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“U. City’s Bravest and Kindest” on sale

July 2, 2016

helmet008 copyMy long-form feature article, “U. City’s Bravest and Kindest,” is 100 percent off through the month of July on Smashwords during the 2016 Summer Sale.

Smashwords is a distributor of independent eBooks, providing readers an opportunity to discover new voices in all categories and genres of the written word.

“U. City’s Bravest and Kindest” tells the true story of the University City Fire Department’s 50-year friendship with an elderly developmentally challenged newspaper vendor. The depth of devotion of the firefighters to George inspired the community after George was stabbed early one morning in the U. City Loop.

Visit and choose the sale coupon code at checkout.

For a preview, see this page.

The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players is here

April 19, 2016

My novel is now available in paperback from the Rocking Horse Publishing website and St. Louis area bookstores The Book House and Left Bank Books. Left Bank will ship almost anywhere for 99 cents. The Kindle e-book and paperback are available at Amazon.

The story follows four music majors at a community college, where a manipulative professor tries to spin average students into late-blooming Juilliard-bound prodigies.

Lynnéa, Erin, Holly and Austin form close friendships despite the fact that two of them study piano with the incompetent and predatory Professor Elbert Wayne Dickson, despised by the other two. When the professor is murdered years later, the friends reunite at the cemetery, meet the detective investigating the case and finally learn the truth about what really happened all those years ago.

For more about the story and the characters, see this page under the Fiction menu.

Thanks to Gerry Love for the fabulous back cover photo, taken at the Steinway Piano Gallery in Maryland Heights, courtesy of Pat Sonnett and Judy Malzone at Steinway.

I will be signing books and talking about the connection between music and writing from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 28 at the Maplewood (Missouri) Public Library, 7550 Lohmeyer Ave. (next to the high school and behind the pool), 63143.

The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players now available in e-book

March 30, 2016

cover imageThe Kindle edition of The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players is now available. For those of you (like me) who prefer paper, the print book is on the way, hopefully to be available in local bookstores such as Left Bank Books and The Book House. More details and other locations to follow.

New St. Louis Symphony CEO settles in, aims to draw in a wider audience

October 21, 2015
Marie-Hélène Bernard Photo by Ursula Ruhl

Marie-Hélène Bernard
Photo by Ursula Ruhl

Marie-Hélène Bernard officially took over as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s president and chief executive officer on July 1, but already she’s immersed herself in the St. Louis community.

Since she arrived, she’s absorbed an impressive amount of information about the St. Louis area, the local institutions, the people and the orchestra itself with lightning speed — the tempo at which she talks.

Read the whole story, an expanded version of the original recently published in the West End Word, here.

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***The new stuff on Versatiliosity isn’t always on the front page. Check out these other recent offerings from the sidebar:

Terrell Carter called as Webster Groves Baptist’s first African-American pastor

Terrell Carter, the new pastor of Webster Groves Baptist Church, is a true Renaissance man. He’s a painter, carpenter, construction manager, community activist, former police officer, blog writer and the author of three books published in the past year. And, of course, a pastor with three related degrees.

Read the rest here.

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Thought-provoking Slices of St. Louis History from Julius Hunter: New book tells the story of Priscilla & Babe

Author and broadcaster Julius Hunter has long been enthralled with telling the history of St. Louis, especially the hidden details of the city’s untold stories. Now he’s turned his attention to two former slaves who became millionaire madams in St. Louis’ red light district in the Victorian age.

Read the rest here.

An acceptance at last

June 25, 2015

Writers get used to rejections. We get so used to them, we start to expect them. At least I do.

I’ve been pitching novels since 2000 and freelance nonfiction articles much longer than that. I keep a tracking chart of every query I send out to agents and publishers on each piece. As the rejection letters, post cards and emails roll in, I enter each one on my chart. It’s a process of elimination thing — one down, 900 to go. These days most of the rejections — if you even get one — are in emails. There also are many nonrejection rejections, which I label as “presumed dead” on my tracking chart after getting no response for a few staff logo2

When I see that subject line “re: Query …,” I know it’s another elimination to check off my chart.

Until one day last month. I was on deadline for a newspaper article, so when I saw the telltale subject line, I didn’t open it right away. No need to rush to read another form rejection when I had an article to finish — one that would actually be published and generate dinero.

After I had made my deadline, I finally opened the email. The first sentence just did not compute: “I’ve read your manuscript and I’d love to offer you a publishing contract.” Details about the royalties, price of author’s copies and timing followed.

I read it several times to be sure. Then I put on my Reeboks, slung my water canteen over my shoulder and took a walk. While I walked, I called my sister to tell her the good news:
My novel, The Not-Ready-for-Juilliard Players, will be published in spring 2016 by Rocking Horse Publishing, a small press based in St. Louis. There’s a guide to the book and the characters under the Fiction section at right.

This is my 2010 National Novel Writing Month novel that I’ve mentioned in earlier posts. Since completing the first draft in December 2010, I’ve tweaked and revised and polished and proofed. I’ve had beta readers give suggestions and comments and sent queries to 67 agents and 12 publishers.

