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A Visit With Author Jay Padar

My guest today is Jay Padar. Jay, a Chicago police officer, and his dad, James, retired CPD, have written an anthology of interesting and compelling stories about their time on the job.

Please introduce yourself and tell the readers about your background, where you live, and when you began writing.

My name is Jay Padar and I’m a married father of four-year-old boy/girl twins.  I am also a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department where I’ve worked for the last fifteen years.  I’ve written short stories ever since I can remember.  My most serious writing came when I was a brand new rookie cop just starting my career.  You see, I had lived in Chicago my whole life but I consider my youth and young adulthood to have been somewhat sheltered.  I went to private grade school, private high school in the suburbs, and went to college in a small Midwestern town.  The next thing I knew I was chasing dope dealers into high-rise public housing projects.  The things I experienced as a rookie cop were new and exciting.  I didn’t really have an outlet at the time so I started writing emails to my father after my tour of duty detailing my night’s activities.  I knew he’d understand.  He was contemplating retirement after having served nearly thirty years as a Chicago police officer.  “Keep writing, son,” he emailed back.  “For every story you write, I’ll write one.”

Jay Padar
Jay Padar

It’s evident that your law enforcement background has influenced your writing. Do you think you will ever move toward the fiction genre, and will your writing continue to be police related?

At this point I’m still writing police related non-fiction.  I enjoy my career and still see something new every day.  I’m a believer in the saying, “The truth is stranger than fiction.”  So many times I’ve ended my stories with, “You can’t make this stuff up!”  I would never eliminate the possibility of writing fiction, but I’m excited to share what a big-city cop experiences day by day. 

What/who inspired you to begin writing? Do you write every day?

No one person inspired me to begin writing but I have to say my parents always encouraged me to continue writing.  My dad still tells me to “put it down on paper.”  Even if I don’t have a complete story I still jot down notes that I can go back to and transform into a story.  Unfortunately I never find enough time to write.  Between working 50+ hours a week and spending time with my family there never seems to be enough hours in the day.

I know you have a book that’s just been released. Please tell my readers about it.

I’m very excited to have co-authored “On Being A Cop” with my father, Jim Padar.  This book contains 53 short stories written by father and son detailing over forty-five years of combined police experience.  These are all true stories of laughing, crying and clinging to family, before and after moments of humor, loss and profound tragedy.  Our goal was to try to change the negative perception some people have of police.  We wanted the public to know that police officers suffer tragedy in their own lives, have good days and bad days and that police officers aren’t emotional robots.  What we see day in and day out affects us and changes who we are.On Being A Cop cover

Tell us about your publishing experience. Was it difficult finding a publisher?

My father and I were completely new to this world of book writing.  We had more questions than answers when we started.  Both of us consider ourselves very lucky to have found a wonderful publishing coach, Patrick Snow, who guided us through the ins and outs of this industry.  Our coach helped us create a book that he felt would stand out and get the attention of publishers.  Shortly after completing our work we signed with Aviva Publishing.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

“On Being A cop “definitely tops the list.  I am truly honored to have been able to share this experience with my father and create something that I can show my kids years down the road.  How great will it be to sit down with my twins years from now and show them the book that daddy and grandpa wrote together?

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I am a recent member of the Public Safety Writers Association.  It’s a wonderful organization that I highly recommend.  Their members have been extremely helpful and encouraging.

Are you working on any new projects?

Right now I’m focusing on joining my father as a writer on his blog “On Being A Cop.”  New police stories are being added on a regular basis.  It’s a wonderful way to keep me focused on my writing and develop more material for a possible upcoming book.

