Thursday, February 4, 2016

Interview With Dave Agans

Today we're hosting writer Dave Agans, author of The Urban Legion, a really good comic novel, the first in a trilogy of fun.

Q: So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A: It’s been said that great literature changes the reader’s perception of the world; I want my readers to see the world as funny. I thought, what if all the things we consider false—urban legends, internet hoaxes, conspiracies—are actually true, but have been covered up? That’s a rich source of funny secrets, perfectly suited for a conspiracy thriller. And while many of the revelations in The Urban Legion are absurd or downright silly, they’re all just plausible enough that readers can imagine them in the world around them. I’m sure they smile when they walk into a food court or an airport restroom.

Q: Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A: The first thing I did was come up with a list of urban legends (microwaved poodles, alligators in the sewer) and conspiracy concepts (tin foil hats, 200 mile per gallon cars), and added new, funny underground “knowledge” about familiar things (trans-fat, irradiated flour, sharp plastic packaging). Then I created quirky characters (granola mom/Zen food critic, armed French waiters) and the general outlines of the thriller plots for all three books in the trilogy. The characters and funny concepts suggested how they fit into the stories, and from that I created detailed outlines. Of course, as I write and revise, I change the outline as needed to make The Urban Legion compelling, mis-informative, and funny. I also change proper names everywhere to avoid trouble with conspiracy assassins.

Q: What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A: Everything you thought was false is actually true.

That said, there are other themes that grew organically out of the story: art versus commerce, natural vs. fake, Zen vs. ego, and the business of addiction.

Q: Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A: People need laughter in their lives, and they can get that by blaming funny conspiracies for everyday annoyances. I hope my readers finish the book a little less serious and a lot more amused.

Q: What makes a good book or engaging story?

A: It has to make me laugh. (I suppose there are a few great books without humor, but like the obituaries, I prefer not to read them.) Beyond that, all stories need distinctive characters with understandable goals (even the bad guys), battling it out in new and interesting ways. The reader must care what happens next.

Q: Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A: I’m a fan of anyone who creates funny material.

My writer hero list includes Douglas Adams and Dave Barry for being totally silly; Carl Hiaasen for great characters and hilarious turns of phrase; Christopher Buckley for witty satire; and Tom Robbins for fantastic metaphors and healthy cynicism. I have a special love of Christopher Moore and Jasper Fforde for doing what The Urban Legion does—creating a hidden, funny world beneath the surface of everyday life, so we can imagine that all that stuff is actually true.

I generally avoid serious movies; my favorites are the silly ones like the Airplane and Naked Gun series, anything by Mel Brooks, and Men in Black (which also reveals absurd hidden “truth” beneath the surface of a totally normal world. I can totally believe that Dennis Rodman is an alien.)

I learned satire and deadpan comedy from Mad Magazine and Get Smart. I like the intelligent humor of the xkcd online comic. Just to exercise my funny bone, I read The Funny Times every month and my Argyle Sweater page-a-day calendar every day (it used to be a Far Side calendar until Gary Larson retired).

(Editor's Note: I had a piece in The Funny Times, alongside work from Garrison Keillor and Dave Barry. Pretty good company for a writer!)
Q: Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A: Ah, the age-old question “Is it art, or just entertainment?”, best accompanied by a glass of red wine. But let me grab a beer and crudely insist that entertainment—in particular, comedy—is a noble art form. “Serious” writers try to illuminate the dark corners of the human condition; I just want to help people lighten up.

Q: Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A: My dream is to make The Urban Legion trilogy part of the culture. (I’ll know I’ve succeeded when people make jokes about it.) Along the way, that means writing the second and third books (working titles: The Urban Legion Breaks the News, and The Soul of the Urban Legion). It also means a lot of marketing, which any author will agree is difficult and time-consuming. I suppose I’d like to be able to quit my day job and write/market full time—or at least, half time, and spend the rest playing golf and softball. And reading funny books.

Q: Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A: I’m a perfectionist, and when I read something that seems a little off, I dive in and fix it or cut it. I’m totally happy with the results when I deliver the manuscript; if I I’m tired of it, it’s not good enough yet, and I’ll revise it.

