boomcov25

Noon on Monday, 9/26/2016, I’ll be at the Finnish American Heritage Center in Hancock, MI to talk about my latest novel, Boomtown, a legal thriller set against the backdrop of the copper/nickel mining controversy in NE MN. I’ll also be taking questions about my Finnish themed historical novels, Sukulaiset and Suomalaiset. Free and open to the public in the Archives Room of the Center. Signed books available and provided by Finlandia University’s Northwind Books.

More at: http://www.finlandia.edu/about/festival-ruska/.

Peace.

Mark

Mondale. Meyer, Millard, and Munger @ Elsie Lake.

Mondale. Meyer, Millard, and Munger @ Elsie Lake.

They are old men now. Actually, they are very old men now. But in their day, they were (collectively) a Vice President (and Senator, Ambassador to Japan, and Minnesota Attorney General); a criminal defense lawyer, fur trapper, and gemologist; a Peace Corps diplomat, economist, and outdoors enthusiast; and a plaintiff’s lawyer, Democratic delegate to the 1968 National Convention, and avid hunter/fisherman. They range in age; from Harry Munger, the eldest, to Bruce Meyer, the youngest; 89 to 83. Mondale is 87 and Millard, a mere 85. They have battled cancer, heart attacks, stomach ailments, bowl disease, loss of spouses and children, and a host of other conditions through their “golden years”. Their vision has dimmed and their hearing is sometimes non-existent. Two of the four use C-Pap machines to sleep at night. Their gaits are unsteady: quiet, slow steps to avoid catastrophic falls. And yet, there they are standing on the wooden dock outside Ignace Airways, waiting to board a DeHavilland Otter for a short flight, a flight all of them relish and remember from years of fishing together. They are headed to Elsie Lake in the backwoods of Ontario. The “younger” guys, two men in their late fifties and early sixties (myself and Sammy Perrella), help the fertile octogenarians into the Otter and claim seats. The Otter slips away from the pier. Randy, the bush pilot, fires up the powerful single engine that will lift tons of humanity, gear, and food into the still Ontarian air. And then, they are airborne, returning to the Litman Camp for another week of walleye fishing.

Flying into Elsie Lake.

Flying into Elsie Lake.

Ross and Jay Litman, two of the four children of Judge Jack and Helen Litman, the camp having been left in the confident hands of the Litman children upon the deaths of the patriarch and matriarch of the family, greet the Otter as it lands. The plane is quickly unloaded. Mike, who is married to Mara-the only Litman daughter, stands on shore, waiting to leave. We pack his gear, some bags of trash and recyclables onto the plane, and Randy shuts the door, ready to depart. The Otter’s piston-driven engine revs. The old sheet metal of the cowling rattles. The newly arrived pick up our bags and begin the process of settling in.

My wife and I spent our honeymoon here back in August of 1978. Oh, we weren’t alone in the Canadian bush. The entire Litman, Munger, and Mondale families, along with the Secret Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and an Ontario Provincial Police officer or two camped with us to provide security for the then-Vice President. My wife hasn’t been back to visit but I’ve been privileged over the past decade to join the four fertile octogenarians, sometimes accompanied by neurosurgeon Dr. Bob (Robert Donley, M.D.), Sam Litman (Jay’s son), and Tony (Sammy Perrella’s son) for five or six days in paradise.

In the bunkhouse, I claim a top bunk and roll out my sleeping bag. The old men do the same. Despite the ages of my bunkmates, the banter is lively and nearly constant. That evening, Ross, Jay, and Sammy man boats to transport us to the walleye “hotspots” for the evening bite. Elsie does not disappoint yielding fish after fish after fish to jigs and spinners tipped with minnows and worms. After a long drive, a short flight, and a few hours of excitement, we eat a hearty dinner and tumble into bed.

The menu and the cooking (handled by Jay and Sammy and Ross) is always exemplary. We eat big, hot breakfasts including eggs, bacon, French toast, blueberry pancakes, egg McMuffins, and sausage. Lunch is a rarity. Dinners this trip include hamburgers and brats, filet of beef, Sammy’s pasta, Sammy’s pizza, fresh fish, barbecue ribs, brisket, and assorted side dishes. There’s not a restaurant in the U.S. or Canada that can top the fare at the Litman Camp. George and I are the designated dishwashers. Everyone, regardless of age or infirmity, pitches in to clean and organize before we leave. Ross, as always, is a whirling dervish of energy, constantly on the move. Jay, to his credit, tinkers, using a methodical approach to repairing the things that need repair.

