On Saturday, November 16, St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Hicksville, New York hosted its third local Author Fair. This year, it featured keynote speaker and author, Roland Allnach, President of the Long Island Author’s Group, and eight other authors including myself. Roland spoke about the experience of being a local author and how the community can support them.
The authors spoke in three groups. Mystery authors, Debbie De Louise, James J. Cudney IV, and Catherine Maiorisi took turns at the podium sharing their writing and reading some excerpts from their books. After the three mystery authors spoke, there was time for a Q & A session with the audience and then a break where attendees could visit author tables, purchase books and raffle tickets, and help themselves to free refreshments.
The second set of authors included romance author, Nika Rhone; Young Adult author, Tracy Auerbach; and dark fiction author, Lisa Diaz Meyer. After these author’s spoke, there was another question and answer period along with a break.
The final two authors were non-fiction writers who both spoke on religious topics, Dr. John Krahn and Janet Rudolph. Dr. Krahn, also a pastor, had lectured many times at St. Stephens.
After the final questions from the audience and the last break, the authors posed for a group photo, and raffles were drawn for the books that the authors donated.
I’m participating in the Writing Contest: You Are Enough, hosted by Positive Writer. The idea behind the contest is to write a blog post to inspire other authors to keep writing. In this crazy, competitive field, it’s very easy to become discouraged. Like other authors, I’ve gone through spells of depression and dissatisfaction with myself and my work. There were numerous times I was prepared to throw in the towel, chuck my writing, spend more time with my family and friends, and only write for myself if I felt the need. But this feeling passed when I reminded myself of how far I’ve come and the way I’ve touched readers’ lives by sharing my words with them.
I’ve been writing professionally for over thirty years. Because I’m an animal lover, and it’s always a good idea to write what you know or at least what you can research, I started by publishing articles in pet magazines. My first two articles about my cats enabled me to become a professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association. A few years later, my first mystery story, “Stitches in Time,” appeared in the anthology, Cat Crimes Through Time. In 2008, after my cat Floppy passed away, I self-published my first book, Cloudy Rainbow, a paranormal romance about a woman who participates in a virtual seance to save the man she loves. I featured Floppy as a character and the backstory included fictional details from my college days as an editor on the student newspaper at Long Island University/C. W. Post campus. I had no idea how to market the book, so I didn’t sell many copies, but I got a copy on the shelf at the library where I worked as a librarian.
I didn’t write again until 2015 because I thought I was too busy with work and family obligations. That was an excuse. I now realize that I stopped because I’d lost faith in myself and my ability to write because I hadn’t sold many copies of my first book. I came out of this funk when a patron at my library who’d read Cloudy Rainbow encouraged me to keep writing. She told me she believed I had talent and that I should follow my dream of being an author. I was hesitant to listen to her, but her words finally got through to me. I was inspired to write another book. This time, instead of self publishing the book, I began to look for a publisher. Having become involved in social media, I entered a Twitter competition called #Pit2Pub. It was through this competition that several small publishers contacted me and asked to read my complete manuscript. I ended up signing with one of them for A Stone’s Throw, the first book of what would become my Cobble Cove cozy mystery series that now totals four books.
Although I was thrilled to have landed a publisher, albeit a small one that focused on publishing eBooks, things didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned them. I wasn’t paid an advance, and my royalties often totalled less than two digits. However, I’d met other authors, both those who wrote for my publisher and those who belonged to online Indie author groups, who showed me that they were in the same boat as I was. I no longer focused on making money but on reaching readers. It made my day when someone wrote a 5-star review for my book on Amazon or told me in person at the library that they loved the characters and the twist at the end of my book.
