Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where the Seat of the Pants Sits by Chester Campbell

Chester Campbell likes to say he was born in the midst of the Roaring Twenties and hasn’t slowed down since. With time off for service in World War II and the Korean War, he pursued a journalism career that included work as a newspaper reporter, free-lance writer, magazine editor, speechwriter for a governor, advertising and public relations staffer, and finally manager of a statewide trade association. He is the author of five books in the Greg McKenzie mystery series and one Sid Chance mystery. He lives in suburban Nashville, where most of his books are set.


Where the Seat of the Pants Sits
by Chester Campbell

Kaye says the subject of an author’s workspace has been a popular one. As I thought about that, I wondered does the workspace have any effect on your career? Let’s take a look at the evolution of mine and see what it might mean.

Except for a rather amateurish effort while I was in journalism school, working nights as a newspaper reporter, I wrote my first mystery novel back in the sixties. At that time my home office was a walled-off area in a corner of the garage. I barely had space for a homemade desk to hold my Royal typewriter and a metal two-drawer file. It was smaller than a walk-in closet. I had built the room a few years earlier while writing free-lance articles for magazines. The book was a Cold War espionage thriller, a genre I read avidly during that period. It took a year or two to write. I sent it off to a couple of publishers and one, Avon, kept it for six months before returning it. The editor said he couldn’t convince his colleagues to buy it. Back then I didn’t know the necessity of continuing to submit. I put the manuscript away.

After tearing out the garage to add a den, bath and bedroom, having been blessed by then with two daughters and two sons, I moved my office to the former boys’ room. My desk became a wooden door that rested on two filing cabinets. Though the workspace was adequate, my new job eliminated the concept of spare time, causing me to shelve my fiction writing plans for about twenty years. When I retired from my post as an association manager in 1989, I vowed to get serious about novel writing. Instead of the usual watch, my retirement gift was the rolltop desk I had used at work and its matching chair. I installed them in my home office and began plotting.

Over the next decade, parked at my rolltop desk, I pounded out eight novels, including a trilogy of post-Cold War spy stories and four thrillers featuring ordinary guys caught up in nefarious schemes. I was represented by a succession of four agents who, for various reasons (another story, alas), sold none of them. In early 1998, my wife of forty-five years died of Parkinson’s Disease complications after more than a year in a nursing home. That November I joined my brother and a church group on a tour of the Holy Land. This resulted in a plot for what soon became Secret of the Scroll, the story of a retired Air Force OSI agent’s struggles to save his wife from terrorists after a trip similar to mine.

Thirty or so query letters later, this one landed on the desk of an agent who liked the story but suggested I get a professional editor to help polish it.  This used up a few more months before I could return it to the agent. After another agonizing lapse of time, she replied that she no longer handled fiction but had passed the manuscript on to her husband who was a small press publisher.  He offered me a three-book contract.
This was a career-changing event and came on top of a life-changing event that moved me into a new workspace. In the fall of 1999, I re-married. Sarah and I both had houses, which we sold and bought a smaller but more modern home with a bonus room over the garage. I installed a new wrap-around computer desk that accommodated computer, scanner, and printer, and settled down to the job of being a published author.

Before the book came out, we started the habit of spending a couple of weeks each March and October at my brother’s condo on the beach at Perdido Key, FL.  That gave me the plot for my second Greg McKenzie mystery, about a balcony collapse at a high-rise condo on the beach. I bought a laptop to take on trips and used it to write some of Designed to Kill “on site.”

After publication of the third book and problems in collecting royalties, I acquired a new publisher to continue the series. My workspace underwent a major change around this time. I had joined way too many Yahoo groups and become addicted to things like Facebook and Twitter. Working at my desk in the office, I found myself spending an inordinate amount of time checking email (every twenty minutes of so, an annoying computer voice would say “Mail Truck”), plus wandering about the internet following various links.

We have a pair of side-by-side recliners in the living room. My wife sits by the window in hers and reads or watches TV. My chair on the left has a small table beside it, handy for holding books, notes, cappuccino cups, etc. I took my laptop down to the living room and started doing most of my creative writing there. As a newspaper reporter many years earlier, I had learned to concentrate on writing and ignore all the noise around me. Sarah sometimes complains that I don’t always pay attention to what she says, and she’s right. But the method works. I’m not tempted to stray from the story since I only receive emails on my PC upstairs.

