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New Novel is Underway

Posted on February 28, 2016 By In Book Quotes , Writing With no comments

Decided to throw caution to the wind, change genres, and rely on nothing but my (hopefully creative) imagination. The working title for my 4th novel is Angels Diner and subtitled Alexandra’s Song.

I am collecting inspiration pics for my story on Pinterest. (see them here)

Angels Diner

Angels Diner

In the following scene from Chapter One, Molly Sanders, the protagonist, is on the run. Her adventure takes her to the small town of Divinity Falls, PA, in the Allegheny Mountains, where she lands a job at Angels Diner and receives an invitation to live in the home of a mysterious elderly lady, Angelica Lopez.

All about the cavernous room stood statues of robed figures from ancient times, resting upon white pillars outlined in gold. From a Wedgewood ceiling hung a breathtaking crystal chandelier. The only non-decorative piece in the room rested next to the elevator. “Can’t catch me now that I’ve got my chariot,” quipped Angel having traded her walker for a motorized wheelchair. “I’ll give you the grand tour.”

“Does this place come with a map?” asked Molly, excited by the grandeur but apprehensive at circumstances that defied human reason.

“Shouldn’t be a problem for a girl with a photographic memory,” said Angel who then revved up her safety rider and headed toward a hallway on the opposite side of the lobby. But Molly didn’t immediately follow. She stopped to consider how her lively companion could possibly know about her gifted memory. “You coming or not?” called Angel as she waved excitedly from across the room.

“Yes, mam. Sorry.”

The bright light from the chandelier revealed a sweetness in Angel’s face that put Molly at ease. “I want you to see my favorite room first,” said Angel as they entered the library. “Don’t like to boast but I’ve read every book in here at least once.” An astonishing claim considering the multitude of books rivaled a city library. At the center of the room stood a pedestal with a glass case that contained a single golden key. Molly moved closer to get a better look.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” said Angel rolling her chair beside Molly. The object sparkled under a beam of light from the ceiling.

“What does it mean?” asked Molly.

“What do you want it to mean?” said Angel who then wheeled around and motioned for Molly to follow. Again, in the lobby they processed to the entrance to another room where Angel stopped and pointed to a closed door. “This is the saddest room in the house.”

Angel’s pronouncement alarmed Molly. The strained look on her face spoke volumes.

“You’ll know what I mean when you see it. Go ahead. Open the door.”

The far end of the room illuminated immediately when Molly opened the door. The sadness as represented by Angel was not immediately apparent. Another stunningly beautiful area. The wall-to-wall window that stretched from the ceiling to the floor was most attractive. The green velvet draperies that covered the adjoining walls gave a feeling of softness and elegance.  “Looks OK to me,” said Molly still looking for what Angel perceived as sadness in the room.

Angel rolled her chariot to a small table that sat to one side of four rows of theater chairs and picked up a remote control. Slowly, the draperies on the left side of the wall opened to a small stage upon which stood a concert grand piano. Molly looked back at Angel and then to the fine instrument. She stood there for several moments. Motionless. Stunned. Sad to the point of tears. Then she quickly rushed out of the room.

Angel’s Diner is projected for release in May. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, if you haven’t picked up your copy of Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare, you can get it here.

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PFC Polk was that Good

Posted on February 22, 2016 By In Encouragement , Writing With no comments

Characters in stories must be believable. Even amazing superheroes have flaws and weaknesses.

Case in point…Kryptonite and Lois Lane make Superman weak and stupid. So, when I decided to write a book about my childhood hero, I was determined to find the holes in his perfection.

The star of Farewell PFC POLK is Charles F. Polk, Jr., my Uncle Buddy. He died when I was 7-years-old, which means that I have little recall of the actual man. Most of what I know about him was advanced by my family, the best PR firm ever.

Did I want to risk knocking him off that pedestal? Not at all. But I did want to know him better and answer the question, “Was he that good?”

So I began my research without the benefit of a single living family member to assist. Fortunately, my grandmother left behind a trunk filled with Charles Polk memorabilia, and the United States Marine Corps was wonderfully forthcoming with detailed records of Buddy’s military service.

As with any tragedy some facts are misunderstood, erroneously reported, or misrepresented. The first myth-buster was that he was accidentally killed by his best friend in Korea. In fact, PFC Polk was killed in Japan which was revealed in several documents.

