Monday, March 28, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Mystery & Thriller Author Austin Camacho

OVER THE YEARS Austin Camacho and I have attended many of the same conferences but, unfortunately, it hasn’t been until now that I’ve really had a chance to get to know him. Austin is the author of five novels in the Hannibal Jones Mystery Series, and two in the Stark and O'Brien adventure series. His short stories have been featured in several anthologies and he is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey.

He is a public affairs specialist for the Department of Defense. Born in New York City, he grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York and majored in psychology at Union College in Schenectady, New York. A veteran, today he handles media relations and writes articles for military newspapers and magazines. He also teaches writing classes at Anne Arundel Community College. Austin makes his home in Springfield, Virginia, as he puts it: “uncomfortably close to our nation's capital.”

Mike: Welcome to my blog, Austin, I’m happy that you can join us this week. Let’s start with your main character, Hannibal Jones. Who is he, where does he come from and is he based on anyone you know?

Austin: Hannibal Jones is an African American private eye based In Washington DC. He was born in Germany to an American soldier and his German national wife. When Hannibal's father was killed in combat at the end of Vietnam, Hannibal's mother raised him in Germany. After time as a police officer in NYC he joined the Secret Service but was asked to resign after refusing to cover up the bad behavior of the leader he was assigned to protect.

Hannibal's literary ancestors include Travis McGee, Simon Templar and Lew Archer, but I think his mixed heritage makes him unique.

M: A great heritage! I count five books in the Hannibal Jones series, can you give me brief two or three sentence description of each.

A: The Troubleshooter - In this prequel to Blood and Bone, Hannibal Jones is hired to free a Washington crack house from the drug addicts and winos that hold it. A powerful drug lord nearly drives him off, until he realizes that his success or failure will determine the fate of a neighborhood, and the future of one small boy.

Blood And Bone - Eighteen-year-old Kyle needs a bone marrow transplant, and his only hope lies in finding his father, a man who disappeared before Kyle was born. Hannibal Jones has two weeks to find the missing man, but his search turns up much more: A woman who might be Kyle's illegitimate sister, the woman who could be her mother, and the man who may have killed Kyle's father. Hannibal follows a twisting, winding path of deception, conspiracy and greed, from Washington to Mexico, pursuing the truth.

Collateral Damage - Bea's fiancé Dean has disappeared. Hannibal Jones finds Dean just before the man is accused of murder. All the evidence points to Dean, who can't remember what happened. Police believe that Dean might be following in the footsteps of his mother, who was convicted of killing Dean's father. Or was Dean covering for his mother, now out of prison and considered a possible serial killer? The trail leads from Washington DC to Germany, where Hannibal stumbles upon a third murder which seems linked to Dean's life. Hannibal must solve all three cases in order to clear Dean's name.

Damaged Goods - Anita Cooper was three times a victim. Her father's death crushed her dreams of college and success. Then her purity was drowned in powerless anxiety, and her virtue crushed by unspeakable humiliation. Rod Mantooth stole both her innocence and her father's priceless legacy, a secret treasure that could have rebuilt her life. Anita was lost until fate brought her together with Hannibal. Like a rolling mass of icy fury, Hannibal followed a twisted trail that led to Mantooth, the stolen treasure, and a final showdown in the icy waters of the Atlantic.

Russian Roulette - Hannibal Jones is forced to take a case for a Russian assassin. He must investigate Gana, the wealthy Algerian who has stolen Viktoriya, the woman his new client loves. Evidence connects Gana to Russian mob money and the apparent suicide of Viktoriya's father. Then more deaths follow, closing in on Viktoriya. To save the Russian beauty, Hannibal must unravel a complex tangle of clues and survive a dramatic shootout on Roosevelt Island, side-by-side with his murderous client.

M: I also count two standalones, again can you give me a brief description of each?

A: Not standalones, but the start of a separate adventure/thriller series:

The Payback Assignment - While fighting for their lives, mercenary soldier Morgan Stark and jewel thief Felicity O'Brien learn they share a psychic link that warns them of danger. They then combine their skills to get revenge on the man who double-crossed them both and left them to die in South America.

