Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Publication Day of New Novel and Some Recent Reads

The fifth book in my John Ross Boomer Lit series, Reunion of  Familiar Strangers, hits the online bookstores today.

The e-version of the novel has been available on preorder from Amazon since Aug. 27. It should now be in both e-book and print if everything goes as planned from Wings ePressAnd with the book being printed and distributed by Lightning Source, a division of Ingram, it is available to bookstores, libraries, and other places that sell and purchase books.
In this novel, John and Sally attend his 50th high school class reunion. It's an event that has been mentioned in the four previous books. He doesn't want to go but reluctantly agrees to because his daughter Chloe has paid all expenses as a gift to him.

John runs across an array of old classmates, creating a sense of mixed emotions in him. Some he wishes he had stayed in contact through the years, several he remembers by name only, and a few he didn't care to ever see again. I hope it's an enjoyable read, one that brings back many good memories and possibly a few bad remembrances as you recall your reunions.

And now a couple recent reads:

Noel Prince seeks answers to an array of problems in this coming-of-age novel, the second book in Chris Boucher's "Pivot" series for young adults. The story centers on his later father's actions while serving in Afghanistan and how it affects the family. Noel's tenacity drops him in the middle of an event that proves enlightening in his search for the truth. Basketball plays a role in this story about family.

Three 66-year-old men get together for a mini-reunion on Cape Code. They are longtime friends but have traveled different paths through the years. The one thing they have in common is a woman who disappeared from their lives. Richard Russo provides adequate backstory in this novel about how lives intersect over the course of time. Russo is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls

Until the next time . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Mackinac Island: A Trip Back in Time

 My wife and I fulfilled a "bucket list" trip earlier this month when we traveled to idyllic Mackinac Island to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. 

Photo by Michael Embry
Overlooking the bay
The 4.35 square mile island is located on Lake Huron,  between Michigan's upper and lower peninsulas. The islet is listed as a National Historic Landmark. Mackinac Island State Park covers about 80 percent of the area.

While the island has been a popular destination since the late 19th century, the 1980 movie "Somewhere In Time," starring Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve, and Christopher Plummer,  brought more exposure to the picturesque locale. A popular event is the Somewhere in Time Weekend (Oct. 29-31), held annually at the hotel.

Photo by Michael Embry
Grand Hotel 
After arriving at Mackinaw City (lower peninsula) or St. Ignace (upper peninsula), visitors board ferries to the island that takes about 25 minutes to reach one of three docks. One of the views, as you approach the island, is the majestic Grand Hotel, a 19th-century Victorian-style structure that overlooks the bay. 

Hotels, restaurants, fudge shops, historic buildings, parks, and churches, and souvenir stores line  Main Street, from one end to the other. Something you won't see is motorized vehicles since they are prohibited on the island (the exception is carts on the Grand Hotel golf course but that's because the grounds are private property.)

Photo by Michael Embry
Bicyclists rule the streets
If there's something you have to watch out for, it's bicycles so look both ways before crossing the street.  You'll see hordes of bicyclists traversing the numerous paths and roads on the island. A lot of folks bring their bikes on the ferry to tour the island. Visitors can also rent bikes.

Photo by Michael Embry
"Road apples"
There are horse-drawn carriages and buggies that take visitors to most places (we took a leisurely tour on a carriage). And the island being so small, you can walk to many places or hike the marked paths in the forested parts. But be careful where you step because horses leave their mark in various places (a carriage driver referred to the clumps as "road apples.") 

Photo by Michael Embry
Fort Mackinac
Besides the Grand Hotel (where we splurged on lunch but didn't stay), other points of interest include Fort Mackinac, St. Ann's cemetery, Arch Rock, and several museums. We especially enjoyed touring the fort and hearing about its history from the costumed guides. The restaurants were a bit pricey, but the food was very good. My wife liked the whitefish at Mary's Bistro Draught House.

You'll discover that fudge is a popular product, so much so that Mackinac Island is regarded as "America's Fudge Capital," with an annual festival dedicated to the sugary concoction (Aug. 27-29 this year). 

