d like to try a children’s story, or maybe a middle grade chapter book!

JHY: What kinds of activities do you enjoy in your free time?

APL: I love walking and photographing the hills and woods of the Genesee Valley and Finger Lakes, I’m a passionate gardener, love to read, cook, and listen to music. Oh, yeah. And I kind of enjoy writing, although it’s more of a calling than a hobby.

The Seacrest a romance
JHY: If you'd like to share an excerpt from a book, please do, and be sure to tell me which book!

APL: Thanks, Joan, for having me here today. I’d love to share this excerpt from my newest release, The Seacrest.

The Seacrest Chapter 1

July 2, 2013

Life can change in the blink of an eye. This blink came when a cop car cruised up The Seacrest’s white shell driveway on a hot Saturday in July.

I’ll never forget the moment. You know how folks remember where they were when John Lennon died? Or when President Kennedy was assassinated? It was like that, every detail stamped into my brain, forever.

A fresh breeze laden with the scent of the sea rustled blue flowers in a nearby hydrangea hedge. Hot and sweaty, I stood in the blazing sun, feeling like a fool. I’d just finished weed wacking around the paddock fence posts. Unfortunately, said weed wacker had spooked Libby Vanderhorn’s favorite mare, Serendipity, who I secretly called Dippy, because she was such a loose cannon. She’d bucked three times and knocking down several fence boards. Libby was a good rider, but this time she’d landed in a sprawling heap on the soft dirt, swearing at me.

The boss’s gorgeous, stuck-up daughter didn’t mince words, and the sting of her accusations still sounded in my head. How stupid can you be, Finn? What’s wrong with you?

Libby’s father held great power on Cape Cod. Rudolph Vanderhorn sat on so many boards, I’d lost count. His father’s fish canning company made a fortune back in the eighties, and he and his daughter had enjoyed the spoils ever since.

I stooped to pick up a hammer from my toolbox, planning to reattach the fence boards before any of Libby’s horses got hurt on the protruding nails. Curious now, I watched the Brewster Police car circle the long drive, heading toward the mansion. The local authorities stopped by every few days to discuss town matters with my boss. But today the blue light was flashing, which didn’t look like a casual visit.

A shudder went through me, and I turned cold. Something bad had happened. I sensed it.

The front door opened, and Rudy watched them approach, one hand shading the sun from his eyes. Like a majestic lion, he stood broad-shouldered and strong, his longish white hair lifting in the sea breeze.

Libby stopped hosing down her big white mare, who thankfully hadn’t hurt herself in the fit she’d thrown earlier. The horse snorted and rubbed her big head against her owner’s arm as if to scratch an itch. Long, dark hair blew around Libby’s face, and she stared with open curiosity at the cruiser, rhythmically combing her fingers through the mare’s curly mane.

Time froze.

I stood still, gripping the hammer, studying the patrol car as it drove past the front porch with its impressive columns and portico. It didn’t stop for Rudy, but passed the six-car garage, followed the driveway to the barn, and rolled to a stop ten feet from me, lights still flashing.

Police Chief Kramer and Deputy Lowell stepped out and ambled toward me, their eyes somber.

I dropped the hammer, letting it thud to the grass near my feet.

“Finn?” Kramer said, approaching slowly. “I’m afraid we have bad news.”

There is nothing worse than hearing that bad news is about to be delivered. My brain went wild, imagining the worst scenarios. But somehow I didn’t quite picture what he was about to tell me.

“There’s been an accident,” Kramer said.

Lowell, a high school football star in his day, kicked the dirt at the edge of the path. “Car went over the cliffs,” he said, avoiding my eyes.

“For God’s sake, guys.” I looked from Kramer to Lowell. “Who was in the car?”

Kramer pulled out a piece of paper. “I regret to inform you that your wife, Cora Mae McGraw, and your brother, Jaxson Robert McGraw, have been killed in a vehicular accident.”

Deputy Lowell touched my sleeve, then awkwardly stepped back. “We’re real sorry, Finn.”

“Car went into the ocean,” Kramer said. “We believe they were dead on impact.”

I stared at them, numbness creeping up my spine. “What the hell?”

“Er, look, if there’s anything we can do...” Lowell seemed remorseful, and he offered a hand when I lost my balance and grabbed for the fence.

Libby and her father appeared at my side in seconds, but in the dreamlike state of denial and shock, I caught only brief snatches of their words, as if the wind had grabbed them, teasing me with the bits and pieces.

