A Book Is Like a Deck of Cards by Peg Herring

There’s an old story about a soldier required to explain why he has a deck of cards in church. I recall mention of four gospels and ten commandments; if you want to know the rest, look up Tex Ritter. For me, the four suits in a deck demonstrate what a successful book requires.

A book needs a heart, because fiction without emotion is a bunch of dead words. Readers want characters we feel for, a plot that excites us, and words that strike a harmonious chord. Even good nonfiction writers like Bill Bryson and Malcom Gladwell succeed by creating bridges between readers’ emotions and the information the book presents. It all adds up to heart.

A book also needs a spade. Every written work requires digging: into setting, syntax, and a dozen more areas specific to the story. Many times I thought I knew a subject until I began writing about it: How did medieval people get from one place to another? What exactly is a parallel universe? And how do I spell pharmaceutical? Details make a story come alive if they’re correct. An author’s spade uncovers tidbits that strengthen the story’s heart.

A book needs a club (actually, more than one). First is the “club” around the writer as she writes, people who advise, encourage, beta-read, etc. They might be professionals or talented amateurs, family or paid help, enthusiastic supporters or sharp-eyed critique-partners. Other clubs join the party as the book moves forward: the team that “builds” the book, the fans who promote it, and book clubs that discuss its merits. No writer is an island, unless she hides her work under that big rock on her little atoll.

Finally, a book needs a diamond: value on the market. This is the oddest of a book’s suits, because some really bad books earn lots of “diamonds” while some excellent ones don’t. The why of that is often a mystery.

To understand which books earn diamonds, look first at the other three suits. How lively is the book’s heart? Was the best information spaded up, engaging language unearthed, and excess “dirt” scraped away? Were the clubs consulted thorough and honest? With promotional hype, diamonds can still pour in, but savvy readers eventually tire of authors who stray from dedication to hearts, spades, and clubs.

Like real diamonds, book revenues don’t just appear but are mined using knowledge and effort. How can the existence of a book be made known to the public? How can readers be enticed to try it? How can satisfied readers be encouraged to tell others about it? The mining process is hard, but it’s essential.

Some authors benefit from creating a prominent persona. (Think Marilyn Monroe singing “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”…No wait. Don’t do that.) First impressions are lasting, so one should think carefully about the image she wants to create. I once sat on a panel with an author who knitted for the entire hour. I think it calmed her nerves, but audience members I spoke to afterward claimed it made her look unprofessional and disinterested. Other possibilities sometimes suggested as selling techniques, like wearing costumes or having a bullying sales pitch, can backfire, creating the wrong mood and driving customers away.

Book covers are important first impressions, helping or hurting sales. My cover artist and I thought we had a cute cover for KIDNAP.org, but readers found it cartoonish (Spooky House below). Today, authors can change book covers that aren’t working, so I asked her to do a new one (see Woman with Duct Tape). It sells much better. Research reveals that a cover has only a few seconds to catch a reader’s eye. If the message is too bland, too lurid, too whatever, that eye goes on to the next one. While we shouldn’t stint on any aspect of producing a book, the cover is a bad place to pinch pennies.

All of a book’s “suits” require hard work, but finding diamonds is often the task authors are least prepared for. Build a platform. Achieve name recognition. Plan ahead so series books group themselves. Write blog posts. Maintain an interesting website. Run ads on whatever spot on the internet is hot right now. Talk to book groups. Make the acquaintance of librarians. Get as many legitimate reviews as possible. Sign people up for your newsletter and make them glad they joined. Et cetera, et cetera.

If you’re thinking you’ve heard this advice in other places, you’re probably right. Still, with a lot of heart, diligent spadework, clubs for input, and knowledge of where diamonds come from, you’ll begin to see success. Those first diamonds will be little, maybe even chips, but for many authors, that’s enough to make playing the game worthwhile.

