Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Salute 2009

As I come to the end of another year-and facing the problems of putting 10 on my checks-I am not wont to wax philosophical, but a lot has happened this year. I’ve lost a few good friends way too soon. I was able to reconnect with many more friends at our class reunion and share some laughs and some memories. With Facebook, I can still be connected with a lot of those friends…if they aren’t too busy playing Farmville or Bejeweled. Lol. I also shared some family tears and laughter and made some new memories.

And of course, the writing. Wow! Being able to speak at the NANO wrap up party was wonderful. I look forward to this next year preparing for the 2011 publications of two books.

I’m not one for resolutions, partly because if you want to do something, or stop doing something, go ahead and begin today or tomorrow at the latest. There is no reason to have a magical new year’s date to make a change. I’ve already done that. With the announcement of the acceptance by Echelon Press I started increasing the amount of writing I do every week. It has motivated me and maybe that’s all it takes, a little motivation and a seeing of the success in the effort. I’m already into chapter four of the rewrite of the sequel to Beta and making excellent progress.

There are as many ways to write as there are writers. I’ve met several who insist on a rigid schedule of writing every day for x amount of time. If that works for you, excellent. Maybe that would work for me in other circumstances but for right now, I can’t force myself to write something every day. It feels forced and the result is not up to par. Sometimes I am able to pick up a pen and scribble out a few pages. However, I think the problem we writer’s run into is finding excuses NOT to write. Yes, I’m guilty of that, also. It’s so easy not to write because of…well, pick a distraction. No time, feeling sick, hunger, TV, phone calls…whatever your excuse, it’s there and the temptation to delay is often so irresistible.

I think it goes back to motivation. When I started attending a weekly critique group and listening to others read their material and hearing the critiques given, I became motivated to write something every week for that group meeting. I felt I wasn’t contributing if I didn’t write and read. Sure some of the stuff wasn’t my best, but I kept writing. In another group I think a few of us mentioned the need for making time to write. Sure, life gets in the way, and there will be things that have to be done and writing may take a backseat for awhile. But if we are truly writers with a goal to be published, sometimes, we have to push life out of the way and make time to pick up a pen or turn on the word processor.

So if there’s any resolution, it’s to complete Alpha and to keep you up to date on the progress.

So get out there and write something and don’t stop!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Minor Digression

I will normally keep these entries relating to the wonderful world of writing, but I hope you will allow me to digress every now and again. I feel this week, I must do so.

The last couple of weeks have been rough for me. Rough for others, also. I know we’re all stressed by the Christmas season, in one fashion or another. However, there is stress, and then there is stress.

I wish blessings on a number of people who have been dealing with personal trials and tribulations.

To my sister. Despite the sadness felt, you must remember all those around you who love and cherish you and wish you speedy recovery so that once again, you, too, can enjoy four wheeling with your hubby and bro.

To my Great Uncle in El Paso with mild curses toward the hospital staff who didn’t consider you an emergency. Again, I hope for your speedy recovery and expect you back up in the 250+ range in the near future. (That’s bowling scores for the uninitiated).

To the family and friends of Bobby who, last Wednesday, made the third high school classmate within the last thirteen months to leave the rest of us saddened and remembering the good times. And to the other classmates: stay healthy! I want you around to enjoy a few more laughs for a few more decades.

I know this week’s is short but I felt I had to unburden a little. Writing helps.


Oh, next week’s post may be a little late.


Oh, and Merry Christmas to all!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

To those of you who congratulated me on my new venture, I sincerely return thanks. For those who wished to know what my novels were about, read on.
Back in 2006, I learned about a writer's conference slated for February of 2007, “Love is Murder” held annually in Chicago. Writers' conferences are a great place to meet people and learn from others about writing, publishing and maybe a chance to greet and speak with a nationally known writer. At the 2007 meeting the featured author was Muscatine's own Max Allan Collins.
At the time I was finishing Beta and Night Shadows and sending them out to agents for acceptance. Love Is Murder offered a chance to pitch the story ideas to the agents who were there looking for new authors and new stories. In the writers' group I, at the time, was involved in, we enlisted the aid of Des Moines lawyer/author Mike Manno (www.mikemanno.com) for guidance on how to create our pitches.
The term 'elevator pitch' is pretty common among those in the know. Basically, the pitch should last as long as it takes an elevator to drop from the top floor to the bottom floor of an average sized building. Obviously if you're in the Sears Tower, it might last a little longer. Usually a little less than a minute, give or take some seconds.
So Kim McKinney and I, the only two who were ready to pitch stories at the time, formulated the pitches and practiced, and practiced, and practiced. Memorization is key, easy flowing speaking is key, making sure the agent has a good sense of the plot and main character.
At the conference I was able to pitch to all of the agents present as I did with the Killer Nashville conference earlier this year. 2007 met with subsequent rejections but I was fortunate this year to be accepted by Echelon Press (www.echelonpress.com).
So, Beta and Night Shadows. Here are the pitches used which should give you a little taste of what's to come.

Genre- Mystery, Private Detective
Private Investigator Mallory Petersen, a fourth degree black belt with her own taekwondo school in Des Moines, Iowa, splits her time between teaching martial arts and her often inane cases. When she accepts a case to find Cheryl McGee’s kidnapped eight year old daughter, Mallory is pulled into the dark underworld of child pornography. The trail soon leads to the Quad Cities, where Mallory partners with an officer from the Special Case Squad. Mallory discovers that there’s more to the girls disappearance than her client let on. Adult readers will find grave issues tempered by humorous scenes. This is a series concept, the rough draft of another story is complete.

