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Another Why? mystery?

“It’s about time!”  Even her camel thinks so.

 Last summer when I finished “Through the Roof”  I took it to a Christian Fiction Writers conference to try and attract an agent.  I couldn’t get anyone to look at it because I don’t have enough Facebook followers.  Oh well…so much for that.  I’ve been told that as an Independent Author I need to put as much time towards selling my books and building my platform as I spend writing.  Oh well…so much for that too.  Between all that “feedback” and everything else in my life, I haven’t had the energy, or inclination, or both, to write.  But yesterday my new printer arrived and I was able to print the first 25 pages of the original version plus a new chapter featuring Nattie Moreland, the detective heroine from all of my “Why?” mysteries.  This morning, after figuring out where to place the Nattie chapter I was able to outline where to put another 12 Nattie chapters…now I just have to write them.  “Through the Roof” will become a Why? mystery…but that title just won’t do.    

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2016 State of the Union

Here’s what I learned in 2016:

 1. I’m in the end stage of Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, which initially means I get tired and winded very easily and in the long run, I’ll need a lung transplant (my local docs say I’m a good candidate and I’ve got an appointment at Duke next month to see if they agree)

2. As a result of my diagnosis, I am no longer getting up early a few mornings a week to go write and I haven’t had the energy anyway, so I need a new pattern.

3. I took my latest novel, “Through the Roof” to the Christian Fiction Writers Association and got some good feedback about making it better (which I’m planning on doing).  I also learned that if I’m going to get an agent I will need a much larger platform than the one I have now.

4.  Another result of my diagnosis and energy level is that I’ll have to be more selective about what festivals I’ll take books to from now on.  I know I’ll go back to the Woolly Worm Festival in Banner Elk and that I’ll drop Rhythm and Roots in Bristol and the Apple Festival in Erwin, but beyond that I don’t know.

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KITTY: Jasper Lilla name him

12294683_10154050104462884_6539024776647472092_nThat’s Sargent.  He’s the welcoming committee/guard dog at Fern Valley Farms where we took the kids on Easter Saturday.  White Great Pyrenees dogs are standard for Alpaca farms. I’ve been to several while doing research for the Jasper Lilla Saga and I’ve seen one of these great dogs at each.  They are huge.  They aren’t particularly menacing, but with their size they have a ‘don’t-mess-with-me’ aura.  So naturally there’s a Great Pyrenees guard dog at the Alpaca farm where Jasper Lilla lives and his name is Kitty.  Where did the name Kitty come from?  I’m glad you asked.  My son’s first pet was a hamster he named ‘cat.’  I’m just following him, 40 years later.

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JUSTIN BOOK the protagonist of “THROUGH THE ROOF”

image003The protagonist of “Through The Roof” is a man named Justin Book.  He is not based on me (any more than I can help), but he does manifest a couple of my fantasies (whimsey might be a better word).  Whimsey #1 is his career; he repurposes things into bookcases and sells them at craft shows and community festivals.  He once repurposed an old upright piano into a bookcase/display for oversized art books.  Whimsey #2: In the first draft I had him winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes (which was necessary to set up Whimsey #3) but I dropped that because I didn’t want him to have to deal with all the requests for money, so now I have him inheriting a large sum (yet to be determined). Whimsey #3: The money allowed him to buy a church and begin repurposing it to be his home.  This fantasy is one I’ve had since I saw the movie “Alice’s Restaurant” in the 60’s.  These whimseys have been nagging at me for at least a year.  I tried to push them away because I was finishing the 3rd book in the Jasper Lilla Saga, but now that that book is in the hands of readers, I’m all in for “Through The Roof.”

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in SEARCH of a VILLAIN

10371436_655141591250753_9086046158212851425_nI usually fight off thoughts about starting my next book until I get the current book into the hands of the readers.  The was much more difficult this time than ever before because of how long the last one took to finish.  “Jasper Lilla and the Flight to Boone” is the third and final installment in the Jasper Lilla Saga. I was on schedule to have it finished last summer and ready for publication by late fall.  I was on schedule, that is, until I went off schedule.  I usually work a 25 hour week during the summer, which gives me big chunks of time for writing, but due to several changes (mostly good ones) in the landscape of my life writing was not on the radar.  The fall was full and so was Christmas vacation, leaving an already over committed spring looking like more of the same.  But winter was good to me.  The threat of snow & ice shut down King twice for nearly a full week each time, allowing me enough time to write my way back into the novel.  So, now the editing process has begun (which is more hands off than hands on for me).