BIO: Peg Herring reads, writes, loves mysteries, including the Loser Mysteries and the Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. She lives in Michigan with her husband, a very old cat, and her alter ego, Maggie Pill, author of the Sleuth Sisters Mysteries. Maggie is much younger and cooler.
Universal link to KIDNAP.org: https://www.books2read.com/u/mZ58rl
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Why I Love Blogs—Reading and Writing for Them by Marilyn Meredith

The first answer to why I love blogs is I love to write—no matter what it is, I enjoy writing. Writing a blog post is a joy. I’m able to come up with a topic, expound on it in 500 words or less and it will appear for others to enjoy.

 

Of course, I have my own blog. Over the years I’ve been a regular on several blogs, but now I’ve cut that down to two others besides my own.

 

Appearing on someone else’s blog is a great way to introduce yourself to another group of people—hopefully, some of them are readers who might be interested enough to check out one of my books.

 

For years now, I’ve been doing blog tours as part of a new book’s promotion. That’s why I’m visiting P.J. Nunn today, to promote my latest Rocky Bluff P.D. mystery, Tangled Webs.

 

When doing a blog tour it’s a challenge to come up with enough interesting topics to engage readers. The main reason I chose this topic for P.J.’s blog, is she’s one of the first to introduce blog tours and is a true supporter of authors.

 

Do I think a blog tour helps with the sales of a book? Anything one does helps. In the past, when I appeared on a tour, sales increased.

 

There are many things one can do to promote a book, but for me, blogging and blog tours are two of my favorite promotion tools.

 

Thank you, PJ, for hosting me today.

 

Marilyn, who writes the RBPD series as F. M. Meredith

 

Blurb: Too many people are telling lies: The husband of the murder victim and his secretary, the victim’s boss and co-workers in the day care center, her stalker, and Detective Milligan’s daughter.

 

Link: https://tinyurl.com/yabj9z9f

 

Bio: F. M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn once lived in a beach town much like Rocky Bluff. She has many friends and relatives in law enforcement. She’s a member of MWA, 3 chapters of Sisters in Crime and serves on the PSWA Board.

 

Webpage: http://fictionforyou.com

Blog: https://marilynmeredith.blogspot.com

Facebook: Marilyn Meredith

Twitter: @marilynmeredith

 

Tomorrow I’m heading over to https://pat-writersforum.blogspot.com to discuss Never Giving Up in the Tough Times.

Do Authors Write About What They Know? Lea Wait’s 19th Century Childhood

            No matter how old I may feel on some days, I was definitely born in the mid-twentieth century. But readers of my books (both contemporary mysteries and historical novels) often ask why I incorporate historical details in all of my work.

The answer is simple. In many ways, I’m more comfortable with the past than the present.

I’ve never lived in a house or apartment (I’ve lived in Boston, New York City, New York State, New Jersey, and Maine) built after World War I. Uninsulated plaster walls (usually clam shell plaster,) solid wooden doors, and fireplaces in many rooms feel normal to me. The house I live in now, which I’ve used in several of my books and which my family has owned for seventy years, was built in 1774 on a Maine island, and then moved to the mainland in about 1832. (New Englanders were the original re-cyclers. People still move houses rather than tearing them down.)

But, perhaps even more important than lying in bed at night and imagining who else slept in the room, and what they were like, and what their days were filled with, I also grew up in a family that valued the past.

Our bookcases were filled with nineteenth-century novels that I read and loved.

My father was a nationally known numismatist (collector of paper money) and wrote several books on the subject. My sister collected the wood engravings and cartoons of Thomas Nast (now donated to a museum) and was an expert on his life and work.

In the early twentieth century my great-grandfather, who I knew as “the upstairs Papa” when he was in his nineties, had a shop on Beacon Hill in Boston where he sold imported Irish and Scots linens, lace, and crystal. His oldest daughter, my grandmother, was an antique doll and toy dealer. When I was a child she took me with her to visit other dealers, to help set up her antique show booths, and to attend auctions. (I made my first auction purchase when I was ten: I paid $1 for a first edition of the Encyclopedia Americana.) When I was in my twenties I became an antique print dealer, with the help of my mother. Since (like almost all antique dealers) I also had a day job, my mother was able to attend auctions and shows when I couldn’t. We sold antique prints for over thirty years.