Headstone Request

My grandmother often talked about Buddy’s job out of high school when he worked for the Virginia Highway Department. She was persuaded that he worked on the roads doing heavy labor. In reality, he spent the summer of ’53 sitting along Virginia roads in a chair, counting vehicles. His job title is listed in the travel reimbursement request form below.

Reimburse Request

Reimburse Request

Armed with that simple document from 1953, I uncovered a photo of the hotel (no longer exists) in which he stayed and where he met the love of his life, that is, in the hotel dining room.

West Point Hotel, VA

West Point Hotel, VA

To be clear, I don’t believe for an instant that Buddy’s mother lied about details of his life away from home. Just like most parents, she was left out of the loop. Parents have two ways of keeping up with their children. Eavesdropping on their conversations with their friends (not always intentional) and monitoring Facebook (not an option in the 1950s).

One tale that was often repeated was an incident in which Charles was reprimanded by a Marine Corps officer for carrying a New Testament in his shirt pocket. The miniature Bible was in his personal effects and mentioned by him in a letter to a girlfriend.

New Testament

New Testament

Charles Polk

Charles Polk

Buddy Polk was strikingly handsome, and blessed with movie star good looks. Again, it was his mother who advanced the story that he had a bunch of girls after him. Was that true? Judging from numerous letters from multiple love interests the answer to the question is a resounding “yes.”

Letters from friends were a great resource for time, places, activities, his thoughts, and key players in his story. Judging from the testimonials in those letters it was clear that he was perceived as a “good guy.”

In researching the letter writing of a girl named, Roxanne, who was madly in love with him, I unveiled a shocker. The girl from New Bern, North Carolina, was only 14 years old. They met when Buddy was stationed at Cherry Point at a nearby beach. And they dated (maybe only once). After his death, Roxanne paid a visit to my grandmother who would have had no idea that the girl was so young. She thought that it was strange that her daddy drove her to Virginia all the way from North Carolina. Knowing Mable Polk as I did, she would not have been happy to learn that her 19 year-old-son had a 14-year-old girlfriend. But then again, the more I studied the letters, the better I was able to understand the relationship. She was into him. He was just nice to her, you know, the good guy thing. Didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

His real love interest was Sally Duffy, a girl that he had met while working for the state in ’53. The letters revealed that their love was rekindled to the point of thoughts of matrimony.

Conclusion: After a ton of research, digging through family and military records, tracing the paper trail of his letters, and essential data uncovered through ancestry.com…Charles Polk, Jr., really was that good.

If you get around to reading my novel, and I hope that you will, please be so kind as to share a review. You can get Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare here.

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10 Reasons You Should Read Farewell PFC POLK

Posted on February 15, 2016 By In Encouragement , Nostalgia , Writing With no comments

Now AvailableTen reasons to read my book. Now there’s a challenge. For me. Not you. Every author struggles with the question, “Who would want to read my book?” Then there’s that annoying inner voice that yells, “Nobody!” Ouch.

My best friend recently declared my reader worthiness on Facebook. “He is one of the most Prolific Writers of the 21st Century. If you want a Great Read… Order all his Books.” Thanks, Kurt. Wish everybody felt that way.

Most people have no interest in a book about the death of a loved one. Morbid. Sad. Depressing. I get it.

“The hero of the story gets killed mid-way through the story?” Yep.

But…that’s life. The way it really is. Happy endings are what we make of life’s gut blows.

Farewell PFC POLK is a celebration of that mysterious inner strength of the human spirit that rises above tragedy and rebuilds…finds a way…wins.

So, then, here are my ten reasons for reading my book:

