Celebrating Winter Soltice

We have to celebrate Winter Soltice, right?! It’s the begging of the upper hemisphere leaning back toward the sun! Which means after today, our days are going to start getting longer! Hurray!

Many people might think if Stonehenge on this day, but did you know about Newgrange – also in Ireland?


Murphy’s Troubles by Rex Owens

I recently came across a book that I thought you-all might like to learn a bit more about. cover jpg
I asked Rex to share a bit about his book and about himself. I learned a few things, even after reading the whole book – a few times over. 🙂
Hey Rex. Welcome to CKBooksblog!
Can you tell us a little about the book you just published? Make it short and sweet, my readers have short attention spans.

The book is about the unique period in Irish history called The Troubles (1968-1998). The political struggle to re-unify Ireland became a terrorist war led by the Provisional IRA.  The story is about how betrayal can be a two edged sword for both evil and good.
What was the most interesting thing you learned while writing this book?
I learned that the Provisional IRA was declared the world’s first terrorist organization by the U.N.  I learned that in Belfast, Ireland the Catholic and Protestant communities are so divided that they built walls in the city to create barriers between communities and those walls are still standing in 2013.
What made you want to write this book? Do you have some personal connection with the IRA?
     I wrote this book to explore how the yoke of history can completely dominate the culture and history of a country.  When I visited Ireland in 2008 the first thing our guide said was:  “Welcome to Ireland, we are two countries, the six counties and the twenty-six counties (i.e. Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).  That single fact dominates all aspects of living in Ireland even today.  I wanted to write about what it is like to live in a small country so divided.  I believe most of us have experienced betrayal and may have even be betrayers ourselves.  I wanted to write a story that demonstrated that betrayal is not “black and white” but can only be judged within the context of an individual’s life.
Tell us a little about yourself.
     I didn’t begin writing until my late 40’s and began by attending UW-Madison Writer’s Instsitute and then enrolling in a writing class.  My teacher, Laurel Yourke, would give instructions on one specific craft technique and then assign us two pages to write that demonstrated the technique.  In 2000 I began writing the story of Ian Murphy based on newspapers my son brought be from his summer in Ireland.
   In December 2009 I was let go from my manager’s job in a local health care organization.  I decided this was my opportunity to polish my book and seek either an agent or a small publisher.  I wasn’t successful attracting an agent but did sign a contract with a micro publisher in 2011.  That relationship didn’t work out and I decided to independently publish my work in February.  From February through the end of November I had a new cover designed, had a friend complete content editing and used your services for copy editing and proofreading.  I chose Create Space, an Amazon company, for publishing my novel because it was easy to use, transparent and services were reasonably priced.
In the interest of full disclosure, how did you end up on this blog?
     I used your services copy editing services.  You offered to post a blog about MURPHY’S TROUBLES after it was published. 
So where can folks pick up this masterpiece if they are so inclined?
    I must admit that standard distribution to bookstores is a mystery to me.  My book is available at:  www.amazon.com/Murhpy’s-Troubles-Rex-Owens.
   Do you have a website or facebook page or…?
    My website is:  www.rexowens.us.  I don’t use a separate facebook author page.  I can be found on facebook by searching on my name.  I have an amazon author page at:  www.amazon.com/author/rex owens


Owens 14672 6882 4x6Bio Information for Novelist Rex Owens

1997 attended my first UW Madison Writer’s Institute.  Featured author was Robert Moss who talked about conscious dreaming as a way to explore the writing life.

1999 joined a critique group led by Dr. Laurel Yourke.  Her approach was to discuss a specific writing craft technique then assign up to two pages to demonstrate the technique.  Met twice a month.  I wanted to write science fiction because my favorite author was Ray Bradbury.  I had no talent for science fiction.  Next I decided to write historical fiction and researched Benjamin Franklin.  It was the right genre for me, wrong topic.

My son Tim brought me newspapers from Ireland, read a story of children injured in the Peace Zone in Belfast in 1998, the same year the Peace Accords  passed by referendum in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  Two characters popped into my mind, Ian Murphy and Timolty Doyle.  I still have one of the first assignments with these characters from November 2000.

Continued to take critique classes for several years and all of my assignments revolved around the Troubles in Ireland.  By 2003 Dr. Yourke suggested I had enough material to consider writing a novel and challenged me to begin.  Her challenge was what got me going.

I continued to attend the Writer’s Institute every year; but life intervened and I put my draft on the shelf until 2007 when I decided writing was going to be a life goal.  My idea was to complete my day job career and envisioned a “retirement” of writing.

In 2008 I took the most in depth and intense course offered by UW Madison for aspiring writers, Writer’s by the Lake, a 5 day course devoted exclusively to novel writing.

In December 2009 I was unexpectedly laid off from my management job with Care Wisconsin.  I saw this event as the universe knocking me up side the head with the message:  it’s time to write.

In 2010 I attended the Weekend with Your Novel course and planned to spend a year getting my novel into shape and starting a freelance career.

Experimented with getting an agent at Writer Institute meetings in 2010 an 2011 but failed to attract an agent.  Based on an article in The Writer Magazine, I decided to pitch my novel directly to small and micro publishers.  I gave myself a one year deadline, to have a book deal by March 2011.

In February 2011, a micro publisher based in California offered me a contract to publish MURPHY’S TROUBLES.  I met my deadline (barely).

That relationship didn’t work out and in February 2013 I terminated the contract.  I talked with my writer friends and decided to independently publish my book.  I used my groups on LinkedIn to ask other writers for their experience with legitimate independent publishers.  Their response overwhelmingly was that Amazon’s Create Space was the most transparent, easiest to use and credible.

Friends offered to help me publish independently.  Jeff Gauger, Owner-Manager of Beans and Cream offered to design a book cover.  Marshall Cook, retired UW Madison Journalism professor offered to edit my manuscript.  With their support I kept going.

I had a mixed, mostly negative, experience with beta readers and asked my friend, Marshall Cook to content edit my manuscript.  Marshall is a former Journalism Professor, Director of the Writer’s Institute and most important a cherished friend.   He recommended I needed two more chapters to make my novel more cohesive.  I spent weeks writing those chapters and having him continue to make suggestions until they were polished.

During this time Jeff developed an incredible book cover.  I sent the cover out to more than 30 friends to review and they were overwhelmed.  By the end of May that part of the book production job was done.

At an event at A Room of One’s Own I met three authors who independently published their work, they gave tips, and were very honest about their experience.  They also provided encouragement.  One of the authors that made a presentation, Christine Keleny, is also a publisher and certified editor.  I hired Christine to both copyedit and proof read my manuscript.  Christine worked very fast and within two weeks I had detailed line editing and proofreading. [Actually, it was just editing]

Finally, I purchased my own ISBN and barcode for the book.  I could have gotten an ISBN from Create Space free, but I wouldn’t own it or have a copyright.  By purchasing my own ISBN the book is copyrighted and the ISBN is uniquely mine.

This final part of the journey has been a very intense nine months.

I have two events in December:

Dec. 14 at Beans n Cream 10:00 am to noon – book signing

(Dec. 16 at Sun Prairie Library  6:30 pm – book reading and signing

Books available for sale at all events, Beans n Cream, and at:  www.amazon.com/Murphy’s-Troubles-Rex-Owens

I’m an active volunteer in our community.  I’m on the Board of Directors of the Sun Prairie Civic Theatre and serve as the Vice-President.  I’m a member the Friends of the Sun Prairie Library Board of Directors and serve as the Publicity Chair.