Far be it from me to promise success if you just keep at it and keep trying. Many writers, maybe most, never, ever get published no matter how hard they try. Maybe the book isn’t good or maybe it’s great, maybe publishers are afraid to take a chance on a book that may have a limited market. Maybe they want to avoid a hot-button topic (remember The Help, reportedly rejected by more than 60 agents?). Sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw, not querying the right agent or publisher at the right time.

In any case, I’m glad I stuck with it and kept sending out those queries.

My St. Louis — the Gateway (and Cakeway) to the West

March 11, 2015

Amid all the news of civil unrest in the St. Louis area last year, the media lost track of the big positive story — St. Louis was in the midst of a year-long celebration of its 250th anniversary.

Kirkwood Train Station

Part of the celebration — which ran roughly from Feb. 14, 2014 to Feb. 15, 2015 — was a major community art project, the “Cakeway to the West.” Artists created 250 fiberglass birthday cakes to mark 250 historical (or other) points of interest in the St. Louis metro area. The cakes started at 250, but eventually grew to 252 official cakes. Rumor has it there were three or more rotating cakes that appeared in random locations at random times.

Missouri Botanical Garden

Missouri Botanical Garden

The birthday cakes appeared on lawns, sidewalks and plazas at the major cultural institutions, legendary businesses, government buildings, national monuments (e.g., Gateway Arch), schools, historic structures and sports stadiums. Most were decorated to celebrate the specific location. Some of the cakes were auctioned off on New Years Eve, some were still standing, as of March 2015, although the project wrapped up in mid-February. The cakes became the property of the site where they were placed. St. Louisans got behind the project in a big way, some making an effort to see as many cakes as possible in person. Did you miss them? If only there was a way to see all those cakes again. There is! Amateur photographer Matthew S. Nolan decided to take pictures of all the cakes and their locations and publish them in a book. At the request of his publisher, Bluebird Books, I wrote short profiles of each location and did production of the book. (Insert shameless self-promotion here.) 250 Cakes top cover252 Years — 252 Cakes: The Definitive St. Louis 250th Anniversary Cake Book is now available at local bookstores and institutions and, in limited quantities, on Amazon. The 12” x 12” softcover coffee-table book is in full color (of course) and makes a great gift.

Rigazzi's Restaurant

Rigazzi’s Restaurant


Eileen&Matt1 copy

DISCUSSION AND BOOKSIGNING: Matt Nolan and I gave a talk and signed books April 21 at the Maplewood Public Library.

SALE LOCATIONS: The Book House (Maplewood)

Christopher’s (Kirkwood)

Missouri History Museum Gift Shop

The Novel Neighbor

STL Style House (Cherokee Street)

Sweet Boutique (Clayton)

Webster Book Shop

World News (Clayton)

Architecture Institute of America

Women’s Exchange (Clayton)

— Eileen P. Duggan

Book photos by Matt Nolan

Say it ain’t so, Jo!

February 3, 2014

SPOILER ALERT ! Well, maybe not.

Author J.K. Rowling has admitted to Emma Watson, the actress who played Hermione in the Harry Potter films, that maybe she shouldn’t have matched up Hermione and Ron in the end. Furthermore, she suggested that Hermione should have married Harry. Apparently, Ron and Hermione would have needed marriage counseling at some point.Prisoner of Azkaban crop

Well, who doesn’t? As long as Hermione gets to be Minister of Magic someday and Ron stays home with the kids, it could work splendidly.

But seriously, Ms. Rowling, don’t second-guess your masterpiece. You crafted the Ron and Hermione relationship well. From their first meeting on the Hogwarts Express, it was apparent that there was an Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy Pride and Prejudice thing going on. Underneath their nearly constant conflict, Ron and Hermione pined for each other, usually at different times. It was clear early on that Hermione and Harry were never going to be a romantic item, regardless of the fans’ desires.

And Ginny and Harry’s relationship also was destined from the first book, when 10-year-old Ginny was starstruck by Harry the first time he appeared on the Hogwarts Express platform. Like most boys at that age (or any age), Harry was oblivious. But Ginny never gave up. Although Hermione was certainly a gifted witch, Ginny grew into a fabulously talented one, too, with the skill and the heart to match Harry’s own gifts.

In real life, many of us make poor romantic choices. And even when we don’t, good relationships change over the years and some don’t last. The Harry Potter story was never going to be “happily ever after” for every character. Those who lived will grow up and they will live life with the same ups and downs everyone meets.

Leave it alone, Jo.

What if Margaret Mitchell decided later that Scarlett O’Hara should have married Ashley Wilkes after all?

Maybe the aforementioned Elizabeth Bennet should have slapped that sour Mr. Darcy into next week and settled for Mr. Collins.

Did Shakespeare have misgivings about Romeo and Juliet fulfilling their passions? Is there a secret sequel in which it was all a dream, with the pair deciding not to upset the feuding families and Juliet running off with the boy from the balcony next door?

Let it be, Jo.

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