Sunday, October 18, 2015

A 'Kirkus Reviews' thumbs up, a book stop in Pennsylvania - and where is 'Jack's Boat'?

BURLINGTON, Pennsylvania - After a swing through the western U.S., with speaking stops in Flagstaff, AZ and Los Angeles, I flew back to New York to start the draft of the next Jack Stafford book tentatively titled The Devil's Pipeline.

Speaking at the Green Festival Expo in Los Angeles
Sandwiched among hours of research on oil and gas pipelines, the droughts in western states and actually writing (13 chapters in the draft so far), I traveled to Burlington, Pennsylvania, which by last count had fewer than 200 people living in the community.

No exactly the kind of place to draw a big crowd.

Even so, my presentation at the Bradford County Public Library was well received by a group of people who have been fracked by the fracking companies - up, down and sideways.

Their tales were as fascinating as they were depressing. They validated nearly everything I've written already in The Fracking War and Fracking Justice. They also passed along some interesting new slants on the problems hydrofracking is causing in their community.

My God it's ugly.

Grrrr... says Dick Cheney
Next up in the speaking gig category for me is another Green Festival Expo appearance. This time in early November in San Francisco.

The slide show that accompanies my talk has been refined and elicits laughs, tears and gasps.

The gasps come from showing photos of Dick Cheney, the evil prince upon whom you can really heap a lot of blame for the spreading of hydrofracking (and its problems) across the U.S.


Both The Fracking War and Fracking Justice had received nothing but excellent reviews when Kirkus Reviews was set to publish its take on Fracking Justice.

I was holding my breathe - really! - when I first started to read what the publication said. Kirkus Reviews is a major player in the publishing industry and noted for taking no prisoners in reviews of books.

So if you heard a loud, whooping sound last month, that was likely me, when Kirkus published its lengthy glowing review. It was sooooooooo favorable, I doubt I could have written one more favorable myself.

Here's a line from the Review that kind of sums it up:

"Reads like an emergency manual for activists battling environmental despoliation."


Jack London
The beta readers for the draft of my novel Jack's Boat did yeoman service, getting their criticisms and suggestions back to me muy rapido. I have been pondering changes in the draft, even as I labor daily on the draft of The Devil's Pipeline.

The best news is all three said, yes! - publish this book.

Jack's Boat is on my writing docket, scheduled for a revamp and final tuneup before it gets another readthru.

Even at that, I think Jack's Boat  and The Devil's Pipeline will both make their debuts in spring/summer 2016.

Which means I better get back to tapping those keys if I want to meet that timeframe...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Draft of 'Jack's Boat' cruises from author to editor

WATKINS GLEN, New York - Saturday afternoon the first full-length draft of Jack's Boat was printed out and handed over to three beta readers for a first pass at the novel.

It came in just under 60,000 words, appreciably lighter than the 90,000 words of The Fracking War or the 80,000 words of Fracking Justice.

But then, Jack's Boat is a different kind of novel. And the beta readers might have some suggestions that could add thousands of words. Thousands...

Jack London
As I've said before, the 'Jack' referred to in the title Jack's Boat is NOT Jack Stafford (of The Fracking War or Fracking Justice).

It does refer to American author Jack London.

What's the deal with the boat? For that, you will have to wait at least a few months to read the novel when it goes into print and e-book formats.

For me, the completion of Jack's Boat means it's time to move on to the next novel while the beta readers take their long knives to the manuscript.

What's up next?

Several projects come to mind - including a week or two of vacation from novel writing.

Just kidding. Watch for the working title of the next Jack Stafford installment in a week or two.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Good questions from audience at Buffalo Street Books

ITHACA, New York - It was a beautiful afternoon in Ithaca Thursday when I gave a short version of my talk, "Fracking Fiction: You Can't Make This Stuff Up."

It was beautiful enough that it was hard to leave my dock on Seneca Lake and drive over the hill to Buffalo Street Books.

But as has been the case everywhere I have been speaking lately, the audience was very receptive and had plenty of good questions, including some from a high school classmate, Ward Romer, who lives in Ithaca.

Among the group also was a couple from Germany who travel annually to Ithaca. They were appalled at some of the tales I related and we had a good discussion about how far along Germany is with its  renewable energy efforts compared to the U.S.

We talked at some length about the EPA-induced chemical release into the Animas River in Colorado, the subject of my column in the Friday Finger Lakes Times newspaper of Geneva, NY.

