Friday, June 29, 2018

Big Author Signing at the Hartford Barnes and Noble

This Saturday, the 30th, I'll be signing books with the Sisters in Crime at the UCONN Hartford Barnes and Noble from 12-4.

Looks to be quite a big party. Anybody in the Conn area, come on down!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Interview With Journalist Dan Szczesny

Another special treat today! We'll be talking with journalist Dan Szczesny, a guy with so much going on, it makes you want to go climb a mountain.

And he's got a brand-new book out: The White Mountain.

Over the course of one calendar year, Dan Szczesny explored the history and mystique of New England’s tallest mountain. But Mount Washington is more than just a 6,288-foot rock pile; the mountain is the cultural soul of climbers, hikers, and tourists from around the world looking to test their mettle against some of the most extreme conditions in return for a chance to be inspired by some of the most intense natural beauty.

From being on the team of a ninety-seven-year-old marathon runner, to dressing as Walt Whitman and reading poetry up the mountain, to spending a week in winter cooking for the scientists at the observatory, the mountain became Szczesny’s muse. In The White Mountain: Rediscovering Mount Washington’s Hidden Culture, Szczesny turns a veteran journalist’s eye toward exploring Mount Washington’s place in the collective consciousness of the country, and how this rugged landscape has reflected back a timeless history of our obsession and passion for exploration and discovery.

About the author: Dan Szczesny is a long-time author and journalist living in New Hampshire. His books include travelogues on Nepal, Alaska, and the White Mountains. He is a Hemingway Foundation finalist for short fiction and has also written a collection of short stories and of poetry. He’s traveled widely throughout the country speaking about adventure travel and the importance of getting kids into the outdoors. He currently calls Manchester, New Hampshire his Base Camp where he lives with his wife and daughter. Learn more about Dan’s work at

Q. You have quite a resume- journalist, author, editor, and speaker, with publications in travel books, fiction, and poetry. And you lead an adventurous life of climbing mountains. When did you realize this was going to be your path?

A. Well, the writing part has been part of my DNA since the fifth grade. I can't remember a time when I didn't want to write, and when I was a kid I'd write anything: fiction, poetry, essays, fan fiction, you name it. I still remember that my first short story was basically an episode of Star Blazers, that great Japanese animation from the 70s.
    So, looking back on that early start, it makes sense that most of my professional career has been in journalism. I've always just been curious, and that's critical if you want to be a good reporter. I like asking questions, and then answering them.
    The adventure and travel writing, though, was just an extension of what I loved doing as a hobby. Again, since one of my favorite things to do is to learn about new cultures, food, religion and society, then it just follows that I'd travel a lot and write about those experiences. And the mountain climbing came naturally out of my moving to New Hampshire and being exposed to the White Mountains.

Q. What's your proudest professional achievement? Personal?

A. Professional achievement: When I was working as a beat reporter in Princeton, New Jersey, I covered a story about a toddler who suffered a non-life threatening injury, but sadly passed away on the way to the hospital due to the complicated EMS and private ambulance structure of the county at that time. I dug into the law and history surrounding the system that would create such red tape and delays in getting help and wrote a series for the paper about it. Based on that work, several state senators changed the law to tighten private EMS services so such a mistake would not happen again. I won a state press association award for in-depth reporting, but more importantly I hope that the work saved some lives.
    Personal: Aside from my marriage and birth of my daughter, my wife and I spent a year training for and then three weeks solo trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Out of that experience, I wrote “The Nepal Chronicles.” It was life changing.

Q. How about your best day ever?

A. That's easy! My book, “The Nepal Chronicles,” won the 2016 New Hampshire State Library and Writers Project award for best work on non-fiction, and on award night at the ceremony I learned the book also won the Readers' Choice Award as well. AND, on that same day, in a raffle, I won a basket of coffee and cheese from my local bank! Talk about karma!

Q. What's the hardest thing about what you do?

A. Well, it's always easy for a writer with a family to complain about the challenge of finding time to do the actual writing, but I've been pretty lucky with the way our schedules have all worked out. For me, given the amount of research and archival work that goes into any given non-fiction project, the hardest thing for me sometimes is figuring out when to stop. Literally, I could sit down at my laptop, surrounded by books I'm using and research all day and never even look up from the screen if I let myself. But alas, at some point, I have to stop and actually write something!

Q. Since you do so much, what do you prefer to do on any day, given a choice?

A. Well, again, there's always the research which I love. But this is going to sound weird, but I love social media. I love connecting with readers and other authors on-line and working on fun and interesting ways to market my books and talks. Back before my reporter days, I worked in marketing and spent a lot of time writing press releases and designing fliers and I dig that work. Part of it, I think, is that I can just get so excited about a given project that I can't wait to tell the world.

Q. Someone comes to you with the dream job- what is it?

A. Working on assignment as a travel writer for a huge venue like Nat Geo or Outside Magazine and traveling the world and writing about it, with my family of course!

