Monday, February 17, 2014

Review: Isaac's Storm

The thing I like most about researching possible settings for new novels is discovering works I might have otherwise ignored. Isaac's Storm, by Erik Larson, is one such work.

Subtitled "A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History," Larson's book examines the Galveston hurricane of 1900 through the eyes of meteorologist Isaac Monroe Cline and other survivors of the storm. Eight thousand people perished in the disaster.

Larson does more, however, than trace a cyclone across the North Atlantic. He offers compelling look at Cline and his family, the fledgling Weather Bureau, and a prosperous turn-of-the-century community that saw itself as Houston's economic rival.

I found Larson's 1999 nonfiction work as informative, entertaining, and readable as The Big Burn by Timothy Egan, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, and even many novels. I strongly recommend it to fans of science and history. Rating: 5/5.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The writing road at Milepost 2

I remember the day like it was yesterday. I clicked a button on a web page in the morning, waited impatiently for several hours, and finally noticed a subtle change shortly before taking my wife to dinner.

The Mine, the first novel in the Northwest Passage series, was no longer "in review." It was no longer an idea or a rough draft or a work in progress. It was live on It was a published book and subject to the scrutiny that all books face.

I've learned a lot since February 13, 2012, when I joined the ranks of published authors. I've learned that covers matter, that marketing is a never-ending job, and that readers like happy endings and characters they can relate to. I've learned that producing a novel is time-consuming, humbling, and often frustrating but infinitely rewarding.

The rewards, for most of us, are not large royalty checks, awards, or publishing contracts but rather the thoughtful and often useful comments from readers. As one who cares about his craft, I've learned to pay attention not only to those who like my works but also those who don't.

Supporters are important, of course, because they keep indie authors going. They remind us that the hundreds of hours we spend on our "hobby" are ultimately worth it. Their opinions can make a day.

Constructive critics are no less relevant. When they point out flaws in our books, they help us improve. They ensure that we focus on what's important to the consumers of literature and not the creators.

In two years, I've also learned the value of perseverance and patience. When you try to find a niche in a world of millions of books, you learn that this business is a marathon and not a sprint. Even modest success takes time.

This year I plan to continue that marathon by releasing The Mirror and then starting a new time-travel series. With any luck, I will be able to apply what I've learned and keep a good thing going. It's been fun.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Next stop: 1964

If there is one thing I enjoy most about writing historical fiction, it's that it allows me to build a story around actual historical events and escape to another time.

The Mine examines life in the Pacific Northwest in the months leading up to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. The Journey and The Fire do the same with the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens and the Big Burn of 1910, respectively. The Show captures Seattle in the weeks before and after the end of World War I.

The Mirror will follow a similar course. It will offer readers a snapshot of the pivotal, exhilarating year of 1964, with references to everything from civil rights, Barry Goldwater, and Vietnam to contemporary TV programs and the Beatles.

An entire chapter, in fact, will be devoted to the Beatles' concert on August 21, 1964, when the Fab Four played to 14,000 screaming fans in the Seattle Center Coliseum. The stop was the third on the band's twenty-six-city summer tour of North America.

This Sunday, CBS will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' iconic appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show with a live multimedia event. It will likely be the first of many glimpses of a year that changed the country. As a Baby Boomer and a fan of history and nostalgia, I look forward to them all.