Tag Archives: junebug

New Books Coming Soon!

I’ve gotten a few communications on my annual appearance at the Natchitoches/NSU Folklife Festival and whether I will have any new books there and I thought I’d do a short post.

We have an anthology we have put together of some older (pre-1920s) pieces concerning Louisiana as well as the poems from the collection I’m still working on. Also included in the anthology will be the full version of The Bottle Tree, which will also be available as a standalone book. 

In addition, we are working to get a couple of other books together using pre-1920s works which we thought were interesting. Karren is coming across these while helping me do research for my novel, Louisiana, which is still a ways off.

Hopefully, I’ll also have the second book in the Junebug series completed. The title is Junebug and the Monkey. I’m about 25,000+ words into it (100 pages or so) but that’s only about a third finished. For some reason this books is fighting me as hard as I’m fighting it. As many of you know, I’ve always felt that the characters in my book come to visit and sit with me to tell their story but in this case they just won’t come to visit. Still, with any luck it’ll be ready for the festival which is July 15-16, 2016.

I hope to see all of you there!

Help! Need Reviews – Amazon Strikes Again!

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that Amazon seems to have, once again, removed a number of reviews even though I don't use paid reviewers for my products and so I'd ask anyone who has read any of my books to take a minute, if it isn't too much trouble, and head on over to Amazon.com and GoodReads.com and leave a review on any of my books they have read.

Apparently, Amazon has now initiated a policy where on some occasions they remove reviews from people who are your social media contacts. Since I do my best to interact with readers as much as possible, both in person and online, and have accounts on almost all of the social media sites I can only assume this is why some of the reviews were removed.

This happened last year (I think it was last year) when I lost a number of reviews with no explanation from Amazon (who also owns Goodreads) despite a request for them to explain what happened. As I said, I don't use paid reviews, unlike some other authors from the large publishing houses, and I can't tell why these were targeted but I know it happened to a number of independent writers all within a few days of each other. I applaud Amazon's attempts to make sure people aren't just buying reviews and are doing their best to police this practice but there appears to be some issues with their algorithms and if they actually are removing those of people who have "liked" a Faceboo page or interacted with a social media site then it does a great disservice to both independent authors and their readers, both of whom are Amazon customers.

In the online world of book sales, you live or die based on your reviews since people tend to buy what other people have liked and I can only ask those of you who have read my works to take a minute and leave a few words at these two sites or any others you go to.

I hate to impose on anyone but it would be much appreciated.

My Hero Has Down’s Syndrome

I have two series of books that I write. Well, since you have to have more than one book connected together to have a series I actually have one series and the aspirations (and a half written follow up) for a second.

The first series is the Junebug series based around the protagonist Junebug Walker. If you've read Junebug and the Body you know it is a nostalgic mystery with a lot of humor. It's set in the South, has a distinct southern slant, and I am working on the second book, Junebug and the Monkey, as the mood strikes me.

However, it's the Noah Chance series that I am blogging about today

Noah Chance is a young man in his early 20s who has Down's Syndrome and can see and talk to ghosts. He is the hero in both No' Chance and Second Chance, and hopefully we'll be seeing and hearing more from him as the books continue. 

I don't even remember now how Noah got his start, other than one day he and his two compadres were there in my mind, almost fully developed and just as you read about them in No' Chance. I didn't decide I wanted to write a book with a character who has Down's Syndrome, the character has it…because Noah has it.

I do know I was greatly influenced in my depiction of Noah by a woman I knew, let's call her Kay.

Kay was in her early 40s and had lived with her mother until the mother passed away, at which time she was placed in a group home by the state. In my other life I was hired by Kay's sister to file for guardianship over her, a guardianship which was opposed by the company who ran the group home and who, incidentally, received funds every month for providing Kay a place to live.

I had the opportunity to meet with Kay on one occasion with only her and the attorney (appointed by the court to represent her in the case). The other attorney was a friend of mine and sat in the corner and allowed me to talk with Kay for almost an hour. The meeting that day started when Kay entered my office wearing a bright floral design dress and a huge, wide brimmed hat with flowers on it. When she saw me for the first time she broke into a huge smile and rushed over to give me a big hug and thank me for trying to help her get to live with her older sister.

It was my first time interacting on an extended basis with someone who has Trisomy 21, the genetic condition commonly referred to as Down's and I left that day with the certainty that meeting Kay had benefited me much more than it had benefited her. I had never, ever met someone who I could say had no ulterior motives, hidden agendas, or anything other than an open and loving heart.

We did win her case and the last I heard, Kay was living in Portland, Oregon with her sister. For a while I received a card from her at least once a year and it always made me smile.

Junebug and the Body – Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars Felt Like a Kid Again July 16, 2012
By Evergreen
If you like books that can take you back to a simpler place and time, read this one.
Sweet and endearing, this book is very enjoyable, with well drawn characters and a few twists and turns. I read this on the beach in Michigan, but as I flipped the Kindle pages I was easily taken south, to a small Texas town of the 70's. It brought back many great childhood memories of my own. Don't be afraid to upload this to your Kindle, and enjoy.

