Author Spotlight: Derek Strahan

02233018 - cover_New England

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our Friday Spotlight on author, teacher, and blogger Derek Strahan! Derek will be visiting our store with his newest book, New England, Then and Now, based on his blog, LostNewEngland.com.  He’ll be presenting a slide show at our 65 James Street store on historic Worcester on Saturday, March 17, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.

Thank you so much for being on our blog, Derek! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?

I am an English teacher at The Master’s School in Simsbury, Connecticut, but on the side I run the blog LostNewEngland.com, where I post then-and-now photos along with a description of the historical background of the site, and the changes that have occurred over the years. Aside from the blog, I have written two books, which were both published in 2017: Lost Springfield, Massachusetts, and New England, Then and Now. The first of these books focuses on historic buildings and sites in Springfield that, for the most part, have been demolished or otherwise lost to history, while my second book has a format similar to my blog, with then-and-now photos and short descriptions.

 

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?

I’ve always been interested in local history, dating back to when I was an elementary school student in Monson, Massachusetts. I would pore over the old History of Monson book in the school library, while my classmates were reading things like Goosebumps and The Boxcar Children, and that interest has always stuck with me. I think, for me, part of the draw is being able to give context and significance to even the most seemingly-mundane local places, and to discover new things about familiar places that we may have taken for granted.

 

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

Very important, as the titles of my website and book may suggest. I’ve lived in New England for my entire life, which probably has a lot to do with my love for history in general and local history in particular. Although geographically small, there seems to be an endless amount of material to write about, and seemingly no end to the number of places to explore.

 

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

Aside from my regular blog postings, I am also working on a Lost Berkshires book, which will be similar to my Lost Springfield, Massachusetts book in highlighting lost hotels, mansions, and other landmarks of the Berkshires region. The book currently has a projected release date of spring 2020.

 

What is/are your passions when you’re not writing? How do you make time for your non-writing hobbies/things you love?

My wife, Melissa, and I have a 16-month old son, Isaiah, so the question usually ends up being: when can I make time for writing? I actually wrote New England, Then and Now in about a three-month period, while I was working full-time and taking care of an infant who was only a few months old at the time! But, thanks to a lot of help from my wife – and from our babysitter! – I was able to finish it before my publisher’s deadline.

 

What are some of your writing-related hobbies, crafts, addictions?

Books. I already have way more than I could possibly read in several lifetimes, yet I always feel the need to get more! Along with that, I do a lot of travel and photography for my blog, and I always enjoy taking day trips and getting to explore cities and towns across New England that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited or been able to appreciate in the same way.

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

Lost Springfield, Massachusetts can be ordered through my website, LostNewEngland.com, and it is also available through online booksellers such as Amazon, and in bookstores in the Springfield area. New England, Then and Now can also be ordered online, and it is available in a variety of bookstores throughout the region.

 

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?

My blog, LostNewEngland.com, as well as on Facebook (facebook.com/lostnewengland) and Twitter (@LostNewEngland)

 

Thank you again for being on our blog, Derek! We look forward to having you visit our store on Saturday, March 17, from 1:00 – 3:00 PM to talk about Worcester’s history through your photography!

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Events Buzz: February Vacation Week

Happy February vacation week to our friends in and around Worcester! Looking for something to do with your kids this week? Check out our week of events below!

Thank you to everyone who came out to this month’s Doctor Who Discussion and Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts events! We love seeing our regular faces and new people at these regular events!

THIS WEEK, school’s out for a few days! Want to do something fun with your kids? We’ve got a lot of options for you.

Monday, February 19, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Aquatic Life.

Tuesday, February 20, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Magic Wands.

Wednesday, February 21, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Astronomy.

Thursday: February 22: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Children’s Sing-A-Long.

All children need to be accompanied by an adult for these events—but we try to make sure there are fun things for grown-ups to do with their kids. Come and join in the variety of activities we offer for all ages!

