Friday, July 30, 2004

Let the blurbs begin: Tim Dorsey says....

"Tony has his fingers all over the pulse of Florida funk -- probably a blessing and a curse for him -- but always a delight to readers of this state's fiction."
- Tim Dorsey

Tim is the author of Cadillac Beach, Florida Roadkill, and the forthcoming Torpedo Juice -- the funniest murder and mayhem you're likely to find.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Some thoughts as stories began and ended...

So this is some of the background of various stories in the collection, with titles, times, word counts and changes.

Our Place in History: Turning Back Time
Begun and finished 7-30-03 11 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
In one fell swoop, as it should be.
The Unkindest Cut:
Begun 7-9-03, 11:02 p.m. under the title, “The Uncivil War”
Mayor deals with Red Hats, Potato Queens, Civil War re-enactors

continued 9-01-03, 10:17 p.m.
Finished 9-7-03 at 10:33 p.m. except for the name and home of the Boss Queen

Words: 3,658
Changed significantly for POV and other necessities in later months...

The Tempest:
Idea written: 9-8-03: In which Gil Weise confronts the terrible truth of his visions, sees things running in reverse for a change, realizes Wanda has the power to change the course of events, tries to tell her so, gets caught up in a fight between her and Max involving Danny, Jack Riley, Dana Peltier and Wally.
Original title: The Dark Backward

I foresee a stupidly mixed up conversation in which people are talking over each other, thinking one person is talking about a third person when they’re talking about a fifth.

New idea begun 9-9-03, 9 p.m., to write as a play with lines from The Tempest, after looking up “the Dark Backward” reference in Bartletts. Paused at 11:14 p.m.

Complete 10-5-03 at 10:42 p.m., 1858 words
Number One with a Bullet:
Started and finished five pages, 9:40 p.m. to 11.41 p.m. 10-8-03 words: 1,401
Came back to this 10-28, finished five more pages 10-29

A Clean Sweep:
Notes from a Writer’s Conference presentation:
“Remember to listen to that subconscious voice. When it tells you what to write, do so. You may not understand it yet. But you will.
“I was working on a story about a middle-age-crazy fellow who was sleeping with an under-aged grocery store cashier and ended up trysting with the girl’s mother. But try as I might, I couldn’t get a handle on the tale. I worked it and worked it, but it never made sense. The whole time, a line from the Bible kept coming to me, but I didn’t know why. Finally I wrote the line down:
“‘There were giants in the earth in those days.’
“The next thing I knew, I had a character who was raised in the church, knew his Bible backwards and forwards, but had a weakness of the flesh; a character who at first seemed reprehensible now had hope for redemption.
“I had a theme, a character, a plot, and I had a symbol that I won’t share in mixed company — all because I shut my rational mind, which was telling me that the Bible verse had no meaning to this story, and I listened to my subconscious, which already had drawn the connections. I kept working, relaxed, did it.”
Our Place in History: Faith of Our Fathers
Ruminations on religion, the business of building a Methodist Church in 1901, and more.
Original title: The Two Churches

A Wakening
Started Dec. 18, 2003.
Completed first draft after many starts and stops on Jan. 25, 2004.
Still Want to insert interruptions from other folks, who come up to pay respects while wally’s there with mary anne; one woman asks if wally’s her beau, and she says he is; one man asks why they call these things “wakes” wonders aloud if this ought not to be a “no wake zone” when Poghe’s preaching next door.
Completed 1-27-04
2374 words
The Fourth Horseman:
Begun in earnest on 8-19-03, 8 p.m., describing the parade and the accident, but had no idea who my narrator was.
Had a breakthrough at about 9:30, when I looked up the fourth horseman (my chosen title for the story) in my Bartletts and began reading. Before then, I had no idea what the plot would be. I began to see a preacher as character. Read the passage in the Bible, went back to Bartlett’s, copied quotes that applied to the story or appealed to me in some way ... took a break.
Continued 8-20-03, 9:30 p.m.-11:30 p.m.
It continues to develop, details, events, no plot yet through the night of 8-21 and morning of 8-22
The quote remains on the page after finishing the story: “Hurt not the earth, neither the sea nor the trees.”
Depositions upon a Battlefield Death
Original title, "Depositions in a Civil Disturbance"
Also at one point, "The Uncivil War," also "The Battle of the Century"
Begun Monday, October 06, 2003, 10:19 p.m.
Last modified April 20, 2004, 10:40 p.m.
The End of a Century
Created 10:22 p.m., June 10,2003
Idea to wind up all threads in a structure recalling Wilder's "Our Town."
Last modified 12:04 a.m., May 29, 2004
It’s Always Midnight on Mars:
Started 3-9-04, based on a conversation with my son Nathan at Coram’s steak and egg off 23rd Street in Panama City one night last week in which I joked about editorial page editor Claude Duncan’s interjection into an editorial board talk about the use of CST vs. EST, in which he asked what time it was on Mars.
I said the title, then said it sounds like a Ray Bradbury story. I said I would write it. Now I am.

