Monday, September 24, 2007

Social Networking Pays off Handsomely for One Author


Shortly after discovering the social network Gather, I found out that author Terry Shaw had been selected as the winner of Gather's First Chapters writing competition and his book, The Way Life Should Be was published by Simon and Schuster, making one writer's dream come true (and, as it turns out, another writer also had his dream come true when another book in the competition, Fire Bell in the Night, was also published.

I have to admit I was a bit skeptical when I heard about all of this. Would readers of this social networking site really be able to find a gem in the more than 2600 manuscripts that had been submitted? Would they be able to select "the one" from among the five finalists? I knew I had to find out so I got a copy of this book and sat down to read it.

As it turns out, the answer to all of the questions above was an unequivocal yes. From first page to last, I could not put The Way Life Should Be down for more than a few minutes at a time. I even ignored the phone and kept the tv set off. I've since recommended the book to everyone I know.

This riveting mystery novel centers on John Quinn, editor of the Stone Harbor Pilot, a Maine newspaper he's inherited from his formidable father. Right from the start, the suspense builds, as Quinn's longtime friend, Paul Stanwood, is murdered while checking out Sullivan Park, a notorious hangout for gay men. Stanwood is protective and supportive of the men, angry at those who harass them and suspicious of the true motivations of city officials who want to close down the park.

But before he can provide further details about the motivations of those who want the park shut down, he is killed, setting off shock waves in Quinn's life. He already has more than enough tension in his life already because his wife, Maria, resents the time he spends at work and even suspects him of possible infidelity. Getting caught up in a murder investigation is the last thing he needs right now.

Quinn can't rest, however, until he knows the truth. He can't turn his back on his friend, especially when he finds he may be the only one who really wants to know the truth. This makes him even more determined. He also has some guilt about the disagreements he has had with his friend and this remorse drives him as well.

As the novel unfolds, I was delighted to find that it had all the hallmarks of an excellent mystery, including plenty of surprises and twists and turns. There are also a fair number of suspects, including the despicable police chief, Al Sears, a guy who defines the word bully with nearly every action. He has no trouble throwing his weight around and getting people to go along with him.

What Quinn can't possibly foresee are the many complications that will ensue along the way or the surprises he'll discover in both his friend's background and in Quinn's own life. Even Stanwood's own wife doesn't seem above suspicion. Also, the park turns out to have been more than a gay hangout but the center of a potentially lucrative land deal.

Author Terry Shaw really ramps up the action as Quinn finds his life (and his family's welfare) in danger, witnesses are threatened or beaten and another key witness ends up in the hospital. By the end of the book, my pulse was racing as I turned the pages, eager to find out what would happen and how events would play out. I doubt you'll be able to put this one down either!

There are so many fine points about this novel that I feel compelled to say something about them. The writing style is not the least amateurish and if I hadn't known this was a newly published fiction writer, I doubt I would have guessed. The dialogue is totally realistic and the writing is tight, leaving no dead space or lengthy interludes. The author's originality shines through as he finds innovative ways to reveal key details, whether through newspaper excerpts or other touches. I was truly in admiration of his talent with words and his skillful transition from event to another. I hope to read another book from Mr. Shaw in the not too distant future.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Age of Conversation Book Launches

In what may be a first-of-its-kind collaboration via the internet, more than 100 marketing professionals have joined together online to write The Age of Conversation. In addition to the downloadable e-version, the book will be available in limited quantities in hardcover and softcover. All proceeds from sale go to Variety, the Childrens Charity.

The book has an unusual story behind it, involving online connections between people around the world who have never met each other.

Drew McLellan, who heads McLellan Marketing Group, an advertising agency here, has been writing a blog online for since September 2006. His blog, www.DrewsMarketingMinute.com is among the 25 most-read marketing blogs in the world. McLellan’s partner in this adventure is another marketing blogger in the top 25, Gavin Heaton. Heaton is the Interactive Director of one of the world’s leading marketing and promotions agencies, Creata, where he is Director of Interactive. Heaton blogs at www.ServantofChaos.com.

In March, McLellan wrote about Wharton’s effort to create a collaborative book and Heaton commented, “And it sounds like it could be fun ... but you know what, Drew? I reckon between a few of us we could knock out a short book and publish it. All we need is a theme and a charity ..."

