by Del Staecker
We are delighted to welcome novelist Del Staecker as our first guest of the new year.
Del's most recent book, Tales of Tomasewski (Musa Publishing, October 2012 ebook formats), is the first in a new series featuring Jake Thompson aka Jan Tomasewski, Chicago's best rogue cop.
Today Del tells us when short goes long, down becomes up, and characters come alive. And he is also giving one of our readers a chance to win a copy of Tales of Tomasewski (details below).
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For me, writing can be an exciting rollercoaster ride with dramatic ups and downs. Quite often the feeling of satisfaction and the thrill of creating a written work is followed by rejection notices and life at the bottom of an emotional trough. Good stuff can quickly go bad and vice versa. I've found that keeping a positive attitude is paramount because, when things go astray, the outcome can be much better than anything originally anticipated.
Photo provided courtesy of
In that vein, allow me to share one example of how one of my disappointments turned around.
Two years ago I received a request to provide a short story for an upcoming anthology sponsored by the International Association of Crime Writers. I am a member of IACW and although I had never written and submitted a short story anywhere I decided to give it a try.
For quite some time I had been saving an idea, based upon an actual situation, for insertion into a crime novel. I knew the story of a man who had faked being handicapped and lived quite well off of handouts, so well that he retired in a warm clime with loads of assets. I decided to use this faker as the basis of the short story I would submit. Penning this short story was a new experience for me in several ways. The point of view was to be first person, and Chicago's Southside, where I was born and raised, would be its setting. Thus, "Blind One-Legged Johnny" was written.
After six months of waiting, I was informed that my submission was one of twelve selected for the anthology. I was pleased and figured, wrongly, that the new book would soon appear on bookshelves. Over another eighteen months the project experienced misfortunes, delays, contract disputes, rebirth and, ultimately a very final death. The ride was just as I said above — from the crest to the trough.
Question: How did it turn around? Answer: The characters, they did it themselves.
Principally, Jake Thompson, aka Jan Tomasewski, the sort-of-hero that chases after the sort-of-bad guy in the initial story. Jake was vibrant, and he attracted other interesting characters. While I traversed the ups and downs of the publishing world Jake and his friends went on more adventures. While waiting, I wrote a dozen short stories chronicling his police cases, and instead of having one dead short story I soon had twelve interlocking cases that became a book.
Remember how I said writing has its ups and downs?
If the anthology had succeeded I would not have been able to pitch my complete book because the beginning story which introduced my main character would be missing. The failure of the initial project, one that I had waited on for two years, was my good fortune.
In the end I not only found a publisher for my book — I signed to do three. Some characters are just that good! And, I am pleased to invite you to follow the exploits of Jake Thompson in Tales of Tomasewski.
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As a storyteller Del Staecker was greatly influenced by the people and events of his youth. Born and raised in Blue Island on Chicago's Southside, where hoboes camped in the family's yard and colorful visitors slept on their sofa, he often visited his Uncle Erling "the Birdman of Chicago" in Old Town at his Sedgwick Studio which was a stop-off for Beat Generation artists and notables such as writer Jack Kerouac, poet Alan Ginsberg, and singer/song writer Bob Dylan. Like the hobos of his youth, Del has lived a rambling life, traveled widely, experienced much, and developed his storytelling skills. Through his characters he dissects modern life with the eye of an anthropologist while telling tales that are both marvelously entertaining and deceptively profound.
Learn more about Del and his books on his website, DelStaecker.com.
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Tales of Tomasewski
An excerpt …
Jimmie's Diner has a feel all its own. The worn wood and patched pseudo-leather of the booths catch and hold smells in a truly unique manner; just as the counter tops, windows, and walls bounce and echo sound like no other occupied space on the planet. Toss in Jimmie's clientele and you have an urban martini mixed by God in his favorite dented shaker.
I know what you are thinking. "Jake, every joint is special to its regulars."
That may be true. But what does truth have to do with the atmosphere at Jimmie's? Everything, I suppose. But nobody comes to Jimmie's just for the food.
It was noon on a Tuesday in June. I was finishing breakfast and just about to ease into my day. I was deep into the Trib's daily whine on why the Cubs perpetually fail when the atmosphere in Jimmie's changed. The temperature rose, yokes broke on an over-easy order, Earline dropped a cup of Joe. I caught a whiff of her. In an instant I was a couple of decades into my past.
"Same perfume," I whispered. Peeking over the top of my paper, I added, "Long time no see," just as she slid into the opposite side of my booth.
"Yes," she purred, "it has been a long time—too long, Jano." She flipped back her hair and wiggled away from a fur jacket that cost more than I could drink in a decade.
For a chance to win a copy of Tales of Tomasewski, courtesy of the author, visit Mystery Book Contests, click on the "Del Staecker: Tales of Tomasewski" contest link, enter your name, e-mail address, and this code — 8014 — for a chance to win! (One entry per person, US residents only. Contest ends January 10th, 2013.)