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Plain Talk For Writers: A Sense of Place

No, I'm not talking about book settings, though they're important and wonderful when done well. I'm talking about YOUR place in the world of writing. If you're published, you probably already have an idea of where you fit, and it probably bothers you a little that it isn't where you'd like to be or where you thought you'd be. If you're not yet published, you should spend some time thinking about where you will fit in once you show your work to the world. Before publication, many writers have an inflated idea of the importance of their work. I'm approached all the time at book signings by people who claim they have the next bestseller in mind or in progress. The fact that they tell me about it is a hint that they don't know the process at all. There's hope in their eyes, a fantasy scenario where I grab them by the arm and say, "Wow! I need to tell my agent right away about your completely awesome idea." Well, I won't. In

Recap: Alpena Book Festival

It was great! Good weather, great fans, knowledgeable authors, and wonderful downtown businesses, especially our sponsors: Blue Phoenix Books, Olivet Book & Give, and the George M. Fletcher Library! But I won't tell you: I'll show you!  Volunteers make an event, and we had some great ones, including S-in-Law Julie and her niece Skyla, who took these pics.  Other helpers P.J. & Kaylee had a bit of trouble with tangled balloons.  Loved what Allen & Goel Marketing Company did with the tote bags.  Author Elizabeth Buzzelli shares a laugh with a fan.  Bob of Bob's Bullpen demonstrates some facets of graphic arts.  "My Favorite Book" tree  Love to see a kid enjoying a book! Panel at Blue Phoenix Books: What Makes a Genre, and Which Ones Do You Read? l to r: Christine Johnson, Connie Doherty, P.J. Coldren, Laura Kolar, Chris Chagnon  Signing for Clarence, a voracious reader and nice man.  Author Susan Froetschel with a new f

Saturday, Sept. 26: Alpena Book Festival

Welcome to the Alpena Book Festival! All visitors who register for the ABF will receive a free Passport. At each panel or participating business they visit, they’ll get a stamp on their Passport. A completed Passport (10 stamps) enters the visitor into a drawing for baskets of prizes donated by authors, publishers, and Downtown businesses. Visitors who donate to READ* ($10.00 suggested donation) receive a tote bag filled with books and other freebies. Tickets found in the tote bags can be used to enter drawings for additional prize baskets. Tickets can be purchased separately, but the tote bags are a great deal. Sessions listed below are open to all, but space might be limited. All sessions run 50 minutes, leaving 10 minutes to get to the next one. Authors will return to the bookstore that has their books after their sessions to meet readers and sign. 10:00 Panel discussion: Stories That Inspire-Olivet Book & Gift Panelists: Christine Johnson/ Zachary Bartels/D

"What Are You Working On?"

Every once in a while, I update readers here, because so often I get questions about "What's next?" Here's a rundown: The Loser series is finished, at least for now. The first two are out as audio books. The third is in the pipeline, but the narrator is at university and just had a baby, so she's asking for patience. The Simon & Elizabeth series will have one more installment (#5), but it's going to be a while. I'm slow and so is the publisher of this series. (To their credit, they like to get it right.) The Dead Detective series will have its final story sometime in early 2016. The manuscript is not complete, but the story's down. The Sleuth Sisters series book #4 will probably be next. It's in my head but not written down anywhere yet. My new/old standalone mystery about the death of a friendship in northern Michigan is out. (It used to be just an e-book but I rescued it, got a new cover made, and arranged for print cop

A Few of My Favorites

I love musicals, on stage or on video. See if you can match the character to the show. 1. Audrey                                                    ___ Guys & Dolls 2. McCavity                                                ___ Cats 3. Dodger                                                    ___ Phantom of the Opera 4. Frankincense                                           ___ Little Shop of Horrors 5. Ado Annie                                               ___ Lil Abner 6. Roxy                                                        ___ Kiss Me, Kate 7. Sarah Brown                                            ___ Oliver! 8. Lilli Vanessi                                             ___ Oklahoma! 9. Stupefying Jones                                     ___ Chicago 10. Raoul                                                     ___ Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Answers 7/2/10/1/9/8/3/5/6/4

Movie Musicals

I can't resist watching them. Last night it was Singing in the Rain , and today I can't get "Good Morning to You" out of my head. I know I shouldn't watch. I know visions of Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, and Gene Kelly will dance through my head all day long, pushing out thoughts I really need, like where the plot of this next book is going. Doesn't matter. I will stop anytime I'm channel surfing for "Summer Love" from Grease , "America" from West Side Story, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" from Kiss Me, Kate , "Feed Me, Seymour" from Little Shop of Horrors , or "Lonesome Polecat" from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. I know they're all on YouTube, but I try to blank it out of my consciousness. If I were to start, who knows how long I'd go? And by the way, that's just the beginning of my list. You can fill in your own favorites.

Check Your Reading

Readers are smart people. We know that. Reading almost anything makes you learn things, even if they're not massively important things. Non-fiction is the most reliable source for learning, although you have to be careful whose nonfiction it is. Recent studies showed that reading fiction can make a person more empathetic, presumably because you put yourself in the place of others and see life from viewpoints other than your own. Over time we develop reading habits, and that's both good and bad. If you always read one genre and even one sub-genre, you're going to end up in a rut. Publishers encourage this, hoping and expecting that readers will buy the next book in a series by their favorite author, even if it's pretty much the same as the book before it and the one before that. Sadly, they can get sloppy if they think buyers are locked-in to the series. The last book I read by one of my favorite authors was poorly edited and so much like the rest that there was