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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Is It Compelling?

alt text Lydia of the Pines

Last night I stumbled across a book written exactly 100 years ago. I was curious because I have appreciated several other works by the author, Honore Willsie Morrow. This was written before she was married. The book is Lydia of the Pines.

There were a number of books of that era with similar titles, Anne of Green Gables leaps to mind. I had to buy the one called Joan of ______ (don't even remember the rest of the title, it was so bad), Donna of ______ (also not memorable), Charley, Lorna Doone, etc.

I found the full text of Lydia of the Pines on line as part of one of those efforts to make old books available. Thought I'd at least give it a chance. By page 3 I was completely hooked and read until I couldn't keep my eyes open last night. I finished it this morning.

To be fair, this is not a typical squishy love story. It's more a coming-of-age tale for girls. I had no clue as to where the story was going, and I hesitate to share much because the mystery of where it would end up was part of the intrigue. I will say that at the beginning Lydia is twelve and has almost full care of her toddler sister, as their mother has recently died. They are dirt-poor, but Lydia is proud, strong, smart and resourceful. My kind of girl.

alt text Lydia of the Pines

As the story progressed and Lydia grew up, the politics of the local city became the central theme. The plot was complex and filled with all the confusing factors that become part of how we make the decisions that affect the remainder of our lives. We are brought face-to-face with the reality of the fact that sometimes people we love, who have always been good to us, may not be such good people in different settings.

The particular political situation in the story was the treatment of Native Americans- talk about a timely subject for 2017. That, coupled with the girl who refuses to become a silly little fluff-ball, makes the book appealing a century later.

The author does not feel the need to drag the reader through every nuance of emotion and thought of every character. Rather, we are shown how they feel and what they believe by what they do. The language may be a bit antiquated, but the writing technique is very modern.

So... highly compelling. I simply could not stop reading.

I wish I could say the same for several highly rated books I'm forcing myself to finish reading this month. A spy novel that is beyond boring that has won awards and may be made into a movie. Several cozy mysteries. One historical fiction I simply gave up on because in the first four chapters we had masturbation, sodomy, incest and rape. Sorry... I know those things occur, but I just don't see the need for all that in detail as part of the plot.

Here's where I'm going with this. Above all, I want to write compelling stories. I love it when people tell me they can't put my books down. Hopefully, I'll get even better at this.

You can read the book, if you wish, at Lydia of the Pines.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Draft of Foreword to Cora's Stories Dubois Files

If you subscribe to the Books Leaving Footprints Newsletter (sign up above if you didn't just get a new issue on Sunday) you already heard that I'm starting a mystery series for young readers. These are tentatively being collectively called Cora's Stories, although I'm still brainstorming. Changed to Dubois Files

The target audience is approximately 4th grade through junior high, although I dislike such guidelines since anyone who finds the books appealing is welcome to read them.

For fans of Anastasia Raven, you will recognize two of the names. Cora Dubois (Baker Caulfield) and the grandfather of the current Jimmie Mosher (for whom the young Jimmie was named) are the primary characters. The setting is the familiar Forest County, in the 1950s.

Each book will include "this" message to parents. Here's a draft. I'm open to comments. Particularly if you have a young reader or are a parent.

Foreword for Parents

The number one question I am asked at author events is some variation of, "Do you have chapter books for young readers?" This series is my response to that encouraging need parents are experiencing, namely, they have children who want to read books.

The Dubois Files combine adventure and mystery without being violent or dark. They are set in the mid twentieth century when moral standards were generally expected to be upheld, and the children I've invented will sometimes be presented with opportunities to choose between right and wrong.

Currently, one of the most popular genres for readers, approximately fourth grade and up, is fantasy. I have no bias against fantasy, but my strength is mysteries. I write mysteries. As a child, I read every mystery my local library and school library had, most more than once. I'm not sure I can count the number of times I read all the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys stories. The Dubois Files springboard from that model.

However, in this era of extreme political correctness, those classic series are being retro-analyzed as being racist. It is my desire to promote diversity and inclusiveness, and yet, I do not believe that re-writing history is honest. Every decade or century is tarnished in various ways.

The primary characters in these books include Jimmie Mosher, of English descent; Cora Dubois with a Finnish mother and French father; Laszlo Szep, the son of a Hungarian tenant farmer; and George and Ruby Harris, a brother and sister with African-American roots. Of course, their extended families, and the associated problems, will come into the plots. These ethnicities fit into the time period and the place without straining credulity.

It is my hope that the Dubois Files will be entertaining, but also morally strong and educational to some degree.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dead Mule Swamp Druggist Ready for Pre-Orders

alt text

I'm committed!

Dead Mule Swamp Druggist is available for pre-order as an e-book on iBooks (app), Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Amazon (Kindle). Release date is set for December 26, 2017- hopefully just in time for some holiday reading. The advance price will save you 50 cents. Order now at $2.49 for automatic delivery the day after Christmas. Regular price will be $2.99.

This is the longest Anastasia Raven book to date, at about 80,000 words. Great value for your reading dollars!

