Monday, October 20, 2014

The Story Behind The Baker's Men by Donald Levin (Mystery / Police Procedural)

World as Muse: The Many Inspirations for The Baker’s Men
By Donald Levin

Like much of my writing, The Baker’s Men—the second Martin Preuss mystery—had its genesis in a single moment, kind of like an inspirational Big Bang. One afternoon several years ago I was driving down the street in Ferndale, Michigan, the city where I live which is also the setting of my series of mysteries. I saw a man half-walking, half-stumbling down the sidewalk with his hands on top of his head. He didn’t seem to be in distress, just sort of dazed.

And I remember thinking to myself, “Now THAT’S the beginning of a novel.”

It was ripe with the kinds of questions we want our readers to ask: Who was he? What had happened to him? Where was he going so determinedly?

I kept that image in my mind until I had the time and space to be able to sit down and actually start the book. The first book, Crimes of Love, had a similar “Aha!” moment . . . I was driving down a relatively deserted road in a suburban area at night outside Buffalo, New York, and saw one of those Caution: Deer Crossing signs. Like many of those kinds of signs, it had indentations from bullet holes. In an instant while driving I looked past the sign to see a house with lighted windows in the distance beyond it, and realized I had the main situation for a novel.

So when I sat down to start my second mystery beginning with the image of the man walking down the street, I knew I had to take the story someplace from there pretty quickly. So I went to my trusty folder of story ideas and interesting articles that I save (I’m always on the lookout for ideas for my books and poems). There I found the perfect way to continue.

I discovered an old article I had cut out from in one of the local alternative newspapers several years before. The article described a crime that took place at a small family-owned bakery in Detroit not far from where I work. Two men were shot (one was killed) and a third man escaped. The murder was never solved. The article was actually about the devastation the bakery owners suffered in the aftermath of the crime, but the overall situation caught my imagination when I first came across it.

That situation—the crime, not the owners’ response—became the inciting incident for the book that turned into The Baker’s Men. The man I had seen walking down the sidewalk morphed into the third man who escaped from the shooting at the bakery, which I now located in Ferndale. I changed most of the details about the crime (its location, the owners and their situation, the motive, and the victims) and repopulated it to suit my purposes. Then finally put my Detective Preuss on the case.

In my Acknowledgements section I made sure to thank the author of the original article. If not for that article, the book would have had a completely different plot.

But that’s not the only source of the inspiration for this novel. The other source was a tale my parents told me years before about something that happened to one of their friends. I can't say much more about it because I'll give away too much of the mystery that’s at the heart of the book . . . but like the article in the newspaper, I carried this story in my head for a long time (in this case more than twenty years) because I knew it would wind up in a novel someday. And it finally did, in The Baker’s Men.

Henry James advised novelists to be someone upon whom nothing is lost. This explanation of how one novel came together from several different sources illustrates that nicely. Unlike a worker who clocks out at the end of the day, a novelist is always either writing or thinking about writing—and the whole world is your muse.

About The Book:

Title: The Baker's Men
Author: Donald Levin
Publisher: Poison Toe Press
Publication Date: April 20, 2014
Pages: 338
ISBN: 978-0615968568
Genre: Mystery / Crime Fiction / Police Procedural
Format: Paperback, eBook, PDF

Easter, 2009. The nation is still reeling from the previous year’s financial crisis. Ferndale Police detective Martin Preuss is spending a quiet evening with his son when he’s called out to investigate a savage after-hours shooting at a bakery in his suburban Detroit community. Was it a random burglary gone bad? A cold-blooded execution linked to Detroit’s drug trade? Most frightening of all, is there a terrorist connection with the Iraqi War vets who work at the store? Struggling with these questions, frustrated by the dizzying uncertainties of the case and hindered by the treachery of his own colleagues who scheme against him, Preuss is drawn into a whirlwind of greed, violence, and revenge that spans generations across metropolitan Detroit.

