Fiction or Nonfiction? Dinner or Dessert?

Fiction is a roller coaster

Fiction is fun. Fiction is freedom. 

Fiction creates new worlds and fills these worlds with heroes, villains, comics, romantics. Fills them with humans or monsters or aliens from another dimension.  Fiction can be as wild and unbelievable as the author’s imagination.

Every paragraph is a roller coaster.

Everything is fair game.

Everything is up in the air.

Enjoy the ride and let your imagination soar!

 

Nonfiction has rules.

Nonfiction takes place in a location the author can and should visit

Creative Nonfiction takes place in a location the author can and should visit, whether it’s the graveyard down the road or a ship in the middle of the ocean. Not to say writing nonfiction can’t be fun, but the author doesn’t have the same freedom to make up worlds or characters. The people and places must be real.

Nonfiction isn’t a roller coaster.

It’s a maze and research is the author’s only map.

Newspaper articles, interviews, books, and (occasionally) Google.

This is how I contrast my experiences writing fiction versus writing nonfiction. First drafts of fiction dance off my keyboard.  Ideas pop into my head. My writing group asks “why did he do that?” about a character and in fiction, I can create the motivation. In nonfiction if I can’t find his motivation in my research, I can’t answer that question.  I can’t make up an actual  person’s motivations for his or her actions.

Most of my research comes from newspapers and interviews.

I have been researching a complex, creative nonfiction project for years. 

Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this creative nonfiction centers on the man who discovered an earthquake fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Station in Virginia and ended up with a bullet in his head. 

It’s an exciting story with a thousand twists and turns, just like an intricate maze. 

Am I near the end of the maze or still in the center?  Only careful research will help me find my way.

 

Which is more satisfying as a writer? Fiction or nonfiction?

That’s like asking what is more satisfying to eat, dinner or dessert.

Why not try both?

 

Carolyn O’Neal is the author of:

KINGSLEY,

Honey I’m Yours,

Terry and the Monster-Beaters,

THAT WORD: Uterine Cancer from Diagnosis to Recovery.

 

Carolyn O’Neal was creative consultant for:

Boss of the Outer Banks

Ultimate Obsession

Why did God allow…Lesson from a Local Preacher

 

 

BACCA Guest Blog: Writer’s Block by author Zach Tamer

Writer’s Block

Image courtesy of Drew Coffman

Writer’s Block Image courtesy of Drew Coffman

 

For nearly a year I have found it very hard to put pen to paper, as the saying goes. I don’t know if you could call it writer’s block as much as writer’s avoidance. I have been trying to find my way back to my old habits, trying to set aside time to write each day, but each day I find a new excuse not to write. I wake up too late to write in the morning, I get out of work too late to write at night, I have to meet a friend for Happy Hour, I have to clean, there is a new show that I want to watch, a new book that I want to read, and the list goes on ad nauseum.

The reality of the matter is that ten months ago I lost my writing partner, the person I bounced ideas off, the person I called when I finished a poem, the person who called me when they finished a poem, the person who recommended new books, the person who I called Dad. As Father’s Day came and went I have found myself writing more, or at least attempting to write. I have been forcing myself to sit and stare at the blinking cursor until something ends up on the page. Usually what ends up on the page could be likened to the scribblings of a kindergartner wielding a giant crayon, but with each attempt I get that much closer to getting back into a groove. I haven’t been happy with much that I have written recently but I have found the process to be very therapeutic. It has been like rekindling a relationship with an old friend I didn’t know I needed in my life so badly.

One of the things I’ve done to help me dive back into writing has been to do some freelance work for a travel blog. I’ve just begun writing for a blog all about Bogota, Colombia. Bogota holds a lot of wonderful memories for me and with these memories, words have begun to spill out on the page. As I revisited some of the familiar sights and smells of the city I thought maybe it would help me to revisit some of the poems my father and I wrote for our book. As I thumbed through the pages I realized I could still bounce things off him. I could see his writing style, see the things that I loved in his work, and the things that he loved in mine. I could still hear him reading his poems and making comments after I read mine. I still talk to him, and while I’ll never know if he hears me I hope I’m not just a crazy person talking to the air. I’d like to think that we join the particles that make up this earth when we pass on. Many times, I could swear he hears me, that my dad really is a part of everything, and that thought helped me to write a poem.

You Will Be

You will be the star

on a starless night

showing me the way

with your guiding light.

The single drop of rain

that splashes on the ground

in the dirt beneath my feet

evaporating without a sound.

The snow that falls overhead

just hanging from the pines.

Branches about to break

like I’ve nearly done so many times.

The air that I breathe

that fills up my chest

fills me with memories

until there’s nothing left.

Sometimes I wonder

where you are today

then the breeze hits my ears

and I hear you say,

“I went back from where I came

So, quiet all your fears.

Go lie in the sun

and let me dry your tears.”

The words still don’t come as easily as they used to, but the rust is flaking off each time I write. I’m sure that writer’s block will strike again. I’ll find new excuses, and new ways to avoid writing altogether but next time I’ll know how to find my way back. For me, it was starting the habit of sitting at the computer, and I found that if I had the time to sit and watch the cursor blink, I certainly had the time to try to churn out coherent sentences. I also found a topic, a point in time, that was filled with wonderful memories and I let it permeate my senses until it came out in words. If you are currently facing the dreaded “block” chip away at it until you tunnel to the other side. Harness the beautiful memories in your life that help the light filter through, and before you know what’s happening the words will find the page, and you will realize that nothing is insurmountable.

By: Zach Tamer

https://zacharytamer.com/books-2/

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Andrea

photo of Andrea

Andrea Fisher Rowland (1957-2019)

Author, poet, playwright, and teacher

The BACCA writers mourn one of our own. Andrea died at Hospice of the Piedmont in Charlottesville, VA on 7 June.

Andrea Fisher Rowland spent her childhood years in New Zealand, and thereafter was a Virginia resident for most of her life. She graduated in English from James Madison University, where hers was the first student-written play – entitled “Fancies” – ever presented on the main stage of campus and for which she won the Norman Lear Award for Comedy Playwriting. She earned an MA from the University of Virginia with a concentration in Creative Writing, studying with John Casey and Greg Orr.

She went on to earn a PhD from the University as well, working with Karen Chase and Edgar Shannon. Her dissertation, The Supernatural Muse: Representations of the Creative Impulse in the Fiction of Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, and Charles Dickens, examines the supernatural figures (ghosts, genii, etc.) appearing in those authors’ works.

She worked as an Assistant Dean and Director of Studies at the University of Virginia, taught composition and literature at Wake Forest University, and taught introduction to theater at James Madison University. She has directed readings and productions of Shakespeare and other early modern playwrights at Wake Forest and at the University of Virginia. Most recently she taught English at Renaissance School in Charlottesville.

Throughout the years, while raising her son Liam, she wrote poetry, plays, and fiction, notably her novel High Tide. In 2017, an excerpt from High Tide was a finalist in the Virginia Festival of the Book Fiction Contest, and her poem, “These Same Fields,” won the Writer House / Jefferson Madison Regional Library Poetry Competition.

A poetry collection, Family Album, was recently published and her novel, High Tide, is forthcoming in 2019, both from Chenille Books.

