Saturday, November 9, 2013

Creating a hit lady for my novel

I created a professional hit lady by the name of Charlene "Charlie" Marx in my new novel, which is still under construction and still unnamed.

Before I gave Charlie life, I tried to do some research on hit ladies and serial killers. But there is not much information out there on hit ladies because they are relatively rare. Not many studies or research compiled on hit ladies or serial killers.

Most of what I could find on cold-blooded, ruthless killers reveals that they are almost always men. That makes it tough to develop my female character. She has a military background and combat training, but never actually experienced real warfare (the story is set in 1999 and women were serving in war zones, but not actually on the front lines).

But what actually makes Charlie tick, or more precisely, what in her background shaped her mentality so that she could kill for money without feeling or remorse?

Need is not enough. I'm going with a tortured childhood as the driving force that made her who she is. Charlie doesn't want to have children because of what she experienced. She was a foster child who was passed around from one set of abusive and uncaring parents to another. Adults who only took her to get  a check from the state. Time after time, she was used and abused.

It made Charlie hard. It made Charlie tough. And, when her youthful experiences were combined with what she learned in the military, it made her lethal.

Charlene's first kill was accidental. It amazed her that the death did not bother her in the least. In fact, seeing the body on the ground and lifeless at her hand actually gave her a thrill. That's when Charlene became Charlie and started a life of contract killing for a living.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Cheeseburger Fest great for local authors, too

The annual Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival is great for those chasing good music, food and fun in the sun. But it's also turning out to be pretty burger-flippin' good for writers, too.

Somewhere, every day during the festival in this Lake Huron coastal town, writers of various stature could be found signing and selling books.

The biggest name in this group is childrens' book author Jonathan Rand, who has written a series of chiller stories from around Michigan that young folks seem to love. Rand brought his act to town to sign and sell books at the Lemon Tree Marketplace in downtown Caseville. Hundreds of people lined up to meet the author, buy his book, get it signed or get a photo with the legendary writer.

Rand's latest offering is "Catastrophe in Caseville," a story about a mad scientist who creates a giant mechanical cheeseburger and threatens to destroy the town with it. Sounds a little far-fetched, but the cheeseburgers of this town have been known to cause a belly blast or two, so why not?

Another story that spins out of our tiny city and out of the festival is the latest book by author Dennis Collins. "Nightmare" is Collins' piece of fiction that puts bull sharks, which can survive and thrive in warm fresh water, in the swimming area of a local park where 10,000 people are in the water seeking relief from a hot August day during the height of the festival. Yikes!

Collins was all over town, every day somewhere different, signing and selling his book. Because of its automatic and natural connection to the town and the festival, you could say that the Thumb-area author was trying to make some cheese while the sun was shining.

Bill Diller, a noted Thumb nature photographer and author, finished his latest book just in time for the Cheeseburger Festival. "Every Photo Has a Story" is Diller's beautiful coffee-table style book. It's chock full of jaw-dropping photos and interesting narrative about how the images were captured.

In addition to the book, Diller also displayed and sold a number of his photos under a tent at the Brew Moon Cafe, where the owners hosted a small craft show, flipped cheeseburgers on a grill, and offered the sounds of live musicians to festival shoppers.

I took advantage of the fabulous location our real estate office has in downtown Caseville. David L. Kraft Realty LLC is right in the middle of the festival party. Every free moment I had turned into an opportunity to sell books. Since I always travel with a card table, chair, box of books and ink pen in hand, putting up a display for visitors was a snap. I sold books, met a ton of nice folks and made connections with book clubs and public libraries each day of the 10-day event.

This year's Cheeseburger in Caseville Festival was another overwhelming success for the community, but it's also giving local writers a boost. This area of Michigan is becoming a haven for authors.  And I'm delighted to report that it's also gaining a reputation as a good place for fun as well as good reads.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A murder mystery on Mackinac Island? Here are three reasons

Most people go to Mackinac Island because it's a beautiful, relaxing get-away from their hectic, crazy lives.

I just spent the weekend at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island with my oldest son, Michael, because we were working - hustling around in a fantasy playground working on my next novel.

Why base a murder mystery on Mackinac Island, one of Michigan's true gems and the kind of idyllic place where bad things seemingly never happen? Well, that's a good question. It's one that almost everyone asks when they find out that I'm developing a story line for another work of fiction.

I've got three reasons.

The top one is that the act of murder on Mackinac Island does not fit its image in any way. The island is like Disney World without the rides. It's Never-Never Land. It's pixie dust over and over again wherever you go on the island. In my mind, that makes it a perfect setting for a horrible crime.