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About The Author:

An award-winning fiction writer and poet, Donald Levin is the author of The Baker’s Men, the second book in the Martin Preuss mystery series; Crimes of Love, the first Martin Preuss mystery; The House of Grins, a mainstream novel; and two books of poetry, In Praise of Old Photographs and New Year’s Tangerine.

Widely published as a poet and with twenty-five years’ experience as a professional writer, he is dean of the faculty and professor of English at Marygrove College in Detroit. He lives in Ferndale, Michigan, the setting for his Martin Preuss mysteries. You can visit Donald Levin’s website at

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Friday, October 17, 2014

The Story Behind Hooked By Bobbi JG Weiss

This post includes spoilers!

I was first inspired to write Hooked by the obvious source — the story of Peter Pan. I saw the Disney animated film first as a kid, and that was the version I knew until I was an adult. Then, one day in 1990 when I bought the newly-released DVD of Disney's film, I looked at the cover art and thought to myself, out of nowhere, "Captain Hook isn't a villain. He seems so unhappy!" To me, villains in children’s stories are pure evil. But I didn't see Hook as all that evil. Yes, he wanted revenge for Peter taking his hand, but that actually made sense to me, y'know?

So I read J.M. Barrie's original novel and the play, and in them I found the key word: "melancholy." Barrie wrote that Hook often fell into deep melancholy moods, what we would call depression. Ideas just started flying through my head, and I began to write them down. Why would the infamous pirate Captain Hook be depressed?

Over time (we're talking 20 years here), the story of Hooked developed. All during that period as I plotted and wrote, one particular aspect of the plot stuck in my head as the most important: I didn't want my protagonist, Jonathan Stuart, to be a complete innocent. In other words, I didn't want to make Hook a victim. He's a victim to some extent, yes, but Jonathan Stuart starts out as someone you might not want to know anyway. He's got a foul temper, he's often churlish, and he's a recovered alcoholic who's having a hard time staying recovered. (Is there a plot reason why I gave Jon such a dark personality to begin with, you may ask? Hmm. I don't think I'll answer that here.)

So anyway, Jon's girlfriend, Melanie Forrester, can see that he's a good man at heart, and she believes that he just needs support. But she puts up with a lot. She loves the man he could be more than the man that he is. As for Jonathan, he loves Melanie like crazy and is grateful that a woman as wonderful as she is could ever love him.

So Hooked ended up to be a story about love, actually. It's a dark fantasy/horror because Stuart goes through hell and then some, but he does have love to keep him hopeful. For awhile. Sort of. (heh)

As for how Hooked got published, well, I self-published it. I did this because 1) I've been interested in self-publishing, so what better time? and 2) my agent decided to quit and do other things, so I would have had to first find a new agent before I could even submit to publishers. That can take months, so I opted for doing it myself. We'll see how it goes!

By the way, when Wicked first came out, I about had a fit. I could see the avalanche of fairytale remakes coming my way. But I didn't want to put Hooked out until it was as good as I could make it, so I took my time. After all, fads come and go, but good stories always find an audience. I'm certainly hoping Hooked will find its audience!

About The Book:

Title: Hooked
Author: Bobbi JG Weiss
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: July 21, 2014
Pages: 518
ISBN: 978-0990360001
Genre: Dark Fantasy / Horror
Format: Paperback, eBook, ePub, PDF

He is not Captain Hook.

His name is Jonathan Stuart, and he’s just an ornery post-alcoholic bookstore owner from Pasadena with a mania for fencing and a bad habit of disappointing his girlfriend. He doesn’t want to be in the Neverland, impossibly trapped aboard the Jolly Roger with a horde of greedy stinking pirates. He was tricked there by Peter Pan.

Pan happily invites children to come to his wondrous magical island, but he has to trick adults. No adult in their right mind would go willingly. Adults, you see, don’t have a very good time in the Neverland. The fairies and mermaids are against them. The island itself is against them. Most of all, Peter Pan is against them.

