New Synopsis

Today I wrote new copy for the synopsis of the series for its Amazon page, emphasizing the mystery aspect of the books:

A quaint Victorian village in the Ozarks. A history of haints and hauntings. And a secret of seven tribes, hundreds of years older than the town: spring waters that heal wounds and diseases — and may also prolong life.

This is the world of 1886, in which astronauts Jennifer Cloud and Stan Lowell are stranded when their Apollo capsule is catapulted through a ring-like object orbiting Earth and they must attempt to land without their vanished commander, “Mac” McClanahan. It’s a world they know but don’t know at all, before their time; and they must do the one thing that they have not been trained to do: nothing. Nothing that would change the 87 years until their launch in 1973.

Except plumb the town’s secrets and mysteries — where the waters came from; what benefits they offer; what limitations they have. As well as trying to find a shortcut back to their own time.

Their research continues for decades; something that their son Nate discovers after they too have gone missing, like their fellow astronaut Mac. Guided by the Cherokee sage George who helped his parents, Nate and his friends Kris and Breanna seek the truth about them, more secrets of the Waters of the Stars, and the colossal burden of responsibility that it places upon their shoulders.

And when they encounter not only Mac, but a couple who are identical to Nate’s parents but don’t recognize him at all, the mysteries only deepen.

Then Kris vanishes as well ….

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All Aboard!

One of the sources of information for my novels is the award-winning 1993 documentary filmed by Claude Wiatrowski called “All Aboard for Eureka!” I’ve owned both the commercially-sold VHS and DVD copies of the film, and a couple of years ago, he uploaded it to YouTube for everyone to enjoy free of charge.

It’s a fine overview of Eureka Springs history, as well as the various incarnations of The North Arkansas Line, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

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Ghost Hotel

If you’ve read “The People of the Waters” trilogy, you know that one character, Nate, has his own encounter with spirits in the Crescent Hotel — a well-known haunt of ghosts for decades.

This episode of “Haunting History” (2015) has a great interview with Keith Slade, manager of ghost tours at the hotel, and an investigation without all the artificial ghost-show hoo-ha (beyond the obligatory spooky music). There’s a wealth of historical information in the interview, which is what I really enjoy in the ghost and historical tours in town!

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A Good Day

The horribly-performed, off-key flutophone parody of “My Heart Will Go On” from “Titanic” has been stuck in my head all day, and if I have to suffer with that knowledge, I refuse to suffer alone.

In spite of that mind-numbing handicap, I enjoyed a walk downtown in the 79-degree sunshine and a delicious Mud Street Cafe veggie burger (plus a huge warm chocolate-chip cookie for dessert).

And there in my old place at the bar, I wrote several paragraphs of outline for a fourth book in the “People of the Water” Cycle. The narrator I settled on surprised the heck out of me, as did the source of the major conflict in the developing story. There are still a lot of holes in the plot, as I’m sure there probably were for people who read the original trilogy!

The story-in-progress may turn out to be a false start or a terrible mistake due to that awful earworm-of-a-song, but for the moment it feels very right, taking up five years after the third book left off, in the year 2020.

In the meantime, book sales have been slow-to-fair, although literally thousands have downloaded at least the first book free on the Kindle membership program at Amazon. And if they read the fine print during the first 90 day publication, they got all three books free.

Seriously, somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 downloads.

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Fourth book

Some thoughts are coming together for a fourth book in the cycle. They are definitely out of nowhere and a surprise to me.

That’s the way I like ‘em.

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Skylark Mission Patch

I needed to design a mission patch for the uniform of my character Stan Lowell for the fourth slide (see previous post) in my Facebook ad slideshow, so I scanned the art I created when I was about 14-15 years old for my series of “Skylark” stories and photoshopped a patch with some other clip-art.

It’s a little bit NASA, a little bit “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea” logo and very 1970s as a result. As readers know, the character “Mac” McClanahan designed it on a napkin before handing it over to NASA graphic artists to turn into a mission patch.

