August 30, 2011

We’re not in Kansas anymore, oh wait, yes, we are

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 12:03 pm

What with my husband’s computer being flaky (read: meeting a slow, ungainly end) and the hours we lose going this way instead of that, east rather than west, my time on the web has been way too limited.

But I did want to say hello from the road, and sum up a few adventures we’ve been having.

But first, no blog post written during this pre-pre-book tour we’re doing would be complete without a quick update from the American bookstore scene circa 2011. I’m not sure whom to quote first–or how to capture the ebullient nature of the booksellers we’re meeting. On the way out, I stopped in at Calico Books in Broomfield, CO to meet Becky F2F. Becky is a longtime Facebook friend, and original supporter of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

On this trip back, I got to see Becky’s mom’s bookstore in Fort Collins, CO. Becky’s mom wasn’t there, but another bookseller named Pam was, and she said the store had had its best season yet. “The economy is helping us,” she said. “What’s cheaper entertainment than a book?” Since Book Lovers accepts books in trade, you can rid your house of some clutter-to-you that will become entertainment-fodder for someone else and garner brand new reads–all in one fell swoop.

But back to our travels.

Things are different on the road. *We’re* different on the road. The behaviors we must contend with in our kids are different–lesser than things we face when they’re running free, crossing streets, and other elements of ever encroaching freedom are at play–but perhaps more intense given that we’re all contained in a capsule moving at 70 mph together for six or more hours a day.

Even things like the sky are different on the road. It’s really true that it’s big out here. You have to turn your head 90 degrees in each direction to take the whole thing in.

You meet friends you’d never otherwise have on the road. We crossed from Colorado into Kansas late yesterday–into a town both cleverly and obviously named Kanorado–and did something we had yet to have done by this, our fourth trip across the whole vast country. We almost ran out of gas.

The dash said we had 25 miles left (which I didn’t entirely trust anyway; I mean, how does the car *know*) and we had gotten off at an exit that clearly stated ‘gas’ as in ‘gas here, not to worry,’ but when we arrived at what looked to be a station, there were no pumps, no sign, and no people. Whatever gas had once been there had gone the way of climate change and apocalyptic crash.

At least so it felt to me, toward the end of a long day, in a state we’d never been in before, with unending miles of dusty road stretching in either direction, not a soul on it.

Then a pickup truck pulled out from across another, even smaller, road, and I flagged the driver down. This might be something I’d be wary of doing back in NJ, but as I say, things are different on the road.

The man pulled into the gritty, gas-lacking lot our car sat in. He had a kind face, folds worn in deeply by wind and sun. I told him the problem, feeling dumb and discomfited and like I never fit in anywhere.

“How much you got?” the man asked. “There’s a station 17 miles down the road.”

I told him I should have 25 miles’ worth.

“I’ll follow you,” the man said. “Make sure you’re okay.”

I watched the miles tick down on the dash–we had 20 left, then 15, then 10–and on that blank stretch of road. The gauge claimed we had just the slightest bit more gas than we had miles to go.

We made it to a gas station and the man in the pickup pulled in behind us, to make sure we were okay.

And even though the gas station was strange–not one of the global corporations that may soon go the way of the dinosaur–and we didn’t know where we were sleeping that night and my car was so thirsty it cost us fifty bucks to fill up–there was a sense of being exactly where we were meant to be.

On the road.

August 17, 2011

Made It Moment: Wayne Zurl

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 1:11 am

A New Prospect

Wayne Zurl’s may be one of the most hopeful Moments ever. For anyone who writes seriously, honing craft, polishing words, and not resting till it’s the best she can make it, yet doubts whether he has arrived, please read this post. As Wayne says, You’re already a pro.

And he should know.

Wayne Zurl

I still ask myself if I’ve made it. My writing career has gone through several stages. From 1996 to 2006, after I retired from a police department in New York, I wrote 26 non-fiction magazine articles. I received cash for some, magazine subscriptions for others, and a half-dozen copies of the issues my articles appeared in for a few. Not much of a money making enterprise, but it was fun to see my name in print and get compliments from the readers I met.

