Crazy Cat Lady at Bat

    Nothing goes viral faster than a cute cat video…unless it’s a bunch of cute kittens. Crazy Cat Lady Janet Vormittag  has lots of fun stories about furry little folks. But she has some tough facts too about the number of animals euthanized each year. You see, pets are not just fun and games, there’s a lot of responsibility too. Janet’s books field the foul balls as well as the home runs.
       Janet will be joining more than two dozen other Michigan writers this Saturday at the Writers’ Rendezvous in Ludington. This is a great opportunity to meet the Crazy Cat Lady and get some of her books. 


Name: Janet Vormittag aka Crazy Cat Lady
Homebase: West Michigan
Position: Author and animal advocate; publisher of Cats and Dogs, a Magazine Devoted to Companion Animals.
Batting average: Humorous Memoir: You Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if … Fictional SAVE FIVE Series: Dog 281, More Than A Number (#3 is simmering in my brain).


Opening pitch: 

        Last year I came out of the closet …. as a crazy cat lady. To my inner circle, it wasn’t a surprise. Animal issues are the theme of all my books. Dog 281, a suspense novel, revolves around dogs used in experiments––product testing and medical research. The second in the series, More Than a Number, takes you into the underground world of dog fighting. If you like having your head buried in the sand, don’t read them.  
     You Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if … lightens things up a bit. It’s a humorous look at how I ended up with too many cats. Don’t worry, I’ve learned to say no. Don’t call me if you decided to get rid of your cat. The answer upfront: NO.
       Considering the positions on a baseball team, which best describes your writing and why? People not involved in animal rescue or animal rights see me as a Left Fielder. In reality, I sit on the bench. Too tied down with too many cats.
      Tell us about almost striking out: My first attempt at connecting with the audience was a strike—people found the cover of Dog 281 too sad. How many times have I heard, “I could never read a book with such a sad cover.” My second swing was a little better; the cover of More Than a Number didn’t sadden people but it only got me to first base. My third cover was a home run! People smile and laugh when they see the impish kitten on the cover of You
Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if … .
I even had the cover made into a magnet, and they sell quite well.
         No one wins a game alone. Tell us about your team: My nine-member team includes Stretch, Sweetie, Lily, Izzy, GeoCat, Little Gray, Frosty, Sue-Sue, and Whiner. Learn more about them in You Might be a Crazy Cat Lady if …
         So what’s your game plan?

On Saturday, July 21, I’ll be at the 2018 Writers’ Rendezvous in beautiful Ludington, MI. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 017 S. Harrison St., Ludington, MI 49431.
         On Saturday, Aug. 4, I’ll be at Michigan Authors at the Lakeshore – Holland, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Park Theatre, 248 S River Ave., Holland, MI 49423. Come tell what you think of my covers.

Writers’ Rendezvous

     Every now and then you meet a person with so many irons in the fire that you can’t help but catch a spark or two yourself.
     Joan Young is just such a person. The list of books she’s written requires its own website. She writes fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, poetry and a regular column for the Ludington Daily News. She has a new book coming out this month in her latest series, mysteries for children.
      That would be enough for most people but Joan is also knee deep in promoting the annual Writers’ Rendezvous at Ludington Center For the Arts. The event, which is coming up July 21, will feature a couple dozen Michigan authors signing and selling their works as well as chatting with fans and reading excerpts. It’s one of those can’t miss events for Michigan literary types.
        (I’ll be there, of course, with my Jordan Daily News Mysteries. Hope to see you.) 


Name: Joan H. Young
Hometeam: West Michigan- Ludington area
Position: author- it’s remotely possible I’ve decided what to be when I grow up
Batting average: North Country Cache,  Anastasia Raven Mysteries (5 titles), Dubois Files Mysteries (3 titles for children)


 If you love small towns with all their foibles and yet with a solid sense of community, you’ll feel right at home in the environs of Dead Mule Swamp. And if fiction isn’t your thing, North Country Cache, my non-fiction account of hiking the North Country National Scenic Trail, received an award from Independent Publishers and has been enjoyed by hikers and non-hikers alike.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? I’m sure a lot of my friends consider me to be out (way out) in left field, because I’m all over the place. I have written non-fiction about my hiking adventures, faith-based books, mysteries, short stories (humor to horror), poetry, and essays. I like to try new things, and am contemplating the plot of a technothriller.