May have finished it tonight, 3-11-04, 11:20 p.m. Maybe.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

It's still difficult to get folks together...

As seen by the following excerpts from e-mails as we tried to negotiate a get-together to discuss the future of "Century" this week:

7/16: Michael: Shall we try again? Is next week a possibility? What we're thinking (and by 'we' and I mean the queen) is a quiet coffee type place. Thoughts? Do we have a motion on the floor?

7/18: Bette: Hey, fellas. I've checked with my social secretary and he said any evening other than Monday and Wedneday would be splendid. I'm looking forward to it. Best to all -

7/19: Tony: Hi. I can work it out Tuesday or Thursday evening.Just tell me when and where to be. Panama Java?

7/19: Bette: Either is fine with me - and Java Cafe sounds just right. I can be there 5:30ish.

7/19: Michael: Tuesday or Thursday 5:30 works for me.

7/19: Lynn: Thursday is much preferred. I'll try my best to get all the sherpas together, all those oxygen tanks, packs of freeze-dried food, boots and felt liners dried out. I'll try my best.

7/22: (Met at 5:30 p.m. with Michael and his wife at Panama Java coffee shop. No others arrived. Joined at 6 p.m. by my wife and son. Talked about many things, but made no decisions regarding my book, as the choice is shared among Michael, Lynn and Bette.)

7/22: Bette: I was abruptly and unceremoniously hustled off to the Gulf Coast Medical Prison Camp earlier in the week - but have just now (and finally!) escaped through the razor wire and snarling pit bulls to make it healthily home - and joyously reunited with Sofia Maria Alverez. She purrs - and I purr - a touching scene. P also stands for pneumonia - MP stands for mending pneumonia - but I'm  sorry to have missed yet another confab - and hope it was entertaining and productive. Will be back at the mines on Monday. Love to you mess a fellas -

7/23: Lynn: I had suddenly (although I could tell it was coming) a dead battery, so I was installing a car pacemaker about the time you guys were at Panama Java. Sorry I missed the conversation.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A reader reacts to the book:

(The following came via e-mail on Wednesday, July 21, from Carole Lapensohn, who I met while covering the education beat for The News Herald. She has read one other of my books, an occult thriller that is now being rewritten. She introduced me to Bette, whom is now one of the ghostly trio that might get Century into print...)

Well, friend Tony, I finished it--your wonderful book.  Loved, absolutely loved the Centennial Man, loved the way you tied things up further in the postscripts.  Sylistically it's very innovative and the writing is superb (not that I expected anything else).  Lots of memorable lines--the one about plot being where characters are buried comes to mind. 

How about you, Bette, and I get together to talk about it over a cup of coffee maybe next week.  I have a few questions.
Thank you, thank you for asking me to read it. 
Carole Lapensohn
Director of Institutional Advancement
Gulf Coast Community College

Sunday, July 18, 2004

As promised: Here are some responses

I know some nice people. They write books. They wrote me back charming and disarming notes to assure me that they would be pleased to take some of their time for my little manuscript. Here's what a few of them said in response to my request, and links to their presence on the Internet:
Hi Tony,
Congrats on new book -- I'm working long and hard on finishing my new one, which is taking up all my time (and then some.) Feel free to go ahead and send the MS (electronically) but realize upfront that I'm so busy, I can't make any guarantees, about when (and if) I can get to it, simply because of time pressure. But your book sounds like big fun, right up my alley. I like wacky southern.-janis
(Note: Janis Owens is the author of The Schooling of Claybird Catts and other novels, and she has her own blog here.)
I'm gonna be short because I'm having all kinds of email problems.  On my  bellsouth account and this one. My replys are not going out.  I started to say call me if you DON'T  get this but that won't work.I'll be happy to read your work.  Can't promise how quickly.  I have 2 manuscripts that I'm behind on. And just took a consultants position with MTSU for their Writer's Loft Program and am teaching creative writing and doing my very, very final touches to The Nehemiah Project for my agent. But - all that being said.  Please send the hard copy if you don't mind. I hate reading on the computer. I hate printing paper and keeping it together and in order.  I love reading good words.Congratulations on just getting the story down.Who is the publisher? And do you have my Po Box?RIver
(Note: River Jordan is the author of The Gin Girl and the soon-to-be-released The Nehemiah Project.)
Hi Tony,
Sure, send it along - I'd be more than happy to! LeastI can do after all your interest in my books.
Best always,Tim
(Note: Tim Dorsey, author of Florida Roadkill and Cadillac Beach, is a South Florida force of nature, or at least his characters are.)
(And a second note from River...)
Pulling for you in every good way.  I will take my time and give manuscript the attention it (and you) deserve.  I know that all publishing wheels move slowly so keep me posted on potential publication date/s. And Godspeed on a great agent.  That's important. Address is (CENSORED). Looking forward to a good read!

