Saturday, December 23, 2017

An end-of-year progress report

"Progress," Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables, "is not accomplished in one stage." I consider that a good thing. Given the projected length of my next work, the second book in the five-book Carson Chronicles series, I might need ten to twelve stages.

Thanks to unexpected quiet time in November and early December, I have managed to write a third of the sequel to River Rising and hope to finish the rest of the first draft by the end of March. Like the original, the sequel presents the past from the perspective of the five Carson siblings and their parents. Unlike the original, it will be set partly in other countries — Mexico and France — and devote more space to Greg, the middle and most adventurous brother.

I hope to settle on a title and a cover in January when I resume writing in earnest. I am currently going back and forth between two possibilities. Both relate to a symbolic pine tree in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and a secondary character from the first book who will play a much larger role in the second. A few storylines will also make a comeback in Book 2, including one from the end of Book 1.

The River Rising audiobook is also one step closer to completion, thanks to the timely efforts of narrator Chaz Allen. The title is now in the final stages of review and should be available on,, and Apple iTunes by the first week of January.

I will update readers on both works as needed. In the meantime, I want to thank you for your support and encouragement and wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a happy and productive 2018!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

All the world's a baseball field

I like sports. I played them as I kid. I tried to play them as an adult. I watch them now. I like everything from the competition on the field to the spectacles in the stands. Sports events, whether Little League games or Super Bowls, are among the world's greatest stages.

For that reason, I have used them as settings in my books. Those who have read The Mine may remember that Chapter 34 is set at a minor-league baseball game in Seattle in 1941. In this chapter, the longest and arguably the most entertaining in the Northwest Passage series, protagonist Joel Smith tries to win over a reluctant Grace Vandenberg with humor and bravado and eventually succeeds.

Baseball, in fact, is a recurring theme in my works. In Mercer Street, three time-traveling women, long-suffering Chicago Cubs fans from 2016, watch the Cubs play in a rare World Series game in 1938. Later in the novel, they go to Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939, and listen to Lou Gehrig declare that he is "the luckiest man on the face of the earth." In Chapter 64 of Hannah's Moon, history teachers David Baker and Margaret Doyle discover a mutual love of the national pastime at a minor-league game in Chattanooga in 1945.

Two books feature chapters set at college football games. In The Mine, Joel Smith tries to start a "wave" forty years before it becomes a stadium staple. In Mercer Street, Amanda Peterson makes a new friend at the Yale-Princeton clash on November 12, 1938.

In other novels, characters make social inroads at a bowling event (The Journey), a tennis match (Class of '59), and the Indianapolis 500 (Indiana Belle). Other characters in other books sail (The Mirror), roller-skate (River Rising), ride horses (The Fire, River Rising), or pedal a bicycle-built-for-two (September Sky). Only in The Show do the main characters refrain from sports events and recreational activities. And even then, Joel and Grace dream of going snow skiing.

Will I do more sports settings? Without a doubt. When people go to Pamplona, they run with the bulls. When they travel to Chicago, they check out Wrigley Field. Few devices in fiction writing lend themselves more to humor AND drama than sports and recreation.

College football will make another appearance in the second Carson Chronicles book, set for a summer 2018 release. After that, I will have to conjure more possibilities. Perhaps bobsledding. Stay tuned.