Tell us about your  double play:  The Dubois Files mysteries are a spin-off from the Anastasia Raven books. One of Ana’s friends, Cora, has always lived in Forest County, and she has lots of stories to tell (to middle graders, or adults who are feeling nostalgic) about her growing-up years. She and her friends have adventures, solve mysteries, and learn about themselves. It’s been a lot of fun to use the same world that was already created, but to take things back in time by 60 years to the 1950s. The fourth Dubois Files book will be coming out near the end of July.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? A lifetime spent in small towns and the real-life existence of Dead Horse Marsh sparked the chemistry to create the fictional world of Forest County in the “northwoods.” The cast of characters that seem to keep people coming back to the Anastasia Raven books are Ana herself, Adele Volger- Cherry Hill‘s nosy grocery store owner with a heart of gold, Cora- the self-appointed county historian in overalls, Jerry- owner and editor of the Cherry Hill Herald, and young Jimmie Mosher who is introduced in the second story- The Hollow Tree in Dead Mule Swamp. In the Dubois Files, young Cora Dubois is best friends with the elder Jimmie Mosher (grandfather to the boy in the Anastasia Raven books). Their other friends include Laszlo Szep- son of the Hungarian tenant farmer, and George and Ruby Harris, African-American siblings.

So what’s your game plan? The Bigg Boss (Dubois Files #4) will be out July 21, in time for the Writers’ Rendezvous in Ludington, Michigan. I’ll be giving a program and will have books for sale at the Montague Library Aug. 8, then Manistee Book Expo Aug. 11, and Shagway Arts Barn (Ludington) vendor event Sept. 15. I hope to have Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe ready to release for Christmas, and North Country Quest by early May.

COMING SOON: Crazy Cat Lady Janet Vormittag is next at bat.

Bibi is on the ball


Although June is fast slipping away, summer is just beginning. And that’s the way it is with authors like BiBi Belford who manage to keep writing better books. Crossing the Line, Belford’s current book for young readers,  recently won a Christopher Award. And this fall, Belford releases her fourth book, Another D for DeeDee.


Name: Bibi On-the-Ball Belford
Hometeam: Chicago—South Side all the way
Position: Retired from coaching (reading teacher) the little players (elementary students) with the lowest stats (achievement scores)
Batting average: Canned and Crushed, The Gift, Crossing the Line, Another D for DeeDee

 Opening pitch:

      When a student I worked hard to teach to read from Kindergarten to Second Grade saw me in Fourth Grade, he  let it slip that he didn’t bother to read anymore because he couldn’t find books he liked. I just about had a heart attack. After I collected myself I fired a fastball at him. “If I wrote a book, would you read it?” I asked. “Yeah, but you can’t write a book,” he said. Well, guess what? I read the final chapter of my new novel,  Canned and Crushed, the following year to that student’s fifth grade class and handed him a copy. He not only read it, he made his best friends read it, and started asking when my next book was going to be ready.
         My mission is to write the kinds of books my former students find relatable and with heroes they can emulate. I believe my readers will change the world into a better place.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? Right field. I think writing middle grade novels has quite a bit of variables, almost more than any of the other categories, just as the conditions affect the ability of the right fielder to make a play. There’s the wind (current trends),  the sun (bright best-selling authors who get lots of publicity), the distance (keeping word count limited while still developing characters’ arcs and secondary plots with stakes and obstacles), and the condition of the playing field (bloggers and reviewers and librarians who must promote middle grade books since middle grader themselves don’t shop for books).

Tell us about a recent home run. My latest book, Crossing the Line, a historical novel set in 1919, won a Christopher Award. Twenty-one Christopher Awards are given each year for media and books that “affirm the highest value of the human spirit.” I’ve never been more surprised in my life, especially since I’m represented by a very small publisher and my book missed the deadline for a Kirkus review when it was released.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? I could list a whole bunch of people here, students, family, and friends, but a winning team needs a winning coach, arguably the catalyst for success. So my “coaches” have been my editors at Skyhorse. I’ve been lucky enough to work with four amazing women editors who believed in my books enough to sell them to their publishing teams, then work tirelessly to help me shape my messy arcs and wandering plots into a readable form. They solicit artists to create eye-catching covers, then fine-tune word choices, line edits and font close to perfection. Once done they celebrate my book “birthdays” and spend time promoting my book on social media, applauding positive reviews like proud parents.

