Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Want to write? Write a letter today.

I was finishing grade seven, already "a peck of trouble," as my Kentucky forebears might have said. So my parents and I agreed that I would leave Nenana, AK, and travel to private school near Sewanee, TN. A darn long way away.

I would stay there, fall to spring, not come home ... spend school vacations with relatives in Ohio and Kentucky. Nine months away is a long time when you're twelve or thirteen.

I didn't count on being homesick. Whew! I would have laughed at the notion. I found myself not only not laughing, but for the first week or so, surreptitiously weeping.

Suddenly, the idea of getting a letter from home became very important.

Checking the mail.

Back in Nenana, a very kind woman, Mrs. Heacock, kept a cookie jar filled. My mom wasn't so keen on baking cookies because people kept eating them. Not so Mrs. Heacock. She didn't seem to mind that any route I took, from any part of town to another, included a path through her kitchen. 

I mention this because at St. Andrews, any path to anywhere took me through the main entry of the main building, where the mailboxes were. They were just like the post office, brass fronts with little glass windows and combination dials. Although the mail only came in once a day, and only on weekdays, I never passed—on any day—without checking for a letter from home. 

What's special about a letter.

My father was a great letter writer. Mom was good, too, but less frequent. Dad typed his letters, usually two pages, usually weekly. What did he write? Anything, everything. What he was doing, thinking, planning. Who he ran into at Coghill's store, how deep the snow was, anything about my dog, what he read, what he fixed around the house. Anything was fair game. 

Later when I was first married, Patti and I lived outside Bellingham with our one-year-old. We were attending Western, and even though she was from nearby Seattle—not so far—we still hung on those weekly letters from Alaska. Dad could write about going to the grocery, shopping for dinner, and we'd read it aloud to each other, pleased and relieved to have someone on the other end of that lifeline. 

What letters mean.

I still go out each day, with interest, to check the mail ... "snail mail," as they say in Harry Potter, as opposed to air mail, which is delivered by owl. 

I'm not really getting letters anymore, unless my name has become "occupant" or "current resident." But old habits die hard. 

So the one writing letters is me. No paper, necessarily. But I am a ferocious sender of letters by email. The heck with 140 characters, or typing with my thumbs. With all my digits in play, I can blast out a whole letter in ten or fifteen minutes. 

I don't write as much as I used to. The kids are grown, not homesick, and their reading time is limited. But I try to send out a paper letter now and again. When I'm gone, and I will be, sooner than they think, a paper letter from me will look pretty good. Just as the regrettable few that exist from my dad look to me. 

Take ten minutes and write a letter today.

When you send a letter, in any form, you send a tiny bit of the essence of yourself. It's saying "I love you" the true way—time and caring—without having to include any funny little symbols or faces, though you can, of course. 

You don't have to say anything great, because anything you say IS great. Where you went, what you did, what you thought ... what great scheme you're hatching. Plans, dreams, feelings. 

Go ahead. Take ten minutes today. And I hope you liked this one from me. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Check out this new "Cheechako" review!

on February 27, 2017
In this adventure story set in the wilds of Alaska’s interior, Jonathan Thomas Stratman writes with authenticity, reflecting the many years he spent there. This coming of age story deals with Will, a newcomer--or Cheechako--who tries to fit into his new, unfamiliar environment. He has come from Boston to the small village of Nenana, where he is bullied by the local boys at Nenana Public School. But one of the locals, Elias Charlie, a “tough Indian kid,” befriends him, and together they prove their mettle in the Alaskan wilderness, braving blinding snowstorms, hungry wolves, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

What a great read for the 4th grade through middle school adventure story lover--and the reluctant reader. The action is non-stop in this page turner. It will not disappoint!

Thanks, Nick!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

I'm still sleeping with my editor.

Billie M. Judy, Ace Editor

And she's a cutie!

She's also a terrific editor. 

When we were first married, she worked for a weekly newspaper printer, proofing and fine-tuning the ads for not just one, but five or six newspapers. And she was really, really good at it. 

She can look at a manuscript page and spot the extra or missing punctuation, or an extra space. Not me. I'm a fast reader, a "whole page" kind of guy. For me to see a typo, it has to be anchored to an elephant wearing a blinking neon arrow. Here. Here. Here.

The first full book she edited, way back then, included a forward by Jacqueline Onassis. Nice way to begin. And I've lost track of how many she's edited since then. 

Self-publishing is like doing your own dental work.

Most of us have had a bad first experience trying to read a self-published book. Somebody says, "take a look at my book, I wrote my heart out on it." So you take it home and try to dig in. 

Much of the time the book sucks. Often because it hasn't been edited properly. There isn't a book out there that doesn't need an editor.  Skipping the editing is not a good way to save money. When a writer looks at a page, he or she sees what was intended ... not what ended up on the page. 

"Thank you so much for Father Hardy!! I'm in love." 

This note came to me out of the blue on Facebook, this week. I've been publishing my own work for about four years, am about to publish my sixth novel, and notes like these are among the big rewards. 

Unlike Harper Collins and other big-five publishers, I don't have an assigned book publicist, don't have the guaranteed book-store tour, professional press-releases, a brace of cover artists ... I have myself and Billie. 

I feel lucky. 

I also have you. People who take a chance on a self-published book, and then maybe do a review, tell a friend, or tell a librarian or a teacher. From trusted pre-readers, to people who help me create book covers, to people I don't even know, who spread the word. Thanks for that!