“What happened?”

“Bad accident.”

“She died?”

Who was with her?”

And so on.

Libby guided me across the lawn and around back to the mansion’s cavernous kitchen. I leaned woodenly against the refrigerator while the family’s beloved cook, Fritzi, bustled her big, ample self about the kitchen making coffee and pushing fresh corn muffins at the officers.

Someone guided me into a chair. I sat, dazed and unmoving. The voices warbled around me and now my brain began to pick through the new knowledge, still not comprehending.

Cora’s dead?

It wasn’t real. Couldn’t be real.

Jax is dead?

I hadn’t seen my brother in ten years.

Ten years since I’d even talked to him. I sometimes almost drove past the blueberry farm, thinking of my old life. But I never actually stopped there.

Ten years since my parents died in that fire. Since I lost my little sister, Eva. Ten years since my family burned because of that cigarette smoldering in the couch.

Ten freaking years.

I didn’t even know what Jax looked like anymore. Had he lost hair? Gained weight? Turned prematurely gray like our father did at age thirty?

Ten years.

A shudder passed through me. A great gulping sound sputtered from my throat. I think I started to hyperventilate.

I locked eyes with Libby, whose mouth was moving. I couldn’t hear her.

Cora is dead.

Jax is dead.

Laying my head on my arms, I silently convulsed.

One thought wandered around the edges of my brain, refusing to go away, in spite of the enormity of what had happened.

What the hell was Jax doing with Cora?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Chapter 33 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

I just finished a big scene with Ana, Adele, Mavis Fanning and Virginia Holiday. I think it's one of the best pieces of the book. Whew. It takes a lot of mental energy to write things like this and make them believable and interesting. Hopefully, I've pulled that off.

Enjoy an excerpt from Chapter 33
    I had no idea what had just happened, but it seemed good. I stepped into my Jeep and turned the heater to high as I pulled away from Chippewa Lodge.
    The phone was no worse than damp and seemed to be working fine. I punched in Adele’s number. She answered after only one ring.
    “Ana, where are you? Are you all right?” She sounded frantic.
    “I’m fine. I’m wet and cold. I have to go home and change. Then I’ll fill you in.”
    “Come to my house as soon as you’re done. I’ll heat some soup. I called someone to help Suzi at the store,” Adele said.
    “That sounds good. Give me a half hour.”
    “I’ll be waiting,” I knew she was more than eager to hear all the juicy details.

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chapter 27 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

I came home from my recent trip with much more of the plot rolling around in my head. I've had quiet, and a low number of other commitments, and motivation this weekend. The result is that I'm on Chapter 27.

One of the things my writers' group thinks I do well is dialog. I sure hope they are right! One of the problems I've learned about telling a story in the first person is that you have to have a lot of conversations to get enough information out to the reader. And you can't be telling them things that the protagonist doesn't know (OK, you could occasionally do so in a prologue or some break in the point of view with an outside narrator, but it's not the norm).

If I ever do another series, I think it will be third person, just because it's easier.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 27:
    “That’s pretty short term. What does he want with the building after that?”
    “I’m not sure,” I lied. “He has ideas about a community center, or a conference center, or something.”
    “In this backwater,” she scoffed.
    “Some people seem to think things might be turning around,” I said defensively, recalling Alex’s optimism. It didn’t sound to me as if Virginia Holiday was falling in love with Forest County.
    “I don’t think anyone is going to travel here for a conference, and neither does Jerry Caulfield,” she said, picking up her half smoked cigarette. She looked at its snuffed tip, sighed, and placed it back in the saucer.

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Friday, December 6, 2013

Chapter 23 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

I've written a couple of chapters since updating this blog, and have several more planned in my head. Good long drives are useful to me in that regard, and I've had a couple of those lately.

I'm hopeful that the writing bug will continue to infect me, and I'll proceed at a faster pace than I have been for the past few months.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 23:
    “Why did they find the body here?” I asked. “I mean, if there are so many places it could get hung up?”
    “Probably two reasons,” Alex speculated, looking thoughtful. “The river widens out, so the current does diminish. I’ve been told that’s why the town was built here in the first place. The river could be forded before there was a bridge. But also, there are people here. We saw it and called the police. Shane actually pulled it, him, ashore.” Alex stared into the distance, obviously recalling the unpleasant experience.