The political discussions around the dinner table? With an “interesting” election brewing and a former candidate for President in attendance, well, let’s just say that the dialogue becomes spirited; the observations, crystalline.

Mondale holding court at the dinner table.

Mondale holding court at the dinner table.

Despite rainy, cold weather, everyone catches fish.

George and Ross head out to fish.

George and Ross head out to fish.

One afternoon, Ross and I take a detour and end up talking to the only neighbor on Elsie Lake. Imagine, if you can, a lake the size of Fish Lake (near where I live) with only two fishing camps on its beautiful shores. Then take away road access, requiring everyone and everything that comes onto the lake to be either flown in or, during the depths of the Canadian winter, hauled in over the ice via snowmobile. That’s Elsie. Anyway, back to the narrative. Ross and I pull up to the only other dock on the lake to say hello to Ava, the owner. It’s supposed to be a short, “how-do-you-do” session. Instead, the very slight septuagenarian asks us to join her on the deck. I ask the old woman about her personal history and she launches into a story of escape from East Germany, the foreign accent beneath her well-formed English buttressing her words. It’s a harrowing ordeal that ends with Ava escaping to Canada and her mother being shot by a neighbor working as a border guard. Motherless, and having left her father behind, Ava relates a tale of heroism, kindness, pluck, and fortitude that someday might find it’s way into a Munger short story or novel. We thank the old woman for her hospitality and leave, the two of us happy to have learned something of her mettle.

Coneys in the boat. Munger and Mondale.

Coneys in the boat. Munger and Mondale.

On the only day the sun comes out (except, of course, for the day we leave!) Jay and I motor the pontoon boat across the lake to fish for smallmouth bass. My gold spinner tipped with a nightcrawler or a minnow is an instant hit. I pull in big smallies every fourth or fifth cast. Jay catches a few on flies. The bass are on their nests, depressions created by the fish to lay eggs in Elsie’s cold water. The fish are readily visible, hovering above their nests, aggressively protecting their defined territory. The fish aren’t hungry: just pissed off at our intrusion. It’s an afternoon spent hauling in one and two pound smallies, the fish snapping viciously at our offerings, diving deep and leaping high into the still Ontario air when hooked.

Typical Elsie smallie caught by Jay on a fly.

Typical Elsie smallie caught by Jay on a fly.

Over the week, we catch a few lake trout, some whitefish (pound for pound the hardest fighting fish I’ve ever tied into), oodles of walleye, tons of bass, and the occasional lunker northern pike (Bruce landing one over twelve pounds). Nearly all the fish go back into the lake with the exception of a few walleye used for the evening fish fry the night before we leave and a few fillets for the fertile octogenarians to take home.

Ever constant and nearby are the dogs: Devin, Jada, and Lilly. The two Labs, Jada and Lilly, can be found under the table at every meal, waiting for Harry to drop them a treat or two. During fishing hours, the dogs are out on the water, keeping their human companions company.

Jada napping on the long ride to the river.

Jada napping on the long ride to the river.

One night, after sufficient reflection and libations, we come up with a plan. Ava, it seems, is in need of a husband. Our collective genius devises a scenario where George, a widower, might be willing to “take one for the team” by proposing marriage to the elderly refugee if, and this of course, is the key, her fish camp is part of her dowry. The plan is never implemented though George seems willing to give it a go. And that’s where the term “fertile octogenarian” manifests: in our rousing discussions of how and when the marriage might, if ever, be consummated.

In our travels, we see an otter scoping us out and bald eagles and countless ducks and geese in flight. Resident loons locate a school of bait fish just off the Litman dock and feed and call for hours. Ross points out native orchids, Minnesota’s state flower, the showy lady slipper, as we walk a wooded trail. A tree frog makes itself known. On the ride from Thunder Bay to Ignace, we see a cow moose grazing in a roadside swamp. There is no question we are in wilderness despite all the fine food, noisy chatter, and relative comforts the camp offers.

Tree frog.

Tree frog.

“I hate having to do this,” Ross says as he dismantles his rods and reels. We are packing for departure when the Sheriff of St. Louis County utters his lament. Indeed. The next morning at 11:00am sharp the Otter and a Beaver will be idling on the now calm water, waiting to fly us back to Ignace. Five days spent with wisdom, age, and good people will have come and gone. But the memories? Ah, they will be with us forever.

