Radio Red in Christmas colors

My imagination is sometimes lacking when it comes to promoting my work ... although I should point out that my wife shot down both the sandwich board idea and, for financial reasons, the sky writing. Still, she did come up with something I hadn't considered when it comes to my newest book:

See, it's Christmas season, that time when many businesses make the lion's share of their annual profit. It was Emily who pointed out that the cover of Radio Red is also the traditional Christmas colors: red and green. (Come to think of it, so is one of the main characters.)

They're also stoplight colors, but never mind.

So you, anyone who buys our books is being festive!

If someone opens a box with Radio Red in it for Christmas, do you know what they'll say?
Well, okay, yeah, they'll say "what's a Radio Red?" But they'll also say, "Cool, Christmas colors!" Even if they download it as an e-book, because the cover's still there.

This is way better than my idea of tattooing all my book titles to my forehead.

Oh, speaking of which, all my book titles can be found here:

50 Authors from 50 States: Pamela Nowak, Awarded Author, Shares Wyoming’s Ric...

50 Authors from 50 States: Pamela Nowak, Awarded Author, Shares Wyoming’s Ric...: Wyoming brings to mind stunning vistas of high prairie grasslands with wild horses, majestic mountain ranges and spouting geysers. As a...

Grandbaby is here

Sorry I'm late in posting this, but we wanted to make sure my daughter Jillian could make the official announcement. At 12:26 p.m. on December 6th my first granddaughter, Lillianna Judith Mapes, was born. She was 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and 20 inches long, and yes indeed--she's beautiful. Mom and dad (Doug Mapes) are doing fine, and grandpa is holding his own!

We didn't get to see her right away because Emily and I both got sick (it's December, after all). But I'm pretty sure Emily at least had the flu, so staying home was for the best.


Albion fire trucks in the Christmas parade

I already had these up on Facebook. but I figured I'd blog them here because hey--that's what blogs are for.

You wondered what blogs are for, didn't you? Admit it.

Anyway, the guys dressed up three of our fire trucks for the 2017 Albion Christmas parade. The following three photos were taken by Albion firefighter Bob Brownell, who sent them to me to keep safe in the event of his disappearance. Kidding! Say, I haven't seen Bob.

This 1929 Buffalo Fire Apparatus engine was built in--you guessed it--1929. It was Albion's first motorized fire engine, after an 1888 hand-pumped engine and a 1914 horse-drawn chemical engine.

This is Albion's first rescue truck designed as an actual rescue truck. Our three rescues before that were reconditioned after being--wait for it--two bread delivery trucks and a soda truck.

Fast forward to modern times, and our newest fire engine. Christmas lights were not standard.

Unfortunately, the '29 was the only apparatus to make the parade. The other two were diverted--for the second year in a row--to respond to a traffic accident involving injuries. An odd coincidence ... and also confusing to parade watchers who saw fire trucks rushing through town with lights and sirens just before the parade actually started.

2017 Albion Christmas parade photos

A few photos from Albion's Friday night Christmas parade. And by that I mean the few photos that were anywhere close to usable, as my camera fogged up in the cold.

I contend that my wife just came for the horses. Well, there were plenty of them.

I'm not at all sure it's a good idea for the Snow Miser and Heat Miser to be in such close proximity.

It turns out Christmas is universal! But ... so are star wars.

Keep on truckin', Santa.

A lot of my photos were spoiled by the lens fogging up, but I kind of liked the effect in this case.

Movie Review: Justice League

Steppenwolf, upset that no one plays their music anymore, tries to destroy the world in the new superhero movie, Justice League.

Oh, sorry--wrong Steppenwolf. This one a minion of Darkseid, a guy just as pleasant as you'd imagine, who rules over Apokolips, a planet just as fun as the name suggests. Steppenwolf has only to join together three Mother Boxes, which were left on Earth thousands of years ago when he first tried to take over the planet, in order to make Earth just like his own home ... in other words, pretty awful.


You'd be forgiven, even if you're a comic book reader, for not knowing this background stuff. The characters were part of the New Gods saga, which initially was barely connected to the rest of the DC universe. It involved a civil war between a race that was split between good and evil planets by the impact of Ragnorok. No, not that Ragnorok--the DC one.

Luckily all you need to know is in an early flashback: Steppenwolf tried this before and was stopped by an army of various old races that will tie-in with some modern characters (also, look for a Green Lantern cameo). Now, with Superman dead, Steppenwolf is back and aching for vengeance.

This is a job for ... oh, wait, Superman's dead.

Instead Batman assembles a team ... a league, say, of super powered beings who all do a credible job of being credible. They have their work cut out for them, as Steppenwolf has brought an army of flying zombie types. Worst of all, Superman's dead, for good. Honest.