Q: Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A: I absolutely have good editors; I can’t imagine producing a manuscript without them. It woold be awfull. (sic)

My story editor looks at the big picture, such as plot flow, characterization, dialog, and themes. Her thorough feedback helps me hone the story and tighten up the plot. I use a few trusted friends and family as beta readers, which gives me fresh “first time reader” perspectives. A line editor finds and suggests fixes for any less-than-stellar sentences. I’ve also played with a few editing tools that identify complex sentences and overused words. A proofreader goes after the minor errors, but I proofread the final manuscript again myself. I don’t think typos are funny at all, except when I mean to type “type” and it comes out “typo.” That amuses me for a moment, and then I fix it.

Q: If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A: Tell them to keep their day job.

If they were writing a novel, I’d recommend a few books: Story by Robert McKee and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, even though they’re aimed at screenwriters; and Writing the Breakout Novel (or better, the Workbook) by Donald Maass, even though I know you (Dale) are not a fan. They’ll help writers get the structure right, so their imaginations and voices can soar without getting lost in the clouds.

I would also encourage them to join one or more writers’ groups, read a lot, keep writing, and get feedback from as many people as possible. I would pass along some advice about feedback that was given to me by a successful playwright; “The story does not take place on the page, or on the stage, but in the audience’s heads. You need to find out what happened in there.” Worry about whether what you intended was what the readers got. Don’t worry about what they say you should have written—unless you really like their idea.

(Editor's Note- on not being a fan of Donald Maass- when one writes a book of advice *as an expert* (as he did), one ought to have actually done the thing one recommends. Since, to our knowledge, Donald Maass has never had a "Breakout Novel," i.e. the kind he's telling you he can help you write, this is, to say the least, disingenuous. Worse, rather presumptuous. And then he went on a public forum and referred to writers as "cattle." So yeah, kind of a dick, and I'm certainly not a fan of someone like that. All that being said, there is some good advice in his book. One can learn things, even from people who are dicks.)

Q: Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A: I can’t see it as an audio book, but I can hear it—it’ll require a few accents and perhaps a sound effect for the italic inner monologues.

I can see it as a great film, with the emphasis on the sillier action scenes and funny repartee. Just as the revelation of absurd underground knowledge worked for Men in Black, it would work for The Urban Legion. You’ll want to read the book first, however, just so you can proclaim at cocktail parties that “the film did not do the book justice.”

Q: What's the next step in your writing world?

A: Finish book 2; I have a detailed outline and a few chapters written, and a lot of funny falsehoods to put in. And book 3 is so wonderfully satirical and silly I can hardly wait to get started on it.

Q: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

A: Once, I stuck out my thumb and hitched a ride on an airplane. It was still taxiing, but I think that counts.

Q: Any other information you'd like to impart?

A: Don’t take life too seriously. Make people laugh, especially me. Read funny books, especially mine.


 Web page: and

On Facebook: TheUrbanLegion and authorDaveAgans

Where to buy:

Short link to (Kindle or paperback):
Also available at, or order it through your local bookstore.

If you’re in the southern NH area, I will gladly sign your copy if you get in touch via the website. You can also look there for notices of upcoming events at local bookstores and libraries.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

NH Writer's Project Fiction Slam

Last night we had fun at the Nashua regional contest for the NH Writer's Project Fiction Slam. Held at Fody's, there were a half-dozen people vying for the win here, to go on to the state competition. Each person reads a 3-minute original story, and they receive feedback and a score from the judges.

Amazing talent from the competitors, and exceptional critique provided by the judges of literary light.

From Left- Judges Mary Johnson, John Murphy, Rob Greene, and Emcee Claudia Decker

Fourth judge Jen Valentine with contestant Chris Lamere

Starting off the night of competition is Ursula Wong, author of Purple Trees and the forthcoming Amber Wolf.

Kathy Boss

Chris reads his piece

The audience at the other end of the table. The guy with his chin in his hand is Dave Agans, author of the newly-released comic novel The Urban Legion
Dave will be interviewed on this blog later this week, so stop by!

