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.