 

Andrea and I were co-workers – even co-teachers, occasionally – as well as neighbors, and members of two writing groups together, and friends. We both liked gin & tonics, and we both had jukeboxes on in our heads all the time. We would sing and whistle out loud and give each other earworms. We had one fight that was dumb, and lots of raucous laughter. I liked goats and she liked poetry and we both liked New Zealand. I was organized and she was spontaneous.

I am grateful she is no longer in pain, but I don’t understand yet what it means that she is gone, and I already miss her terribly.

— Bethany Farris

photo of Andrea

I first met Andrea through her writing. I had moved to Buffalo and she joined BACCA (our writing group) in Charlottesville after I left. Writers know, sharing a draft is like sharing one’s secret self. To send a draft to a virtual stranger takes courage and trust. For my part, I was sharing professional non-fiction writing. It felt low stakes for me. But Andrea was sharing from her novel, High Tide. I was at once intrigued and soothed. I learned from her work that she loved nature, especially things to do with water. As a Pisces and a native Michigander, water connected me to the things she cared about. I also learned that she deeply empathized with our fellow humans, even the most flawed. To quote Anne of Green Gables, I realized Andrea was a kindred spirit before we ever met.

I’m grateful that in June 2017, I could attend a writing retreat, and spend 2 days getting to know Andrea the person as well as the writer. I wish it had been more. She was obviously full of love and rich perspective. She generously and thoughtfully helped me improve my own book, written for teachers. I’m grateful for the chance to know Andrea, and to reflect on knowing her. I look forward to reading her book, and learning more about a very special human being.

— Claire Elizabeth Cameron

photo of Andrea

Our writing group was looking to add a new member when Bethany introduced us to Andrea. That was a few years ago yet seems like yesterday. I appreciate Andrea’s love for nature and passion for the environment. Her words were always poetic. Her heart was always full. I mourn with her friends and family. She made a difference in the world.

— Carolyn O’Neal

photo of Andrea

Andrea had already made an impression on me before our writer group considered her as a new member. I met her the previous year at a party. I only knew a little bit about her – from her voice, her presence, and her spontaneous creativity that evening. But I knew I wanted to get to know her, and her words. I was delighted when she joined BACCA.

Meeting monthly, sharing our words and our voices, I grew to admire Andrea and her inventive, perceptive mind. When we became friends, I learned to admire more — like her love of family, her deep knowledge of English literature, her devastating low-key sense of humor, her dedication to her students, and her musicality. Knowing Andrea enriched my life. May her memory be a blessing to all of us who shared our lives with her.

— A M Carley

Photo of Andrea

Time worked its tricky magic on us. Taking something, giving something. Sleight of hand. When I joined BACCA as the sixth member, shortly after Andrea became the fifth, I walked to the table with velvet ropes erected around myself—hopeful that I would find and give help, insight, understanding—but cautious, too. I have found myself in prickly, stingy, even dangerous writing workshops before. In BACCA, I found a safe and generous community.

Andrea was a large part of the comfort I found. She and I were “new” together. We shared a love of poetry, Shakespeare, and music. For all of our shared loves, I knew I had a host to learn from Andrea too. She knew countries I’ve not yet seen. She spoke eloquently in public. She kept a luxurious pace that reminded me to slow down. Most of the time, she seemed composed. Zen-like. Steady. Even if she was remembering something important that she’d forgotten. I also admire the dreamy, lush language of her novel, High Tide, and the lovely way that poetry haunts her prose, evokes. Her characters, two of them in particular, feel real to me. I think about them, and worry about them still.

Time is tricky. Something happens when we meet, month after month, and share this much of ourselves. Somewhere—between seven months and ten—velvet ropes disappeared, caution dissolved, and (without even much fanfare) I realized we were friends. Just when things fall into place, sometimes, time moves again. And now we have to figure out how to do this without her.

— Noelle Beverly

 

Thanks to Gareth Phillips, Noelle Beverly, and Andrea’s family for the photos.

Of Bees and Books

Honeybees at River House Hives

I am a beekeeper. 

I began my first hive a few years ago and am happy to report that it is still going strong. Since then, I have acquired more. I’ve read countless articles about all the threats facing honeybees today.  From parasites to pesticides, from bears to beetles. According to one statistic, sixty-five percent of the honeybee hives in the state of Virginia died last winter. So my chances for honeybee success are pretty grim.  I can’t let the statistics discourage me.  I can’t let my passion for my honeybees end because of the naysayers. I enjoy working with honeybees regardless of the outcome.  I enjoy beekeeping.  Whether my bees thrive or perish.  Whether I harvest gallons of honey or none at all.  There is joy in the process. These industrious pollinators make our world a better place.

Carolyn O’Neal is the owner of River House Hives in Buckingham County

 

 

I am an author.

I self-published my first novel a few years ago and am happy to report that I have sales and positive reviews. Since then, I have self published more. I’ve read countless articles about the obstacles facing authors, especially self-published authors.  Endless marketing, low sales, no validation for the years of work.  So my chances for making a living as an author are pretty grim. I can’t let mere facts discourage me.  I can’t let my passion for writing end, even if no one outside friends and family read my books.  I enjoy writing.  I find it simultaneously relaxing and stimulating.  There is joy in the process. Books make our world a better place.

 

Carolyn O’Neal is the author of

KINGSLEY,

Honey I’m Yours,

Terry and the Monster-Beaters,

THAT WORD: Uterine Cancer from Diagnosis to Recovery.

Haunted at a writing retreat.

I moved aside the wooden block holding up the ancient window and carefully lowered the heavy pane, not wanting to smash my fingers. I was in my bedroom at The Porches in Norwood, Virginia—an antebellum farmhouse lovingly transformed into a quiet, contemplative writers’ retreat.  I’d come to work on a difficult chapter in my nonfiction story about the murder of John W. Funkhouser, the geology professor who discovered the earthquake fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant back in 1970. With the heavy window closed, I turned on the air conditioner.  It was almost ninety degrees outside.  I opened my laptop and placed the binder with my files from the courthouse beside me. I clicked the only photo I had of the killer— from his senior high school yearbook.

Ray William Cook, Jr. was a good looking boy. Dark hair, sincere eyes, and perfect lips.  Hollywood lips.  Lips that could have been outlined by a professional makeup artist. I turned the page to the photocopy of his signed confession:

December 3, 1974

I, Ray William Cook, Jr., do make this statement to Det. H. M Shelton, Chesterfield County Police Dept., after having been advised of my constitutional rights and understanding these rights I make this statement freely and voluntarily…

I flipped page after page, recreating the crime. After a couple more hours with this murderer, it was time for dinner. A shared meal with three other writers followed by a settling stroll in the lush Virginia countryside. Weeks of rain had finally ended and the results were spectacular.  Colorful coneflowers, ubiquitous Virginia creeper, and trees competing for every inch of sunlight. I walked to a small church with a few gravestones. One or two cars passed by, the drivers waved and I waved back.