Peace.

Mark

Lady slipper on the trail.

Lady slipper on the trail.

Sammy delivering conies to the old guys.

Sammy delivering conies to the old guys.

 

Boom

OK. Here’s your chance to make a difference in the world of digital publishing. If you own a Kindle, use the Kindle app, or have an Amazon account, you can log onto Amazon and vote for the book. if the book receives enough votes in the next 30 days, it’ll be published by Kindle, you will receive a free Kindle version of the book from Amazon, and I’ll get a publishing contract with Kindle. Everyone wins! How do you know if you want to vote for Boomtown? Starting tomorrow morning, you can log into the Boomtown page on Kindle Scout and read an excerpt as well as some other fun stuff about me and the book. Then, if you like the book, simply cast your vote. That’s all there is to it. And those of you that want a printed version, don’t worry. I am only giving Kindle exclusive rights to the eBook and audio book versions of Boomtown. I retain the print rights and the copyright. So, here’s the link to the Boomtown page: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/37ES8OBBSRHHP.

Happy voting!

Thanks.

Mark

SukuNew

If you are in the area or know anyone with an interest in Finnish history, world history, or literature, pass along this snippet if you would: I’ll be at the New York Mills Regional Cultural Center on Friday, May 6th at 7:00pm talking about Sukulaiset; the background and the story. Here’s the link:
http://www.kulcher.org/?s=mark+munger
Hope to see some folks show up and buy a signed book or two from the Cultural Center bookstore!
Peace.
Mark

BlackWater300

If you’re looking for a good book to read over spring break or vacation, check out the tab above, “Buy Books” direct. You’ll find everything from outdoor stories (Black Water) to biography (Mr. Environment) to murder mysteries (Laman’s River). Or, better yet, if you have a special someone who loves to read, go to Amazon.com, pick out a Munger book and receive that same book FREE for your Kindle or other Kindle-ready device. That’s right: Buy the physical book from Amazon and you receive the eBook delivered to your eReader absolutely FREE!

Or, if you just want the eVersion of the book, we’ve got you covered. All the books are now reduced $2.00 per title, which means all Munger books except Sukulaiset are now only $2.99 and you can pick up the Kindle version of Mark’s latest, Sukulaiset for the awesome eBook price of $7.99 (was $9.99). (Note: Mr. Environment is not available as an eBook. But you can get it here for the paltry price of $5.00 plus shipping and handling.)

So let’s make April Munger reading month and buy your books here, on Amazon, or, if you love our local bookstore and want a physical copy of the book, at The Bookstore at Fitger’s.

The CRP Marketing Team

9780972005067

 

9780972005067

This Friday (03/18/2016) at 7:00pm, join me at the Finnish American Cultural Activities event. I’ll be at the International Institute at 1694 Como Avenue in St. Paul reading from my two Finnish American novels and

discussing the books as well. The topic is: “Finnish American History as Fiction”. The event is free and open to the public, Finns and non-Finns alike! You can learn more at:

http://www.finnfaca.org/Mar16-speaker.pdf. Signed books will also be available for purchase at the event. See you Friday!

MarkSukuNew

 

Boom

CRP is trying a new approach and we want readers to be part of the experiment. So here’s the deal: Mark’s latest novel, Boomtown,  a legal thriller set in Ely and Grand Marais, is ready for a professional edit. To get there, CRP is asking that readers pre-order copies of the book. Pre-orders will be shipped on 08/01/2016 but Boomtown will not be released in trade paperback format to bookstores and online retailers until after 09/01/2016. So, if you want to help get this project to the finish line, simply click on “Buy Books Direct” and order your copy or copies today. You can request that the book or books be signed or personalized when ordering. You will be billed automatically and your order archived for fulfillment beginning 08/01/2016.

Here’s a bit about the book:

An explosion rocks the site of a new copper/nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. Two young workers are dead. The Lindahl family turns to trial attorney Dee Dee Hernesman for justice. A shadowy eco-terroist lurks in the background as Hernesman and Sheriff Deb Slater investigate the tragedy. Are the deaths the result of accident or murder? Equal parts legal thriller and literary fiction, this novel reprises many characters from Munger’s prior novels. A page turner of a tale.

THE REVIEWS

Munger writes so well, not only because of his imagination and literary skill, but because he knows who and what he is talking about. Richard Pemberton, trial lawyer and former President MSBA.