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chapter 21 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
Things seem to be coming together in my head to make this book flow, but it's really hard to make blocks of time to write with two jobs. It's a dilemma!

Nevertheless, I've managed to produce a new chapter for each meeting of the West Side Gang writers' group, and I'm up to Chapter 21.

Almost at 35,000 words for the MS.

I've got a satisfactory number of confusing threads going on in the story, and if I can pull them all together at the end, this should be a good read. Let's hope you all agree, when I actually produce the entire book!

In Chapter 21, we learn more of the details of an infamous local crime from a newspaper article saved by the meticulous curator, Cora Baker.

Here's an excerpt from the Cherry Hill Herald in Chapter 21:
    Only six weeks later, on October 8th, appearing to shop as usual at Volger’s, after Nora had paid for a few sewing notions, Heinrich Volger demanded to inspect her basket which was lined with a gingham cloth. Beneath the cloth he found a set of fine linen napkins, a tin of tooth powder, sheet music for I’m Always Chasing Rainbows, and several handfuls of loose horehound candies. He valued the items at a total of $6.87. “Those napkins were made by Mrs. Ethel Radcliffe, and were worth a dollar a piece,” Volger explained to the Herald. “That’s what made it so dang provoking. Ethel don’t make those fine linens for the store, but once in a while.”

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp Moves Up in Smashwords Ranking

the Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp

The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp is now in first place for short, free downloads of mysteries featuring women sleuths, at Smashwords. OK, so it's a rather narrow category. I'm still happy. It's been sitting at #2 for over a year, but it has finally taken a step upwards! Hooray for steady downloads from new fans.

The book is really a short story, and second in the Anastasia Raven series. Its overall rating at Smashwords is 4.5 out of 5 stars with six reviews. Here's one from someone I don't know at all, so there's no "review for a friend" going on with it. "I don't normally like shorter books/short stories but this one was so well developed that there was nothing short about it. Excellent story. Love the people of Cherry Hill. Can't wait for more"

See The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Chapter 18 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
This book is proceeding at the pace of a greased snail. I realize that. I'm hoping at some point my ideas, time, and enthusiasm will reach a critical mass and I'll be able to take off and write more than one agonized chapter at a time.

Tonight I didn't finish in time to go to the West Side Gang writers' group. Since I had some modest momentum going I decided I really had to stay home and actually write. The chapter struggled along, sentence by sentence, but at last it reached a satisfactory ending, revealing one more piece of the puzzle.

Almost at 30,000 words for the MS now.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 18:
    She glanced sideways at me, and set the cup down on the table. Her blunt, work-worn fingers tapped impatiently on the edge of the saucer. “I know that Jerry was not the only potential buyer for the old school. This sudden interest in that dump, and then learning it’s the location of the Jared Canfield murder is quite peculiar, don’t you think?”
    I jumped on the opportunity to change the subject. “Do you know who else wanted to buy it? I do think that’s strange.”

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Sunday, July 7, 2013

"Salmon Sea" Selected for a Broadside

alt text Ludington Art Fair (photo by JHY)
Have you ever heard of a broadside? Neither had I, except in the obsolete sense of a newspaper-like poster used to disseminate news or advertising in pre-Civil War times. However, I guess they have really caught on some places as a way to get art and writing out to the general public.

One of the West Side Gang leaders thought they would be a good offering to have at the Ludington Art Fair. We had to submit poems for inclusion, and I had one make the cut. They had art work added, and were printed on good quality paper.

The poem of mine that was chosen is named "Salmon Sea." I'll be sending it to everyone on my Mail Chimp List for free, when I reach 50 subscribers. Have you signed up?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Chapter 16 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
This book is looking like it will certainly be the longest in the series so far. The story seems to still be growing in complexity, and I'm at 27,000 words.

I like the current twist it's taking. Don't want to give too much away, but I think I'm succeeding at developing multiple suspects to keep the reader guessing.

Here's an excerpt from Chapter 16:
    Lying at an odd angle on top of the carton was a plain piece of computer paper with printing on it. I grabbed a tissue from the packet I kept clipped to the visor and picked it up.
    The note wasn’t hand written, but was printed in a plain font in large capital letters.

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Chapter 15 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
I haven't made much progress on the newest Anastasia Raven mystery for quite a while. But today I got back on track. Re-read everything I have to date, and wrote the next chapter.

Took it to West Side Gang this evening, and for the most part they liked it. Some thought there was too much description in one place and others liked that section particularly well. Some didn't like how much I have to use dialogue to give the reader information. Another said "O.K. as dialogue."