I returned to my room, to my computer, and to my binder. My chapter on Ray Cook’s family life, his physical and mental health, and his jumbled reasoning for shooting Dr. Funkhouser in the head was inching into existence.  Outside, the long June day finally gave in to the night.  The deeper I dove into the life and crimes of Ray Cook, Jr., the darker the windowpane became. Moths banged against the wavy glass. I dragged my fingers through my hair. His yearbook photo was still on my computer screen. My face was in the windowpane, lit by the screen. His face. My face.  I rubbed my arms.  It was too cool in here. I adjusted the temperature on the wall air condition.   Just a tad warmer, please.  I sat on the corner of my bed. The locked armoire beside the bed had a full length mirror.  I was tired and should have gotten some sleep, but I returned to my computer instead.

VIRGINIA:

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE COUNTY OF CHESTERFIELD COMMONWEALTH

VS.

RAY WILLIAM COOK

The defendant, Ray William Cook, having been charged in this court at the March term 1975, on two felony charges; to-wit: Armed Robbery and Murder, and pursuant to the Order of the Court, having been conveyed to Central State Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia for observation and reported to the Court, at which said hospital he was received and the Superintendent of the said hospital having reported to the Court that the said Ray Willian Cook is not mentally ill, it is, therefore ORDERED that the Sheriff of Chesterfield do proceed to Central State Hospital at Petersburg, Virginia and take into his custody the said Ray William Cook and commit him to the Chesterfield County Jail, Chesterfield, Virginia to be there confined until he shall be ordered by this court to be produced before the Court for the trial of the crime of which he stands charged.

A deep quiet had settled over The Porches.  The other writers had gone to bed. Even the moths had stopped their suicidal banging. I had to get my mind off murder.   I showered, brushed my teeth, and changed into my nightgown. The brass bed was as soft as feathers with a half-dozen pillows.  I read for a while then took off my glasses and turned out the light.  The room glowed. I looked up.  I’d left my computer on. Mr. Cook’s high school yearbook photo was staring at me. I tried to ignore him. I built a fortress of pillows to block the light. But there he was.  I turned the light back on and walked to the desk. I closed the file and shut down the computer.  I returned to bed and turned off the lights.

It was too dark. It was too quiet.  I strained to hear anything beyond the rumble of the air conditioner. I couldn’t get Mr. Cook out of my head. Robbery. Murder. Prison.  Someone was watching me.  I sat up.  I switched on the light and grabbed my glasses. The mirror on the full-length armoire.  That’s all it was.  I stacked the pillows so I couldn’t see the mirror and turned off the light.

Mr. Cook was standing beside my bed.

Lights back on, glasses back on, I picked up my book and read until I heard the birds singing.  At breakfast, I told the other writers of my sleepless night. I returned to my room and my white binder, and wrote about a killer’s ghost stalking me in this lovely antebellum farmhouse.

Porches bedroom - legs

My bedroom at The Porches.  I should have put my robe over that mirror!

 

 

Carolyn O’Neal is a Charlottesville author.  She highly recommends The Porches writing retreat. This historic farmhouse built in 1854 on the James River offers a unique experience for authors and artists.

 

 

 

 

2018 Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair! Saturday, October 27th, at City Space on the downtown mall, Charlottesville!

Come for the books, stay for the events! Crafts, workshops, author readings, and music!  Need a map?  Click here!

5 by 7 updates

 

Almost time!  Come to downtown Charlottesville for the 2018 Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair!

Poster with book covers

Don’t miss it!

Show your support for local talent!    Help spread the word everywhere you go by wearing the Blue Ridge Writers Book and Arts Fair t-shirt.   Premium quality, multiple colors, men’s and women’s sizes.  Only $19.99.   Available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G4JXSB6   A1D5DcuV7CL._CLa_2140,2000_A17jwu6+vqL.png_0,0,2140,2000+0.0,0.0,2140.0,2000.0

Searching for Dr. Funkhouser

Finding Fault

All I wanted was to research manmade earthquakes.  I was pulling together ideas for a new novel about villains  triggering an earthquake under a nuclear power plant.  I had visions of them rubbing their hands together as they watched chaos unfold. But how could I research such a thing?  Where would I go to find something as unlikely, as farfetched, and as absolutely insane as a nuclear power plant built on top of an earthquake fault? Well, lucky for me, there’s one in nearby Louisa County, Virginia.

North Anna Nuclear Power Station

North Anna Nuclear Power Station. Photo is from image of the North Anna Nuclear Power Station at the front entrance of the visitor’s center in Louisa County.

The North Anna Nuclear Power Plant was announced in The Daily Progress in 1968 and a couple of years later, after clearing and excavation had begun, a geology professor named John W. Funkhouser discovered the earthquake fault. That was in February, 1970.  I found many interesting articles about the building of the nuclear power plant and the discovery of the fault but one that really stuck out was a small piece about what happened to Funkhouser three years after he discovered the fault.  He was murdered on December 3, 1974 via a single gunshot to the head.

Professor Funkhouser taught geology at John Tyler Community College in Chesterfield, Virginia. He was scheduled to testify before the Atomic Energy Commission (now called the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) in early 1975, but his murder quashed that appearance.  Twenty-four year old unemployed electrician Ray W. Cook, Jr. was convicted of his murder. The more I read, the more questions arose.  What brought Funkhouser to the power plant’s construction site back in 1970?  How did he uncover the fault?  What happened after he told the Virginia Electric and Power Company?

I tried to return to researching for my novel. I found reports of certain human activities triggering earthquakes. Activities such as damming a river to create a massive lake on a previously quiet earthquake fault. This is what geologists call reservoir-induced earthquakes. The construction of Hoover Dam, for instance, created Lake Mead in a part of the country with no previous record of seismicity. Even before the lake was completely full, people reported feeling the ground shake. Another suspect is fracking. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “wastewater produced by the hydraulic fracturing process can cause induced earthquakes when it is injected into deep wastewater wells.”  I contacted geologists and a couple of engineers to ask about the plausibility of my villain’s dastardly scheme. Yes, they speculated, a lake on a fault line plus fracking might trigger an earthquake, so I was rather pleased with myself as I moved forward with writing the first few chapters.

But this man, this Professor John W. Funkhouser, the man who discovered the fault under the North Anna Nuclear Power Plant and was murdered, kept surfacing in my mind.

bizhub-O2128-20180108110501

Photo from the Washington and Lee University yearbook, class of 1947. Taken when Dr. Funkhouser was 21 years old.

Who was he? What was his background? I searched the internet and found articles about Funkhouser and about his murder, including a copy of his death certificate.  I faced the fact that I had to set aside my fictional story.  I had to investigate the real one.  I printed out the death certificate.  Funkhouser was murdered in his home at the Chester Town House Apartments in Chesterfield, Virginia.  I searched online for Chester Town House Apartments but found nothing.  Since the murder was back in 1974, the apartment complex could have changed its name or may have been torn down.  That led me to contact the Chesterfield Planning Department and the Chesterfield Historical Society.  Indeed, the name of the apartment complex had changed.  I typed the new name into Google Maps. There it was.  I typed in John Tyler Community College. The apartments were about eight miles from the campus.  Professor Funkhouser was slowly becoming a real person.  This was where he lived. This was where he taught. This was where he died.  Each new discovery made me want to learn more.

