Monday, November 29, 2010

On Your Mark; Get Set; GO!

As I've shared before, my next book project is one that takes a look at the eight-year career of Rookie, the K9 partner of Officer Joaquin Guerrero from Saginaw, Michigan. 

    In Saginaw--a city plagued with gang violence--Officer Guerrero created Precinct 131, a program for pre-D.A.R.E. kids to "say no to gangs, guns, drugs, and violence."  School kids across mid-Michigan bonded with Rookie, an affable German shepherd, and collected Rookie dolls, puppets, and patches.  On 9/11 Officer Guerrero and Rookie responded to Ground Zero to help in the search efforts.  Working unprotected in the crushed tower debris, Rookie later died from cancer and received an honorary memorial service.

Joaquin and I have talked about different options in the publishing world--traditional publishing vs. self-publishing--and since I am without an agent as of this moment (unless I get The Call soon!) we decided the best route to go was with Beaver's Pond Press in Minneapolis.  Joaquin also mentioned that he would like to have the book available for the 10th anniversary of 9/11...which is obviously next September.  That means the manuscript has to be written by May or June 2011.  And that would be the "final draft'...not the "first draft'! 

So yes, I have my work cut out for me these next six months.  I actually got a good start on the first few chapters last week when I retreated to the Lunds/Byerly's cabin in northern Minnesota for three full days of writing.  I brought notes, pictures, & video clips that Joaquin had given me, and even a stuffed "Rookie" for inspiration.

My set-up with a view of the lake
I spent all of Friday reading through the news clippings and watching Joaquin's video that he took at Ground Zero.  Then I started writing fragmented sections about 9/11 in the manuscript.  Mid-afternoon I took a break and walked over to the fireplace to warm up, thinking about everything Joaquin must have seen at "the pile".  I happened to look down at a basket of books and noticed a picture of the twin towers.  Here was a coffee table book from 1983, "New York...City of Many Dreams" filled with pictures of New York...and in almost every picture the twin towers stood out prominently, as they always did. 

I knew it was more than coincidence.  Things like that always are.  And to explain, this is a company cabin, where many families use it every year.  People bring games and books and leave for others to use and enjoy.  In all the years we've stayed at the cabin--including a week this summer--I've never seen the book there before.

To me it creates excitement, a sense I'm on the right path.  It encourages me to forge ahead and get the story down on paper.  Joaquin's purpose in writing this book is give tribute to K9 handlers and their dedicated partners all across America, dogs like Rookie that work hard and risk their life night after night for nothing more than a ball or pat on the head. 

This is the least I can do for them.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Full Plate

As I look at the calendar (in disbelief!), wondering how on earth it can be November already, I feel like my desktop is like a Thanksgiving Day dinner, complete with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and the works. In other words, I have a full plate.  Here's a sample of what's crossed my desk in the last few months:
  • Prairie Promises, published in September in Talking Stick-Volume #19, a literary journal
  • Lost Letters (the article) appeared in the Sept/Oct issue of RFD-TV The Magazine
  • A Special Gift appeared in the Nov/Dec issue of RFD-TV The Magazine
  • Lost Letters (the story) will be included in Award Winning Western Tales, an anthology published by Moonlight Mesa Associates, with a January 2011 release date
  • Bad River, the article, will be in the Jan/Feb issue of RFD-TV The Magazine
  • Press release and promos for the Michael Franzese event, The Good, The Bad, The Forgiven
  • Press release for Brule's appearance in the Tournament of Roses Parade, January 2011
  • Copy for Brule media kit, an impressive color packet and video collection showcasing the stirring dance and music of the Brule' entourage
  • Intro letter for Brule' sent to the 580 recognized American Indian tribes, inviting representatives to appear with Brule' in Pasadena on January 1st at the Rose Parade
  • A Passion for Youth, appeared in the Winter issue of the Trinity Trumpet
And looking ahead, these still cover my desk:
  • Cries on the Prairie (same story as Prairie Promises but with a different premise)  for the Lake Region Review
  • The Quarry, short-short story for the Writer's Digest contest
  • Holy Name Chapel, the next article for RFD-TV The Magazine
  • Michigan & Rookie...Guardians of the Night, my current book project
As I've shared before, MI & Rookie is the remarkable story of Joaquin Guerrero, a cop and his K9 partner Rookie, dedicated to serving their community as the eyes and ears of the night in Saginaw, Michigan. 