Another reason is that so many people can relate to Mackinac Island. Most folks in Michigan have visited the island, or they've seen photos of the island, or they've read about the place, or they know people who have been there.

My evidence of that? On Sunday, the Detroit Free Press printed a front page story about a zoning dispute on the island that pits developers against historians. A ZONING DISPUTE?!?!? Yup, and it was the most viewed story of the day on the Freep's web page.

Lots of people care about Mackinac Island and what it represents. I discovered that when I was editor of True North Magazine. And that's the third reason I've selected the island as one of the settings in my next book. I've visited it so many times and know so much about it that I am eager to write about it.

I hope my love for the island comes through in the next book like it did for Bay City in my first novel, "A Formula for Murder."

I don't have a title for the new book yet, but I have worked out enough of the overall plot to declare that it will involve a revenge killing and the Grand Hotel will be involved in some way. The story will be filled with intrigue and suspense, as well as healthy doses of humor and romance.

Stay tuned. I'm hoping to have it finished and ready to publish by fall.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review - "Truly enjoyed reading 'Formula' "

Hello Dave,We met at your book signing in Birch Run.Just letting you know that I truly enjoyed readingA Formula for Murder.Wishing you all the best in your future writings..Thanks again.- Tina Foster.

Book signing at O'Hare's Pub was a hoot!

Every time I venture out to a book signing or presentation, I learn something new - especially if it's a different kind of venue.

Here's the lesson I learned from meeting and greeting folks at O'Hare's Bar & Grill in Bay City on St. Patrick's Day. Only do a book signing in a rowdy bar if you can get there early and connect with folks BEFORE they get bombed.

As you may recall, I was invited to O'Hare's by Pete, the owner, because his watering hole is the "hangout" for the main cast of characters in my book. Pete was so tickled by this, he set up a display of my books in his place and has been selling them for me.

And the reason it's my gang's hangout is because that's where my friends and I used to party several years ago when I was running the newsroom at the local newspaper. We would stop into O'Hare's at least two or three times a week. Lots of good people, great fun.

So, naturally I had to make O'Hare's a featured place in my novel, "A Formula for Murder."

But doing a book signing at the place is another animal all together - especially on a big-drinking holiday like St. Pat's Day.

I arrived at the pub about 11 a.m. because I wanted to beat the traffic jam around Center Avenue on the East Side of Bay City. Center is the main thoroughfare for the famous, or infamous, St. Pat's Day Parade in Bay City. The East Side and Center also are part of the big St. Pat's Day Road Race, which I believe is still growing and getting bigger and more fun every year.

The first couple of hours were really good. Lots of folks stopped by O'Hare's for a Reuben, corned beef and cabbage, the pub's famous Irish Stew, and a sip or two of green beer. I had no problem chatting with each of them and making my pitch.

People were very friendly and very receptive. Many had heard about my novel or the presentations that I have been making around town. Bang, bang, bang. One after another, I sold a bunch of books right off the bat.

But then the place got crowded. And loud. Soon, people were bumping into one another, spilling beer all over the place, and getting loose and sloppy. The room noise was so loud, you couldn't speak to anyone without shouting.

I noticed revelers eyeing my book-signing table with increasing envy. Gee, I liked my spot in the pub, but I wasn't sure it was worth defending in an old-fashioned Irish fist fight.

 I suddenly had the feeling that if I had to make a quick dash to the men's room, I'd return and find my display and books scattered about the floor and under foot. Or worse yet, seeing my stuff kicked out into the street. Sure, I've been kicked into the gutter before, but I sure didn't want to see my book there.

Obviously, this was not a good situation in which to make pitches about a murder mystery. I knew it was time to go. I thanked Pete, who was delighted that I sold as many books as I did, and packed up my stuff. In 10 minutes, I was pulling out and party freaks were diving to grab my vacated table.

Everything considered, it turned out just fine. It will probably be awhile before I try signing books in a bar again, but I figure it's always a good day when ever I meet knew people, chat with them about my book, and make a few sales.

Onward and Upward!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Book signings: Presentations and parties "To Die For"

A trip home, a visit to Bay City's great new library, and an invitation to a huge party are three huge events coming up on the book-signing tour for "A Formula for Murder."

This week, I will be visiting Mayville - the small, rural community in the Thumb where I grew up and graduated from high school, to meet with students during the day to talk about the importance of written communication in today's work world. Then, late in the afternoon I will set up in the Mayville Public Library to get ready for "An Evening to Die For," a presentation and open discussion on my book with folks from throughout the community.