(Note: Maggie Summer, the protagonist of my first mystery series, the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, is also an antique print dealer, and I include information on antique prints throughout the eight books in that series.)

So when I began writing the Mainely Needlepoint series, it seemed logical – if not essential – that I include an antique dealer (Sarah Byrne) in my cast of characters, and that my Mainely Needlepointers not only create custom needlepoint, but identify and restore antique needlepoint. And that I include quotations from samplers and early needlepoint at the beginning of each chapter.

In the latest in my series, THREAD HERRINGS, published last week, Sarah takes my protagonist, Angie Curtis, to her first auction. She explains how auctions work, the differences between dealers bidding and people attending to buy for their collections or homes, and why it’s important to recognize the differences. And, of course, Angie is tempted, and bids on a worn eighteenth century needlepointed coat of arms.

When she takes removes her purchase from its frame she finds a mysterious paper hidden behind the stitching. And, of course, she has to investigate it. And, of course, her investigation leads to a murder …

Was I born in the nineteenth century? No. But I think I’d feel comfortable there.

 

 

BIO:  USA Today best-selling author Lea Wait lives on the coast of Maine where she writes three mystery series (the Shadows Antique Mystery series, the Mainely Needlepoint series, and, under the name Cornelia Kidd, the Maine Murder series.) She has also written seven historical novels set in 18th and 19th century Maine for ages 8 and up, the most recent of which is Contrary Winds, a YA mystery, and a book of essays, Living and Writing on the Coast of Maine. She invites you to check her website, http://www.leawait.com, which includes free links to prequels of many of her books, and to friend her on Facebook.         

Writing Fiction in an Age of “Alternative Facts” by Jeannette de Beauvoir

One of the reasons people read fiction—and this goes double, it seems to me, for genre fiction—is to escape. It’s to go into another world and forget, if only for a brief period of time, the realities of life we’d prefer avoiding—be it rising political unrest, climate change, a creeping deadline, or even just the dishes in the sink.

 

I once spent an entire summer in a fictional environment: I was depressed and didn’t want anything to do with my current reality, so I went through—in order—the entire Dick Francis opus. I’d finish one book and immediately pick up the next. Along with time and some therapy, those books, those alternative lives, got me through my problems with my own.

 

There’s nothing wrong with writing and reading good escapist literature. We need to be entertained, and stories can take us anywhere: they’re the magic carpet of the mind. This is especially true of mystery fiction—it’s not only far from our own lives, but often far from reality as well. Most murders, after all, are not committed in genteel circumstances by Colonel Mustard, in the library, with the knife.

 

And I wonder, sometimes, if playing the fiction card relieves us—readers and writers alike—from the storyteller’s responsibility, the obligation to observe and reflect a culture, a society, a time. I wonder if it doesn’t allow our characters and storylines to be just as avoidant of reality as we are.

 

The real question we need to be asking ourselves, the only question that really matters this year and probably for years to come, is what is the fiction writer’s responsibility in an age of “alternative facts?” In many ways, real life has taken over our genre: since the rise of “alternative facts,” what does the label “fiction” even mean? If the White House sells us fiction as a stand-in for reality, then perhaps we should be clear in our stories about the other truths—the ones that actually exist. We need to write fiction, but have it be true in a more essential way.

 

I’ve always believed the saying that “if you can write the stories for a society, it doesn’t matter who writes the laws.” Régimes come and go; stories endure. That’s at once a tremendous gift and a terrible mandate: the ability—and responsibility—to create something meaningful, something that will enrich and even perhaps change the lives of others.

 

I write that, and then I turn to the projects currently on my desk, and I feel some shame. While I do have a novel coming out in January that deals with the machinations of a medieval court (which in fact ring presciently true to the present), the next two books on my projects list for 2019 are part of a mystery series that, while arguably entertaining, is probably not going to change the world. I’m not saying the series doesn’t take on important issues (most of my novels could be subtitled Things Jeannette’s Been Obsessing About Lately), but they often feel like too little, too late. I’m responding to a runaway political system and a planet in crisis, both of which have moved on dramatically between the time I write and the time the novel goes to press. So even as I create truths via fiction to counter “alternative facts,” I’m always going to be dealing with a moving target.