The Orion Assignment - Morgan Stark follows Felicity O'Brian to her native Ireland to defend her uncle's Catholic parish from Ian O'Ryan, an IRA terrorist. Trying to separate patriotic mercenaries from heartless terrorists leads them to a sniper mission on the rocky Irish coast, a deadly high speed motorcycle race in Belgium, and a final confrontation on an island off the coast of France where Morgan could die by slow torture if Felicity doesn't find him in time.

M: Which is easier to write, the mysteries or the adventure/thriller? Which is easier to sell to a publisher? And have you ever written a standalone novel?

A: I’ve never written a stand-alone because I tend to fall in love with my characters and can’t stand for them to languish in limbo. Besides, it’s so much easier to deal with story when you already know your characters and how they will react to whatever you subject them to. As far as my novels are concerned, the action thrillers are easier to write than the complex puzzles I write for Hannibal Jones to figure out - but the mysteries are more fun. Right now, nothing is easier to sell to a publisher. I do think a series is easier to market if the publisher thinks you can draw a readership.

M: What started you writing?

A: I’ve been a big reader since I can remember, and I read the kind of stuff I write. I’ve always loved stories of great heroes. After reading thru all 24 Tarzan novels, all the James Bond and Travis McGee books, and I think all of the Destroyer books I wanted to do it myself. After getting hooked on the Nero Wolfe series and the Lew Archer books I wanted to learn to do that too. For years I wrote for my own amusement but eventually we all want to share our vision with the world, right?

M: What are your writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

A: Until a few months ago I worked on a novel every day. I still write every day, but now more of that is blog or social media content, and I write reviews for the International Thriller Writers and the American Independent Writers. I tend to do most of my work during my lunch hour (like right now working on this interview piece) and early weekend mornings.

M: Anything upcoming?

A: The third Stark & O’Brien thriller, The Piranha Assignment, should be on bookstore shelves in October. Meanwhile I’m working on the next Hannibal Jones novel and a Hannibal Jones stage play for a local production company.

M: A stage play! How difficult is that to write? It seems to me that adapting a novel as a play would be a rather difficult undertaking.

A: Actually, I'm adapting a short story. It's challenging because you can't just change locations whenever you feel like it - can't have a dozen scenes. And of course, you can't let action carry the story, it's all about dialog.

M: How did you happen to get involved in the playwriting business?

A: I went to see a play at a local theater. I got into conversation with the woman sitting in front of me, who turned out to be the director. I told her I was a mystery author and she asked if I'd like to try to write a play for them.

M: When and where is the play to be produced? And will you have a part in it?

A: I'm afraid it's way premature to discuss when or where the play may be produced but I'll sure let you know as soon as I can. And no, I will NOT be appearing on stage. I want people to actually watch the play when the time comes.

M: Do you have any hobbies, etc. for your spare time?

A: Spare time? What’s that? Actually, reading and writing are just about what I do for fun, except for hitting the range to poke 9mm holes in paper targets.

M: Where can we purchase your books? Are any available as ebooks?

A: All of my books are available in all book stores, but you probally won’t find them on the shelves except in VA, MD and DC. They’re all on of course, and are all available as ebooks.

M: How can readers contact you?

A: Readers can go to my website and hit the “contact Austin” button to send me an email. Or they can go to my Facebook fan page and send me a message. If they go there they can also get in on the discussions. Or they can always email me at . I really love to hear from readers and I answer every message and email, but not always on the same day.

M: Thank you for joining us, and good luck with The Piranha Assignment and the play!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author Jeff Markowitz

AS READERS TO this blog know, I love to attend writer’s conferences where I can meet fellow writers. One of my “finds” as a fellow is New Jersey’s Jeff Markowitz. I don’t really know why I hit it off so well with Jeff, perhaps it is because he travels from New Jersey to Chicago; but it is most likely because my family is from Philadelphia and most of my relatives are in the Philly-Jersey area. Besides, most folks here in the Midwest tell me I sound like a Jersey-ite at times. Anyway, Jeff writes the Cassie O'Malley Mysteries. He holds a Bachelor's degree in psychology from Princeton University and graduate degrees in special education and human services. For the last thirty-five years, he has worked in New Jersey’s non-profit sector developing community-based services for children and adults with autism.