This arrangement has allowed me to complete three more books and about half of a seventh. The current project is the second Sid Chance mystery tentatively titled Good, Bad and Murderous. It came out of the news, dealing with Medicare fraud and a man freed after fourteen years in prison for a murder committed at age twelve. The upstairs office now has a PC, an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier/fax, a laser printer, and an extra-wide printer that will handle various sizes and lengths of paper. I create all of my promotional items there, business cards, post cards, promo folders, etc.

Which leads us back to where we started. Has all that variety of workspaces affected my
progress as an author? My editors and colleagues seem to think my writing has improved over the years, but if it hadn’t I’d be following some other line of retirement. How much of that progress can be credited to my workspace may be questionable, but the increase in comfort and efficiency must have contributed something. And writing in a recliner sure comes in handy at nap time.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Its been a year . . . by Clea Simon

Just to keep herself busy, Clea Simon moved in December to a 100-year-old "worker's cottage" in Somerville, Massachusetts, with her husband Jon and Musetta the wonder cat. The author of three nonfiction books and the Theda Krakow mysteries, she is now working on the second Pru Marlowe pet noir and the fourth Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery, following the release of Pru #1, "Dogs Don't Lie" (Poisoned Pen), and Dulcie #3, "Grey Zone" (Severn House). Musetta takes credit for both series, as well as the house. 

by Clea Simon

When I tell people I have two new mysteries coming out next month, they often look at me as if I had two heads. I have to admit, that would make things easier. As would saying the cat wrote one (or both), and I know she would be  happy to take credit. The truth is far more prosaic, but it does provide a little window on just how crazy – frustrating, but ultimately satisfying – the writing life can be.
It might help, to start with, by talking about what the writing life is not. It is not, in any professional sense, guaranteed. For authors on my level, which we politely call “midlist,” it can be most uncertain. I’ve been writing for more than 20 years, and April’s books – DOGS DON’T LIE (Poisoned Pen) and GREY ZONE  (Severn House) – are my tenth and eleventh to see print. So by this point, I am usually pretty sure when a story can be a book – or at least a book-length manuscript. I am, however, less certain – even now – that it will find a home  with a traditional publisher. That was something I grew up understanding, with a mother who was an artist and whose career was often less than satisfying (more on that later). But one thing I dead-on rock solid know for sure is that I will keep writing. And that, you could say, is what makes all the difference.

Two, or maybe it was three years ago, I was in the doldrums. My editor had suggested that I take a break from my Theda Krakow mystery series after the fourth book, Probable Claws. Although I was sad to do so, I understood. Theda was my first fictional character, and she had moved from a place of insecurity into a comfortable mode. That meant if I were to continue with her, the whole tone of the books would change. I wasn’t sure I was ready to do that.

About a year earlier, though, someone had planted the seed of another idea. In 2007, I attended the Festival of Mystery, sponsored by Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA. While there, I got to chat with several of my wonderful colleagues about what was then the fairly new trend toward paranormal mysteries – “woo woo,” as we call them. And someone – Karen E. Olson, maybe? – said, “Clea, you should write a ghost cat.”

So, now that I had time, I thought, “Why not? Even if no one sees it, I’ll have fun with it. Maybe I’ll show it to my husband…” And I started writing about Dulcie Schwartz and her late, great cat Mr. Grey. And Dulcie let me know that this would be much more fun if she were studying the original ghost-ridden Gothic novels, and so I went back to my old college library and did some research, and soon Shades of Grey was born. Some people have suggested that the ghost of my own late, great cat, Cyrus, helped with that. I won’t argue.

By the time that was done, I was ready for something else. I went back to my editor (who I knew didn’t like paranormal) and made a few other suggestions.

What about a Theda spinoff in which one of the other characters – punk rocker Violet Hayes, for example – took over? She nixed the idea, and in the interim, I went to Sleuthfest in Deerfield, FL. While there, one of the lovely Level Best editors told me I should write a short story to submit for their annual anthology. Well, I love a challenge, so one day, by the pool, I drafted the rough outline of “Dumb Beasts,” trying on a noir voice that I’d never used before.