While sitting on the porch of the Lake View Hotel, we talked to a couple from Troy, Ohio, frequent visitors to the island. The man said little has changed since his parents took him there in the 1950s. I bet if you could go back in time to the '50s, perhaps his parents would say it hasn't changed much since the turn of the century.

That's a big part of the charm of Mackinac Island, an escape that harkens back to a simpler time and place.

Until the next time . . . 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Cover and Title Reveal of New Novel

 We're a month away from the publication of my next novel, the fifth in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. 

And today, I'm announcing the title and revealing the cover. Drum roll, please:

The cover was designed by graphic artist Trisha Fitzgerald-Jung, who has produced many covers for Wings ePress in the past few years.  She designed the last two  books in the series, "New Horizons" and "Make Room for Family."

As the title suggests, John and Sally Ross attend his 50th high school reunion, an event mentioned in the first novel, "Old Ways and New Days," in 2015. He's not keen about going but reluctantly decides to make the trip because his daughter, Chloe, has picked up the tab for everything. It turns out to be a memorable blast from the past as he encounters old friends and "familiar strangers."

This is my 11th novel and should be available on pre-order at Amazon and Barnes and Noble soon. If you're interested in a postcard announcing the book, send your address to I have a limited supply so get in touch with me soon (put "Postcard" in the subject line).

Until the next time . . .

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Spreading the Word About Blurbs

Are blurbs more effective in brick-and-mortar stores where prospective readers could pick up the book off a shelf and read the blurbs on the back cover or on one of the inside front pages? Or are they stronger on websites with catchy phrases to lure in potential readers?  

In other words, do they help readers find out what the book is about and generate sales? 

There are basically two types of blurbs. One is generated by the author or publishing house and generally found on the back cover.  Other blurbs are solicited by authors or publishing houses for use in an author's book. But there are exceptions. 

By Burgess, Gelett -, Public Domain,
Gelett Burgess, an American humorist, author, and artist, coined the word in 1907, defining it as "a flamboyant advertisement; an inspired testimonial." He used it in the promotion of his book, "Are You a Bromide?" 

All of my novels have blurbs, written by me. Several include additional blurbs from others who read the advanced reader copy, and I've written blurbs on books for authors. I've read blurbs on digital and traditional books. And I've ignored some blurbs because they are basically sales pitches and generally over the top in praise. Not that there's anything wrong with that but most of us know the primary reasons they're used—to attract attention and increase sales.

When I write blurbs or ask for them, I prefer those that capture the essence of the novel in two or three sentences. If the blurbist (is that a word?) can do that, then there's no reason for any hyperbole. Believe me, it's difficult to do that in a few sentences.

But what do others say about blurbs?

The blogger Charvi maintains in a post that blurbs "can seriously make or break your book." She believes they give readers some knowledge about the book's genre; provide readers with an idea of what they're reading; and give a hint as to the writing style (of course, that depends on the author's blurb). 

A post on Busybird says the blurb "defines what the book is about in 200 words" and that it creates mystery but "mystery can't give the story away." In other words, arouse the reader's interest to read the book. 

Besides writing a good book worthy of readers, it takes a strong blurb and eye-catching cover art as well as word-of-mouth recommendations to gain a degree of attention in a packed and growing marketplace that had more than 750,000 books published in 2020.

I suppose I should add one more element to a book's success: luck. 

Until the next time . . .    


Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Writing in the Mood

 While having lunch with a longtime friend, he mentioned that he enjoyed my novels but confessed that he almost couldn't finish one because he found it depressing. 

He said he stayed with it and was relieved when it lightened up to some extent. I thanked him for the feedback. I told him that the novel probably reflected my state of mind at the time, but also that it was a mood that I wanted to convey to the readers. From his observation, I believe I succeeded.

The novel in question is Old Ways and New Days, the book that launched my John Ross Boomer Lit series in 2015 (I retired that same year).

The story begins with John Ross clearing out his office, where he was sports editor at a newspaper. The paper is being downsized so he takes an early buyout. But he is depressed as part of his life has been turned upside-down. He has spent most of his adult life in the workplace. Now he has to find a new purpose in life. 