I was feeling better about myself and my writing until my publisher turned down the second book of my series. I was devastated. I thought my writing career was over before it really began. Then I saw an announcement for another #Pit2Pub competition. I figured that I had nothing to lose by entering, but I was worried that no one would want the second book of a series. As it turned out, I heard from a different publisher, Solstice Publishing, and signed a contract with them for Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Also, after getting my rights back from my first publisher, Solstice reprinted A Stone’s Throw with a new cover and updated edits. They also reprinted Cloudy Rainbow as a tenth-anniversary edition. I currently have six books and several stories published by them and have signed for two holiday eBook stories that will be published this December.
Last year, I found a second publisher, Creativia, now known as Next Chapter, through another author. I had an unpublished psychological mystery, Sea Scope, that I’d been shopping around to agents hoping to publish it with a larger publisher. I was attracted by Next Chapter because of its marketing approach, attractive covers, and the formats in which its booked were published. In May 2019, Sea Scope was published in paperback, eBook, and large type editions. The audio was released afterwards on Audible, and hardcover copies are scheduled soon.
Despite my success and experience with seven published books and three publishers, I still haven’t achieved my dream. I’m still seeking an agent and traditional publisher. I know that this dream is possible, but I also know that agents receive tons of queries. It’s hard to stand out in the current competitive book market, but that’s no reason to stop trying. I truly believe that whatever your writing dream is, you can achieve it as long as you don’t give up.
On Saturday, November 16, I’ll be hosting the Fall Author Fair at St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Hicksville on Long Island from 2 to 5 p.m. The President of the Long Island Authors Group, Roland Allnach, will be a speaker, and there will be eight authors of various genres signing books at tables. In addition, each author will talk about their writing, and there will be raffles for prizes. Admission is free, and raffle proceeds will be donated to Literacy Nassau and the church. It should be a fun day and a great opportunity to purchase some autographed books for yourself or as gifts for the upcoming holiday season. If you’re in the area, I hope you will drop by.
Roland Allnach is a multi-award winning author of the strange and surreal. A lifetime Long Island resident, he has published numerous short stories, seven books, and is currently the president of Long Island Authors Group. He also developed the LIAG Traveling Bookstore to display the books of local authors at town fairs and has fostered an energetic expansion of the group. He has appeared on national and local television, Internet and terrestrial radio, and local libraries. His creative influences stem from classical literature, mythology, history, and his years of night shift hospital experience. For more, visit www.rolandallnach.com
Debbie De Louise is an award-winning author and a reference librarian at a public library on Long Island. She is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, Long Island Authors Group, and the Cat Writers’ Association. She’s the author of seven novels including the four books of her Cobble Cove cozy mystery series and her latest psychological mystery, Sea Scope. She lives on Long Island with her husband, daughter, and three cats.
ALL ROADS HOME, ALL ROADS DESTINED and ALL ROADS SHATTERED are Long Island author, Lisa Diaz Meyer’s current works of multi-genre, dark fiction short stories, poems and plays. The author, poet, playwright uses several controversial topics and awarenesses in her collection of speculative fiction. She has received 5 Star Reviews for all three of her books from Readers Favorite and Literary Titan, including Literary Titan’s Gold Book Award for each as well as Independent Press’ Distinguished Favorite. For her book ALL ROADS DESTINED, she was nominated for a 2017 CIPA EVVY award and also received a New Apple Official Selection in Poetry 2017. ALL ROADS SHATTERED received the New Apple Literary Solo Medalist Award in Short Story Fiction She hails from Nassau County’s south shore.
James is my given name; most call me Jay. I grew up on Long Island and currently live in New York City, but I spend lots of time with family in Bethpage. By day, I work in technology. I began writing in 2016 and have two stand-alone family drama novels and a mystery series about Braxton Campus murders. I run a blog and read several books each week. Literature and chatting with fellow book lovers is my world.
Tracy Auerbach studied English and film in college, and education in graduate school. Some of her college poetry was published in the “Penn Review” (The University of Pennsylvania’s premier literary magazine). She went on to teach and write S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) curriculum for the New York Department of Education. Tracy’s work is featured in the online literary journal “Micro-horror,” and “The Writing Disorder” fiction anthology. Her first novel, “The Human Cure,” was published in paperback in 2014. “The Sin Soldiers,” the first book in her YA Sci-fi “Fragments” trilogy, was released this summer from Parliament House Press. When she is not teaching or writing, Tracy is usually reading or playing with her own children. She lives in New York with her husband and two sons.