“Recently,” he says, “I discovered that I also have something of a flair for killing people.” Hummmm?

Mike: Jeff, welcome to my blog. To get started, please tell us a little about your main character, Cassie O’Malley.

Jeff: My alter-ego, Cassie O’Malley is a tabloid reporter and amateur sleuth. She is a woman whose life has failed to live up to her expectations. A Princeton graduate now in her late thirties, Cassie has been a widow for nearly fifteen years. Her dream of becoming a big-time investigative reporter has been replaced by the reality of her job writing outlandish stories about space aliens and psychics for a barely reputable tabloid magazine. And when the long time owner/editor sells the magazine, even that seems to be crumbling. And then there's the small matter of the dead bodies...

Cassie used to have her own blog. She once wrote:

Some of you are not convinced that I am real. Some of you are of the opinion that I am a fictional character in the Cassie O'Malley Mystery Series written by Jeff Markowitz, that I am only a fictional character in the Cassie O'Malley Mystery Series. You can believe that I am a fictional character in a mystery series. But there is another possibility. Perhaps Jeff Markowitz is the fictional author of my life story, my nom de plume. Perhaps...

Thankfully, Cassie has lost interest in blogging.

M: And that answers the question: Who is the real person here? Okay, in what kind of adventures does Cassie get involved? What is the story behind each book?

J: The Cassie O’Malley Mysteries weave elements of Pine Barrens history, geography and folklore into traditional, amateur sleuth mysteries. There are currently three books in the series.

Who Is Killing Doah’s Deer? When the deer in Doah Township begin dying in large numbers, under mysterious circumstances, Cassie is on the story. But when she discovers a dead body among the deer, she is thrust into the middle of a murder investigation. Before the murder can be solved, Cassie must sort fact from fiction as she is confronted with questions of local politics, marital infidelity, Pine Barrens folklore, Siamese triplets, sea monsters, pterodactyls, plesiosaurs and the elusive Jersey Devil, leaving Cassie finally to grapple with the question, Who Is Killing Doah’s Deer?

A Minor Case of Murder. When Andy MacTavish brings minor league baseball to White Sands Beach, not everyone welcomes the club. Birders are especially upset by the location of Sand Skeeter Ballpark, but will they resort to murder to protect the birds’ nesting areas? When a woman dies at the ballpark, during the final game of the season, Andy asks Cassie for help. Is it murder? Is the dead woman the intended target? Does the dead woman signal the end of the dispute or is this just the beginning of hostilities?

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Murder. Cassie O’Malley is back in a Christmas mystery that will keep you laughing and guessing until the final showdown. At odds with her new boss, Cassie finds herself covering the shopping mall at Christmas. Cassie wants nothing to do with the assignment. Then Big Mack turns up dead in the men’s room, his throat slit. Sensing an opportunity for fifteen minutes of fame, mall security guard Oliver Berryhill spins a heroic tale of his confrontation in the men’s room with the loan shark. The police are skeptical, but Big Mack’s son, the even bigger Little Mack is determined to avenge his father’s murder. Barely a week later, a second body turns up in the employee break room and Cassie finds herself covering a double homicide. In a race against time, Cassie must solve the double murder before a third victim is killed.

M: We both were together in Chicago at the recent Love Is Murder conference. There was a lot of talk this year about ebook, and my regular contributor, Robyn Gioia, has also written extensively about ebooks. Is any of your work in ebook format?

J: Like most authors, I have gradually begun to put my writing on kindle. My first book, Who is Killing Doah’s Deer? is now available on kindle and I expect the entire series to be available later this year. Additionally, I have several short stories available on kindle.

The Sound Bite and Other Stories – What does a mystery writer write when he's not writing mysteries? A political candidate struggles to find an answer that will satisfy reporters when they discover his secret past in The Sound Bite. A single mother confronts her decision to place her son in a state psychiatric hospital at Christmas in State Home for the Holidays.

