Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Interview with author Gary F Jones

Author Gary F Jones is entertaining me today by talking about his humorous mystery with touches of family and Christmas, Doc’s Codicil.

During his virtual book tour, Gary will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too.

According to Gary Jones, his life has been a testament to questionable decisions and wishful thinking. His wife of forty years, however, says she knows of nothing in the record to justify such unfettered optimism. Jones says the book is a work of fiction; that's his story, and he’s sticking to it.

He’s part of the last generation of rural veterinarians who worked with cows that had names and personalities, and with dairymen who worked in the barn with their families. He’s also one of those baby boomers, crusty codgers who are writing their wills and grousing about kids who can be damned condescending at times.

Gary practiced bovine medicine in rural Wisconsin for nineteen years. He then returned to graduate school at the University of Minnesota, earned a PhD in microbiology, and spent the next nineteen years working on the development of bovine and swine vaccines.

Doc's Codicil is the bronze medal winner of Foreward's INDIEFAB Book of the Year awards, humor category.

Welcome, Gary. Please share a little bit about your current release.
Doc’s Codicil, a mystery told with gentle humor in a style reminiscent of Clyde Edgerton with touches of Garrison Keillor, tells the story of a veterinarian who teaches his heirs a lesson from the grave.
When Wisconsin veterinarian Doc dies, his family learns that to inherit his fortune, they must decipher the cryptic codicil he added to his will–“Take Doofus squirrel-fishing”–and they can only do that by talking to Doc's friends, reading the memoir Doc wrote of a Christmas season decades earlier, searching through Doc’s correspondence, and discovering the clues around them.
Doc’s Codicil is a story within a story. As the heirs read Doc’s book, they learn of a Christmas season, 27 years ago, in which Doofus goaded Doc into action on his dreams and bragged about his own project, a Christmas nativity pageant in New Orleans that, unbeknownst to Doc and Doofus, Doc’s sister and brother in law were also working on. In writing his memoir, Doc realized he'd missed important lessons about life, lessons he wanted to impart to his adult children. He knew they wouldn't listen to him, so he invented the riddle of Doofus and squirrel fishing to teach them what he had missed.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was nearing retirement and looking for something new. I had worked as a large animal veterinarian in north-central Wisconsin for 19 years, and my wife and I had four active children. I’d probably forgotten most of the stupid things I, my kids, and my clients did, but I remembered enough to make interesting reading, and I’d heard rumors of ill-advised endeavors others got themselves into, including one about a nativity pageant that included live camels. I was sure I could mold these anecdotes into a single story, and as the writing progressed, even the camels developed personalities.
As I wrote and thought about what I’d done and seen, I realized that there were a number of lessons that I should have learned but didn’t. The question then became, how do I teach my children, or how does any parent teach their adult children new lessons. Children, from the age of seventeen on, aren’t famous for listening to parents. I can’t remember where I got the idea of a deceased veterinarian attaching a codicil to his will to force his children to learn what he had not, but the idea appealed to me.

Excerpt from
Doc’s Codicil:
Gladys the camel meets Doc’s widowed mother.

Elspeth’s voice was warm, almost coquettish; it surprised even her. “I’ve wanted to meet Gladys. I saw her at the amphitheater a few nights ago. Could I give her a slice of apple or a carrot?”
“Sorry, ma’am. If I let you, every kid in line will want to do it, and feeding animals is against the rules,” Pete said. He dragged out a line he hadn’t used in twenty years. “I think I could let you give her a little treat if you can wait until the rides are over and she’s back in the barn.”
Gladys didn’t understand a word of this. She understood her nose. Humans fill volumes with poetry about beauty and love and then use corny lines that would embarrass a love-sick horse. Camels sniff.
A mental picture of Pete and the lady in an amorous clinch disturbed Gladys. She snorted, blowing gobs of camel mucus over Pete’s shoulder. She remembered younger wranglers she’d seen in this condition. One was besotted for weeks.
Distracted wranglers lost all track of priorities, at least those important to Gladys, chief amongst which was her feeding schedule. A few had completely forgotten to dole out her molasses-drenched vitamin and mineral supplement. And if Gladys felt anything similar to the love and awe humans reserve for religion, it was her passion for molasses.
Gladys listened to Pete’s soft tones and started to do a slow burn. She put up with crap from kids and adults—even pretended to like a few, once in a while, if the weather was nice. If she could make a sacrifice like that, was it too much to ask that she be fed on time and get a full ration? Gladys vented her frustration with a rumbling, “Eeeungh.”
She looked at Pete again and wondered why Jerry kept a scarecrow-skinny guy with creaky knees around. He could be a health risk, what with the big bald spot he hid under his hat. Could be mange. She looked Pete over closely and decided Jerry should have him put down and sold for dog food.
Old Pete reminded her of old bull camels she’d known. She remembered an all-day tryst she had with an old bull. The old fool kept forgetting what they were up to and wandering off for a drink or something to eat. Their assignation was twenty-three hours and thirty minutes longer than her affairs with younger camels. It wasn’t something she cared to remember. And if old men were like old camels, she might starve to death before Pete got over this infatuation.
Gladys turned her head and looked at Elspeth and saw that she was even older than Pete. Gladys couldn’t imagine what they saw in each other. Their stupid-looking feet were narrow and would sink in sand, neither of them could chew their cud, they both look starved, and there wasn’t a decent hump between the two of them. She shook her head in disgust, sending camel slobber in all directions. This union was a mistake of nature.
Gladys was not a romantic.

