Sunday, April 27, 2014

The King's Eye, a novel of the Farther Isles

For the past year I've been spending most of my Sundays in a land of my own invention. Sunday is my day of writing, and my writing lately has taken me to an archipelago called the Alliance of Farther Isles, made up of fourteen island kingdoms. As I've found out during all these magical Sundays, almost anything can happen in the Farther Isles. What happens there is up to the whimsy and the wisdom of the Stars. There are beautiful princesses and dastardly princes, a Stargazer on one island and a Crystal Carver on another, a community of wild goats longing for a goatherd on the largest island, and falling in love is the national pastime on the Isle of Arrows .

Sometimes during the past year I nearly got lost and almost got stuck in this faraway land made mostly of sea. What if I were to wake up Monday morning and find myself living forever on one of the Farther Isles? I suppose I wouldn't mind spending the rest of my days on the Isle of Song, or the rest of my nights on the Island of the Stars, but I wouldn't want to spend my forever after on the cold and drizzly Isle of Fens, or—Stars forbid—on the Isle of the South Wind, living among the little runts and subject to the cruelty of the reigning, rotten-breathing Giant Clobber!

Now that I've finished writing my novel, The King's Eye, I feel a bit lost sitting in my office on Sundays, staring at the blank computer screen, homesick for the Farther Isles. I wonder if I'll ever go back there.

a novel of the Farther Isles
by John M. Daniel

Brief Synopsis

The kings and queens of the Farther Isles have gathered at the castle of High King Rohar, as they do every year on the Solstice, to pledge their loyalty. But before the ceremony is over, the Giant Clobber from the Isle of the South Wind storms into the Great Hall, steals the High King’s crystal left eye right out of its socket, then disappears into the night. The High King offers to reward anyone who will slay the Giant and bring back the crystal eye. The reward: half of Rohar’s island kingdom and the hand of his daughter, Llanaa, in marriage. The only one to stand up to the challenge is Prince Frogge, a twelve-year-old boy from the Isle of Fens.

Frogge finds a partner, Rodney Trapper the goatherd’s son—tall, strong, and seventeen—and together the lads set out on their quest: to sail to the Isle of the South Wind and to do battle with the Giant Clobber in the Meadow of Mayhem. It’s a fight no one believes they can win. Their adventures take a full year, during which they travel from Isle to Farther Isle, in a boat that sails by itself, guided mysteriously by the Stars.

The King’s Eye is a story romantic and magical, full of love and death, heroes and scoundrels, bravery and cowardice, danger and high hopes. This tale will delight anyone old enough to read and young enough to believe that a goatherd’s son could win the heart of a princess.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


I take great pleasure in welcoming back to my blog a writer I much admire, J. R. Lindermuth. As usual, I asked John to write something about the joy of story, and he has done so by exploring the dark side of plot. Read what he has to say about the characters we love to hate.


You may not want one for a neighbor. But you can’t have a crime novel without a villain. In a novel, a villain is the opposite of the hero. His main purpose is to provide conflict, which is the driving force of story. The villain must be as fully developed as the hero. The most important aspects of creating a villain are that they be realistic and properly motivated.
Human beings are complicated creatures. None are entirely good or evil. Not all villains are sociopaths or psychopaths. Some are simply driven into that situation by circumstance. And they come in both sexes.
Though we may not condone a villain’s actions, it’s important the reader understand and even sympathize to a degree with the motivation. For instance, we all have financial needs and can understand how a person might desire to improve his/her situation—even if we don’t condone the method. We’ve all experienced fear, jealousy, anger, sexual desire, wanting to even the score—the list goes on and on. These are all motivations a writer can utilize to create a memorable villain.

For A Burning Desire I created two villains. I don’t want to give too much away here, but arson is a factor in both their lives. Arson is a heinous crime, which can have more than one motivation. In the case of this novel, the motivation of one villain ignites (okay, bad pun) that of the other.
As usual for the Sticks Hetrick series, A Burning Desire is set in the rural community of Swatara Creek, near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The past comes back to haunt former police chief Daniel “Sticks” Hetrick and his protégé, Officer Flora Vastine, as an outbreak of arson shakes residents of Swatara Creek. Initially, authorities view the minor nature of the fires as pranks, possibly the work of thrill-seeking juveniles. Tension increases in the wake of a murder at the site of one fire and an increase in the value of targets.
Hetrick and Flora must confront troubling, dangerous people from the past, and errors in judgment add to their jeopardy.