And here’s a sneak peek at March…

Friday, March 3, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss Drop-in Craft and Story Time!

Thursday, March 8, 7:00 – 9:00 PM – The Future of Newspapers; Dan Kennedy’s The Return of the Moguls.

Saturday, March 10, 3:00 – 5:00 PM – Rainbow Readers Discusses Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San.

Thursday, March 15, 7:00 – Doctor Who Discussion Night: Cybermen.

NEW EVENT AND LINK: Saturday, March 17, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Worcester County Then and Now presented by Derek Strahan.

Saturday, March 24, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Lisa Rosinski, YA Author, Speaks and Signs.

Sunday, March 25, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Bharat Babies Children’s Book Authors and Editor.

We’re also already working on events in April, May, and even June! So keep an eye on our Facebook Events Page and our website to plan ahead!

As a reminder, here are our regular events…

Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social, every Monday 7:00 PM (except for when the Free People’s Artists Workshop meets the fourth Monday of the month). Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

The Free People’s Artists Workshop, the fourth Monday of each month from 7:00-9:00 PM. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association. Next meeting is February 26.

Doctor Who Discussion Nights, the third Thursday of every month from 7:00 – 8:00 PM. Join us for a discussion of our favorite science fiction series. Next meeting is March 15.

The Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts is an LGBTQIA book club that will meet once a month, usually on the third Saturdays, from 6:00-8:00 PM. Next meeting SPECIAL DATE AND TIME March 10, 3:00-5:00 PM.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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Author Spotlight: Dan Kennedy

03082018 - Return of the Moguls Bigger

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine our spotlight on Dan Kennedy, who will be visiting our 65 James Street store on Thursday, March 8, at 7:00 PM with his newest book, a look at the current industry of newspapers, The Return of the Moguls.

Dan Kennedy is an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a panelist on WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press.”  He also writes for WGBHNews.org, the Neiman Journalism Lab, and other publications. Previously, he’s written media columns for The Guardian and The Boston Phoenix.

Thank you so much for being interviewed on our blog, Dan. For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you write?  What can readers expect from your books?

In my last book, The Wired City (2013), and in my new book, The Return of the Moguls, I explore how we might save the journalism we need to live in a democratic society at a time when the economic underpinnings of the newspaper business are collapsing due to technological and cultural change. The Wired City focuses on hyerlocal journalism. The Return of the Moguls tells the story of how Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and wealthy financier (and Red Sox principal owner) John Henry are working to reinvent their newspapers — The Washington Post and The Boston Globe, respectively. I also examine why Aaron Kushner, a Boston-area entrepreneur who led a group of investors that bought the Orange County Register in 2012, failed in his quest to rebuild that paper.

 

What kind of research went into writing this book?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?

Essentially The Return of the Moguls required multiple on-the-scene interviews and massive amounts of research. Although I was unable to meet Bezos, who rarely speaks to the press (including Washington Post reporters), I was able to interview the Post’s top two leaders, executive editor Marty Baron and chief technologist Shailesh Prakash. I also interviewed John and Linda Henry and many other Globe executives as well as Kushner and his business partner, Eric Spitz.

My favorite story: In March 2015, I was just about to head out to Orange County to do some interviews when Aaron Kushner finally responded to the messages I had been sending him and agreed to sit down with me. On Tuesday of that week, I was meeting with some folks at the Los Angeles Times when someone rushed over to tell us that Kushner had just been forced out by his board. I immediately emailed Kushner to remind him that we were scheduled to meet the next day and that I hoped he’d consider sitting down with me to tell me what had happened. He decided against it, and for many months he turned down my follow-up invitations. He did finally agree to be interviewed, and proved to be gracious and as candid as he ever gets in two long phone interviews in the fall of 2016.

03082018 - Kennedy, Dan.Photo courtesy of Northeastern University

Photo courtesy of Northeastern University

What was the inspiration for The Return of the Moguls? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspi,ration to the finished book?