I'm really looking forward to the trip home. I especially like meeting with students to talk about their writing aspirations. Mayville High School, and English teacher Mr. Robert Warren, gave me my start. My message for high school students everywhere is to "chase your dream, no matter where it may take you."

On March 8, I will take part in the Bay County Library System's Booked for Lunch series. I will meet with lots of folks who love reading to talk about "A Formula for Murder" and independent publishing.  Getting invited to the Booked for Lunch series is very prestigious. This should be a lot of fun, a kind of crowning achievement in the evolution and distribution of my book.

The huge party I am plan to attend is on St. Patrick's Day at O'Hare's Bar & Grill on Midland Street in Bay City's West Side Business District. O'Hare's is the favored hangout for the main characters in "A Formula for Murder." The owner of the famed Bay City pub is so pleased with the book that he invited me to do a book signing there on St. Pat's Day, which is a holiday almost as big as Christmas in Bay City. I should see a ton of old friends and, hopefully, make many new ones.

I've already lined up a Designated Driver and someone to help me count change. It should be a fantastic party. I'm really looking forward to it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Bay City guys book club always eager for a good read

Bay City guys are always looking for a great book to read and they can't get enough mystery, suspense and murder.

That's what I found out when I spent the evening Tuesday with 16 members of the Bay City Men's Book Club, which meets at the Stein Haus restaurant and tavern on the city's East Side.  Members bought my book, "A Formula for Murder," about a month ago and read it before inviting me to dinner, beers, and discussion.

Now, you should know that this is a dedicated group. They have met every month to talk about books since 2000, and have not missed once despite the normal occurrences of illness, foul weather, pestilence, plague, catastrophe or, the worst of all, bad hangovers.

Tuesday evening was no pushover, either. As I rolled into Bay City, the temperature dipped to 12 degrees with stiff, icy wind, and continuous snow showers. But this hearty, heady group of readers, who hail from all walks of life, showed up ready to have fun and talk about books.

I could tell that they were particularly interested in "Formula" because it is based in Bay City, a town with a style and attitude of its own and a place they have loved for many years. Realizing this, I was suddenly a little nervous. These are smart guys who know all about Bay City. Who was I, a former newspaperman who no longer lives in their town, to write about a place near and dear to their heats, souls, and, most importantly, their wallets.

Well, I'm delighted to report that the guys said they genuinely enjoyed the book and were brimming to their bushy eyebrows with questions.

"Where did the idea for the work of fiction come from?" they wondered. I told them about my friend and co-worker from the Flint Journal, Dave Fenech, having a horrible reaction to mixed medications and that became the method for killing.

The wanted to know why I moved the school abuse, which became the motive for murder, from Flint to Bay City. One member of the group recalled the specific incident that happened in Flint - a band director develops a  harem of young girls, gets pushed out of the school and then moves to Florida and then on to Georgia to continue his predatory ways.

My response: Murder is too common in Flint, it goes unnoticed. Bay City is a safe, relatively peaceful community that loves to party and play hard. Murder is a better story in Bay City. Plus, I worked in Bay City for 24 years. I know the town and its people. Writers write what they know. "Formula" is a story that would work well in Bay City.

The guys wanted to know about the characters: "Where did Nick Steele come from. Tanya sounds too beautiful and wonderful to be true, where did she come from? Was there really a Dave Balz? And what about the Castrator, the female publisher?"

The name Nick Steele was lifted from one of my old high school buddies. All the characters in the book are conglomerations of people I have known or worked with over the years.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Attica ladies love murder and talking about books

Last night, I had a blast talking about murder with a group of women from Attica.

Now, before you go bonkers, please note that these were very nice and proper ladies from Attica, the Michigan town just north of Imlay City - not the notorious or infamous prison in New York state.

And the murder that we discussed happened in my novel, "A Formula for Murder." The Attica Ladies Book Club (I just named them that because it sounded cool) has been meeting regularly for 13 years. In that time, they've read dozens of books - everything from best sellers by nationally recognized authors to independent publishers.

I've got to tell you that I was delighted when my book was selected as reading material for the club. But then I did handstands and back flips when they invited me to come down to their rural community just outside the edge of Metro Detroit and join their discussion of my book.

Betty Dean hosted the meeting and led the discussion. We met in her living room, gathering around a warm fireplace while a freak January thunder and lightening storm added booming sound and flashing light as a backdrop to our chat.

 A tantalizing spread of munchies and cold and hot beverages provided fuel and sustenance for members of the book club. They had possession of my book for more than a month, but most had finished reading it recently. I could tell right away that they were fired up and ready to talk it through.