The Level Best folks went for it (and the story ended up in their Dead Fall anthology). But Dulcie, meanwhile, wasn’t having much luck. My agent was sending Shades of Grey out, but only rejections were coming back.  Our field is tough at the best of times, and here I was, trying to launch a sweet new series about a girl and her ghost cat just as various presses were killing their cozy lines and scuttling their midlist authors.

I had other work in the meantime. Barnes and Noble had me write introductions to new editions by Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart that got me reading the classics again. I reviewed. But in terms of my own books, I was getting nowhere.

I felt like I’d been left out in the rain, while others were attending a fabulous party, and I was not gracious about it. I sulked. I threw tantrums that scared the cat. When my mother told me that it would all work out, I laughed – a cold, bitter laugh. I undoubtedly strained my poor husband’s otherwise boundless sympathy. And then, ultimately, I did what writers do: I got sick of my own self-pity, and I started on another project. That short story had been fun. I’d liked the character, a kind of smart-alecky tough gal. And I found myself thinking – what if she had an equally smart-mouthed feline sidekick? The tabby Wallis was born. From then, it seemed natural – Pru Marlowe (named for the great Chandler detective) would be an animal behaviorist who happened to hear what animals are thinking. Therefore, when a dog she’s training seems to be guilty when her owner is found dead, Pru might know otherwise. But how could she explain to the cops? And what would Wallis think of her helping a dog? I started to write.

I had no pub date, no publisher. Nothing in the works. But I was writing again.

I was happy.
And then, when I was almost done, we got great news. An editor at Severn House, a British publisher, got the humor in Shades of Grey. She loved the characters, and she wanted the book. With one condition.  Severn House only wanted it if it were the start of a series. Could I get them a second book? Of course! How soon?

For fear of losing their interest, I named a date five months off, and set to work on what would become Grey Matters. As I wrote, I fell back in love with those characters – finding facets of Dulcie’s life as a student that I could research and meeting her “friends” as they came to light. The deadline was a little crazy, but I didn’t care. I had a contract. Dulcie got a kitten (not that the kitten could ever replace Mr. Grey), and a series was born. I got the book in on time and prepared to give myself a summer off.

And then, as Grey Matters worked its way through the editing process, my world collapsed. My mother, who had been declining for several years, got a foot infection. This landed her in the hospital and then rehab, and it soon became clear that she wasn’t going back to any kind of independent living.

I was grateful then for the relative flexibility of the writing life: I managed to find her a decent nursing home, nearby, and packed up the assisted living apartment where she’d lived for five years. She had been an artist, working in media from etchings to oils, showing and selling her work to collectors and museums despite years-long dry spells that brought the black dog of depression into our home, fitting in her work between keeping house and raising a family.

Even in retirement, she kept up with her watercolors, decorating her assisted  living apartment with still lives that hung alongside her views of Rome and Paris, souvenirs of earlier travels. And she was always an avid devourer of culture – books, operas, films. You name it.

But illness and dementia have no respect.  By the time of her foot infection, she had had trouble attending theatrical events for years. After this latest hospitalization, things got worse. Fairly quickly, she lost the ability to read – even the fantasy novels of Naomi Novik, which she’d loved (me, too), became “too confusing” for her. There are too many characters,” she’d say. Then the TV  became too much (“it’s broken,” she’d say of the remote), and I couldn’t count on her being able to manage the phone. And so I became the one who accommodated, visiting pretty much daily, bringing DVDs she’d once loved and watching them by her bedside while she dozed. Somewhere in there, I finished up Dogs Don’t Lie, too, as much to hang onto normalcy as anything else, and my agent started sending it around.
And then Dulcie was a hit, at least in small-press terms, and Severn House wanted another – quickly. I not only loved Dulcie, I was thrilled to be publishing again – and so I got back to work, bringing my laptop to the hospital when my mom landed there again. Writing in the between times, and late at night.
And then, just as my mother’s health took another precipitous drop, my agent called: Dogs Don’t Lie had found a home with my old publisher, Poisoned Pen.
The editor wanted some changes, but they wanted to put it on their schedule.