“Three e-mails later, we had named the book and the charity. It just fell into place, McLellan said. “The Age of Conversation was the prefect topic. The marketing industry is abuzz about how the citizen marketers are changing the landscape. This book captures that new phenomenon,” he added.

McLellan and Heaton, through their blogs, invited other marketing professionals and other bloggers to commit to writing an essay about conversation. They set what they thought would be an impossible goal – 100 bloggers. They received commitments from 104 authors in less than 7 days.

“What began as a comment online has grown into a major collaborative effort by marketing professionals from 24 states and nations, beyond the U.S.,” said McLellan. “Gavin and I were overwhelmed with the response.”

“We heard from people, telling us what they planned to write about,” Heaton added. “We’ve been amazed at the variety of approaches that have been taken, and with hardly any duplication or overlap. This book really explores the art of conversation and how that is changing the face of marketing from virtually every angle possible.”

A fellow marketing blogger in New York, Christina Kerley, had just lost her mother and many in the marketing blogging community were looking for a way to comfort her from afar. McLellan and Heaton decided that they would dedicate the book to Sandra Kerley, their colleague’s mother.

The Age of Conversation will be available in all three formats on July 16. Prices will be:
e-book: $9.99 ($7.99 going to charity)
paperback book: $16.95 ($8.10 to charity)
hardback book: $29.99 ($8.55 to charity)
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Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Loving Frank: A Review

Because this is a novel, the reader can take for granted that plenty of the details are imagined, as the author could not possibly have been privy to the conversations or situations described here, not to the extent portrayed. But I urge readers NOT to be put off by the fact that this is fiction beause it is clear that the author did her research. I found this book to be very interesting, very well written and it revealed a part of Wright's life I hadn't really known about.

Mamah Borthwick Cheney was a married woman who had an affair with Wright, also married at the time. She is credited (if "credit" is the right word) with destroying his first marriage. Anyone expecting to pick up this book and sink into an epic love story should be forewarned - this is NOT the stuff of dreamy romance novels, but the hard, gritty reality of an affair during a time when women weren't expected to break the bonds of convention. It also isn't an easy read at times, as it has some slow passages, which is the main reason I gave it a 4 rating instead of a 5.

Here is the reality behind the fiction: Cheney met Wright when she and her husband commissioned the architect to design a house for them. This is not an airy or stereotypical romance but a portrayal of an independent, educated woman at odds with the restrictions of the early 20th century. Frank and Mamah, both married and with children, met when Mamah's husband, Edwin, commissioned Frank to design a house.

This is what the book focuses on, the affair between the two. But I think there is information potential readers need, information that helps to put things in deeper perspective.
For one thing, Wright's own father, a minister, had divorced his wife, citing alienation of affection even though SHE was the one who'd asked him to leave, according to many accounts. I think family history is important and a key component in shaping one's life, depending on how it is interpreted, the trauma that may be endured and the legacy of pain or resilience left in its wake.

So I'm noting that Wright came from a family that was troubled, had a long history of marital tension before the divorce (his father struggled to make a living). Who knows what part this played in Frank Lloyd Wright's history of flirtations, long before he met Cheney? All of these factors - the divorce within his family, Wright's reputation as a flirt (some say a womanizer) and the fact that he already had 6 children which took up most of his wife's attention may have played pivotal roles in the affair itself. It is certainly important background info.

The author writes very well (most of the time) about the affair itself and events that were considered scandalous, even making headlines: how Wright and Cheney left their families, lived together, traveled overseas and more.

There is more I want to tell but if I do I will absolutely ruin the book for readers who don't know the whole story or haven't heard the complete tale of this affair. The book leads up to stunning event and I don't feel I should spoil the book by revealing more.

I will say that if you are the sort of reader who likes nice, neat and happy endings or romances, then you may feel let down at the end. I was fascinated by the whole saga. This is a major and epic novel, kept from being absolutely superb, in my opinion, by a few pacing issues. Even so, I'd recommend it for the strengths that shine through and for revealing a major episode in the noted architect's life. I'd definitely buy another book by this author, someone I expect to get better as she continues to write. She already has so much talent!

I'd also suggest readers do some research AFTER reading the book if they are interested in Wright's complete life story. If you do too much research beforehand, you'll find out what happens in this book and that may take away from the suspense.