Justice League still has a sense of being rushed, as DC tries to catch up with Marvel's movie success, but overall it's a pretty good flick and well worth watching. As might be expected, Gal Gadot steals the show as Wonder Woman, because--Gal Gadot. Ben Affleck does hold things together as Batman, with Jeremy Irons as his right hand man, the ... butler? ... Alfred. (Watch "Gotham" for an idea of how Alfred became such a bad ass.) And ... who's that guy behind Commissioner Gordon's giant mustache? Looks a lot like J. Jonah Jameson.

The movie's full of great parts, but I especially liked Jason Momoa's unexptected take on Aquaman, and Ezra Miller, channeling "The Big Bang Theory's" Sheldon Cooper as a Flash who has trouble dealing with everyone else's slow minds. Flash gets some of the best lines, and I suspect Joss Whedon had something to do with that.

Justice League is overall a fun flick with a more sensible plot outline and character development than we saw in Dawn of Justice, and the battle scenes don't seem quiet as too-long as so many other movies these days. I do wish the individual characters had their own introductions, though--especially Ray Fisher's Cyborg.

"Wait ... are we seriously arguing over who has the best costume? Duh, utility belt."

My score:
Entertainment value: 3 1/2 M&M's out of 4. Watch for mid and post credit scenes, both of which will be especially appreciated by comic book fans.
Oscar Potential: 1 out of 4 M&M's. Let's face it, it's a superhero movie. The Academy is offended when two many of us unwashed masses types enjoy a movie.

NaNoWriMo special: Back Home Again, In ... Kentucky

NaNoWriMo novel ... first draft finished! 58,264 words, a number that's sure to grow between now and the final draft. Hope everyone had a fun month of writing!


There's an old saying in the writing biz: Write what you know.

If taken literally, it's a dumb saying.

How well did Baum know flying monkeys? When was the last time Clarke set foot inside a giant alien spaceship? How much time did I spend in a girl's summer camp?

Just to be clear, I did not spend any time in a girl's summer camp, except when it was empty during the off season. And yet I still set my novel The No-Campfire Girls inside a girl's summer camp. And by the way, my main character was a teenage girl, and I have no experience being one of those, either.

So "write what you know" has only limited usefulness as a rule, although like many rules there's a germ of truth in it. Certainly an author should research their subject as much as possible. I can take liberties when creating my spaceship, the hapless corvette Beowulf. Similarly, Baum wasn't worried about anyone complaining, "That's not like any Tin Woodman I ever met!" But if you have a character put a silencer on a revolver, you're going to hear about it.

The same goes for setting. If you set your book in New York City, you'd better darned well know which street will get you to the George Washington Bridge. If you create your own fantasy land (and haven't we all done that), you'd better understand why your main city gate faces westward, and which bridges you're likely to find trolls under. Or, you could combine the two and make a trollgate.

I've taken the easy way out up until now. My first two novels and their accompanying short story collection were set in Noble County, Indiana, a place I'm pretty familiar with--having lived there all my life. My fourth book in that series was The No-Campfire Girls and also set in Indiana, although the southern part of the state. While I have little experience with summer camps, I toured my wife's Girl Scout camp, and based the layout of my Camp Inipi on it.

Finally I set a novel outside Indiana--but Radio Red takes place in the area of northwest lower Michigan where I used to vacation frequently, and I was pretty familiar with it. Real places have that advantage, that you can steal locales. There are also disadvantages: In The Notorious Ian Grant, my characters visited a flower shop in Albion, Indiana, in a building where I used to live. That's fine, but the flower shop later moved out.

So there you have the pros and cons of real and fake settings. When I started planning my NaNoWriMo novel I was going to again set it in Indiana, but at the last moment I decided to mix it up a bit: Fire on Mist Creek (On? At? On.) is set in northern Kentucky. It's not far over the Indiana state line, but I'm still dipping a toe into another area.

My town, Mist Creek, is made up, and based to an extent on the towns near where my grandparents lived when I was a kid. But that was southeastern Kentucky, in a mountainous region--well, mountainous to a Hoosier. For the new book, I pictured the other side of the Ohio River from the Madison, Indiana area, which is not nearly as up and down. My wife and I have also kicked around setting it closer to Paducah, also a Kentucky region ... but if you cross the Ohio there you're in Illinois.

I think south from Madison gives me a terrain more accurate to what I'm envisioning: hilly, rugged in places, a rural character where small towns have a certain amount of isolation. You people down there in places like Bedford, LaGrange, and Pendleton, let me know if I'm wrong!

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of A Dog

Speak of the Devil: A Day In The Life Of A Dog: It is time once again for the point of view of the dog and the cat. As always, the dog gets things started. 7:09 AM. Waking up at ...