Sounds like a great book, and what a hot cover! (I can do puns too.) Here, to further whet your appetite, is an excerpt from A Burning Desire:

Flora Vastine tugged back the curtain and peered out into the dark yard. As her eyes adjusted, she detected movement near the back fence. It seemed she’d just drifted off to sleep when Change, her dog, roused her. Housebroken, the dog was usually good for the night after a final run in the yard before bed and it was obviously not a need for relief that disturbed her. Change had gone directly to the window facing the yard and set to whining and growling low in her throat.
     Raccoon and opossum occasionally got into the trash, but Flora thought it was something larger lurking by the fence. Deer had got into her dad’s garden last summer. Was there anything big enough to attract them now? It was too dark to tell from here. Barefoot and clad in shortie pajama bottoms and a T-shirt, Flora padded downstairs, trailed by the dog. She didn’t want to wake her father and shooshed Change when she left out a throaty woof.
     Retrieving her sidearm from the lock box in the hall closet, Flora made her way to the kitchen and glanced out the window over the sink. Nothing. Had she just imagined it? But, no, Change hadn’t been disturbed by something in her imagination. There was something out there. Slipping into a pair of flip-flops she kept here in case of need, Flora unlocked and slowly opened the door. Before Flora could stop her, Change slid between her legs and bolted out into the yard.
     Flora flicked on the outside light and, weapon at the ready, followed.
     June bugs darted in the sudden light and spring peepers shrilled in the distance. The warm air was fragrant with the scent of damp grass and her father’s ripening strawberry plants. Change had disappeared into the gloom beyond the perimeter of light from the back porch. Cautiously, Flora made her way down the yard. Dew-wet tendrils of grass trailed against her ankles and feet.
     Flora came to the end of the yard. Despite the gloom under the heavily-leafed old apple tree she saw the trash cans were undisturbed. But the gate leading into the alley stood open. Flora stepped through the opening and looked up and down the street. A sudden noise to her left, and she turned. Nearly a block away an engine rumbled and she saw the glow of taillights as a vehicle pulled out. As it spun away, Change came trotting back, tongue lolling and panting softly.
     Flora knelt and patted the dog’s head. “Scared him away, did you? Good dog.” She rose. “Come on. Let’s get back to bed.”
     As she started back into the yard, Flora noticed something on top the gate post. A CD album. She picked it up and carried it with her to the porch where she examined it in the light. Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. A hip hop group? Flora wasn’t particularly fond of that kind of music. Yet, for reasons she didn’t fathom, something tingled in her memory.
     Shrugging her shoulders, Flora went back inside and locked the door. Change went immediately to her water dish and quaffed deeply. “Good idea,” Flora whispered. Tossing the CD on the kitchen table, she opened the fridge, got a can of Diet Coke, popped the tab and pulled out a chair at the table. She kicked off the flip-flops, drew her feet up on the chair, hugged her legs and sipped the Coke.
     There’d been a rash of arson attempts lately. More like vandalism than anything serious. Chief Brubaker and Harry suspected it was probably kids. Had she and Change scared off the perpetrators? Or had her visitor been up to something else altogether? Flora couldn’t be sure. And, nibbling her lip, she pondered other possibilities.

What a great hook! I’m sure you’ll want to read more. Here’s how you can get your hands on this hot thriller:

A retired newspaper editor and genealogist, J. R. Lindermuth is the author of thirteen novels, including six in his Sticks Hetrick crime series. His short stories and articles have been published in a variety of magazines. He is a member of International Thriller Writers, EPIC, and the Short Mystery Society.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Time off so I can write more

Gentle readers of this blog, thank you for giving me an audience to write for.

At this point I've decided to quit blogging every week. My obligations to my work as a publisher and editor (my day jobs) have grown greatly in recent weeks, and I seem to be running out of time and energy for posting blogs, at least on a regular basis.

I will still occasionally and sporadically post my two cents' worth when I feel I have something important or entertaining to say about the joy of story, and when I do I'll spread the word by Facebook and email; but don't expect to hear from me on a regular basis.

I wish all of you who are readers and/or writers continued joy in the discovery of story!