My next talk is scheduled for Flagstaff, Az. in late September, followed by the Green Festival in Los Angeles, Saturday Sept. 26 at noon.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

East meets west: author C.J. Box in Cleveland

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio - The news that western mystery writer C.J. Box was going to be in Cleveland (actually south of Cleveland) at the Cuyahoga Public Library sent me catapulting in that direction on 24-hours notice with editor, promotions director (and wife) Sylvia Fox.

With C.J. Box - gotta love the hat
Box has been a favorite writer since I stumbled across his novel Endangered earlier this summer at the Watkins Glen Public Library.

Since then, I've studied his work more carefully and love the way he winds environmental themes in with police work all in tightly written novels.

His talk was great. It took him years to get his first book published, but then things took off fast.

His best story/anecdote was how he went to a writers' conference and was meeting with a book editor,  telling his tale of woe about not getting his first book published yet.

The book editor asked who the agent was. When Box told him, the book editor replied, "He died four months ago."

Although getting to have any real one-on-one time wasn't realistic, I did manage to slip Box copies of both The Fracking War and Fracking Justice, along with a brief note, asking if he could pass along word to his very much alive agent, Ann Rittenberg that I need literary representation.

And we did get a nice photo taken together.

Now it's back to the draft of Jack's Boat.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A close encounter with a book cover artist

CANANDAIGUA, New York - The weekend event was irresistible - a downtown renovation project called "Streetscape" was being unveiled by the Business Improvement District. Plus one of the major contributors to the whole Main Street makeover to be honored was Amy Colburn.

Yes, that Amy Colburn, the artist who did the cover art for Fracking Justice and who also did the design for the Fracking Justice T-shirts.

Amy and I had never met face-to-face. Until Saturday we had only an electronic professional relationship that started last fall. Meeting her was a real treat.

Also, the event featured the very mural that I had seen online in the first place that prompted me to contact Amy to see if she would consider doing my book cover. The photos barely do it justice.

Downtown Canandaigua has been transformed by the improvement project, by the way.

Real railroad tracks with the mural in the background

Amy Colburn and some novelist guy...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My brief hiatus from novel writing about to end

VALOIS, New York - Since the arrival of sons Dylan and Dustin - along with nephew Alex - to the Valois Point Yacht Club cottages, all work on the draft of the novel Jack's Boat ceased.

At the helm
It wasn't so much that I couldn't have carved out a little time to write here and there. But the hubbub has been waaaaay too much fun.

And amazingly, the weather turned out to be absolutely Seneca Lake perfect. That meant days of sailing the Crimson Tide and motoring about in the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat. The two kayaks were pressed into service along with the Captain's Gig rowboat, too.

All that fun is about to come to a crashing end Monday morning when it's back to the keyboard to write next Friday's Write On column for the Finger Lakes Times.

But equally important is to get back stacking paragraphs on the draft of Jack's Boat, where I left two characters rushing to the scene of a big fire in which it's possible loved ones have died. Have they perished? I won't know until I start typing and the story reveals itself.

When the draft of Jack's Boat is completed and sent off to the editor, I am playing with the idea of putting together a collection of my Finger Lakes Times columns in a book tentatively titled, Don Quixote At The Keyboard,  before tackling Fracking Evil, the third book in the fracking trilogy.

I just completed four years of newspaper columns - 208 consecutive columns. The book would have perhaps 50-75 with commentary about why I wrote what I did and notes on what I would write today on the same topic.

But that's Monday. And it's only Saturday.

Loosen the lines! Raise the sails! The wind is up!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A book signing with some cultural revelations

TRUMANSBURG, New York - The annual Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance is a cultural phenom here in the Finger Lakes, 25 years old this summer.

Great music and events lineup...
Now that I think about it, my wife Sylvia and I have been married exactly the same amount of time as Grassroots has been going on.

And for the first time in my 25 years of coming to Seneca Lake, we went to Grassroots for two of the four-day run of the festival. Part of our time was spent helping promote Gas Free Seneca, the other to promoting my two novels, The Fracking War and Fracking Justice. Both were successful.

I was struck by how many people are still - even at a progressive, environmentally conscious event like Grassroots - uninformed about the effects of hydrofracking for oil and natural gas.

I was also struck by how many people said they just don't have any time to read - way too busy. When I engaged them in conversation about television however, they could recite chapter and verse about the latest Suits episode.

