Michael Chambon and Orthodox Judaism

Austin Poet John Gibbons posted this NYTimes article about Orthodox Jews and an extension of an eruv, which lets Jews carry (anything other than clothes) on Shabbat between private (their house) and public (everywhere else) spaces.

Reminds me of my friends when I was growing up with keys made into tie clips or embedded in simple necklaces. My synagogue even had a red/green traffic signal visible so people could pass by and see if the eruv was unbroken (another tease to read the article).

John also reminded me of why I got into the Shmuley Myers series in the first place. I really loved The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, which Chambon wrote in 2008. Where his book focused on the grander scale of the American Jewish community at an inflection point (no spoilers, go read the book!), I wanted something more intimate, where the Jewish component was as much a fabric of life as that of a homicide detective. And where he has Alaska as the focal point, much as Gene Roddenberry used Star Trek as a stage for human problems, I wanted something more tactile, more interacting with the physical space that Austin provides in spades. Hat tip to Michael for writing this book, and (shameless plug) check out my books in the Shmuley Myers series!

On Fiction & Current Events

I’m doing one last pass on the 3rd book in the Shmuley Myers series, The Property of Blood, before handing it off to an editor and page-setter to prepare for publication. That equates to a few months before publication.

These mysteries take place in an alternate reality, a few decades after the Citizenship From Conception Amendment was ratified around the time of the ascension of the American Moral Majority’s fundamentalism. Think late 70s and early 80s. The unintended consequences described in the books seemed to me an impossible reality when I wrote A Day at the Zoo in 2016.

But this is not a political screed about reproductive independence. When looking for a publicist, I gave one to a well-recommended agency. The owner indicated they were anti-abortion. “Someone on our staff is Jewish,” I was told about the Jewish content, in my opinion much the way “I have a Black friend” is used by racists. They declined to provide a quote because “they weren’t a good fit” for the project. And I get it, if this was a story about abortion.

I’m writing the Shmuley Myers murder-mystery series book #4 as I procrastinate writing this post. It’s an exploration of another culture much more in the style of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chambon than it is the Rabbi Small mysteries, as in Harry Kemelman’s Sunday the Rabbi Stayed Home series.

The series is also, at its heart, a love story about a married couple facing issues ranging from faith to family to dangerous secrets. So yes, in this alternate reality, abortion is a federal crime, and the Preborn Investigation Bureau was formed because of it. Just like in real life, there are good PIBniks and bad ones. The characters and the story that star in my books, not a hook a tenet of one religious sect’s opinion on which to hang all reality.

Back to book #4…

Limits of Privacy and Intrusion

The consequences of deciding what people can do with their bodies are just starting to cascade The slippery slope of how intrusive the state governments will be is just starting to reveal itself. spoiler alert: the slope turns into a vertical wall fairly quickly.

Looks like A Question of Allegiance will be released towards the end of the year. subscribe to the mailing list for a very few emails a month.

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And the consequences begin

I’m not going to make this site yet another unheard voice with a political bent. Detective Sergeant Shmuley Myers has too many real-world situations in my books to deal with for me to get distr—ooh, squirrel!

My ex-brother-in-law is a constitutional law scholar, who’s been involved in several of the pivotal cases put before the formerly sane Supreme Court. Y’all can read or not his article, co-authored, here.

The biological pachinko of complications and odds that is fertilization, implantation, pregnancy, and birth is beginning to unfold. In five years, if there’s no return to sanity in the political machine, we’ll see the swell of children that, now born, are no longer of interest to people who’s goal is to control women.

Not Final!

A Question of Allegiance is getting close, to final typesetting. I still need the back blurb, the right ISBN, etc. Gudrun from Yote Design did an amazing job with the last one, so I’m looking forward to a clean layout to match the great cover.

Robin Seavell did a great job editing the manuscript. Difficult because, as he put it, the manuscript’s “alternative word order.” (Love that phrase.) I’m working on putting his edits in, as well as last-minute tweaks.

I’m still looking at a fall launch. Need to get a publicist, or someone who can execute on a marketing plan, but The Book Comes First.

On fiction, reality, and fantasy

The Shmuley Myers books are in an alternate reality, where a constitutional amendment in America means that citizenship is awarded at the time of conception. Those folks of the XX chromosomal variety can see how this turns every non-term or non-live pregnancy into a murder investigation. And that follow-on legislation broke the separation of church and state concept in public and government.

When I started writing the series back in 2017, these were solidly fictional ideas. By April of 2022, fiction was clearly trending into a horrific reality. I’d gotten the cover down to draft form, and my editor returned comments on A Question of Allegiance, but… I couldn’t. I was depressed, anxious, and returning PTSD symptoms. Work stopped. My stress on the novel stopped me up entirely. And, for the record, when the writer’s unhappy, ain’t nobody happy.

This past weekend I got back into the saddle, if only on a different horse. YA fantasy, draft already complete, and spend a couple of days doing light editing, buoyed by how good a shape it was in. Once I got AQoA out the door, I think this is my next “polish and publish” project.

So that’s while I’ve been absent these past two months. But I still want to have the next installment of the series out in the fall of 2022.

Publishing In a Milieu Resembling My Fiction

Asemic Writing, copyright (C) Daniel Friedman

A Day at the Zoo focuses on the subject of the unintended consequences of violating the barrier between church and state. It was intended to show the absurdity of trying to assign citizen to non-living tissue. (If this sounds like “pro-life” or “anti-abortion” flag waving, it’s not: it’s a point of view from someone who doesn’t share the same viewpoint. Also, I have the point of view of someone who, by virtue of his genetic makeup, shouldn’t be telling women one way or another how to deal with their lives.