It was literally one weekend in August 2013. On a Friday, we all learned that John Henry would buy the Globe from the New York Times Company. That Monday, Bezos announced that he would purchase the Post from the legenday Graham family. Kushner at that point was the toast of the newspaper business for the investments he had made in improving the Register. I thought following the three of them would make an interesting book.

 

What was the biggest challenge in writing and putting out The Return of the Moguls?  How did you overcome that challenge?

By far the biggest challenge was following a rapidly moving target given the long deadlines that characterize book publishing. That was especially the case with the Globe. In March 2017, when I was wrapping up the chapters on the Globe, Henry and his top executives seemed to have a solid plan in place: move the editorial and business offices to downtown Boston and open a new printing plant in Taunton that would be cheaper to operate than the old Dorchester headquarters.

Unfortunately for the Globe, the plan was horrendously executed. For whatever reason, the Taunton plant wasn’t ready. Here we are many months later and the situation still hasn’t been solved. Printing quality is often poor and home delivery is frequently late. I was able to get at many of those problems during the editing and proofreading stages, but it’s an indication of how difficult it can be to write a book about such a rapidly changing situation.

 

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?

I have been working since 1994 as a reporter who specializes in media issues, and that morphed into my research specialty once I joined the faculty at Northeastern in 2005. I hope that people who care about the future of journalism — and, thus, the future of democracy — will be drawn to my work.

Incidentally, The Return of the Moguls is actually my third book. My first, Little People (2003), is a memoir about raising a daughter with dwarfism. What I have enjoyed about all three books is that I was free to do deep research in subjects that interested me.

 

What is your favorite part of being a writer?  Of the whole writing and publishing process?  What do you think has been your greatest lesson in the journey thus far?

Traveling, interviewing people, and doing research is my favorite part, but it’s also more than a little scary. What if you come back empty-handed?

 

What piece of advice would you want to share with other writers?

You cannot make a living writing books. I have been very lucky — I got an advance and a leave of absence from The Boston Phoenix to write Little People, and Northeastern takes research seriously, giving me the time and resources I needed to write The Wired City and The Return of the Moguls. I also had the good fortune to be selected as a Joan Shorenstein Fellow for a semester at Harvard’s Kennedy School. My point is that you need to find someone to subsidize your book-writing. Otherwise you’ll end up in the back of your car feeling for quarters under the seat.

 

How important has the New England setting been to your writing?

I am a native New Englander and can’t imagine living anywhere else. But it has not been important at all to my writing.

 

What has been your favorite adventure during your writing career?

In 2009 I attended a dubious academic conference in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which I thought might be useful for a book project that I later abandoned. While I was there, my friend Danny Schechter — the legendary “News Dissector,” who died a couple of years ago — reported on a protest staged by some young activists who were angry that the authoritarian government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev was proposing measures to censor the internet. I interviewed one of the activists and made her the subject of my column in The Guardian the next week. (With her permission, I should add — I didn’t know what trouble she might get into if I didn’t check.) Needless to say, I have not been invited back.

 

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

I don’t mind writing in a loud coffee shop with music blaring. But if I’m writing at home, I generally prefer quiet.

 

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?

I drink a lot of coffee.

 

What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?

Procrastination, of course. It’s gotten harder over the years. With my last two books, Facebook and Twitter have been constant temptations. What I try to do is tell myself, OK, I’ll write another 100 words, and then I’ll give myself a social-media reward. It’s ridiculous. My New Year’s resolutions for 2018 is to spend less time on social media. I’ve been somewhat successful, I’m happy to say.

 

What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?

I will never be David Halberstam.

 

Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?

No. I’ve never participated in a writing group, for instance, and I wouldn’t want to. I spent most of my career as a newspaper reporter, so I tend not to think of writing as a literary calling that you talk about. It’s just something you do to pay the mortgage.

I don’t mean to sound like an artless hack. I’m teaching a course in opinion journalism this semester, so I assigned William Zinsser’s “On Writing Well” to my students — and re-read it myself for the first time in years. It’s such a great guide, and it has helped reorient my thinking to what might be called first principles. My last few columns for WGBH, I think, have been simpler and more direct as a result of my reacquaintance with Zinsser.