James & Jay Padar
James & Jay Padar

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

Any one in law enforcement knows that this career is filled with danger.  Two organizations that provide tremendous help to Chicago police officers are the Chicago Police Memorial Foundation (CPMF) and the Police Chaplains Ministry (PCM).  The CPMF provides financial support to officers who have been catastrophically injured and to the families of officers who have given their lives on this job.  The PCM provides constant emotional and spiritual support to officers struggling in their personal lives.  My father and I are proud to be sharing a portion of the profits from this book with these two organizations.  We are also proud to have donated copies of our book to be included in holiday care packages for all active-duty Chicago police military personnel.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

Our book and blog can be found at www.OnBeingACop.com

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Hard-Boiled Detective, Ben Solomon

Please introduce yourself, when you began writing, etc.

I’d first like to thank John for this swell interview. A little further on I mention encountering plenty of gracious and generous folk online, and this is a prime example.

As for me, I’m a lifetime Chicagoan. I’ve always had my hand in one art form or another—call me a renaissance hack. I can’t say I’ve done it all, but I cherish some experiences uncommon to most hog butchers to the world. For example, I’ve danced as an extra with the Bolshoi and Joffrey ballet companies, performed in David Mamet’s only children’s show, worked tech for The Steppenwolf Theatre, and sang “Happy Birthday” to Paul Newman on the set of “The Color of Money.”ben solomon author pic

I’ve been writing since grammar school, everything from stories to comic books to poetry—such as it was. In my time I’ve founded a literary journal and a critical guide to video releases, and I penned regular columns for Hollywood Online, AOL and Chicago Parent magazine. But I’ve never touched operettas—can’t say I’ve ever done that one.

Have you written any novels?

No, I haven’t. Short fiction and commercial assignments make up most of my recent output. It’s a cliché, but sweating out a 3,000–9,000 word piece gives me all kinds of respect for anyone who can craft a complete novel in any way, shape or form.

I know you have an interesting website. Give my readers an overview of what it’s all about.

“The Hard-Boiled Detective” takes it own unorthodox slant on publishing. (Or maybe I’m just an upstart.)

In a nutshell, the site offers an ongoing subscription series of hard-boiled adventures. Every month, subscribers download three works of short fiction in their format of choice: ePub, mobi or PDF. I’ve fashioned the stories in the old-school tradition, very “retro detective.”

In addition to the detective stories, the site features a hard-boiled glossary, a long-lost interview with Dashiell Hammett, and a fabricated interview with Raymond Chandler.

What else do you write?

Lately I’ve been dabbling with short works of a macabre nature, sometimes in a hard-boiled style, sometimes not, but always with a twist.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

What comes to mind may sound like the smallest of things, but I especially dig discovering a minor moment that reveals a character and/or reveals a sense of ourselves.

For example, in one detective story, the P.I.’s in the bathroom just before a climactic confrontation (it’s a glamorous profession). He removes his jacket and shoulder holster, and plans to walk out with the gun hidden beneath a hand towel. Just before he leaves the room, he catches sight of himself in the mirror and tosses himself a quick grin. Maybe it comes off a bit silly in this context, but I felt very proud of capturing that brief moment.

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I’m getting to know a community of writers at local, ongoing readings in the city. I’ve also met quite a number of the most generous and gracious people on-line through social media and listserv’s. I’m very interested in pursuing professional affiliations as I become more established and generate a little more scratch.ben solomon book cover

Are you working on any new projects?

It’s a bit early to give too much away, but I am beginning a new series of sorts. The fantastic nature of the main character allows for the stories to take place in any setting of place or time, and that’s intriguing.

Is there anything you would like to share with our readers?

I’d like to humbly thank them for reading, period, whether they come anywhere close to my work or not. I’ve been removed from being a “regular” audience member for so long that I truly appreciate anyone who reads simply to read, whatever they read, on whatever level they read.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website.

Series info, subscription info and links to features can all be found on The Hard-Boiled Detective homepage:

http://thehardboileddetective.com/

 

Ben, thank you for visiting my blog. You are an interesting man, and based upon what we’ve just read, I can imagine your characters and stories are riveting. Much success to you in your present and future endeavors.

 

Author Interview with J. Allen Hill

Please introduce yourself, and tell us about your background.