Nika Rhone spent her childhood wearing out library cards as she read her way through the extraordinary worlds far beyond her small hometown on Long Island, NY. By her teens, her imagination was taking her places all on its own, forcing her to learn how to type (badly) so she could get all the stories down on paper. After a long love affair with science fiction and fantasy, she finally discovered romance, fell head-over-heels, and now spends her days crafting happily-ever-afters for the characters who still tell their stories faster (and better) than she can type them.
Catherine Maiorisi is the author of the NYPD Detective Chiara Corelli mystery series featuring Corelli and her reluctant partner, Detective P.J. Parker, two tough women who fight each other and the blue wall, while solving high profile murders. The first, A Matter of Blood, a 2019 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, was followed by The Blood Runs Cold. The third, A Message in Blood, is coming in 2020. Catherine has also published two romances, Matters of the Heart and No One But You. Her third romance, Ready for Love, will be published in the fall of 2019. Her three mysteries and four romance short stories are available in various anthologies.
Janet Rudolph has written a trilogy of books on the shamanic lessons underpinning Biblical wisdom. This series of books grew out of her 25-year journey-quest to discover and experience shamanic teachings throughout the world. She has studied with many extra-ordinary shamans and has been initiated into two differing traditions. Rudolph combines practical knowledge with research capabilities to unveil secrets that have been hidden for millennia.
Dr. John H. Krahn is the best selling author of a dozen nonfiction books. He is also a sought after speaker and lecturer. His book, From Surviving to Thriving – A Practical Guide to Revitalize Your Church, has sold thousands of copies and has resulted in Dr. Krahn being asked to present workshops on the subject of church revitalization both nationally and internationally. He also is a frequent presenter at local libraries on the topic, “Living a Happier Life at Every Age.” He’s giving his latest book, Great Thoughts and Quotations forSpeakers and Writers, away free. Stop by his table to obtain your free copy.
A Communist Dog, a Russian Empress Cat, and a Shakespeare-quoting Parrot Walked into a Cozy Mystery
By Lois Winston
I write the Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mysteries, a cozy series featuring a cast of rather unique characters, including Lucille Pollack, my sleuth’s communist mother-in-law and leader of the thirteen octogenarian Daughters of the October Revolution. However, along with the humans that populate the series, there are three non-humans, each with their own unique personalities.
Manifesto is the commie’s French bulldog, named for The Communist Manifesto, a political treatise written in 1848 by German philosophers Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels. Given Lucille’s political leanings, you’d expect her to own a Russian Wolfhound, wouldn’t you? Anastasia really doesn’t know why her mother-in-law chose a French bulldog. The two women converse only when absolutely necessary. However, Anastasia suspects size was the main factor. Russian Wolfhounds are quite large, and prior to moving in with Anastasia and her family, Lucille lived in an extremely small apartment.
You know how pets often take on the personalities of their owners? This is definitely the case with Manifesto. As such, Anastasia and her sons have given the dog a few nicknames, alternating between Mephisto and Devil Dog. Recently, though, Manifesto has begun to mellow and prefer the company of Anastasia’s sons to his mistress. Whether this is due to age or objecting to Lucille’s smothering is uncertain, but Anastasia and the boys see it as a welcome change in disposition. Too bad his mistress doesn’t take her cues from her dog.
Manifesto continues to have one nemesis, though. Catherine the Great is an overweight, pampered white Persian owned by Anastasia’s much-married mother Flora Sudberry Periwinkle Ramirez Scoffield Goldberg O’Keefe Tuttnauer.