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

My blog, Media Nation, located at dankennedy.net, links to all my work.

 

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?

In addition to my blog, you can follow me on Twitter at @dankennedy_nu; on my public Facebook feed at facebook.com/dan.kennedy.355744; and on Instagram at dankennedy_nu.

 

Thank you, again, for joining us, Dan! We look forward to having you at our 65 James Street store on Thursday, March 8,  at 7:00 PM to talk more about journalism, newspapers, and The Return of the Moguls.

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Events Buzz: Valentine’s Week

02122017 - Healy-Yang blog pic

Happy Valentine’s Day this week!

Do you have a sweetheart who loves books? Buy them the perfect gift—or get them a gift certificate so they can pick out the next book they will love!

Thank you to everyone who came out to see Les Johnson and Sharon Healy-Yang this week!  We had a lot of fun at both events.  We geeked out about space, science, and more with Les, and Sharon brought us mystery, history, and style! If you weren’t able to make it, we do have a few signed copies of both authors’ books still in the store, so come and grab them. (Maybe your Valentine needs a good science fiction or mystery in their life!)

Whether you’ve got a Valentine to celebrate with or not, we still do have events you’ll love happening this week…

THIS THURSDAY, February 15, 7:00 PM we have our Doctor Who Discussion Night: The Daleks!

Let’s talk about the Daleks—the Doctor’s enemies that we have loved to hate from Classic Who to new Who! EXTERMINATE some time on your calendar to join us.

And THIS SATURDAY, February 17, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, join us for Rainbow Readers Discusses Peter Darling by Austin Chant.

We have copies of this book already in the store so you can be prepared to talk about this transgender take on the classic Peter Pan tale.

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

And NEXT WEEK is school vacation week, so we’ve got some fun daytime evennts for families!

Monday-Thursday, February 19-22 – February Vacation Fun!

Monday, February 19, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Aquatic Life.

Tuesday, February 20, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Magic Wands.

Wednesday, February 21, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Astronomy.

Thursday: February 22: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Children’s Sing-A-Long.

And here’s a sneak peek at March…

Friday, March 3, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss Drop-in Craft and Story Time!

Thursday, March 8, 7:00 – 9:00 PM – The Future of Newspapers; Dan Kennedy’s The Return of the Moguls.

Saturday, March 10, 3:00 – 5:00 PM – Rainbow Readers Discusses Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San.

NEW LISTING & LINK: Thursday, March 15, 7:00 – Doctor Who Discussion Night: Cybermen.

Saturday, March 24, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Lisa Rosinski, YA Author, Speaks and Signs.

Sunday, March 25, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Bharat Babies Children’s Book Authors and Editor.

We’re also already working on events in April, May, and even June! So keep an eye on our Facebook Events Page and our website to plan ahead!

As a reminder, here are our regular events…

Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social, every Monday 7:00 PM (except for when the Free People’s Artists Workshop meets the fourth Monday of the month). Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

The Free People’s Artists Workshop, the fourth Monday of each month from 7:00-9:00 PM. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association. Next meeting is February 26.

Doctor Who Discussion Nights, the third Thursday of every month from 7:00 – 8:00 PM. Join us for a discussion of our favorite science fiction series. Next meeting is February 15.

The Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts is an LGBTQIA book club that will meet once a month, usually on the third Saturdays, from 6:00-8:00 PM. Next meeting February 17.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

 

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Author Spotlight: Krista Davis

02092018 - Color Me Murder hi res

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine their Friday Spotlight on mystery author, Krista Davis!

Thank you so much for the interview, Krista! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?

This may be the hardest question of all! ; )

I write three mystery series. Color Me Murder will be the first book in the Pen & Ink mystery series. The protagonist runs a bookstore by day and draws adult coloring books by night. To make it all the more fun, you can color the covers of the book!