In particular, Peter Pan is against Jonathan Stuart. Why? Jonathan had better figure that out, and he’d better do it fast before his mutating memories insist that, not only does he indeed belong in this nightmarish hell of bloodthirsty children, ticking crocodiles and vengeful boy gods, but he’s never existed anyplace else.

So you see, he’s definitely not Captain Hook.

Well, not yet.

For More Information:

About The Author:

Bobbi JG Weiss made her world debut one Christmas morning (cough-mutter-mutter) years ago, and as long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be a writer. Why? She has no idea. Probably a birth defect.

After several boring “normal” jobs, her writing wishes came true — she and her husband/partner David Cody Weiss began to make their living as full-time freelance writers, focusing on Hollywood tie-in merchandise like movie/TV novel adaptations, comics, and other related and often ridiculous products. After 20+ years of this, the “WeissGuys” decided to enter the wild world of self-publishing.

You can find more information about Bobbi, her books, her life, and her weird husband at She also posts on Twitter, tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook unless her passwords mysteriously stop working and she can’t get on, which seems to happen a lot. Why? She has no idea. Probably computer voodoo.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

The Story Behind Pigeon River Blues by Wayne Zurl

Where did you get the inspiration for your book and/or how did you get it published.

All my books and stories are based on one or more actual police incidents that I investigated, supervised, or just knew a lot about. How I get the inspiration for any particular one is, like the stories, a mystery. I might remember something while driving at 70 on the Interstate, while sitting on my John Deere lawn tractor cutting the grass, or all too often, at 3:30 in the morning when my eyes pop open and some obscure case begins rolling through my mind.

PIGEON RIVER BLUES is a conglomeration of incidents and vignettes that I thought would meld together nicely and give me a vehicle to showcase a few quirky and memorable characters that required more story than reality could provide.

The prologue introduces a trio of rather ultra-conservative Tennessee realtors who start the sinister ball rolling by sending death threats to the famous country and western singer, C.J. Proffit. They take exception to her lifestyle and aren’t shy about telling her, “Get outta Dodge,” or in this case, Prospect. If you read the book, you may say, “Yeah, sure, Zurl is exaggerating. No one is that screwed up.” Ha! These are real people—well, they’re based on a motley crew that I met many years ago. And I liked them so much that I featured realtor Mack Collinson again in the novelette A FIRE AND OLD ICE which was published as part of the anthology REENACTING A MURDER and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries.

In addition to Mack and Ma Collinson and their quasi-psychotic henchman, Jeremy Goins, I couldn’t let another book go by without introducing a new regular to the cast of characters at Prospect PD. Enter retired New York Detective John “Black Cloud” Gallagher, the outwardly goofy guy who Sam Jenkins calls the most unlucky man in the world and his wife, Kate, labeled the Master of Malapropisms. “John” is based on a real person with whom I worked for many years. And like the original, the fictional “John” can lose his class clown act at the drop of a hat and behave like a world-class investigator. But in between, he may tell you about the time he took his grandchildren to see the animals at a wild game preservatory or how he remembers an arsonist who threw mazel tov cocktails. “John” was unique, and now he’s taken a job as Sam’s police operations aide and the other cops at Prospect PD are learning to speak Gallaghese. John and Sam are prepared to ride again in the next full length novel, A TOUCH OF MORNING CALM.

After my book, HEROES & LOVERS was released in April 2013, I sent my publisher the summary and manuscript for PIGEON RIVER BLUES. I guess he fell in love with John Gallagher—or the morons from Ku Klux Klan Real Estate —because thirteen months later PIGEON RIVER BLUES reared its head with a beautiful singer on the cover.

About The Book:

Winter in the Smokies can be a tranquil time of year—unless Sam Jenkins sticks his thumb into the sweet potato pie.

The retired New York detective turned Tennessee police chief is minding his own business one quiet day in February when Mayor Ronnie Shields asks him to act as a bodyguard for a famous country and western star.