So what’s your game plan? My next book, Another D for DeeDee will be released October, 2018. It’s the story of DeeDee Diaz who discovers she’s a diabetic just as she’s coping with transferring to a new school and trying to solve the mystery of her dad’s disappearance. When she meets a new neighbor who’s deaf she finds out she has a lot to learn about diversity and acceptance, before she can accept herself and “be a friend to have a friend.” I love to do school visits to talk about being an author and get kids excited about writing their own stories.

Father and fan


Although the Writers-World Series is not about baseball, the summer-tinged name has attracted the interest of some baseball fans including Illinois author Tom Hernandez. I met Tom a million years ago when he was a college student and talented intern at the Joliet Herald-News. He sent me one of his more recent short stories about a baseball game he enjoyed with his daughters one Father’s Day a few years back. I figured my readers should get a chance to read this delightful story, “The Margarita Man,” because it captures so much about fans and family. Just click on the link. 
          And then come back and read Tom’s interview for the Writers-World Series. Happy Father’s Day to Tom and all the fathers out there!




Tom Hernandez and daughters Emma and Olivia.


Name: Tom Hernandez
Home team: Plainfield, Illinois, by way of Joliet, Illinois
Position: Director of Community Relations for Plainfield Community Consolidated
School District 202
Batting average: Chocolate Cows and Purple Cheese and other tales from the homefront
(essays); Abundance (poetry); The Edge of Middle – thoughts from the top of the hill (essays, fiction
and poetry)

Opening Pitch: 

My writing explores the many complicated facets of life —  marriage, family, parenting, faith and politics. The world is not black and white – we live in a thousand shades of gray. My writing reflects all of it.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? Pitcher. I throw out thoughts to get the game going.

Tell us about your third game of a series:  My first book illustrated my life as a young dad, husband, etc. My poetry reflected the bonds between us – emotional, spiritual. My third
book is all about the journey to, and through, middle age. The game of life goes on…

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? I have been lucky/blessed to work with, learn and steal from a number of truly talented people, including Sue Merrell, who was my very first professional newspaper editor at the Joliet Herald News. I am a proud and grateful member of the WriteOn Joliet writers group. Every writer needs a gaggle of like-minded people to bounce ideas, seek HONEST (constructive) feedback, learn from, laugh with and grow together in his/her abilities and perspectives. Chief among these is Denise Baran-Unland who has taught me more about the process of non-journalistic writing (most especially fiction, which is not my
greatest strength.)

So what’s your game plan?  Love to do readings/signings as
fundraisers for groups. Just did one for a local library’s foundation. Always great fun.

 COMING WEDNESDAY: Bibi “On-The-Ball” Belford is about to release her fourth book for young readers. She joins our Writers-World Series. Don’t miss it!

Liar, liar. Pants on fire!


Lies, deception and “fake news” are the hottest topics of 2018. Which makes Laurie Ayer’s first book,  Drive-Thru Deception, very timely. 
        Whether you are trying to figure out if your husband is cheating, or the used car salesman is pushing lemon, or just trying to make sense of the nightly news, Laurie’s little book teaches you how to spot red flags in the language that may indicate deception.

Name: Laurie Ayers
Hometeam: West Michigan
Position: Deception Analyst (lie detector)
Batting average: Drive-Thru Deception: Liars Don’t Want You to Know These Bite Size Clues to Deceit
Opening Pitch: 
Drive-Thru Deception is a handbook of how to uncover deception using words instead of body language. It is the ultimate pocket guide that liars don’t want you to have.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? Definitely shortstop. SS is considered to be among the most demanding defensive positions. This position requires speed and agility, with a strong arm to throw out the batter before hitting first base. Likewise, the ability to tell if someone is lying also requires speed and agility. My book was written to be a quick read, 1-2 hours tops cover to cover. In this busy world, few have time to kick back and enjoy longer books. My style is quick and dirty. Why take up five pages to say what could be learned in two paragraphs?