While I was working on my full-length novel, A NEW PROSPECT, I wrote several novelettes featuring the same characters from the Prospect Police Department. Because of the length—too long for a short story and too short for a novel, they were virtually unsellable to the mainstream mystery magazines. But somewhere (I can’t remember where) I found a publisher who wanted stories of between 8,000 and 11,000 words that would translate to fifty-five to seventy minute “commuter” audio books. I sold her the first one and now am waiting for number eight to be released shortly.

I receive royalty checks faithfully, but 8% of a retail price of $3.99 each only allows me to take my wife to lunch once a month. I’m a writer with a steady pay check, but have I arrived yet? After release of the first audio book, I felt like an actor wanting a primetime network TV series and only landing a job on a daytime soap opera.

Following a long and difficult battle looking for a traditional publisher, I finally received a welcome “Greetings, we’d like you to be one of our publishing family” letter. In January of this year my 81,000 word mystery novel, A NEW PROSPECT, was released by a small independent press. The layout and choice of font look excellent. The cover art is as good as recent books by Robert B. Parker or Nelson DeMille. But greedy bugger that I am, I still ask the same question. Have I made it? Can I call myself a professional mystery writer? I wanted to be accepted by a large New York publishing house, receive a big cash advance, and be interviewed on the Today Show.

In May 2011, I received more good news. A NEW PROSPECT was chosen as best mystery of the year at the 2011 Next Generation Independent Publishing Professional’s Book Awards. I feel good now and guess I’ve done well.

But even if some of the things I’ve described never happened, should I have felt like a professional writer before? I tried to draw parallels to other careers I’ve had and at what point during those jobs could I call myself a pro.

The moment I raised my hand and swore an oath to uphold the Constitution and defend the United States, I was a professional soldier and I’d yet to fire a shot in battle. When I was hired by the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation and sent to the police academy, I had yet to arrest anyone, but I was a professional police officer.

So, for anyone who seriously writes fiction or non-fiction intending it for publication and can honestly say their end product looks good, go out and have business cards printed saying you’re a writer. You’ll be a pro and the rest will come later.

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College, served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Today he lives in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife Barbara.

Eight of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been produced as audio books and simultaneously published as eBooks. The novelette, REENACTING A MURDER is scheduled for publication in 2011 by Echelon Press.

August 15, 2011

Made It Moment: Neil Plakcy

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 1:54 am


After years of reading and enjoying Neil Plakcy’s posts on a listserv we’re both part of, I finally get to welcome him to the blog. From reading Neil’s posts, I thought I had a handle on what his Moment was likely to be. But what he said surprised me–and I bet it will you, too.

Or maybe it won’t. Some of you will immediately understand. And isn’t that what Made It Moments are really all about?

Neil Plakcy

I vividly recall the day in April 1979 when I discovered that my senior honors thesis, a very youthful novel that will forever remain unpublished, had been accepted for graduation. As I left Bennett Hall, the Gothic pile that housed the English department at the University of Pennsylvania, my feet barely touched the ground. I was sure I had received the key to my literary career.

Fast forward another twenty-four years, to Friday September 5, 2003. I came home from work and found an email from Greg Herren, a noted mystery author working as an editor for Haworth Press, a small academic publisher, which also published GLBT fiction.

He wrote, “I have finished reading Mahu and really enjoyed it. I am recommending it to Haworth for a contract.”

After years of writing short stories and failed novels, after slogging through an MFA degree in creative writing, I was going to be a published novelist. The book I’d written about Honolulu homicide detective Kimo Kanapa’aka, in which he gets dragged out of the closet while solving a difficult case, was going to see print. It was a heady feeling.

That first mystery novel was small stone thrown into the big literary pond, which fortunately is still creating ripples eight years later, into its third edition with its third publisher. Four more novels and a collection of related short stories about Kimo have followed, along with many other books.