John M. Daniel

John M. Daniel Literary Services

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Meet C.L. Swinney

This week I am pleased to showcase suspense writer C.L Swinney, author of the exciting and successful Gray Ghost. Chris Swinney’s first writing assignment was published in Fly Fisherman Magazine. He became a Probation Officer in 1997.  He subsequently became a Detective and started working narcotic and homicide cases. His first novel, Gray Ghost, was released in July of 2013 and made the Best Sellers’ list on Amazon in paperback and Kindle for Crime Fiction and Mystery. Gray Ghost was released again on March 1, 2014 through Total Recall Publishing. The second novel in the Bill Dix series, Collectors, is also contracted and will come out mid-2014. He spends time volunteering for his church, his and other children’s schools, and still tries to fly fish from time to time.

I asked Chris to write for us what the “joy of story” means to him. Here’s what he had to say:

“Reading can mean many different things to people. For me, it’s joy. I work at a hectic and stressful job, I have a great family with two kids in sports, and I’m an author, which means I spend what little time I have left over after work and family writing and promoting.  Every once in a while I need to completely decompress and find a place to slip away from the chaos. For me, especially as I’ve gotten older, my escape has been books.

“I enjoy how other authors make me feel happiness, sorrow, anger, fear, love, and many other feelings through their words alone. The very best writers put us in places and cause us to feel emotions with their plot, characters, and dialogue.  I read books of all sorts of genres, but my favorites are mysteries.  It may sound odd, but I actually find joy in the hair standing up on the back of my neck as I cautiously turn the page of a good book waiting for the next twist or turn. There’s excitement and intrigue there. And, for that moment, my everyday life disappears as I slip through the pages. For a brief second, I no longer feel as though I’m being strangled by deadlines or worried about risking my life while chasing down suspects.

“I’ve found the very best storytellers are also the best writers.  Some speak from the heart, others through life experiences or tedious amounts of research. I feel their hard work, pain, anger, excitement, and whatever else they are pouring into their work. It makes me appreciate their lives, and helps make mine more pleasurable. Often I find myself reading whole books in a day or two and yearning for more from the author. Sometimes there isn’t anything else for me to read by them, but I know more is coming. This too is a fun time because I get to hunt for more great authors to read.

“As a writer of crime fiction and mystery, I sometimes struggle with trying to give the reader joy. My stories are intense and based on real-life events that I see on a daily basis, much of which is not enjoyable. Yet, I try to give my readers something to grab hold of, something enjoyable, to balance out the other emotions I solicit from my readers. I like to use romance, the PG-13 kind, to pull readers in and to get them to feel strongly, good or bad, for my story, plot, and characters. Finding balance is the key. I start this with my first novel in the Bill Dix series, Gray Ghost, and it carries through to the second in the series, Collectors.

Gray Ghost

While on a fly fishing vacation to Andros Island in the Bahamas, narcotics detectives Dix and Petersen discover their fishing guides were killed when a sudden blast of gunfire fractured their speedboat, Gray Ghost. Local gossip has it that Gray Ghost went to the ocean floor with a hundred million dollars' worth of cocaine in the hull.

Dix and Petersen, against their better judgment, are drawn into helping their island friends even though it could cost them their careers. Leads are chased down in the Bahamas and Miami. The two detectives identify a diabolical plot of a sinister man known only as "The Caller."

An elaborate trap is set for The Caller, but he's two steps ahead of the detectives. As the drama unfolds, it's unclear who can be trusted. When it appears The Caller will get away once again, lead detective Dix and his sidekick Petersen exhaust everything they have in an effort to capture the criminal mastermind.

For more information and/or to get your hands on a copy of Gray Ghost, visit

Author C.L. (Chris) Swinney can be found at the following social media sites:
Twitter:  @clswiney

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Three Stories and a Fond Farewell

For this month’s 99-word story feature, I challenged writers to make up a story about a fight or argument that changed or threatened to end their relationship with their best friend. I received three contributions, and here they are:


by Jill Evans

The Devil sat on one shoulder, the Angel on the other. Ten pounds away from goal and that cupcake was staring me in the face.
“Eat it, then work out. Five hundred calories is nothing,” the Devil whispered.
“Eat it and your hips will look like a shelf. Trust me, I’m you’re best friend,” the Angel pleaded.
“I love cupcakes,” I said to the Angel.
“You never take my advice. Remember Dan’s party?”
“Don’t listen,” the Devil reiterated.
“I know,” I said and went into the bakery, emerging moments later with—of all things—angel food cake.
The Angel sighed.