Could I commit to working on it – now?
There’s a line from the Joan Rivers documentary A Piece of Work that explains her lifelong career. “Joan knows that to get struck by lightening,” her agent says, “you have to stand out in the rain. Joan’s been standing out in the rain for a long time.”
I love that quote, because it’s so true. But I’d add a corollary. Not only do you have to stand out in the rain – you have to grab that lightening when it strikes. And so I told my agent, “Sure.” I’d work with one editor on getting Dogs Don’t Lie in shape. And I’d finish the book that became Grey Zone for the other. And I’d also find a way to sit with my mother, telling her about my adventures – the good parts, anyway – as I had as a young girl, bringing home stories to share. After all, she was the one who read to me as a child. Who introduced me to C.S. Lewis and The Wonder Clock, Edward Gorey and Kipling’s Jungle Book. Who taught me that the work of our minds and our hearts is to be valued, even if sometimes dinner is late (or gets burned). Even if the money is little, and uncertain. If you love it, you do it.

My mother died on March 21, 2010, just over a year ago as you read this. She was talking about painting up
until the last few weeks, even though I knew – and she probably did, too – that she no longer had the coordination to hold a brush, to shape a form. But she knew I was writing, and she was fully prepared to read whatever I wrote, provided it didn’t have “too many characters” or wasn’t “too confusing.” And so I keep on writing, through whatever life throws at me, and that, ultimately, is why I have two books this spring – the vastly different Grey Zone and Dogs Don’t Lie. Both, I now realize, in time for Mother’s Day. 

Left Coast Crime 2011 Winners

The Winners of this year's Left Coast Crime Awards, held in Sante Fe, are:

Dilys Award (Independent Booksellers' book they enjoyed selling the most -

Louise Penny - Bury Your Dead

The Lefty: Best Humorous Mystery Novel
J. Michael Orenduff - The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein

The Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery
Jacqueline Winspear - The Mapping of Love and Death

The Hillerman Sky Award - Best captures the landscape of the Southwest -

Margaret Coel - The Spider's Web

The Watson - Best sidekick - 
Craig Johnson - Junkyard Dogs

Congratulations to the winners!!

Left Coast Crime 2012 will be held in Sacramento

Friday, March 25, 2011

Happy Reunions? by Sandra Ruttan

Sandra Ruttan is the editor-in-chief of Spinetingler Magazine and blogs regularly at Do Some Damage.  Her published books also include WHAT BURNS WITHIN, THE FRAILTY OF FLESH and LULLABY FOR THE NAMELESS, and two of her titles have been translated into Japanese.  For more information visit her website:


by Sandra Ruttan

Several months ago, I took an enormous risk.  Many have heard about the girl who solved her own abduction more than twenty years after the fact, and was reunited with her biological parents.  And most of us have heard of Oprah’s dramatic discovery of a sibling she never knew existed, and their eventual reunion.

But what a lot of people don’t realize is how risky these types of reunions are.  Children who search for birth parents after adoption sometimes find people who want nothing to do with them.  The initial rejection is followed by new hurt, and these are wounds that will never heal by reconnecting, getting answers to long-asked questions.

My husband is a bit of an anomaly.  He always knew his dad was out there, somewhere, and his mother made sure he never got the chance to meet him or know him while he was growing up.

But Brian never considered finding his dad.  It wasn’t that his mother had more than filled the gap; they have a horrible relationship, and she’s far more interested in the children she had with her second husband.  Brian was discarded much the same way her first husband was, to the extent that she doesn’t even bother with her only grandchildren.  It’s only been in the past year that they’ve even realized that she’s “technically” their grandmother.

Me, I’m far too curious.  Unlike Brian, I had a hard time letting the issue of finding his real dad drop.

So I asked some questions.

Realized Brian’s great aunt hadn’t told me the truth.

Started to wonder what else he’d been told over the years wasn’t accurate.

And found Brian’s biological dad.  On Facebook.

And not just his dad.  His brother and sister, too.

Best of all, most of his immediate family lived within driving distance.  It wasn’t long before emails turned into phone calls, and phone calls turned into a face to face meeting.  And for the first time in their young lives, the kids actually got to meet their grandparents.

And Brian got to meet his dad.