  1. You will definitely feel something. Heck, I cried when I wrote it. I also laughed. My favorite moments of writing are the ones that move me. That’s when I know that a scene has power.
    2.    This story will inspire you. There is life after the painful loss of a child. When buried in a crisis it’s difficult if not impossible to see a positive outcome. The mountain of pain is too high..the floodwaters of despair are too deep. But, one day, we find ourselves on the other side of the mountain beside still waters where faith and hope are restored.
    3.     It’s a beautiful love story. Yes, the hero of the story has a major love interest. Buddy Polk meets and falls in love with Sally Duffy in the summer of ’53. But, Sally, follows her head and not her heart and breaks off the romance at summer’s end. Buddy is so devastated by the experience that he joins the United States Marine Corps.
    4.    It’s a story about faith lost and regained. Buddy’s mom was the family’s spiritual rock. Her unshakable faith was brutally shaken to the point of nonexistence, and she feared that it was lost forever. In the midst of her hopelessness, she is confronted by an unlikely source which helps her to find her way back. With renewed faith comes hope.
    5.    It’s a mystery. The official Marine Corps report stated that PFC Charles Polk was accidentally killed by his best friend. But there are lingering questions about the authenticity of that friendship and the circumstances surrounding the death which are detailed in the book. I would love to hear your opinion on the matter. Was his death accidental or the result of a sinister plot to murder?
    6.    It’s based on a true story. Truer than not. Like I said in a previous post, “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.”
    7.    The book deals with some of life’s greatest questions. “Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does God allow it? Is our future revealed in our dreams?”
    8.    The book is historical fiction. Farewell PFC POLK is set in the 1950s, and although not intended as such it does feature a plentiful supply of 50s trivia. The places, fashions, songs, movies, and more are spot on. In one scene, Sally Duffy is unhappy because she has to pay more than 20 cents for a gallon of gas. Later, she spends $20 for an entire week at the Hotel Strasburg.
    9.    It’s a story with plenty of humor. One of my favorite scenes to write was when Buddy goes to boot camp. Drill Instructors aren’t particularly funny when you’re going through it but, after the fact, they’re a hoot. With a background in writing comedy routines for a popular radio program (The Burt and Kurt Show) that I co-hosted for more than 40 years, I can’t help but add some comedic relief.
    10.     The story is a gripping drama and powerful story told in my wholesome writing style. In other words, no smut, no filthy language, and no gore.

There. I’ve done it. 10 Reasons You Should Read Farewell PFC POLK. Please add my novel to your To-Read list and if you like it, a review would be greatly appreciated.

And…I’ve got some good news. For a limited time, I have lowered the price of the eBook to just 99 cents. The print edition is also available for $9.93. Both versions are available here: Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare.

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The Book I Had to Write

Posted on February 10, 2016 By In Encouragement , Writing With no comments

You see it all the time – the “must read” book. Sometimes that overused tagline turns out to be true. But as for me, my new novel, Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare, was a “must write.”

For just about as long as I can remember, Charlie Polk’s story has been in my head, and now that it’s on paper the saga is firmly entrenched in my heart and soul.

Another common tagline is “based on a true story.” The only thing that separates Farewell PFC POLK from “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is my concern for the players in this story who are still living. Therefore, I invoked the old Dragnet disclaimer,  “Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent?”

Now Available

Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare

Charlie, Uncle Buddy as I knew him, was the hero of the family. I would have little recollection of him had my family not held him is such high regard. On May 28, 1955, two days shy of his 20th birthday, the U.S. Marine Corps Military Policeman was accidentally shot and killed by his best friend.

I was 7-years-old when it happened, and I was ill-prepared for my family’s reaction to the crisis. My grandmother, the family’s rock of faith, and my best friend was sidelined and catapulted into such a severe depression that I feared she would never recover. My grandfather blamed himself for the tragedy. He thought God was punishing him for his sins. My mother was so overwhelmed with grief at the loss of her brother that she sought medical help.

It would be an understatement to say that the summer of ’55 was miserable. The dark cloud that had engulfed my family seemed endless and left me to wonder if we would ever return to the joy of the past.

But…life goes on, and the human spirit does rise above the devastating consequences of the death of a loved one. The turning point came during a conversation between my grandmother and me. I won’t give it away here, but that discussion is detailed in the book.

In death, Buddy Polk became bigger than life. More handsome, more moral, more…perfect. His picture hung on the wall over the TV in my grandparent’s living room. All that was missing was his autograph, befitting the iconic pedestal upon which he had been placed.

He became the standard by which my life was to be measured. Buddy did it this way or that way. “Your Uncle Buddy would never have done that.” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was no longer Richard Weirich. To be accepted, or so I thought, was to become Charles Fletcher Polk.

To be clear, I have never resented that expectation because he truly was a great person, And since his life has so much to do with my life, I decided that it was time to get to know him better. That’s why I researched and then wrote, Farewell PFC POLK: The End of a Nightmare.

This touching, heartwarming, and powerful story is now available and you can get it here. And if you like it, please do me the honor of sharing a review.