My longest running series is the Domestic Diva Mysteries. After a one year hiatus, the eleventh book, The Diva Cooks Up a Storm will be out in May. But don’t think you have to be a diva or a fancy cook to enjoy these books about a group of friends in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.

If dogs and cats are your thing, you might enjoy my Paws & Claws Mysteries featuring Trixie the Jack Russell with a nose for trouble (or more precisely—dead people) and Twinkletoes, the long-haired calico cat. The animals don’t speak in my books, but they do know how to follow the scent of murder.

 

What kind of research goes into writing your books?  What is your favorite research story? What cool facts and findings didn’t make it into the book, but you loved discovering?

I think most people would be surprised by how much research goes into each of my books. It’s not always apparent. Sometimes a subject can be covered by one sentence, but in order to get that sentence right, I have to learn about the subject in detail.

In Color Me Murder, there’s a scene where an author informs an audience that if their homes were built before a certain year, they probably had a dead person in their houses. And then she goes on to explain the origin of the words “undertaker” and “funeral home.” I have to admit that I had wondered why we call mortuaries “funeral homes.” I won’t spoil the scene by telling you! It was information that I stumbled upon and found so fascinating that I had to include it in the book. In the acknowledgements, you’ll see my thanks to the gentleman whose research enlightened me. He was very excited that I planned to use his information.

My favorite research was for The Diva Haunts the House. I live not too far from an old abandoned sanatorium that is now a haunted house at Halloween. My dad, who had passed away, worked there once, so I was interested in going to the allegedly haunted building. A friend was kind enough to go with me. Despite the creepy dilapidated condition, huge moldings and elegant stairs remain, which gave us a clue that it was once a very lovely building. I snapped pictures as we went on our tour. When we left, I asked my friend if she had seen any ghosts. She hadn’t. She had only appreciated what was once a beautiful building. Alas, I didn’t see any ghosts, either.

The following year as I prepared blogs for the book, I pulled up the photos and went through them one by one. To my complete shock, the picture I had taken in my father’s department had a misty little cloud hanging in the air. There’s nothing in that room anymore except for a wall-mounted cabinet. The door of the cabinet had swung open and the mist was in front of it, so I knew it wasn’t a blotch on the wall. We may have encountered a ghost after all!

 

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

The Domestic Divas will be back in May! I’m so excited to be writing about Sophie and her friends again. I’m crossing my fingers that my readers will like the book.

 

While you’re writing, do you prefer music, silence, other? Please elaborate!

Silence, please. I get so immersed in the book that I have actually missed putting out the trash to be picked up because it was Sunday in the book and I was convinced that it was Sunday in real life. Voices on the TV or elsewhere distract me. I don’t think I’d be good at writing in a café because I would people watch instead of writing.

 

Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work.  Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?

Since I write the Paws & Claws mysteries in which Trixie the Jack Russell terrier finds bodies, my furry companions are a very big help. They’re often rascally, and like to give me ideas for books. My own Jack Russell, Buttercup, was the inspiration for Trixie. Twinkletoes, the cat in the Paws & Claws books, is based on my long-haired calico, Little Miss Sunshine. I also have a large black lab mix, Baron. The most recent member of the family is Twinkie, a tabby with peach patches. Readers of Color Me Murder will recognize her as the cat named Peaches.

 

Do you have any favorite foods or drinks that must be in the vicinity (or must be avoided) while you’re writing or editing a piece of work?

I cannot even think without my mug of hot English Breakfast tea with a little sugar and milk. Even in the summer. I often find myself noshing on a little something. If I’m being very good, it’s Pumpkin Seed Cheddar Crispbread. When I’m indulging myself (because characters and plots don’t always do what I’d like) then I reach for Ritter Sport milk chocolate with coconut (which is surprisingly difficult to find!).

 

Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?

If you’re writing mysteries, Sisters in Crime, and especially their Guppy Chapter, are wonderful. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the Guppies are always happy to help. Many of your favorite authors have been members of the Guppies.

