New and Improved

Friends, this is the newer updated blog, different from the old one. The previous blog can be found here:
but I will no longer be posting to it.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Book Event Pictures

October 1, 2018
Hi, Everyone!
    Just for fun, I thought I'd post a few photos from recent book events related to Plague in Paradise.  I've had a great time with this book -- the reception has been great all the places I've visited.  One of the pictures is something I like to do during the "book launch" period for each of my books; I have a bakery near where the event is to take place "screen-print" the cover of the book on a cake!  So, when I do the event, everyone can have a piece of cake while we are visiting about the book -- and they can all eat a piece of the cover of the book.  I know -- it's silly -- but fun!
    The one of me at a traditional "signing table" at a Barnes & Noble store shows the types of "artifacts" I'm taking with me to events for this book: rat traps, rubber rats, photos of yersinia pestis (which causes the plague!) and pictures of locations in Los Angeles where the outbreak took place.  The items do make the signing table look more than a tad creepy, but this fits the subject matter of the book -- and people really do seem to like the rats!  The only problem with this picture is my eyes are closed, so it looks like I've fallen asleep while "meeting and greeting" people at the store -- yikes! Every once in a while, if a person seems really excited to read the book, I'll give one of the rats to her/him when they purchase a book. When the rats are squeezed, they sound like real rats!
     I'll post more pictures as I do more events.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Book Launch!

September 26, 2018
Hi, Everyone!
     Plague in Paradise was "officially" released on September 1, so the past few weeks have been wild -- in a good way! The "book launch" period for a book is typically the first two or three months after copies are made available for purchase, and there is usually a flurry of activity during this time as the book is being introduced and promoted.  For example, I've already done book readings and events at bookstores, popular restaurants and gathering places for those who love books, and even did a live radio program about the book that was streamed over the Armed Services Radio Network.  I was particularly proud of this last event as it gave those who are serving our country a program to listen to while helping keep our country safe and strong.  I gave a big shout-out to those serving -- and thanked them for all they are doing; at times, I think we don't express enough just how fortunate we are they are out there.  So, to all of you serving, thank you -- and bless you.
     I also have several other events ahead that should be a great deal of fun -- and will also help let people know about the book.  This coming Saturday I'll doing a reading that will be in conjunction with a PBS program that will be talking about "The Great Read."  I can't wait for that.  Then, on October 31 I'll be on NPR with host Don Marsh to talk about Plague in Paradise. That is Halloween, a very fitting day to talk about the Black Plague!  Don Marsh is one of my media heroes.  He always asks the best questions, and we have a great time talking about books and "life in general" in today's world.  I know we'll have a great time on the air.
     In a couple of weeks I'll also be doing book readings and presentations out in California.  The Black Plague outbreak described in the book took place in Los Angeles in 1924 -- and was the last "major" outbreak in the United States.  So, it is fitting that I do events out there.  I'll be doing a reading/presentation at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona Del Mar the evening of October 18; at this event I'll be sharing a wide variety of photos that were taken during the outbreak.  Then, on the afternoon of October 20, I'll be doing a reading at the Barnes & Noble store in Burbank.  If you are in the area for either of these events, please stop by and say hello.  I have plenty of other events scheduled as well, and I'm looking forward to all of them.  I love getting out to visit with readers and talking about my books.
    For the readings/events related to this book, I decided to bring along quite a few "visuals" to show what happened during the plague outbreak.  I've been taking with me to the events such items as one of the rat traps used to catch rats during the 1924 outbreak, photos of the major places involved in the story, and even bottles of the "treatments" used at the time, which were very primitive by modern standards.  I believe people in the audience have really enjoyed seeing these items and hearing how they were used. I've even been bringing a pack of large, rubber rats to place around the rooms while I read!  Some have thought this pretty great -- others have said the rats are creepy!
    I also just found out the e-book version is now available through Amazon and other venues, so for those of you who prefer to read on your electronic devices, you can now order the book.
    I better sign off now.  I have a reading this Saturday in Waterloo, Iowa, at the Barnes & Noble store there -- and I have a few items to get ready before that event.  Again, if you are in the area, please stop by!
    Happy reading, everyone!