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Select the Right Domain Name & Web Host

Posted on February 6, 2016 By In Encouragement , Writing With no comments

Welcome to the first installment of my series for self publishers – How to Improve the Professional Appearance of Your Author Website for FREE.

Before we dive into the introductory lesson, I thought I would share a little bit about my background, at least, the part that qualifies me to share information related to self-publishing. I’ve been building websites and helping people with web related problems for years. Even longer, I have been a voiceover talent and have narrated numerous audio books, documentaries, and radio and TV commercials. So, producing and voicing my book trailers and building my author website came easily.

However, I don’t know everything about self-publishing which has required me to reach out to others who could help fill in the gaps. It is amazing when you think about how many people who are willing to share their knowledge online and, in many cases, that expertise comes free of charge. Yeah, I’m well aware of those others who are out to access your bank account with pie in the sky promises of fame and fortune. Just to be clear, I’m not one of them. My motives should be your motives as a writer. I just want to share some of my knowledge and help others in the same boat as me. And hopefully, they will return the favor by buying my novels and/or telling others about my books.

Once you get passed the initial excitement of publishing your first printed novel and eBook then you are faced with the monumental task of MARKETING your work. “Hey, I did all this work. Doesn’t anybody want to read this. Am I the only one who thinks it’s a great story? Hello. Anybody?”

And then, somebody tells you that you must have a website. “Build it and they will come.” But they don’t.

Another well meaning soul suggests that you need to drive traffic to your website. “How do I do that? Oh, no. Did I hear that correctly? Pay for advertising? With what?”

Which brings me to this. Nobody cares that you wrote a book and nobody cares that you have a website. Ouch. That hurts…but it’s true. So let’s change the emphasis on that thought to something considerably more positive. “Nobody cares about your book or your website until you care about them.”

It has taken far too long for me to get that principle hammered into my mind. Light bulb. What is the primary reason that we go to the websites of other authors? Well, maybe because we are fans, but not so much. We go to the websites of other authors for information. Help. Guidance. Encouragement.

Most likely, you lack the financial resources to hire some overpriced advertising firm to get the word out about your book. That’s not a dig on you…such is the predicament of artistic endeavors (and yours truly). Those who draw or apply paint to a canvas are not the only “starving artists.”

Call it “giving back,” if you will, or “paying it forward.” That’s what these self-publishing demonstrations are all about. I share because I care. I sincerely hope that you realize your dream.

So, let’s get started.

How to Improve the Professional Appearance of Your Author Website for FREE. Lesson #1 – Select the Right Domain Name & Web Host

Overview

  1. Make your choice at Namecheap, Godaddy, Hostgator, etc. (about $10 per year)
    1. First choice for URL (webname) is your pen name
    2. If not available add author, writer, books, novels, novelist
    3. This is the beginning of building your brand
  2. Secure a webhost
    1. Select a host that is reliable
    2. For simplicity keep your domain and host with the same service provider
  3. Follow the instructions sent from your webhost to lay the foundation for your website
    1. Keep good notes on web addresses including sign-in usernames and passwords
    2. Get familiar with C-panel
    3. Set up WordPress from which you will build your free pro site
To continue the training series- How to Improve the Professional Appearance of Your Author Website for FREE, follow this link.
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7 Secrets About Book Writing You Can Learn From TV

Posted on February 3, 2016 By In Encouragement , Writing With no comments

I still hate it, during a particularly emotional scene in a TV show or movie, when my wife looks at me to gauge my reaction. It’s like she wants to catch me crying. Of course, protecting my male ego is of the utmost importance.”The pollen is something awful this year, dear.”

TypewriterWe can learn a lot about writing from those sappy TV shows we love or simply endure. At the risk of being severely castigated for my choice of TV shows, I’ve assembled a list of 7 Secrets About Book Writing You Can Learn from TV.