Tell us about how you earned your spot in the Major Leagues: There are very few people who do what I do, analyze written and verbal statements for deception using a method called forensic statement analysis, which is the most accurate method to determine credibility. Some of my credentials include certification in Statement Analysis® Interviewing Techniques and I am a certified delegate of the Paul Ekman Institute in Evaluating Truth and Credibility, Emotional Skills and Competencies and Train the Trainer. I wrote Drive-Thru Deception to give all readers a sampling of my extensive deception detection training in quick, practical tips that they could implement in their personal and professional lives.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? My key infielders were Kent R. Jones leading off as Substantive Editor; Elizabeth Wiegner positioned as Proofreader; and Melinda Martin brought it home as Interior Designer. My outfielder was RICHARD Reese, who published this fine playbook.

So what’s your game plan? The Headline reads: Streaker Runs on Field, Exposing Herself to Crowd After Home Run. My game plan is all about continued exposure. In Field of Dreams, Shoeless Joe Jackson repeatedly says, “If you build it, he will come.” However, in authoring, the readers and the buyers will not come simply because I built it. The writing and getting published was the easy part. Marketing and exposure is a continuous effort. My latest efforts are concentrated on exposing myself to more people (I’m talking about my book, of course). I’m focused on getting into more bookstores. Right now Drive-Thru Deception is available through my website, for autographed copies, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Schuler Books in Grand Rapids and I’m working with some other bookstores throughout Michigan.

COMING SOON! Illinois author Tom Hernandez joins us Wednesday for the next game in the Writer-World Series. If you’d like to get a taste of Tom’s work, you’ll find a link to one of his short stories, The Margarita Man, listed on the side column of this blog. 

Hen in the Bull Pen

This week the Writers-World Series visits with Amy Henrickson, known simply as Ms. Hen to her fans.
          A mother and grandmother,  Ms. Hen started writing children’s books in 2011 after attending the Iowa Writers Summer Festival.  She wanted to write books that featured a smart, spunky, principled, and interesting protagonist.
           “Girls are so much more than glittery princesses; they are self-reliant problem-solvers,” Ms. Hen said. “Girls can be anything: scientists, mathematicians, astronauts.”
          Add successful author to that list.

Ms. Hen perches on Mark Twain’s desk in Hannibal, Mo.

Name: Amy Henrickson aka Ms.Hen
Hometeam: I live in Grandville, MI, between Lake Michigan and beer city Grand Rapids
Position:  Writer, painter, community gad-about
Batting average:

John Ball (biography);


Opening pitch:
When working as a library supervisor in elementary schools, I was discouraged by the many thin stories of goofballs, fairies, and princesses, so I wrote the Lottie Gunderson, Girl Scientist books to inspire young readers to be curious, brave, and resourceful.
John Ball was the Forest Gump of early settlement days of West Michigan – an explorer, adventurer, land speculator, and philanthropist.  He gave the property for Grand Rapids’ zoo and park. 
Let’s Explore Mackinac Island is a guidebook with history, Q&A, walking tour, scavenger hunt, travel tips, and resources.
Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? I would say Catcher.  I’m always on the look-out for ideas.  I catch ‘em, chew on ‘em, and then write about ‘em, and sometimes illustrate ‘em, too!
Tell us about scoring a home run:
My most recent book, Let’s Explore Mackinac Island,has been a pretty big hit on the mainland as well as on the Island.
No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? Although I do the writing and photography/illustrations of all of the books, my daughter, Abby Elizabeth, a graphic designer, does the lay-out and file uploading for me.  She’s a whiz and a half.
         My writing group of five people (FLAG—Four Ladies And a Gent) has been meeting faithfully for about six years.  We’ve celebrated publishing successes and continue to help and challenge each other with kindness, good humor, expertise… and snacks.
         Librarians have been a source of inspiration and encouragement.
         My friends and family —  I wish everybody had people like mine. They’re so great.

So what’s your game plan?
I’ll be selling books at Rockford,Michigan’s “Reading Rocks” event on Saturday. June 2 from 10 a.m. -1 p.m.