Now I’m working on “Through the Roof.”  It’s been percolating for awhile.  The setting is an older downtown church which is being converted into a home by a man who earns a living making and selling bookcases at craft shows and festivals.  I didn’t begin by putting those two ideas together.  These, and many other ideas float through my awareness like gnats at a picnic.  I try not to pay too much attention, but some of those gnats just keep reappearing, and sometimes they fly into my eye and get stuck under the eyelid.  That’s what happened to me with “Through The Roof,”  I heard a sermon and had an interaction on Sunday that set off a series of thoughts on Monday that, like gnats in the eye,  I had to pay attention to.  So, Monday night, with the Jasper book at 50,000 words, I wrote the first two chapters of my next book.  I had to, I couldn’t see straight otherwise.  Now I that I can focus on “Through the Roof”  I have a protagonist and a catalyst, and a partial setting (I know it’s a church, but I don’t know where the church is).  What I need now are the back stories on the major characters, and oh yeah, I really need an antagonist.

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A BIG LEAP for LEAP DAY

unnamed-4February 29, 2016:  “Jasper Lilla and the Flight to Boone” is finally done.  I was on track to have the first draft finished in August of ’15, but I didn’t stay on track and so, half a year later, it’s done.  It’s not really done, but the first draft and my first edit is done and now it’s off to some readers.  So, for a  month, it isn’t my concern.  The four (maybe five) readers will critique it.  Readers are important, they donate their time and energy to tell me more here, less there, that doesn’t ring true, and don’t do that.  After they are done I’ll do another edit myself and then send it off to my editor, who will fix the spelling, tense, and punctuation mistakes, and he’ll give me another list of things I have to fix.  Then it’s off to the formatter and then the proofreader.  So, it should be ready for market by mid May.  That’s when it will be really done.  But for me, it’s no longer disturbing my sleep.  It’s the readers’ problem now.  I’M DONE.  I’m two chapters in to “Through the Roof” so, at least for now, I’M DONE.

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Natalie “Nattie” Mariam Johnson Moreland AKA Natasha McMorales

A character sketch

Nattie’s mother, Ingrid, was the youngest of two kids. Her parents had a small farm on the eastern side of Johnson City, Tennessee. Her older brother, who worked the farm, never married. Ingrid was seven years younger than her brother. Ingrid was a very bright student, who loved to read, and so did very well in school during her younger years. Ingrid’s school success was a source of pride for her family so she was allowed to pursue her cultural and academic interests rather than the farm work her family gave their lives to. School continued to come easy to Ingrid through her adolescence, but on those occasions when more effort was demanded of her, she learned to use her natural beauty and charming personality to make do. After a successful freshman year at ETSU as a literature major, Ingrid began to struggle under the demands of her sophomore year. In the fall of her sophomore year Ingrid eloped with Nathan Johnson.

Nattie’s father, Nathan Johnson, was four years older than her mother. He was from Indiana, where he worked as a salesman for a company that made industrial lubricants. Nathan had several clients in Johnson City and met Ingrid while clubbing during a sales trip. Nathan’s father and uncle were all tradesmen and construction workers in the Chicago area. They, like Ingrid’s family, were proud of Nathan for being the first in the family to get a college education. For his part, Nathan was not a gifted student, but he did graduate with a degree in business and a number of fraternity contacts that opened the door for him to get his first sales job.

Sales was very lucrative for Nathan so for the first two years of their marriage Ingrid and Nathan had a fairy tale marriage. They could afford any luxury or indulgence they thought of, and they thought of many. After two years they had Natalie, who was an easy child to care for. Four years later they had Kevin, who was not as easy to control as Nattie. From a very early age Kevin demonstrated a creative approach to exploring the universe, which often got him in trouble or hurt. Kevin’s antics were encouraged by Nathan, who found them amusing, but Ingrid was ill-equipped to mother such a child. By the age of 6 Nattie was already assuming motherly responsibilities for her younger brother.