But in those moments leading up to the reunion, there were a lot of nerves at work in us.  What would these people really be like?  You can think you’ve covered your bases, asked all the right questions, but we were early in our relationship.  There was so much we didn’t know.

I’ve heard other stories where the outcomes haven’t been great, they’ve been pretty much a letdown. 

But for us, it was the exact opposite.  Our experience discovering Brian’s family has been fantastic.  We’ve been at ease from early on.  The kids have quickly accumulated a stockpile of grandparent memories – picking peaches, going for walks in the mountains and seeing bears, swimming, playing games, watching movies, drawing, Christmas celebrations…  and his parents and brother were at our wedding.

And for the first time in his life, just a few weeks ago, Brian got to spend his birthday with his dad and mom (we’ve banned ‘step’) for the first time.

As you can probably imagine, it’s been a pretty emotional experience.

One that got me thinking, about writing and reading, and characters.  Yes, my mind is a bit odd and makes interesting leaps, and this might be one of those times.

I couldn’t help thinking what a gift it was to discover we clicked so effortlessly with Brian’s family and really enjoy talking to them and spending time with them.

And I couldn’t help thinking that if they’d been alcoholics or bad-tempered, or holding on to angst and anger over the past that the growth of our relationship probably wouldn’t have been so smooth.

Which is when I started to wonder about so many characters I read and even write about in crime fiction.  The reality is, a lot of these characters aren’t people I’d want to hang out with.  I completely understand, as a writer, the interest in delving into the psyche through your writing.

But what about the nice guys?  Doesn’t anyone want to spend time with the kind of guy they could bring home to their mother?  I mean, that’s not Rebus.  Or Reacher.  Or Thorne, or countless others I could name.

Back when I was starting my first mystery manuscript, I didn’t want to write characters who swore with every other word, who drank to excess, who were so weak they had dependencies to help them avoid their issues, and they jumped into bed with every available partner they encountered throughout the pages.

I wanted to create two people I could imagine living next door.  Two people I’d actually want to have live next door.

Meet Tymen Farraday and Lara Kelly.  I threw the conventional procedure out the window as well, paired a detective with a reporter, and the focus was on two people trying to hold on to their principles and values in a town filled with and controlled by people who were corrupt.  Two people trying to sort out their doubts and initial distrust of each other as they stepped into a case unlike anything they could have imagined when it all began.

SUSPICIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES was always – always – about the characters first.  I really, really liked them, and hoped to develop a series.

Things went sideways after the book was initially published, and I won’t bore you with the details, but it is only now, four years later, that I can tell you a sequel is in the works.  SC is back in my hands, and is now –  or a limited time – available on Kindle for 99 cents.

For me, this is really exciting, because as much as all my characters have a special place in my heart, these are two characters I’ve been waiting for a long time to bring back.  And they’re two characters that – just like my in-laws – are a pleasure to spend time with.

I hope you’ll give them a chance to grow in your heart, and that you’ll agree.

I'm Getting Rounder by the Day

I am not a person who enjoys exercise.

I have never been a person who thought exercise was fun.

I don't recall ever running in my life unless it was away from something - like a bee.  Or a snake.  I remember jumping up onto the bed one time when I saw a mouse.

So, obviously, I was not what you could call an athletic child.  Did it matter to me if I didn't get chosen to be on a team.  Pfft.  Not in the least.  I could sit and watch.  Or daydream.  Or read (surprise!).

Even without exercise, I was the skinniest kid you've ever seen.  Pitiful.

My parents fretted about my weight, and my mom asked our family doctor, Dr. Wolf, what to do to "put some meat on those bones" of mine.  His first answer was not to worry about it, but because she just couldn't let it go, he suggested a couple of things.  Black Strap Molasses.  Yum.  One of my favorite things is still buttered toast and molasses.  The other thing he recommended was milkshakes.  So my dad would stop at the Dairy Queen on Sunburst Highway every day on his way home from work and bring home a milkshake.  A big one.  Yum.  Needless to say, I'm still a big fan of milkshakes.

Problem is the word big.

I seem to be getting bigger by the minute.

Since I stayed so skinny as a child, and never had to watch my weight until fairly recently, I never learned how to enjoy exercise.  Join a gym?!  yech.    And I never really learned how to count calories either.  Carbs?  SO over my head.