Court Records

I’d never asked for court records before.  I’ve been on a jury but that was my only brush with the world of judges, prosecuting attorneys, and witnesses.  I had to do a bit of research even to know where to start. I wanted detail about the trial of Ray W. Cook, Jr.  Maybe trial transcripts would give me insight into why he shot Professor Funkhouser. I went to the Chesterfield County website and found what I needed.  I contacted the Clerk of Court, The Honorable Wendy S. Hughes, via email and quickly received a polite reply from Karla Viar, Criminal Division Supervisor/Pre-Court, Chesterfield Circuit Court Clerk’s Office. She told me that they’d pulled the files from the murder trial and had them available for me. I emailed Karla. I’d be there the next afternoon.

The drive from my home in Charlottesville to the Chesterfield Circuit Court took a bit over an hour.  I parked, grabbed my purse and notebook, and headed to the door. I didn’t know what to expect. Would they hand me a small file with one flimsy document? Would they have a thick file with stacks of evidence?  My plan was to take photos of each page with my cell phone. That seemed the easiest.  I stepped into the courthouse and was greeted by baggage scanners and armed guards.  “No cell phones. No cameras of any sort allowed in the court house.”  I returned to the car and dropped off my purse.  I returned with only my keys, my notebook, and a pen.  That’s all. This time, I made it through security.

Chesterfield County Court Building

Chesterfield Circuit Court

Ms. Viar was good to her word. The file was waiting for me.  I opened it and began writing.  I wrote down every word.  “Form No. 716 (REV) Virginia: In the Chesterfield General District Court January 29th, 1975, Commonwealth of Virginia V. Ray William Cook, Jr. Order This day came the Attorney for the Commonwealth, and ….” after writing a few full pages my hand began it cramp. The clerk assigned to sit with me while I had the file must have felt pity on me.  “Um, you know we can make copies for you,” she said.  “Fifty cents a page.”

“Do you take credit cards?”

“Yes.”

I ran back to my car for my wallet.  It took an hour or so for her to make and compile all the copies. She copied over fifty pages, most letter length but a few legal papers.  There was also a brown envelope taped closed in the file. “What’s that?” I asked.

“Sealed documents.”

“What do I have to do to get a look inside?”

“You need approval from the judge.”

“What judge?”

“Judge Hauler.”

I wrote down that name.  The information I had in my hands was already pretty incendiary. The copies I held contained details of the crime, a handwritten confession, and a photo; I could only imagine what the sealed documents might hold.  Looks like I had some more legal research ahead of me. How to request a judge to unseal court documents?  I’d work on that when I got home.

I still had a couple hours of daylight left so I drove over to the John Tyler Community College campus, where Professor Funkhouser had taught. It was winter break. I asked a guard where the geology building was and he sent me in the right direction.  I had researched enough about John W. Funkhouser to know he was a brilliant man.  Magna Cum Laude at Washington and Lee and a scholarship to Stanford University for his PhD where he was an Atomic Energy Fellow.  After graduation, he was hired by Carter Oil (part of Esso/Standard Oil) and was sent on expedition to South America where he revolutionized the field of paleopalynology.  In the mid 1960’s, he left big oil for small academia.  Peeking through the windows into the dark and empty classrooms I couldn’t help but be struck by the loss.

I still had one more stop before heading back to Charlottesville. I wanted to see the old Chester Townhouse Apartments. I wanted to see where Professor Funkhouser had lived and where he had died. At the very least, I wanted to drive the route he’d taken when he left work at John Tyler Community College and headed home on that final day in 1974.

The apartment complex was laid out like a tree with a road down the middle and cul-de-sacs branching out on either side. I drove down the first cul-de-sac.  Some of the two-story townhouses were larger than others, perhaps an extra bedroom.  I wanted to take a photo so I’d remember.  I didn’t want people or cars in the photo so I found a quiet townhouse and snapped my cell phone camera. I drove to the next cul-de-sac and saw a sign for the apartment complex’s office.

The young woman who greeted me wasn’t even born when Professor Funkhouser died. The office was a converted townhome, a showroom for potential renters to see before they sign.  I asked when the complex was built and she guessed in the 70’s or 80’s.  I asked if I could look around.  She encouraged it.  I wandered through the kitchen as if it were Professor Funkhouser’s, touching the surfaces as if he had touched them.  He was shot in his kitchen. I’d seen the photo in the court records.  He was killed at 4:30 in the afternoon, dressed in a white shirt and dark pants, his pocket protector neatly in his breast pocket, still filled with pencils and pens.  I returned to my car and drove to the next cul-de-sac and to the next one after that.  Up and down the streets, not knowing what I was looking for.  Clues to which townhouse was his, I guess. Something that looked different from the rest, something that would say a genius once lived here.

I was ready to set my GPS for home when it dawned on me that somewhere buried in the court records had to be his apartment number. Yes, the name of the apartment complex had changed and maybe the numbering had too, but I had to give it a try.  I found his address in the Virginia Uniform Traffic Summons, a report filled out by the detective who arrested Mr. Cook.  The number was there.  Five digits.  I started reading the townhouse addresses. They fit the same five digit pattern. I retraced my steps, winding back through the apartment complex, carefully reading the addresses until I returned to where I had begun at the very first cul-de-sac.   I looked at each number. Not that one.  Not that one.  Then I found it.  There it was. The address was on the front door. I rechecked the summons.  Yes, it was the same number.  Wait a minute.  I checked my cell phone. There was something familiar with that particular townhouse.  I opened up the photo gallery. I enlarged the photo I’d taken when I first arrived.  Could this be Dr. Funkhouser’s townhouse?  There must have been forty or fifty townhomes in the complex, how did I happen to take a photo of his? What were the odds? I reread the number on the front door and immediately felt a connection.  All the time I had spent searching for Dr. Funkhouser and he had found me.

20180119_135143

Photo taken from my car window.

Carolyn O’Neal is continuing her research on the life and death of Professor John W. Funkhouser.  She wrote Judge Hauler of Chesterfield County and did indeed receive permission to open the sealed files.  From those files, she was able to track down a witness and interview him face-to-face.  She has also interviewed (via phone) Dr. Funkhouser’s daughter and one of his John Tyler Community College students.  Carolyn would like to connect with anyone who had worked at the North Anna Power Plant when it was under construction or lived nearby.  She would also like to find anyone involved with the North Anna Environmental Coalition.  And of course, she would like to talk to anyone who knew Dr. John W. Funkhouser.  Contact Carolyn at carolynoneal@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlottesville Book Fair

Poster large 2017

The Charlottesville Book Fair takes place on Saturday, November 18th, at City Space on the Downtown Mall, located at 100 5th Street NE, Charlottesville, VA 22902. City Space is near the Charlottesville City Hall and the Sprint Pavilion.  Parking available at East Market Street garage.

The Charlottesville Book Fair is the second local author book fair I’ve coordinated.  Last year the fair had 12 authors and was held at Writer House.  This year the Book Fair is sponsored by the Blue Ridge chapter of the Virginia Writers Club and has 40 authors, 4 Virginia-based publishers, and hundreds of book!  We needed a larger venue. That’s why this year, the Charlottesville Book Fair will be held at City Space on the downtown mall.

cityspace logo

Click for directions

The list of authors is impressive.  Best selling, award winning, passionate revolutionaries in thought and style. And the range of books is wide enough to entice every reader:  Historical fiction, romance, science fiction, biography, horror, self-help, parenting manuals, children’s picture books, religious, spiritual, and young adult. Books just in time for holiday shopping!