Twelve Steps and Other Stories – A man has a drink with his dead brother in the ghost story, Twelve Steps. And in Gilligan Finds a Body, a body is found floating in the water off of Fells Point.

M: How did you get started writing?

J: It took me thirteen years to write my first manuscript. Twenty-seven years if you count the re-writes. The Last Bodhisattva isn’t a mystery. It's a modern Buddhist parable, a cross between On the Road, by Jack Kerouac, and Monkey, a 500 year-old Chinese folk novel generally attributed to Wu Cheng-En. I began writing the book in 1975, at the age of 23, and wrote on-and-off for thirteen years, completing it (for the first time) in 1988. I tucked the manuscript away in a file cabinet and went about my life. Every few years, for the next fourteen years, I pulled The Last Bodhisattva out of the cabinet and did a re-write. The Last Bodhisattva never worked as a novel. But, after cutting approximately 60,000 words, it made for a pretty good short story. In 2006, The Sound Bite was published in Woman's Corner Magazine.

M: How did you finally get your first novel published?

I don’t think many people realize that the Mystery Writers of America used to have a publishing agreement with iUniverse. As a result, in 2004 I joined MWA and published my first mystery with iUniverse. In 2005, iUniverse was the major sponsor of Love is Murder. I made the trip to Chicago, met the Acquisitions Editor for Five Star, and several months later signed my first traditional publishing contract.

M: Do you have any advice for a novice writer looking for a publisher?

You mentioned before that you enjoy attending writer’s conferences. As do I. The first time I went to Love is Murder, I made the trip on the advice of a friend who said, “If you want to be a writer, you have to start going to the places the “real” writers go.” I have found the mystery community to be an incredibly supportive community, but no one will come looking for you. You have to “go to the places where the real writers go.”

M: What upcoming projects are you working on?

J: I’m currently writing the next book in the Cassie O’Malley Series. Cassie is investigating the death of the local library director.

M: Besides writing, do you have any hobbies – or do you have any spare time?

J: In my spare time I drink scotch and complain that I don’t have time to write. (Actually, I just came back from a week of snowshoeing in the White Mountains. If you’re interested, the photos are posted on my facebook page).

M: How can readers find you?

J: Readers can find me at my website and can leave a comment on the contact form, or can send an email to

Readers might also be interested in my blog. The blog address is cumbersome ( but you can also follow the link from my website.

M: Thanks, Jeff. And that “cumbersome” blog is linked to on the right column under “Mike’s Blog List.” Happy writing!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

SINCE MY MOTHER is Irish (which makes me Irish, too), I can’t let the day go by without wishing all a Happy St. Patrick’s Day:
 “May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind always be at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, and rains fall soft upon your fields. And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mondays With Mike: Author Morgan Mandel

SEVERAL YEARS AGO I met Author Morgan Mandel at a writers conference, and like so many such relationships, our paths continue to cross. Morgan grew up in Chicago, married her college sweetheart (I won’t say how many years ago) and worked for a Chicago law firm as an administrative assistant until this year when she became the victim of the economy, which allows her to spend more time writing while looking for a new day job.

Mike: Thank you for joining us, Morgan. First, let me ask you about your books. I count three, can you tell us a little about each.

Morgan: My first book, Two Wrongs, a mystery set in Chicago with references to such popular places as the old Marshall Field’s, depicts what happens when a young boy mistakenly testifies against the person he believes killed his sister. That person goes to prison. After his innocence is proven, he emerges from prison, no longer innocent, but intent on getting even.

For a change of pace, after all that doom and gloom, I wrote a romantic comedy, Girl of My Dreams, a Cinderella story about a director’s temporary assistant, whose well meaning attempt to save the director’s reality show by becoming a contestant gets her into madcap scrapes and ill favor with the director. I had a lot of fun writing this book.