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

Many bookstores carry my books. You should definitely check with ABSW. If they don’t have the book you want, they can probably order it for you. If you’re shipping internationally, try Book Depository.

 

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?

 

LOL! There’s nothing creepy about keeping up with an author.

My website is always a good place to start. http://www.KristaDavis.com 

Transferring everything to a new computer sent my website into a tizzy recently. If it looks weird, I promise that we’re working on it and trying to figure out what went wrong.

 

I’m available on all kinds of social media, too.

http://www.facebook.com/KristaDavisAuthor

pinterest.com/kristadavisbook

twitter.com/kristadavis

instagram.com/kristadavisauthor/

 

I can also be found on the following blogs.

mysteryloverskitchen.com

killercharacters.com

 

Thank you so much, Krista, for the great interview!  Did this interview whet your mouth for a little mystery?  We’ve got Krista’s books in stock for you to check out!

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Events Buzz: Happy February

02102018 - Letters Dead Man Wraparound

Happy February! Apparently, we could or could not have another six weeks of winter weather depending on which groundhog you listen to… and we’ve got another snow storm allegedly heading toward us this week, anyway. Historically—at least for the past few years—February has been particularly snowy in our area, so if you don’t want to leave your house but want some new reading material, you can actually order from us—your LOCAL bookstore! We have a mail order system, and we can send books directly to your home.  Give us a call at 508-796-5613 or check out our website for details.

Thank you to everyone who came out to humorist Faith Lucille’s Do You Need to Laugh? event this Saturday!  We had a wonderful time with everybody. Faith left us a few more books if you missed the event and want to check out her humorous collection of memoir essays, so stop in if you need to brighten your day.

We’ve got even more coming up…

THIS TUESDAY, TOMORROW, February 6, 6:00 – 8:00 PM, we’re excited to host Les Johnson, NASA Engineer and SF Author.

Les Johnson is a husband, father, physicist, manager, and author of science fiction / science fact.  In his “day job” he works in the Science and Technology Office at the NASA George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama where he serves as the Solar Sail Principal Investigator for NASA’s first interplanetary solar sail mission, the Near Earth Asteroid Scout.

Mission to Methone takes place in 2065, where Chris Holt, working in his office at the Space Resources Corporation, discovers that one of the asteroids he is surveying for mining is actually not an asteroid at all but a derelict spaceship. Across the galaxy, a war between alien civilizations has been underway for millennia–about what should be done about emerging spacefaring civilizations like our own. The artificial intelligence resident in the derelict Holt discovered has been in our solar system since before the dawn of human civilization, watching, waiting and keeping quiet lest the interstellar war return and wipe out the sentient race that now resides there—humanity. But that war may still arrive at our front door. The truth can only be discovered on Methone, a tiny, egg-shaped moon of the planet Saturn. Who will get there first?  And will it be in time?

And next Saturday, February 10, 1:00 – 3:00 PM, we’re happy to announce that Sharon Healy-Yang returns to ABSW with her newest noir mystery, Letters from a Dead Man.

Sharon Healy-Yang is passionate about mysteries from the golden age, whether in a book or on screen. Her fascination with mysteries and the 1940s drives her pleasure in crafting novels that recapture the wit, adenture, and suspense of the era. Known on the campus where she teaches as the lady with the 1940s hats, she has the great fortune to combine her love of literature and film in courses aimed to enkindle that same excitement in her students. Healy-Yang lives in Massachusetts with her husband two cats and an enormous collection of vintage films.

Also in February…

Thursday, February 15, 7:00 PM – Doctor Who Discussion Night: The Daleks!

Let’s talk about one of the top fan-favorite enemies that have EXTERMINATED their way through many episodes of Classic and New Doctor Who!

Saturday, February 17, 6:00 – 8:00 PM – Rainbow Readers Discusses Peter Darling by Austin Chant.