Includes Story Time for preschoolers!

Story time at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm!

Take a look at some of the books!

KINGSLEY by Carolyn O’Neal. After colony collapse disorder finishes off the bees, a mysterious pandemic emerges attacking everyone with a Y-Chromosome.  Fourteen year old Kingsley has more to lose than video games and the attention of the girl he loves.  His mother believes millions of dollars in research can save him and she’ll lie, steal and worse to get it. Can an unscrupulous mother and a spirited girl save the last boy on earth?  Fans of dystopian fiction and eco-thrillers (The Hunger Games, The MaddAddam Trilogy) will love KINGSLEY. 

Ultimate Obsession by Milton Jones. In the aftermath of World War Two, college student Elizabeth Brewer is well aware of the devastation the war had on the available young men. When she meets volatile poet James Campbell, their relationship is passionate yet disturbing. James alternates between tenderness and cruelty to the point of mental illness. Together and apart, Elizabeth and James explore whether beauty and goodness can exist in this post-war world, or will the lust for power destroy all.

 A M Carley’s book, FLOAT • Becoming Unstuck for Writers, is a writer’s handbook and reference guide. A useful source of inspiration – and intervention – when the creative juices aren’t flowing, FLOAT provides writers with numerous tools, plus the steps of the FLOAT Approach to becoming unstuck. In one reviewer’s words, FLOAT is “a must have for authors of all varieties. Actually for all artists, as well. Practical yet fun with real world steps to figuring out the next step in your project.”

TERRY AND THE MONSTER-BEATERS, written by Carolyn O’Neal, Illustrated by Pamela Evans.  Terry Book 5_4_17 aWhen Terry’s sunshine isn’t as bright as usual, she seeks the advice of a Blue Wizard, A Magic Scope, and a Green Sage (because it’s always good to get a second opinion.) From them, Terry learns that an invisible monster is nibbling on her.  They tell her to go to the Monster-Beaters to drive away the monster.  Terry travels to a castle and through a mysterious maze to find the masked Monster-Beaters.  Terry is afraid but she discovers that even though the Monster-Beaters look scary, they are smart, helpful, and kind.

 

Finally…Practical advice and resources for Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers of preschool age children. The Preschool Parent Primer is a trusted guide of best practices and resources for those who care for preschoolers. Pamela Evans, author of the Preschool Parent Primer, is a veteran teacher of over 30 years.  Beyond her preschool classroom, she has developed curricula for various schools and run numerous Children’s programs. The Preschool Parent Primer is a easy to access, “go to” guide, dealing with the many issues and concerns that arise in the preschool years, including: What is normal behavior for a specific age; What to look for in a preschool; The parent-teacher relationship; Socialization; The importance of routine; Potty-training; and much more.

 

Sometimes the Little Town – Poetry by Sara M. Robinson Sara Robinson’s father, Hobby Robinson, was one of the most important photographers of the 20th century to be so little well-known, at least outside the Shenandoah Valley of central Virginia. He chronicled over three generations of Elkton townsfolk, compiling and self-publishing nine books. Using his vast collection of photographs, his own and those he obtained, he gave us a people and a place. SOMETIMES THE LITTLE TOWN is Sara’s gift of ekphrastic poetry inspired by the portraits in her father’s collection. And like her father’s work as a photographer, Sara’s poetry is a tribute to little towns everywhere.

Patsy Asuncion’s Cut on the Bias (Laughing Fire Press) is an adult poetry collection about her world slant as a bi-racial child raised by an immigrant father and American WWII vet. Powerful debut collection… with passionate imagery and deft rhythms…an American story, the story of immigrants all over the world, says Pamela Uschuk, American Book Award winner. She…blends culture survival with political awareness… accessible to readers of all ages and all backgrounds, says poet Nicole Yurcaba. Spell-binding…stories that grasp much of humankind, writes Author Angela Carter. Post WWII immigrants to today’s world drama, Cut on the Bias, considers universal issues.

aois21 media is a cloud-based publishing and production service for creators and consumers everywhere, providing a marketing infrastructure to support self-publishers, the tools and guidance to new authors and performers starting out, and titles and programs that span all genres

Inspired by her family’s experiences, Amy Lee-Tai has crafted an award-winning picture book, A PLACE WHERE SUNFLOWERS GROW. Mari wonders if anything can bloom at Topaz, where she’s interned along with thousands of other Japanese Americans during World War II. The summer sun is blazingly hot, and Mari’s art class has begun. But it’s hard to think of anything to draw in a place where nothing beautiful grows. Somehow, glimmers of hope begin to surface under the harsh sun – in the eyes of a kindly art teacher, in the tender words of Mari’s parents, and in the smile of a new friend. To learn more about the book and author, please visit www.amyleetai.com. According to U.S. Congressman Mike Honda, Amy’s book “shines a light on what we are capable of penetrating on our fellow citizens, and what we are capable of rising above.”

Tiger Pelt, a historical novel for adult readers, was named to Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2015 and awarded the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award’s bronze medal for historical fiction.  “Korea serves as a perfect crucible for Kim’s expansive and impressive historical fiction debut, in which the characters must struggle against overwhelming odds… her vision is powerfully executed, taking readers through all the important landmarks of 20th-century Korean history, including the end of Japanese occupation and the division of Korea.” – Kirkus Reviews, (starred review)

 Clare Sullivan De Lune relives her earlier years and reunites with her family when she goes back to her roots in the South. After an adventurous but unsuccessful campaign for Governor of California her life takes a new turn when she and her heartthrob Henry resettle on the East Coast. Secure in a love that had a risky beginning, they both plunge into challenging new careers. With talent and determination Clare achieves stardom as she turns over a new leaf on the road to happiness. “A very enjoyable read by a novelist who mixes romance, family scenes, workplace scenes, humor, sightseeing info, restaurant meal descriptions and plenty of insight into human nature.” – David Astor, On Literature blog.

 The New York Times bestseller, A Slave in the White House: Paul Jennings and the Madisons, is the story of a courageous man of color who was “enamoured with freedom” and determined to rise. Paul Jennings, born into slavery at Montpelier, was President James Madison’s manservant, and, once free, the author of the first White House memoir. This book sheds new light on Jennings’s complicated relationships with James Madison, the widowed Dolley Madison who broke her promise to free him, and Senator Daniel Webster who lent Jennings his purchase price. It details Jennings’s part in rescuing the portrait of George Washington from British torches, and his later efforts to help 77 men, women, and children reach freedom in the greatest-scale-ever-attempted slave escape.

Heart of a Dragon The Andrachen royal line rests uneasily. King Sebastian’s notorious lust for control spreads trepidation throughout Lismaria as power struggles monger hostility. Kinna’s irrepressible draw to the Dragons seems harmless until a discovery turns her life upside-down. Her search for answers morphs into a movement to overcome repression. But following her heart means danger and death for nearly everyone she loves. Will she choose safety or justice? As Sebastian’s power grows and darkness blankets Kinna’s hopes, her doubts overwhelm. Can she unveil her own heart of a dragon in time to face Sebastian for the ultimate showdown? 