Friday, June 1, 2018

Plague in Paradise off to print!

June 1, 2018
Hi, All!
     I'm very happy to announce Plague in Paradise: The Black Death in Los Angeles, 1924 will go to print June 8.  This is one of the steps in the process of book publishing that is a true joy for the author because it represents the culmination of all the work that went into the project.
    Interestingly enough to me, the last piece of the puzzle for this book was the book cover, which is usually done much earlier in the process.  There were almost a dozen versions prepared before the final was chosen.  One of the early versions had a HUGE rat poised above the picture of downtown Los Angeles. Rats harbored the fleas that caused the plague, so having a rat on the cover seemed to make sense at first. However, when this draft of the cover was shown to groups, to get a marketing perspective, the rat wasn't popular at all.  Many said it was too scary or spooky, which turned them off.  Others said it reminded them of the 1950's sci-fi films with giant insects attacking people (like the giant ants in the movie "Them!").  So, out went the rat.  Other versions followed until those involved with the design came up with a cover that was "pleasing to the eye -- and interest-catching." 
     Having a good cover is a dramatically important part of publishing in today's world. For those who are browsing in brick-and-mortar bookstores, an eye-catching cover can make all the difference between a person walking by or pulling the book from the shelf to take a closer look, which might lead to a purchase.  For those looking through the listing at online bookseller sites, it has been estimated that the cover of a book is one of the most important determinants of all in selection of a book for purchase.  One study suggested as many as 75% of all books purchased online were chosen because the cover of the book drew the purchaser to it.  Therefore, it is no wonder publishers take so much time making sure the cover is exactly right.
    I'm attaching a copy of the final version of the cover of Plague in Paradise. I also feel a little explanation may be in order to go along with it. As mentioned in a previous post, the book is a literary nonfiction account of the last major outbreak of the Black Plague in the United States, which happened in 1924 in Los Angeles. At the time of the outbreak, Los Angeles was known as the "Paradise of the West."  City officials touted it healthful climate, its booming business community, its new harbor, and as a place where families could come, plant roots, and grow and prosper along with the city. Hence -- the "Paradise" part of the title.  And then the plague showed up.......
    So, the main image on the cover is done from an actual picture of downtown L.A. in 1924 -- to help illustrate how much the city was growing and prospering.  Then, in sharp contrast, at the bottom of the cover, just below the image of the city, an image of a cemetery appears to represent the devastation caused by the appearance of the Black Death in the community.  I especially like the Art Department's choice of yellow, red, and black as the dominant colors in the background; for me, these add to the stark contrast between the fast growth of the city and the sudden outbreak of the plague.  I tip my cap to those who worked in the cover.  I believe it will draw potential readers to the book, whether they are looking at it in a store or online.
     As mentioned, the book goes to print June 8.  There are several other steps after a book is printed before it actually shows up on shelves at all the places where books are purchased. The book will be available shortly for advance purchase for those who want to reserve a copy, and it will show up in bookstores in about two months.  I'll provide more details about that as we get closer to the actual release of the book.  I think readers will find this story quite interesting and revealing, especially as pockets of of the Black Plague have popped up in several countries in the past few months.  The "Scourge of the Middle Ages" is still very much with us today.
    I hope all of you enjoy the start of your summer.  Happy reading, everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Happy Holidays!