These differences of opinion don't bother me at all. What they do is further convince me that a book will never sink or float on just one paragraph. In the end, when the book is an entity, not broken into chapters that a group hears one at a time, weeks apart, the balance between description and dialogue will sort itself out, and if it needs major editing (slashing) I can do it.

Meanwhile, here's a sample of Chapter 15:
    “Why are you so jittery, Ana?” Adele continued. “I’ll tell you what I think. You’re dating him!”
    “Not really.”
    “’Not really!’ What does that mean? I saw the way he was looking at you in the car. There’s certainly something going on between you.”
    I couldn’t tell Adele the whole truth. She’d blab it all over. “We did go out for dinner. He wants me to help him plan a community event.”
    “Hell’s bells. You don’t expect me to believe that do you?”

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Saturday, June 8, 2013

New Writing Site- Bubblews

Bubblews logo

I've started writing at the site called Bubblews. The basic idea is a social-based platform to make connections. The site shares advertising revenue with the writers. It's based on views and interactions and number of posts.

The good parts are: There are no grammar police. You won't be docked if you don't get a comma in the right place. You can write and connect as much or little as you want. You can write about what you want to.

The bad parts are: With those loose rules, there is a lot of really bad writing. But it can be ignored. If you want to do well monetarily you will need to connect with others and follow their posts- read "spend time."

Some people are using it sort of like a blog platform. Others are writing product reviews, news items, or general articles.

You can cash out at $25. Some people are making $25 a day. That would be a living wage for me. I'm not there (yet?), and I don't think I could manage being that social. But I am making a dollar a day by posting one article a day.

If you'd like to try it out, sign up through me at my Bubblews referral link. It earns me a few cents and doesn't obligate you for anything.

One can never be sure how stable these online writing sites are, but some people have cashed out over $1000 dollars. I'm liking that!

Saturday, June 1, 2013


A month or so ago I entered a short story in the first-ever venue for writers at the Grand Rapids Art Prize. I entered a story I like a lot, and it's about as close as I'm going to get to literary fiction, which I call the "life is a sad enigma" genre. Anyway.

It cost money to enter, and I thought hard about spending it. But I decided that the potential payoff would be high. So, I sent in my story, "Two Minutes of Water."

Just heard today- I didn't even make the first cut. "After careful consideration we have decided that your story does not meet our qualifications."

Phooey. But it's not the end of the world.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Interview on Interlochen Public Radio

Interlochen Public Radio logo
You can listen to an interview with me, broadcast on Interlochen Public Radio, and hosted by Aaron Stander. His show is "Michigan Writers on the Air," and the original broadcast was February 27 and March 2. Now the program is free, on the web for anyone to listen to.

The interview is focused on North Country Cache, by book about hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail. We talk about the trail itself and my experiences on it, then I read an excerpt from the book.

My segment of the program is 30 minutes, at the beginning. Enjoy!

Michigan Writers on the Air

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chapters 13 & 14 of Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
Slowly but surely, this manuscript is progressing. I've been working hard on a chapter-by-chapter "outline" of the plot. I'm still missing a couple of key pieces, but I have enough to keep forging blindly ahead for a while. I suspect the missing pieces will fall in place. They always do, right? If not, I suppose authors would have to abandon their stories.

I'll be in the car a lot this next week. That's often where I manage to dream up good sections of plots. I have high hopes.

Meanwhile, enjoy a snippet of Chapter 14:
    I closed my eyes and tried to nap, but sleep didn’t come. I finally quit trying, but we continued to wait silently. Apparently neither of us could think of anything to say. Jerry fiddled with his cell phone, but I couldn’t tell if he was playing a game, texting someone, or making notes for a news story.
    A city truck pulled up at the end of the block and removed a small cover plate from a pipe at the curb. He inserted a long bar with a handle in the opening and began twisting it.
    “Nothing like an emergency to get the utilities turned on in a hurry,” Jerry said dryly. “If I work this right, maybe I can get the city to pay for the boiler inspection too.”

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Four Winners of News from Dead Mule Swamp

There are now 400 likes of Anastasia Raven Mysteries on Facebook. As promised I will give away four copies of News From Dead Mule Swamp. These winners are chosen from the list of people and pages who have "liked" Anastasia Raven.

Due to Facebook regulations, I'll be changing the way I give away free books and other items, but more about that at the end of this post.