Flora is the former social secretary of the Daughters of the American Revolution and claims to trace her lineage back to Russian nobility on her mother’s side. When she’s between husbands, she moves in with Anastasia. Due to the size of Anastasia’s home, Flora and Lucille are then forced to share a bedroom. The two women get along as well as their pets—which is to say they fight like cats and dogs.
The Casa Pollack menagerie is rounded out by Ralph, an African Grey Parrot with a penchant for quoting Shakespeare. Anastasia inherited Ralph from her great-aunt Penelope Periwinkle, a college professor and Shakespearean scholar who brought Ralph to all her lectures. Ralph doesn’t just quote the standard famous lines from the Bard of Avon, though. No “alas poor Yorick” or “friends, Romans, countrymen” for this bird. He has an uncanny knack for squawking situation-appropriate lines from any play or sonnet.
Because he’s potty-trained, Ralph has free rein of the house, much to the annoyance of both Lucille and Flora. Manifesto and Catherine the Great don’t think very highly of him, either, but Ralph could care less. He looks down his beak at any species that can’t converse in English. And much to Anastasia’s amusement, Ralph has developed a “bromance” with her boyfriend, photojournalist (and possible spy) Zachary Barnes.
Can you tell I write humorous cozy mysteries?
Handmade Ho-Ho Homicide
An Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery, Book 8
Two and a half weeks ago magazine crafts editor Anastasia Pollack arrived home to find Ira Pollack, her half-brother-in-law, had blinged out her home with enough Christmas lights to rival Rockefeller Center. Now he’s crammed her small yard with enormous cavorting inflatable characters. She and photojournalist boyfriend and possible spy Zack Barnes pack up the unwanted lawn decorations to return to Ira. They arrive to find his yard the scene of an over-the-top Christmas extravaganza. His neighbors are not happy with the animatronics, laser light show, and blaring music creating traffic jams on their normally quiet street. One of them expresses his displeasure with his fists before running off.
In the excitement, the deflated lawn ornaments are never returned to Ira. The next morning Anastasia once again heads to his house before work to drop them off. When she arrives, she discovers Ira’s attacker dead in Santa’s sleigh. Ira becomes the prime suspect in the man’s murder and begs Anastasia to help clear his name. But Anastasia has promised her sons she’ll keep her nose out of police business. What’s a reluctant amateur sleuth to do?
USA Today bestselling and award-winning author Lois Winston writes mystery, romance, romantic suspense, chick lit, women’s fiction, children’s chapter books, and nonfiction under her own name and her Emma Carlyle pen name. Kirkus Reviews dubbed her critically acclaimed Anastasia Pollack Crafting Mystery series, “North Jersey’s more mature answer to Stephanie Plum.” In addition, Lois is a former literary agent and an award-winning craft and needlework designer who often draws much of her source material for both her characters and plots from her experiences in the crafts industry.
In memory of my sweet Oliver, who passed away two years ago on November 4, 2017 from a bout with Chronic Kidney disease, I’m offering my story, The Path to Rainbow Bridge, free from November 3 to November 5. I hope it gives some solace to others who have lost a beloved pet.
Old Tom the tabby was at the Gate. Next to him stood Shadow, a black shorthair who had been summoned while sun bathing on the Bridge. Shadow knew the reason Tom wanted to speak with him. It could mean only one thing. Another resident was arriving.
“Sorry to disturb you,” Old Tom said. “But I’ve had orders from above that another one of Kate Stewart’s cats will be joining us. This time, it’s Sam, her Siamese. He’s had a long life and much happiness with her, but it’s his time. Please alert Kate’s other cats about the new arrival.”
Shadow nodded his dark head. “I will be on it right away, sir. When is the welcome party scheduled?”
“Looks like tomorrow morning around 6 a.m. Remember, it takes time for the soul to reach us.”
