Category Archives: Fans/Readers

Finishing Up New Book

The new book should be with the editor by the end of February at the latest!

The first bunch of books I worked on seemed to fly by, the writing was generally easy and things went pretty smooth even though the publishing on Amazon Kindle and Createspace was still a little glitchy.

However, on the ones I’m working on now, it has been one problem after another.

I decided, after doing a story reading to some kids at the school in Coushatta, La. (with Dr. Shane Rasmussen of the Folklife Center at Northwestern State University ) to do a Middle School – Young Adult book. The fact that at every appearance and festival I’ve attended I’d always been asked if I had any children’s books played a part as well.

As with many of my works, I had the title for a while. The outline of the book popped into my head not long after the visit to the school and, like I usually do, I made some notes and saved them then started writing. In the meantime I would jump from one project to another but always meant to go ahead and wrap up the kids book.

Unfortunately, I had a bit of a health issue which slowed me down for a little while and after that broke my shoulder in two places and banged my head a good one while on vacation. It took a while, a lot longer than when I was young, to heal up and get to the point I could use the keyboard again.

When I finally recovered enough to sit down and get back to work on the book…my notes had disappeared! I still had the first pages I’d written but not my notes. And, apparently the bang to the head had whacked my memory just a little since, for the first time ever, I couldn’t remember how a story I was working on was supposed to progress!

So I’ve spent months now looking for the notes and trying to recreate the ending in my head. Finally, I just decided that it must not have been that good if I’d forgotten and decided to figure out a new storyline using the characters I already had in the book. Once I did that…BANG!!!…a new story appeared and I could use what I’d already written, work in a little mythology,  a little history, and I’m right back on track. Note: this time I made a file with the notes and saved it in several places, plus I wrote it down on a piece of paper.

So by the end of the month I will have (hopefully) finished the first in a new series of books for kids. I won’t tell you the name yet, but I can tell you it has dragons, knights, twin boys named Robert and Anthony (which just happens to be the names of my twin sons) toilets, poo, wizards, and all kinds of other good things!

I’ll announce when it’s ready but it will definitely be completed in paperback for he appearance this summer at the Natchitoches – Northwestern State University Folklife Festival held at the NSU campus on Saturday, July 21, 2018.

If you’ve never been to Natchitoches, Louisiana you should put it on your calendar for this year. It is a beautiful city, the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase, and where numerous movies have been filmed including Steel Magnolias, The Horse Soldiers, and many others. There are gorgeous plantations outside of town, history everywhere, Kisatchie National Forest (the site of the turpentine camp in my first book, The Bottle Tree), and so much more. Plus, it’s a reasonably priced place to visit and the Folklife Festival tickets are a great value! It’s my favorite venue to meet people and sell books.

I should have this book and one other new one ready for this year’s festival, maybe more!

 

Calling All Book Clubs!

Calling all book clubs

One of the things I enjoy most about being a writer is interacting with readers and potential readers. I always learn something new about them, the subject of my book, or, just as often, about myself. As a matter of fact, the only thing I don’t like about doing book signings is that often it gets so hectic I don’t get to spend as much time interacting with individuals as I would like.

Unfortunately, it seems as if reading is becoming a lost art and I would love to do anything I can to help keep it stay alive.

If there are any book clubs out there looking for a writer to speak to their group, either in person or via Skype, or to help them with some type of promotion drop me an email and let me know. I’ve donated autographed books or collections of books in the past and have also agreed to let readers name characters in future books as a way to help clubs.

My schedule is pretty flexible and I’m willing to drive to meetings in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, or Louisiana (or maybe further!) and Skype is always a possibility. I don’t ask for expenses since I’m always doing research on different parts of the country and the chances are good that no matter where you are located I’ve got a project being researched near you.

The offer applies to libraries and schools as well. Last year I was honored to be asked to accompany Dr. Shane Rasmussen, the head of the Louisiana Folklife Center at Northwestern State University, to a storytelling session at the Coushatta Elementary School (in Louisiana) and had a tremendous time talking to several classes of students there. I was even luckier since the older of my twin sons, Robert Michael Bennett, went with me and the students got to hear a little about his backpacking trip across Europe from which he’d just returned.

