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.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

NPR Interview link

November 1, 2018
Hi, All!
     Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of being interviewed on National Public Radio by one of their very best hosts, Don Marsh.  Don is always perfectly prepared -- and asks great questions.  Don also has a very special gift: the ability to make his guests feel very comfortable and relaxed.  I didn't feel nervous at all while the program took place.  Rather than worrying about myself and how I'd sound, I wanted more than anything not to let Don down.  He is THAT special - and is a true national treasure.
     Here is a link to the program:  
     Scroll about half way down the page to find the button to click on to hear the program about Plague in Paradise: The Black Death in Los Angeles, 1924.
P.S. I'm also going to post a couple of picture of me with Don Marsh.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Book Tour Pictures

October 30, 2018
Hi, All!
    Here are just a few pictures from my recent book tour in California.  The first two are from my reading at the Sherman Library & Gardens in Corona Del Mar.  The picture of me

with the woman in the blue dress was taken at the Barnes & Noble store in Burbank. You'll also notice rats all over my rental car in yet another picture.  Look closely and you'll see they are also on the dashboard inside the car!  I have been taking rubber rats that squeak when squeezed to my book events -- and have been giving them to those who participate in the Q&A sessions after the readings. The plague was spread by way of fleas on rats, so I thought this would be an appropriate "visual" for the talks.  People are loving them!  I took a whole suitcase of these rats with me on the book tour, and the people who x-ray the baggage at airports were freaked out when they saw the rats, especially because there was an outbreak of Typhus (also transmitted by fleas on rats) while I was there.  Everyone had to make sure my rats weren't real!  I'll be posting more pictures soon, so stay tuned.
     Happy reading!

Monday, October 29, 2018

California book tour

October 29, 2018
Hi, All!
     I just got back from the California book tour.  I had a GREAT time -- met some pretty wonderful people, had nice crowds for the book events, sold lots of books, and saw some new sites out there as well.  I even went on a Hollywood tour one afternoon!
    I did book readings/events everywhere from Corona Del Mar up to the Burbank Barnes & Noble store.  The timing of the trip was very interesting as Los Angeles, where the events of the book took place, was currently in the middle of a horrible Typhus "epidemic" (the exact word used initially by NBC News!).  What I discovered was yet another case of "The more things change, the more they stay the same."  Why?  Well, at one of the book readings, I had a huge crowd.  In the middle of my reading I asked how many in the room had heard of the Typhus outbreak taking place, and only *four* individuals raised hands.  One of the four said, "I don't think much about it because it is taking place in the homeless around Los Angeles."  This person was shocked when I revealed I had just seen on NBC news that "ground zero" for the epidemic was in the million dollar homes just north of the city.  This is merely speculation on my part, but my best guess would be that the pets of those who live in those million dollar homes somehow got the fleas that help transmit Typhus -- and then it spread from there.  Still, listening to that individual reminded me so much of what took place in my book.  Back in 1924, many weren't concerned about the illness because it seemed, at first glance, to be focused on the Mexican community and not with mainstream Los Angeles.  It really does seem that as long as there is a group to "pin it on," outbreaks like these don't seem all that important to some people -- and that is so sad.  So sad.
     The Typhus outbreak going on right now also sparked added interest in Plague in Paradise because, I think, people were curious about how a similar situation played out in the past. Maybe a reading of my book will help individuals in that area better come to grips with what should be done now.  I sure hope so.
   I'm still coming out of jet-lag, so I'll sign off for now.  In the next post I'll try to post some pictures from the trip.  In the meantime, happy reading!

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!