Then my publisher, Hard Shell Word Factory, went into a state of transition before being sold to Mundania Press. After a chance conversation with Austin Camacho at a Love is Murder Mystery Conference, I decided to experiment and enter the arena of self-publishing. Self-publishing wasn’t easy. I had much to learn about setting up the cover, the book block and other mechanics. Not only that, I needed to make sure the book was as polished as it would be if published by a traditional press. To make sure that happened, I hired a good editor. Fortunately, I belong to a blog called The Blood-Red Pencil, which is rife with great editors. I chose Helen Ginger and recommend her highly.

Killer Career, my current release, is about a lawyer whose career change to writer could be a killer because her mentor, a New York Times Bestselling Author, not only writes about murder mysteries, but also participates in them. Then, there’s her law partner, who comes to realize she means more to him than he thought, and he doesn’t care for the way her relationship is developing with the strange author.

All three of my books are available at in print and kindle. Also, signed copies can be obtained by emailing me at

Mike: This discussion comes up at many writers events, so let me get your opinion. As a writer, what is more important: Plot or Character?

Morgan: In the contest between character and plot, I’ve always considered character more important, maybe because it comes easily to me. I enjoy getting into the person’s head and want my readers to share that experience. Dialogue is also a fun part of revealing a character’s psyche. As far as plot is concerned, when I write I have a vague idea about what I want to happen, but let the plot unfold as I go along. Plotting doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’m ecstatic when I discover a way around a tricky situation. Writing is as much a discovery to me as it is to someone reading one of my books.

Mike: What started you writing?

Morgan: I always loved to read, but didn’t get the writing bug until after I attended a library presentation by members of Chicago-North Romance Writers of America. That’s when I realized authors are normal people, from various walks of life. That knowledge encouraged me to tackle writing my own book. I joined Chicago-North RWA, served in various capacities from secretary, to manuscript chairperson, president, and advisor. After a while, what I learned from the meeting critiques gelled and I got published. I’m still a member of the chapter and go to every meeting I can.

Mike: Can you tell us a little about writing habits? In other words, do you write each day, morning, evening, etc.?

Morgan: My writing habits have changed. Before, when I worked a day job, I’d write mainly on the train while commuting to and from Downtown Chicago, and sometimes on weekends. Now, since I don’t commute, I’ve set a goal of writing 1,000 words every day, in the morning or afternoon, or both, no matter how long it takes me. Since I’m a slow writer, I can spend two, three or more hours getting those words out of my brain and onto the screen. By evening, my brain is fried, so if I haven’t completed my word count during the day, I’ll cruise the Internet or do something else that’s simple.

Mike: You have three books in print, is there anything you are working on now?

Morgan: Right now I’m working on a paranormal thriller, tentatively called Forever Young, about a 55 year old woman whose husband is killed in an auto accident. In desperation, she takes an experimental drug to turn her to 24 forever. Then she learns her husband may have been murdered and the pill is somehow tied in with the murder. The first draft is in its final stages. Then I’ll be doing some cutting and pasting to get the back story in the right spot, plus add more descriptions and depth. To keep up to date on its progress, click the link to its Facebook page.

Mike: Besides writing, do you have any hobbies, etc. for spare time?

Morgan: My chief hobby is books. I adore my Kindle, but also read print books. Writing is an offshoot of my love of books. I’m also a social media fanatic, spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter and other popular media spots, as well as blogs, and e-groups, like DorothyL, Murder Must Advertise, Epic, and too many more to mention. I love listening to country music, talk radio, and have a special spot in my heart for dogs, especially my own dog, Rascal. I volunteer for the local Fourth of July Festival. I also confess to being a slots fanatic, but restrain that vice to vacations. This year, due to my current state of unemployment, I’ll be curbing my slots playing even more. I didn’t mention shopping, another vice. I’m a firm believer I can’t have enough shoes and purses. That’s another obsession I’ll put on hold for now.

Mike: I see you involved in several blogs, can you tell me a bit about them?