I suggested she watch the film "Goldfinger"
Amazing music, amazing people, amazing food. Now that I have used three amazings in a row, I should not use a fourth, but I will.

I had my photo taken at the entrance with an amazing woman clad - and painted - all in silver. I wished she had been there dressed as Lady Justice. It would have made the photo even more interesting. She didn't speak at all, just made slow-motion gestures like a statue come alive.

In my case she blew me a kiss after we took the photo together.

I'll be writing my Finger Lakes Times newspaper column this week about Grassroots, including mention of three gas company employees - who swore they were not gas company employees - who asked all kinds of questions about Gas Free Seneca. The trio of beefy, somewhat glum characters claimed to be visiting from Vermont but stood out like proverbial sore thumbs among the throngs of smiling, happy people.

Most likely they hailed from Houston.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The plot continues to catch fire in 'Jack's Boat'

OAKLAND, Calif. - The drafting of Jack's Boat, a novel set in Oakland, California and the Pacific Coast of Mexico, has continued this week with the addition of about 5,000 words in the last two days.

This overachiever, daily word-count production is in part thanks to some totally crappy weather at Seneca Lake. Heavy rains yesterday. Today the rain cleared up but the wind is howling.

Not good weather for launching either my pontoon boat or sailboat.

Still, there are no complaints from this writer. Today's writing including another set of plot twists I had not completely anticipated, an untimely death (unless you didn't like the character - I didn't), a betrayal by a family member and finally, a tragic fire.

The fire started at the end of Chapter 22. I left two characters standing on an Oakland street corner watching the fire trucks roared by, headed to the blaze. I will pick them up tomorrow.

The first draft of Jack's Boat should be done by mid-August, I hope. Sooner if the weather continues to be more winter than summer. But that's an issue for tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A breakthrough in the plot of 'Jack's Boat'

VALOIS, New York - Even with lawnmowers whirling and belching smoke outside my cottage window this morning, I was able to pound out close to 1,000 words on Jack's Boat, my summer novel that is more than half-completed.

Heinold's Saloon - Oakland, CA waterfront
It's more than half-completed because I am picking up a tale I started writing years ago.

But today's chapter musings resulted in a big leap in the plot, one I had not expected. For me that's one of the most fun elements of fiction writing. The characters frequently head off in directions that I didn't anticipate.

That happened twice today with one sad event but with the clear promise of wonderful things ahead.

Jack's Boat is on track - actually a little ahead of schedule. I had anticipated getting back into the writing saddle July 1 (today!), but actually started days ago revamping the already written segment of the book. Now I am four chapters into the second half.

The book takes place in Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland - and parts of coastal Mexico.

I wonder if these characters have any interest in Tonga? Perhaps they will let me know tomorrow.

Yelapa, Mexico - the village

Friday, June 26, 2015

A change-of-pace novel in the works this month

WATKINS GLEN, New York - As Fracking Justice continues to get placed in bookstores, wineries, restaurants - and lots of other Finger Lakes locations - I picked up the draft of a novella I penned back in the 1990s, but never published. It was in a drawer with several other works-in-progress.

I was three chapters into rereading my draft of Jack's Boat when realized it would make a good contrast/project for me to tinker with for the next month or two while I continue my research for Fracking Evil, the third book in the trilogy of fracking novels that started with The Fracking War.

Jack London
I posted a detailed explanation about that novella-soon-to-be novel titled "The challenge of reviving a novel drafted years ago" on this website, LINK: Writing For Money.

For readers of The Fracking War and Fracking Justice, Jack's Boat has nothing to do with Jack Stafford, the columnist/publisher in those novels. The Jack in the title of the novella is late American author Jack London. The boat is one of many that London had in his lifetime living in Oakland, San Francisco and the Sonoma County hills overlooking San Pablo Bay.

Jack London's writing and life had a profound influence on me when I was a teenager. His love of sailing, ocean adventuring, journalism - and writing novels - provided a hazy blueprint for me growing up.

Maybe it still does.

Look for Jack's Boat sometime this fall. And Fracking Evil in the spring of 2016.

Fracking Evil cover concept art. Scary enough?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lesson learned: Always have a speech ready to go

GROLIER CLUB, 60th St., Manhattan - I should have known better. Really.

After more than 40 years in the news business and attending countless awards ceremonies, dinners, graduations and fetes of every imaginable kind, I know that anyone even remotely connected to the event should have a finely crafted speech in their pocket.