Guardian of the Vale Alayne Worth, a seventeen-year-old Water-Wielder, enters Clayborne Training Institute along with a host of Elementals her age to hone her abilities. When she discovers that her abilities extend far beyond only Water-Wielding, her fears increase as those who thirst for power seek to strip her of the Vale, the source of her talents.Tension blights Clayborne as the Elemental Alliance comes into power, and a clash between Natural Humans and Elementals threatens to destroy all those Alayne loves. Homework, friendship, and romance turn dark as enemies close ranks on Alayne. Will she survive the struggle that eventually shadows all of CommonEarth?

For six hundred years, Fenear, a land where humans can take wolf form, has warred with Maenor, its neighboring kingdom ruled by a ruthless dynasty. The possibility of peace emerges when the Maenoren Overlord, Rhael, enters negotiations with Fenearen leaders Bayne and Silver, but their niece, Rayna, is skeptical. Yet, when Rhael proposes to her, she agrees for the sake of her country, despite her family’s objections and a blossoming romance with her best friend. Suspicion changes Rayna’s decision, but before she can annul the agreement, powerful forces subdue her with a sinister hex. With Fenear and everyone she loves in danger, Rayna must escape and break the hex to save her best friend and homeland.

A Manual for Developing Humans is the third book PMH Atwater was told to write during her third near-death experience.  Based entirely on threes, each section covers the conscioussubconscious, and superconscious aspects of the topic – every topic – for the Manual contains the basics for becoming fully human.  Being  more spiritual is backwards thinking.  The real goal of life is to become who we already are.  “Hu” was the ancient sound of God.  “Hu-Man” meant “God-Man.” Literally, we are each gods in the making.  Twenty-eight thoughtform drawings illustrate this unusual Manual.  Aliveness jumps from every page.   

 Treason in the Secret City “The secret World War II-era nuclear experiments carried on at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, provide ample incentives for spying—and ample opportunities for amateur sleuths.   The pressure cooker of suspicion that permeates the facility makes it nearly impossible to know whom to trust. This sequel to Scandal in the Secret City (2014), which has some basis in fact, is faster-paced than Fanning’s debut while maintaining the 1940s atmosphere and emphasizing the difficulties of wartime life, especially for educated women.” Kirkus Reviews

Eyes Without A Face is a first-person account from a female serial killer. While her sorority sisters were engaged in sex, drugs, and rock and roll, she finds her true calling when she kills her first victim. She doesn’t have a neon sign stating, “Warning! Serial Killer!” following her around, yet she moves through life carrying a secret: She is a killer and no one suspects her. For her first premeditated kill, she selects a distracted victim, stalks her, and chokes her “to see what it looks and feels like to cause someone to die.”

 Beyond the cemetery gates, rows upon rows of headstones are lined up in military precision. Each is inscribed with a soldier’s name and regiment and each of them has a story to tell.   Stories Beneath the Stones: Richmond National Cemetery by Joann Meaker, newly published by American History Press, Staunton, VA, is the result of years of extensive research utilizing a multitude of documents and a variety of source materials exploring the lives of the Civil War soldiers who were buried in the Richmond National Cemetery when it opened 150 years ago. This one-of-a-kind book details information that will be appreciated and valued by descendants, historians, genealogists, as well as those interested in the Civil War and historic cemeteries. For more details of each book check out my website: www.joannmeaker.com

F.A.C.T.S. (Faith and Commitment Through Scripture) A New Testament Bible Study Series, Book 1:  Journey through the New Testament, exploring the period and setting in which the letters were written, as well as the circumstances of the authors when they wrote them. This uncomplicated and easy-to-follow series of studies begins with the earliest written letters, following the writers through their travels and trials until the last book was composed. Each verse is explained in context with the times in an attempt to stay true to the author’s intent. The series is intended for both personal study and group studies.  Other books by Joanne Liggan include her romantic suspense family saga trilogy spanning a 30 year period beginning in the 1970’s and ending in 2030; Heir of Deception, Air of Truth, and Err at Sea.

Linda Palacios, an undocumented college student, crossed the border at age three with her mother, Juanita, to escape their traumatic life in Mexico and to pursue the American dream. Tim Draker, a long-unemployed businessman, decides to take his own life. Before he can carry out his plan, he finds a job as a mechanic in the barrio. While Juanita deals with nightmares of her traumatic past, la migra raids her workplace and she loses her job. Will the three of them allow God to guide them, or will their own desires and goals get in the way of His path?

A lost lamb, a cross, and a conversation with Jesus are the components in this touching, poetic message of forgiveness, mercy, love, and the Savior’s ultimate act of sacrifice. LAMB OF GOD:INSPIRATIONAL STORY AND JOURNAL FOR CHILDREN, by author Christine Maria Jahn, is geared towards ages seven through nine, or second through fourth grades, and includes Bible verses to learn, as well as journal pages for young ones to write their thoughts and prayers. The sketches are black and white to purposely have children concentrate on the story itself and the important message contained within it. However, children can color the sketches if they so choose. There is also plenty of space on the story pages for doodling. A great way to introduce children to the art of journaling without it being overwhelming.

Tabby House presents Virginia-based books for all ages, including Linda Salisbury’s award-winning Bailey Fish Adventure children’s series that combine fiction with Virginia history. She’s also the author of The Sword and the Broom: The Exceptional Career and Accomplishments of John Mercer Langston, which won a silver award in the Young Adult category of Foreword magazine’s national Indies contest in 2017. Langston, Virginia’s first African American Congressman (1888), was born in Louisa County to a white plantation owner and his former slave. It’s a stunning and inspirational story that’s largely unknown today. Jim Salisbury will sell his popular cookbook, Roadkill Roundup, (with samples)—a perfect holiday gift for cooks of all ages.

Elizabeth Van Zandt – Ashes of The Stars: The Stars Series Book 1: Aili Renault doesn’t care that the modern world and billions of people died 200 years ago. She doesn’t care that extremist factions rose up and created another war, but she does care that the war controls her entire life. In a world of kill or be killed, Aili fought back to survive and became what everyone knows as the Reaper. She is feared everywhere she goes, even in her own mind. When Aili meets Kieran, Kai, and Whitestrand, the ghosts of her ruthless, bloody past start fighting back. She is haunted by the memories of those lives she’s destroyed and a dream that never made sense to her before. Now, with eyes wide open, will Aili be able to pull herself out of her crumbling world or will she become ashes of the stars?

Cat Viggolone just can’t get a break. She’d gotten married, but that ended when the husband left her for his younger secretary. She’d wanted children. That flew out the window along with the cheating husband. There’s the career, but working a window at the Virginia DMV can’t really be classified as a great career choice. At thirty-three, her life had become positively dull.   Then the vortex opened. Cat’s life is definitely no longer humdrum and ordinary.

 Judith D. Howell’s SWAMP RITES is a supernatural/horror/romance novel about werewolves. It’s about a reunion weekend for four childhood friends, with love, obsession, secrets, and murder, in a little Louisiana swamp town. SWAMP LEGACY, Book II in the SWAMP SERIES trilogy, is recently published and also available. “Desiring a werewolf might not be so hard, especially when voodoo is involved, but learning to love him could be a lot more difficult.” It is adult reading, scene and language specific.

