The author is donating $1 from every soft cover sale of this book to the Elyssa’s Mission, a Northbrook, Illinois-based not-for-profit foundation that provides help, support and suicide prevention programs to prevent teen suicide. Donations will help to fund the Mission's Signs of Suicide Program, which they currently provide to junior and high schools in Illinois.

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Entries in Cheeseland (9)


Writer's Delight

Wow. A hip hop legend – one of my musical heroes – has been referenced in connection to my novel, Cheeseland. How did this happen?

First, let me step back in time. The year is 1980, the same time when the first part of Cheeseland is set, and my ears are introduced to a new musical sound.  The song, now a hip hop classic, is by a trio called The Sugarhill Gang.  Back then we had these parties in the basement of a friend’s house in Chicago Heights, in the south ‘burbs of Chicago.  We would drink. And we would dance. And this song by The Sugarhill Gang, Rapper’s Delight, became our party anthem.  Here we were a bunch of white suburban teens dancing to a song that basically paved the way for rap music.  I still have the original vinyl album stashed away in a box in my garage.

Now jump to today. About six months ago I am introduced to Cyrus Webb, host of BlogTalkRadio’s Conversations Live!  He interviews me on his program and then in his Conversations Magazine writes one of my favorite reviews of Cheeseland. So I begin advertising on his program. He records a beautiful advertisement for the book.

Then I hear that two of the members of The Sugarhill Gang, Wonder Mike and Master Gee, are going to be on Cyrus’s radio show, promoting a new movie about their life, I Want My Name Back, and that my book ad would be featured during the interview with Wonder Mike, who opens Rapper’s Delight. I’m sure you can recite the words just like I can:

Now what you hear is not a test – I'm rappin to the beat

and me, the groove, and my friends are gonna try to move your feet

See I am Wonder Mike and I’d like to say hello

To the black, to the white, the red, and the brown, the purple and yellow.

So I'm listening to Cyrus’ interview with Wonder Mike this morning, and it’s fascinating.  And then he takes a break and I hear the ad for my book, and I smile.  This is pretty cool, I’m thinking.  But then it gets better. Way better.  When Cyrus returns to the air and when he is making the connection between Wonder Mike and Master Gee and all that they’ve been through over the years, he references Cheeseland and how it’s story of the friendship of two teen-age boys and all their trials and tribulations can be likened to the story of Wonder Mike and Master Gee.  My mouth literally drops.

Life is full of surprises.  Some are good and some are bad.  Some are incredibly cool.  This one fits into that incredibly cool category.  You know that I’m going to be rappin’ to the beat all day long now.

Listen to internet radio with Cyrus Webb Presents on BlogTalkRadio

On the road again

After a nearly two-month rest stop, I'm hitting the road again. Well, sort of. It's a short, one-stop trip.

I kind of thought I'd parked the book tour for good, when I last stopped, back in January, in my hometown of Evanston for a reading at the library. 

There was, however, one place that I still wanted to go, and fortunately it is not too far away. My designated charity, Elyssa's Mission, has a strong base in Winnetka, and the organization's principals have been pushing for me to do a reading at the town's independent bookstore, The Bookstall at Chestnut Court, the Publisher's Weekly 2012 Bookstore of the Year. Well, it took a long time to get this one booked, but it is finally happening at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14. I've been donating $1 from every soft cover sale of Cheeseland to Elyssa's Mission, and for this one-night-only I'm going to be giving all of my author proceeds to this wonderful charity that does so much to prevent teen suicide. So I do hope you'll come out and support this great cause.

Oh, one more thing, if I still have your attention...I was recently featured on Bill Thompson's The Bookcast, a showcase for indie authors. Listen to the interview here


Love from across the pond

Something strangely wondrous is going on with my book, Cheeseland

It began on January 6, a Sunday, when an Amazon UK user, Dan Bushell, posted this 5-star review of my book on the Amazon UK site

“Potentially one of the best books I've read , I wish I could find a word to describe the book ... but all I can say is wow .... just wow.”