Genre-Paranormal Murder Mystery
Harry Reznik, a cynical hardworking homicide detective with a newly pregnant wife reluctantly partners with federal agent Lori Campisi to solve a string of gruesome homicides in the Des Moines, Iowa metro. Campisi is a stolid, almost emotionless member of a special FBI department dedicated to pursuing cases outside the mainstream. She convinces Harry that thee murders are being committed by Shadow Creatures-malevolent beings let loose in our dimension through the powerful magic of an ancient book. After finding the book, Reznik and Campisi, with the help of a university professor, risk everything to send the Shadow Creatures back to their own dimension. The story traces not only Reznik’s and Campisi’s investigation, but also Campisi’s connection to the book: her father’s obsession with the tome, her own memory loss before the age of twelve, and her eventual discovery of her lost years through her father’s journal. This is the first story in a series, the first draft of the second story is one-third complete.

When you pitch ideas to the agents they will ask questions about your story. It's their way of getting to know a little more about the story and about the author. If the author doesn't know his/her story, why should an agent bother to continue?
The question I received by a couple of the agents (and previously by fellow writers' group members) was in regards to Beta. They wanted to know why I chose to have a female protagonist, me being male. To answer that I have to provide a little history.
I started writing mysteries years ago using a character named Sam P. Peterson. He lived in the Quad Cities and was part of the East Moline police department. (Made sense since I had lived in East Moline until '75 and still have family in the area). Then in 1988, waiting to find a job after college graduation, I went to work for a guy in Danville and we became good friends. He was-and still is-into comic books and it was our dream to write our own. I could write, he could illustrate. So I created a character called Nightshadow, a.k.a. Sam P. Petersen (I changed the O to an E because I worked with a Petersen when I was in Kewanee for a time. Unfortunately, that dream didn't pan out.
When I became more familiar with Des Moines and was interested in setting a private investigator in that metropolis I didn't feel right using Sam again. So I changed sexes and brought in Mallory. Plus, I was getting heavily involved with taekwondo at the time and was amazed and impressed by the number of women involved and soon came to honor the high ranking women in my organization (www.ataonline.com). Because of the prolific number of females in martial art, this also made sense to have a woman protagonist.
Actually, it's been fun with Mallory. She's shown me some things that I wouldn't have expected and I've also had to temper her emotions and soften her character as needed. She is currently having her sequel Alpha, rewritten.
Night Shadows evolved from a Coast To Coast AM radio show. (www.coasttocoastam.com) about shadow creatures. I thought what a wonderful 'monster' to put into a story. Harry Reznik came easily to mind and Lori Campisi was fun to write about. They are currently involved in a sequel tentatively entitled Days of Wine and Ghosts. The first draft is complete but I will need to tweak the ending a bit.
Feel free to email me questions regarding either story and I'll do my best to answer them to your satisfaction.

Monday, December 7, 2009

It's official

Yes, it's official. I'm an author.
For those who don't know what's going on, let me back up a few months. To August of this year. A friend and I shared driving duties to travel down to Killer Nashville, a mystery writers' conference. This is an annual conference for writers' and mystery book fans. The three day event featured various seminars to help the writer to better his/her craft and learn about writing techniques. Everything from weapons, to blood splatter analyses, DNA (did you realize the CSI shows are wrong when the investigators get back DNA results in less than about three days?), to editing, querying and much much more. It was a great conference and I enjoyed every seminar.
Plus, I was able to meet and speak with and listen to fascinating stories by author J. A. Jance.
I also made several contacts with people in the writing business.
The most important aspect about the conference was that I was able to pitch a story idea to four agents/editors from various publishing houses/agencies. Now, most of the writers who pitched their ideas were asked to submit either a few chapters an X amount of pages, etc. This is common. The agents like to listen to the ideas, get a feel for what people are writing, ask questions, then in the future decide whether to accept.
When I returned home I immediately submitted to the four places. Within a couple of days, I was rejected by one. A couple of weeks later, I decided to submit another story, I had also written but hadn't pitched to a couple of the agencies (the third wasn't accepting the genre). In September and October I received two more rejections.
Late October and I receive an email from Echelon Press (www.Echelonpress.com). When I see the sender my first thought was "Here is the fourth rejection; I'll have to start over with someplace else." When I opened the email, my brain was automatically scanning for the all too familiar words. However, this is what I saw:

Hi, Stephen.

I would like to offer you a contract with Echelon Press for both Night Shadows and Beta, to be published in ebook format. This is the only format we are offering for now. Please let me know if you are interested - if so, I'll send you a copy of the contract with instructions on what to do next.

Well, I had to read the email a second time to see it wasn't a rejection but an acceptance. Then I read it a third time to realize Echelon wanted BOTH stories.

My reaction? (Well, my ceiling still has a little depression from the top of my head.)
So, I receive the contracts, fill them out, sign them and send them back.
Today, December 7, I receive my copies signed by he president of Echelon.
So now, I'm on my way. I should be on the schedule to be e-published sometime in 2011.
I want to say thanks to everyone for their support and please check back because I hope to be doing weekly blogs about various topics and will keep you informed about the progress of the two e-books. Also, within a month I should have a website up and running so check back for information about that.

Let the fun begin!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Greetings one and all who have found this particular corner on the vast universe of the internet. I hope you will visit often and I promise to keep you up to date on all that is happening in the wide world of me. Soon, I will be giving information regarding a dream of mine that is currently coming to fruition.
Visit often as I will be relating details. Please feel free to leave comments on any posting whether you like it or think I'm smoking my shorts.
Thanks in advance for all your support.