A Good Day for a Smile

Nora Roberts sells 21 books every minute. When you go to her website, you’ll find all of her titles are available in an Excel spreadsheet. 160 of her books have been New York Times bestsellers. After all these years and all these books, I wonder if she still feels a sense of excitement and adventure on the day each new novel is listed on Amazon. On each book’s official release date, does she sit back in an easy chair, smile and enjoy the experience?

SeaCoverMy second novel, Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire, was listed there yesterday. Exhausted from non-stop proofreading, I didn’t notice the listing until late in the evening and the book’s description hadn’t appeared yet. It’s there now and yes, it does make me smile–partly because it’s there, partly because my Jock Stewart character is so off the wall, I can’t help but be amused at the antics he gets away with while following truth, journalism and the evil-doers who stole the mayor’s racehorse and killed his publisher’s girl friend.

Writing is an adventure that unfolds in the quiet of an author’s den. My den’s a mess and I have no clue where anything is. I’m the hermit of a room lined with books, some by Ms. Roberts and dozens of other authors whose work has also contributed to my on-going education. It’s nice, though, to step outside the solitude once in a while and see what’s going on in the world past my horizon of books. Seeing one’s book listed on Amazon is a perfect excuse.

I have a smile on my face today. When you read the book, I hope you will, too.

Another Novel Makes the Rounds

I knew when I completed GARDEN OF HEAVEN in March, 2008, that a 240,000-word novel by a relative unknown would be a hard sell. Nonetheless, I will continue trying to sell it.

However, I’m turning my immediate attention on a 60,000-word novel called JOCK STEWART AND THE MISSING SEA OF FIRE that began making the rounds this week. Those of you who have chanced by my Morning Satirical News weblog have already met the main character: he bills himself as a hard-boiled reporter for the Junction City Star-Gazer of the kind seen in Hollywood’s noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s.

Whereas “Morning Satirical News” takes a gallows-humor look at real issues, the novel finds Jock–and some of the recurring fictional characters from the blog–trying to track down who stole the Mayor’s prized racehorse Sea of Fire and who killed the Star-Gazer publisher’s prized girl friend Bambi Hill.

I’m classifying the book as humor. Now, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that a prospective publisher also thinks it’s funny.

Review: Women of Magdalene

Women of Magdalene Women of Magdalene by Rosemary Poole-Carter

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
My review from Powell’s Books:

“It’s easy to get in, but once there it is impossible to get out,” New York World reporter Nellie Bly wrote in her “Ten Days in a Mad House” expose about the poor conditions and mistreatment of patients at Blackwell’s Island asylum in New York in 1887. Deplorable by today’s standards, the approach to mental health then wasn’t far removed from the days when professionals considered the insane to be those suffering God’s punishment or the Devil’s possession.

The fictional Magdalene Ladies Lunatic Asylum in Rosemary Poole-Carter’s darkly beautiful novel fits perfectly into a time period when the treatment of female mentally ill patients was likely to be neither moral nor effective. Confinement was often a matter of convenience for the families of women viewed as domestic failures who were best kept out of sight and out of mind.

When young Civil War surgeon Dr. Robert Mallory arrives at the Louisiana institution for employment as general practitioner after the war, he soon sees that God and the world have forgotten the women of Magdalene, and the only devils on the premises are the asylum’s owner Dr. Kingston, his former assistant Dr. Hardy, and their dictatorial matron.

When Robert questions Kingston about the inhumane treatment of the women housed in the former plantation mansion, Kingston discounts Robert’s competence to judge what is right and proper in the realm of mental illness. Later, Robert will ask why no women are ever cured and allowed to leave the facility. Cures? There are no cures, only what Kingston describes without noticeable guile as “sanctuary.”

In Poole-Carter’s haunting, yet gritty prose, Magdalene floats almost dreamlike within a misshapen world of malaise and mist that will ultimately claim all who remain there–and for a high price. Robert, like the women, arrives at the asylum having been harmed by the world and with a growing expectation that he will be injured further by the methods and practices within the shelter of Magdalene’s walls.

This novel casts multiple spells over its readers and its characters. Readers with a growing understanding that the abuses at the fictional Magdalene were drawn from the world of standard abuses of the times, won’t be able to forget what they see there. As for Robert Mallory, in spite of his resolve, he’s not sure he can complete his personal journey out of the past and cure what ails Magdalene before he becomes yet another shadow alongside the old plantation’s dark river.

View all my reviews.

Note: Author Vivian Zabel will visit the Round Table on February 19th to discuss her novel Prairie Dog Cowboy.

Publisher Cancels Novel Found to Be Based on True Story

New York City, January 4, 2009–Conglomo House announced this morning “with substantial remorse” that it has canceled the scheduled February 1st release of Mack Hooper’s novel Stiffs Scattered Down a Lonely Road because the book was found to have been based on actual events.

While police in Hooper’s hometown of Junction City, Texas, have long questioned the synchronicity of the plot line with local events, Conglomo House editors steadfastly defended the novel as “a pack of lies” since last summer even though the first-time author failed the standard pre-contract polygraph test when he claimed he wasn’t telling the truth.

According to uninformed sources, the discovery of truth in a novel is evidence per se of breach of contract.

“Ignoring the results of the polygraph test was a bad judgement call on our point,” said former acquisitions editor Nell Quickly. “We were in too much of a rush to get Hooper’s shocking, sharply written thriller about the horrifying demise of a minister’s five former trophy wives out to the public.”

Junction City police chief Hank Kruller told reporters at a County Line Road news conference that gossip columnist Monique Starnes, writing about the novel in the local Star-Gazer, caught his attention when she said, “This story is so real, readers will smell fresh blood on the page. You just can’t make stuff like this up.”

“While I thought Starnes was just another fru-fru reporter out there making it up, I began to suspect Hooper wasn’t,” Kruller said.

According to Conglomo House editor in chief Fred Smith, publishers often find it necessary to cancel memoirs that turn out to have been faked, but withdrawing a novel based on claims of veracity is unusual.

“Speaking off the record,” said Smith, “I’m a busy man trying to reduce the amount of red ink around here, so don’t expect me to run for the border when some small town Barney Fife leaves me a voice mail asking if I know that all five of Hooper’s ex-wives have come up missing.”

Hooper’s agent Lucy Lake, his greatest fan ever since the manuscript for Stiffs Scattered Down a Lonely Road arrived in an old gun case three years ago, said she not only saw the novel as the best crime fiction to come across her desk in years, but one that would bring “hen-pecked male readers” a substantial amount of vicarious pleasure.

“Mack told me the stains on the manuscript were ketchup,” she said.

When confronted with the shallow unmarked graves scatted down County Line Road three miles from his parsonage, Hooper confessed to having based his novel on the unsolved crime. He was subsequently taken into custody for obstruction of justice and improper use of poetic license.

“If he’d come forward when he began writing the novel and told us who his protagonist Jack Cooper really is,” said Kruller, “we might have been able to close this case before all of Hooper’s wives were dead and buried. What a great memoir that might have made for the bean counters at Conglomo House.”


from the Morning Satirical News