CAIRNAERIE By M.K.B. Graham  Geneva Snow commits the unpardonable Southern sin, forcing her devastated yet steadfast father to cloister her at Cairnaerie, his Virginia mountain estate. After years alone—and desperate to leave a legacy worthy of the father she loved and lost—Geneva engages an unwitting young history professor to help her to leave Cairnaerie long enough to witness the wedding of her granddaughter—a girl dangerously unaware of their shared lineage. But when an accusation of impropriety, a mail clerk’s malevolence, and a colleague’s revenge converge, the long-kept secret is exposed. And for a second time, Geneva faces a calamity of her own making. Only this time, there is no place to hide.

 Freedom Riders by Jean Young Kilby is a middle-school mystery that brings an era of explosive social change up close and personal through the eyes of two girls. Growing up in the racially segregated South doesn’t bother 12-year-old Jan. She’s pretty clueless, always burying her nose in mystery books. Thelma, however, is a girl with a dream. Someday she wants to be a Freedom Rider like her dad so she can make Mississippi a better place. When Jan meets Thelma, they quickly become entangled in a real-life mystery more complicated than they expected. They are thwarted at every turn in their pursuit of truth. But once they learn friends can come in all colors—once they learn dreams can be shared—amazing discoveries follow.

 Alone in the tapestry of a shimmering green forest, standing on a mist covered mountain top, or crossing a rippling creek, we find her majesty. In that place of serenity, nature sends her emissaries. If only we are willing to see and hear her sometimes subtle yet powerful ways. Mystical Animals of Ancient Oak is a series of true stories that chronicles the journey that Cynthia Fain took after her mother nearly died. Along that unchartered emotional path, nature sent Cynthia her finest healers, including a flightless duck, a cat that served as community ambassador and an aging squirrel.

Rain Makes the Rocks Sing, Inspirations from Nature By Louise M. Mitchell, louise-mitchell@comcast.net   A great gift for nature lovers, spiritual seekers, and anyone wanting the relief that humor and wisdom bring. Ever pick up a little stone that catches your attention and put it in your pocket? This collection of inspirations is for you. Captured in a deck of cards with explanatory book (sold as a set), the voice of wisdom that awakens the light within. “While electronic media are common sources for daily information,” the author says, “so too, is the web of timeless knowledge woven through nature.”

 Retired U.N. spy Mai Fisher leaves a diplomatic reception on a cold, rainy night and dashes for the first cab she sees. The driver’s Serbian tattoo makes her suspicious, and she forces him to admit he was waiting for her—to deliver her to the Russian Mafiya.  Alexei Bukharin left the life of a spy behind to spend time with his wife, Mai Fisher, and finish raising his college-student granddaughter, Natalia. When he brings Mai dry clothes after her encounter, he discovers she’s suffered something that can mean death: Someone knows her true identity. A raid on the Russian thugs’ apartment uncovers something more devastating, a photograph of Natalia at her university.   Who burned Mai? Why is the Russian underworld interested in Natalia? When Alexei discovers the answers, he realizes a decision he made in 1974 has come back to haunt him.

Banished as a boy, Damon Blackbourne vowed never to return to his family’s estate, much less London. However, when his father and brother die unexpectedly, Damon must assume the Malford dukedom and introduce his sisters to society–his worst nightmare. He never planned on Lady Grace Mattersley. The debutante stirs him body and soul. Until she discovers his secret. Grace prefers solitude and reading to social anything. Her family may be pressuring her to marry, but she has other plans. And they don’t include the notorious new Duke of MalfordWill she betray him? Or will she be his saving Grace

His love made her strong, her love saved him.  Rebellion  brews inside Milenda’s heart as the date for the Trials approaches. As the heiress to the throne of Natale, she is forced to choose a consort from the survivors of the grueling quest across the desert. Milenda’s heart belongs to Jaali and wants no part in the ancient and cruel ritual, but the Elders—the true rulers of Natale—will not back down. Jaali was brought from the far North as a child slave. His only chance to be with the woman he loves is to volunteer for the Trials, no matter how dangerous or how much Milenda objects.

Revolutionary new way to look at relationships and marriage that offers a 4-step program for achieving a profoundly fulfilling and lasting bond with a partner.  In a culture of individualism that focuses on the behavior of each individual in a partnership, this book brings in a third entity, “Couple” that is greater than the sum of its parts and is the key to creating and maintaining lifelong love.  Couple is part of a process that is facilitated by completing the 4 tasks of Lifelong Love in the following order: Commitment to a common vision for the relationship, Cooperation to achieve that committed vision, Communication that serves the common vision, not only the needs of the individuals, and a Community of other couples who support and nurture the relationship. Filled with examples based on the authors’ experience as clinical psychologists and co-founders of Couples Coaching Couples, Inc., as well as their 40-year marriage, this book provides the tools you need to have the profoundly satisfying and lasting relationship of your dreams

         

Meghan and Kyle head off to spend some quality mother-son time at a resort along the idyllic Lake Oleander. The picturesque and secluded escape promises a nearly perfect summer vacation. The seemingly placid lake also holds a dark secret; the bodies of those sacrificed to the local deity. Their arrival sets the gears of an ancient prophecy in motion. They find themselves suddenly set against unimaginable forces, ancient and evil, hoping to either forestall or accelerate the prophecy’s fruition. Deep beneath the bedrock of the town of Riapoke, an evil lay festering for hundreds of years. It waits patiently for the inevitable day it will taste freedom and claim what its rightful heritage.  

Much has been written about Thomas Jefferson, from drafting the Declaration of Independence until his death, but little was known about our iconic founding father’s first 31 years of life: his adolescence, friends, boarding schools, family deaths, college years, courting Martha, law practice, Shadwell house fire, earthquakes, flood, and more! The 2017 Pacific Book Review “First Place” Award winning biography, Thomas Jefferson-From Boy to Man is a biographical and historical account of Jefferson’s journey to manhood. Written in journal format and supplemented with background text, it includes 65 photos to enhance the reader’s imagination. Now you can listen to Thomas Jefferson reminisce about his youth in the new audio book, which was just awarded “Finalist” in the Multi-Voice Acting category by the Audio Publishers Association! To understand the man, it is important to learn about the boy!

What About Me?  by Marc Boston is the story of a little girl, the youngest of three, who desperately seeks the attention of her two older sisters.  They go about the business of having fun, blithely unaware of their littlest sister’s attempts to join in the play.  This story touches on how discovering our own gifts makes us more self-empowered.

OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS Zachary Tamer has published three children’s books, The Story of the Snugglefink, The Return of Foggitytree and The City of Paws2Care. All of the stories follow the same characters and deal with themes such as environmental protection, volunteerism, and seeing more than ourselves in the mirror! The City of Paws2Care can only be purchased online and all proceeds go to the therapy dog company Paws2Care. All stories are for children ages 5-9. Most recently Zachary and his father collaborated on a poetry book, Fleeting Moments, which reflects their life experiences and their unique writing styles

  Exciting Adult Science Fiction Adventure in a Universe of Uncanny Aliens — the Forlani Saga novels by J. M. R. Gaines
Life Sentence — Convicted of three murders, whistle-blower Willie Klein finds himself transported to a penal colony on Domremy where his unlikely job is to kill fellow colonists before they fall into the clutches of insectoid Locals. His gruesome task is only relieved by the growing affection of Entara, an alien pleasure worker from a matriarchal world. Until their brief happiness is destroyed by an arranged marriage and sinister conspirators. Spy Station — When Forlani delegate Entara and her eldest daughter Ayan’we are summoned to the Interzonal Peace Conference, they find themselves in a web of deceit. Preventing an apocalyptic war between the belligerent Song Pai and the mysterious Blynthians seems nearly impossible.

