March 2019 update – housebound!

Hi, everyone,

This corona virus threat really has knocked me for a loop.  We here are all safe and uninfected as far as I can tell.  I get to work from home for the foreseeable future, which I see as a blessing and a curse.  (I think I’m more productive when I have direct access to the people I work with.)

Worse news is that the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, where I was planning on debuting my next book, has been postponed until September.  As I mentioned before, I was planning to release book two in April at the Pulp convention, then release book three at the Tamale Hut for my Feature Reader spot in October.  I think I’ll have to rethink this plan.

The good news is that I don’t have to rush to get book two in print for the show.  The story is currently being edited and should be available to order in late-April or early-May.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for something fun to read while the people you live with are getting on your nerves because of being cooped up with you, my latest book Barnstormers Book One: The Adventures of Kiki and Bridget is available from Amazon.com in paperback and for your Kindle.  It’s a tale of action and adventure, set in the early days of aviation and written as a homage to the cliffhanger serials of the first half of the twentieth century   Click here to read the first chapter.

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Share your toilet paper stockpiles with people that you love. I hope to see you all when we resume our regularly scheduled lives, whenever that may be.

October 2019 Reading Series event

Thanks to everyone who came out to my THC Reading Series feature night on Saturday, October 19, 2019, I wasn’t sure that I would have copies of the book available to sell, but after a frantic call by me to customer service, Amazon came through and the box of books arrived the Thursday before the event.

I’m now working to complete book two of the saga.  It’s more than two-thirds complete, but will need some serious editing once done.  The first half of the book is set in the Chicago area, and I think I let my research get the best of me, with too much description getting in the way of the story.  Still, that’s what editing is for.

My plan is to have the second volume available in April, and to promote that, I’ve signed up for a table at the 2020 Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention!  It will be held April 17-19, 2020, and I’ll have more information as the dates get closer.

August, 2019 update

Happy Summer everyone!  The first volume of Barnstormers is being edited as you read this, and I’m still grinding through the first draft of the second volume.  I’m planning that my October featured reader spot at the Tamale Hut will be the book release party for book one of the saga!

We also have a big event coming up as Stephie will have her tent at the Bucktown Arts Fest on August 24 and 25, from 11am to 7pm both days.  We’ll have some of my books for sale there, and lots of Stephie’s art.  I will likely be there both days. The fest is at 2200 N Oakley in Chicago, across from Holstein Park.

The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, August 24, and I will not be there, owing to the item above.  But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go!  The feature that night will be my fellow writers from the Tamale Hut Café Writers Group, and you will be amazed by what they’ve written.  I know, because I’ve read most of what they will read over the course of the last few meetings.  Don’t miss it!

Thanks for stopping by!

January, 2019 update

Happy belated New Year!  If the first two weeks of this year are any indication, 2019 is going to be as busy a year as 2018 was.  I hope everyone had a great holiday, and are already used to writing 2019 on their checks and other correspondence.

Looking back on my 2018 goals, I found that I didn’t accomplish most of them, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  I did get ahead on my Barnstormers story by writing the next stop for NaNoWriMo, and I’m really happy with the way that turned out.  The first chapter of Bridget and Kiki’s adventures in 1925 Chicago is attached below.

The Writers Group that I coordinate celebrated six years of monthly meetings with a featured reader spot at the THC Reading Series in October, and the story I wrote to the theme of the evening featured the characters from my Adventures Comics Comics Emporium series.  I figure I just need one short story with them and I would have enough to publish in book form.  You can read some of the stories on my Short Stories page.

I finally have a good idea for my next story in the Sleep Detectives universe, and since I’m far enough ahead on the Barnstormers piece, I feel I can take some time to write that.  I need to get back to those characters because I really like them.

And this year I am definitely going to submit a story or two for publication somewhere.  I have a few pieces that I thought were good enough, but when I went back to them, they seem to need more work.  This will be a priority this year.

The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, January 19, but Stephie and I have another commitment and will not be going.  That doesn’t mean you can’t go and listen to some fine stories. There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  They start at 7pm.  I do plan to be there for the February event, which will be on February 23.

I mentioned my Barnstormers story above, and if you’ve even considered joining my mailing list to read the full story as it comes out, now’s the perfect time to jump on, as the chapter I just sent begins with the ladies arriving in Chicago, where they have been hired to perform stunts over Riverview Amusement Park on the north side of the city.

I had done a lot of research for this story, because I want to make it as accurate as possible.  The story is fiction, but I’ve tried to make it as realistic as I could.  This is a bigger concern in this particular arc because I live in the Chicago area and many of my readers do as well, so the odds that someone would call me out on a factual inaccuracy are quite high.  I found a lot of interesting information while doing research for this chapter.  For instance:

  • The Checkerboard field where Kiki and Bridget keep their plane was located at the corner of First Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Maywood.  It was a major hub in the early days of air mail service, and one of the pilots who regularly landed at the field was Charles Lindbergh.
  • I wanted to have my characters drive down Cermak Ave, but discovered that it was called 22nd Street in 1925.  It was not known as Cermak until after the assassination of Mayor Anton Cermak in 1933.
  • Corruption in local government is nothing new, as I’m sure some still goes on today, but in the ’20s, it was not uncommon to lose your business license for refusing to have a mob-supplied jukebox or pinball machine, or to stock booze supplied by local organized crime figures, even though this was at the height of Prohibition..