Other contestants awaiting their turn

Mary Jeddore Blakney, (Jae), another author with books out

 Another shot of the judges and hostess

Mark reads his piece on being a writer- go figure!


Vicky Meagher reads the play that was not a play

Now the hard part- out of all the excellent pieces done that night, picking the top performers.


Emcee Claudia (on left) with the winners- Mary Jeddore Blakney (first place), Kathy Boss, (third) and Ursula Wong (Second, and a previous winner of this contest).

Monday, January 18, 2016

What a Year So Far

Well, of the things that could have started the year off, most of us didn't expect the spate of mortality among the arts. The loss of a number of iconic musicians and actors within a hideously short time frame has come as a shock to many. People are reeling and wondering who might be next. The mood of the new year is somber.

And this holiday today is a reminder of what happened to one who was working to make a profound difference.

Few of us know the number of our days. We should try to make the most of each one of them, enjoy, and live well.

Some have asked why I work so hard to produce books and stories so quickly. I fear being cut off before I can get these tales told, and I have so many to tell. So I'm pushing like a freight train, racing time to produce what I can while I'm here.

Books are a time machine, and I'm trying to speak to people that may not have even been born yet. If I can communicate to them in meaningful words, then my time here was well spent.

I approach the craft with a will to make it good, make it right. This quote captures it:

So live well. And do something meaningful. Make your time here count in some way.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Interview With Tilia Klebenov Jacobs

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first interview of the year, with awesome mystery writer Tilia Klebenov Jacobs, a fellow member of Sisters in Crime.

To see an event Tilia had with superstar writer Hank Phillipi Ryan, click here.

Her latest novel is Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café, and it's doing rather well, so pick up a copy. 

Q. So how did this novel come to be? Was it envisioned from the start as a bigger canvas, or did it expand organically out of an idea? Please tell us a bit about the origin.

A. One night my husband and I were out swing dancing, and a gentleman asked me to dance.  We both knew we'd seen each other somewhere, and then I realized that he was a former student of mine from a writing class I taught at a medium-security prison. He was out on parole.

Well, we danced, we chatted, and I wished him all the best.  Afterwards I found myself musing.  He was alone, which means he was probably looking for someone; most of us are.  And other than his past--which I really know very little about--he seemed a very ordinary sort of person.  I thought, "Huh.  At what point in the dating process do you tell someone you're out on parole?" 

Suddenly I had a main character with a problem--always a good place to start.

Next I needed a setting, a focal point for my characters to gather.  At first I thought it would be a patisserie.  Then one day I was driving past a church and saw a sign for a coffee shop in their basement:  Holy Grounds Coffee.  I thought this was the funniest darned thing I ever saw, and made my pastry shop into a java joint.  Changed the name, of course, since the church already had dibs on the first one. 

Readers should know that most of the anecdotes in Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café are true.  Some are family stories; others are things my inmate students have told me.  In my book, the coffee shop is where people go to tell their stories, even if they don't realize that's why they're drawn to it.  It is also where people get what they deserve, for good or ill.

Q. Did you start with the germ of an idea and start writing to see where it went, or did you map a good deal out in your head (or even outline) before crafting?

A. Dale, as you know, for the purposes of this question there are two different kinds of writers:  plotters and pantsers.  Plotters map out their stories, sometimes in exacting detail, before they start writing. Who, what, where, when, and why all go into a chart or list of some sort.  F. Scott Fitzgerald actually calculated the number of words per chapter of The Great Gatsby before he wrote it, if you can imagine. At the other end of the continuum are pantsers, who rather than plot, fly by the seat of their...well, you get the idea.

Anyone who has known me for more than about five minutes knows that I am a plotter.  I love plotting; I love figuring out as much as possible ahead of time, although to be sure the story is bound to take a few unexpected turns in the writing process.  Plotting holds several different appeals for me.  First is the joy of immersion into the story and characters before hitting Once Upon a Time, because if you don't know and love your story and characters, you are in for a pretty miserable writing experience.  Second, plotting lends itself to structure and intricacy.  As a reader, I find that structure is very satisfying.  Randomness isn't.  Finally, a lot of writers talk about the terror of not knowing what happens next in a story as they write it.  As a plotter, I find this very odd, because even when my characters hijack my story, I have the upper hand in that I know what's coming up.  Complaining about not knowing the story you're writing makes about as much sense to me as driving blindfolded and complaining that you can't see the road.

