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Authors enjoy unusual collaboration

February 5, 2013
Morning Journal News

EAST LIVERPOOL-"Bad Moon Rising" started out as an admittedly "silly idea"-to write a book with three authors, one chapter at a time.

Now that they have the finished product, authors Cathy Seckman, Debbie Schukert and Darlene Torday don't think it's so silly. They enjoyed their unusual collaboration so much that they're working on a second book-a collection of short stories tentatively titled "H2O Mysteries."

"We're still friends, and we had a good time," said Seckman, 58, of Calcutta. "You just have to set your ego aside."

Article Photos

Author Debbie Schukert signs a copy of “Bad Moon Rising,” which she co-authored with (from left) Darlene Torday and Cathy Seckman. The three women, who already are collaborating on their second book, were at Java Jo House, 514 E. Fifth St., East Liverpool, on Saturday for a book signing. (Photo by Stephen Huba)

"Bad Moon Rising" went live on Kindle in October and became available for sale as a paperback on in December. Now the three women are hoping for rising sales.

The weekend found them at Java Jo House, 514 E. Fifth St., East Liverpool, signing copies of the book for an occasional customer. They'll return for another book signing at 11 a.m. March 23.

Seckman, Schukert and Torday met about 10 years ago at a meeting of Writers Anonymous, a group of aspiring and accomplished writers who gather for advice and inspiration at the Barnes & Noble in Boardman.

At one meeting in 2006, members drew slips of paper with different genres-mystery, fiction, history-written on them. Schukert, 53, of Edinburg, Pa., pulled out history and decided to write a story about Woodstock.

"I was always fascinated with hippies. I always wanted to be a hippie," she said.

Torday, 64, of Berlin Center, Ohio, pulled out mystery and wrote a chapter in which one of Schukert's main characters is murdered.

"That really freaked me out for a while," Schukert said. "You were in charge of your chapter, so you could take the story wherever you wanted it to go."

Soon, the women had embarked on a book project that had each of them contributing a chapter and commenting on the work of their predecessor.

"It was up to each individual person what they wanted to do, and it was up to the next person to deal with it," Seckman said. "In the end, we had a complete book."

Set in the years 1969 and 1970, "Bad Moon Rising" tells the story of a group of friends from Kent State University who attend the Woodstock music festival and who, upon their return to college, get drawn into a murder investigation. The 18-chapter story is bookended with the historical events of Woodstock and the Kent State shootings.

In 2009, the women traveled to Kent to do historical research on the shootings, ending up there on the May 4 anniversary of the shootings, Torday said. They spent time poring over archival documents and visiting historic sites.

"By the time we got to a little over halfway done, we decided we were really going to have a book," Torday said. "We just knew we wanted it to end at the Kent State shootings."

After the women had a full manuscript, with each of them contributing about a third, they met regularly for the painstaking editing process.

"When we met, we'd have an idea in mind, and we would work that out among the three of us," Seckman said. "Only two people needed to agree. If we waited until all three of us agreed, we'd never have got it done."

The editing process was strengthened by the fact that two of the three women had been published before. An experienced freelance writer, with hundreds of articles in her portfolio, Seckman also is author of "Weirdo World" (Cool Well Press, $3.99), a time travel novel for young adults. Torday has had short stories published in True Story, True Romance and True Confessions magazines.

As the youngest and least experienced writer among the three, Schukert said it was "terrible" having to start the book off but now counts the project as "one of the best experiences of my life."

After unsuccessfully trying to find a publisher for the book, the women decided to publish "Bad Moon Rising" through Amazon's CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

"For an independent author, it's a wonderful thing," Seckman said. "You don't have to wait for a publisher to like your book."

Regardless of whether the book sells, the women were pleased with the finished product and were convinced they had a good story, Seckman said.

"I'm kind of amazed that it worked so well with the three of us," Torday said, "because we're all different people, and we all have different experiences in life. The characters kind of brought us together, and we just managed to work it out."



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