by Jerry Giammatteo

“Why are you so ticked?” Pete confronted Mike, his erstwhile best friend.
“New Year’s Eve,” Mike responded.
“What about it?”
“Remember our party?”
“Of course; at least until about one a.m. After that, I don’t remember anything.”
“You bugged me about our vintage coin collection. You wanted to get a closer look.”
“You wouldn’t,” Pete protested. “You said it was worth too much.”
“It disappeared that night. I think you stole it.”
“How dare you accuse me?”
“Then who?”
“Macklin?” Haven’t seen him since New Year’s. I’ll call him.”
“Don’t bother Mike. He’s upstate doing fifteen to twenty.”


by Christine Viscuso

My best friend and I found each other on Classmates and she confessed as to why she never wanted to see me.
“Eliz, I can’t believe you didn’t talk to me for forty years because I dated Steve.”
Finally we agreed to meet over coffee. I gave the waitress my order and sat.
“I asked your permission before I started a relationship. You had broken off with him.”
“I know.” Eliz sipped her latte.
“After three months he broke up with me. Told me I wasn’t smart enough. That I didn’t graduate college. Was he worth our lost relationship?”


And now, friends, it’s time to say adieu. This is the last posting of 99-word stories on my blog until further notice. In fact, because of pressing work obligations, I have decided I must take a break from blogging for a while. I’ll still occasionally post an announcement or a few ideas or opinions about the Joy of Story, and I am scheduled to host a few guest bloggers to help them promote their new books. But as of now I am no longer committing to posting regularly on my blog each Saturday, as I have done for more than three years.

At this time I wish to thank all who have read my blog, and I especially want to thank all of you who have contributed to The Joy of Story, either by leaving friendly comments or by sending me stories to post.

Keep writing, writers, and keep reading, readers. And may all of you continue to find and celebrate the joy of story.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Last week, on the evening of February 6th, I celebrated the publication of my new novel, Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, at Books Inc., a fine independent bookstore in Palo Alto, California. I made a few remarks, read four short passages from the book, answered questions from the audience, and signed books.

 This was a thrilling rite of passage for me, as successful book signings always are. It was a sentimental occasion, too, for a number of reasons. It was a joy to read from, talk about, and sign copies of a book that celebrates the joy of bookselling and my fondness for the Midpeninsula area where I lived for twenty years. It so happens that my novel, Hooperman, takes place in a Palo Alto bookstore in the summer of 1972. It also happens that during the 1970s I worked for a fine independent bookstore, Kepler’s Books and Magazines, just up the road from Palo Alto. And although the bookstore in my book, Maxwell’s Books, is fictitious, I can’t deny that it closely resembles the Kepler’s Books I remember so fondly.

Another sentimental connection: I graduated from Stanford University in December 1964, nearly 50 years ago. My very first job out of college was to help out during Christmas rush at the Peninsula Bookshop, a bookstore I already knew and admired. That job lasted only two weeks, but it got me started working for bookstores on the Midpeninsula. By coincidence, the Peninsula Bookshop (which years later went the way of most independent bookstores and closed its doors) was located only a few doors from the current location of Books Inc. So appearing right there seemed to close a circle for me.

The most meaningful sentimental feeling I got from that evening was pleasure of seeing friends. The house was packed. There were a number of old friends and fellow Kepler’s alumni, people I had worked alongside in the 1970s. There were also a couple of classmates from my years as a Stanford undergraduate. My favorite teacher, Nancy Packer from the Stanford Creative Writing Program, was there. Several authors whom Susan and I have published in recent years were there. Not only that, but my son Ben, and his wife, Anne, and their three children showed up. I can’t overstate the thrill I felt to be in the company of new friends, old friends, and family for this milestone evening. There were also some unfamiliar faces in the audience, and their smiles warmed me too.

I’ll close by saying I believe Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery to be worthy of all the attention it got that gratifying evening. I’m fond of this book, probably because it’s all about the joy of bookselling, the nobility of independent bookstores, and the absolute wonder of that remarkable invention: the book. It also combines a couple of love stories and tosses in a crime to be solved.

To learn more about Hooperman: A Bookstore Mystery, check out this page:

Saturday, February 1, 2014


For this month’s invitational 99-word story collection, I asked writers to send me stories with the following title or first line: “I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone.”