      I am also attending Princeton Seminary’s Frederick Buechner Writing Conference and Peninsula Writers’ Writing Retreat at Glen Lake. And singing in the Grandville Community Choir at events in Grandville all summer.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Drive Thru Deception: Liars Don’t Want You to Know These Bite-Size Clues to Deceit.

True Blue Cub Fans

With baseball season in full swing, the Writers-World Series is proud to feature a book about the sport’s beloved  2016 champs, The Chicago Cubs.
         Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team tells the story of divergent life paths – the roads taken, the failures experienced, and the successes reached – and how those paths all come together for a collective passion.
  Today we talk with Becky Sarwate who co-authored the book along with Randy Richardson.  “We make a great team,” Becky says. “I’m the more outspoken and blunt executor. Randy is the thinker, the ‘good cop’ and strategist. If we were players on the Cubs, we might be known as Becky ‘The Bull’ and ‘Professor’ Randy.


Names: Becky Sarwate and Randy Richardson.

Hometeam: Becky was born and raised in Chicago and lives within walking distance of Wrigley Field with husband Bob and two cats. Randy, who moved to the Chicago area from a Milwaukee suburb, lives in Evanston with his wife, son and two cats.

Position: Becky is Enterprise Marketing and Communications Advisor at TransUnion, an adjunct English instructor at Northeastern Illinois University, a freelance journalist, theater critic, blogger, political columnist and sports writer. Randy is an attorney, journalist and founding member/first president of the Chicago Writers Association.
Batting average: Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team is their first joint project. Randy is also the author of two novels, Cheeseland and Lost in the Ivy, both from Eckhartz Press
Opening pitch:
The Cubs are more than just a baseball team to those who root for them. From the heartaches of 1969 and 2003 to the pure joy of 2016, emotional ties bind fans of Chicago’s North Side ball club. Some of the team’s most famous fans, including Bob Newhart, Pat Brickhouse, Dennis Franz, Nick Offerman, Joe Mantegna, Scott Turow, Bill Kurtis, and many others, share just what it means to bleed Cubbie blue.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? I would call myself an ace reliever. My work is quick, precise and usually effective. My sister has promoted me as the best content and copy editor in town. Randy is the experienced manager. He’s been to the publishing “big game” before and had much to teach me. He’s also a terrific, multi-tasking project coordinator. I would want him leading any team of which I am part.
Tell us about your  surprise drafting to the big leagues:  I will never forget the March 2017 late afternoon that Randy and I sat enjoying happy hour drinks at the G-Man in Wrigleyville. I was excited about Randy’s new Cubs book project with Eckhartz Press and thought myself bold in offering to serve as a manuscript reader. I was literally speechless when Randy countered with a question, “How about being co-author?” It’s an unbelievable dream moment frozen in time. I can never thank him enough for trusting me and inviting me along to share this amazing ride.
No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? 
 It truly took a village to bring this project from concept to reality in just 12 months. After all, neither of us is a full-time author. The team at Eckhartz Press pitched the idea for the book to Randy and supported us by offering potential interview subjects and contact information, trusted us enough not to micromanage the project, and then of course published the manuscript.
My trusted and invaluable assistant Brian Walsh did so much leg work to make many of these amazing conversations happen. Randy and I always enjoy unbelievable support from our spouses and families, as well as the twin literary communities of which we’re both members – the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and Chicago Writers Association. And finally without the enthusiasm and participation of our interviewees, who shared their many Cubs hopes, dreams and heartaches, there would literally be no book.
So what’s your game plan?
As this project is a dream come true for Randy and I, we’re thrilled to pay it forward by donating all author proceeds to our three charity partners: Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities (CBCC), Scoreboard Charities (SC), and the Chicago Baseball Museum (CBM). CBCC and SC help fund cancer research and patient care programs at Chicago-area hospitals, and supporting services to empower kids with cancer. CBM’s mission is to collect, preserve, document, research, and interpret artifacts and events which are associated with the legacy, evolution and contemporary life of Chicago baseball. All three are federally-registered 501(c)(3) tax-deductible charitable organizations.
We have a number of upcoming signings and events that will help us sell this unique book and raise all the money we can for these worth causes:

Remembering Walter


     I guess you could say Walter was my young grandpa. He was only 35 when he was struck by a train 91 years ago this month.
     Walter was headed to Irondale, Missouri, to pick up some cement. A freight train was stopped on a siding near a railroad crossing just south of town. Walter drove his small Ford truck through the crossing, not realizing the freight train masked his view of an oncoming passenger train.
     Walter left six kids and a pregnant wife. My mom, who was born four months later, never even met her father.
       I’ve imagined the train accident that took Walter’s life 100 times, but it wasn’t until I was working on my genealogy recently that I realized Walter lost his mother when he was just five years old. His sisters, 10 and 12, were probably left to care for the three younger siblings while their father tended the farm. For the first time I see Walter as a lonely, scared little boy.
        Walter knew what it was like to lose a parent. He would have hated leaving his poor kids behind.  As fate would have it, Walter’s widow Bertha got cancer and died when my Mom was 7. My mother grew up at Missouri Baptist Children’s home.  She said she turned to her heavenly father because she never knew her earthly one.
           As we celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend I am reminded how lucky I am to have had the love and guidance of my mother through my entire life. And I remember my young grandpa who grew up without his mother and never got to know the joy of seeing his own children grow up.

COMING WEDNESDAY: Writers-World Series continues with “Cubsessions: Famous Fans of Chicago’s North Side Baseball Team.”

Writers-World Series


Writing books has become the new American pastime. Print-on-demand  publishers and online marketing have made it possible for everyone to tell  their tale. But with so many good authors in the writing game, you can’t tell the players without a scorecard.

       That’s why this summer I’m offering the Writers-World Series, the inside track on authors of interest. The series starts today with Denise M. Baran-Unland, a journalist from Joliet, Il., who has written a vampire series set in a fictional Michigan town. 
       Programs! Programs! Get your program here!


Name: Denise M. Baran-Unland
Home team: Joliet, Il. (for Denise) Munsonville, MI ( fictional setting for the BryonySeries)

Position:  Features writer and editor, The Herald-News, Joliet

Batting average: The BryonySeries vampire trilogy (“Bryony,” “Visage,” and “Staked!“), The Adventures of Cornell Dyer chapter book series (“Cornell Dyer and the Missing Tombstone” and the soon-to-be released “Cornell Dyer and the Necklace of Forgetfulness“)  Bertrand the Mouse children’s series (“Bertrand and the Lucky Clover,” “Bertrand’s Christmas Surprise,” “Bertrand’s First Book of Numbers,” and “Bertrand Gives Back” ) Also, “Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from ‘Bryony,’” a collections of recipes from the Victorian era and 1970s. All proceeds are donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Will and Grundy Counties.

Opening pitch:  A ’70s teen trades her blood with a Victorian vampire for a trip back into time as his wife . Consequences follow.

       Note: The Adventures of Cornell Dyer spinoff series involves one character from the second book in the  BryonySeries vampire trilogy and the Bertrand the Mouse series features red herring from the third book.

Considering the positions on a baseball team — such as catcher, shortstop, left field, etc. — which best describes the way you write and why? I’m sitting in the stands trying to figure out how the game is played. Couldn’t participate in sports as a child due to severe asthma, so I spent most of my time reading, writing, and observing others from the sidelines. As a result, I love reading (and writing) character-driven novels.

Tell us about your grand slam: I have a few loyal friends who found my books by chance and have remained loyal since the release date of the first book in 2011. Those are my home runs, for sure. But without a doubt, the “grand slam” is my one super fan, “Rose,” who took a chance on the first book  (“Bryony“) in 2013 after seeing my blog posted online. She later told me she didn’t expect much and wound up leaving a glowing review on Amazon. She promptly ordered the second book (“Visage“) and left a glowing (and the book’s only) review on Amazon and then waited impatiently for the third book (“Staked!“), ultimately leaving a glowing (and only) review on Amazon.

         Rose also sent a copy of “Bryony” to a bestselling author with whom she has a decade-long correspondence.  He has not read the book yet, but it’s on his reading list, and he wrote me a letter this past summer letting me know it. He also sent me one of his books, which I’m currently reading.