Morgan: I’m also an addicted blogger. I’ve met many wonderful online friends through blogging. My chief blogs are: My personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take on Books, Blogs, Dogs, Networking and Life, is exactly what it says, covering a spectrum of topics, which usually, but not always, tie in with writing in some way. I set up a group blog, Acme Authors Link, with a small collection of authors who blog each week, concentrating mainly on romance and mystery writing. I also own the group blog, Make Mine Mystery, with a large contingency of members who blog every other week. Lastly, I belong to the blog I mentioned before, The Blood-Red Pencil, comprised chiefly of editors and a few authors such as myself thrown into the mix. I also own a few other personal blogs which don’t generate as much traffic, but I started for the fun of it, and sometimes contribute to them, such as the one about my dog, Rascal. You can find all of them on my Blogger Profile Page. Blogging takes up a lot of time, but it’s a fun part of my writing life I wouldn’t want to discard.

Mike: As a dog lover, I have two myself, what is all this about Rascal?

Morgan: I mentioned my dog, Rascal. She has her own pages on Facebook, the most popular being Our Little Rascal, where she has a number of followers, who not surprisingly happen to look like dogs. She also belongs to Doggyspace. She’s got a few blogs, but I don’t get around to updating them as often as I should. One is Our Little Rascal – The Blog of a Special Dog Who Can’t Hear.

Rascal’s the subject of many of my videos at, along with writing and other fun events. In case you haven’t figured it out, when I can get around to it, Rascal will have her own book. That will be my way of righting a wrong against the much aligned pit bull breed.

Mike: How can readers contact you?

Morgan: The best places to reach me are through my email, or Facebook, as well as main personal blog, Morgan Mandel’s Take. I can also be reached at the group blogs mentioned above on my posting days. I don’t update my website as often, but if you have extra time, I have lots over there at, starting with the time my debut mystery, Two Wrongs, first came out. I plan to reconstruct my website once my new book, Forever Young, goes into production.

All of my books are available in print and e-book at, but Killer Career is also available on Smashwords, if you don’t have a Kindle. Autographed copies are available by e-mailing me at

Mike: Thank you so much for joining us today, and good luck with your new project.

Morgan: Mike, Thanks so much for hosting me at your wonderful blog. It’s been a pleasure to let you and your readers know more about me and my writing life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thursday notes: A Kindle author speaks

AUTHOR TONY ELDRIDGE has an interesting blog called “Marketing Tips for Authors.” He recently posted an interesting interview with best selling Kindle Author Karen McQuestion.  In it Karen gives e-book advice to authors and writers seeking to be published.  For those following the discussions here on e-books, the interview should be must reading.  Here is the link.

Monday, March 7, 2011

First Monday With Robyn: Convenience is not always King

By Robyn Gioia
Ebooks are not created equal, and convenience is not necessarily king.

I must state up front that I really love owning an ebook reader. And one of the reasons is the convenience. My ebook reader slips easily into my purse. It hardly weighs anything, and it’s there anytime I want to read. Want to read while taking a trip? No problem. Take a whole series with you. Or download some manuscripts to read on the go? The eReader can do that too. I haven’t actually figured out the downloading part yet, but a fellow Kindle user says she does it all the time. Seems I have an Amazon email account that accepts documents (word and PDF) and it’s zinged into the Kindle through the wireless connection from there.

My students and I decided to read Tom Sawyer for our literature pick this month. Earlier in the year, I asked my students if their parents had eReaders. At the time, they didn’t know what I was talking about. Then a handful came back after Christmas and said they got one for a present. So when I assigned Tom Sawyer as the next literature book, several of them downloaded it to their eReaders. I too, downloaded it to my own Kindle for a reasonable 99¢.

I learned two things as a teacher that day. It’s wonderful having a dictionary at my beck and call (the eReader gives definitions) because Samuel Longhorne Clemens, a.k.a. Mark Twain, uses a rich vocabulary; something my bright students need. The down side is I found it awkward trying to flip back and forth to do my work as a teacher. I reread passages; compare them to events, and sticky note vocabulary words and literary elements. In other words, I have to move in and out of the pages with ease, and the ebook version is too cumbersome for what I need. I quickly bailed for a book. To tell the truth, I will actually end up using both versions because the ebook version has highlighted passages that are perfect for Socratic questionings. I wonder how many others are using both versions at the same time.