  1. Supergirl – Great characters, no matter how perfect or amazing, have weaknesses. Call it the Kryptonite effect. Kara, played by Melissa Benoist, has a big heart to go with her superpowers which can, at times, make her vulnerable to her antagonists.  When developing your characters always look at the opposite side of the coin. What makes them weak? Where are they vulnerable? Make characters stronger by exploring their weaknesses.
  2. Last Man Standing – This comedy starring Tim Allen is worthy of note because it demonstrates the effective use of checks and balances in writing. Tim plays Mike Baxter, a borderline Archie Bunker: super conservative, anti-liberal, highly opinionated but loveable. His wife, Vanessa (Nancy Travis) claims to be a feminist, a liberal, and an avid supporter of Hillary Clinton. One of Mike’s daughters, Eve (Kaitlyn Dever), is a chip off of Mike’s block and shares his political leanings. The oldest daughter, Kristin (Amanda Fuller), is married to an ultra liberal, Ryan Vogelson (Jordan Masterson) . And then there’s the middle Baxter girl, Molly, played by Molly Ephraim. She doesn’t get politics nor does she give a rip. In fiction writing, unless you have an axe to grind, explore contrasting views on delicate subjects. If your characters are strong they will react differently to the topics introduced. One opinion makes for dull fiction. Make characters stronger by contrasting viewpoints/opinions.
  3. Limitless – From this TV series that was spun from a movie, we learn even more about good character development. What is your hero’s source of strength? Brian Finch (Jake McDorman) gets his power from a pill to become the smartest man on the planet. Move over Stephen Hawking. An important area to explore in character development is the story behind the character. What in the past defines who they are in the present? If he is chronically angry, what fuels the fire? Is she obsessed with cleanliness? Why? Make characters stronger by exposing the source of their strength.
  4. Scorpion – In my humble opinion, this show is masterfully written. In case you’ve missed it, it’s the Geek Squad Saves the World. A group of young geniuses solve crimes and protect the masses from all sorts of disasters. The beauty is in their solutions to enormous problems which require extreme research by the writers. Yep, research. In my recent novel, Farewell PFC POLK, I was writing a scene set in 1953 where the characters were assigned the monotonous task of counting passing vehicles for 8 hours a day in the heat of summer. The problem to be solved was simple. They were hot…needed water. If you and I were in that circumstance we would reach for a bottle of water but bottled water didn’t exist in 1953. What? Not even plastic jugs? How about a metal bucket and a dipping ladle called a dipper?  Attention to detail makes for good writing. An additional element of note from Scorpion is the breathtaking use of twists and turns. Just when you think a problem has been solved another one comes along that is even worse than the first. This process is repeated not just once but several times before the conclusion of the hour. This technique gives motion, adds suspense, and keeps the viewing engaged. Make characters, settings, and plots stronger by qualitative research. Make plots like real life. When one problem resolves another takes its place.
  5. Marvel’s Agent Carter – The producers have spared no detail in recreating the United States of 1947. From this program we learn the importance of setting. Again, using an analogy from the artist’s canvas, good writing pulls out all the stops in creating imagery that elicits emotion in the reader. It’s the where and when of writing. Applying this technique in historical fiction or futuristic fantasy is a given but “setting” also has its place when writing in the now. Add that color to your canvass. Add color to your story with a believable setting.
  6. The X-Files – Mulder and Scully are back (maybe only briefly) and out of respect for their previous success I have faithfully tuned in for each new episode. Were-Monster? Really? Last episode was strange enough for me to ask, “Who the heck wrote that?” Even though I was less than impressed I still hung in there for the less than thrilling conclusion. So maybe a program doesn’t have to be good to learn something. What I get from X-Files is that comedic relief when properly applied makes the pill easier to swallow. Mulder and Scully weren’t taking it so seriously. Why should I? Writing should be fun and it is a product of your imagination. So open up and let it fly. To strengthen your plot sprinkle drama with comedic relief.
  7. Hallmark Movies – Say what? Yep. I watch them. But you say, “Those flics are simple and stupid.” Exactly. That’s the point. So is life. Most of what we call problems in real life are nothing but small blips on the radar. We major on the minors. As writers we want to shock or sensationalize and in so doing sometimes miss the beauty of simplicity. The characters in Hallmark’s fluffy flics respond to problems in stupid ways like breaking off perfectly good relationships because of some unfortunate misunderstanding or circumstance. So I’m sitting here saying, “Stupid, stupid, stupid.” Then it hits me. “Nope. That’s the kind of silly stuff we really do. Overreact. Get in a huff about nothing. Quoting Frank Sinatra, “That’s life.” To strengthen you story capitalize on the simplicity of life.

What about your favorite TV shows? What can you learn from them that will help you in your writing? Enough said. Now go write something.

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