Q. What do you feel is the main theme(s)?

A. Redemption.  And my characters are often in need of it.

I don't think redemption is always possible in real life:  I'm sure we can all think of moral Rubicons that cannot be uncrossed.  But that, of course, is the beauty of fiction.  We can write stories with outcomes that satisfy on every level.

Other themes often include honor and duty, especially for my female characters.  I find that in fiction, these questions devolve mainly to men (though of course in real life women grapple with them all the time); so I really enjoy giving my female characters toothsome ethical questions to tackle.

Q. Why do you feel this is important, and what would you want a reader to take away from reading this book?

A.  A reviewer on Goodreads said of Second Helpings, "There was so much wisdom embedded in the pages I just wanted to highlight it and save for the next time I'm up late with a friend walking through a tough time." That has to be one of the highest compliments I could dream of.  It's great when someone closes your book and says, "Whoah--that was AWESOME."  It's over-the-moon fabulous when they add, "I'll be back later, because this book has changed my life."

Q. What makes a good book or engaging story?

A. Plot, characters, and good descriptions of the setting.  Of course, in the best stories these elements are completely interdependent.  Ideally, plots spring from the characters, and setting affects everything.  If you relocate Romeo and Juliet to 1950s New York, you have West Side Story.  If you put The Tempest in outer space, you have Forbidden Planet.

Long descriptions are not popular right now, but I love them.  There's nothing like a really lush description to ground you in the story.  Think of the Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The minute details she gives, down to the texture of the floorboards her father smoothed out for her and her sisters to run barefoot on, bring her experience alive as nothing else could.

Q.  Are there writers with similar themes to yours? Who are your influences (can be writers, or even artists, musicians, or others) and what is it about their work that attracts you?

A. My writing has been compared to Lisa Scottoline's, which I consider an enormous compliment.  Her work is smart and funny and devilishly plotted.  I can't really call her an influence, though, because until Kirkus made the comparison I'd never read any of her books.  (A deficit since rectified!)

For drool-worthy imagery, I turn to Ray Bradbury and Mark Helprin.  Reading Helprin in particular feels like eating a rich dessert.  For dialogue, especially banter, it's hard to top Robert B. Parker.  And of course I worship regularly at the temple of J.K. Rowling.  Humor, erudition, characters, plots that just won't quit--she's the whole package.  If I ever met her, I would babble like an idiot.

Q. Is storytelling mostly entertainment, or does it serve other functions? Do you have particular goals other than telling a good story?

A. All cultures have stories.  A human society without story is like a society without music or language: it just doesn't exist.  So I think it's safe to say that story serves a profound need in the human experience.  Religions convey their most profound messages largely through story; a culture's deepest values are transmitted the same way.  And we all know that kids who enjoy reading do better in school, but you might be surprised to find that they're also less likely to commit crimes or end up in prison later in life.  Ongoing immersion in story seems to make us better human beings who are better suited to society.

Q. Any other goals you've set for yourself, professionally or personally?

A. See below, under "What's Next"!

Q. Some writers write fast and claim not to rewrite much. Do you do this, or painstakingly revise? When you send the book off to the publisher, are you happy with it, or just tired of it?

A. "To quote the mild-mannered, word-mincing Ernest Hemingway:  'The first draft of anything is shit.'"  (No Plot?  No Problem! by Chris Baty.)  I revise whether I've written something fast or slowly.  There's no such thing as a perfect first draft.  It may be studded with diamonds in the rough, but trust me, those babies need polishing.

I don't send anything off till it's as good as I can get it.  There's not much future in sending out sloppy seconds.  But yes, I'm generally pretty happy with my work by then, even if I'm also tired of it.  I know I'm not supposed to say this, but I love my writing.  Whether the current project is a book, a story, or an essay, I really feel privileged to have been able to spend time with it.