My name is J. Allen Hill. I am a first time novelist with a PhD in Living – a little conceit of mine, as much like my secretly adopted mentor, John Steinbeck, I have never completed a degree program. A Midwesterner by birth, an East Coaster by choice, writing has been both a source of income and a lifetime’s pleasure. If experience has anything to do with putting words on paper, I’ve probably done it or taken a class in it: newsletters, white papers, administrative, technical and financial reports, government proposals, user guides and training plans, software test plans, meeting minutes – facts, protocols, standards. My only relief from this routine was working in the theater and trying my hand at drama. These days I can indulge full-time in short stories, poetry, and novels.

When I sit down to write, I draw on my pool of distilled experience: everything from people I have known to places I have been to achievements and DIARY cover jpgfailures, pleasures and pain. The memory bank can be a strange place to visit, but so much of what I dredge up from there often lands on the page – a fit of laughter, a painful affair, the scent of a long desiccated sprig of lavender plucked from a childhood garden, all woven together with fragments of truth and wild sprints of imagination. And that is why I write. It is such an adventure.

When did you begin writing?

Around the age of ten. I wrote a play about a band of gypsies gallivanting around a forest – kind of a cross between Carmen and Robin Hood.

Do you write every day, and are novels the only things you write?

One way or another, I do write every day, much of the initial drafting taking place in my head, getting acquainted with prospective characters and working out plot problems.

I prefer writing novels but am also working (slowly) on a novel constructed of short stories – somewhat in the style of Olive Kittredge. Sadly, I do not put pen to paper every day. It’s a form of writer’s block, I suppose, but I write chronologically, and am completely unable to begin a piece until I have worked out the beginning in my mind. I have, however, usually written the main character’s back stories and know the end of the novel before I begin.

I know you have just released a new novel. Please tell my readers about it, and what your inspiration to write it was.

The Secret Diary of Ewan Macrae was originally inspired by my reading of Born Fighting:

How the Scotch-Irish Shaped America, by Virginia Senator James Webb, as well as my love of the story of the founding of America, and my own trip to Scotland where I unexpectedly discovered that my family name, Allen, has Scottish roots. Wanting to tell the story of an early Scottish immigrant and how he might have influenced future history, I decided to tell two stories of one family spanning two centuries.

The novel, set in 1946, is the story of two very different people. Margaret is an abused small town North Carolina mountain girl. Phil is a Manhattan writer running from the law. Both are launched on journeys of self discovery. Together they search for the answers to a mystery, the solution probably buried in the past. Along the way they uncover a conspiracy, overcome conflict and fall in love. A source of strength and inspiration for them both is the 200-year-old diary written by Margaret’s Scottish ancestor who fled to America in 1746. The accounts, spanning two centuries have amazing parallels.

I chose to construct the novel using these particular dates that I find quite significant in the history of our country: 1946, when the United States, victorious in World War II, is poised to take over the leadership of the world. And 1746, when waves of immigrants were arriving in America just as it is poised to launch the war from which it will emerge as that fledgling power.

What is your most rewarding writing experience?

There are many, but probably the best is the satisfaction in completion of a project lovingly crafted for (in my case) well over 5 years.

Do you belong to any writing groups, or critique groups?

I am a past member of the Playwrights Forum, Washington, DC, a member of the Writers Center in Bethesda, Maryland, the Virginia Writers Club and its chapter, Riverside Writers. I also participate in Riverside critique sessions and a local novel-writing group named SCADR.

Are you working on any new project?

Yes. Several years ago I discovered the tomb of an unknown Revolutionary War soldier in a churchyard in historic Old Town, Alexandria, Virginia. Apparently, he was first discovered buried in an “ammunition box” wearing a “Patriot uniform with Kentucky buttons.” After polling every organization involved in his dis- and re-interment for information as to who he might have been and I found, while there is much speculation, it appears he really is unknown. I decided to write a story of what his life might have been and how in the world he ended up in that box. The Unknown: An American Odyssey is due out in 2014.