When Nattie was in the 6th grade her father went from being a functional alcoholic and great provider to being an unemployed drunk. On a sales trip in Indianapolis Nathan was involved in a traffic accident that took the life of a 6 year old girl who darted into the street from between two cars. Although he was not found guilty he stood trial because his blood-alcohol level was just barely within the legal limit. Even though Nattie was only twelve at the time she went with her mother to court and provided support for Ingrid during the trial. Nathan’s alcohol abuse escalated rapidly after that, resulting in the loss of his job and ultimately his family.

After the divorce Ingrid returned to Johnson City with her two kids. A few years later Ingrid married Lionel O’Brien, a widower with a successful law practice in Johnson City. Ingrid was not particularly religious, but as an avid reader she read all sorts of things to her children. Reading about St. Francis was Nattie’s favorite, but that came to an end due to Lionel’s anti-Catholic religious conservatism. To Nattie’s disappointment, Ingrid got rid of all traces of St. Francis to appease her new husband. The ease with which Ingrid could use her attractiveness to get whatever she wanted from men and the degree to which she was willing to set aside her own convictions to maintain and charm “her man” was, in Nattie’s mind, a compromise to her integrity. Nattie re-claimed all the St. Francis books and art, but the riff and disappointment between she and Ingrid grew.

Nattie, an excellent student and an accomplished high school soccer player, never considered herself to be as attractive as her mother. She was uncomfortable when she was told she looked like Kristin Bell. Her standard response was to say, “Yes, I look like I could be her sister.” It was a way to downgrade the compliment, which was how she responded to all compliments.

Nattie went to Freedom University in Kingsport, TN and towards the end of her sophomore year declared a psychology major. Again, her step father’s religious conservatism stepped in and persuaded Ingrid to tell Nattie that they would not financially support a college education in psychology. By this time Ingrid’s parents had sold their farm to a developer, making them extremely wealthy. Then they were killed in a car accident, making Ingrid extremely wealthy. In spite of having plenty of money for her daughter’s education Ingrid still traded her husband’s judgment for her own.

Nattie solved her education problem by getting hired to be a residence assistant, which would have covered her room and board but not her tuition. Unfortunately her plan did not work. While meeting her brother, Kevin, for dinner she noticed a can of Coors beer lying in clear view in his back seat. He was under aged so she put the beer in her back pack and forgot about it. When she returned to her dorm room she forgot that the beer was there, which was a violation of the school’s no alcohol policy. Her roommate, a senior nursing major, was about to sign a contract to go to the mission field as a nurse. The contract required a no alcohol pledge so the roommate decided that if she was ever going to try a beer, this was the time. Her inexperience with beer led her to try it warm and then to throw the warm beer away in the trash can in her room. The smell was noticed and in order to spare her roommate from jeopardizing her mission career, Nattie took the blame. She explained to her roommate that she’d just have to do a few hours of community service.

Instead of community service Nattie’s RA job was taken from her, making it financially impossible for her to return to school for her junior year. Instead of returning to school Nattie took a job as the receptionist at the Hiram Moreland Detective Agency in Bristol, TN. After a year there Hiram, her boss, noticed that for some reason Nattie was able to get more information talking to people in the waiting room than he was in the consultation room. Under his encouragement Nattie began the process of getting her Private Investigator’s License. During this time Hiram’s nephew, named Nathan like her father, came to work at the agency and began the process of getting his PI license too. When Nattie and Nathan began dating she put the pursuit of her license on hold to support Nathan as he pursued his. They were married a year later. It took another year for Nathan to pass all the tests, after several attempts. Nathan’s drinking progressed from social to problematic and when he got his second DUI he lost his license. In spite of still loving Nathan, Nattie was unwilling to watch him follow the same pattern she had watched her father follow so they divorced and she resumed her pursuit of a PI license.

When Hiram had heart difficulties he decided to retire and sells the Detective Agency to Nattie. Nattie hires her creative under-achieving brother, Kevin, to be her office manager. While she is in Nashville getting the license she needs to head her own agency Kevin renames her agency ‘The Natasha McMorales Detective Agency’ believing this will be a memorable name for marketing.

What happens next is covered in the first of 6 “Natasha McMorales Why Mysteries.” More are coming.