Here are this month’s stories, and a fine bunch of family secrets they are.

by June Kosier

My father’s dog, Kap, got loose on Thanksgiving Day while Dad was out. Kap later came home with a fully cooked turkey and had the best meal he ever had.
Mom swore me to secrecy. Dad would be upset if he knew Kap had gotten away, and the neighbors would be furious that they would not have a Thanksgiving turkey.
Forty years later, when my father was dying, we spent an afternoon reminiscing. I confessed to him the secret I had about Kap. He laughed his head off and could not believe I could keep a secret for that long.


By Anne Schroeder

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone. But I lied. Not lied, exactly; I’m a sanguine, and the world is entitled to my business. In fact, I insist on it.
“Sheepherders came this morning,” Dad remarked at breakfast. “You girls leave those Basque boys be.”
Jareguy’s weathered gypsy wagon smelled of sweat and mutton. A jug of table red, one bowl, no cup. Banked embers in the cook stove illuminated the cot.
“Ya,” he blushed.
No English. We smiled a lot.
Afterwards, I stepped into the sunlight and my father’s frown.
Baa-baa, sheep.


By Jerry Giammatteo

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone. Until now. Uncle Alfie is an alcoholic.
When we were kids, he was always boisterous at family barbecues and functions. He made us kids laugh, but our parents seemed uncomfortable. He was hilarious. We loved him. Alfie would join our waffle ball games and hit the ball a mile, though he could hardly stand. He was a happy drinker.…
Recently, I was at the mall and heard my name called. It was Uncle Alfie. He told me proudly he hadn’t had a drink in years.
He looked great.

by Christine Viscuso

“I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone,” Zoe whispered to her best friend, Zu Zu.
Zu Zu jumped on Zoe’s bed. “Tell me. I’m all ears. I’ll keep your secret.”
“After my birth, my mom decided she was better off a man and my dad decided he should have been a woman. They went to Europe to have surgeries. Now I call Mom ‘Dad’’ and Dad ‘Mom.’“
Zu Zu, upon leaving Zoe’s, retrieved her iPhone and pressed her second best friend Amelia’s number.
Amelia barely said hello when Zu Zu blurted, “Don’t tell anyone, but…”

Note: Christine Viscuso has another story at the end of this post.


by Jill Evans

I promised my parents I would never tell this to anyone, but one year they had a fight. They were so angry that no amount of talking could bring them back together.
At the time, I was writing for Hallmark. Separately, each came to me asking if I would compose a poem expressing sorrow and asking forgiveness. I did, and the next day they were in love again.
Neither parent discovered the source of the letter, but to this day their affection for each other has endured. They’ll celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on, of all days, Valentine’s Day.


by Phyllis Povell

It was the mid-1930s and Dad was driving a cab and Mom was taking care of two young children. On the Sabbath, they shared half of a chicken and soup made with old carrots and wilted celery. Other nights, they ate eggs or noodles with butter. They knew they couldn’t go on like this.
They applied for public assistance. No one was ever to know the shame they felt. Dad came home at three a.m., and while ashamed, he knew his family was being provided for.

When I was born, dad’s full-time job enabled them to be self-sufficient.


Attention all writers—
Next month’s prompt: Make up a story about a fight or argument that changed or threatened to end your relationship with your best friend. (Notice I said “Make up a story.” Use your imagination.)

Here are the rules:

1. Your story must be 99 words long, exactly.
2. One story per writer, per month.
3. The story must be a story. That means it needs plot, characters, and conflict.
4. The deadline: the first of the month.
5. Email me your story (in the body of your email, or as a Word attachment) to:


Coda: The following story arrived too late to include last month, owing to a cyberglitch.

by Christine Viscuso

“They’re gone!”
“Wha’dya mean, Lettie?”
“Harry, all my books are gone. Stolen!”
“Officer Sherlock Lepage here; what seems to be the problem?”
“I’m Harry Booker and this is my wife, Lettie. We’ve been robbed.”
“What is missing?”
“All three thousand of my books are gone.”
“Calm down, Mrs. Booker.”
“Yeh, Lettie. They’re just books.”
“They also stole your entire Tommy Bahama shirt collection.”
“The cads. Officer, I demand you track down these terrible miscreants.”

“And they took all my stuffed dogs. The beasts left a book behind which isn’t mine, however. It’s a book on how to avoid clutter.”