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Asking for blurbs... embarrassing.
I sent the following blatant begging for help (with slight differences depending upon the person to whom I was writing) to ask some of the writers I know to read the book and provide critiques/blurbs. (If I get any really good -- or really awful, heartbreaking -- responses, I'll post them.)
Here's a barebones version of what most of them received:

(Insert writing acquaintance's name here),
I'm hoping things are going well with (your most recent work of which I'm aware), and I'm hoping you have a couple of nights' reading time open in the near future. No pressure, no obligation. (You know what's coming.) My first "official" novel is in the hands of a small publisher and he wonders if I could wrangle a few blurbs from my circle of contacts. The book is a wacky Southern novel set in the former sawmill town of Century, Florida, and taking place in the week leading up to the town's centennial Sawmill Day celebration in 2001. The publisher calls it a "literary novel," but I think that's only because it's "short" and he doesn't know how else to classify it. Like I said above, there really is no obligation involved here, and I know many writers make it a policy not to do blurbs. But if you're so inclined, let me know if you'd like to see it electronically and I can email it to you. (It really is relatively short -- under 220 double spaced pages.) A dummy cover shot by me is attached just for fun.
(Note to blog-readers: I still haven't figured out how to post that pic here. I will, though. I will.)

It ain't easy to get folks together

...As can be seen by the following series of e-mails in which we tried (finally with only limited success) to find a time and place where I might sit with the three people who must determine the next step toward publication of the novel. Here they are in reverse order:

Michael and Bette,
We have an office get-together in the a.m. Saturday, but all afternoon and evening are clear. We can sit down at Panama Java for coffee/colas, or we can go to Coram's for greasy hashbrowns and country jukebox, or TGI Fridays for appetizers. It's kind of in your hands, as you are the Powers That Have The Say. I'm
just the work-for-hire guy. I would think Java would offer a quiet place (inside, where there's some AC). Do you want to keep it to just the three of us wheeler-dealers or do you mind if the wife tags along? I'm at your disposal. If you'd like, we could even sit here at my house and talk, but then we risk The Children. Call me at home tonight. (NUMBER CENSORED)
Looking forward to it.


Michael Lister wrote:
Lynn is unavailable this weekend, but Bette and I are game. Would you still like to? Just gives us a when and a where.

Subject: Re: Getting together (sent from Bette to Michael)

So what's the drill, honey bunches? Will we be meeting over the weekend for fellowship - and if so, what, when, where and how?? That would be a nice thing to do.
Love you -


Subj:Re: Getting together
to:bette and lynn
Sent from the Internet


From: Bette
To: lynn CC: michael
Subject: Re: Getting together

"Taking action," how so? We aren't for a moment forgetting that you also have a novel on the front burner. I'm all for getting together and talking about Tony's fine novel and books and writers and publishing - but as I understood this gig, the 3 of us are in it together. Is it not so? I vote that that ever herafter we all have an equal voice in any decision-making. That's the only way I can be comfortable. As I see it, we can't make any decision until you've had a chance to read Tony's novel, Lynn - and make a decision about where your going with Alec, Alma & Company. Maybe you already know - but I don't - and it and you should be given first opportunity for publication. First come,
first serve. That's my take on the situation, fellas. You're a good daddy, ol' bean - and I'm glad you're having so much quality family time - but don't you be forgetting your responsibility to your characters. I don't intend to leave you alone about
this - and you're a good daddy, too, Michael. I love you both - and am eager to see some action with fine novels. So saith the Queen of Everything and Everybody.


Subj:RE: Getting together
To:Bette, michael
Sent from the Internet

You may have to get together without me. The forces of vbs (vacation bible school) are amassing for the huge kickoff on Sunday (180 kids, 90 adults and teen helpers). Saturday is probably out--for reasons of sanity in the household alone. Next week, except perhaps some morning, is out. I have not been able to get near Tony's book--that's how busy I am at the moment. Just know that I support your taking action on it since both of you sound keen about the writing.

