Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A brainstorm pays off

A few weeks ago, after my first shipment of FALLEN TREES copies arrived, I thought it might be a good idea to donate a copy to the hair salon where the fabulous Leslie Stuart cuts my hair --- somehow managing to make me look good --- and also at the office of my chiropractor, Mike Hermann.

I thought customers getting perms or waiting their turns might enjoy having something to read other than the gossip mag of the week. If they liked what they read, they could copy down the book title and order it from Watermark Books in Wichita or Amazon on the worldwide web.

I've been told folks at the salon have been reading it eagerly and that a few patients have jotted down the title and my name after reading several pages. I was delighted to hear that.

Today, I heard one that topped the list: one woman enjoyed reading the opening pages so much - and was impressed that the author was a patient of the good chiropractor - that she looked it up on her Smartphone and ordered a copy on the spot.

Can't beat that, I guess.

A doff o' my fedora to you, wherever you are.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

One summer weekend around a swimming pool

Not long after I finished the first draft of FALLEN TREES several years ago, an online friend in Maine asked if I'd be willing to share some chapters with her because she would have to stay home over the July 4 weekend for work -- which amounted to keeping an eye on the buildings of the school district where she was employed.

I sent Page the first six chapters, not sure how much time she'd have - or how quickly she read. Later that day, she asked for more chapters.

"Wow, she's a fast reader," I thought.

I sent her 10 more. The next morning she sent another e-mail, pleading for the rest of the book. She'd printed out the chapters and taken them to her condo complex swimming pool. Others at the pool were curious about what she was reading, so she began sharing the chapters as she finished them.

An impromptu book club sprouted at the pool, spirited conversations had broken out as they discussed the twists and turns in the story line ---- and they needed to know how it all turned out.

Needless to say, I sent her the rest of the book. The reactions were varied, which I found gratifying because I wondered if that would happen. My friend, Page, told me the readers were a wide cross-section of life experiences and professions, which pleased me because it suggested the book has broad appeal.

This episode is why I say FALLEN TREES is great for book clubs --- it spontaneously spawned one around a swimming pool over a summer holiday weekend.

Oh, this story has a nice footnote, too: Page, without my knowing until she told me later, put a rubber band around the printed manuscript, walked over to Stephen King's house and knocked on the door. Yes, she lived in Stephen King's home town.

King's wife answered the door, Page said, and she told her, "You need to read this. It's really good."

But King's wife declined, saying they already had more manuscripts to read than they knew what to do with. I didn't blame her. I was nevertheless touched by the unique endorsement by my friend.

If you belong to a book club and are looking for an engaging read and lively discussion, you might consider FALLEN TREES. You can get it through the beloved Wichita independent book seller Watermark Books or, if you prefer a nationally known option, Amazon.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Where did FALLEN TREES come from?

It's natural for some readers of FALLEN TREES to believe the novel is semi-autobiographical, since I was born and raised on a farm in central Kansas and the main character in the book was as well.

But I'm not kidding when I tell people that assumption simply isn't accurate. Any time I tried to inject myself or someone I knew into the story, the muse would simply shut down. I had to 'back away' and stop trying to direct the story or it wouldn't resume.

I've wanted to write novels ever since I was a child and became entranced by the Hardy Boys and Trixie Belden and Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew. I loved how readers could get to know the characters in these stories and then get to learn more in new installments in the series.

I even created my own 'series' --- short mysteries featuring Billy and Joann, siblings in a small town who couldn't resist trying to solve mysteries that they stumbled upon. Mom saved a couple of them and I read one a few months ago. I was impressed with the organization and plotting in stories written when I was maybe 10 years old.

But several attempts to start a novel when I reached adulthood simply went nowhere. I had to resign myself to the reality that the muse would let me know when the time was right...when I would be ready.

That time came when I was driving back to Wichita following some time at the farm, and I saw a grove of trees that had been cut down next to the highway. This grove was so substantial it served as something of an area landmark ---- you knew where you were when you saw them. It struck me how much the landscape changed when those trees were cut down.

And then the muse began to work: What if you had a character coming home to this abrupt change? A story began to unspool before me. By the time I got home I had a couple of chapters already written in my mind. For a while, I tried to figure out the rest of the book before I began writing, but it never seemed smooth in my mind.

Instead, those two chapters ---- eventually a third came into focus ---- nagged at me so much that I simply wrote them to get them onto paper, so to speak. As I wrote, another chapter emerged, then another. I never knew more than a chapter or two ahead what was going to happen in the book. It drove me crazy for a while, but I eventually learned to trust the process.