I was blessed with the fact that if I wanted to sit down with a pack of Oreos and a huge glass of milk, I could do it and never give it a thought.

Spaghetti?  Sure!  Give me a second helping, please and another piece of that garlic bread.  Yum.

Well, things change.

When I was in my 40's my mom and I decided we needed to drop a few pounds.  So we joined Jenny Craig, and we did lose the weight we wanted to.  And I kept that weight off for a few years I'm happy to say.  But I was right back to eating whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.

When we moved to Boone I started losing weight.  It was a combination of things.  I was excited about our move.  I was nervous about our move.  It had been a stressful few months with Donald being in Boone while I stayed in Georgia trying to sell the house.  My reaction to all this was the opposite of most peoples'.  Instead of eating, I seemed to just lose my appetite.

Then when I finally got to Boone and we moved into our new house, I was spending my days moving and unpacking boxes.  Moving furniture around.  And just forgetting to eat.  Then one day I went to see my Mom and she made a comment about how skinny I had gotten.  I was surprised, 'cause I honestly hadn't noticed.  But when I got home I got on the scales.


I had gotten skinny.  Too skinny.

I knew immediately, of course, that I was deathly ill.  Terminal.  (Donald says I read too many books).  So without saying a word to anyone, I just started sneaking into town every day while Donald was at work and buying myself a milkshake.  A big one.

Well, of course - I'm still here - no terminal illness.  But no more milkshakes either.


Since then, I've joined Jenny Craig again.  I've gone to Weight Watchers.  And I've lost the same 10 pounds about a hundred times.  But now I need to lose more like 15 pounds.

So, I've stopped with the Oreos (again), and haven't had spaghetti in Lord knows when.  Chicken.  We eat a lot of chicken.  Plain chicken.  Grilled on our George Foreman grill.  Yogurt.  I eat a lot of yogurt.  I can't even talk about how boring my diet is.  Am I losing a pound?  No.

So I've started walking.

This has turned into a good thing, something I'm enjoying a lot.

We have a creek that runs around two sides of our property.  It's pretty and it sounds pretty.  We have a big ol' pond and it's pretty too.  All this prettiness makes for nice walks. 

Harley romps around with me when I take my walks.

Harley enjoys them, I enjoy them and do one good walk every single day and most days,  two.

Have I lost any weight.


Not an ounce.

I just keep getting rounder and rounder.

Is a gym in my future?  oh jeeeeez . . . .

I guess I'm going to eat my words AGAIN.  You have no idea how many times I've said how much I hated gyms and exercise classes.

(maybe that's where all this weight is coming from.  Continually eating my words.  You think?!).

But do, please, say congratulations to Harley.

He's lost one pound.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Living in Two Different Worlds by Tim Myers (aka Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes, Elizabeth Bright, Melissa Glazer and several more !)

Tim Myers is the author of over 24 traditionally published mystery novels, including the upcoming A PIZZA TO DIE FOR written as Chris Cavender and A KILLER COLUMN under the name Casey Mayes.  To get a list of his ebooks, published both traditionally and in ebook form, go to

Living in Two Different Worlds
By Tim Myers (aka Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes, Elizabeth Bright, Melissa Glazer, and I’m red-faced to admit, several more!)

These are exciting times to be a writer.  With the massive adoption of ebooks in several different formats, it’s now possible to bring books that have been out of print for years and collecting dust on shelves around the world back to life.  In the past six months, I’ve reissued my lighthouse inn mysteries, my candlemaking mysteries, my soapmaking mysteries, and my cardmaking mysteries (written under the name Elizabeth Bright).  I love seeing them available again, and making me a bit of money in the bargain.  The process isn’t all that simple, but it can be done with a little work, and I’ve found a surprising joy in creating covers for these books as well.  What an added bonus!  But there’s more.  I get many, many letters asking what happens next with each of my series, none more than the lighthouse inn mysteries, so I decided what better time to write one than now.  Taking my characters Alex and Elise, I decided to follow up with a promise I’d made in the fifth book of the series just before I learned that it would not be renewed by the publisher.  With great joy, I sat down and wrote a novella, titled Key to Murder, where Alex and Elise go to a lighthouse on the NC Outer Banks.  This was original fiction, written specifically for the electronic market.  The response was so strong that I decided to bring out other novels I’d written over the years that hadn’t found a home, from suspense, young adult, fantasy, traditional fiction, middle graders, science fiction, and much more.  Those started getting some attention, so I finally decided to write the final lighthouse inn book, called Ring for Murder.  The title kind of gives it all away, with the series culminating, to no one’s surprise, with a wedding, and it just went live.