You can read the first chapter of the book here:

Sample Chapter

Questions? Email Mark at: cloquetriverpress@yahoo.com

And thanks for reading!

CRP Marketing

Boom

CRP is trying a new approach and we want readers to be part of the experiment. So here’s the deal: Mark’s latest novel, Boomtown,  a legal thriller set in Ely and Grand Marais, is ready for a professional edit. To get there, CRP is asking that readers pre-order copies of the book. Pre-orders will be shipped on 08/01/2016 but Boomtown will not be released in trade paperback format to bookstores and online retailers until after 09/01/2016. So, if you want to help get this project to the finish line, simply click on “Buy Books Direct” and order your copy or copies today. You can request that the book or books be signed or personalized when ordering. You will be billed automatically and your order archived for fulfillment beginning 08/01/2016.

Here’s a bit about the book:

An explosion rocks the site of a new copper/nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota. Two young workers are dead. The Lindahl family turns to trial attorney Dee Dee Hernesman for justice. A shadowy eco-terroist lurks in the background as Hernesman and Sheriff Deb Slater investigate the tragedy. Are the deaths the result of accident or murder? Equal parts legal thriller and literary fiction, this novel reprises many characters from Munger’s prior novels. A page turner of a tale.

THE REVIEWS

Munger writes so well, not only because of his imagination and literary skill, but because he knows who and what he is talking about. Richard Pemberton, trial lawyer and former President MSBA.

You can read the first chapter of the book here:

Sample Chapter

Questions? Email Mark at: cloquetriverpress@yahoo.com

And thanks for reading!

CRP Marketing

 

 

I’m not a businessman. I am a husband, father, grandfather, judge, outsdoorsman and, during my “spare” time, a pretty fair writer. But as the owner of a small press, I am as clueless as a Bedouin on skis when it comes to commerce. My blind spot when it comes to my art is that I am an optimist. With every new book released over the past thirteen years (9 in all),I have supreme confidence that each newly published title will be “the” book, the one the takes off, sells well, and solidifies me as a regional author. The sad reality is that isn’t what’s happened. I’ve been led by my cheery optimistic nature down a primrose path to cliffs overlooking a vast sea of self-published, remaindered books. My books. There is no better example of my lack of business acumen than the book that took the most blood, sweat, and tears of any of my projects: Mr. Environment: The Willard Munger Story.

Conceived after my uncle, Minnesota’s sentinel environmental lawmaker, passed away in 1999, as a loving tribute to a man who was both my personal mentor and an inspiration to thousands of Minnesotans, Mr. Environment took five years to research, write, edit, and publish. It had the longest gestation period of any of my books. When the manuscript was finally printed in March of 2009, my buddy Eddie and I drove my Pacifica to pick up 2,000 copies of the biography from Bang Printing in Brainerd.  We stood and watched cartons of my family’s legacy being loaded by forklift onto the bed of a rental truck, amazed at how much room 2,000 copies occupied. And then, it was on to Duluth to store the cartons in a rented storage building. I had no room for 2,000 books at my house and expected that the sales of the book would justify the monthly rent for commercial storage. But I was wrong about that too.

The book went on public display during a Duluth Symphony Orchestra concert where the DSO honored my uncle with selections from Sibelius and former Vice President Mondale spoke with and answered questions from the crowd about Willard’s life and legacy. Only two dozen copies were sold at the concert. I had anticipated, given the publicity the event generated in the local media, and glowing early reviews, selling at least fifty. Here’s a sample of the reviews that raised my hopes as to the commercial success of the book:

This weekend, I picked up a copy of the new Munger biography, Mr. Environment…and was pleased to find on its’ pages the Munger I’d hoped to hear one last time. (A)uthor Mark Munger has done a stellar job detailing the life of a legislator who was a pioneer in turning state policy into a force for environmental protection

Minneapolis Star Tribune

With accolades like that popping up throughout the state, why wouldn’t an author be optimistic? Unfortunately, after the meager success at the DSO event, I came to realize my early visions of books flying off the table was unlikely.