          Rose is my biggest cheerleader and biggest motivator. She constantly urges me to continue and increase marketing and promotion. She sends long messages about what she likes about the books and creates little memes based on the characters. She’s called the series “a masterpiece,” and said she won’t stop pushing me until the series is a bestseller.

         I’m not a natural marketer . It took two years of Rose’s unwavering exhortations before I considered doing anything of substance. So while I don’t have the lofty goals for my series as Rose does, I set my hand to the marketing plow for this reason: to find the other Roses, whether they are five readers or five billion. Rose has said the BryonySeries is one of the few series she has ever read multiple times and that it ranks as one of her favorites. So I work hard at positioning the books in the universe so readers like Rose can find them.

At a book event in Joliet are author Ralph Carey, store owner Jan Staley, and authors Allie Rios, Denise M. Baran-Unland and Sue Merrell.

No one wins a game alone. Who’s on your team? It’s a big team full of talented artists who cross market each other. Here’s the roster by seasons:

Bryony:” Kathleen Rose Van Pelt (cover art and illustrator), Stephen Tuplin and Josh Seigers (book trailer, music video, and other video promotional pieces), CAL Graphics (book cover, graphics), Serena Diosa (formatting), and Karen Bonarek, Tommy Connelly, and Dulcinea Hawksworth (marketing), Sandy Costa (introduction)

Visage:” Matt Coundiff (cover art and illustrator), Vicki Thompson (editor and introduction), Colleen Robbins (editor),  Dragon Alexander and Sean Czaja (book trailer), CAL Graphics and Sarah Stegall (book cover, graphics, formatting)

Staked!” Christopher Gleason (cover art and illustrator), Vicki Thompson  and Colleen Robbins (editors), CAL Graphics (book cover, graphics), Sarah Stegall (formatting and copy editor), Tom Hernandez (introduction)

Memories in the Kitchen: Bites and Nibbles from ‘Bryony:'” Sarah Stegall (project lead, copy editor), Kathleen Rose Van Pelt (cover art), Matt Coundiff (interior illustrations), Serena Diosa (formatting), Rebekah Baran (copy editing). Plus many recipe contributors.

Snowbell:” Christopher Gleason (cover art), Sarah Stegall (cover design, formatting)
Adventures of Cornell Dyer series: Sue Midlock (cover art and illustrations), Rebekah Baran (cover design and formatting)
Bertrand the Mouse series:  Sarah Stegall (concept design), Rebekah Baran (cover designs and formatting)
Miscellaneous: James Onohan (pianist and composer for the official BryonySeries theme song and CD “The Best-Loved Compositions of John Simons,” Valerie Burkholder (creator of the BryonySeries homemade soy candle line in five scents), Michelle Roberson (creator of the BryonySeries K-cup holders), and Sarah Stegall and Rebekah Baran (web design and maintenance)

So what’s your game plan? This year, it’s to schedule one event a month. So far, I’ve hit home runs (except April, but I had four events in March. And I took a couple days off work in early April to focus on writing).
For upcoming events and more about the series, visit the Fetes and Feasts page at

This is only a test


        Today’s news on my favorite radio station was interrupted by a rude, insistent buzzer. The repeated, off-key tone was vaguely familiar. It was followed by an easily recognizable announcement.
        “This has been  a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This was only a test. If it had been a real emergency…”
         The announcement continued to list possible emergencies such as a tornado or a nuclear power plant accident and assured us that in a real emergency this irritating buzzer would be followed by helpful safety information. I had read that there was going to be a test of the tornado alert system so I should have been expecting the sound.
          Yet the alarming buzzer brought back memories of my teen years, back in the ’60s, when such alerts would come on the radio at least weekly and television ended every day with the test pattern. Now those days of the “cold war” seem so safe compared to today.
          The buzzer also reminded me of my divorce in the 1980s. I faced a series of traumas in those days, my son’s health, financial problems, even typical homeowner hassles like a thunder storm surge that destroyed my only television. Every time I would face one of these traumas I would hear that buzzer in my head and the announcer saying “This is a test. It is only a test. Had it been a real emergency…”