We have copies of this book already in the store so you can be prepared to talk about this transgender take on the classic Peter Pan tale.

Monday-Thursday, February 19-22 – February Vacation Fun!

School’s out for a few days! Want to do something fun with your kids? We’ve got a lot of options for you.

Monday, February 19, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Aquatic Life.

Tuesday, February 20, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Magic Wands.

Wednesday, February 21, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM – Drop-In Craft: Astronomy.

Thursday: February 22: 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Children’s Sing-A-Long.

And here’s a sneak peek at March…

NEW LISTING AND NEW LINK: Friday, March 3, 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM – Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss Drop-in Craft and Story Time!

Thursday, March 8, 7:00 – 9:00 PM – The Future of Newspapers; Dan Kennedy’s The Return of the Moguls.

Saturday, March 10, 3:00 – 5:00 PM – Rainbow Readers Discusses Bingo Love by Tee Franklin, Jenn St-Onge, and Joy San.

NEW LISTING & LINK: Thursday, March 15, 7:00 – Doctor Who Discussion Night: Cybermen.

Saturday, March 24, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Lisa Rosinski, YA Author, Speaks and Signs.

NEW EVENT: Sunday, March 25, 1:00 – 3:00 PM – Bharat Babies Children’s Book Authors and Editor.

We’re also already working on events in April, May, and even June! So keep an eye on our Facebook Events Page and our website to plan ahead!

As a reminder, here are our regular events…

Spinning Yarns Craft and Audiobook Social, every Monday 7:00 PM (except for when the Free People’s Artists Workshop meets the fourth Monday of the month). Bring a craft and enjoy an audiobook or audio drama with other crafty booklovers!

The Free People’s Artists Workshop, the fourth Monday of each month from 7:00-9:00 PM. Networking and feedback from other artists and creators of all types. Co-sponsored by the Worcester County Poetry Association. Next meeting is February 26.

Doctor Who Discussion Nights, the third Thursday of every month from 7:00 – 8:00 PM. Join us for a discussion of our favorite science fiction series. Next meeting is February 15.

The Rainbow Readers of Massachusetts is an LGBTQIA book club that will meet once a month, usually on the third Saturdays, from 6:00-8:00 PM. Next meeting February 17.

May your world be filled with wonderful words!

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Author Spotlight: Les Johnson

02062018 - Johnson Mission Cover

Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is excited to shine their Friday Spotlight on author and NASA engineer Les Johnson, who will be visitng our 65 James Steet store with his latest book, Mission to Methone on Tuesday, February 6, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM.

Les Johnson is a husband, father, writer and scientist. He revels in creativity – both technical (he holds three patents) and artistic (he has published four novels). In his day job, he works for NASA at the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL where he is the Principal Investigator of the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission that will launch in 2019.  This is a big week for Les, with the simultaneous publication of his latest novel, Mission to Methone, from Baen Books and Graphene: The Superstrong, Superthin, and Superversatile Material That Will Revolutionize the World, from Prometheus Books.

Thank you so much for joining us on our blog, Les. Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing?

My post-childhood life has been circular, beginning with voracious reading of science fiction and popular science books as an adolescent and young adult, leading me to a career in physics and space science at NASA, and now into writing science fiction and popular science books to (hopefully) inspire the next generation.  I was born in Ashland, KY where my family instilled in me a love of learning and the belief that I could do anything in life that I was willing to work hard to achieve.  At age twelve, I decided to become a scientist and work for NASA.  I earned a BA at Transylvania University, a small liberal arts college in Lexington, KY and an MS in physics from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.  From there, I moved to Huntsville, AL where I met my wife, Carol, and raised our two children, Carl and Leslie.  Soon after moving there, I was hired by NASA.  I’ve had the good fortune to work on multiple space flight projects, including my current one, the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, which will launch in 2019 to study an asteroid as it passes 80 million miles from Earth.  I began writing in 2007 and have published roughly a book a year since then – some fiction, some non-fiction.