 

Is that an excuse not to try? Of course not. And perhaps it will prod me—prod all of us—into going just a little deeper, questioning just a little more, and engaging just a little more thoughtfully—while, of course, keeping the whole enterprise entertaining enough that people will actually want to read the damn book!

 

Jeannette de Beauvoir’s most recent novel in the Sydney Riles series is The Deadliest Blessing, taking place during Provincetown’s Portuguese Festival. She lives and works in a small cottage with her cat Beckett and thousands of books. More at http://www.jeannettedebeauvoir.com.

First Chapter – Contract for Chaos by Judy Alter

“We got to get outta property management, Kelly, or else I’m gonna blow my stack at someone.”

 

Keisha sipped at her wine, put the glass on the coffee table, and sank back into the couch.

 

Keisha is my office manager, confidante, trouble-shooter, and general all-around angel. She came to my office through a work-study program at an alternative high school, and I’ve blessed the day ever since. Big and black, Keisha is a style show unto herself, specializing in colorful, loose, flowing outfits, spike heels, and equally spiky hair, often tinted to match the outfit of the day. She and her new husband, José, are in their late twenties, whereas Mike and I are pushing uncomfortably close to forty. The age gap makes not one whit of difference in the closeness of our families.

 

I had taken a day out of the office, even though nowadays I was mostly back there, taking twelve-month-old Gracie with me. She had her own Pack ’n Play and almost a complete nursery in one corner of the office. After the kidnapping scare when she as an infant, I still couldn’t bring myself to trust anyone else with her care, except occasionally Keisha and her husband, José. I’ve never left my baby with my mom, who lives just blocks away. That, as you can imagine, is the source of some bitter comments.

 

Today, I just wanted to stay home with my baby. I knew the baby days would pass too quickly. Keisha was reporting on a young man who wanted to rent a house. It was property we managed for a client, not something I would have ever added to our company holdings.

 

“He came in, took one look at me, and asked, ‘Where’s the boss?’ Polite as I could, I said you were out for the day, but I could help him. He looked real displeased, but he told me he and three other ‘men’ wanted to rent that house on Alston. Saw our sign.”

 

I knew the house only too well. It was a square box, two-story, four bedrooms upstairs, living, dining, and kitchen down. The owner was a good client, who had bought and sold much more costly residences through our office, and I didn’t want to alienate her. My suggestion that she sell this property fell on deaf ears, but she did paint and update the kitchen and bathrooms. Still it wasn’t charming or old or Craftsman, not one of the houses that distinguished our historic neighborhood.

 

“I whipped out the form, asked him to fill it out, told him we’d check his references and get back to him, and that we also needed references for his roommates. All this time he stood in front of me like a statue, no smile, no introduction. I indicated the chair by my desk, but he stayed standing. When I said we’d need to meet the other tenants, he looked disdainful.

 

“‘I’m sure that won’t be necessary,’ he said. ‘I’ll discuss it with the realtor when he returns to the office.’ I told him the owner was Ms. Kelly O’Connell, and he got that sour look on his face again.”

 

“I wonder what his problem is,” I said idly. Honest, I was more interested in watching Gracie’s efforts, so far unsuccessful, to pull herself up. It wouldn’t be long, and she’d be standing . . . and then walking. I sort of hated to see my baby grow up.

 

Keisha’s next words pushed Gracie and kidnapping right out of my mind.

 

“Kelly, you know what his problem was. It was me. I’m black. I bet he’s one of those supremacist folks or something. I got a bad feeling about this.”

“We don’t have any supremacist organizations in Fort Worth,” I protested. “I’m sure, but I’ll check with Mike when he comes home.”

 

Mike Shandy, my husband and Gracie’s father, is the division head of the downtown Fort Worth police district. He’s wary of my inquiries and worse into police business, but sometimes I can’t help myself. At least this would be an innocent question, just to prove Keisha wrong. And I made a note to call the young man. “What’s the tenant’s name?”

