A group of area writers has teamed up to hold two book-launch parties, aiming to give residents and visitors a chance to meet the authors and learn more about their works.
Jackson Coppley, Walter Curran and Frank Hopkins will be hosting book parties on Saturday, July 23, at The Den at Bear Trap Dunes from 3 to 6 p.m., and on Sunday, July 24, at Touch of Italy in Ocean City, Md., from 2 to 5 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.
“It’s an event for the area,” said Curran. “We’re going to continue to do that kind of promotion.”
“The public can make reservations and have dinner there,” explained Coppley. “And we encourage that.”
Those who attend will be able to enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar, while also getting the chance to meet the authors one-on-one and learn about their published works.
Coppley’s book, “Leaving Lisa,” to be released this Saturday, is a story about grief, recovery and new love.
“It’s a story about a man whose wife dies, and she’s instructing him to spread her ashes around the world in three different places that are meaningful to her,” he explained, noting the book travels to Costa Rica, Vietnam and Italy.
“The key thing is, five years ago, Watson, a computer system, was introduced to play ‘Jeopardy’ and beat champions. In this book, Watson, or a computer system like that, encapsulates Lisa, and he carries that with him and talks to Lisa all through his journey.”
The novel was inspired by family lore, as Coppley’s wife, Ellen, is the niece of famed author C.S. Lewis.
“Her aunt Joy married C.S. Lewis,” explained Coppley. “The story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis has always been bouncing around the family. He wrote, ‘A Grief Observed,’ which was his reaction to losing somebody. That always stuck in my head about what would it be like to experience. Fortunately, it’s a personal experience, but one that I’ve read about.”
Coppley said the novel was also inspired by the “what-ifs” people ask themselves when a loved one passes.
“‘If I could’ve only asked the deceased something.’… Well, what if that was answered? So I made a way that it was possible.”
Coppley’s first novel, “Tales from Our Near Future” shows how technology that’s within reach can affect relationships.
Curran’s novel, “Young Mariner” follows the life of William Connolly, a street kid from South Boston, as he embarks on his first job as a third-mate on the cargo ship the MorMacPride.
“It’s the story of a young man growing up in South Boston who lived on the waterfront. He was in love with ships, wanted to make that his living. He went to Mass Maritime, graduated in 1966 and began his adventures at sea.
“He embarks on very interesting and creative adventure, thinking he’s going to spend the next 20 years in the Merchant Marine and make it his life, but found out that he was involved with a larcenous crew and a nefarious captain that led them.
“In my case, about 90 percent of my book happened. Not to me, but to other people that I was with,” including the bloodshed, noted Curran.
The story follows Connolly as he sails from New York, to the Great Lakes down through South America and back to New York.
“Throughout, there’s murder, mayhem, violence, a little bit of sex thrown in to make it interesting.”
The novel is loosely based on Curran’s own life, as a native Bostonian and Massachusetts Maritime graduate who sailed on the MorMacPride, along with the lives of his fellow sailors.
“It shows how adventuresome a life can be at such an early age and yet he now has to ponder as it ends in a very violent way in New York, does he want to come back and continue this adventure knowing some of the characters he’s going to be sailing with? That’s where I leave it, and the second book will pick it up there.”
His first book, “Slices of Life: Cerebral Spasms of the Soul” is a book of poems written after a life-changing trip to Ireland.
“It was when I discovered that, after my trip to Ireland in ’97, that I really was full of blarney,” he said. “My family encouraged me, instead of discouraged me, so I blame them for that.”
Hopkins, the most seasoned writer of the group, recently released “First Time,” a collection of 10 short stories.
“The overriding theme is the first time something which happens to everybody happens to the major characters in each story.”
His first book, “Unplanned Choices” is a coming-of-age historical romantic drama.
“It is set in New York City in the 1960s and ’70s during the Vietnam War, women’s rights and the abortion movement. It’s a story about a young couple who fall in love in college. Unfortunately, she gets pregnant before abortion is legalized in New York and she dies during the abortion. The remainder of the book is the impact of her death on him and her friends and family, the abortionist that was caught and New York City police.”