Now, a quick note on accuracy: Most of the 1970s Apollo mission astronauts wore burnt orange flightsuits, one of three military colors available at the time (the others were khaki green and dark blue). I just liked the blue ones better, the choice of Space Shuttle astronauts later in the decade.

I chose the same basic blue for the background of the patch, since the mission was classified. As you can see, the wavy letters spelling out “Skylark” roughly form the shape of a bird and vaguely imitate the orange “swoosh” in the NASA logo.

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Possible Facebook Ad

I’ve been working on slides for a possible Facebook ad today, just submitted for review. They’re photoshopped from publicly-available NASA images and photos I’ve taken. Feel free to tell me what you think!

A detached Saturn S-IVB instrumentation ring is pictured in orbit over North American at night.
1973: A mysterious object in Earth orbit ….
A Saturn 1-B topped by an Apollo capsule sits on its "milkstool" launch pad at Cape Kennedy at night.
A classified mission to investigate the ring …
The interior of an Apollo capsule is brightly illuminated by a blinding glow emanating from the helmet of an astronaut in the center seat.
The Apollo capsule’s commander vanishes …
Between a male and a female astronaut clad in blue flightsuits is the distant image of the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas at dusk.
And the other two astronauts are stranded in 1886 …
All three volumes of the novel cycle are pictured on a dark, cloudy background: 'The Water Cure,' 'The Crystalline Clarity' and 'The Aqueous Solution.'
So ‘The People of the Water’ Cycle begins … available now on
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Book Fair!

I don’t know about you, but when I was a kid, I looked forward to Book Fair Day at school like nothing else.

The elementary school gym would be spread with tables, and you and your parents could peruse the Scholastic Books titles at your leisure (though your chance probably only came during one period of the day).

The process was streamlined later with four-color flyers sent home so you could order your books and they would be delivered to the school.

Recently, I re-evaluated how I’d describe the Retrowater Cycle while marketing the trilogy online. Romance? Science Fiction? History? Fantasy? Time Travel/Paradox? Mystery? Paranormal? Young Readers?

Of course, there’s a little of all of that going on in them. It made them tough to classify on Amazon!

But the thought that kept coming to mind was: I want them to be Scholastic Books for grown-ups.

Something that’s a little challenging to heart and head; that hits the thinks and the feels; that piques curiosity and hopefully makes you care enough about the characters to pursue the mysteries with them.

There are strong female characters. There are strong male characters. There are people of strong character! And many of them are regaining their youth and dealing with loss. So of course there are conflicts and differences of opinion and unresolved passions.

But they’re also generally kind, caring and intelligent people, who make the attempt to resolve problems and differences without a lot of self-centered drama. (Generally! — And some find out that doesn’t help!) People don’t have to be mean-spirited or driven by evil to have or create conflicts.

There’s no need to drag readers through salacious details of personal matters, and that’s the beauty of writing in the first person. Most people would not be that overly honest.

Besides, sex and romance are almost always more vivid in the reader’s experience when suggested rather than spelled out in every detail!

And if young readers enjoy them too, there’s nothing that their teachers or parents or individual consciences have to be concerned about.

So that’s how I’d characterize the kind of books they are:

Scholastic Books for Grownups.

Start me a new category on Amazon.

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Two Down, One to Go

Another kind note from a friend on Facebook:

I have read your first two books. The Crystalline Clarity was just as good as The Water Cure. I stayed up much too late on a number of nights reading them, enjoying them, being enthralled by your storytelling. For this reason, even though I have both The Aqueous Solution, I'm not sure I can read it, for then I'll be finished with the books and I will be in deep grief that they are over. Thank you, Keith, for the gift of these stories.
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Blue Ghost Fireflies

At one point in the story of The Water Cure, two of my characters discuss a phenomenon they have seen with their own eyes, and dismiss fireflies as an explanation for it. Fireflies, as everyone knows, glow yellow-green; not blue.

Well, in fact, there is a species of firefly that glows blue. But it is not indigenous to the Ozark Mountains where my characters encounter that light. It’s found, instead, in the Great Smoky Mountain range — close to where one of those two characters was born!

Read about rare “Blue Ghost Fireflies” in this article from Discovery Magazine:

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