Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Lovely Day In Locke

I couldn't have dreamed up a more magical place to do a reading and book signing for Delta Legend than the Moon Cafe Art Gallery in Locke, California. Locke and neighboring Walnut Grove not only hold the key to the legend in Delta Legend, they hold a special place in my heart.

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of participating in TEN DELTA AUTHORS held at the Moon Cafe. To be counted among this diverse and wildly talented group of authors was not only an honor, it was an incredibly fun time.

Chris Spencer, Shorty, Jeff Gillenkirk, James Motlow, joseph ernest coulombe
D.R. Wagner, Randall Marcus Gutierrez, Sally Ooms, Bill Corp (also Sally Small). 

Photo by Jeff Kan Lee. His grandfather's business
was headquartered here during the last century.
The Moon Cafe is a relatively new venture by artist and art teacher, Brock Alexander.  It's a wonderful collective featuring the work of local artists, including Brock Alexander, James Motlow, Deborah Mendel, Chris Spencer, Stuart Walthall, and Russell Ooms. This lovely gallery space is bringing a hip new vibe to the local art scene and many of the artists cross over into the literary world with their own books.

Jeff Gillenkirk and James Motlow whose book, Bitter Melon,
is listed at the end of Delta Legend. Photo by Margie Ganger.
My thanks and gratitude to everyone who made TEN DELTA AUTHORS such a huge success: All those mentioned above, as well as, Kim for working the desk and selling our books, Margie Ganger for taking lots of great photos, and Stuart Walthall for doing a brilliant job as MC. Thank you all for your hard work and for welcoming me into your world. Special thanks to Sherry Stanley for introducing Delta Legend to the organizers of this event.

3 photos by Terry O'Connell

And a big hug to my away team, Tom, Terry, Pat, and Jackie—all of whom made it safely back to the mothership after a much deserved beer at Al the Wop's.

2 photos by Margie Ganger

My mom's first book signing. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Location, Location, Location

I confess I'm more than a little jealous of authors whose novels involve full-on world-building. It's not part of my skill set, though I often wish it were. What an amazing talent to be able to create a completely new and wondrous world in which to place your characters and have their story play out. More importantly (here comes the writer's envy) to be in control of that world and not be limited to the realities of an actual physical location—one readers might know.

As a novelist, seems Urban Fantasy Adventure is more my thing. In Urban Fantasy fantastical things happen in the modern world as we know it. Delta Legend could really be considered a Rural Fantasy Adventure, but let's not add yet another option to the already overflowing toy box of genre choices.

The setting for Delta Legend goes by both the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the California Delta. I refer to it by both names in the book. It was definitely challenging to describe this unique area in a way that would give people who've never been there a visceral sense of the place. But that's my job, right?

As a novelist, I have to accomplish two very important tasks right off the bat. I have to place you, the reader, in a location then quickly hook you with the characters and story line. If I fail, you won't engage and the wheels start to come off. Worse yet, I won't stand a chance of taking you along for the ride of suspended disbelief.

Luckily, I have a couple things going for me when it comes to this issue of location. One, I have a background as a screenwriter, so I write visually. And two, I spent a good deal of time in the California Delta from the time I was 15 until I was in my mid 30's.

Author smiles with self-satisfaction

In her Goodreads review of Delta Legend, literary blogger, Laura Thomas, said of the author, "Her descriptions of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are almost visual. You can feel the sluggish dark water on your skin and the cold silty bottom between your toes."

Creating a sense of isolation in our modern world can be challenging considering the sheer number of humans crawling all over the planet armed with multiple means of connecting. And let's face it, if anything like what happens in the book were to actually happen in the Delta, it would be extremely hard to keep it on the down-low. But that's where the all-important suspended disbelief comes in. The heart of the Delta retains a sense of isolation due to its vast expanses of farmland and seemingly endless waterways that snake on for 1000 plus miles. That's right—one thousand.

I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is about an hour away from the Delta. When I was 15, my parents bought a used 1969 Nautaline houseboat that was berthed at Korth's Priates' Lair Marina on Brannan Island. Like several Delta marinas, Korth’s is a family owned and operated business that’s carried on for several generations. I incorporate this concept with Heron's Harbor, the home base in Delta Legend, placing it in the Miller family for three generations.

Korth's Pirates' Lair Marina is far more upscale than the fictional Heron's Harbor of Delta Legend, especially with all the lovely additions the latest generation has added. Not that Heron's Harbor is a dump, it's simply a generic mash-up of typical marinas one might find in the Delta.

Writers love to bring stories full-circle. It gives both the storyteller and the audience a sense of completion. The older I get, the more I find things coming full circle in my own life. On a recent trip to the Delta to deliver books, I stopped by Korth’s marina on a whim. I wanted to walk around the place that holds so many fond memories for me. While there, I was introduced to the work of a very talented photographer, Lauren Korth. And yes, Lauren is the great-granddaughter of the couple who founded the marina back in 1937. Her amazingly beautiful photographs of the Delta put mine (included here) to shame. Take a moment from words about the Delta to see some truly wonderful images of it by Lauren Korth Photography.