Let me just say that these ladies were more than ready to chat. Before my plate was filled and I could reach for the salt, they peppered me with questions about the book, the story line, the characters, and how it all came to be.

They wanted to know how much of this work of fiction really happened: "Did Nick, or a reporter you know, really lose his pants in a bar over a bet?" Yup, that really happened. And so did most of the other incidents in the book. The story was written from my experiences as a journalist and newspaperman working in mid-Michigan for more than 30 years.

"Are you Nick, is he your alter ego?" No, Nick, like all of the other characters in the book, are conglomerations of people I have worked with or known in the business. However, the name - Nick Steele - is real. I went to high school with Nick Steele and always loved his name, thinking it would make a great byline in a newspaper and a great lead character in a novel.

"Did a band director really take advantage of young girls at Central High School in Bay City as described in your book?" The abuse actually occurred, as I described it, at Flint Central High School. I changed the location of that incident to fit the overall story.

They asked me aspects of the story that I had not even considered. And they even offered up what I thought was an interesting alternative ending.

After just over two hours of non-stop discussion, I was worn out and they were tapped out of questions. From my point of view, it was a great night. Lots of fun with a group of bright-eyed, intelligent readers.

Over the next two months, I am scheduled to meet with a half dozen other book clubs and discussion groups.  I only hope my next discussion groups are as tuned into murder and books as the ladies from Attica.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Review: "Formula" a great read, even with dyslexia

Here's one of the nicest compliments I've received on my book. It comes from Joe Martin, of Madison, WI, who picked up the book in November.

"You asked if I would let you know what I thought when I finished it. The short summary is that I enjoyed it very much and finished it quickly.  That last statement really says something as I'm not much of a reader due to dyslexia.  I listen to audio books mostly but reading is usually a slow process.  It took me over a year to finish the previous book. My daughter lent me Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. Really enjoyed it but couldn't read more than a few pages at a sitting.

I was wondering how much of Nick's assessment of the changes in print media, publication and management of a newspaper were autobiographical.  I have a close friend here in Madison that worked for years as a Capitol reporter for the Milwaukee Journal but was
essentially forced out in favor of younger (cheaper) labor.

In any case, it was a pleasure meeting you and reading you book."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Chamber loved "Fifty Shades of Grey" story

The Bay Area Chamber of Commerce invited me to meet with 200 or so of their members at the group's first Eye Opener Breakfast of 2013 on Tuesday.

I spoke with them about the rise of Independent Publishing and how barriers to getting work in print are now down. It is relatively easy and inexpensive for aspiring authors or poets to get published. But this also has opened the door for those who would like to publish and note the accomplishments of their social organizations, churches, families, or other groups. Putting together historical records and documents or memorials and getting them published professionally is as easy as 1-2-3.

During my talk, I mentioned how independent publishers are now among the major books sellers in America. In 2011 and 2012, "Fifty Shades of Grey," a somewhat controversial book of erotica - some folks call it mommy porn - has become a smashing hit.

The "Fifty Shades" trilogy is legendary and making an impact on our culture. I then shared with Chamber members how it affected my buddy Joe and his life:

Four guys have been going to the same fishing trip for many years.

Two days before the group is to leave, Joe's wife puts her foot down and tells him he isn't going.
Joe's mates are very upset that he can't go, but what can they do.

Two days later the three get to the camping site to find Joe sitting there with a tent set up, firewood gathered, and dinner cooking on the fire, sitting having a cold beer.

"Hell, Joe, how long you been here, and how did you talk your missus into letting you go?"

"Well, I've been here since last night.

Yesterday evening, I was sitting in my living room chair and my wife came up behind me and put her hands over my eyes and asked, 'Guess who?" I pulled her hands off, and there she was, wearing a nightie.

She took my hand and pulled me into our bedroom. The room had candles and rose petals all over. Well she's been reading 50 Shades of Grey......

On the bed she had handcuffs, and ropes and a riding crop! She told me to tie her up and cuff her to the bed, so I did.

And then she said, "Do whatever you want."

So, Here I am!

Needless to say, the story was a big hit with Chamber members. When laughter died down, I asked them to think of Joe and that story every time they're out driving down I-75 and see a bumper sticker on a pick-up truck that says: "I'd Rather be Fishing."

My talk concluded with a lively Q & A. This very bright and lively group of Chamber members had plenty of great questions about my Bay City based book and its development, independent publishing, and the new post-production movie studio that we're launching in Caseville.

The best part for me? I made many new friends and sold a bunch of books. My thanks to the Chamber's leader, Mike Seward, for the invitation to meet and chat with this robust group.