You can imagine the word that came into my head when I read that review: wow…just wow. 

I would never have thought to even look on the Amazon UK site if it had not been for two reviews that had been posted within the last week on Goodreads, a social media site for book lovers. 

On January 20, a chap from the UK, Steve Wright, posted this 5-star review

A sensational tale of faith (from the secular to the religious), friendship and the path to responsibility. Richardson's picaresque style is both candid and energetic, his prose steeped in clarity and humour. Truly a great read that I would put up there with Catcher in the Rye as a timeless critique of maturation, love and friendship. 

At the time I assumed this was an anomaly, but then, three days later, on January 23, a UK Goodreads user, Darnel, posted this 5-star review

Wow, what a great read. Loved this. It's funny, spiritual, terrifying, has everything. I've never been to Chicago yet I feel I have been there. The author is very expressive and poignant. Top notch, straight away. 

The mystery behind these British reviews only makes them more intriguing. How did they come to find my book? Do they all know one another? Are they part of a book club? What is it about my Midwestern coming-of-age story that resonates with them? 

All I do know is that we live in a fascinating small world, a place where my words – as if placed in a bottle and dropped into the Atlantic – are able to reach out and touch someone who is 4,000 miles away.  The pen is indeed a mighty weapon.


Hear Me Read

Have you wondered what Cheeseland sounds like? Thanks to my new friends Willy Nast and Karen Shimmin, you can find out.

Willy and Karen host All Write Already, which they describe as "a completely unpretentious literary podcast." Each episode they talk a bit about goings on in the literary world and then they feature a writer, usually from Chicagoland, who reads a bit of his or her work. They then spend the next 25 or 30 minutes talking to the writer about the writing process and anything else that might come up.

In my podcast episode, I read an excerpt about the adventures of two teen boys in an adult bookstore. Willy and Karen then talk to me about my brief career as a pilot, the drinking age in Wisconsin, and how being an attorney has influenced my writing. It was a lot of fun, and I hope that comes out when you listen to it.

Download the podcast here. You can also subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and download it directly to your iPhone or iPad. 


2 Books, 1 Serendipitous Reading

A book review and a side note...

Bree Housley’s We Hope You Like This Song is the true story of her friendship with Shelly and what she did to bring her friend’s spirit back after she died from complications during pregnancy, at the age of 25. This is a book that could easily have been a real downer. But don’t fret, Housley never lets that happen. She tells the story with humor, charm and brutal honesty, and at the end you feel as if you’ve made a new friend.  Along the way, you’ll laugh and you’ll cry, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be inspired to donate to The Preeclampsia Foundation.  This is a touching story that will make you think about your own friends and loved ones, and why you shouldn’t wait to tell them what they mean to you.  For me, Bree Housley’s We Hope You Like This Song hit all the right notes. 

As a side note, I met Bree for the first (and so far only) time when we were both on the bill to do readings as part of a local author night at an indie bookstore in Chicago. It struck me when she read an excerpt from We Hope You Like This Song that our books were destined to find one another, and not just because Bree and Cheeseland seem like a perfect pairing. While my book is fiction (albeit reality-based) and hers is non-fiction, they both are about friendships and death, and how we cope with loss. In both of our books, music plays an integral role. Bree writes, “Music speaks to us in ways people can’t, takes us back to places we can no longer go, and brings out emotions we can’t control. When you open your ears, you open your soul.” At the bookstore, she handed out mix tapes that go along with her book. Much like Bree’s book, music constantly plays in the background of my book.  The two main characters always seem to be battling for control of the 8-track player. On my blog, I provide a playlist of songs, which I titled Cheese Curds.  I wrote, “When you're a teen-ager, music means more to you than at any other time in your life…The songs that I listened to then have stuck with me for the thirty-plus years that have followed. They take you back to a time and a place when life was so much simpler and so much more complex.” Two books, one serendipitous reading.