C.J. Profitt’s return to her hometown of Prospect receives lots of publicity . . . and threats from a rightwing group calling themselves The Coalition for American Family Values.

The beautiful, publicity seeking Ms. Proffit never fails to capitalize on her abrasive personality by flaunting her lifestyle—a way of living the Coalition hates.

Reluctantly, Jenkins accepts the assignment of keeping C.J. safe while she performs at a charity benefit. But Sam’s job becomes more difficult when the object of his protection refuses to cooperate.

During this misadventure, Sam hires a down-on-his-luck ex-New York detective and finds himself thrown back in time, meeting old Army acquaintances who factor into how he foils a complicated plot of attempted murder, the destruction of a Dollywood music hall, and other general insurrection on the “peaceful side of the Smokies.”

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About The Author:

Wayne Zurl grew up on Long Island and retired after twenty years with the Suffolk County Police Department, one of the largest municipal law enforcement agencies in New York and the nation. For thirteen of those years he served as a section commander supervising investigators. He is a graduate of SUNY, Empire State College and served on active duty in the US Army during the Vietnam War and later in the reserves. Zurl left New York to live in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee with his wife, Barbara.

Twenty (20) of his Sam Jenkins mysteries have been published as eBooks and many produced as audio books. Ten (10) of these novelettes are available in print under the titles: A Murder In Knoxville and Other Smoky Mountain Mountain Mysteries and Reenacting A Murder and Other Smoky Mountain Mysteries. Zurl has won Eric Hoffer and Indie Book Awards, and was named a finalist for a Montaigne Medal and First Horizon Book Award. His full length novels are available in print and as eBooks: A New Prospect, A Leprechaun's Lament, Heroes & Lovers, and Pigeon River Blues.

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see You may read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The Story Behind Order of the Seers Trilogy by Cerece Rennie Murphy

Should I Self-Publish?The Short Story of How Order of the Seers Came To Be

These days whenever I get an opportunity to speak with writers, I always get the question, “Should I self-publish?” Recently, almost every self-published author around me seems to say, “Hell, Yeah!  Don’t give those filthy publishers your money!” Two years and three books into my own journey, I have a different take on it.
My short and long answer to this question is – it depends on what your goals are.

I decided to self-publish my first book, Order of the Seers, after sending out about 20 queries to agents. I received 7 flat-out rejections, 1”It’s good, but not quite what I’m looking for”, and 1”This is good, but it will never sell, so we can’t take it.” I For six weeks, I wrung my hands and got queasy every time I heard my phone ding with an e-mail message. I walked around in a daze, waiting.

I waited because I thought no one would ever read my book if I didn’t have a publisher behind me. I waited because I had just given birth to our second child and I was convinced that there was no way I could handle the demands of self-publishing on my own. I waited because I was afraid.

But the thing is, I’ve never been good at waiting.  After a month and a half of walking around like somebody died, I started to get a little antsy. A pep talk from a friend and my brother finally snapped me out of it. They both basically said the same thing, “Why are you waiting to be picked, invited to the party? Start your own party.”

On April 28, 2012, I decided to pick myself and self-publish my book. Because I was stupid (and afraid I’d chicken-out), I gave myself three months to learn everything I needed to know about publishing AND publish my book. I ended up extending the release by one more month because even miracles take time and on September 4, 2012, I released the first book in the Order of the Seers Trilogy.

The release of my first book was uneventful by any measure.  After it didn’t sell 1 million copies the first hour it became available  (it sold maybe 10), I spent the day in bed counting all the ways I shouldn’t have tried in the first place. And then I got up and thought. As it turns out, 1 e-mail to friends, 1 blog tour and 1 E-blast service does not a marketing plan make. By the release of the second book 9 months later, I’d learned enough to assemble a team that helped Order of the Seers: The Red Order get and stay on Amazon’s science-fiction bestseller list for over a month.