His other novel, “The Opportunity,” is a story of corruption in federal government contracting —something that Hopkins is very familiar with, as he spent 30 years of his career in the field.
“It’s set in the D.C. area and Rehoboth Beach. It starts off with a young woman who supports her husband through medical school, and he dumps her for a younger woman,” he explained. “So she decides to never depend financially on a man again, which is what I taught my daughters. She then becomes a very successful business development executive… Unfortunately, her success is tinged through corruption and it’s discovered by a newspaper reporter, and the remainder of the book describes what happens to the individuals in the book.”
Gray-Haired Group gets together
Self-dubbed “The Gray-Haired Group” (because they all have gray hair), the three, along with fellow member Bill Kennedy, whose book has yet to be published, were teamed up through Maribeth Fischer, the founder and executive director of the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild, to help critique each other’s novels.
“We were all about at the same point in creating a novel,” said Coppley. “So we started doing it chapter by chapter.”
The group meets every two weeks and each brings a new chapter to the group to be critiqued.
“Because you’re giving it to your peers, you actually reread it and edit it,” said Hopkins.
“The first time I didn’t, and it was brutal,” shared Coppley.
“It was a feeling-out process,” Curran added. “I don’t think any of us had met each other, except maybe in passing. It really has, I think, helped everyone improve their writing.”
Coppley said he can depend on the group to provide honest, constructive criticism.
“And they me, too. We don’t have a problem stating what we think is wrong, what we think needs to be improved, what’s missing. Whether we decide to do anything with that or not is our decision. It’s our product. … Everyone brings something different to the table.”
“There’s no question, the first rule of writing is learning how to take rejection. Criticism is so much better than outright rejection,” Curran added. “You’ll never pick up your own mistakes, because it’s all in your head. So this group has really been invaluable. These fellas have helped my writing improve tremendously.”
Coppley said he caught the writing bug as a young man but didn’t focus on it until later on in life.
“When I was in high school, I wrote a one-act play. When I was in college, I was in engineering but took writing courses. Then, when I was married and had children, I wrote a technical article that was written in a technical magazine. It was at that point that I understood what an editor can do to your stuff, because when it was printed, I wouldn’t recognize it.”
When he retired at the end of 2013, he released his first novel and was encouraged by his family to continue writing.
Curran first started writing while commuting on the train from New Carlton to Philadelphia.
“For nine years, I took the 5 a.m. train from New Carlton up to Philadelphia. It’s amazing how many subjects you can come up with that fit well into poetry at 5 in the morning,” he said. “I also wrote most of my first novel, ‘Young Mariner,’ on the train and then finished it about a year after that, then stuck it in the closet and did nothing with it.”
Hopkins, who spent his career as an economist, first started writing for work.
“I was a professor, and we had to write all these technical articles to get tenure,” he explained. But a real-life story close to home encouraged him to try his hand at writing fiction. “I used to live in Queens, N.Y., when I was in college, and across the street from me, about four houses down, this doctor lived. When I was in grad school, I saw this headline, ‘Physician arrested because plumber finds body parts in sewage.’ I thought, ‘That’d make a great story.
“Of course, you get married, you have kids, get divorced and have a career, so I didn’t start writing it until about eight years ago.”
The three said they are excited for the events and hope to meet new readers and those who have already read some of their works.
“I just had the highlight of my year. My wife sent me out to Giant to get something, and as I’m walking in the door, a lady came up to me who I vaguely recognized, and, in an extremely loud voice in front of dozens of people, said, ‘Walter, I loved your book!’” Curran shared with a laugh.
“We all do it for different reasons. I just enjoy it. This is my hobby now, no question about it.”
For more information about Coppley’s works, visit www.jacksoncoppley.com. For more information about Curran and his works, visit www.amazon.com/author/walterfcurran. For more information regarding Hopkins’ works, visit www.frankhopkins.com. The Den at Bear Trap Dunes is located at 7 Clubhouse Way in Ocean View. Touch of Italy is located at the Holiday Inn, 67th St., oceanside, in Ocean City, Md.