In fact, I've decided to escape next week "up north" to the cabin on Lower Whitefish Lake.  There's nothing like shutting out the world and spending four full days in solitude writing.  No errands to run, no emails or Internet.  Just my notes from Joaquin and my laptop.  Well, and my thesaurus.  Okay, and a dictionary.  You get the picture. 

So if you can't get a hold of me next week, I'll be cozied up in the cabin, the beautiful lake out my window, hard at work...and lovin' it!  (Unless we get another foot of snow and I can't get there...)  And when I get home it'll be time to enjoy that delicious Thanksgiving Day dinner, all thanks to the wonderful deli at Lunds & Byerly's! 


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Michael Franzese - The Good, The Bad, The Dinner

As I shared in the last post, the hubby and I fixed dinner on Saturday for former New York mob boss, Michael Franzese.  Cooking for a former crime boss put a little pressure on the cooks, of course, wanting to keep our guest of honor happy.  We had about 20 people over, including the couple from our church (Jerry & Muff) who had heard Michael Franzese speak in Florida and arranged to have him come to Lakeville.  The hubby came up with a menu that I thought sounded more like a Meat Fest:
  • bruschetta (John's world-famous recipe)
  • shrimp cocktail
  • spaghetti and red sauce (prepared by friends Dan & Chris)
  • dry-aged top sirloin steak
  • BBQ ribs (again, John's world-famous variety)
  • swordfish
  • butterfly shrimp
  • Italian meatballs (believe it or not, I make a pretty decent Italian meatball for a Scandinavian!)
  • garlic bread
  • Tator Tot hotdish (an old Minnesota standby)
  • pumpkin & spice bars (from Muff & Stephanie)
  • chocolate cake (from Nygren's wedding the prior weekend!)
When John announced the menu to all the guests, Michael said, "Well that sounds good John, but next time I come can you expand the menu a little?"   

Everyone enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon, visiting with Michael and his brother-in-law, Dean Garcia, who travels with him to most of his events.  Both men said they appreciated a home cooked meal, versus going to a restaurant.  The dinner went over well, and to my surprise, nearly everything was eaten! 

Of course the real purpose of Michael's visit was to share his unique and compelling story.  No one walks away from the mob and lives to tell about it.  But in 1993 Michael Franzese broke all the rules by walking away from the mob--and through a woman of faith--became a changed man, transformed by God.

Michael is a gifted speaker

The sanctuary was full all 3 times Michael spoke

A one time captain in the La Cosa Nostra, Colombo crime family in New York City, Michael spoke to full-house at Trinity Evangelical Free Church and received a standing ovation all three times.  His story is captivating.  Chills up your spine, captivating.  In 1986 Fortune Magazine listed a ranking of "the 50 biggest Mafia bosses" in New York's crime families and Michael was rated #18, the youngest man on the list.  As Michael states, "the mob life is a very violent life and when you're part of the mob, you're part of the violence."  Today of those 50 men, 43 are dead, 3 are in prison, and Michael is out of prison, free to share his remarkable story of forgiveness with audiences all across the country.  It's a testament as to how God can change a man's heart--from the dark and deadly world of the La Cosa Nostra--to a man on a mission with a message he calls, The Good, The Bad, The Forgiven. 

John, Michael, Barbara (Dean in background)

Thank you Michael, for taking time away from your family to travel across the country and share such an incredible story.