December 21, 2017
Hi, All!
    First of all, I want to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and wonderful holidays and Happy New Year!  I hope all of you have a great time with family, friends, and others special to you.
     This will be a quick note, and you will soon see why.......
      Take a look at the picture attached to this post.  Yes, I really did break my leg playing soccer.  So, this brings up the question: "Why, at my age, did I think I could still play soccer?"  It's funny, but I don't feel like I'm getting older -- even though my body reminds me of this just about every day now.  Age is nothing but a number -- until a person gets hurt!  I'm posing with a baseball bat instead of a soccer ball because a dear friend of mine did some fast work on the picture to show my leg stuck out like this.  Ouch!  So, the reason this note will be short is it is still difficult for me to sit at the computer for any length of time.  I think I'm going to have to start typing while standing up!
    A soccer injury isn't a very "romantic" injury to report, so I think I should change my story to something like I broke my leg while saving some children from a burning building.  Or, how about I threw myself in front of an out-of-control car to save an elderly person who was crossing the street?  How about saying I hurt the leg while falling off an elephant?  If you can think of a better story I can use, please send it along to me.
     Again, Happy Holidays!  And a happy and blessed 2018 for us all!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Author Website Updated!

December 2, 2017
Hi, All!
     First of all, I'd like to wish everyone a happy, healthy, and wonderful holiday season!
     My note this morning is just to let everyone know my author website has just been updated.  The work on the site was done by the incredibly talented Bobbie Combs of ""  If you are an author or are thinking about starting your own website to showcase your writings, take a look at her work.  Bobbie is simply amazing -- and a delight to work with.
      Here is the address of my author website:
Please check out the site and let me know what you think of it and the changes.  I'm always trying to make it more "user friendly," so I'd appreciate any comments/suggestions you might have.
    I'm also writing to let you know I'm now deep into the background research for my next book.  This book will tell the story of some amazing events that took place during WWII, a story that has so many implications for what we do in this world today.  I'm once again writing about a pioneer and true American hero. In doing my background research, I'm currently more than a little stuck because I can't find a piece of information I badly need for this story. However, the investigation, the digging out the details, is pure joy for me.  It is the "thrill of the chase" in tracking down the details that makes this part of the writing so much fun -- and such a challenge.  I'll find the information I need, but I'm guessing I'll have a lot more rocks to turn over before I finally locate it.......
      I'll attach a picture to this post to show you an item that will be a major player in this story -- that's all the hint I'm going to give now.  Check back here from time to time for updates!
    One final note today: I also wanted to mention that my documentary film "The Story of Shelley v. Kraemer" is still showing at the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.  The documentary, which was nominated for the Sundance Film Festival, is part of their wonderful exhibit: "#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis."  The documentary will continue to be shown continuously in the exhibit until the exhibit ends on April 15, 2018. There is no admission fee for the exhibit or the film, so if you are in the area over the holidays (or next spring), you might want to stop by the museum.  The museum has quite a number of exhibits, all of which are really fun to go through.
     Again, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season!