Since then, I’ve been a finalist three times for the Lambda Literary Award, and won the Hawaii Five-O award for best police procedural at Left Coast Crime. I’ve gotten good and not-so-good reviews, spoken at conferences, and had people tell me how much they’ve enjoyed my books.

But I keep coming back to that spring day and the news that my thesis committee had thought More Than Food worthy of an honors degree. That was the first time someone believed in my work, and even though there were long years of struggle to follow, that’s the time I knew I’d made it as a writer.

Neil Plakcy is the author of the Mahu mystery series. He also writes the Have Body, Will Guard adventure romance series, Three Wrong Turns in the Desert, Dancing with the Tide and Teach Me Tonight (2011). His other books are the Golden Retriever Mysteries.

Plakcy is a journalist and book reviewer as well as an assistant professor of English at Broward College’s south campus in Pembroke Pines. He is president of the Florida chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a member of Sisters in Crime.

August 13, 2011

Learning Your A, B, Reads

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 8:27 pm

This summer my kids have made a lot of friends–at stops along the way with old friends in Lincoln, NE; at the hotel pools of places we stayed at; and of course, here in Portland, where my brother’s neighborhood is an old-time scene of kids biking on the dead end street, running from house to house to see who can play, and trading scooters.

But that isn’t all they’re trading.

When they’re not outside, what are these kids doing? What’s the first thing my daughter did when she met the Lincoln, NE child, with whom she immediately clicked? What did they have to watch out not to get wet at the pool?

Their books.

That’s right, these kids are reading. For fun and play and sport.

Right now, as I type, my son and daughter and their nine year old friend have a hundred Rainbow Magic books spread out across the floor and are discussing whether a Special Edition is worth two or three…regular editions?

I don’t know the lingo, but the point is, they do.

When they’ve finished trading, the oldest child is going to read to the others. I asked them to keep an eye on their sixteen month old cousin, and boy were they bummed to find out the attention span of a toddler doesn’t always allow for chapter books.

Why am I hearing that kids no longer like to spend time reading? That they’re always hooked up to some device or other and this will render the next generation insensate to the pleasures of a book?

The ever growing number of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day members don’t seem to agree. Just this summer, the Day has spread to the Gold Coast of Australia.

The children’s sections of bookstores across the country all seemed to be filled–often to the point of waiting to get in line, or polite nudges aside–when we got there.

Maybe the apocalyptic vision I’ve heard from time to time is true. Maybe it is.

But the children seem to disagree.

August 12, 2011

Made It Moment: Richard Brawer

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 2:43 am

Beyond Guilty

Some Made It Moments we all can relate to, and this is one of them. What’s fascinating to me is that Richard Brawer’s writing and publication journey started back in 1994, and yet his experience with small presses, trying to make his work stand out, and finding his way to readers is as relevant for today’s post-Kindle world as the one where queries went by snail mail. Or pony express. At the same time, you could say that Richard’s particular kind of making it owes everything to the world of the net. Aren’t we glad it’s here?

Richard Brawer

I want to thank Jenny for allowing me to post to her blog about how I knew when I had made it as a writer.

First let me say if one’s main consideration as having “made it” as a writer is money received, I have not yet made it. However, money was not my primary criteria. To me, getting rave reviews from both reviewers and readers was when I considered myself as having arrived as a writer.

My first book, “The Nurse Wore Black”, a mystery in the Murder at the Jersey Shore series was published in 1994. Being a complete novice in the writing and publishing field, I did the usual things most new writers do. I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejections. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a local publisher that specialized in books about nurses. Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!

When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos. The publisher had never discussed the cover with me nor did they give me a proof of the typeset book to look over. At the time I didn’t know enough to ask for them. As far as I knew, I thought they would do the editing as well as create a proper cover. Needless to say, I did not send this book out for reviews, nor did I push to sell it. It was an embarrassment.

My second mystery in the Murder at the Jersey Shore series, “Diamonds are for Stealing” was published by Hilliard and Harris in 2000. It neither garnered favorable nor unfavorable reviews in that it got no reviews at all. Blogs were not a big thing back then and newspaper and magazine reviewers did not waste their time reviewing books from small presses.

