News & Notes

About the News & Notes page

This section of the site contains news, random images and musings. Although arranged chronologically, it's not a blog in that it has no interactive features. The author assumes that you prefer he'd spend his time writing another Cletus Efferding novel instead of frittering away his time on social media. So, in the face of all conventional wisdom, there'll be no email signup or author twitter feed.

06.15.2017 - On Visiting Book Groups

Author with delightful trifleI hit the jackpot when I visited my first book club. A group of Cedar Rapids women invited me to one of their shindigs to talk about Sins of Intent. They didn't ask for a reading, but instead wanted me to talk about where I got the ideas for the book.

After a brief rundown of the inspiration for the novel—a notorious death that fueled the city's gossip mill for years—I talked about the research involved in writing the story and went on to describe the travails of an Indie author's working to publish a book. When the group wanted to know about the process I used to develop some of the characters in the book and the reasons behind the mix of fictional and factual locations used as settings for the story, I happily filled them in.

I don't know if the club members enjoyed my short author's talk as much as I did. I had a grand time, and they gave me a warm reception, so I must have passed muster. The effectiveness of my presentation aside, I can say without hesitation that the author enjoyed his dessert more than the rest of the guests combined. Little did I know when I arrived for the event that the sponsor would ply me with wine and and an over-the-top whipped cream trifle. While I'll happily visit any book group just for the fun of it, you can see from the photo that I made out like a bandit on this one.

By the way, those are edible black pansies on the top. Eat your heart out dessert lovers, I slaved at the computer for two years to earn that one.

05.20.2017 - Sins of Intent Book Release Party

Vineria Wine ShopThe Sins of Intent Release Party will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Vineria Wine Shop and Bar on evening of May 25th at 5:30 p.m. Admission is free, and veteran Iowa blues musician Kevin B. F. Burt will be providing musical entertainment.

The picture at left is an interior shot of of Vineria. The place has a cozy neighborhood feel and is a great place to visit. Expect it to be a little busier the night of the party. There'll be a cash bar and complimentary slices of pizza. Stop by to chat, and take a look at the book.

I'm always interested in meeting potential readers, and if you're so inclined, signed copies will be available for purchase. I'm still not set up to take payment by credit card, but checks and currency are gratefully accepted.

05.10.2017 - What's Dusty Typewriter Press?

of all conventional wisdom, there'll be no email signup or author twitter feed.

Dusty Typewriter Press, is an imprint of Broken Typewriter Press, and Sins of Intent is the first book to bear the designation. Broken Typewriter, located in Cedar Rapids Iowa, is the brainchild of Dylan Moonfire, a fiction writer who works in a number of genres, but is most passionate about his epic fantasy series set in Fedran, a world where magic is commonplace and steam engines are beginning to make an appearance. The authors on the Broken Typewriter list include Shannon Ryan, who writes in the urban fiction genre, and Cassie Leigh, whose novella-length fiction includes works in the romance and paranormal romance categories.

05.03.2017 - Soft cover issue is out

Ingram has exceeded all expectations and the paper version of Sins of Intent is now available on Amazon—almost two years to the day I started writing it! The Sins of Intent Release Party will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Vineria Wine Shop and Bar on evening of May 25th at 5:30 p.m. More details will follow.

04.28.2017 - E-book release date!!!

After two years of sweat, worry and grief, it's about to happen. The e-book version of Sins of Intent will be available on beginning May first. Ingram still has to do the arrangements for the paper version, so it won't be available for a couple of weeks. I'll add an update when Amazon makes the paper format available. The Sins of Intent Release Party will take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Vineria Wine Shop and Bar on evening of May 25th at 5:30 p.m. More details will follow.

04.07.2017 - Finally, a cover

failed cover no. 2small cover, finalBefore I sent the black and white image from the History Center to the designer, I decided to play with it in Adobe Photoshop. I mean, how hard can cover design be? I was feeling pretty cocky about the result and sent it to the designer to see what she thought. Certain the green lettering gave testimony to the extent of my genius, I assumed she'd make a tweak or two, and we'd be ready to send it to the publisher.

She didn't bother to respond other than to ask for a copy of the original image. I sensed she was losing patience with me. Not willing to give up on my brainchild, I showed my artwork to friends. The comments: "looks like a history book," "too specific to Cedar Rapids," and worst of all, "boring, really boring." Chastened, I waited for the designer's version.

She repositioned the building, shrinking it in size and repositioning it to create uncluttered space for text. A sensible font, some red, white and blue lettering, a bit of posterization and, voila! the cover for Sins of Intent was born. My name wasn't as prominently displayed as I'd hoped. When I mentioned it to my spouse, she brought me to earth by pointing out, "At this point, your name isn't going to sell many books." Ouch! It hurt to admit it, she had a point.