Pretty great, huh?

A few weeks after my trip, through a posting on Facebook, I discovered a short film Lauren Korth made this past summer and posted to YouTube. Again, she captures this unique region with a personal and artistic eye. This video is Lauren's labor of love to bring attention to the California Delta.

If you just watched it, you undoubtedly noticed several shots of signs at the end that say, "Stop the Tunnels." These are currently posted throughout the Delta. The Tunnels project is a plan to divert even more water from the Delta to supply Central and Southern California. While I make it a point to refrain from being political in Delta Legend, at the end of the book there's a brief note from me that speaks to the fragile nature of the Delta and the need to protect it.

Like Lauren Korth and others who know and love the Delta, I don't believe The Tunnels Project is a good solution to California's water crisis—at least not good for the Delta itself. I would hate to see this magical place sacrificed as the result of uncontrolled and unsustainable growth in regions that have no water source of their own.

It's hard for people to care about saving a place they know nothing about. Lauren Korth's photographs and film are her contribution to bringing awareness to the California Delta, the place she calls home. At the end of the day, Delta Legend is simply a fictional romp, but I hope that by the time readers reach the last line of the last chapter, they feel like they know this magical place and its inhabitants. And maybe, just maybe, want to add their voice to the movement to save it. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Little Paper Boat

When I was in the 2nd and 3rd grade, my neighbor friend, Vince, and I used to make little paper boats during class whenever it was raining—probably when we were supposed to be practicing our times tables.

On our walk home after school, we would float our little paper creations in the raging river (rain-filled gutters) excitedly watching to see whose boat would sail the best and travel the farthest. Sticks in hand, we'd run alongside our vessels; at the ready in case our boats needed assistance navigating a leaf pile or avoiding a treacherous storm drain.

The boat builders.

Author posing pious while Vince wonders if his First Communion certificate came with any cash.

At long last, Delta Legend is finally a real book you can hold. It feels like I just placed my little paperback boat into the stream and I'm eager to see how far it will travel. For now, it's available through the button here on my blog, as well as on the Delta Legend website. Also through Amazon, of course. But soon it will be available in a few Bay Area and Sacramento Delta Area independent bookstores and other retailers. I'll list them just as soon as they are on the shelves.

The arrival of the paperback is the beginning of a grassroots movement that will be interesting to watch. Not just for me as an author, but for other screenwriters who are presently turning their specs into novels. Also for those bloggers and fans who were among the first to embrace and promote Delta Legend back when it was only an ebook struggling to stand out in the massive sea of self-published authors.

So yeah, it took me WAY longer than I thought to bring the book into the physical world.  

But I was determined to make it as good as any traditionally published book out there— even if it killed me.  

Of course, I'll still be making the most of social media, but there's now a more personal component to the grassroots marketing campaign that's underway. It involves meeting people face-to-face, speaking about the book, and doing readings. I experienced this a bit when I was finishing the novel and did some readings. I'm looking forward to getting back to that. Only now, many of the people I meet will have the book in hand. I have been asked to sign someone's Kindle before, and it's just wrong.

While I'm grateful for every opportunity social media marketing has afforded (I've connected with some awesome book bloggers and readers) there's something deeply satisfying about connecting with people in person.

So many of you have signed up to be a part of this grassroots movement, it's amazing—complete strangers, who having read the book, eagerly pick up their own stick to help keep my little paperback boat steadily rolling along.

When someone you know recommends a book they think you'll love—there's no better advertising in the world. That's what people are doing for Delta Legend and I am eternally grateful.

Me with my stunt double. It was far too dangerous for me to "play dead" considering how much work I have ahead. Special thanks to my dear friend, Connie, for a hilarious photo shoot.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Glyph Notes. Further Adventures in Self-Publishing

Ah, the Fleuron.

I just want to leave that line up there by itself so we can all take a moment to pause and reflect upon this lovely and sometimes overlooked element of the publishing world.

Before embarking on my first Print-On-Demand excursion, I had no idea what the hell a Fleuron was. Well, I kinda did, but I didn't know they had a name, nor did I pay them much attention. And I certainly never thought they would play a significant role in my life. Now I not only know what they are, I've lost sleep over the damn things. 

For those of you who are still in the dark as to what a Fleuron, or Glyph IS, it's the little typographic element that appears in printed novels to indicate a break within a chapter. As I come from a play and screenwriting background, I call these scene breaks. In the ebook of Delta Legend, Tom and I chose the very simplistic and perfectly effective three diamonds (basic symbols) for scene breaks within chapters. Done. Then came the physical book and the many decisions this endeavor entailed. Fleuron options? Huh. Who knew.