Q. Any plans for more anthologies? What did you like about doing those?
A. When Plaidswede Books approached me about editing the Murder Ink anthology series, the original plan was a three volume set, and to date, there's no plans for a fourth. I'm certainly not opposed to editing nearly any type of anthology were a publisher to approach me. I'm super proud of the fact that over the course of three volumes in three years, we were able to create quite a grand little community of murder and mystery writers working in that very specific genre of newsroom crime writing.
    What's amazing about wearing an editor's hat for a while is, first, how much fun that work can be. I mean, basically, I just spend a lot of time reading short stories! And second, how that level of intense editing work carries over into editing my own work. Every writer who is serious about his or her own craft ought to spend some time editing someone else. It makes you a better writer.

Q. What do you look for in reading material? Or favorite books/favorite authors/recent great reads.

A. When I'm engaged in a new project, I don't read anything other than the subject matter I'm working on, so that means for the past two years, I basically only read books having to do with the White Mountains. Among those, some amazing titles I discovered were the older historic records. For example, “The Journals of Francis Parkman” were enlightening. “Life at the Top” by Eric Pinder is a cool inside look at the lives of the Mount Washington Observatory crew.
    And when I do have spare time between projects, I try to catch up on the work of local and regional authors. North Country writer Olga Morrill just released a fascinating historical fiction book, the first in a series, called “Vagabond Quakers” which is intense and deeply researched and that appeals to me! And  Massachusetts writer Matt Landry's inspirational hiking book, “Forward, Upward, Onward” is a super read!

Q. What's the question you get asked the most/hate or love the most?

A. How do you find the time to write? (Answer: It's a job, get your butt in the chair and write.)
    How do you come up with story ideas? (Answer: Magic fairy dust and a lot of coffee!)
    How do you balance real life with writing life? (Answer: No need to balance anything since it's the same thing.)
    How do you overcome writer's block? (Answer: There's no such thing, see question one.)
    I'm cool with any and all questions though. I never really get sick of talking about the craft, or about my books. It's what I do, I love doing it and I'm thrilled when anyone has an interest!

Q. What's the one question you wish you'd get asked more? What would you love to talk about?
A. Food! I love eating new and interesting food when I travel, it gives you such insight into the culture and region you're exploring. Alas, folks often seem more interested in whether or not I got sick from the food rather than about the food. I wish I'd be asked more about what I loved to eat!

Q. Any wild stories from your career that you can tell?

A. The very first time I hiked in New Hampshire, a long time hiker took me up the caretaker route of the Old Man of The Mountain when the great rock profile was still there. I'd never hiked or climbed up anything before and this route was hand-pulling myself up on cables. I got super sick and tossed up my breakfast half way up the “trail” but I did make it, and was able to stand on the forehead of the Old Man. I couldn't walk for three days after that climb; a not terribly auspicious way to start my hiking career!

Q. What fun fact do we not know about you?

A. Let's see... I've never read a Harry Potter book or watched any of the films, when I'm writing fiction is primarily listen to Miles Davis from his early 70s acid jazz stage, and I once ate an entire bag of 30 dumplings in one sitting.

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

A. The next big things will be embarking on the tour for “The White Mountain.” Over the course of the next six months I'll be giving presentations and meet and greets in six states at about 60 venues, so my focus will really be to bring that book and project to an audience. After that, I have two book projects whispering in my ear that will have to be dealt with. One is a kids picture book, the other is a narrative non-fiction true crime book. And in the middle of all that, I'll begin my search for an agent. Know of any?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Maine Crime Wave 2018

Portland, Maine was the site of the Maine Crime Wave, a great conference hosted by the
Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and sponsored in part by
the Mystery Writers of America- New England chapter
We had panels on various topics, craft sessions, a reading session, 
and a keynote address by famed Defense Attorney F. Lee Bailey.

Quite an enjoyable day, even as we learned a lot.
There was also a chance to buy books written by the noted Maine mystery/crime/thriller authors in attendance, and get them signed.
Sales were handled by Barbara Kelly of Kelly's Books To Go

Author Richard J. Cass mans the MWA information booth.


 Gerry Boyle (standing) led a panel on various methods of publishing:

Gayle Lynds (standing) led her panel on Conflict:
L to R is Joseph Souza, Barbara Ross, Gerry Boyle again, and Kate Flora

 Chris Holm (standing) of course was in charge of the panel on Sex, Booze, and Violence:
L to R is Dick Cass again, Elizabeth Hand, Shannon Kirk, and Daniel Palmer

And our last panel, led by Bruce Coffin (standing), was what book reviewers look for:
L to R is William Bushnell (who reviews thousands of books), Katrina Niidas Holm, and Frank O. Smith

Lots of writers spent part of Friday and all day Saturday having a good time talking about the biz.
Here's Joseph Souza getting snapped with F. Lee Bailey

And Maureen Milliken with sister Rebecca

Vaughn Hardacker with reviewer William Bushnell, who loved Vaughn's book Wendigo.

Barb Ross and Brenda Buchanan pose for a shot

And Brenda again, with Kate Flora this time

Dan lunches with Chris and Katrina

Then we get the group pics

So if you've got any interest in the writing business, Maine, or the many talented authors working there, make plans next year to attend!