Curious? This will take you directly to Amazon where you can read thirty pages of any of my books for free. : JTS Book Link

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Check Smashwords for ALL eBook Formats!

Now ... read in any ebook format!

If you're an ebook reader, or know someone who is ... now you can enjoy or gift all three books in the Cheechako Alaska Adventure Series on any ebook format. 

You can read ebooks on your personal computer, or download to Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, to the Kindle, Kindle Fire, to the Barnes & Noble Nook, or to Kobo. 

And get any book in the series for $2.99 or less. 

Here's a favorite recent Amazon review: 

on October 31, 2016
This is an excellent book for young adults and adults alike. Who doesn’t like a story about friendship, family, 
and a dog? It has adventure and struggle with those issues so many of us have faced in life as a young adult 
where everything seems like a crisis and as an adult when certain events taking over your life are a crisis. 
I found myself right there with Will, relating to the issues of feeling alone at times when young and moving into
adult situations you could never imagine you would face. If you want a book that will make you just keep 
reading, this is one for you. The only regret will be when you’ve reached the end of the book and realize you
haven’t yet bought its sequel - - Float Monkeys.

If you ever dreamed of outdoor adventure, these books are for you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I love a bookstore. You should too.

Imprint Book Store, Port Townsend WA. Photo by Nancy Botta

I have a mental image of a bookstore. 

It is much like the Nancy Botta photo above, a cozy place on an inviting street and, just at dusk, the light shines out golden, as if to say "come on in." 

Inside, the exotic scent of dry paper and printer's ink, invites—beckons—and the comfortable busy clutter of too many books, many of them calling out ... "look at me." 

Some of the world's smartest and most interesting people, from all ages, are shelved here, waiting to whisper their truths, their secrets into our eyes, into our hearts, memories and lives. 

My very first bookstore

You never forget your first one. Oh, okay, I don't remember the name, I was about ten. We had come back to Cambridge where my father attended the Episcopal Theological School and Harvard. My brothers and I attended running wild across acres of campus lawns in an area where history still lived. 

A fence I jumped over put me into Longfellow's garden! No, he wasn't there. Richard Henry Dana lived around the corner ... well, used to. These streets and sidewalks knew their tread.

My first bookstore stood off Harvard Square, in memory, much as described above. We were about to drive back across country to our home in Nenana, AK, and each of us could choose a book for the trip. Esther Forbes lived up the street, and I often passed Paul Revere's shop. Some of those old buildings still had bullet holes, they claimed.

So I chose Forbes "Johnny Tremain," the tale that encompassed youth, adventure, Paul Revere and the American Revolution, to read on my way. I think I probably read it about ten times in the next few years and have it still. 

Yes, this is it. A little ragged.

With Christmas almost here ... 

It's worth mentioning that someone you know, whom you can't think of a thing to buy for, would enjoy something from a bookstore. 

Not every area has a small, independent bookstore anymore, though I understand they are coming back. But that's where to start, if you can. 

Sadly, you won't find my books there. I'm unknown as writers go. It takes a bit of a 'name' to be worthy of shelf space limits and I don't have it. But it's something I enjoy aspiring to. 

But wherever you are, resolve that this year you'll take the kids or grandkids into a real bookstore, and let them wander. Let them explore, discover, make a memory they can take down and enjoy, like this one, more than half a century later. And let them remember you in it. 

Happy Christmas. Happy reading!

Monday, December 12, 2016

This Christmas, give adventure.

Three different adventures for readers, age 10 through adult

Treat your readers to three complete volumes of Alaska adventure. Books one and three, "Cheechako," and "Musher!" take place in Alaska's wild interior, the area of Nenana and Fairbanks. They're chock full of dogsleds, blizzards, wolves, grizzly bears, survival and even a tiny bit of romance.

"Float Monkeys," in this case boys—and girls—who work for a float plane service in Southeast Alaska, showcases an entirely different Alaska. 

Set near Sitka, Will, Elias and Blackie get caught up in a world of float planes and pilots, a Sitka logging show, and new friends who live on boats and in logging camps. When trouble comes—and it does—get set for edge-of-seat adventure sorting it all out ... and hope you don't have to get up early the next morning. 

Get the paperback set for $30 on Amazon. Here is the link. Later, if you'd like them signed, I'm happy to do that. 

Finally, thanks to all of you who have been readers, reviewers, and supporters. This is a tough business to get off the ground, and thanks to you, I'm airborne.

Monday, December 5, 2016

For a limited time ... "Cheechako," FREE

From now through December 31, a free ebook

I'm so sure you'll want to read all three books in the Cheechako series, here's a digital copy of the first one, free. 

The Cheechako series is written for age 10 - forever ... really!

Use the book for your own enjoyment, or if you're planning to give an e-reader, no matter what brand, including Kindle and Nook, it only makes sense to also include a great 'read.' 

"Cheechako" is the exciting, sometimes heart-thumping story of Will who comes out to Alaska from Boston. He has a lot to learn and not much time to learn it. 

You can even read 20% of the book for free on Smashwords.
Here is the link: Cheechako Series on Smashwords

There's a free copy waiting for you. To get the book, you'll be prompted to enter this code: VT96R 

And, as always, I would love to read your review, posted in Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, or Goodreads.

If you have any trouble with this, at all, be sure to let me know right away.