My third book, (not in the series) was “Murder Go Round” published in 2003. Again, unable to find an agent I self published this book in a program set up by The Mystery Writers of America in cooperation with iuniverse and “Publishers Weekly” magazine. (I did not give it to Hilliard and Harris because of certain clauses in their contract I did not like.) The arrangement was that “Publishers Weekly” would review the books accepted by the Mystery Writers of America and iUniverse. Needless to say they panned it severely. However, since an antique carousel was the motive for the murder, I marketed it to the antique carousel trade which, without going into details, is a rather large national group. Contrary to “Publishers Weekly” I did get some nice feedback from people in the antique carousel organizations.

Now we come to my fourth book, “Silk Legacy”, an historical fiction novel. I had been working on this book in between writing the mysteries. Having been born in Paterson, NJ, dubbed “The Silk City” because it was the center of America’s silk industry, and because my grandfather was in the silk business, I decided to research my roots. I went to lectures about Paterson’s past, visited the three major museums, talked to family about growing up in Paterson, and read microfilm of the Paterson Evening News in the library. All this research, writing, and then presenting a few chapters each month to a writing group, which I had joined, took ten years. But I’m glad it took so long because I gained valuable experience from writing my other books and from the writing group, made up of six published authors.

Again, I tried to get an agent interested, but again couldn’t land one. To this day I don’t know why. I’ve read a lot of historical fiction and I knew this was a good book. So I again self published it in 2006. And this is where I knew I had made it. I was able to find reviewers who gave the book wonderful reviews. The book was labeled by various reviews as a “Tumultuous Love Story”, “A Slice of American History,” “An Epic Family Saga,” and said to have “Remarkable storytelling with vivid enticing characters.” One said: “Brawer is a deft storyteller with a knack for plot twists”.

Then I started getting e-mails from reading groups who raved about the book. Finally, when the curator of the American Labor Museum in Haledon, NJ (the town next to Paterson) said it was the best fiction book she has read on the period of the silk trade I had chosen, 1904-1913, and was going to carry the book in the museum store, I knew I had “made it.” I’m still getting e-mails today praising the book.

The final proof of my “making it” came from my latest book, “Beyond Guilty”, published by L & L Dreamspell in February 2010. L & L Dreamspell is not a vanity press. They are a medium sized publisher with over 100 titles in print. I was very fortunate that they took me on. Their concern for their authors is first rate and they vigorously help us promote our books.

In “Beyond Guilty” I returned to writing suspense novels. The story is about a woman who is falsely accused of murder and sentenced to death. She escapes from death row and fights to prove her innocence. The reviews from bloggers, other authors, and readers have been 100% positive. You can read an excerpt at

After graduating from the University of Florida and completing a stint in the National Guard, Richard worked for 35 years in the textile industry. Always an avid reader, Richard began writing mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels in 1993. When not writing, he spends his time sailing and growing roses. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife. Beyond Guilty is his fifth published novel.

August 11, 2011

Made It Moment: P.I. Barrington

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 1:53 am

Crucifying Angel

I love today’s Made It Moment because it introduces a concept I’ve thought a lot about–what if you are always close to someone else’s Made It Moment, but haven’t reached yours? P.I. Barrington ultimately did make it in a personal sense, but before that she had lots of time to reflect on what being near to success means, and what it means to have your own.

P.I. Barrington

My Made It Moment

There have been many “made it” moments along my life path. The first happened when my college newspaper printed my contributing article and my subsequent rise to Executive Editor and finally a real job with a newspaper—my local one as a matter of fact! I think the defining moment of that career line was the interview I did with the late Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame.

Later I did college radio with pretty much the same results. That “made it” moment wasn’t one single incident but made up of many small and large moments and milestones and a lot of them in my creative development not to mention acting as giant confidence boosters.

And, since music was all I ever dreamed about, the most exciting, to me anyway, “made it” moment was after working at Capitol Records, a private meeting with Paul and Linda McCartney where they told me a little anecdote about someone else with the same name as mine. That meeting was and still is the entire goal and apex of my entertainment career—I’d wanted to meet Paul since I was seven years old!