 

She giggled. “Whitehead. Tom Whitehead. Fits, don’t it?”

 

* * * *

 

Me? I’m Kelly O’Connell, proud mom of Maggie, who turned seventeen just before this school year started and is, gulp, a junior in high school. She’s a star on the basketball court and a good student, a bit shy around the boys, which is why that evening was a big occasion. She was bringing a boyfriend for supper, a new experience for all of us. Maggie’s popularity had grown exponentially when Mike and I gave her a used Honda for her birthday. It wasn’t smart, showy, or any of those things, but it was reliable, safe, and low maintenance. She was thrilled.

 

Then there’s Em, thirteen, and in her first year of high school. Em is a sweet, protective child—and I use that word advisedly. While Maggie shot into high school and its supposed sophistication, Em remained the child who loved to be home. Now she dotes on her baby sister. I dread the day she’ll discover the outside world.

 

Maggie and Em are the children of my first marriage, which I would write off as a total disaster, except that it gave me these two amazing daughters. Their biological father no longer walks this earth, and I am sorry for him that he is missing seeing the girls grow. My husband, the wonderful Mike Shandy, adopted the girls with love in his heart, and he is the only father they know.

 

Baby Gracie got off to a rough start in this world, though she’d never know it. Someone who I’d crossed in my sometimes-misguided efforts to protect others and defend my neighborhood decided to take revenge by threatening to kidnap Gracie. Of course, we didn’t know who it was at first, and for agonizing weeks we lived in a cloud of fear. Mike increased the security system at home, doubled the bolts on the doors, and even asked occasionally for police surveillance. José brought a guard dog, and we prayed a lot. We are out from under that threat now, but it had been a rough patch for me as a mother and for us as a family. It taught us the color of fear, the fact that fear can make the closest families turn on each other. I bless Keisha for holding us together and upright during that ordeal.

We are recovering and trying hard to once again be the happy, cohesive family we had been before fear took over our lives. We still occasionally snap at each other, and I’m not sure when I will ever feel safe with Gracie out of my sight, but little by little we are clawing our way back to normality. That bit of history is one reason I was overly cautious about Maggie’s new boyfriend.

 

Those three girls sound like enough to keep me busy every day, but I am also the owner of Spencer & O’Connell Real Estate. The Spencer was my late husband, proud of what he claimed were aristocratic English ancestors and always a bit scornful of my Irish roots. We specialize in renovating Craftsman houses—I use that pronoun proudly, but it’s just Keisha and me, and we both like it that way. Of course, there’s also my construction manager, designer, and carpenter extraordinaire, Anthony. The three of us focus on the Fairmount Historic District in Fort Worth, Texas and we’ve done enough houses to leave our mark on the neighborhood, in a positive way. But there are plenty of houses left that need our attention—some classic beauties suffering from deferred maintenance, some that have been “updated” in a way that hid or distorted the wonderful features of Craftsman homes. You might call me a lady on a mission.

 

We also buy and sell other properties that come our way in Fairmount and surrounding neighborhoods, and we do property management for a few select clients. That’s how Tom Whitehead landed in our laps.

 

As I watched Gracie and listened to Keisha, a part of my mind was even then on supper. Cooking is not my forte but I’m getting better, and I wanted to fix a special meal. Maggie asked for Doris’ casserole, a dish Keisha had taught us that was meat and tomato sauce, and noodles with sour cream, cream cheese, and green onions, all topped with grated cheddar. One friend calls it American lasagna.

 

By the time Keisha arrived with her tale of woe, the casserole was ready to go in the oven, the salad crisping in the fridge, and bread ready to broil at the last minute. Em had set the table, so I was ready and more than willing to sit for a quiet glass of wine.

 

Keisha declined to stay for supper, though I knew she was busting out of her panties to see the boy Maggie had invited to meet the family. “That’s a big deal,” she said, “when you bring a guy home for dinner. I don’t want to intrude, but you tell me every detail, don’t forget nothing.”