John wrestles with these feelings of emptiness for part of the book until he gets involved in a community activity. He has a wife who provides moral support.  He also gets a dog. And then he begins to reconnect with some old friends, all retired, who help him gain perspective on his life.

There are various moods in novels and other forms of fiction as well as nonfiction — from dark to humorous to melancholy to fatalistic and everything in between and beyond.

Mood is created by the characters, especially the protagonist and that person's state of mind. In Old Ways and New Days, John was depressed by the turn in his life. He was in a deep funk. 

Mood is also conveyed in settings. The opening setting with John, alone in his office, putting personal belongings, books, and memorabilia in a box. While that initial scene invokes sadness, later scenes in the book have him accepting these "new days" in his life.

John drives home in the dark, alone in his thoughts, he thinks about the previous years he spent at the newspaper and what the future will hold for him. 

As the series has moved on to three other books, and a fifth being released on Oct. 1, they present different moods as John is dealing with new challenges and opportunities in his life. 

Different moods can be felt with novels, while some carry from the first page to the last. And when deciding on what to read, don't we also choose books depending on our mood at the time?

For more tips about mood, check out these posts (and Google for more):

Literary devices: Mood

Novel writing: How to create strong mood

How to set the mood in your novel

Until the next time . . .

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Manuscript Report: Galley Finished and Recent Reads

It's been a while since I last posted (a little more than two months) and there's really no excuse for it. I believe it may have been a mild, or perhaps moderate, case of writer's block because I've never gone that long without posting something.

Did you miss me? Don't answer that! 

It's not like I've been sitting around doing nothing I've read two manuscripts from friends for blurbs to be included when their novels are published. 

I also read another book, mine. 

It was the galley to proofread for any typos or other problems. It's probably the 12th or 13th time I've read the manuscript, which will be a published work on Oct. 1. I'll have another post about it in a week or so that will include the cover. 

As for the galley, I didn't find many things to fix, which is good. And I thought the novel read well — if I say so. I thought my editor and copyeditor did a great job in preparing the novel for readers. 

It will be the fifth novel in the John Ross Boomer Lit series. The most recent was "Make Room for Family," which was released last Feb. 1. Time flies. 

Here are couple recent reads from the young adult market: 

Ken Hodge's coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in Oregon in the decade before World War II. Hamilton Skutt, the narrator, has plenty of tales to tell, with some salty language to go along with his humorous escapades with family and friends. Skutt certainly had a colorful life that brought him into contact with lots of people including a mysterious Mexican who enters and leaves his life, always handing him a card that has him perplexed about what it means.
Mike Ryan weaves a time-travel novel for young adults that provides history lessons as well. The story centers around Gordon Beckwith, a history buff, who lands a summer job working in the Massachusetts government. He discovers a time portal that carries him back to the Revolutionary War. The story presents interesting characters, mostly young teens, who bring diverse backgrounds as they try to grow and work together. 
Until the next time . . .

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Manuscript Report: Back to the Editor and Recent Read

My latest manuscript is back in the hands of my able and trusting editor. She'll make the edits, send it on to a proofreader, and format the work into a galley proof. 

I probably added another 800 words to the manuscript, bringing the total to about 60k. There were some transitions needed between scenes, dialogue fixes, and additional descriptive passages in the "show, don't tell" category.

The galley will return to me for a final read and minor edits for any typos as well as grammatical errors, and misspellings that may have slipped through on the first edits. If you're wondering if I'm getting tired of reading and editing the manuscript, well you're right. But it's a process that has to be done to make things right for the writer and reader.

While I'm busy with the words, the graphic artist at Wings ePress will try to capture the essence of the words into a book cover that will pique the interest of readers. 

If all goes well, the manuscript and cover will magically (at least in my mind) transform into a book, the fifth in the John Ross Boomer Lit series, on Oct. 1. 

And here is a recent read:

William H. Coles's book is for those who are interested in writing fiction, providing examples of how to approach different areas such as scenes, characters, structure, dialogue, and revision. He's the author of novels, short stories, and essays,  He also created, a useful website with resources for writers, illustrators, and readers of literary fiction. Check it out!

For those on Goodreads, feel free to follow and/or friend me by clicking here.

Until the next time . . .