What exciting story are you working on next?
A Jerk, a Jihad, and a Virus is available now. It’s the story of Jason, a veterinary virologist. Jason can’t keep his mouth shut, can’t lie convincingly, and can’t follow orders. He’s an unlikely candidate to help the CIA locate and destroy a deadly hybrid virus stolen from Jason’s lab at the University of Minnesota. From Washington to Djibouti, From Minneapolis to Yemen, Marines cringe, Senators turn livid, and CIA agents shudder as Jason struggles to prevent the virus from becoming a biological weapon in the hands of jihadists.

The book I’m working on now, tentatively titled, “Stalking Throckmorten,” is about a treasure buried deep in a tunnel under an old brewery in 1935. Otto, the dying man who buries the treasure, leaves a letter to be given to the first of his descendants to return to the village. Throckmorton, Otto’s descendant, is given the letter and begins the search, unaware that he’s being stalked by a divorcee with romance on her mind, a con man who’d like a share of the treasure, and a corrupt mayor who wants a cut.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I used to write letters at Christmas describing to relatives the stupid things I and our kids had managed to do during the year, including the year I got the butter stuck in the vacuum cleaner. It was a natural mistake.
Those letters taught me to be concise. I’d been writing the letters for 20 years when several people told me that those silly letters had become the high point of their Christmas. By that time I was a scientist with 19 research reports published in major journals of veterinary medicine and biology. If I could write humorous short stories and serious reports, I figured I was a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
“Full-time,” is an ambiguous term when discussing someone who’s retired. Naps become important. I may write between 2 to 10 hours a day, depending on where I am in a book, how much time I’m spending on marketing, and whether I’m in one of my periods of writer’s block.
I read as much as I can. I’m also a volunteer and a docent at a major zoo and a gardener of sorts. I enjoy working with wood—I built the vanity in our bathroom and a dining room table for our daughter—but I haven’t had much time for that recently.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Even why I tried to write a pandemic thriller, it came out as a comic thriller.
I seem unable to write fiction that isn’t humorous.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up on a dairy farm, I exhibited Holstein dairy cows and Clydesdale horses at local and state fairs. Since I was also interested in science, I wanted to be a veterinarian and a scientist, and I managed to be both.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Don’t fear failure. It happens. Keep an eye on the horizon, dare to dream, and set goals for yourself. We all have choices. We can look for reasons we won’t be able to achieve our goals or we can look for ways to overcome the roadblocks. You can look for excuses or you can find ways to accomplish things. It’s up to you.

Thank you for being a guest on my blog!

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Unknown said...

Many thanks for hosting my book on its virtual book tour. I'll check periodically through the day for comments.
Thanks again,

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Unknown said...

congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

Kim said...

I like the idea behind the story.

Unknown said...

Thanks, Lisa, and good luck

Unknown said...

I had a lot of fun thinking it up and imagining how Doofus would speak and act. With a lot of exaggeration, I used an uncle of mine as a model for him.

Stormy Vixen said...

Enjoyed the excerpt and interview, sounds like a great book!

Unknown said...

Thanks, Eva. Gland you liked the excerpt.

Victoria Alexander said...

Thanks for sharing the interview!

Unknown said...

Glad you liked it.