A Change Is Gonna Come

It is the summer of 1969, capstone of an incandescent decade, a time of conflict and hope. Elizabeth Reed and Hayden Quinn have both. The couple are on a mission. Just not the same one.

The daughter of Quakers, Elizabeth is fighting to save the family farm from a dam that will flood the Delaware Valley. Armed with only grit and a camera, she documents the destruction wrought by a government intent on damming the last free-flowing river east of the Mississippi.

Hayden Quinn, the man Rolling Stone calls the next Jimi Hendrix, is committed more to music than Elizabeth, the woman he’s supposed to love. For the guitarist, a genius at fusing disparate genres like classical and rock, liberty is freedom from restraint. His dream is to take his group to Woodstock—if someone doesn’t kill them all first.

An explosion at the band’s homecoming concert, a fire that threatens Elizabeth’s farm, and a series of suspicious deaths plunge them into a race to identify the saboteur, a person closer to the pair than either can imagine.

Their lives are complicated by Quinn’s distrust of tradition, Elizabeth’s aversion to risk, and a youthful passion that blinds them to the dangers they face.

Born Under a Bad Sign, my first standalone novel, tells the story of a young woman torn between duty and love. Alive with the culture and music of the 1960s, the book marks the coming of age of not just a pair of star-crossed teenagers but of a generation.

On sale May 1, the novel is available for preorder through bookstores and online at Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

For business, the high cost of high tide

The tide is shifting. The debate over global warming has moved from theoretical to practical. As in, what is the cost of climate change to businesses and, eventually, to all of us?

Real estate agents find themselves at the heart of the issue. Anything that affects property values affects their livelihood. So it’s encouraging to see a call to action from one of their own.

Craig Foley, chair of the National Association of Realtors’ Sustainability Advisory Group, says that ignoring the impact of climate change on real estate has serious business implications. “Particularly in coastal areas, members have told me both they and their clients are worried about declining property values and buyer interest.” The piece, entitled “We Don’t Have 50 Years to Wait,” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of Realtor magazine.

In case you think that’s the hype of tree-huggers, Foley backs his observation with well-credentialed statistics. “Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and Pennsylvania State University compared properties that are similar except for their proximity to the sea and found that the more exposed homes sold for 6.6 percent less than the others during the sample period from 2007 to 2016.”

Foley ends his commentary with this thought: “As I see it, we can’t afford to be on the wrong side of history on climate change.”

That captures a core issue of Permanent Vacation, a novel in which the protagonist, real estate agent CW (Candace) McCoy, discovers that encouraging construction in a flood zone is a sure way to sink a career.

You can read Foley’s commentary here. If you buy or sell real estate and have a comment on this or any other issue, you’re welcome leave it here as well.

 

 

A man for all time

The dark lord of marketing is back, and he’s aiming his talents at politics. Can civility survive?

Brinker, the antihero of Mr. Mayhem, has lost his magic. The agency’s CEO wants him to ace the competition. His former girlfriend wants him in detox. And as rival advertising executives disappear, an ambitious state trooper wants him in jail.

At this rate, the PR whiz who turned a serial killer into a national brand may have to vanish himself.

Throw in toxic waste, a nude car wash and a gun-toting presidential candidate and the czar of PR will have to spin some potent magic to escape the snare of lies and greed that threatens to destroy his job, his sanity and the love of his life.

In Mr. Magic, the ad world struggles to cope with Brinker’s insatiable lust for sex, satire and PR events that push the boundaries of legality and taste. The second outing for the defrocked journalist is available through Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and by special order at bookstores everywhere.

A rising tide floats all buildings

Sometimes reality catches up with fiction.

Yesterday, a Florida Senate committee advanced legislation that would require the state to plan for rising seas. The action comes after storm surge has repeatedly flooded parts of Miami and threatened its infrastructure.

The proposed legislation is unique in that it avoids the politically divisive issue of climate change and addresses the economic aspect of rising sea levels.

Lawmakers aren’t alone in considering the financial impact of coastal development. The economics, and ethics, of building in flood zones form the central premise of Permanent Vacation, a novel set in a fictionalized version of Sarasota and Bradenton, Florida, both of which border the Gulf of Mexico. Central to that issue is whether governments should encourage or discourage behavior that puts people and property at risk.

Permanent Vacation is available from Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords. You can read the story about Florida lawmakers here.

What’s my line?