Still, it seemed that I was forever on the edge of someone else’ “made it” moment not my own. I’d always written in one format or another—heck I’d even made money at it—but I never really took my writing abilities seriously. I won an award in third grade and at that time thought it was the most ridiculous thing my school ever asked of me in writing that little short.  Virtually everything I’d ever written resulted in positive results—but my fiction writing? I was almost embarrassed about it until one day I decided to submit a short story to an online magazine and guess what? You got it, I got accepted.

If you think that all the bragging about my entertainment career is just self-congratulatory, it really isn’t. It does have to do with my own personal “made it” moment. As I said, I have loved music from the womb, and while this particular song has never been in my top ten, it defines and realizes my own interpretation of my “made it” moment:

“Don’t mean nothing…’til you sign it on the dotted line” paraphrased from Richard Marx’s song about Hollywood & confirmed success “Don’t Mean Nothing.”

Working in entertainment, that is my definition. People can say what they like, but it doesn’t mean anything until that contract is signed—why? Because once you sign your name, you are committed to that project and everyone, especially you will be taking it seriously; there will be significant consequences for those who don’t legal and otherwise.

All of which leads me to my real “made it” moment—the day I signed sealed and delivered my first contract for my first novel. I looked down at the copies and thought, “Oh my God. This is real. Someone is taking my fiction writing seriously enough to sign legal binding agreements to publish it.” That moment was both terrifying and gratifying with a hell of a lot of emotion tossed in as well. I stared down at my signature on that contract for at least seven minutes straight. I wasn’t interviewing someone else who’d “made it”, I wasn’t shaking uncontrollably in the presence of someone whom I idolized for the fact that he’d “made it” in such an enormous and creative way. No, I was signing my own contract making me acutely aware that I too had “made it.” I was a professional in my own right, in my own career; in my own creative work most of all. And that is what my “made it” moment is all about.

P.I. Barrington has returned to her original career choice of fiction writing after a long detour in the entertainment industry. Her experience includes work as a newspaper journalist, radio air talent, and at a major record company. She lives in Southern California with her dog and wildlife in her rural neighborhood.

August 10, 2011

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Filed under: Kids and Life,The Writing Life — jenny @ 1:37 am

I’ve always believed that kids were natural born storytellers.

When I was 19, and a counselor at a summer day camp, with a fierce crush on someone that infused all my days, I taught a writing unit to kids who spent the rest of their day tearing around fields and diving in the lake.

And these little moppets and gremlins would shuck off their damp towels, push the brims back on their caps, and hunker down over notebooks.

They’d come up with lines like, In the blackberry brambles, hid a puffy rabbit.

Not a ‘fluffy’ rabbit. That’d be a cliche. A puffy one.

And, My feet were as sticky as day old lollies.

Or, There is nowhere that’s really over the rainbow.

(This from a child we later found out had it kind of rough).

They effortlessly wrote lines that a grown up writer might toil over, slavishly polishing and re-polishing to get the sheen that comes so naturally to children.

I’ve taught writing to emotionally disturbed kids, to ones in the juvenile justice system, and used writing in therapy sessions with child patients, and the result is always the same.

Now I see it with my own children.

My daughter seems like she might have a gift for writing, one that, if I can (please, somebody) do what I should, might fuel all her days. She feels an internal pressure when she’s not making up stories that is the hallmark, or so I’ve read, of something special.

My son is more a scientist, observer (and questioner) of the world. But like his sister, he’s been read to and dragged around to bookstores and heard me muttering lines out loud as I revise. And so even though he’s probably not destined for life as a writer, just today in his game, I caught this gem: The car slammed into a wall as hard as a cloud.

As hard as a cloud?

See? Not going to be a writer probably. But the point is he was thinking in similes, as all children do.

If we can kindle that flame, some of these children will become writers.

Today on our ventures, I found a gem of a used bookstore, called Jupiters. And I met the proprietor, Watt Childress, who went to the trouble of leafing through three old volumes to help my son decide whether he wanted a book on air craft, trains, or sports cars.