Q. Do you have good editors, and if so, how do they help you? Do they look for particular things? Do you have different people for different editing levels?

A. A good editor is a demigod.  If you're lucky, he or she is both kind and ruthless.  My editor, Michael Marano, was especially helpful with Wrong Place, Wrong Time, taking it to a level I could never have attained on my own.  His insights are all-encompassing, from word choice to characters' motivations to story arcs.  He did less for Second Helpings at the Serve You Right Café, but that's because it needed less help.  It's a more polished, confident book than its predecessor, and I'm very pleased with it.

Q. If a writer came to you for advice, how would you help?

A. Here's what I tell people.
1.  Whether you are traditionally or independently published, plan to spend some money.  You will need an editor--a good one, who doesn't care about your self-esteem.  You will need a publicist.  Please don't assume your publisher, if you have one, will provide these things.

2.  Surround yourself with a community of writers.  No matter how much your family and friends support you, unless they are also writers they will not fully understand the highs and lows of this process.  Equally important, other writers are often eager to give you a hand up.  They will very often put you in touch with a sympathetic agent or an outstanding graphic artist for that cover that will launch a thousand sales.

3.  Write the book that is in your heart, not the one that you think will sell.  Writing a book is an extended process, and it takes just as long to write something you don't love as something you do. 

4.  As far as sales go, that is only your concern once you have a finished manuscript.  Bear in mind that trends come and trends go, so if you're shooting for what's currently hot in the market you're aiming at a moving target.  Right now werewolves and vampires are big; a few years ago it was penguins.  (Seriously.  It was.)  If you happen to love what's now popular, great, but it might not be once you're done with your first draft.  If you don't care for the chic shriek of the week, so much the better.  You now have complete freedom to write the book you actually want to.  Go for it!

5.  Publishing is not what you think it is, no matter how much research you've done.  Please know this:  no one, not even me, can prepare you for the emotional tornado of launching your first book.  The highs are high, the lows are low, and very few people around you have been through the same experience.  It can be great; it can be wrenching; if you're lucky it will be both.

Q. Stories can be told by using a different medium. Can you see your book as a film, audio, etc.? How would that alter the telling?

A. I found out almost by accident that Second Helpings would work beautifully as a play.  For its launch party we had a staged reading of scenes from the book, performed by three wonderfully talented actors.  We held it at the public library where I wrote most of it, and proceeds went to a local children's charity.  Selecting the scenes was a fun challenge--I wanted them to be early enough in the book that they were spoiler-proof, yet tantalizing enough that people would get excited.  Well, I can tell you that at the end of the reading the audience was clamoring for more!  One of the first questions was, "Is this a play too?" When I said no, the disappointment was audible.  I was thrilled.

Q. What's the next step in your writing world?

A. I'm finishing up another book, this time an exercise in middle-grade fantasy.  After that I plan to return to Second Helpings and adapt it as a play!

Q. Tell us a fun fact about yourself.
A. I once went to Bulgaria with six live lobsters and no visa.  Also, I was a competitive ballroom dancer for years.

Q. Any other information you'd like to impart?

A. I'm a kickass writer. You should totally read my books, especially since Second Helpings is now available for 99 cents--for a limited time only!

Web page:

Where to buy:é-ebook/dp/B00VUE3250/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1451422934&sr=8-2&keywords=klebenov

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ending on a High Note

Well, it's been one hell of a year, with many endings- and many reboots. I feel a bit like a character in one of those movies where everything blew up, and the dazed person emerges from the rubble, blinking and wondering how they survived.

From having my job taken away once more last January (thanks, corporate A-holes) to a number of other body blows, it's been a trial. If 'that which does not kill us makes us stronger,' I must be freakin' Superman. I've got back on a mostly even keel, but writing time is hard to come by, as well as mustering the energy to create something worthwhile- the brain and body are tired after 11+ hour days at the day job and commute.

I have high ambitions, goals, and desires for writing, and never feel like I've done enough at years' end. Always have so much more to do, and there's never enough time. Still, I produce more than most writers, and by doing one thing after another, and working to completion, I manage to accumulate a fair body of work for the year.

