At age 12, Pat Dennis began mailing off short stories to national magazines in hopes of being published. She had her first poem published at age 17 by the Hartford Courant Journal in Connecticut, and a few poems appeared in college literary magazines.
Persistence finally paid off, and in her mid-30s, she had her first short story published in Woman’s World and has continued to be published.
Dennis will hold a book signing event for her newest book, “Murder by Chance,” from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20, at Scout & Morgan Books in Cambridge.
“‘Murder by Chance’ is the story of a 50-some-year-old woman whose husband leaves her for an older, fatter woman,” Dennis explained. “He also leaves her penniless. Since she has to earn a living, Betty Chance decides to follow Oprah’s lead … ‘Do what you love and the money will follow.’ For Betty Chance, that means penny slots and casino buffets. With her stunningly beautiful niece Lori, she opens a tour company specializing in casino junkets originating in Chicago. She also writes an online blog that reviews casino buffets, awarding the best one Five Popped Buttons. In ‘Murder by Chance,’ the tour group arrives at a Minnesota casino resort with a dead body in the locked bathroom. He’s been stabbed in the back.”
Dennis has written two novels, “Murder by Chance” and “Stand Up and Die,” and one full-length collection of short stories. She’s also been published in various print magazines including Minnesota Monthly.
Dennis uses life experiences to draw story ideas.
“So far they’ve been loosely based on my life, though I’ve yet to discover a dead body like most of my characters seem to do,” Dennis said. “‘Stand Up and Die’ is about a comedian, who is mildly successful, meaning she can basically pay her rent and buy Ramen noodles by the truckload.
“I worked as a stand-up comic for years. Originally, I started in Chicago in the ’70s. I worked the nightclubs and ended up doing a bit of television. Then I turned toward writing and left performing behind. Around that time, I met my husband and became what I always feared the most of becoming: a housewife. I didn’t start to perform again until the late ’80s. I did clubs for around eight years but transitioned into performing for special events, woman’s groups, corporate parties, etc. ‘Murder by Chance’ is based around a tour company servicing the casino industry. I also entertained on tour buses heading to the casinos,” Dennis added.
Comedy plays a role in Dennis’ writing.
“My writing is a reflection of how I see the world,” Dennis said. “I actually don’t set out to write funny — I just report what I see and my take on it. I think if I did try to write ‘funny,’ I would fail miserably. Writing has to be more subtle than a live performance, and sometimes it’s difficult to carry that off on the page. It’s like stand-up comedy comes from one side of my brain and my writing emerges from the other side. Right now I am not performing so I can focus on finishing the second Betty Chance novel. It’s easier for me to write that way, when I don’t have one-liners popping into my brain.”
She welcomes feedback from her readers.
“I love it when readers tell me they’ve laughed so hard they’ve cried or they have read a passage twice because they enjoyed it so much,” Dennis said. “Bottom line is that when they have finished reading my work, I want them to feel it is time well-spent. I also get tickled when my readers tell me my characters are eccentric. I’ve never fit into this society and have often thought I should move to England where I would be considered a ‘lovable eccentric’ to the relatives I have living there, and not the odd duck that I currently am to the relatives that I have living here. So, it only makes sense that my characters are a bit quirky as well.”
Scout & Morgan Books, located at 114 Buchanan St. N., Cambridge, can be reached at 763-689-2474 or at www.scoutandmorganbooks.com.
Isanti resident launches publishing house
Three lifelong friends recently launched Forty Press, Minnesota’s newest publishing house.
“We believe this is a great time to enter the field,” said Nick Dimassis, Editorial Director and cofounder of Forty Press. “We have no illusions, but we have no doubts, either.”
The other partners are Joe Riley, Publisher, and E. Kelly Keady, Marketing Director and Legal Counsel.
“Our careers have been essential to our decision to start a new publishing house,” Dimassis said. “This is not a hobby; it is an extension of our professional skills and experience.”
Besides Dimassis’ knowledge of the library markets, Riley brings over 20 years in the publishing industry, and Keady is both a lawyer and an author.
Forty Press just released four stories including Murder by Chance (Pat Dennis) and The Fall of St. Sebastian (E. Kelly Keady).
Forty Press has also created an imprint with Once Upon a Crime (OUAC) bookstore in Minneapolis to re-release mysteries that have gone out of print. The first of these is Before I Wake by USA Today Bestselling author Anne Frasier (aka, Theresa Weir). Forty Press books are available in both paperback and eBook.
“The fall lineup is going to be fantastic as well,” Dimassis sadi. “We are publishing 2012 Minnesota Book Award Winner, Richard Thompson’s mystery in his Herman Jackson series as well as first-time author, and former legislator, Kathleen Vellenga. Our next OUAC Classic re-issue is expected to be from David Housewright. So we’re very pleased.”
Bookstores continue to play a role in the publishing industry.
“Bookstores are absolutely critical, and will remain so,” Dimassis said. “What’s changing is the big bookstore–like big publishers. The online/digital environment brings great advantages to competitors. Some get knocked out, some adapt and succeed. What’s interesting is that many small bookstores were knocked out by big box stores, then the big box stores were being knocked out by online retailers, and now the small bookstores are experiencing something of a renaissance. At least those, like Scout & Morgan in Cambridge, that offer great product and, more important, great service. Talk to Judith Kissner about your reading interests and you’ll see why her visitors feel they’re more than just consumers with a fistful of cash.
“The written word, whether on paper or screen, is a personal experience. It’s about a reader conversing with an author. It’s about telling and listening. And the swirl of events and industry turmoil means nothing to the person curled up on the couch compelled to turn the page and the next and the next. That will never change,” Dimassis added.
For more information on Forty Press visit www.fortypress.com.