Is there anything we have not covered that you would like to share with our readers?

It has been said that writing is a lonely occupation. However, it is also a collaborative life and for that I thank all of my cohorts. So many have given generously of their knowledge, skills, and support to this project – it could not have happened without them.

Please provide the readers with a link to your website, and a link to your book.

As The Secret Diary was released just days ago, my website is in the design stages. The book can be found on Amazon at the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=diary+ewan+macrae

 

 

How To Be A Successful Blogger

 

blogging
blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I recently returned from a writers’ conference where I learned a great many valuable tips from fellow writers. One of the ways by which writers can get their work “out there,” is to use social media and blogs. That said, my friend and fellow author, Marilyn Meredith*, shared her insights on blogging.

  • Keep it short, use keywords and photos
  • Add links (particularly those that direct readers to buy your books)
  • If you’re a guest on another’s blog, follow their directions, and include your bio, book blurb and links in the post, rather than sending them separately
  • If you are a guest blogger, invite the host to be a guest on your blog
  • If you have a blog, follow some type of schedule for posting, e.g., every Tuesday. That way your followers know when to expect a post from you
  • If you have a book coming out soon, set up a blog tour. Find authors who write what you write
  • Captcha codes are a hindrance and keep people from commenting
  • Remind the host blog they can post ahead of time, and email them the day before
  • Promote each blog frequently on social media on the day your post appears
  • Thank the host in the comment box and check periodically for readers’ comments and respond to them

*Marylyn Meredith, is the author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Visit her at: http://fictionforyou.com/ 

Dialogue Tips

English: Exclamation Colon
English: Exclamation Colon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dialogue Tips

 

  • Dialogue should do one of two things: move the plot along or reveal character
  • “Said” and “asked,” are better than the multitude of other dialogue tags such as responded, agreed, etc.
  • Better still, use the character’s action as a dialogue tag instead. “No way.” Dan pulled out his gun.
  • Or use description as a dialogue tag. Cynthia’s silk skirt swirled around her long legs. “Are you coming or not?”
  • Go easy on the exclamation points. If the dialogue is exclamatory enough, an exclamation point is unnecessary. An Exclamation point should never be used in narrative. Elmore Leonard said, “Use only one exclamation point in a novel.”
  • Don’t ever have a character tell someone something that they already know to get information across. Maybe it is something that ought to be in narrative, but be careful of an information dump.
  • Though you want dialogue to be realistic sounding, don’t copy how we really talk such as: “Hello, how are you.” “I’m fine, and you?” Leave all this greeting stuff and comments about the weather out (unless it’s important to the plot).
  • When writing, start a new paragraph every time a new person speaks or does something. This will help the reader follow what is going on.
  • Even if the conversation is between two people, put a dialogue tag in every so often so the reader knows who is talking.
  • Never have one person speak for long periods of time. When we’re talking to one another, we interrupt, change the subject, etc.
  • Be sure the reader knows where the dialogue takes place.
  • Lastly, beware of talking heads. We need to see the characters and what they are doing during the conversation. No one sits or stands perfectly still while talking, and this brings you back to the fact that you can use an action as a dialogue tag. “Phil scratched his head. “What do you expect me to do about it?”

Courtesy of Marilyn Meredith, author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series, under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. http://fictionforyou.com

 

Promoting Your Book

PSWA Member graphicLast week I attended the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. One of the presenters was Patricia Fry, a full-time writer, speaker, consultant, editor and the author of 39 books. Patricia spoke about author promotion, emphasizing that the role falls to the author, rather than the publisher. Here are some important points to consider about book promotion:

  1. No matter which publishing option you choose, it is up to the author to promote his/her book.
  2. Your book will sell for as long as you are willing to promote it.
  3. There are hundreds of ways to promote  your book and most of them are free, but many of them do take time, thought, effort, creativity and energy.
  4. In order to successfully promote your book, you MUST know who your audience is and where they are (what they read, where they buy books, etc.)
  5. Target your marketing efforts toward your target audience.
  6. When devising your marketing plan, remember to think, “exposure, exposure, exposure.”
  7. Experiment and discover which promotional effort is most effective for you and for your particular book. Do more of that activity!
  8. Don’t give up after one disappointing promotional activity–the next book festival (presentation, book signing, etc.) might be ultra successful.
  9. Be open to new promotional ideas, but  don’t spread yourself too thin. Keep to the basics that are working.
  10. Before launching out to speak, do a book signing, etc., put out a LOT of publicity. Use all of your social media accounts, newspapers, appropriate newsletters, posters, blogs, your email list, etc.
  11. Seek out unusual, but appropriate,venues for  presentations/signings/demonstrations and to place your books for sale. Choose locations where your audience congregates, shops, etc.
  12. For fiction–do home parties and let guests help act out a scene–bring costumes/props.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg. Use your imagination and get creative in planning your own marketing plan–always keeping your audience/readers in mind. Patricia’s, “Promote Your Book, Over 250 Proven, Low-Cost (mostly free) Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author” has hundreds more ideas for both fiction    and nonfiction authors.

PSWA Results

John's yet to be released novel.
John’s yet to be released novel.

What a wonderful conference I just attended! My writing network continues to expand, as I met several new members to our organization: the Public Safety Writers Association. One couldn’t help but improve their writing after all of the excellent presentations and panels. Truly a worthwhile event.

I was blessed to have won multiple awards for my submissions to the writing competition. However, what pleases me most is that my next book, The Year Without Christmas: A Novel, won an award. It is set to be released in October, and tells the story of a family’s struggle to recover from a tragic accident. Two prevalent problems surfacing in our society today–PTSD and homelessness–themselves become characters in this compelling read. Watch my blog for further details.

The Conference

Casino logo
Casino logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the first day of the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. We’re at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, where we’ve held the conference for the last several years. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

Try A Novella

Nightstand Cover low resI’ve had conversations with fellow writers who tell me they dream of writing a book. However, some of these aspiring novelists always seem to have a reason why they have yet to realize their dream. They insist their wonderful, unique storyline is sure to be widely accepted,  but then moan that the task of writing a book is just too demanding. Is that a valid excuse? I guess it might be. On the other hand, writing a book might also be a wonderful cathartic exercise.

In lieu of writing a 300 – 400 page novel, might I suggest writing a novella? It has many of the characteristics of a novel, yet lacks some of the structure and requirements. A novella is basically a long short story. If you research novellas, you will find varying opinions regarding what length they should be. The most common answer is probably somewhere around 20,000 words.

The novella is an interesting piece of literature because it doesn’t seem to fit well in conventional publishing mediums—magazines and books. It’s too long to be included in some online publications, yet it’s too short to be deemed appropriate for print.

Nevertheless, a novella is a great way for a writer to develop characters and plots. It’s also a good way to flesh out a writing portfolio. While there are no chapters in novellas, there can be distinct breaks to divide sections. Novellas contain protagonists and antagonists, conflicts, and more than enough space to fully develop settings.

So, where is the market for this type of writing? Some publishers may consider a novella as a print piece or ebook. However, Amazon recently introduced “Kindle singles” in their online store that specializes in standalone works like novellas. Writers follow simple instructions to upload their work and, voila, a best seller may be born.

I took a test drive at the Amazon Kindle store and created my own anthology, “The Nightstand Collection.” It’s a collection of my short stories and poetry. The process of self-publishing was straightforward and easy to understand. Amazon even provides a video demonstrating the steps involved in an easy to understand tutorial.

My recommendation? Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re reluctant to commit to a novel, try the novella. If you have success with writing a novella, you may have discovered your writing niche. Or . . . the novella may just be the springboard that launches your book career.

 

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