Monday, May 16, 2011


If you happen to read The Orchard, you’ll know that I lived just outside the town of Burlington, Iowa, before moving to St. Paul, Minnesota. My place was located four miles out of town, up a steep and rutty dead-end road. At the bottom of the hill, before the challenging road, was a farm owned by a strange little man who wore nothing but brown jockey shorts that had once been white, striped tube socks, and tennis shoes. His name was Dewey, and I never saw him in anything but the shorts, although I assume he wore more clothing in the winter.

Dewey’s style of undress wasn’t unlike that of the Naked Bookseller immortalized by Lee Goldberg back in 2006.

Lee is the one wearing clothes.

Dewey sold ear corn out of his barn. A person could just drive into the barn, put a bag in her car, and leave money in a wooden box. I never ran into Dewey while buying corn to feed the squirrels. There were times I was sure he was in the house, and times I could tell he’d just been there. Like a bowl of milk left for the cats. The best way to get a halfway decent look at him was when he was walking his dog along the road, or when he was in the field on his tractor. I was told he wore the underwear to town, and that he’d been escorted out of the mall on more than one occasion. I was told the only person he liked was his mother, and she was dead.

He and I were both antisocial misfits, but I liked to think mine was temporary. I was healing, and I knew that one day I would emerge from my self-imposed exile ready to reconnect with the world. For Dewey, it wasn’t a phase. And I imagine when he was kicked out of stores, he didn’t see himself as the one who needed to conform.

One day I notice a lot of activity just across the road from his house, on the edge of a cornfield.

Dewey was building something.

Every time I passed, he was working away. Digging and prepping the ground with an end loader. Pouring cement. Tractoring in huge cement crosses that eventually made a fence. He painted them white. It took weeks. A monument? It looked like he was building a monument of some kind.

And then one day a metal archway arrived.

Dewey Byar Farms Forever.

I still wasn’t sure just what I was looking at. A monument to his farm?

A few weeks later, I drove by and saw something new inside the square of white cement crosses. A fresh mound of dirt. A grave. Flowers. And I realized Dewey had built a cemetery for himself. At home, I checked the obituaries and found that he'd died of cancer.

The evening before I moved from Iowa to St. Paul, I thought about the cemetery and rushed down the hill to take some photos before it got too dark.

Isn't it equal parts sad and fantastic?
And aren't people weird and wonderful?

Saturday, May 14, 2011


I've always had a fascination for Aldo Leopold, mostly because of his environmental and conservation ethics, but also because he's from my hometown of Burlington, Iowa. Like me, he moved from Burlington to New Mexico, then back to the Midwest and Wisconsin, and he and his family are buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery (Burlington) not far from my grandparent's graves. I look him up whenever I visit.

Really want to see this documentary.

Looks like you can purchase a DVD here.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


What do you think of this cover?

I spent a week trying to find the perfect image, but everything I came up with missed the mark. Nothing really evoked the feel of the book, which is decidedly dark Gothic, but with a tiny bit of camp thrown in.

Finally found this image, which I sent to the great Robin Ludwig, who worked her font magic. I also had the book professionally formatted, and it can now be found at Barnes&Noble as well as Amazon. The iBook will be next.

I chose Play Dead for this makeover because it outsells all of my other titles, and I wanted readers to have a more satisfying reading experience. I also think Play Dead has held up better than most of my Frasier titles. Why? In my opinion, it's because it didn't adhere to the expectations of the police procedural. This can be a tough sell on release day, but in the end I think writing outside the lines has given Play Dead a longer life because it doesn't feel dated and it doesn't feel like a plot you've read a million times.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


You'll find a lot of cool things at Brenda Novak's Annual Auction for the Cure of Diabetes.

Like full manuscript evaluations from agents, vacations, dinner with writers, shopping trips, cruises, and a lot of books.

Brenda Novak's annual auction

I used to ask people to leave a comment in order to enter a drawing. I would actually write down the names and put them in a bowl, but Goodreads has this handy little thing that does it all for you.

The only drawback is that it tries to match readers with books. That's good for a writer, but maybe not so good for people who read my blog because you will be competing against many people who've probably never heard of me and might not even care that much about winning a book. But I thought I'd give it a try.