But I said both worlds, didn’t I?  I’m also continuing to publish traditionally with St. Martin’s, Kensington, and Penguin/Berkley.  I love the ebook readers, and the opportunity to tell new stories, to explore new boundaries, but I also love the smell and feel of a brand new paper book in my hands.  Many folks are predicting the death of the printed book, but I don’t see that happening, at least not in our lifetimes.  There are too many folks who love bound books for that to happen, in my humble opinion.  I also enjoy the give and take with my editors, and in many ways, they help me to maximize the story I’m telling, advice I don’t always get going it alone.

Working alone and working with a traditional publisher is as different as riding roller skates or being on a bus.  Publishing your own titles (roller skates) entails quite a bit more than dealing with just the manuscript.  You are your own publisher, which means you have the freedom, and the opportunity to make good decisions, or bad, on many steps along the way.  You set the price, design your cover (or pay to have it designed), come up with a typeface, write cover copy, and do any promotion your book is going to get.  That can be a two-edged sword, and is not for the faint of heart.
There’s something comforting in turning your manuscript over to your editor (riding that bus), knowing that chances are they will catch any blunders you make.  The cover, like it or not, is usually out of your hands.  But so is a share of the promotion and marketing, which can be a nice thing indeed.

In the end, though, it all boils down to one thing. 

I love being a writer, and it means a great deal to me when readers enjoy my work, whether they read it on a Kindle, a telephone, a printed book, or if it’s written in the sky.

After all, the story, now and forever, in whatever format, is the thing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Come Meet My Family - The Wilkinsons

This summer, Donald and Harley and I will be going home to Maryland for a few days.

We have much to celebrate.

Our 25th Wedding Anniversary, my retirement, my 45th high school reunion, and the fact that Donald is still with us to celebrate these things after what we refer to around here as "that incident last May."  You'll all be happy to hear he's doing very well.  All doctors' reports have come back excellent and they tell him to just keep on doing what he's doing - eating healthier and exercising.  He's become a lot fonder of hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway trails than the exercise equipment at The Wellness Center.

Along with all this - a new item to add to the list.

A Wilkinson Family Reunion.

I can hardly wait!

When I was growing up in Cambridge, my Aunt Belle & Uncle Kelley were there with their three children - Wray, Janet Belle and Billy.  And My Uncle Irv and Aunt Miriam with their son, Little Irv.  But the other aunts and uncles and kids lived away.  Some were in Pennsylvania, and some were in Aberdeen where my dad and his siblings were born.  I spent some of my very best times in Aberdeen while I was growing up.  Going to spend a couple of weeks during the summer with my cousins was always something I looked forward to and loved doing for many years.

So.  Let me introduce you. - there were
Aunt Ethel and Uncle Dutch Esch (children, George, Paul and Leslie)
Aunt Belle and Uncle Kelley Mowbray (Wray, Janet Belle and Billy)
Uncle Irv and Aunt Miriam (Irv)
Uncle Ed and Aunt Hilda (Ed)
Uncle Roy and Aunt Mable (Dick, Joan, Laurie and Pat)
Uncle Lewis and Aunt Edna (Linda and Bruce)
My Dad - Alan, and Mom - Hazel

I never met my Grandmother Laura Mae Street Wilkinson.  She died before I was born.  But Pop-Pop was married a second time - to a woman named Lura, and she was the Wilkinson grandmother I grew up knowing, and loving.

There were family reunions fairly often while I was growing up.  Sometimes they were in Pop-Pop and Lura's backyard on Oakley Street, but it seems they were usually at my Aunt Belle's on Talbot Avenue.

