Meet John Van Roekel

John Van Roekel, a regular San Diego DimeStorier, is our first guest host for 2018. As I interviewed him for this piece, it struck me how lucky I am to get to know the characters in our DimeStory.  We talked over an hour and John’s enthusiasm for writing, San Diego Writers, Ink, history, and DimeStories made for a remarkable conversation.  He inspires me because he embraces life-long-learning and demonstrates how  writing opens the door for opportunities to meet a marvelous community of creative people.  His compassion, tenacity and hunger for historical research led him to write three impressive historical novels: Braver Deeds, Prisoner Moon, and Lorenzo’s Assassin.

Born in Iowa, John’s family moved near Pontiac, Michigan where he attended high school.  He only applied to one school, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.  He laughs as he admits, “I’m glad I got in, because I didn’t have a Plan B.”  He graduated with a B.A. in aerospace engineering and an M.A. in computer engineering.  While raising two sons, John lived and worked in several states before returning to Ann Arbor.

“Books can have enormous influence on us,” and in 1994, John read Nathan Miller’s biography Theodore Roosevelt: A Life.  The next day, he surprised his wife, Pam, by declaring that he was going to write an historical novel about Buffalo Soldiers.  To do the research, he traveled to Cuba before it was easy to do so.  He dug deeply into the history until his wife mentioned that “To be a writer you actually have to write something…”  He started the next day and demonstrating great tenacity, finished Braver Deeds fourteen years later.     (1.)

John’s love of research is obvious.  He smiles and his hands dance as he describes his visits to sites of events in his books.  He walked the ravine where the brutal Wounded Knee Massacre took place. When he began his second book, Prisoner Moon, the research was mostly done in and around Michigan where German prisoners were held during WWII.  He was fascinated by the contrasting history of German immigrants versus the prisoners in the area.

 

Having moved to San Diego and working for SONY, John traveled again when he started his third historical novel, Lorenzo’s Assassin, the story of Pope Sixtus IV’s plot to murder Lorenzo the Magnificent.  For this research he found himself in Florence and Rome, wandering the remaining buildings and streets of the book’s events.  (2.)

Despite his love of research, John stresses that historical fiction is “10% history and 90% fiction, meaning characters and story.”  Without the interesting people or the action in the plot, the research just becomes dry facts.  I asked him if there were a theme that runs through all three books and he said that in hindsight, he sees his books as triptychs, that each book weaves the stories of three characters in the backdrop of historical events.  Because of that, he named his publishing imprint Triptych Press.

As far as publishing, John first tried what was the conventional method, an agent.  He was thrilled to find an agent who was interested in Braver Deeds, but his enthusiasm was dashed by the amount of work and changes the agent required.  Although it was difficult, he made the changes and feels the experience was very valuable. Finally, a press was interested, but they wanted him to cut the book significantly.  He tried but found he just couldn’t do it, so instead, John decided to self-publish.

Self-publishing is challenging, as well, but because of his computer experience and his interest in the process, this too became a valuable learning experience.  Rather than use paid services, he figured out the formatting and art as well as many other aspects that might not even occur to the first-time self-publisher.

In addition to editing his father’s WWII letters, John decided to make Prisoner Moon into a screenplay.  He took classes, hired a script consultant, and began to submit the screenplay to contests. Prisoner Moon received some minor awards and won the 2016 Paris Independent Film Festival.  Recently, he was nominated for a screenplay award and he and Pam had a wonderful experience when they attended the award ceremony on Catalina Island. You can view his red-carpet interview at https://youtu.be/frGS72Q5rKk.

He laughs when asked what advice he would give to new writers, “You actually have to write.” In addition, he said, “The journey is the reward. Take classes, get involved in a read-and-critique group.  I was in Rich Farrell’s group when I wrote the second draft of Lorenzo’s Assassin.  Get in a group where you can get supportive, positive advice.”

John writes on a computer, not long hand.  He has transitioned from a desktop to a laptop on the couch. Often, John attends Room to Write at San Diego Writers, Ink because it has an atmosphere that focuses his attention on his craft.   He loves reading his own work out loud.  He reads “each sentence over and over again and edits until it’s as good as it can possibly be. One reason I love DimeStories is that it provides the training to stand up there and confidently present your work.”