 

Marketing My Self Published Book: A first-time author’s journey

First things first

Before any public appearances, clarify your on-line/social media message.  Who are you? What is your book about? Is it funny? Romantic? Dramatic? Does your book reflect your passions? Your message should be in your on-line presence. I have a website, an author Facebook page, and a twitter account.  That’s where readers go to learn about me and my novel, KINGSLEY.

Getting Book Signings on the Calendar

Indie Bookstores are a great place for indie authors.  But, be forewarned, they sometimes have problems with selling self-published… and they have a good reason: Amazon is their biggest competitor.   This can be a problem is you are using Create Space to print your book.

ON THE OTHER HAND…. Independent coffeehouses that also sell books are very accommodating and lots of fun.  Owners and managers are always looking for events to bring people in.  And customers in coffeehouses are looking for reading material.  Even if customers don’t buy my book right away, I’ve told them about my novel and given them a flyer.

11410705_189079081435360_1220242793_n

Generally my take  from the book sales is split 80-20 (I get 80%, they get 20%), especially if they are processing credit cards. But keep in mind that the purpose of this book signing isn’t just about the money.  The real purpose is to get your name and book out there.  Expand your reach to different geographical areas if you can afford the time and cost of travel.

How to make contact

Stopping in the coffeehouse for a drink and a bite to eat is the best introduction!   See the set up and talk to the staff.  Perhaps even talk with the manager.  If you can’t talk face to face, most coffeehouses have websites. Send them an email!  Here is an example:

Hi Nick,

I am a local author- I live in Charlottesville-and I was wondering if Milli Joe’s is interested in hosting a book signing. I would take care of publicity and would bring everything needed.

My novel is set in Virginia – including Charlottesville- so there is lots of local interest.

I hope we can work out a date.

Thank you very much,
Carolyn O’Neal
Carolynoneal@comcast.net

Say you get something like this in response:

Hi Carolyn,

Glad to hear you’re interested in hosting your signing at Milli!  I’m definitely very interested, we’ve hosted a couple in the past & I really enjoy this kind of thing.  We do have to be somewhat selective in booking these events to make sure they send the kind message we can get behind as an organization.  Could you tell me a little about the book?  Thanks!
Nick
Now the ball is back in your court:
Hi Nick,
Thank you so much for getting back to me.  I am an environmentalist so I usually write ecologically-themed fiction.  KINGSLEY is the title of my novel.   It’s set in Virginia (including Charlottesville) and centers on a 14 year old boy (named Kingsley) facing an environmentally driven pandemic. Comparable titles would be Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam Trilogy in that KINGSLEY starts in the present and ends around 40 years in the future.   I would recommend KINGSLEY to readers 14 years old or older.  I does have some complex science but no explicit sex or violence.
You can read more about KINGSLEY, including reviews, on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/28PfNhL
I’ve attached the flyer that I hand out at book signings.  You’ll notice that there’s a bee on the cover.  I tell people stopping by my table that in KINGSLEY,  I have taken the real world devastation of the honeybees and moved it up the food chain to humans.  This usually get their attention.  Everyone walks away with something from my table, whether it is a book, flyers from my favorite environmental groups, or insight into how they can help preserve the honeybees.
I’m flexible on date and time for the book signing.
Best regards,
Carolyn O’Neal
Set the Date and Time for this book signing and start the process again for your next book signing.

Note: This is where some prep work comes in handy.  I mentioned handing out flyers at book signings.  Flyers are also a good to give to the coffeehouse manager as an introduction to you and your book.  They should tell readers something about your book, including the cover, and contact information.

Single flyer

Drop off flyers at the coffeehouse a week before the book signing so customers will know you’re coming.  Be sure your social media is ready so customers can read about you and your book in advance.  Contact local newspapers and post your book signing on their events calendars.  Post the event on all your social media and ask friends and family to share.  Send emails about the event to everyone you know and tell everyone you see.

Finally, be prepared for whatever happens, whether you sell all the copies of your book or none at all.  You’ve spread the word and sharpened your pitch.   Pick yourself up and contact another coffeehouse and set another date.

Practice, practice, practice.

Prepping for your book signing….  Coming in my next blog post

Thank you, Princess Leia

When Star Wars came out in the summer of 1977, I was 20 years old. I enjoyed the movie but I didn’t get Princess Leia. Princess?  Really?

princess-passes-away

Carrie Fisher, our Princess, passes away.    StarWars.com

She didn’t look like a princess.  She didn’t wear sparkling gowns to the ball.  She didn’t even go to a ball! She didn’t cry when she was captured.  She didn’t swoon when she was rescued. She did none of these.  She took charge.  She grabbed Luke’s gun and shot an escape route right into the garbage pit, and then jumped in head first.  What kind of Princess does that?

Truth is I don’t remember watching any shows with Princesses when I was growing up.  I liked action and heroes so I watched WESTERNS!  Bonanza, The Rifleman, and High Chaparral, to name a few.  Handsome men and daring adventures.  If you’ve seen any these series, you know that women had one role—to marry the male lead and then promptly die.  Shot by a stray bullet during a gunfight was the usual culprit.  That gave time for one last kiss before dying in the male lead’s arms. Sure there were the occasional barmaids like Miss Kitty on Gunsmoke, but for most women in westerns, their roles were to die.  What was the reason behind these oft-repeated 60-minute courtship/marriage/death scenarios?  This was the 60’s remember.  Men didn’t cry on TV or in real life.  Not unless they had a good reason and a dead wife was a good reason.  Dead wives gave the male leads a reason to cry or seek revenge or go temporarily insane. All of which made for great TV but wasn’t much of a role model for impressionable preteen female viewers like me.

Carolyn on her big brother's shoulders, probably watching westerns and pretending to be a cowboy.

Carolyn on her big brother’s shoulders, probably watching westerns and pretending to be a cowboy.

Then came Star Wars and things changed.  The most popular motion picture on the planet had a pretty young Princess who wasn’t just as a plot device.  She didn’t wear ball gowns or worry about her hair.  She didn’t pine over a boyfriend or worry about her wedding. She was tough! She challenged the men who captured her and bested the men who rescued her, all the while never losing who she was by trying to be just one of the guys.  She never lowered herself in an effort to seek popularity or approval.

Forty years later, TV and movies have a slew of tough young heroines:  Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones, Rey and Jyn Erso in the latest Star Wars movies.  And writers are emboldened to have strong female characters, too.  As the author of KINGSLEY, I know a thing or two about writing powerful female characters.  I have heroes and villains, scientists and tradesmen all who are women. (per the Kirkus Reviews … KINGSLEY sports “a strong cast of varied and complex women.”) It’s actually the guys that need rescuing.  I like to think that Princess Leia would be proud.

Kingsley1A2 boy and honeycomb 1

 available on Amazon.com