 

What was the inspiration for [newest release/series release is part of/spotlighted release]? What were the steps you took to bring it from initial inspiration to the finished book?

The idea for Mission to Methone came to me at work (NASA) during a rather arduous Risk Management Meeting for the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout project. Basically, these are the meetings where we brainstorm all the possible things that could go wrong during the space flight mission. One of the serious items discussed was the possibility that our target asteroid was not an asteroid at all, but rather an old rocket booster orbiting the Sun after being discarded during one the Apollo missions to the Moon. Of course, that made me wonder what it would be like if we arrived at the asteroid and found that it was instead an alien spaceship!

This, combined with my fascination of Saturn’s exotic, newly-discovered egg-shaped moon, Methone, quickly jelled in my mind as a classic first contact story. But I wanted to do more than just tell a story of first contact. I wanted to make the reader think about one of the greatest scientific mysteries of our time – why do we not see any signs of intelligent life around other stars? In such a vast universe filled with stars and planets, surely, we are not alone.  But where are they???

Lastly, I wanted to write a story featuring a primary character who is on the Autism Spectrum. Chris Holt, the protagonist, is that person. I never use the word, “autism.”  I’m counting on my readers to figure it out!

02022018 - Les at TEDx close-up

What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?

The beauty of science fiction as a genre is its scope.  Any story that takes place in a futuristic or technology-enabled setting can be considered science fiction – detective stories, love stories, military adventure, and horror can all be written within the scope of science fiction. The ones I like are those that ask the reader, “what if?”  I love books that make me think about what it means to be human, alive today, and what our world might be like tomorrow.

 

What else can we expect from you in the near future?

My frequent co-author, Travis Taylor, and I recently signed a 3-book contract with Baen Books about our first journey to a planet circling another star. It will be a First Contact story and a tear-jerker rolled into one. You can expect lots of action, a challenge to your assumptions about the origins of life on Earth and our place in the universe, and hopefully, an entertaining read. I’ve also signed a contract for a popular-science, non-fiction book about Alien Megastructures. (Both those we might someday soon build in space and those that aliens, if they exist, might be building somewhere ‘out there.’)

 

What does your writing space look like? What do you need to have around you while writing or editing?

I write in our den, converted into what I call a library and my wife calls, “The Man Cave.”  I use a laptop computer perched on a cubby-covered antique desk. (I love desks with cubbies!) In front of me is an 18” model of the USS Enterprise from the original Star Trek series, photos of my family, and a small cardboard cutout of Carl Sagan. Behind me on the fireplace mantle are model spaceships from the original Star Wars movie and a metal toy airplane that belonged to my father when he was a boy in the 1930’s. Our dog, Panda, is usually at my feet. It is a cozy place to write.

I don’t edit on my computer. I am a bit old school, so I print out the manuscript and make notes on the paper that I then go back to the computer to change or update. I also don’t like to edit at my desk. I have a lot of energy, so I usually find someplace where I can pace as I read the printouts and make notes.

 

What do you consider the most challenging part of the writing process? And how do you overcome that?

The most challenging part of writing is…writing. Since I am employed full time, I must carve writing time out of the rest of my day. Like many writers, procrastination is my enemy! So, to overcome the tendency to not write, I set aside dedicated writing time each week, almost never the same from week to week, and take advantage of long work-related airplane flights to break out the laptop and create.

 

Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)

My books are available in print and as eBooks at the usual online sources.  You can easily find my technical work using Google Scholar (scholar.google.com).

 

How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?

To keep up with the cool projects I work on in my day job at NASA, I recommend people register and follow me on ResearchGate.net.  Given that what I work on during the day often spins off into my writing, both fiction and non-fiction, it is a great place to start.  I’m not much of a blogger, but I do use Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/LesJohnsonAuthor/).

 

Thank you, again, for the great interview, Les!  We look forward to seeing you THIS TUESDAY, February 6, from 6:00 – 8:00 PM, at our 65 James Street “bigger on the inside” bookstore!

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