So…drop me a line if I can be of any help. I’m always happy to add dates to my calendar.

The Death of Characters

No' Chance

Which of the characters in my books were supposed to die and wouldn't?

Unlike a lot of writers, as a general rule I am not able to plot out my books. The Bottle Tree was an anomaly, I woke up from a nap one day and knew virtually the entire story. I had to fill in odd bits and pieces but the entire concept was there.

NOTE: PARTIAL SPOILER FOLLOWS BELOW ON NO' CHANCE

However, in No' Chance, when I started writing it I intended to kill off one of the main characters. It was going to play into the story and there was a purpose there, no random acts of violence for me, but it ended up twisting.

As I was writing No' Chance, I found that the characters and the story absolutely refused to let me offer the one up as a sacrifice. In most of my books, as in most books and movies in general, there is a bit of foreshadowing that a character is going to be lost. When you finish the book and go back to re-read it, you can now see the handwriting on the wall.

However, I am not one to force my ideas of a story on the story or characters and if they want to go in a different direction, that's exactly what happens. Quite often where I think it is going turns out to be incorrect.

As those of you who have read No' Chance know, the ending is set in New Orleans. Originally it was going to be in Collinwood, Noah's home town, at a carnival on the town square. Instead, it ended up being at the edge of Jackson Square with the Mississippi River Levee the scene of the final confrontation.

Why?

I have no idea, that's just where the book wanted to go. One problem is that it makes it hell on the editing because even now I see hints in the book that I recognize as setting up the carnival scene.

That's why a lot of time when people ask me where I got a certain idea I really can't explain it. All I can say is that the book said that is what was supposed to happen.

Oh, and in No' Chance…Jennifer was going to die when I started it. However, when I tried to work toward that ending, it's like the characters left and refused to cooperate. I finally decided to change it and they reappeared to help me finish the story.

Saying Goodbye to a Family Member and Building a Character

Last Sunday, our family had to say goodby to my wife's mother (my mother in law). She passed away suddenly and without any warning. Ellen had a severe heart attack and a stroke some years ago, was in the hospital for months first in a coma and then trying to recover from the effects. She seemed to be doing well lately and we were totally floored to get the news.

Like many son in law / mother in law relations, ours wasn't always great. I freely admit it was as much my fault as hers but over the years the relationship had improved and I can genuinely say that she will be missed by many. I was extremely touched to find that all the copies of my books we found at her house were all well read, marked by creases and other signs of use that a book which has been read and reread should contain.

However, this post isn't as much about our loss as it is about my discovery.

In my wife's process of going through the many papers and mementos left behind we quickly discovered that even though we may know someone well, we often forget little things about them that make them such a well rounded person. Ellen was a meticulous "keeper" of old newspaper articles, letters, photos, and other things which show what a unique character she was. 

It's the little things that make a person so memorable, both in our lives and in our books.

The Greatest Compliment to an Author

I got a call from my Mom the other day. She lives in Natchitoches, La. where I had that great book signing at the Natchitoches – NSU Folk Festival back in July.

She was shopping at the local grocery store there and was approached by a woman who recognized her from the festival and told her that not only had she bought my book The Bottle Tree there but that she loves it and has now read and reread it three times!

To an author that is probably the highest compliment that you can receive, that someone likes your work enough to take the time out of their busy lives to read the book more than once.

I am a notorious re-reader. As a matter of fact I have purchased several books for my Kindle that I have read over and over and still have in printed form. Books like James Clavell's Shogun, James Michener's Hawaii (not on Kindle yet, but anxiously waiting for it) and Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer are an annual read for me, along with a number of others.

Most of us authors are at least a little lacking in self confidence. The bad reviews are daggers to the heart while the good reviews are read with anxiety, knowing that buried in there somewhere will be the negatives. However, it really, really warms the heart to know that someone enjoys what you write enough to go back and read it more than once.

To all my readers, thank you. It is impossible to tell you how much I appreciate your support.