 

“I don’t want to think about a big deal, Keisha. She’s only seventeen.”

 

“Oh, she won’t marry him. Don’t worry.”

 

“You’re welcome to stay for supper, since José is working. You know that.” José is the night patrol officer in our neighborhood, commonly called the NPO for Neighborhood Police Officer. He usually works from three to eleven or thereabouts.

 

She laughed, that deep, hearty laugh. “Baby girl would think I’m spying on her. Naw, I won’t ruin your dinner party.”

 

Before I could ask if her sixth sense had kicked in or not, she turned serious. “And, Kelly, let me handle Mr. Tom Whitehead. You don’t be running interference.”

 

My mouth was still open when she waltzed out the door.

 

* * * *

Dave Tucker was, at best, a nice looking but unremarkable young man, and I couldn’t understand why Maggie chose him. But then I remembered some of the boys I’d subjected my folks to and the fact that I chose from a limited field—boys were much more interested in cheerleaders and party girls than in the shy bookworm that was me. Of course, I saw Maggie as neither shy nor overly studious, but who knew how she came across at school. Besides, who can understand teenage attractions? Not me.

Maggie buys her clothes, with my approval, mostly from online boutiques these days. Dave’s shirt and jeans looked like they’d come from J. C. Penney or Sears, and while they were clean, they were rumpled and wrinkled. His hair was just a bit too long, but his face was scrubbed and his fingernails clean. Yeah, I notice details. If he’d worn glasses I would definitely have classified him as nerdy. Maggie was wearing glasses these days, because she finally confessed she had a hard time seeing the blackboard at school. She wore what she called her “geek glasses.”

 

When Maggie and Dave came in after school, I gave them lemonade and sent them out to the yard to play with Clyde, our dog. It was a smart move, because they were still outside when Mike came home. Em and Gracie were in the living room, so I corralled Mike in the kitchen.

“Remember, Maggie brought a friend home for supper tonight.”

 

Judy Alter is the award-winning author of three mysteries series: Kelly O’Connell Mysteries: Skeleton in a Dead Space, No Neighborhood for Old Women, Trouble in a Big Box, Danger Comes Home, Deception in Strange Places, Desperate for Death, and The Color of Fear; three in the Blue Plate Café Series: Murder at the Blue Plate Café, Murder at the Tremont House, and Murder at Peacock Mansion; and two Oak Grove Mysteries: The Perfect Coed and Pigface and the Perfect Dog. She is also the author of historical fiction based on lives of women in the nineteenth-century American West, including Libbie, Jessie, Cherokee Rose, Sundance, Butch, and Me, and The Gilded Cage, and she has also published several young-adult novels, now available on Amazon..

Her work has been recognized with awards from the Western Writers of America, the Texas Institute of Letters, and the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame. She has been honored with the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement by WWA and inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and the WWA Hall of Fame.

Judy is retired as director of TCU Press, the mother of four grown children, and the grandmother of seven. She and her dog, Sophie, live in Fort Worth, Texas.

 

Follow her at (Amazon) http://www.amazon.com/Judy-Alter/e/B001H6NMU6/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1377217817&sr=1-2-ent;

her blog: http://www.judys-stew.blogspot.com;

and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Judy-Alter-Author/366948676705857

 

Buy link for Contract for Chaos:

https://www.amazon.com/Contract-Chaos-OConnell-Mysteries-Number/dp/0996993509/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1535316347&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=contract+for+chaos

 

Buy link for Murder at the Bus Depot:

 

A CHARACTER IN SEARCH OF A STORY by Jackie Minniti

Every so often, a character takes up residence in a writer’s mind and refuses to leave until his story is told. That’s what happened to me with my latest novel, One Small Spark. I really had no intention of writing another middle grade historical, but an eleven-year-old boy who lived in Boston in the 1760s had a different idea.

This is how I got to know Christopher Seider.