So this trip around the sun has seen a few things done well. I'd previously put out the first three Zack Taylor mysteries with small publishers, and got the rights back to those. So redid all 3, with new covers and newly-edited content. Print and ebook versions were reissued, and then I got all 3 produced as audiobooks as well! The long-awaited fourth book in the series, A Certain Slant of Light, finally saw publication, coming out last month (more on this later, see below).

And published a book of short stories, More Crooked Paths: 5 Tales of Crime and Mystery.

Got stories into two great anthologies as well. Hope it Fits was selected for the recently-published Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories 2016, from Level Best Books (The Boston Globe just gave this excellent work a mention). This is the second year in a row I've had a story featured in this prestigious annual collection, so I'm quite happy with that, especially since last year's collection, Rogue Wave, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion Book Award, up against books by big-name pros of the writing world.

And got two scary stories into Insanity Tales II: The Sense of Fear, a great follow-up to last year's Insanity Tales. This came out just in time for Halloween, and provided some frights with stories from 6 talented writers.

Wrote more that hasn't been published yet, but watch for upcoming releases.

Did a number of book events and spoke on panels: Authors by the Sea, and Queen City Kamikaze Con, the Sisters in Crime panel at the Edwards Public Library in Southampton, MA, with T. Stephens and Vlad V. at the Monson, MA library, at the Scarborough, ME library with the Level Best folks, at the Lancaster Library for a mystery panel (and later a panel of horror writers), at the Maine Potato Blossom Festival in Fort Fairfield, ME (where I grew up), the Haverhill Library, the Middlesex Community College bookstore in downtown Lowell, MA, and the Chelmsford author event

Other accomplishments: attended my 40th High School reunion, put out my first newsletter, something I've had as a goal for a while. Got to publicly read my work with other mystery pros at Noir at the Bar. Was featured in Granite Coast magazine. Also served as a writing contest judge for the Al Blanchard Award, given out by an awards committee at the Crime Bake mystery conference (writeup of that event here). At the conference I gave a presentation on producing audiobooks that was rather well-received. Sold a bunch of my mystery novels that weekend, the first time the bookseller has carried my titles at the yearly event- thank you, New England Mobile Bookfair! Speaking of the biggest and best mystery bookstore north of New York, we had a blast at the annual Gala Mystery Night, selling and signing books with the top mystery writers of New England. Attended a few other events there this year, including signings for Tess Gerritsen, and T. Stephens (to see an interview with T. Stephens, click here).

I've had terrific writers as guests doing interviews on the blog this year: Dana King, Kat Parrish, Leigh Perry, Patrick Shawn Bagley, and Peter Dudar. I've been interviewed by others this last year, notably Ann Everett, and Debbi Mack on the Crime Cafe. And just last night, was featured by Dana King, to end the year on a high note, celebrating A Certain Slant of Light, which he kindly read and gave a recommendation for. That's an awesome way to end a year for a writer, being recommended by another writer you respect.

So how was your year? What did you learn and accomplish, what are your regrets for this last year? What do you plan for next year?

I hope to get a slew of works out, including novels, short stories, and collections. And maybe some more non-fiction. See you soon. Gotta get back to work, so I can get those out... 

Have a safe and happy New Year. Celebrate and enjoy, and remember those who have left us this past 12 months.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Making the Globe!

 This appeared in today's Boston Globe- a comment on the big "Best of" anthology, Red Dawn: Best New England Crime Stories that has a story of mine in it- (for the second year in a row, I've made it into this prestigious collection.
Merry Christmas from Level Best Books!

Have a safe and happy holiday season!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Check out the Maine Writer!

Woo-hoo! Got my listing as a Maine writer on the Maine State Library website!

This is, as we say up home, WICKED COOL!

I grew up there, lived in over a dozen places in the state, and got almost all my schooling there, including college, where I took writing classes from Stephen King.

Still consider it home, even though I now live in Mass. because I have to work for a living.

And my Zack Taylor mystery series is set in Portland, a 4-book love letter so far.