03.24.2017 - A better cover image?

Cedar Rapids City Hall at night

Cedar Rapids City Hall courtesy of the History Center

Research historian Mark Stoffer of the History Center, a facility of the Linn County Historical Society, came up with this night-time of City Hall for me. It's from the right time period and has nice reflections coming off the water, so maybe it will work. Although I've been hoping for color, I have the feeling this image will do the trick.

03.7.2017 - Failed cover

first cover failI don't particularly care for the covers I see on mass-market paperback fiction. Most of the real estate is given over the the author's name. The title is sometimes hard to find, and if the image is a good one, it's likely as not plastered over with words like spellbinding, riveting, or haunting. I want something clean, something different. Getting there is more difficult than I ever imagined.

Sins of Intent takes place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and begins and ends with a trip to a river. I wanted a cover that said "river" but still had a sense of place. Since a night-time image of the city hall, with reflections off the water surrounding it, would have a nice noir feel, it seemed reasonable that a simple photograph would do. What with digital cameras and Adobe Photoshop, I expected the book's cover would be a cake walk. So it was off to the banks of the Cedar River on a beautiful night. With camera in hand and wife at my side, I happily snapped pictures of City Hall. Most of them turned out, so I chose one and sent it off to the designer.

The result was the cover at left. The reflections were beautiful; I was happy and began showing the design to friends. No one cared for my beautiful photo, and no one spared my feelings. The criticisms poured in. The arrangement was stable, pyramidal—not the sort of thing to generate excitement. The novel takes place in 1968, so the artificial flame atop the tower wouldn't have been there. I imagined the late-model cars were small enough to escape notice—they weren't.

Ok, so have the designer photoshop the flame and fuzz up the cars, right? Those details taken care of, new critics chimed in. What's with the green? The color belongs to 1985, not the 1960s. The publisher stepped in and explained the image was too grainy and wouldn't reproduce well. Time to give up the fantasy, but I did learn one thing. A beautiful photo can make lousy book cover.

02.14.2017 - Why Cletus Efferding?

I've been asked why I named my protagonist Cletus Efferding. I wanted a name that was easy to pronounce but hard to forget. To that end, my fictional detective shares his given name with my uncle, Cletus Sieverding. Uncle Cletus Sieverding was salt of the earth, a man of integrity who, with his wife Clara, raised eight fine sons and two fabulous daughters on a small farm in Jackson County, Iowa. I know nothing at all about Omer Efferding, an older gentlemen who lived in my home town and serves as the source of my protagonist's surname.

A two-syllable first name with a thee-syllable last names creates a rhythm that appeals to me, and since Efferding rhymes with Sieverding, the substitution felt natural. The fictional Cletus Efferding has nothing in common with the individuals who inspired his name. I doubt my Uncle Cletus, straight shooter that he was, would have approved of my fictional detective. Since I'd only heard the name but never met him, I have no idea what Omer Efferding might have thought.

1.06.2017 - What's a muse, anyway?

A muse at LeonardosIf you think a detective's life is hard, pity the guys who write about them. I was out soaking up some of the local color, looking for a joint where something might happen, and I stumbled upon this, a lonely blonde in a place that time forgot. If ever there was somebody going nowhere, trying to get there fast, it was her. I needed a line but couldn’t come up with any and did’nt really care if it worked or not. My creativity had left me, so I went with, "Wanna be in my book?"

"That’s a laugh,” she snorted. “I’m here to inspire you, not become a cheesy broad in that drivel you write."

“This is my first time here, how’d you find me?”

“I’m a muse. Give me some credit.”

I slid into the booth and ordered a bourbon. "Ok, what next? What gives with this muse business?"

"You're a hard-up detective writer, a guy with a writing block so big he's thinking about getting a sex change so he can write romance novels, and you're asking me what gives?"

"Things are tough,” I said. "One day the ideas just petered out. I’ve tried everything. If a wig, heels, and fake boobs would get my juices flowing, I’m in for the program. If not, I just might end it all.

She shrugged. "Suit yourself. There’s a world full of writers out there—most of them aren’t ready to go off the deep end and put on a dress."

"Hey, aren’t muses are supposed to help a guy with his art instead of making him feel worse than he already does? What's wrong with you? I’ve got a real crisis on my hands."

She sat back and gave me her version of the evil eye, "You think you’ve got a problem. I get assigned a pot-bellied loser whose solution to his writing problem is a pink tutu. The testosterone shortage at this table is nothing short of monumental."