Watt also is a keen political writer–with a new/old online paper coming soon–and something of a scribe for the community.

And he’s done something with this shop that is the essence of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day (whose word we are still spreading).

On his business card, his two daughters are listed as apprentices.

That’s what TYCBD is all about. Not introducing kids to a love of reading–better minds and organizational bodies than I have already addressed that.

But introducing them to a love of bookstores. Of being in a store filled with magic and knowing what to do with it.

Some of these kids may fulfill their potential as storytellers. Some may become booksellers. Some may just narrate their car games, well or not so well.

But they’ll all find that over the rainbow lies some place just for them.

August 7, 2011

Made It Moment: Gary Hoover

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 11:22 pm

The Artifact

The world wide web is a funny world indeed. Some of the people we feel closest to we’ve never actually met. This summer has been a great time of having real, live, F2F encounters with many of my internet friends and family. And today’s Made It Moment is written by someone I was lucky enough to have a grand lunch with at a terrific NJ diner. Gary Hoover knows how to tell a joke, and from everything I’ve heard, knows how to tell a pretty epic story as well. He’s part of Fantasy Island Book Publishing, a writers collective and radical new way of publishing for this brave new world of books.

Gary Hoover

Like most authors, I think it’s hard to come up with a specific “Made It” moment – not only because there are so many steps along the way, but because there are always more things to do.

One memorable moment happened a few weeks after I first published on Smashwords. I jumped very quickly to the #1 spot in Science Fiction/Adventure. The much broader Science Fiction/Fantasy category was dominated by Randolph Lalonde and his Spinward Fringe series (and I should say that Mr. Lalonde is something of an inspiration to me for his ability to do as well as he has as an independent author). I checked in periodically and was pleased to see that my book was doing well . . . and then one day I was surprised to see it had actually taken over the #1 spot in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category. It was great to see it there . . . but it also felt a little embarrassing. I felt I hadn’t earned it yet. I actually took the step of sending a note to Mr. Lalonde to apologize (I had an image of him sitting somewhere saying: “Who the **** is this Gary Hoover jerk?” and I would have hated to think that someone I respected so much might feel that way.) But he was very gracious. He congratulated me and wished me continued success.

Since that, a lot of great things have happened. Most recently I’ve signed on with Fantasy Island Book Publishing and I can’t wait to see my book actually in print . . . But I don’t know if I’ll ever feel I’ve ‘made it’. Even if I make it to the #1 spot on the New York Times best-seller list I won’t be able to avoid thinking: “Yeah, but how long is this going to last?” I don’t know if there’s ever any end-point to this because as each goal is achieved, there are more coming along right behind.

I also think the idea that there are no strict definitions of success can be a big positive. Every day I talk to other authors who feel frustrated because they’re not selling as much as they’d like. They’ll say things like: “I wish I could sell more books like you do. I’ve only sold 50 books since I started.” And I have to stop them and say: “Wait a minute, think about that. There are 50 people out there whose lives are a little richer because of the time they spent enjoying your book. How can that not be something worth doing?”

When you think about it, none of us will ever sell as many books as Snooki, so I try to keep that in mind and just enjoy the journey.

Born 1965 in Pittsburgh, a graduate of Penn State and currently residing in New Jersey, Gary is a father, husband, and currently the Technical Manager for a manufacturer of very specialized, high-performance adhesives, sealants and coatings.

His first work of Fiction is Land of Nod, The Artifact.

Interests include motorcycles, music, martial arts, technology, cars and other things too numerous to list. Recently he has begun running half-marathons . . . but he doesn’t know if he’d call that an “interest” . . . more just something he does to keep from getting too fat.

August 5, 2011

Made It Moment: Bryan R. Dennis

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 2:05 am

An Epitaph For Coyote

Some of you already know that during my long journey toward publication (or the sale of my novel at this point) I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. When you are trying to break in, you will knock on any door–I started to knock on things that weren’t doors at all. ABNA is a pretty nice, wooden, door-looking thing to try. The contest is fun–kind of like a long American Idol–and holds the promise of great reward. For me–given that I never won, or even progressed terribly far–the best part of it was the writers that I met. But for Bryan R. Dennis, the contest gave him something more.