The logical successor to the Washington Post article on famous last lines in fiction is a piece on opening lines. Since Ron Charles hasn’t written that one yet, here are a few suggestions for the sequel on first lines that pull the reader into a work:

From A.J. Finn’s The Woman in the Window:

Her husband’s almost home. He’ll catch her this time.

From Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451:

It was a pleasure to burn.

From Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections:

The madness of an autumn prairie cold front coming through. You could feel it: something terrible was going to happen.

If I might add to that body of work the opening lines from Mr. Mayhem, the first of the series of crime novels about a chronically underemployed former journalist with revenge in his soul:

Brinker stood beside the body with its red flannel shirt and black ski pants and two-tone duck boots and smiled. “Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.”

What’s your opening line?

   

Famous last words

Ron Charles has written an intriguing article for the Washington Post on famous last lines in fiction. Intriguing in that the lines summarize the emotional volume of the work. They leave you with a sense of satisfaction, a reward for reading to the end.

Charles leads with an example from the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in which the restless Huck foreshadows people as disparate as Jack Kerouac and Cole Porter (you remember 1934’s “Don’t Fence Me In”):

I got to light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before.

Haven’t we all. Which is why I’d like to add a few memorable lines to the list.

From Philip Kerr’s novel The Pale Criminal, in which former Berlin police officer Bernie Gunther takes on the ugly and ironic job of solving crime in Nazi Germany. In the final scene, Gunther watches workers rake and burn leaves in the Botanical Gardens, “the acrid gray smoke hanging in the air like the last breath of lost souls.”

But always there were more, and more still, so that the burning middens seemed never to grow any smaller, and as I stood and watched the glowing embers of the first, and breathed the hot gas of deciduous death, it seemed to me that I could taste the very end of things.

Anna Quindlen also writes about endings in Miller’s Valley—of the drowning of a community and its culture, the loss of the narrator’s family farm and her brother Tommy—but comes to a different conclusion:

I never go over that way, to the recreation area. Never have, in all these years, even when the kids wanted to water-ski or swim. I let them go with someone else. I don’t even drive by there. But every couple of years I have a dream. I dive down into green water and I use my arms to push myself far below the surface and when I open my eyes there are barn roofs and old fences and a chimney and a silo and sometimes I sense that Tommy’s there, too, and the corn can, and my father’s workbench, and a little tan vanity case floating slowly by. But I swim in the opposite direction, back toward the light, because I have to come up for air. I still need to breathe.

While it cannot compare with Twain or Quindlen or Kerr, a final line from the first in the CW McCoy series of crime novels, Peak Season, carries its own emotional punch. CW has run to Florida to escape her violent past. Here she shares birthday cake and the mission to protect her grandfather with friend and mentor Walter Bishop:

Taking a deep breath I said, “You know what I’d like?”

“Another cupcake?”

“What I came here for . . . peace and quiet.” I pecked him on the cheek. “No more drama. From now on, I’m selling real estate and taking care of Pap.”

He gave me a cracked smile. “We’ll see.”

Isn’t what why we read to the end of anything?

What’s your closer?

The 32 Days of Christmas

Have you ever wondered where writers find their ideas?

They come from a multitude of sources, from friends and family, scandals and events. Even dreams. Those sources shape a book’s characters and plot. But what about the setting, which often becomes a secondary character? Where do those ideas originate?

For me, they spring from the places I’ve lived, from the wooded hills of eastern Pennsylvania to the beaches of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Time spent there has yielded not only a treasure of sights but insight into the culture that produced them.

All of that is on display in Permanent Vacation, the fourth in the CW McCoy series of crime novels. For the next 32 days, I’ll share on social media the places that inspired the novel, each image accompanied by a quote from one of the 32 chapters in the book. The photos illustrate some of the major themes of the novel—over-development, coastal flooding, financial fraud—all challenges faced by business and residents, real and fictional.

It’s a visual journey I hope you won’t miss. You’ll find the photos on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Here’s a preview.

For a closer look at the world of CW McCoy, you can order the novel from Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords, as well as bookstores everywhere.

 

An aerial view of the marina in Sarasota, Florida

 

A circus-themed bar like the one Rae Donovan runs

 

Supermoon coastal flooding in Florida stalls a motorcycle built for speed

 

Glass condominium in Sarasota, Florida suggested the twin towers of InSpire

Will Walter sail into the harbor of Spanish Point ever again?

 

 

An artists’ rendering of The Bay in Sarasota becomes the inspiration for the rejuvenation project in Permanent Vacation