We at DimeStories are so lucky to have John as a regular attendee at our monthly gatherings.  Please come and enjoy the next San Diego Open Mic, January 12, 2018 with author John Van Roekel as our guest host! For more about John, visit his website  http://johnvanroekel.com.

  • Carrie Danielson
  1.  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/woobie491/6033847185/)
  2.  (https://www.flickr.com/photos/144991484@N02/35374725455/)

 

 

 

 

San Diego December Standouts!

Congratulations San Diego DimeStories December Standouts! 

Carol Moscrip, Ed Coonce, Kevin Hennessy, and Don Ryan

We appreciate your creativity and craft!  These four writers were selected by their peers as stories to highlight from our last meeting.

Thank you for attending and sharing your talent!  We look forward to what you bring to our next DimeStories!

 

 

Listen and Enjoy!

Carol Moscrip – Looney Toons

Ed Coonce- Stormy Weather

Kevin Hennessy – Dakota, December 8, 1980

Don Ryan – Ants and Other Sentient Creatures

January 12, 2018

San Diego Open Mic (prose)

Bring in the New Year with DimeStories!  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Refreshments and sign ups at 6:30; Readings at 7:00

Guest host:  John Van Roekel!

Bio:

John, originally from Michigan, came to San Diego in 2001.  He is the author of three historical novels, Prisoner Moon, Lorenzo’s Assassin and Braver Deeds.  He also edited his father’s WWII letters and you can find them on his website:    http://johnvanroekel.com   A software engineer by profession, John is a member and supporter of San Diego Writers, Ink, a nonprofit organization for writers.

San Diego DimeStories November Standouts

Congratulations to our Standouts!

Brad Davidson, Judy Reeves, Chet Hall, and Tia Meredith were chosen by their peers to represent the best of DimeStories!  We appreciate your creativity and composition.  Thank you for sharing your humor, passion, heart, and imagination with us!  We look forward to hearing more from you each month at our gatherings.

BRAVO!

Brad Davidson – Dear Santa

Judy Reeves – Helskini After Tom’s Death

Chet Hall – Lulu Does Not Want to Sniff Bombs

Tia Meredith – The Morning After Vagelis

 

 

 

San Diego DimeStories OCTOBER Standouts

These are the DimeStories Standouts from our Anniversary Celebration!  We apologize for the technical difficulties and delay getting these wonderful stories by Peggy Hinaekian, Mark Radoff, and Liz Lemesevski  (soon to be uploaded.)

Congratulations to the three of you and we hope everyone enjoys hearing them.  They are now eligible for selection to the DimeStories Podcast.

Thank you for sharing your creativity and imagination with us at DimeStories!

Peggy Hinaekian – Sexy Senior Looking for a New Wrinkle

Mark Radoff – Two Words

Liz Lemesevski – Lip Synch and Luster

Bravo to the three of you!

San Diego DimeStories Open Mic

Join us for our November Open Mic!

November 10, 2017 – San Diego Writers, Ink

6:30 pm Refreshments 7:00 Readings

 

 Guest Host:  Amanda Fletcher

Bio: A 2012 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow, Amanda Fletcher is a freelance writer with a focus on travel. Her work has appeared in the Orange County Register, Coast, AfterParty and Hippocampus Magazines. Amanda is currently working on her memoir tentatively titled, HALO.

Meet the Paquets

A new regular series, featuring DimeStoriers. This started as a column on a site called DukeCityFix.com in Albuquerque but as that site is no longer being published, I am archiving the articles here, and hoping other chapter leaders from around the DimeStories community will participate.

To kick it off, I’m featuring stories from Andy and Susan Paquet who have been great supporters of the literary community in Albuquerque.

“Connected” by Andy Paquet and “Judge Falcone’s Funeral” by Susan Paquet

 

Andy Paquet grew up in Abq, went to UNM and UA, then worked at TCU in Ft. Worth, TX. He’s a retired microbiology professor. He wrote professional research publications and now enjoys the freedom to be creative, funny and not use statistics. He also emcees the DimeStories open mic here.

Susan Paquet lives in Corrales with her husband (Andy), Standard Poodle and pet goats. She began writing poems and short stories a few years ago and has never had so much fun. She recently published an Anthology, Apricots and Tortillas, about growing up in Albuquerque during the 1950’s and 60’s. Her short stories have also appeared in several other anthologies and journals.

Andy’s three (plus) favorite words are: dame, yes, nieto (grandson), and senior discount. Continue reading “Meet the Paquets”