Just be warned, once you open the door to the Fleuron Candy Store and venture inside, you could be in there for days, putting all kinds of time and energy into something that readers pay very little attention to. You will likely never hear the words, "Forget about plot and characters, did you see those magnificent fleurons?!"

After WAY too much time agonizing and wondering if perhaps I should ask my doctor, "Which Fleuron Is Right For Me," I ultimately chose this one.

Not actual size!

I purchased the font that contains this image from the website MyFonts and therefore have the legal right to use it. Considering how much time I spent (wasted) choosing this Glyph, I should have it tattooed on my stupid ass.

This is just one small aspect of my adventures in Print-On-Demand Publishing (aka, The Long Slide Down The Big Learning Curve).

Before I go much further, this would be a good time to make an announcement. Cue pathetic trumpet intro. I am now a publisher. That's right, not just "published," I am the publisher of Delta Legend, and most likely all future Legends. While not a life goal, here I am nonetheless.

Resurrecting a production company name I came up with long ago, Delta Legend will be published by MidnightBBQ. This is appropriate as I came up with the name back in the 90's (anyone remember those?) when my brother and I still owned our family houseboat berthed at Korth's Pirate's Lair Marina in the Delta.

The name relates to our inability to get up to the boat on weekends and get dinner on the grill before late in the evening. Terry, Sandy, Michael and I could often be found up on the marina's lawn on Friday nights, drinking wine and barbecuing by flashlight while most other boaters were tucked into their cabins with lights out.

Someday, I'll have brilliant graphic artist, Dave Williams, make a cool company logo for MidnightBBQ. At the moment, however, he's working away on the full cover layout of the physical book. Let's just hope CreateSpace can deliver a cover that will do his amazing image justice. I know it won't be anywhere near the multiple layers you see in the poster version, but let's hope they can come close. Please, oh please ...

Okay, that's it for now. If the Indie Gods are smiling upon me, Delta Legend will be in print and out in a few Indie Bookstores by the 4th of July. Independence Day would be an appropriate book release day for this Indie Author, don't you think?

Me, back in the day (and daylight) on the lawn at Korth's Pirate's Lair Marina. I'm cooking up some jambalaya and crawdads for my mom's birthday, which just happens to be the 4th of July.

And here she is, proving that O'Connell women are used to feeding the troops on location. Thanks for the skills mom–and the knees, apparently. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Stumbling To The Finish Line

When I finished the novel version of Delta Legend and uploaded it as an eBook, I felt like I'd just scored the winning touchdown. There was a dramatic spiking of the ball followed by a unapologetic end zone dance and plenty of full-body high-fiving.

Back then, I was living the life of a writer. Having taken time off from a "real-life" job world to write the novel, I had endless energy to devote to my task at hand. But as we know, all good things come to an end, and sadly, those days are no more -- at least for the time being.

Jumping back into the job market in this economy was not easy after several years away. Couple that with the fact that I no longer live an the area where I can rely on networking (Sonoma County Wine Country) I ultimately ended up taking a job in sales/customer service. Luckily, it's working with something I love (high-end cookware) but it's also a fairly physical job. No cushy desk job for me at the moment. I'm often on my feet for 8 hours at a stretch - and let's face it, I'm no spring chicken. 

So, when it comes to writing, these days, it's more about finding the energy and spare moments here and there, then trying to focus. But I'm still at it, working away to bring Delta Legend into physical form while polishing the original screenplay. My progress, however, is often impeded by this thing called "real life." 

My tiny front porch
While my choice to step away from the traditional job market was indeed fiscally damaging, when asked if I'd make the same choice again, the answer is an unwavering, YES.  The years I spent in my tiny (600 sq. ft. ) cottage in Sebastopol, California, living the life of a writer, were some of the most magical of my life. And in the end, it resulted in a novel I'm extremely proud of. I doubt I would have been able to transform the screenplay of Delta Legend into a novel had I not done it.

Would I recommend this path to others who dream of the writing life? Probably not. Not unless you're really okay with risking it all -- draining your nest egg and compromising future career options. Not to mention living a fairly solitary existence.

My magical little writer's cottage.
But at mid-life, I'd arrived at that place where you start to think differently about things; what's really important to you and what you want to leave behind for others. I had a story to tell. 

And every time someone I've never met reaches out to tell me that Delta Legend has touched them is some way, is like a vitamin B12 shot right in the butt. It gives me renewed energy for the task ahead and I'm back in the game.

The day the book is finally out in paperback and the original screenplay is polished and ready to pitch, will likely hold far less fanfare than the day I first hit the upload button. I suspect it will feel more I'm the last person to cross the finish line of a marathon. Night is falling and the cheering crowds went home hours ago. It'll just be me, trudging through cast-off Gatorade cups to stumble across a broken finish line now laying in pieces across the asphalt. But I can see it up ahead, my finish line destination, and I'm going to keep putting one foot in front of the other until I get there.