The actual launch of the book took place at the Labor Temple in Duluth. There was a great crowd of my readers, family, and local Liberals and environmentalists on hand to listen to music by Sara Thomsen, hear me read from the biography, mingle, and buy books. Again, sales failed to meet expectations. Undaunted by these early signs of fiscal disaster, I soldiered on, lugging cartons of Mr. Environment and my other books to outdoor art and craft shows, environmental expos, and assorted other venues across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Sadly, the enthusiasm among the onservationists, and environmentalists who had, over the years after Willard’s death, urged me to write his story, didn’t acknowledge their urgings with book purchases. Letters and emails to the major environmental and conservation groups in Minnesota offering to attend meetings, talk about Willard, and sell copies of the biography fell on deaf ears. The lone exception to this silence was an invitation from the Duluth chapter of the Izaak Walton League. Other than one night standing in front of an appreciative crowd of Ikes at the Hartley Nature Center in Duluth, no other conservation group invited me to speak. Additionally, around the time the book was launched, the full impact of the recession arrived and venues, like the Apple Festival in Bayfield and the Festival of the Trees in Duluth dried up as sources for book sales. Also, Americans more and more began to buy their written content, both fiction and nonfiction, on eReaders, avoiding the impulse to buy regional books at art and craft events in favor of online purchasing.

In response, I did what any good capitalist would do: I slashed the price of the book. I had originally priced Mr. Environment at $25.00 per copy, a price in line with other books of its size, depth, and genre. I also enlisted my youngest son Jack to help me move the books from the storage building to an empty bedroom in the basement of our home. Chris, our third son, had moved out, freeing up space to store the books without incurring monthly rent. It took Jack and I the better part of a Saturday to load 1,600 copies of the biography into my Pacifica and our utility trailer and haul the books home. With the price reduced to $15.00, then to $10.00, and then finally, to $5.00 per copy, I again sent out information to all of the leading environmental and conservation groups in Minnesota. I also queried the entire DFL legislative caucus in both the Minnesota House and Senate. I sold less than a dozen copies to Liberal legislators and did not hear back from a single environmental/conservation group. Not a one. There was, despite all the prodding I’d received to write the book from conservation-type folks over the years, zero interest from them in actually buying the book. To say I was disappointed is putting it mildly.

Last spring, my father, Willard’s youngest brother and the only surviving Munger sibling, called me at work with an idea.

“What if you donated copies of the book to UMD? Willard loved the school, fought hard for its funding and improvement, and surely someone there would be interested in receiving copies of the biography to be given away to students?”

It’s been years since I took tax law in law school. But I still recall that it’s better to have income when you seek to take a charitable deduction and, given the utter lack of buyers for the book in the public marketplace of ideas, well, I wasn’t sold that donating the books was viable. But I talked to my accountant and he assured me it was a feasible plan. And so, I went to work convincing not only the University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD), my alma mater, but also the University of Wisconsin-Superior (UWS) (where I teach Environmental Law and use the book as an optional text) to accept books as a donation. It took four months of arranging and wrangling but yesterday, with the help of my sons Matt, Chris, and Jack, UMD received 1,000 copies of the book and UWS received 250 to be distributed to students and faculty interested in the life and legacy of Minnesota’s Mr. Environment.

Moving Willard, 09/21/2013

My sons endured a bit of hand wringing and nervous twitching from me yesterday after I’d dragged 90 cartons of books from the basement into the bright autumnal sunshine. Matt rented a Uhaul trailer (providential, eh?) for the move and was supposed to be at the house by 9:00am. My wife Rene’ and I had folks coming for brunch to celebrate my mom’s 85th and Jack’s 16th birthdays at 10:00am, so Matt’s timely arrival was important to the schedule. Matt was late and my timetable fell apart but it all worked out. Even Dylan, my second son, in from the oil fields of North Dakota, stepped up and helped load the trailer. Though it was long past noon when Matt, Chris, Jack, and I  finally hit the road, we made it to the colleges and unloaded the books.

What 1,250 books looks like.

 

 

 

 

There’s an old saying, and I’m paraphrasing here,  about it being better to have tried and failed than never having tried at all. But I’m not so sure, after five years of writing my uncle’s story and four years of being unable to effectively market it, that I’m comforted by that sentiment. though I am happy that students at two public universities in the place Willard Munger called home will have the chance to learn that one man, of modest means and a limited education, can make a difference. In the end, maybe that’s more important than selling books.

I do know this: I will never again write a book simply because it’s pitched to me as a good idea. From now on, I’ll write only what my heart tells me to write. It seems I don’t have much of a head for the business end of things so I think it’s best that I keep my goals for my stories modest. I’ll be far better off following my muse and ignoring suggestions advanced by well meaning strangers.

Peace.

Mark

Mark

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