News & Events

What You Can Tell About a Book by Its Cover

One of the first questions I was asked by the publishing staff about Chasing the American Dream was this: What do you want on the cover? I had a few thoughts. I wanted an older man walking down a 1950’s residential street behind another man. The “leader” should look martial, have a military cut to his coat and carefully styled short hair. His back is straight. The “follower” should be a bit shaggy, clothes not as well cut. If it can be seen, he has a large belly. Both wear Fedoras. A picture would be good, though a drawing was in the realm of possibilities, too. You can see below how it turned out:

chasing the american dream novel

Before these options were explored, another question came my way: Could you please send us 3-5 pictures of covers in the same genre as your book? I went to some of my favorite historical fiction writers and searched among their covers. Here’s what I sent the publisher:

Book covers

You may notice some similarities among these covers: a dark moodiness; if there is color, it’s blue or a muted shade; a sense of evening or night; spare placement of people; mostly people with their backs to the reader; something flying in the sky; a pointed object on the ground; block printed titles and author names; no fussiness. You might name some more of your own.

So, why is that? I suppose it’s obvious. Publishers want the cover to announce clearly to the reader the kind of story they’ll be reading and set the mood for the book. It also tells the bookseller which display table to put the book on. These are not (primarily) romances, certainly not children’s books, and something ominous is going to happen—likely a life-or-death matter. The covers of World War II books often picture men in uniform, have women’s hair in victory rolls or pulled back, a plane or two in the air, and ruins from a bombing.

Just for fun, below are 5 more book covers, all historical fiction but from different time periods. Can you identify the one from World War II and figure out the eras of the other four? Let me know your decisions!

choosing a book cover

Tales from an Author’s Life

I’ve written more than 10 drafts of my in-process novel, now called Butterfly Minds. It’s been through my writer’s group multiple times, the advisory committee for my Doctor of Ministry degree, two developmental editors, and 5 beta readers. I cannot tell you how much I would like the current draft to be my last!

However…I’m still struggling. Here’s what seem to be the big problems:

Continue reading “Tales from an Author’s Life”

When the Powerful Are Given Free Rein: Hoover and the FBI during the Red Scare

chasing the american dream novel

In Chasing the American Dream, a key event is the government’s harsh response to the protagonist, David Svehla. When David exposes an ex-Nazi scientist, the press accuses him of being a Communist. Some readers have been curious whether these sorts of accusations actually happened in the early and mid-1950’s. The answer is yes, they did, largely due to the activities of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) under J. Edgar Hoover. He was a rabid anti-Communist, determined to eradicate Americans with such views from the U.S. Government, using whatever measures were necessary. Though there is no doubt that Communist infiltrators or agents existed in the U.S., Hoover went overboard, using problematic or even illegal means to find and eliminate them.

At that time in our history, the FBI was a popular agency and Congressional oversight did not exist. A series of executive orders gave the agency significant investigative power, allowing it to check into any activities it deemed a threat to national security. Hoover’s agents compiled extensive lists of potentially dangerous people, starting as early as 1939. By 1954, according to Ellen Schrecker’s research, the FBI had identified over 26,000. In Hoover’s estimation, he had the authority to investigate anyone for whom “derogatory information turned up in their personnel file.” Continue reading “When the Powerful Are Given Free Rein: Hoover and the FBI during the Red Scare”

The Ethical Questions in the Hidden History of Operation Paperclip

One of the many joys of writing historical fiction is discovering pieces of history not taught in schools or written about in any detail in the media. Operation Paperclip was one of those. I tripped over it doing research on the Target Forces badge I found in my father’s belongings. Information from the National Archives II in College Park, MD, illuminated its significance: the Allies wished to secure Germany’s “intellectual assets,” especially in the sciences. Continue reading “The Ethical Questions in the Hidden History of Operation Paperclip”

From Anger to Forgiveness

Anger to ForgivenessReaders often ask me where I get the idea for a book. As I suggested in my first posts, I write novels to resolve the conundrums I encounter in life. For Chasing the American Dream, the issue came from living with my angry father, whose constant irritation seemed to come from being frustrated that his American Dream had not come true. Edwin Brush, Sr., pictured at the right in 1942, died in 1972. If I wanted to figure out why he had been so angry and often lashed out at me, I was on my own. Continue reading “From Anger to Forgiveness”

Book Launch: Chasing the American Dream

american dream novelPlease join me for the release of my new novel, CHASING THE AMERICAN DREAM, on Wednesday, February 10th at 7:00pm EST!

Friend and author Sara Fitzgerald will join me in an online conversation hosted by One More Page Books, my local bookstore in Arlington, VA. Sara and I will talk about the story behind my novel, the research that went into it, and more. We’ll also take your questions. The event will be broadcast free on Facebook and YouTube. If you register, you’ll receive direct links to these sites from One More Page in the days ahead of the event.

You can find more information, register and order signed copies of the book by clicking here.

If you are unable to attend the event, please feel free to order the novel through One More Page or the following locations:

Mascot Books
Lorelei Brush Uncovering

Do join the celebration!

This Hero’s Journey

Before researching my father’s assignments as a member of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), Secret Intelligence Branch, I believed I was going to write a book about one of those classic heroes, a person who appears normal on the surface but reveals impressive powers. I imagined my dad had shown incredible physical courage, breathtaking ingenuity, a fearlessness in the face of threat, moral integrity and self-sacrifice. After all, that’s what he’d told my brother and me about his exploits when we were children. I was about to reveal my dad as an inspiration to the thousands who would read my book about him. It was an opportunity to write a spy story in the shadow of Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carre, and Ian Fleming. Continue reading “This Hero’s Journey”