“Who will be in charge of the party?” Shadow knew that, according to Bridge rules, the last cat admitted from a human’s family was the next in line to welcome the incoming resident. A year ago, when a car hit Shadow after he stupidly ran out the door when his human Ben came home from a doctor’s appointment, there had been no other cats in Ben’s family on the Bridge or at least none that Ben had forged the forever bond with, so Old Tom had welcomed Shadow. Now it was Shadow’s job to notify the last member of each incoming cat’s family until another first-timer was admitted.
Old Tom checked the register he held in his paws. Tom had been supervisor of the cat’s side of RB since he arrived 20 years ago because he was one of the unbonded, those pets who had either been ferals, strays, or housecats who had never developed the forever bond, that special connection of heart and soul that united animal and human eternally. In Tom’s case, he had been a stray in the alleys of New York City, living a surprisingly long life of ten years for an outdoor cat.
“Kate’s Floppy was admitted a few years ago,” Tom said. “I think he’s now residing on the north cloud over the rainbow. He’s a gray and white tuxedo fellow. Kate lost him from diabetic complications. It was one of our sadder cases. She administered insulin shots to him for many years and was at his side at the vet’s when the lethal injection was given. She’d had him since he was a kitten, and he misses her dearly but is glad that she found another cat to love while he waits for her on the Bridge.”
Shadow felt a tear wet his cheek fur. He was always choked up when he heard these touching tales. “Thanks, Tom. I will find Floppy and let him know. Although this is the first party he will host, he’s attended enough to know the procedure.” Floppy had already been on the Bridge for eight years, although up there they didn’t keep track of human time.
On the one-month anniversary of the death of her beloved cat, Librarian Margaret Goodley, uses her excellent research skills to cast a spell to bring Bluebell back to life. Unfortunately, there are unexpected consequences when two other women who have lost their own loved ones on the same day interrupt the ceremony.
The air was scented with the approaching rain as Margaret walked through the cemetery crossing the twig-strewn path that cut across her backyard. This was the familiar path she strode twice a day in her flat brown loafers on her way to and from work at the Donker Public Library in the small town of Donker, Massachusetts due south of Salem.
Tonight, she was arriving home much later than usual with a worn book tucked under her arm, the results of her after-hours research. Charlie, the custodian, had let her stay until he closed the building at ten. She could see the light she’d left on in anticipation of her late arrival shining through the windows of the small, gray clapboard house. Just a few weeks ago, Bluebell would be running to the door as soon as the key was turning in the lock. The silver tabby had been a member of her favorite welcoming committee, the only member of any committee that ever welcomed Margaret Goodley.
As she approached the house, Margaret intentionally avoided the small patch of dug-up earth under the bush near the front window. When she opened the door, the loss of Bluebell hit her anew as it did every time she came home to the empty house. She hadn’t missed Paul after he left her for that young waitress half as much as she missed her dead cat.
Although she was tired from a full day’s work plus the additional five hours she’d spent reading and researching, she couldn’t yet sleep. There was more work to be done. She lay the library book down on the kitchen table and plugged a small fan into the outlet next to the microwave. The closed-up house had retained the heat of the early September night.
As the fan whirled hot air around her, she sat at the table and opened the book. She had already read it at the library along with countless articles both on the Internet and through the online databases. Who would have thought she’d find the perfect source for her purpose right in her own library’s collection? A phrase her father had told her as a child repeated in her mind, “knowledgeis power.”
Today is the day we celebrate those mysterious, funny, lovable creatures called cats who come into our lives and bring so much joy but also sadness when they go. National Cat Day was created to help the public recognize the need to rescue cats. It also encourages cat lovers to recognize the companionship and unconditional love that pet cats give us. This isn’t the only cat-related “holiday” celebrated in October which is known as Black Cat Appreciation Month. I wrote about other special October cat days on another blog. You can read my post On Pens, Paws, and Claws here and my cat Harry’s post about Black Cat Day here.
Cat lovers are encouraged today to share photos and stories of their cats on social media with #NationalCatDay.
Here are a few photos of my special cats, Harry, Hermione, and Stripey: