Where dreams take flight
P.O. Box 159
Norcross, Georgia 30091
After my first three crime/mystery novels were published, I wanted to write something that had an unusual element to it. Although the story is set in present day and has all the unsavory characters I enjoy developing, I came up with a twist that had intrigued me since my youth. I spent many a Saturday afternoon in our local theater fascinated by Egyptian movies depicting the mysticism of Pharaohs, their Queens, their gods, the mummies and the Seers whose magic influenced them all. From that early interest, I started writing a crime story that would utilize an element from that era woven into the tale of my protagonist, Marty Driscoll, Yale’s star quarterback. Marty gave up a promising football career after the loss of his right eye from a cruel beating by Carmine Brocco, an underworld character who would become my main antagonist. Marty’s carefree roommate and close friend, Todd Hamilton, swiped a rare Egyptian Seer’s orb from his archaeology class and convinced Marty to have it implanted as the prosthesis for his lost eye. The rest of the story just flowed between Marty changing his career goals to practice law andCarmine building his crime organization. The main theme eventually centers around Marty’s implant and the mystical power it processes. Of course he ultimately crosses paths with Carmine and that’s when the story solidifies and unfolds to a mystical conclusion.
As I indicated, I had written three novels before Driscoll’s and have had another published recently. In all, one of the elements that I find most difficult to write into a story is conflict. As I explain at signings and reading, it’s hard to create conflict when in real life we try to avoid it. However any dedicated writer will tell you that without conflict, you have no compelling reason for readers to want to turn the next page.
Having Driscoll’s published by Nightbird was the perfect match. They were looking for something ‘fantastical’ as Jeff Dennis put it. I knew this story would fill that niche. I couldn’t ask for a better home for this novel.
November 2010 Author's Corner
Flying with the Loons and Other Sinsby Jeff Dennis
My first published novel (and sixth completed novel), THE WISDOM OF LOONS, is a star-crossed romance that takes place at a haunted lake resort in the North Georgia mountains. To my neverending surprise, the book has garnered a few raves since its publication in March 2009. Some reader feedback: "It's like Nicholas Sparks meets Stephen King" and "Reminds me of ON GOLDEN POND with ghosts."
I have long been fascinated with the strange metaphysical forces that often seem to be at work in our world. I set out to write a short novel that, on the surface, would seem to be a straightforward relationship story, but that would carry the reader to some very bizarre places. I combined mainstream romance with Native American (Cherokee) folklore/ spiritualism, threw in dashes of supernatural horror and dark fantasy, shook it all up into a weird literary brew, and capped it off with an explosive triple-twist ending that I hoped even the most experienced reader couldn't see coming. Apparently I succeeded, as comments about the ending have included "mindblowing" and "terrific surprise" and "incredible misdirection." All very rewarding, indeed, and I remain humbled by the positive response. To see a sampling of what readers have written about THE WISDOM OF LOONS on Amazon, click LOONS Amazon Reviews.
THE WISDOM OF LOONS (2009) WHEN THE SANDMAN MEETS THE REAPER:
12 TALES OF MAGIC AND TERROR (1996)
On Friday evening, October 29, I was honored to be the guest of the Cambridge Book and Theatre Club in Johns Creek, Georgia, where THE WISDOM OF LOONS was the monthly reading selection. Cher Bilczewski was a most gracious and hospitable host, and I felt right at home with the wonderful women of the club. Everyone treated me as though I was their long-lost friend and I had a great time.
The book club discussions centered around the three main characters of the novel (Cal Blevins, Lauren Talbot, and Edgar Talbot) and how the tragi-comic, stroke-addled Edgar was inspired by my late father. Prior to the meeting, I had developed discussion questions for the session, but I needn't have bothered with it. The ladies of the book club jumped right in with their own well-thought-out questions that fueled a spirited discussion for hours.
Jeff Dennis with Cher Bilczewski The author with the Cambridge Book Club
Finally, late in the evening, in keeping with the mood of the Halloween weekend, I was asked to read one of my short horror stories from my first book, WHEN THE SANDMAN MEETS THE REAPER. I chose "Sin and Salvation," which was originally published in The End magazine in 1993. It is a rough and nasty dark tale of a society in which church and state govern moral issues in a decidedly brutal fashion. I'm not sure how well it went over, but it was Halloween after all. I have republished "Sin and Salvation" online with three other stories from this collection on scribd.com (click Sin and Salvation online if you want to read a horror tale that will grab you by the throat . . . literally).
After the meeting, I signed books, and handed out store displays for my novel and cover proofs for my short story collection. A huge THANK YOU goes out to Cher Bilczewski and all of the fine ladies of the Cambridge Book and Theatre Club. Thank you for inviting me and including me in your festivities. I enjoyed meeting all of you.
Currently, I am hard at work on my next novel, KING OF THE HOBOS, which I hope to publish late summer or early fall of next year. It's my financial apocalypse novel, a very dark, gritty thriller in which bands of hobos roam the countryside in a near-future America that has been devastated by another huge Wall Street crash. It's become a very hardscrabble, hand-to-mouth existence for many as the country has plunged into a second Great Depression. Lots of great riding-the-rails train action, murder, intrigue, and survival-of-the-fittest in a Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome kind of world. I will have more on this as we get closer to publication.
by Toby Tate
People often say to me, “I wish I could write a novel,” to which I say, “You can.”
I admit that novel writing does require a bit of self-discipline, which is interesting because I have always felt that was a virtue I lacked. I guess this just proves that if you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find a way to do it.
The first major hurdle for me was deciding what to write about. There were several ideas floating around in my head for years and some stops and starts. When my wife and I began vacationing in a place called Ocracoke Island in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I noticed there were a lot of references to the pirate Blackbeard. In fact, Ocracoke Island was the place where Blackbeard had met his death, so there is a lot of folklore related to that fact around the area.
I was intrigued by the mystique surrounding Edward Teach—he had only been a pirate for a few years when he was killed, yet he left behind a legacy that has survived down through the centuries. He was a huge man said to have worn red ribbons in his long black beard and lit fuses in his hair to make it appear as if he were surrounded by smoke from the fires of Hell. He carried as many as six pistols up and down his massive chest and a curved cutlass.
Yet he was also said to have been a man who cared for his crewmembers, nursing them back to health when they were sick or even taking a bullet for them. He had amassed something like 17 wives, so he was also a romantic.
But Teach had a dark side, and that was what really fascinated me. Once while playing cards with some men in his crew, he drew a pistol and shot his first mate in the kneecap, “Just so no one forgets who I am,” he had said. He also had the habit of telling people he was in league with the devil and went so far as to make that the theme of his flag—a horned skeleton holding an hourglass in one hand and a spear stabbing a heart in the other.
I began to ask myself, “What if he really was in league with the devil? And what if, lying down there at the bottom of the Atlantic, his bones were still inhabited by this demon? Could someone bring him back to life?” Then I began to think about the types of demons Blackbeard could have been in league with and hit upon the idea of the “Diablero” while doing research on the Internet. Two mythical entities brought together into one—you couldn’t ask for a better story premise than that.
I probably started and stopped writing “Diablero” more times than I can count, but the idea wouldn’t leave me alone—I felt like I had to write it or I would burst. So, over the course of five years, I did just that—writing and rewriting, coming up with new characters and plot twists.
Then it was time to find an agent. After about the 85th try, I decided that was getting me nowhere, so I found a list of independent publishers and began the process of querying them instead. At about the end of the list, I happened to find the website for Nightbird and another publisher. They both wanted to read my manuscript. I gave Nightbird first dibs and they made an offer I couldn’t refuse. I was impressed with the quality of their product, their experience and their professionalism—I couldn’t have asked for a better publisher.
After slogging through manuscript rewrites and cover designs, getting a website up, sending out advance readers, networking on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Google and everywhere else, and asking established authors for endorsements, voila! Here it is; a finished product that we can all be proud of.
Now, the real work begins.
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Coming up with a good story line wasn’t usually the problem—I think we all have at least a dozen stories rolling around in our heads. No, my problem was how to create a good story that’s different.
I spent a lot of time on the beach, and like many people, the ocean holds a certain intrigue for me. Most of my escapist fantasies feature the ocean—being stranded on a deserted island with nothing except a bottle of aspirin and the finest looking guy in the universe (oh, and did I mention that he’s an expert survivalist, too?), winning the lottery and buying a house on the water, finding pirate treasure . . . Pirate treasure. File that one away.
Then along comes the talented Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow in the wildly popular Pirates of the Caribbean. And the femme fatale in the movie was sort of a pirate too. Now I’m on to something. How can I take this down a different road? Hmm, maybe my pirate could be female. Too farfetched? Did a little research, and discovered there were in fact, documented female pirates. Yes! Even though you can take creative license with your writing, there still needs to be an overall sense of plausibility. Now, where to start? The Florida Keys of course, the heart of the Mel Fisher expedition that found the Nuestra Señora de Atocha, with its immense history and vast treasure.
I knew the Keys well and had seen the exhibits of the treasure years earlier, and you know what they say about writing—write what you know, or at least write what you like. And so I began.
I wrote and wrote. I expanded. I built on what I had. I got stuck many times. The whole process was . . . clunky. I tried to be elegant about it all, until my author friend said, forget that! You’ve got to bleed all over the page, expose the deepest underbelly of your soul. Okaaaayy, I’ll try. It felt like taking a step off the edge of a cliff. Blindfolded. But he was right and it worked.
Over time, my story actually seemed to write itself and I simply became the scribe. I’ve heard other authors describe this same phenomenon. You write, not knowing what’s going to happen next in your story, and it just takes on a life of its own. When this happens, it’s kind of a rush, like a runner’s high, and you can’t wait to get back to it to find out what happens next!
I had been editing as I was writing, but the minute I typed the words, The End, the real work began. I estimated that 30% of my time I spent writing new material and 70% of my time I spent reworking and refining the overall novel. The rework has to be done, because when you do finally type the words The End, you’re really only about halfway there. My publisher said a story has to flow, it has to sing, so I kept refining. When I felt like it was the best that it could be, the words The End finally rang true. And so SEA BEGGAR was launched, replete with its Caribbean-colored and pieces-of-eight-laden cover.
More than a than just a process, writing this book was a journey, and I learned so much along the way. At the beginning I thought, I’ll never write a book. It’s too daunting! I can’t do it. Celebrities write books, glamorous people write books. People like me don’t write books. But I did it, I wrote a book.
And you know what? It feels damn good!