I hope you enjoy reading Barnstormers: The Adventures of Kiki and Bridget as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thanks for reading!

December, 2018 update

NaNoWriMo is over for 2018 and like the last four times I’d attempted it, I was up to the challenge!  Here’s the graph of my progress:

I found this year much tougher going than in previous attempts, and I think it had to do with the story.  I thought that I would coast through, because I already had established characters, I had picked out familiar surroundings for the action to occur (although I’d need to adjust for the time period), and I was excited because I hadn’t attempted the challenge in three years.  I even scheduled some vacation time during the month to give me a buffer of time to write.

What I hadn’t counted on was that I would feel the need to do more research on location, because my initial readers would have the same familiarity and I didn’t want to have any obvious gaffes.  I also found it much harder to focus on writing in the evenings, my current commute being more arduous than during previous attempts.

But I think the biggest problem I had was the story.  By nature, I’m not a plotter but a pantser.  I typically don’t plan very much ahead, if anything only one or two scenes.  In past years, I’ve described my writing process as watching a movie in my head and typing it out as it unspooled.  The Barnstormers story is an homage to the Saturday-afternoon serials of the ’30s and ’40s, in which each weekly chapter ended with a cliffhanger, and theatergoers would return the next week to see the resolution of the cliffhanger.  That framework meant that I was constantly watching my chapter word count, and forcing myself to come up with some danger that one or both of my protagonists would find themselves in.  I found that very easy when I was working on the earlier chapters of the story, before NaNoWriMo, but back then I was writing roughly a chapter every three weeks or so.  The constant watching for the upcoming end of the chapter placed added stress on my writing process that I really didn’t need.

In the end, I completed the challenge, but I don’t have a sense of closure because the story is far from finished.  I had hoped to chronicle my characters’ adventures in the Chicago area, then move to St. Louis, to have them wind up in Texas (I hadn’t decided on what city yet) but at just over 50K words, I’ve only got as far as establishing them in St. Louis.  It’s a sense of accomplishment to have written so much in one month, but I have so much more to go, I just feel burned out.  I think I just need to take a few days to recover, then continue on.

 

July, 2018 Update

Hi, Everyone,

Summer’s here and the time is right … for sitting inside in the air conditioning and writing!  At least that’s how the song goes inside of my head.

I’d like to hope that I’m finally getting my act together to get back to writing.  This weekend, for instance, I’ve written a couple thousand words on a short story I’ve been planning for a while, I’ve finally finished the migration of our family site, stephanieandmatt.com, to a new hosting company, one who will hopefully notify me when I have a bill due, as opposed to relying on my noticing that the site has vanished from the ‘net because I didn’t pay my annual fee, which is how it was with the previous jokers I was hosting with.  Seriously, I owe you money.  Don’t you think you could at least send me an e-mail with that fact?

I’ve also sent out what I’ve been calling my monthly update but has actually been bi-monthly so far this year.  I’m caught up with all the correspondence regarding the writers group that I moderate, and I updated some software on Stephie’s PC.  Not bad for a weekend!  I just need to keep this momentum going.

Because of other commitments, the next THC Reading Series night I will be attending will be Saturday, September 15, and I will be reading chapter 10 of Barnstormers.  If you want to catch up on the story, you can read chapter 9 on my Barnstormers page,  but the best way to follow the story of Kiki and Bridget is to join my mailing list.  I send out an e-mail once a month with information about my writing and any literary events I might be at, and I include the next chapter of the Barnstormers story with each one.  I do post each chapter here after I read it, but subscribers to my e-mail list are already ahead of the game, as in May they will be reading chapter ten, which I won’t be reading at THC until maybe September.  And it’s all for free!  Join today!

Thanks for reading!

March, 2018 update

Hi, Everyone,

If you’re wondering what happened to February, so am I!  Extra stress at work plus a lingering head cold plus the strange weather we’ve been having all contributed to a mid-winter funk that was not really the best state for me to do much creative work.  I got some writing done, but other things like this e-mail slipped away from me.

The good news is that it’s a sunny March morning and I feel like I’m starting to get my creative drive back.  I’ve been struggling with a little writer’s block since the Christmas holidays, and while the writing is still not flowing like I would like, I have been writing, and I like what’s coming out.  I’m getting excited about the story again, and I hope it shows in the published results.

I have only a few items to pass along to you this month:

  • I’m well into chapter 10 of Barnstormers, and expect to have it done in the next day or two.  The jump in the story line seems to have thrown me a bit, plot-wise, but I feel I’m back on track.  You will see it in April if you’re on my mailing list.
  • The next THC Reading Series night will be on Saturday, March 17, and I’ll be reading an abbreviated version of chapter 7 of the Barnstormers story. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and listen to some interesting stories! There’s free parking, no admission, the tamales are excellent, and it’s BYOB.  We start at 7pm.
  • I finally have a hook for the next “Danny” story, and as crazy as it sounds considering the struggle I’ve been having making time to write, I’m thinking of trying to write it during April as part of the “Camp NaNoWriMo” challenge.  I always write best with a deadline, and the “Camp” part means that I can set my own word count goals, so I’ll shoot for a 10-15K novelette for the month.

Thanks for reading!