I’d learned in elementary school that Crispus Attucks was the first casualty of the American Revolution, so imagine my surprise when I found out that I’d been mistaken for more than fifty years. It happened one evening while I was channel surfing and came across a program on National Geographic titled Legends and Lies: The Patriots. I’m not sure what it was about the show that caught my attention, but I put down the remote and settled in to watch it. The storyline focused on the period immediately preceding the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Boston was in crisis.  Part of the population wanted to break away from England , but not enough were actually willing to take up arms. The colonists were engaged in a boycott of British goods that was taking its toll on the English economy. Samuel and John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and some other patriots had formed a secret society known as the Sons of Liberty to try to foment anti-British sentiment. They recruited a gang of boys to harass merchants who broke the boycott and vandalize their businesses. British soldiers were occupying the city because of the unrest, which added to the colonists’ outrage.

Enter young Christopher Seider. The son of poor German immigrants, Christopher was working as a servant in the home of Grizell Apthorp, a wealthy widow. On a cold February day, Christopher had joined a gang of boys who were demonstrating against a local merchant named Theophilus Lillie. Lillie had spoken out against the non-importation boycott and became the target of the Sons of Liberty, who enlisted some of the neighborhood ruffians to teach him a lesson. No one is certain why  Christopher was present in the protest. Was he a political ally, a curious kid, or just someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? While his motive is lost to history, his decision turned out to be deadly.

Ebenezer Richardson, a man of ill-repute and a known British informant, tried to intervene on Lillie’s behalf. The gang followed him home and began pelting his house with snowballs and rocks. When an upstairs window broke, Richardson fired his musket into the crowd, injuring one boy and mortally wounding Christopher. When news of this tragedy began to spread, the colonists were enraged. The Sons of Liberty saw this as a perfect opportunity to promote their cause. Newspapers throughout the colonies recounted in heart-breaking detail the final moments of Christopher’s life. When Christopher was laid to rest in the Granary Burying Ground, over two thousand Bostonians attended his funeral. Speeches were made by local dignitaries touting the bravery of the little lad. More than 500 schoolboys walked in a procession behind his coffin, which bore a velvet drape with a Latin inscription that read, “The serpent lurks in the grass. The fatal dart is thrown. Innocence is nowhere safe.” written in Latin. By the time the sun set on February 26, 1770, the colonists were ready to take the final step toward armed revolt. A week later, five Bostonians, including Crispus Attucks, were killed in what became known as the Boston Massacre, and the American Revolution was underway.

When I clicked off the television, I was amazed that I’d never heard of Christopher Seider. How could someone so pivotal to our country’s past become lost to history?  When I went to bed that night, Christopher whispered to me in my dreams, and I knew then I’d have to tell his story.

The next day, I began my research and discovered that, while there were accounts of Christopher’s death and mentions of him in some history books, no one had written a book about him. Since he was the perfect age for a middle grade novel, I decided to write for that audience. This led to a thorny problem. I knew I couldn’t make Christopher the focal character because he would eventually be killed, and that’s not something that would sit well with younger readers. After thinking about this for a few days, I decided to tell the story from the point of view of a boy who became his friend. I thought Christopher would like that. And as I wrote, the Christopher Seider in my head began to come to life on paper. When I finally typed The End, I could almost see Christopher jump from my head into my pages. I hope his story will be an inspiration to young readers, and I’m glad that they won’t have to wait fifty years (like I did) to meet this important young man.

 

Jackie is currently a columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg. She is a member of the Florida Writers Association, the Bay Area Professional Writers Guild, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Several of her stories have been included in Chicken Soup for the Soul collections. She lives on Treasure Island with her husband, John, and two noisy macaws and enjoys reading, walking on the beach, boating, and visiting her three children and six grandchildren in New Jersey. Jackie has been a featured speaker at schools, book clubs, women’s clubs, and libraries and writes a blog featuring Florida writers (www.fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com.She can be reached through her website: http://www.jackieminniti.com.