Somewhat guiltily I'm eager to get back to work in August so I can get some rest--and you know how busy the school-year can be.



From: Bette
To: michael Cc: Lynn
Subject: Re: Getting together

Sundays aren't really good for me - but I can be anywhere anytime on Saturday. I hope you're intending to also toss your novel into the fray, Lynn. Y'all please let me know if this weekend works out - and I'll be there.


Subj:Getting together
To:Bette CC:lynn

Hi Guys,
Tony Simmons has asked that we get together soon. Just hang, talk about books and writing, and maybe his hilarious book, as well. Any time available this weekend? If not, when?

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Funny as (insert obscenity of choice)

(Received this note from Michael Tuesday, but had to edit it because he wouldn't let me "quote" him.)


I think it's the dawn of a stellar new literary career. Son. This thing is funny as CENSORED (and, no, you may not quote me on that). Wow. I really, REALLy like it.

I wouldn't start with a dispatch. If it were me (and I say this even with my LOVE of cosmology and a great appreciation for A Tangled Skein), I'd start with Love and Loss at the Sign of the Pig. As good as it all is --- and it's ALL good --- this is not only brilliant, it's grabby.

Fantastic job man. I'm not quite finished, but I'm very close.

Peace (be with you too).


Monday, July 05, 2004

Writers' conference info from Michael...

Dear Writers (please forward this email to every writer you know),

Thank you for your interest in our 5th annual writers' conference. Once again, we have assembled a variety of accomplished writers, editors, and agents who will present informative workshops, lectures, and panel discussions, addressing differing aspects of writing, editing, publication, and promotion. Past attendees have complimented our conferences on being both informative and inspirational.

Though we're continuing to add presenters, we are pleased to announce that in addition to our usual faculty, Benjamin M. LeRoy, executive editor of Bleak House Books, will be joining us. In both conference sessions and individual editor appointments, he will be revealing what editors are looking for and what it takes to be successfully published. (Past presenters included judge and novelist Terry Lewis; poet, novelist and writing professor, Lynn Wallace; literary agents, Mark Ryan and Cricket Pechstein; fiction writer and English professor, Douglas Wells; fiction writer and newspaper columnist, Tony Simmons; novelist, River Jordan; novelist and reporter, S. V. Date; novelist, columnist, and screenwriter, Michael Lister.)

This year, in addition to covering the elements of craft, we will be hosting the September meeting of the Florida Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America. Please join us to learn about crafting the perfect crime and networking with established writers. We're also offering manuscript and script evaluations by agents, editors, published authors, and professional screenwriters.

We are thrilled to be holding this year's conference in the newly remodeled Language Arts Department of Gulf Coast Community College (5230 W. Hwy 98, Panama City, FL). Our experience has been that each participant in past conferences has added great dimension and diversity to the experience, so please see yourself not only as a participant, but as a valued contributor to this celebration of craft and artistic endeavor.


Michael Lister


The 5th Annual Gulf Coast Writers and Storytellers Conference Registration Form





$25.00 if postmarked on or before July 15th
$35.00 if postmarked on or before August 15th
$45.00 if postmarked after September 1st
$25.00 for a manuscript critique (send 25 pages no later than 8-15-04)
$25.00 for editor appointment with Benjamin M. LeRoy
$20.00 for the Mystery Writers of America Florida Chapter Luncheon

Enclosed is my check in the amount of $__________ to reserve a place at the conference and $_________ for a manuscript critique and $_______ for the MWA luncheon for a total of $_________ (make checks payable to Pottersville Press).

Return this form along with your check made payable to Pottersville Press, P.O. Box 35038, Panama City, FL 32412. For more information call Michael Lister @ 850-639-4848 or e-mail Gulf Coast Community College is located at 5230 W. Hwy. 98 in Panama City, FL.

Refund Policy
All refund requests must be submitted in writing to the conference director and postmarked no later than August 15, 2004, after which no refunds can be given.

Cancellation Policy
Pottersville Press reserves the right to cancel, postpone, alter, or limit enrollment in any program due to insufficient enrollment or to other circumstances beyond the coordinator's control. Pottersville Press will only be liable for program registration fees.

a new John Jordan Mystery
by Michael Lister

"Michael Lister is a genius at evoking the dangerous mood of a prison while, at the same time, showing how the light of redemption shines even in the darkest places. Blood of the Lamb is tense and tightly plotted, a true page-turner until the very satisfying ending." Margaret Coel

"A superb mystery. Highly original. Even more highly recommended." Jeremiah Healy

"This is such a wonderful mystery on so many levels. Lister is definitely on my 'must read' pile from here on." Crime Spree Magazine