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2015 VIRGINIA HIGHLANDS FESTIVAL

11796178_1220262267999818_2419631977136420081_nThis was my 3rd year at the Virginia Highlands Festival, but my first year at the opening weekend.  Last year I sold 62 books over the last 3 days.  This year I sold 81.  The big seller was “Jasper Lilla and the wolves of Banner Elk.”  Besides selling books and, of course, eating carnival food all weekend, one of the best parts of going to festivals is the people you meet.  In that first picture is JoAnn.  She really liked the “Jasper Lilla” cover but explained that until she gets past an eye surgery reading is a difficult and frustrating thing for her.  She bought a copy anyway and had me sign it to someone else (it’s a gift to someone I won’t name).  Well JoAnn came back the next day and told me 11202883_10153829706888488_5698069239938475989_nthat once she took a peek at it she couldn’t put it down.  Although she had already finished it, she was back to buy her own copy, plus the second book, plus 2 more copies as gifts.  Then there’s Chuck Walsh, the author of “Shadows on Iron Mountain,” in the next picture.  He and his wife Sandy had a booth/table next to mine and we shared ideas throughout the weekend (although I got better than I gave).  That picture of Chuck and I was taken by Sandy.  Lastly there was Derek Loudy, of Blountville.  He’s read all the Why Mysteries and is even quoted on the back of “Why Me?”  Derek got the new books, but made me promise that there would be more Why Mysteries to come…..So, to everyone who made the weekend better by simply being kind and engaging…thanks.  The world is so much better to live in when we smile at each other,

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THE KINDLE CAMPAIGN for Book Two in the Jasper Lilla Saga

jasper-lilla2To promote the release of “Jasper Lilla and the Hendersonville Rescue” I set the price at $0.99 for the first week and for the week prior to that we set the price of “Jasper Lilla and the wolves off Banner Elk” at $0.99.  Normally the Kindle price of these books is $7.99.  To promote these specials bought several Facebook ads, we sent out press releases to nearly twenty news sources and I asked my nearly 3000 Facebook friends to share the ads we posted on  Tuesdays and Thursdays during the campaign.  Fifty-seven Friends participated in the launch by sharing one or more of these ads on their Facebook pages for a total of 99 shares of the 5 ads.  That was wonderful exposure for the books and I so so appreciate everyone who helped.  Five Friends won prizes for participating.  The winners were chosen randomly from all participants.  First prize is a new Kindle e-Reader and that’s going to Todd Hare.  Second prize is 3 Kindle books and that is going to Chrysa Fulchiero.  Three 3rd place winners get a Kindle book each and they are Vickie Moretz, Erin Leslie Kirk, and Pam Cox.  Thanks again and I hope you’ll all help out again in the winter when “Jasper Lilla and the Flight to Boone” is released.

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Monday, July 20, 2015

DSCN2295Busy day in my book life (as opposed to my Marriage Counselor life or my Psychology Professor life).  Other than my 8:00 appointment, who is a regular in my psychotherapy practice, I booked no appointments today.  Over the weekend we were vendors at a 3 day festival in Banner Elk.  It was our first festival that required staying away from home overnight.  That meant an extra expense for travel, lodging, and meals, and it meant hauling extra boxes of books.  If we were near home and i was running low on a particular title there are people I can call and have run by the office for whatever I needed.  With an event that far away the title is either in the tent, in the car, or in my hindsight.  The event was a bit disappointing because the turnout was so low.  I’d like to see about 1000 people a day for every $100 it costs to be a vendor.  We all paid $200 for this event and I’d say we got about a $50 value.  With the extra costs my breakpoint was selling 70 books and we only missed by 8.  We got 13 people for our mailing list, gave away several hundred postcards, and made contacts for 2 other events.  We also met some great folks, spent some relaxing evenings in a beautiful part of the country, and learned a few things.  It was especially nice to get away as Sunday the 19th marked the end of a 2 week advertising blitz marking the Kindle release of “Jasper Lilla and the Hendersonville Rescue.”  Between those two things my mind and body were predictably spent, so we scheduled no appointments.  That allowed me to unload the Subaru, take stock of what we sold and what we made, reorder for the next event, and tend to what has been ignored since last Thursday.  So, I was free to deliver copies of both Jasper Lilla books to Joe Tennis of the Bristol Herald Courier for him to review, deliver extra copies of “Why Bristol?” to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum (which I now know is closed on Mondays) and made inquiries about my schedule at the Hendersonville Apple Festival and the Virginia Highlands Festival.  Alas…I haven’t written in “J.L. & the Flight to Boone” in weeks.

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