The main difference between Book I and Book II was not an exponential explosion of creative writing genius. Between the publishing of my first and second book, I’d made the shift from thinking like a writer to acting like a publisher and that difference is the very thing you need to ask yourself. The question is not “should I self-publish”; it’s do I want to be my own publisher/marketer/boss?

Am I willing to dedicate the time and energy it takes to write a book I’m proud of, then:

·         Find the editors

·         Do the rewrites

·         Hire the cover designer

·         Find the formatter

·         Figure out the printer

·         Strategize distribution

·         Plan and execute a marketing plan like you mean it (which could easily be 50 to 70% of your job    after you finish writing the book)

·         Find book reviewers and submit advanced reader copies for pre-release and release reviews

·         Manage book release activities and on-going promotion/communications including websites, blogs  and social media and/or hire someone to help

·         Repeat

If the answer to most of these questions is “,” that’s okay.   I’m actually not trying to scare you off. There is an incredible amount of control, satisfaction and learning that comes from doing these things for yourself.  As an indie author, I’m just trying to give you an idea of what the journey has been like for me. And as hard as it’s been, I enjoy controlling the emergence of my work in the marketplace.  I also enjoy being the one who benefits the most from my efforts.  Self-publishing is EXACTLY right for me. 

Of course, you can choose to do all or none of the things I’ve mentioned. Either way is fine as long as you are clear about your goals and modify your expectations to the level of effort you’re willing to put in. 

If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, unfortunately I have little advice to give you. From what I understand, you will be exempt from most of the activities that I’ve listed above, except for marketing, which as I said can be 50 to 70% of the work that you do after you write the book. So either way, you should plan to be very, very busy.

But if your dream is to see your book in every bookstore, Wal-Mart and airport bookstand, self-publishing will not allow you to meet that goal. At least, not yet. If the prestige of being signed by a big publisher is important to you, then by all means, go for it.  Don’t be discouraged by the stories of how many people don’t find an agent, don’t find a publisher.  Their journey is not your journey. You must have the courage to follow your own path.

Whatever you decide, make sure you do something and do it with all your heart because that is what your story deserves.

      About The Trilogy:
What would you do if you held infinite power in the palm of your hand?

The Order of the Seers trilogy poses this question within a story that fuses action, mystery, and romance within a science fiction adventure that keeps you at the edge of your seat.

Captured and enslaved for their extraordinary gift, a group of individuals, known as Seers, are forced to serve a ruthless world organization that uses the power of the Seers to exploit the ultimate advantage: knowing the future. While a brother and his Seer sister fight to evade the group that hunts them, an unlikely captured Seer plots his escape from within the organization and sets off a chain of events that will change the world.

The journey begins with Order of the Seers (Book I) and continues with The Red Order (Book II). The final chapter in the Order of the Seers trilogy, titled The Last Seer (Book III), will be released on September 30, 2014.

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About The Author:
Cerece Rennie Murphy fell in love with science fiction at the age of seven, watching “Empire Strikes Back” at the Uptown Theater in Washington, D.C., with her sister and mom. It’s a love affair that has grown ever since. As an ardent fan of John Donne, Alice Walker, Kurt Vonnegut and Alexander Pope from an early age, Cerece began exploring her own creative writing through poetry. She earned her master’s degrees in social work and international relations at Boston College and Johns Hopkins School for Advance International Studies, respectively, and built a rewarding 15-year career in program development, management and fundraising in the community and international development arenas – all while appreciating the stories of human connection told in science fiction through works like Octavia Butler’s “Wild Seed,” Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and “The X-Files.” In 2011, Cerece experienced her own supernatural event - a vision of her first science fiction story. Shortly after, she began developing and writing what would become the “Order of the Seers” trilogy. Cerece lives just outside of her hometown of Washington, D.C., with her husband, two children and the family dog, Yoda. 

For more information, follow Cerece at 

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