Ana gets herself into all kinds of odd situations. Here's the synopsis:

Anastasia Raven has settled comfortably into life in Forest County. As in any community, obituaries are published each week. Suddenly, it appears that four deaths which occurred over the past year were not so ordinary and may be linked by overdoses of Oxycontin. Charlie Dixon, the druggist, is in the spotlight. What did a healthy middle-aged CPA, an elderly car dealer, a mentally challenged handyman, and a young artisan have in common? Was it just coincidence that they filled prescriptions days before they died? Why would Charlie want to kill these four people? Why would Charlie want to kill any one of these people? Ana takes on a new role in the community which gives her the credentials to look into the deaths. Her investigations lead her to uncover some of the darker aspects of small town life. Friends Cora and Jerry Caulfield, Adele Volger, and young Jimmie Mosher are never far from the action.

And now.... to whet your appetite even more, I give you Chapter 1, free.

    Colin Mueller was dead. Isabel Adams was dead. Ham Nelson was dead. Milo Sendak was dead.

    Even in a small town like Cherry Hill, in the middle of rural Forest County, people die. There were obits in the paper every week. I’d read them faithfully for over a year at my new home of choice in the northwoods, after leaving the suburbs of Chicago and a husband who had chosen someone named Brian as his new life partner. All water under the bridge, as they say—changes and death. But I mention these four deaths in particular.

    Colin Mueller had died in his sleep in late March. He was eighty-five.

    Isabel Adams was only thirty-two. She was found dead in her garden where she had been raking dry leaves from the beds in April, a victim of anaphylactic shock, stung by a bee. Her epi pen was in the house.

    Ham Nelson was killed in August, in a car crash. He’d failed to stop at a railroad crossing, and well... he’d died instantly. Few people mourned Ham. He was fifty-six, mentally challenged and did odd jobs on various farms. It wasn’t his handicaps that put people off; it was his aversion to showers that was the real issue.

    Milo Sendak took an overdose of OxyContin, and went to bed. He called no one. His was not a cry for help, but apparently a well-executed suicide. The problem was, he had no reason to kill himself. His first grandchild had just been born on September twelfth, and his daughter and son-in-law were bringing the baby to meet their grandpa. They had found him cold and still.

    The cause of Milo’s death was not obvious. He’d had back trouble for years, but other than that he was a healthy, energetic fifty-five-year-old, tennis playing businessman. An autopsy revealed the overdose of painkiller.

    The problem was, he’d just refilled his prescription the day before and only one pill was missing from the new bottle. How had one pill flooded his system with the drug? Had he been hoarding capsules?

    When the Sheriff’s office checked Cherry Hill Pharmacy's records for Milo’s OxyContin purchases, they discovered that Colin Mueller, Isabel Adams, and Ham Nelson had also filled prescriptions for the same drug just days before their deaths.

    The druggist, Charlie Dixon, was sweating bullets.
If you are on the MailChimp email list you'll receive Chapter 2 for free in a couple of weeks (and maybe other goodies). Sign up at Books Leaving Footprints Newsletter

Most importantly, thank you for being an Anastasia Raven fan! How can you help me get more fans? Tell your friends. Write a review of one of the previous books in the series. You are awesome!

Monday, March 27, 2017

What Might Make You Come to an Author Event?

alt text at Big Rapids Authorpalooza

What would make you come to a vendor event (where you can meet multiple authors and buy books)? I am scheduled for two of them (at this point) this summer. The first will be at Shagway Arts Barn, Ludington on May 27. Also, on July 22, I'll be at the Writer's Rendezvous at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts. Shagway will have live music and multiple vendors... many of them arts and crafts. The Writer's Rendezvous will be only authors, and each will have a time to read short passages from his or her books.

But what if I offered a premium that you could ONLY get at one of these events? Would this entice you to come? Please answer in the poll above until April 8th at midnight. You can choose more than one option. If you can think of something I haven't listed that you'd like (that's reasonable, eh?) you can comment below.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

I Am an Author

computer on desk

Someone asked me what I do. Just last month... and I stumbled around saying things about a minimum-wage, dead-end job at the newspaper. Then I smacked myself upside the head. Duh! I am an author. That's what I need to say in response to that question.

So what if I haven't posted in this blog for quite a while? So what if I haven't managed to write as much as I had hoped this past year? I have several books in print and am working on others at the best speed I can manage right now.

I've tracked the things relating to writing that I've done since the beginning of 2017. I'm fairly impressed, given that I know myself well enough to understand that a lot of these things are the pieces I don't like very much.

Here's what I've accomplished since January 1:
  • wrote 3.5 chapters in Dead Mule Swamp Druggist
  • researched and wrote 2 columns for Ludington Daily News
  • attended writers' group 4 times
  • attended 2 meetings to have my books at Shagway Art Barn
  • got 5 of my titles placed at the Book Mark bookstore
  • done promotion on Facebook
  • mailed or delivered 10 book orders
  • ordered more paper copies of the Dead Mule Swamp books
  • kept book sales accounts in order
  • dealt with Google to get the domain for this blog renewed (a major pain)
  • submitted 5 poems for publication in Driftwood
  • asked for a recommendation letter (not received yet)
  • made notes for Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe

That said, I am trying to bring a bit more discipline to the actual writing.

Back when I wrote North Country Cache, two hours a day were devoted to serious, concentrated writing. It was the focus of my life. Now, however, with the other job, my schedule is not consistent, and life is not focused as well. Since that's my ultimate goal... to bring the center back to writing, I'm working on improvements.

I've managed to write for an hour, two days this week, instead of waiting till I have to have a chapter for writers' group. It's not much, but this week it was the best I could do.

I am an author. Remember that.