A Made It Moment.

Bryan R. Dennis

My made it moment came when An Epitaph for Coyote made it into the semi-finals for Amazon’s 2008 Breakthrough Novel Award Contest. Before that happened I wasn’t sure whether my writing was any good. Teachers, family, and friends have always complimented me on it, but I’ve never been good at anything else — ask all my former employers. At the back of my mind a small, yet persistent, voice of self-doubt told me I was no good at writing either. Writing, went the voice, is just what you suck at least. But in light of the contest, and after positive reviews from complete strangers, I could now ignore that self-defeating voice and report back to those same teachers, friends, and family members that maybe they were right after all.

Or maybe that year the crop of contestants was just unusually bad.

See, there’s that voice again. It never really goes away. Guess I’ll have to live with it. But now that I think about it, that might actually be a good thing. Without that voice sitting on my shoulder like a nagging old spouse, I might not have the impetus to keep pushing myself to improve. Because of that voice, I revisited Epitaph after the Amazon contest concluded and spent the next four years polishing it, all while writing a second novel and dozens more stories.

Of course, the voice isn’t the only thing that gets my fingers tapping on the keyboard. I also think of my family, who always encouraged me, my brother, who accomplished much in his short life, and finally, a certain coyote I said good bye to once, on my way to work.

I won’t let them down.

Born and raised in the cornfields of Illinois, Bryan enlisted in the Army upon graduation from High School and served his term overseas. Afterwards he moved to Las Vegas, Nevada and enrolled in UNLV’s college of business. It took a degree in Accounting, years of daydreaming in cubicles, and a collection of stories piling up on his hard drive to learn he is a writer and not an accountant. His writing style is influenced most by screenplays, of which he is a voracious reader. Chandler, Carver, Hemingway, Bradbury, Bukowski, and Murakami are also heavy influences. He currently resides with his family in Las Vegas, Nevada.

August 4, 2011

Made It Moment: Tammy Kaehler

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 1:14 am

Dead Man's Switch

Tammy Kaehler traveled far enough to impress me (and you guys know how much I love driving) for her Made It Moment. She raises the prospect of a whole new sort of marketing and approach to finding readers. Now that Tammy has found her Moment at a racetrack, I wonder where we all could look for ours? What specific appeal does your book have? Read on as Tammy reveals her own.

Tammy Kaehler

I’m guessing my Made It Moment is the first to have occurred in an airport parking lot shuttle. Which wasn’t what I expected at all.

My debut mystery, Dead Man’s Switch, is about a fictional race car driver, Kate Reilly. It takes place at a real race weekend at Lime Rock Park, a road course racetrack in Northwest Connecticut. My release date was August 2nd, 2011, but the actual race I’d written about took place on July 9th. Turns out, the timing wasn’t a problem at all.

My publisher agreed to get books to the race for me. Lime Rock Park’s management stepped forward saying, “We want to help,” and they did, by setting me up in their information tent on race day and publicizing that I was there. They also helped sponsor and advertise a launch party that a local bookstore—Darren Winston, Bookseller, in Sharon, CT—offered to host for me.

I traveled clear across the country (Los Angeles to Connecticut) because people I’d never met were throwing me a party and helping me promote my book. And it was as we headed to the airport for that trip that it struck me: I must have “made it,” at least a little, if a racetrack was advertising my book to dozens of thousands of race attendees and local residents, and if a bookseller was throwing me a party.

I’m back home now, where I feel less like I’ve made it and more like it’s time to clock in at my day job. But I have the photos, video, and the memories—not to mention the magical feeling inside because strangers 3,000 miles away believe in me and my racing mystery.

Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate marketing introduced her to the world of automobile racing, which inspired the first Kate Reilly racing mystery, Dead Man’s Switch. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars. Find out more at

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