Saturday, October 14, 2017

Choosing a topic for a book

October 14, 2017
Hi, All!
     Other than waiting for the galleys of Plague in Paradise: The Black Death in Los Angeles, 1924 to be sent to me for final review, I'm now finished with that book.  It will be published in 2018, and I can't wait because the topic is so timely right now.  It seems like every day another report appears in the national newspapers about the Black Plague outbreak happening right now in Madagascar, where over fifty have been killed by this dreaded disease and over five hundred are still being held in its grip.  And it isn't just Madagascar that has been in the news lately because of plague; an outbreak happened in our American west just a couple months back.  Yes, this scourge of the Middle Ages is still with us to this day, and more and more outbreaks are being reported around the globe. For as far as medical science has come in its knowledge of how to fight the plague, there is still so much to learn about how these outbreaks happen and what to do about them.  Plague in Paradise tells the story of the last major outbreak of the Black Plague in the United States, which happened in 1924.  In this book, readers will see how past history is influencing the present, especially through the trials and tribulations of the outbreaks happening right now.
    With that book finished, it is time to move to the next project.  This is both an exciting and, at times, frustrating time for authors.  It is an exciting time for me because I know whatever topic I choose, I'm going to spend the next year of my life researching it -- and then six more months writing it.  I absolutely LOVE doing the research -- the digging through archives and records centers, the travel to interview people associated with the topic, reading everything I can get my hands related to the story -- and finally starting on a storyboard for the book.  On the other hand, because there are so many topics from which to choose when deciding on a project, the frustrating part is narrowing down the choices to just one that I want to invest my time in during the research and writing.  Put more simply, I usually end up with three or four topics I'm interested in, and whittling these down to the one I'll actually work on is so tough for me.  I'd like to do them all!  Right now, for my next book, which will also be literary nonfiction, I've narrowed my choices down to three.  One would be a story about another group of heroes who served during World War II.  The other two would be about "pioneers" who helped advance medicine and quality of life in our country.  I'm going to do a little more research into the three before making my final decision.  I have to decide which story I'd most like to write, but it isn't just that easy. I also need to check to see what material is out there to draw from when doing my background research.  In other words, not only do I have to chose what I'd like to do -- I also have to make sure I can find enough information to do justice to the story and stick to the code of literary nonfiction.  So, stay tuned.  I'll be making my decision soon!  In the meantime, I wish all of you happy reading!
P.S. The attached photo is me with John Pertzborn of the St. Louis Fox News affiliate when I was on to talk about the documentary film I put together last year, "The Story of Shelley v. Kraemer," which is still showing at the Missouri History Museum through April 15, 2017. John Pertzborn is one of the best news anchors I've ever worked -- and a wonderful human being

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Plague Book Finished!

June 28, 2017
Hi, All!
     One of the best and most satisfying moments for an author comes when the boxed-up manuscript is finally sent off to the publisher.  I got to do that late yesterday, and I feel so lucky and blessed to have completed another book.  This one is titled Plague in Paradise: The Black Death Comes to Los Angeles, 1924.  Literary nonfiction is my area, so this is the true story of the last major outbreak of the Black Plague in the United States, which took place in Los Angeles in 1924.  It is a story that is part mystery, part suspense -- and is also highly emotionally-charged at times -- because of how this outbreak was handled by doctors and officials in Los Angeles
.  In the book, we see the best in human beings -- and the worst.  In the end, it is a story of the triumph of the human spirit in times of terrible tragedy. 
     This was a very challenging book to write.  In order to accurately present the medical side of the story, I had to pour over what seemed like countless medical books and journals.  At the same time, I had to research what life was like in 1924 Los Angeles; to do that, I read hundreds of newspapers of the era to get a good feel for everything from what music was like then to what transportation was like to what people wore and how they spoke.  While doing the background research, I was shocked by the prices of goods and services in 1924 -- some much cheaper than today, of course, but others much more expensive because of "supply and demand" issues.  I also had to travel all across the country to acquire just the right pictures for the "Photo Section" that will be at the back of the book. One of the highlights of my travel to gather information came when I was able to have lunch with Father Arturo Corral N├ívarez at Our Lady Queen of Angels ("La Placita"), the church that was the hub of the neighborhood involved in the story back in 1924. From Father Arturo, I learned so much about the history of Los Angeles and its residents.
    I'm going to attach to this note the current draft of what the front cover of the book might look like.  I really, REALLY like this -- because it shows the skyline of Los Angeles in 1924 (the "Paradise") and a rat (the Black Death).  I also like the lettering, which helps create an eerie tone.  I'm sure this cover will be changed some before a final version is put together, but I wanted all of you to see this one now.
     I get questions all the time about the steps a manuscript goes through before it ends up in final form -- and a book actually shows up on the shelves of a bookstore or is made available for e-readers.  I'm going to be posting in the future as the manuscript goes through all the steps so that this part of the publishing process can be seen.  I hope you enjoy this "step-by-step" account.
      Summer is in full bloom now, so I wish all of you a wonderful time, good health, and happy reading!