Here are the numbers from

You'll have to take my word for whose names the numbers correspond to, but I have no reason to cheat, since I don't know any of these people personally. That's great, if they claim their prize, because it might result in new readers! If any of them already has this book, I'll offer them a different e-book of their choice.

Here are the winners (in no particular order):
Select-O-Grafix, LLC
Adriana Ryan
Leah Diane Hutchinson
T.M. Franklin

Please contact me at to receive a coupon for your free book. Let me know if you already have News from Dead Mule Swamp and prefer a different ebook of mine.

From this time on, all contests will be managed through the MailChimp list. You can sign up at
MailChimp email list
to receive advance notices of books, coupons and special freebies.

This actually is more beneficial to everyone, because there will be a lot more benefits than just an occasional free book for a few people. No spam ever. No one else can grab the mailing list because it's managed by Mail Chimp.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Interviewed for Michigan Writers on the Air

alt text Joan H. Young
Today, I traveled to Interlochen, Michigan, to be interviewed for the radio program "Michigan Writers on the Air," at Interlochen Public Radio. The focus of the interview was my non-fiction book, North Country Cache. The host is Aaron Stander, and he described the book as a combination hiking story and personal memoir. He asked questions about the North Country National Scenic Trail and my experiences hiking it. I always appreciate the opportunity to share about the trail with people who may not be familiar with it. And I wouldn't mind selling a few more books!

He also had me read an excerpt from the book, and I chose a section of the chapter "Forever Wild." This is a great little story about my hiking pup, Chips, within the larger story.

alt text host Aaron Stander
One of the really great outcomes of attending the Blood and Tea mystery writers' conference last fall has been all the new relationships I've formed. Of the authors who were leaders of the seminars, the one my "writing plan" most resembles is that of Aaron Stander, and we've stayed in touch. When he asked if I'd like to be on his program, of course I said, "yes!"

We took mutual pictures, but as you can see, this was radio, not TV- I could have used a comb. It doesn't always help, but maybe it would have looked like I tried.

The program will air at 1:00 pm on Wednesday, February 20, and Sunday, February 24. After that, it will be available at any time on the IPR web site.

Aaron writes procedural mysteries set in northwest Michigan. You can see more about him at Aaron Stander.

Order North Country Cache at Books Leaving Footprints

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Elements of Life Kindle Version Available

Elements of Life Cover
Elements of Life is now available in digital form from Amazon. The paperback copy should also be ready for sale in just a few days.

I have one poem in this anthology, "Now Then When." It's from the darker side of my nature, but just as real as more upbeat writings.

There are interesting short stories and more poems in Elements of Life. This book is not really literary fiction, rather, the stories are written for enjoyment.


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Contract for Elements of Life

Elements of Life Cover
Just returned the contract for Elements of Life. This is an anthology of short stories and poems from Twin Trinity Media. There have been some bumps along the way, but now there is good hope it will be available really soon.

I have one poem in this book, called "Now Then When." That isn't very much, to be sure, but it puts us one step closer to the next book in the series which will have one story and one poem of mine.

The e-version of Elements of Life should be available very soon, perhaps even this week yet. The print version will appear about a week later.

Despite such a small contribution, I'm excited by this, because it is one more little thing I've had published that isn't self-publication.

Find Elements of Life at Twin Trinity Books and Amazon.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chapters 11,12 - Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp

Bury the Hatchet in Dead Mule Swamp
I've had a hard time working on this MS this month, but I'm now up to Chapter 12. I really like this plot, but for some reason writing it out is not flowing as easily as the previous books in the series.

As we all know, all that means is that I should be disciplining myself to work on it regularly anyway. All I can say right now is that I'm not giving up. It's coming, but slowly.

An excerpt from Chapter 12:
    “Conspiracy?” The word itself was shocking. “I thought you were an upstanding citizen. What on earth do you have in mind?”
    “Oh, probably nothing illegal but it’s definitely on the sneaky side. You seem like the right person to help me.”
    I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not. “You think I’m sneaky?”
    “No, no, that’s not what I meant. But you are certainly in an excellent position to accomplish certain things,” he added cryptically.
    I poured a cup of coffee and took a good swallow. I wanted a clear head for the rest of this conversation, wherever it was going. The coffee burned my tongue and I spilled some of the hot liquid on the tablecloth.

You can find the first three Anastasia Raven Stories at Smashwords or Amazon