And be ready to give it on the spot.

But for some inexplicable reason (even to myself), I didn't prepare a real speech of any kind for the Green Book Festival awards reception. Nada, zip, zilch.

And for Godsakes, I was an honoree - first place in the General Fiction category.

I can't explain it, exactly. But there was a lesson learned. Oh yes there was...

Mercifully enough, I didn't speak first. I went second. But had I gone, oh, eight people later, I think my short talk would have been a little more, um, coherent? It worked out all right. Several of the audience members even commented that they enjoyed my off-beat sense of humor. Off-beat, that's what they said. And I'm taking it as a complete compliment and running with it as fast as I can.

The award was for The Fracking War (2014), not the just-published Fracking Justice.

General Fiction - the award (and me...)
While I'll take credit for spinning a good yarn in The Fracking War, the credit for landing this first place Green Book Festival honor really goes to Sylvia Fox for tracking down the contest, getting the book entered on time, and then convincing me - after I learned that I had won - to get my author butt down to New York City to collect it.

It was worth every bit of nail-biting NYC traffic.

As I sat and listened to the award winners give their speeches/talks (some very well-organized, others seemed to subscribe to my just-wing-it style), I realized how much I want to get back to drafting the third novel in the fracking trilogy, Fracking Evil.

I am anxious to fire up the novel-writing machine partly to round out the series, but also so I can jump on the next book after that, a book I've had percolating for several years.

More on that book another time. Right now, I need to put together a quick set of talking points for a speech - just in case I'm asked to give one on short notice.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

An afternoon listening about government corruption

ITHACA, New York - An early summer Saturday afternoon lecture on corruption in government is usually as deadly as, well, an early summer Saturday afternoon lecture on corruption in government.

Me, Fracking Justice and Zephyr Teachout
Except when the lecture/talk is given by Zephyr Rain Teachout, a gubernatorial candidate who took on incumbent NY Gov. Mario Cuomo in the the primary election last year.

In that race she was honest, refreshing, and pulled an amazing number of votes against a candidate tied to big money and big politics.

She is still as honest and refreshing as she was.

And now her message is the same, thumping on the need for good, non-corrupt government. And she is likely to run for office again. And maybe soon.

My conversation with her was short - it was midway between her talk and a reception with the Tompkins County (NY) Democrats. But she answered every question more straightforward than most politicos would have.

And because she is not in public office, she was happy to accept a copy of Fracking Justice.

If I get lucky, she will like the book and write a review. If I get really lucky, it will be a favorable review!

Friday, June 12, 2015

A blog to accompany my 'official' author's page

WATKINS GLEN, New York - My official author's website, gets updated often. But because it's a tad more complicated to make changes (as in complicated for me), I'll be using this page also for timely book and book-related issues, environmental stuff - and some politics.

Oh yeah! Some politics!

There will be direct link from the author's page to here. This page will also be listed on Captain's Blog, Writing For Money, From Where I Sit and The Class of '66.

It's been a somewhat wild and crazy few weeks. Fracking Justice launched with a fabulous launch party at the Hector Wine Company in Hector, NY. Three days later I was giving a talk in Washington, D.C. at The Green Festival titled Fracking Fiction: You Can't Make This Stuff Up. And then Thursday I learned The Fracking War had won first place for general fiction in The Green Book Festival's annual competition.

Can a fracking movie be far behind?

Fracking Justice has been getting excellent reviews with promises of more to come. And my editor, promotions manager, speech coach (And spouse!), Sylvia, has been working like crazy to keep all the plates spinning that she has set in motion. And just when she catches up, she puts another plate up there and sets it whirling. Amazing, she is. Amazing.

We hope to get a calendar of events, speaking engagements, book signings and whatever else up on the author's website soon. But there is one on this page, too - kind of tiny affair (for now) in the upper right-hand corner, inspired by a friend who has an entire website devoted to her travels called "Where's Cherie?"

Thanks to everyone for their support of both Fracking Justice and its older brother (just by a year!) The Fracking War.

OH! That's what I should have mentioned earlier. The audio book of The Fracking War is now up on for purchase.

That means I will be calling on amigo Scott Adams very soon to record me reading Fracking Justice for an audiobook of that novel, too.

Somewhere in all this, I hope to start drafting the third book in the trilogy, tentatively named Fracking Evil.

Gives me chills to think about it.

Giving copies of Fracking Justice to the Reading, NY town board