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.

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!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Plague Book Update

May 28, 2017
Hi, All!
     I hope all of you have been well and your lives full of joy as summer begins.  I've been on the road quite a bit of late.  One of my stops was in St. Louis at the Missouri History Museum.  There, I met up with many of the individuals who helped with my documentary film: "The Story of 'Shelley v. Kraemer."  The film will be showing at the museum for a whole year, until April of 2018.  It is running "on a loop" in a theater area of the museum within the Civil Rights Exhibit, so if you are in the area, please stop in and watch it and enjoy the whole exhibit. We all had a wonderful day.  We went through the exhibit together and watched the film.  After that, we all went to the Shelley Home, now a National Historic Landmark, and were able to visit with the family currently living there.  I want to thank Deshon and Mr. and Mrs. Moore for inviting us all into their home.  We all had a wonderful time and a great visit. Note: one picture is of us all at the entrance to the exhibit at the museum; the other photo is of us all in the front yard of the Shelley Home - next to the monument explaining the home's significance.
    I've also been wrapping up my book about the last major outbreak of the Black Plague in the United States.  The plague was spread by way of fleas on rats and squirrels.  I've been able to take several good pictures of squirrels for the Photo Section of the book, but I'm having a difficult time figuring out how I'm going to get pictures of rats that I can use in the book.  If any of you have any suggestions about that, please e-mail me.
   I wish you all a wonderful summer full of adventures and great reading!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Civil Rights Exhibit Open!

March 19, 2017
Hi, All!
    This is just a quick post to let everyone know the *ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS* exhibit at the St. Louis History Museum is now open -- and to encourage all of you to visit it over the next year.  The exhibit, which is in the main exhibit area at the museum, is called "#1 in Civil Rights: The African American Freedom Struggle in St. Louis."  It is a HUGE exhibit devoted to many of the milestone events in the fight for justice and freedom for all -- all of which took place right there in St. Louis.  There are tons of pictures and artifacts to explore, and they even have a special area where actors have been hired to portray historic individuals and interact with the groups that go through.  My documentary film, "The Story of 'Shelley v. Kraemer'" is also in a special viewing theater in the exhibit, so please stop by and watch it if you get the chance.  The exhibit is, in my judgment, the best exhibit of this type I've ever seen.  So, if you are anywhere near St. Louis and can stop by the Missouri History Museum in Forest Part to see the exhibit, I think you will really enjoy it!  The exhibit runs now until April of 2018, so you have plenty of time to go through it, hopefully many times (because you will see something new each time you go through).  The exhibit is also free and open to the public during regular museum hours.
    I'm going to post two pictures from my last visit to the exhibit.  One is of me at the opening to the exhibit area.  Another is of me with some of my pals in the theater area where my film is showing.