And often we met up in Aberdeen for parties.  Sometimes in Aunt Mable and Uncle Roy's back yard on Mt. Royal Avenue (where I remember Uncle Roy hand feeding peanuts to the squirrels.  I was amazed by this.  And jealous!  The squirrels wouldn't have anything to do with the rest of, but they seemed to love and trust Uncle Roy, who I didn't really know very well, but remember as a gentle soul), and often the parties were in Aunt Edna and Uncle Lewis' basement on Baker Street.  I gotta tell you.  The Wilkinsons know how to party.  And they know how to throw a party.  In addition to reunions and cook-outs, and birthday celebrations, elegant weddings and elegant wedding receptions usually ended up finishing sometime in the wee hours in the Wilkinson basement on Baker Street.  (my first wedding included).  What I remember about some of these parties in the Baker Street basement as a child is the fact that the ductwork was such that after we kids had been sent to bed and the grown-ups continued partying, we could hear every word come up through the heating vent into one of the bedrooms.  We learned alot of interesting stuff.  And we heard some interesting records - Moms Mabley, Hot Nuts and Red Foxx seemed to be old favorites.  Remember them?!  oh my.

When my Aunt Belle died on November 26th of last year (my 62nd birthday), I think it got all of us cousins to reminiscing a bit.  Aunt Belle was the one who worked the hardest - and had the best time doing it - keeping the family close by throwing these reunions.  Next thing we knew, we cousins were planning a get together for lunch in Cambridge while Donald and I are there.  Next thing - SURPRISE! - it's grown.  The party will be in Aberdeen and I'll get to see cousins I haven't seen in much too long.  I'll get to meet some of their kids, along with their families and their kids.  Oh my.  I expect I'll shed a few tears, but I know I'll also have huge belly laughs.  The Wilkinsons DO love to laugh.

The reunion that the cousins are planning for this summer would have all the Wilkinson aunts and uncles who are no longer with us smiling.  Especially Aunt Belle, I think.  And we will lift a glass to toast and honor them.


in honor of the family, I'm going to do a few photo blogs.

This first one is just the beginning.

Meet my great grandparents, my grandparents, my parents and my aunts and uncles.

We'll get to the cousins a little later.

Paternal Great Grandmother Rebecca Raysor Wilkinson

Paternal Great Grandfather Samuel Street

Laura Mae Street

Great Aunt Sadie, ??, Laura Mae Street Wilkinson, Irvin Wilkinson
Ethel Wilkinson, Irvin Wilkinson, Jr., Samuel Street

Fulmers and Wilkinsons


Laura Mae Street Wilkinson

Grandparents Laura Mae Street Wilkinson and Irvin Wilkinson

Laura Mae Street Wilkinson and Irvin Wilkinson

Laura Mae Street Wilkinson

Laura Mae Street Wilkinson with Alan (my dad) and Aunt Belle

(1)Lewis Webster, (2)Irvin Fulmer, (3)Albert Leroy, (4)Ethel May, (5)Alan Willard, (6)Irvin Webster, (7)Mary Isabelle, (8)Laura Mae

Alan Wilkinson
Lewis Wilkinson and Belle Wilkinson

Belle and Ethel Wilkinson


Laura Mae and Irvin Wilkinson

Irvin and Laura Mae
Ethel and Laura Mae Wilkinson
Roy Wilkinson

Edna, Mable and Miriam Wilkinson

Belle Wilkinson Mowbray, Hilda, Miriam and Edna Wilkinson
Edna Wilkinson

Lewis, Hazel, Alan and Edna Wilkinson
Hilda, Ed, and Miriam Wilkinson

Irv, Roy, Lewis, Pop-Pop, Alan (Dad) Wilkinson

Irv, Roy, Belle, Alan, Irvin, Lewis Wilkinson

Belle Wilkinson Mowbray
Ethel Wilkinson Esch
Alan Wilkinson

My Parents - Hazel and Alan Wilkinson
Hazel and Alan Wilkinson

Mabel Wilkinson

Edna and Hazel Wilkinson

Calvin W. (Kelley) and Bell Mowbray

Miriam and Irv Wilkinson

Irvin and Lura Wilkinson

Lura and Irvin Wilkinson

Pop-Pop's 90th Birthday

Lewis, Pop-Pop (Irvin), Irv, Roy, Ethel, Ed
Belle, Alan