My stomach sent a reminder of the chili I had for lunch. It hadn’t been much the first time around. “Look, Sweetheart. You’re here to inspire me, not abuse me. If I wanted that sort of thing, I’d have gone to different agency.”

“Sweetheart? Oink, oink, sexist pig. You ordered the economy package. Nowhere does it say, I have to be pleasant.”

My glass of Wild Turkey arrived. Women’s libbers get on my nerves, so I leaned forward to make my point. “You may not have to be pleasant, but that testosterone remark hurt. The ad implied this would be an enjoyable experience. I wouldn’t have signed on if it hadn’t been for the money back guarantee.”

“That’s advertising for you,” she said as she used her napkin to wipe a spill from the table top. “Expecting a lot for thirty-five bucks, aren’t we?”

I rapped my knuckles on the table. “I’m expecting inspiration, and if I don’t get it, I intend to ask for a refund.”

“Like I care. You didn’t read the fine print, did you? The economy package doesn’t come with a guarantee.”

Her smirk and my bad attitude, a lethal combination. My voice grew louder. “I can’t believe an outfit like Muse International hired the likes of you. When I fill out your evaluation, ‘She called me a pig and a pot-bellied loser’ isn't going to sound so good.”

I didn’t finish because she picked up what was left of my Wild Turkey and threw it in my face. About to protest, I never got the chance. The shock when she upended her bottle of near-beer over my lap took the words from my mouth.

She stood and shouldered her purse. "When I signed up for this racket, I didn't know what I was getting into. Handsome writers, I thought. And nurturing talent, what could be better? Maybe next time, the agency will assign me somebody cute. I'm outta here."

Leonardo's PizzaBlotting my face with my handkerchief, I cursed the day I phoned the agency. "Some muse," I complained, "three months on the waiting list, and I get an airhead who soaks me in alcohol and walks out in less than ten minutes."

She looked down her nose. "You get what you pay for. There's too many writers and too few girls willing to work with them because they’re so cheap. I've got a quota, and it’s time to head out to my next gig. And your manners, a lady gets up to leave the room, and you sit there like your butt end is grafted to the seat. Detective writers, the worst assignment a muse can get. Worse than poets, even."

"Thanks for nothing. You show up unannounced, insult me, and leave. For this, I'm supposed to stand up? Go back to whatever hell hole the women from your agency hide in when they're not tormenting artists.” I was about to say more but thought better of it. She still had ammunition—a glass of coke sat on the table.

“You hack writers think you’re artists. I should have gone on for my Master’s degree. Girls with an M.F.A. get to work with painters and guys who write real literature instead of schlock. They get assigned to Paris and Rome. I get stuck in Iowa.” She leveled a glare at me. "It's not rocket science. Look around you. If you can’t see it yet, there’s not much I can do for you.”

I looked at the room. A mid-afternoon, almost empty Leonardo’s Pizza Parlor looked back at me. “See what?” I asked.

“You’re hopeless,” she said and left.

After she’d gone, I went to the gent’s room where I blotted my shirt and pants. What with the air dryer, I managed to make myself presentable again. Afterward, I left and made for the nearest exit. Time had somehow gotten away from me; it was after dark. Tough-looking guys leaned against vintage cars smoking cigarettes. I hadn’t noticed when I’d gone inside, but the sign in front of the place no longer read Leonardo’s Pizza. Instead, blinking red and green neon lights identified it as something called the Moonglow Lounge. Things didn’t add up. I began to shake, wondering if my ill-tempered companion had slipped me a mickey.

I walked back inside to collect myself but was unprepared for the scene that met my eye. The place looked like Leonardo’s Pizza, but it wasn’t. Lights flashed, music blared, and a scantily clad young woman gyrated on a stage. Outlaw motorcyclists, drug dealers and hard-looking pimps filled the tables. One of them, wearing a hat as big as pizza pan, seemed unconcerned about the shoulder holster peeking out from his jacket.

Leonardo's entranceStill trying to understand what had happened to me, I was unprepared when a sweaty bear of a man, wearing a vest with no shirt underneath, grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. “The cover’s five dollars,” he said. Malevolent eyes stared from beneath his scarred forehead. “For you, it’s ten.”

“I’ll pass,” I said and turned to go. As I exited, a promotion for an upcoming show by a rock band named Sins of Intent caught my attention. I stepped outside and raised my hand to shield my eyes from the glare of the sun. I stared at the nearly empty parking lot, wondering why it was daylight again. What on earth had come over me?

Heading for the car, I remembered the muse’s words. If you can’t see it yet, there’s not much I can do for you.

The scene I’d just witnessed must have been a delayed reaction. The lady’s evaluation would have to wait, I had a detective story to write.

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