Website URL: http://www.jackieminniti.com

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Researching – the Backbone of any Novel by John R. Beyer

When the concept for writing my fourth novel began to form in my cranium, I decided that teaming up my protagonists, Jonas Peters and Frank Sanders in their first appearance in a book together. I knew this would require me to do some serious research to ensure the readers would believe the words put down on paper. There was never a chance I would spend a year or more writing a tale involving these two fine gentlemen without the diligence of powerful exploration and research.

That is the hallmark of any good writing. Without painstaking research, a writer risks ending up with a tale without merit. Fictional writing may be what wordsmith’s make out of their creative genius, but good fiction must resemble non-fiction to the audience.

When I read a novel, I want to be taken away from the present reality and thrust into a new reality. What I did not realize when the genesis for the idea for ‘Iquitos – the Past Will Kill’ sprang to life, was that I would be spending a month in the darkness of the Amazon rainforest.

But if the novel requires a jungle, then the writer must experience the jungle. Only with the truth of experience, can the tale be woven with credibility and the senses engaged.

The forest comes alive at night, and hunkered beneath mosquito netting while swinging in the heavy moist air in a hammock, one senses how much safer it is to be inside than outside. More than once in the cacophony of night sounds, something outside would let loose with a scream and suddenly only silence invaded the air.

During the daylight, all one did was sweat in the ninety percent humidity while wishing for a breeze. This is a hostile environment and not meant for the faint of heart. Every step must be calculated so one doesn’t step onto or in front of something life-threatening lurking in the canopy or the floor.

The rainforest is a dangerous place.

On a previous trip to Peru, my wife, Laureen, and I had made close friends with a naval commander who was able to organize our Amazonian adventure, including a ride-along in the one of the fastest naval boats on the river. This small boat, a necessity when searching for smugglers and others with dark intent, was capable of speeds in excess of sixty knots on the wide and dark river and sported two fifty caliber machine guns. It was a fitting vessel for Jonas, who was the only character to venture into the Amazon, to hitch a ride and explore firsthand the magnitude of one of the largest rivers in the world.

Islands would appear out of nowhere – the shores teaming with life. Howler monkeys kept eyes on us as we swept by the land masses as toucans and macaws flew overhead. The skies were often covered with heavy rain clouds ready at any minute to unleash a deluge. Often without warning the sky would open up, and we would suddenly be drenched but smiling as felt the thrill of research – to be somewhere not expected and enjoying every minute of it.

After nearly a month on the trail with Paul Bakas, our good friend and photographer for our blog, J and L Research and Exploration, we were satisfied with the research.

It takes a special type of person to make it day to day in the jungle. We made it, but only with the support of a guide, food and lukewarm beer, and of course, the repeated warnings of the dangers behind every bush. We were spoiled.

As Laureen observed as we headed back home: “That was the best trip I never want to take again.”

‘Iquitos – the Past Will Kill’ is a novel based on an explosive event which sends Jonas Peters back into the wilds of Peru and the Amazon jungle as the past comes rushing to the future, with deadly results for those involved. It is a journey of discovery and sorrow for both Jonas Peters and Frank Sanders, but the story must be told as all stories must.

 

John R. Beyer spent nearly ten years in law enforcement in Southern California as a street cop, a training officer and a member of the elite SWAT team. After leaving the force, he continued in public service entering the field of education. During his tenure, he served as classroom teacher, school administrator and district administrator, and was an integral part of the gang and drug force in San Bernardino. While in both worlds he earned a Doctorate in School Administration and a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology.

During all those years, he never gave up the passion for writing – both fiction and nonfiction. He has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and the like for decades, writing on a variety of topics. His latest short stories in the past year can be found in Foliate Oak Literary Magazine (2016) and GNU Journal (2017). He is also the author of three highly praised internationally known novels – Hunted (2013), Soft Target (2014) and Operation Scorpion (2017).

His newest novel, ‘Iquitos – the Past Will Kill’, will be released in November of 2018 by Black Opal Books bringing two of his protagonists together for their first investigation. Jonas Peters and Frank Sanders will work hand in hand with an international incident which left undetected could cause a catastrophic issue for the United States. They are friends and they are good at what they do. Catching the bad guys.