I've told friends and family that I felt like a stenographer for this book ---- the muse was writing it and I was simply typing it. There were times when I'd be writing and I'd be so tired I would close my eyes and lean my head against the wall in my cozy dining area ---- and my fingers would still be typing away on the story.

There were times when I would think, "What does this have to do with anything?" Then, several chapters later, its value was made clear. "How the heck did that happen?" I asked myself. But it was part of the journey toward trusting the muse.

I have said many times that even if FALLEN TREES never saw the light of day as a published book it was still valuable because when the opportunity came to write INTO THE DEEP with Robert Rogers in 2005 about the tragic death of his family in a flash flood on the Kansas Turnpike, I didn't flinch. The idea of writing a book didn't intimidate me because I'd already done that.

Writing nonfiction is entirely different than writing fiction, but I still knew how to execute the project. Now that FALLEN TREES has been published and has been getting such strong responses, I am gratified that so many people are enjoying it.

I have some unusual and powerful experiences to share from the writing of FALLEN TREES, but I'll save those for the future.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

"A magnificent character-driven novel"

Glowing reviews are never a given, which is why when one comes along it feels a bit like Christmas morning.

That's how I felt when I saw the most recent review of FALLEN TREES posted on the book's Amazon page.

Fallen Trees is a magnificent character-driven novel. Stan Finger's style does not rely on an overly-descriptive narrative that can leave readers' minds attempting to paint a specific physical picture. Rather, his dialogue-driven story allows the characters to speak for themselves, leaving them at the forefront of the story while simultaneously granting us a clear and crisp view of life in the Midwest. Stan's story flows seamlessly, carrying the reader from moment to moment alongside his characters, making for a brisk and satisfying read.

On his Facebook page, the reviewer added that he doesn't normally read books like FALLEN TREES, but decided to check it out after hearing positive buzz about it. It sounds like he's happy he gave it a look.

If you'd like to order the book, there are a variety of options now: You can pick it up through Amazon, at an independent book store in Wichita called Watermark Books (one of my favorite places in town) or even online through Barnes & Noble. B&N doesn't stock the book on its shelves, but it does handle orders for FALLEN TREES.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Five stars!!!

Funny how little things can mean so much.

I've gotten wonderful reader responses to FALLEN TREES so far. They've been even stronger than I dared to hope when it was published.

For several weeks, those reactions had been informal -- either in person, via e-mail or on social media -- but I noticed someone finally posted a review on the Amazon page for FALLEN TREES.

And it was a treat to read for an author.

"This book was fabulous. I can't wait for this author's next novel!"

They gave it 5 stars to boot. 

I realize it wasn't the New York Times Book Review, but I'm still delighted. It's gratifying that FALLEN TREES is striking a chord with readers. 

May it long continue.

If you haven't ordered a copy yet, you can do it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A book even folks who don't like to read books are enjoying

One of best compliments I received about my latest book, FALLEN TREES, came before it was published.

I had e-mailed the manuscript to a friend of mine who liked to read. I bumped into her at a gathering of friends and she told me how much she liked it. Then her husband piped up.

"I don't usually like to read books," he said, "but I really enjoyed this one."

That's always nice for an author to hear, but it was particularly gratifying to me because it told me the story resonates with more than one demographic of readers.

It suggested it reached people who don't even like to read much, which has value no matter what.

You can order FALLEN TREES by clicking on this link. I hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A holiday weekend around a swimming pool

Some years back, after I had finished the first draft of FALLEN TREES, a friend of mine in Maine asked me to send her some chapters so she'd have something to read over the upcoming holiday weekend.

She had been assigned to keep an eye on the school buildings where she worked, so she couldn't go anywhere for the holiday. Not knowing how quickly Nancy read, I sent six chapters. A few hours later, she e-mailed again, asking for more chapters.

Wow, I thought. She must have really liked what she's read so far. I sent her another 10 chapters. The next morning, she emailed again, asking me to send the rest of the book.

She had a confession, she said: she had printed out the pages at the school and taken them to the swimming pool at her condo complex. As she was reading the chapters, other women sunbathing at the pool asked what she was reading. When she told them, they asked if they could read the chapters, too.

An impromptu book club had formed around the pool, she said, with the women all debating about what the main character should do ---- and now they were all eager to see how the book ended.

I e-mailed her the rest of the chapters. She later told me the book prompted several passionate discussions as the various women debated about "the right thing to do."

If you belong to a book club, I encourage you to read FALLEN TREES. It's managed to form book clubs spontaneously.

You can order copies here...and I hope you find it as engaging as that group of women around that swimming pool in Maine.