Then I did something later that every publisher WANTS to hear. I came across an enticing book review when reading the USA Today this week. My Kindle was sitting on the counter next to me, so I reached across, turned on the wireless and downloaded my new book all within two minutes. How is that for speed shopping? I haven’t had the time to start reading my new book, but it pops up everytime I open my Kindle so it won’t get lost in a pile somewhere.

My last comment has to do with the quality of ebooks out there. Normally I purchase books because of the reviews or recommendations. But a FB friend posted her new ebook online for all to see and I was instantly hooked by the really clever book jacket and enticing blub. And because I didn’t feel like I would be losing too much by spending $3.99, I bought it. The protagonist was a lot more edgy than I like, but the author could write and the story was entertaining. Then something happened that screamed “self-published.” About four-fifths of the way through, it morphed from realistic fiction into fantasy. And it didn’t stop there. The last chapter became a detailed step-by-step scene straight out of a romance novel. Hopefully publishers will survive the tsunami of ebooks taking over because someone still needs to whip a good book into shape.

* * * * *
Robyn is the author of, America’s REAL First Thanksgiving, St. Augustine, Florida, September 8, 1565. She is currently tweaking her middle-grade novel, The Ghost, The Rat and Me, for an ebook publisher.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Thursday notes: Modern Dickens Update

I THOUGHT IT was about time for another report on the Modern Dickens Project, so I asked my friend and fellow author, Kali VanBaale, to send me an update. It took her a bit longer than expected to reply, here’s why:

“We had a weird glitch this month. Turns out our Chapter 6 winner seems to have submitted under an anonymous name, number and email! He used the name “Richard Corey,” which is the title of an Edwin Arlington Richardson poem of the same name (only spelled “Cory”) and also had some hidden references to the poem within the chapter, so we’re still trying to figure out the mystery...

Kali VanBaale

“Anyway, we’re about at the halfway point of the contest. Last month our winner was Artis VanRoekel Reis, a judge in the Fifth Judicial District of Iowa and an Adjunct Professor at Drake Law School. Our chapter 5 winner, Chad Cox, is a businessman from Ankeny, Iowa who is also an award winning author and graduate of the Writing, Literature, and Publishing program at Emerson College, and our chapter 4 winner, John O’Donnell, is a teacher in West Des Moines and also a Drake grad.”

Just as a re-cap: remember the Modern Dickens Project is a monthly contest to write the next chapter of a mystery novel. Each month a winner is selected and that author’s chapter is added to the book and the contest moves to the next chapter. For more information on the project you can check out this link.

Here is the story thus far:

Stephanie Ketchum Acuto, or Stikka, is a former MP who served in Iraq. She’s in Des Moines for the wedding of her former lover, Emmy, to another woman. While touring the Capitol dome, she receives a chilling text from Emmy and jogs to her apartment in the East Village to confront her. There, she finds the police and learns that Emmy has been murdered.

As she attempts to solve the case, events take her around the state of Iowa, until she ends up in the Polk County Jail, held as a person of interest in Emmy’s murder. Her gun was identified as the murder weapon and has her fingerprints all over it.

During the course of the novel, Stikka gets mixed up with other interesting—and sometimes shady—characters, including Semezdin Jelenik, a Bosnian immigrant and construction worker who’s suspicious of the building he’s putting up and its possible connection to a military contractor. Semezdin met with Emmy on the morning of her death. And he’s also connected with Emmy’s brother Richard Dunstadt III, the rebellious son of a wealthy insurance family. He insures drug-running jets, was involved with Emmy’s fiancĂ© before the two women met.

There’s more, of course, and you can check it all out by following the link above. Modern Dickens is supported by the Iowa Arts Council.


On another note: Many thanks to the folks from the West Des Moines Friends of the Library for hosting a great event for me Tuesday night. It was great meeting new friends and old friends and even a few friends of my mom who attended. The company and the goodies served were great. Thanks, guys!