5.0 out of 5 stars Best Whodunnit Read For Summer …(or anytime, really) July 23, 2011
By bookfan
I just read this little gem of a whodunnit and was completely enthralled. First off, kudos to the author on character development. It's the first thing that carries you in to the story because the 2 boys are so genuine that they engage you right away. This can't be easy for an adult author to pull off, but he does it in expert fashion. The use of childhood -or rather, boyhood humor, comes at unexpected yet welcomed times and had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion. You might be disappointed if you're looking for a gruesome read, because this one's "G-rated."
Second, the plot is masterfully crafted with twists and turns that come at the pace you'd expect from a murder-mystery. Plus, the twist at the end will surely come as a surprise to even a serial whodunnit reader. I have to add that for anyone who is fond of southern culture and idioms, this story will quench your thirst in a big way. I can't remember the last book I read that had this kind of authentic grasp on southern mannerisms, and being a born and bred northerner, I literally crave southern characters. I'm definitely adding this author's name to my search list.

5.0 out of 5 stars Will be rereading this one. June 20, 2013
By Donna B. Smith
Eagerly awaiting sequels. Chilling story line with unique characters. I certainly felt connected to events as they unfolded and felt the horror that Junebug and friend must have felt. Chillbumps!

My Favorite Book I Have Written

One of the questions i get asked a lot is "Which one of your books is your favorite?"

That is an extremely hard question to answer because the simple fact is that I have written a couple of books that I will likely never publish because I don't like them that much so, inherently, when I publish a book I like it.

I absolutely love both Junebug and The Body and  No' Chance. Each of them have such unique characters, settings that I love, and they have so much potential for the future. I still laugh every time I read portions of  Junebug  and still get anxious at certain scenes in  No' Chance.

But, I guess I would have to say my favorite is also the book that I wrote the fastest, The Bottle Tree.

If I had to pick a reason I guess it would be because while it was the last book I wrote, it is also one of the oldest ideas I had. The turpentine and logging camp was real, and I can still remember when my Uncle Mike and I found the big resin pile that juts into the creek. Not long after that I found out from my Great Aunt that she had actually lived there as a child, and the story was greatly influenced by what she told me of her life in the camp.

There is also a lot of emotion in The Bottle Tree, probably because the characters in there are so real to me.  Junebug  and  Noah  and his friends are real too, but the characters in The Bottle Tree are all modeled on people that I know rather than being characters created with bits and pieces of different people.

The Story of Junebug and the Body

While I had written a couple of books before  Junebug , this is the first novel that I liked enough to pursue publishing. I started it almost 18 years ago, and mostly finished it back in 2006, but then kept messing with it until last year.

The book was represented by a couple of agents at different times, but they were never able to sell it without the publisher wanting me to "update" it to the current time, which I actually did at one point but in my mind the story lost a lot of its character being set in the 21st century as opposed to the early 1970s.

Junebug and The Body involves two friends, Joe Ben and Junebug, who live in the small east Texas town of St. John. While the setting in the book is ostensibly Texas, in reality it is based on what I remember of my hometown, Natchitoches, La.

Junebug and The Body actually started as a couple of pages written about a person that I knew, a local reporter who could often be seen walking around town scribbling in a little notebook he carried with him. For some reason, while at work one day, I wrote a paragraph about "Scoop", as the local newspaper reporter was jokingly referred to by the townspeople. The character seemed to take over and before I realized it I had written two full pages, including the character sketch that eventually made it into  Junebug and The Body . However, for some reason Scoop quickly became a secondary character as Joe Ben, Junebug, and Uncle Jasper appeared.

Unlike many writers I have an absolute inability to outline a story or book, even the non-fiction ones that I occasionally write. Instead, I find that the books take on their own life and the story kind of writes itself. I may make a note or two about something I eventually want to add, but usually the end result of the book was nothing like I thought it was going to be.

I knew from the beginning that  Junebug and The Body would be the first in a series and that it would be both a comedy and a murder mystery, but  other than that  I didn't know anything about the book. I had the book almost completed at one point and had written the lead in to an ending that I didn't like, I now don't even remember what it was, but for some reason the creative juices just stopped flowing. I had the dreaded writers block.

I started on a couple of other books, but Junebug was sitting there in the back of my mind, 95% completed and a book which I not only enjoyed writing but also one which I enjoyed reading. It cruised along like that for several months, percolating in the back of my mind but still unfinished. 

One day we were driving back home from a visit to my mother's house in Natchitoches. Karren was driving and I was semi-dozing in the passenger's seat, the kids in the back of the min-van asleep (all three of them would instantly fall asleep when we started driving, a trait their mother and I greatly appreciated. My daughter's now-husband says she still does that, and the boys are the same.) We were almost to the Marshall exit off of I-20 when I suddenly came awake, the ending for the book having popped into my mind and tying up all the loose ends I had created and loved in the novel.

I had to go back and do a little rewriting, changing things here and there to make it fit, but the essential parts of the book were finished in a couple of days.

That seems to be the way it works in most of my writings, I don't actually put a lot of thought into what happens. Instead I just start writing and see what develops. In some, I have a general idea of what I want to put in there, like in book two of the Junebug Series, Junebug and the Monkey, I knew there was going to be a monkey and voodoo, but other than that the story is once again writing itself.

I just wish it would write a little faster!