At any rate, the leak of the deliberations of the Supreme Court has given those looking forward to a Puritanical state a huge jump in energy. Energy that quickly impinges on the rights of others. Other citizens, to be clear.

This has made editing The Property of Blood (Book #3) and writing A Measure of Mercy (#4) akin to climbing a mountain free-style. Added to figuring out how to publicize the existing A Day at the Zoo, and the forthcoming A Question of Allegiance, and I’m stuck in Sisyphussian space.

Fortunately, I’m doing a “learn about publishing” (instead of writing) retreat this weekend, at their house strategically located in the middle of nowhere (actually, beyond it). Starlink and power. And no looking at social media, no matter how hard it tries to stoke my outrage.

Here’s to becoming a marketing guru.

Publicity and Current Realities

I was speaking with someone from a publicity agency and, after they reviewed some of the materials, the told me they were pro-life and was that a problem. A main premises of the book is the Constitutional Amendment that “life begins at conception, and citizenship is awarded at that time.” The series deals with what happens with unintended consequences, and the breaking down of state and church. Not in a grandiose way — it’s a murder mystery, taking place in this alternate history. Same as a murder mystery in the 1950s would make simple reference to the abridged and subordinate rights of African Americans. This is not a passion play screed in the guise of fiction. It’s fiction.

What I told the person was that I got the idea for this story based on something I read a few years back. It was the manslaughter prosecution of a woman in Missouri for the crime of having had a miscarriage. This is not a fluke, in October, 2021 a Native American was found guilty as well, and sentenced to four years in prison.

Cover and Art for A Question of Allegiance

The editor has yet to return my manuscript (it’s not due back for another week or three). In the meantime, it’s back to figuring out how to create the cover for A Question of Allegiance (AQoA for short).

I messed up. When creating the cover for A Day at the Zoo, I envisioned something with elements of the novel itself. What I came up with was, in my very humble opinion, great. But great as a cover for the entire series, not for a single novel. Check out the rejected versions here. So what to do with AQoA? Change the color? Add images that weren’t in the original?

When creating covers for a series, there needs to be a tie-in for the books, so on the (nowadays virtual) shelf there’s a sense of cohesion. To generate a reader’s thought along the lines of, “Oh, right, I read that book. These others must be from the same series.”

Some covers use the same fonts and titling for the author name, like S.A. Corey’s Expanse Series:

Click to see in Barnes & Noble

Other series covers keep the layout consistent, even if fonts and backgrounds change:

Click to see in Barnes & Noble

These folks have great cover designers, and access to cool original art. For example, the Mercy Thompson series:

I’m total fanboy of her books. Click to check in out in B&N’s site.

That last one is interesting. The font, after book #3, changes, and the layout for books four and up in the series all use the same font and layout. I can’t say I’ll have access to the amazing artists who painted the pictures used in the book covers, but the artist who put the cover (and book design) together for me did a smash-up job, so I Will Have Faith.

Lurching Back to Life

Restart with a Goal

Being an author with both a life and another full-time job makes adding the social media aspect hard. Add to that writing a series as well as working on other manuscripts, and you’ve got one overloaded human.

But I’m going to try anyway. Starting with getting a team together:

  • I’ve started looking for a social media person w/author management experience.
  • My awesome White Gold Wielders writing group sets things up for my alpha readers (for Jewish law, medical, and law enforcement double-checks) which leads into beta readers and finally a professional editor. One need only pay for one once to understand just how important they are (are you listening, Robin Seavill?).
  • Gudrun Jobst does page design and layout as well as the covers. And a dang great job she does of it.

This takes time and money, and having a paying job helps. And will help pay for the first bullet point, above.

I’ll have a post every week or so, with little tweaks and updates as I have the time.

Where Are We At, Again?

A Day at the Zoo is out and available on most all ebook platforms. It’s also available as a trade paperback from Amazon. It’s weird to have the occasional person ask that I sign their copy. What do I say, “hi, thanks for buying it?”

Too Good a Cover?

Book Two in the series, A Question of Allegiance, just went off to the editor and should be back for my edits and final cleanup in a month or so. Unlike AD@tZ, AQoA went through a more systematic editing process (all hail for learning on the job), and so I’ll need to get with Gudrun in a couple weeks to work on the next cover. I sort of outfoxed myself with the first cover as it is generic. If I could use it as the series “cover,” I would. But, alas, folks need to be able to quickly see the difference. I’ll have the blurb up shortly.

Book Three, The Property of Blood, was a very hard one to write. Authors do so ever get attached to their characters. It’s a complete draft, twice gone ’round, but now ready for alpha readers to have at it. It’s a bit longer than the second book, and might need to have some scene deletions, but, since this is being self-published instead of hewing to the ever-changing whims of the publishing industry (which seems to be imploding), I can give the readers a bit more Shmuley than otherwise dictated.

Book Four, A Measure of Mercy, about half complete, word count-wise. Which {sigh} means it’s probably only a quarter of the way done. I did more planning for this book, since as the number of books in the series gets longer, there’s more “Did Shmuley ever this place?” “How does Jethro get involved in the story line early on?” “And what about Erian???” As usual for the series, I’ve got a good view of most of the key events, but not wrapping up the loose threads into a knot — I’m not done making all the threads yet!