Synopsis of Signs of Struggle

Writing is hard, at least it is for me. The first piece I ever sold was to Reader’s Digest a long, long time ago. It was an article about how, as young boys, my friends and I tried to sneak baseballs from my home town’s minor league games to use for our own games. The piece was called “Shagger!” and it won a First Person Award. It also produced a check for a princely sum, even by today’s standards. My wife, Lisa, and I celebrated by dining in a fine restaurant in Iowa City within walking distance of our upstairs apartment on Church Street. The place was called “Magoo’s” and it had no windows and the outside was painted orange. Rumor was the owner had murdered his wife. It was a classy joint, and we dined on pizza, popcorn, and a pitcher of beer.

It occurred to me that all I had to do to be a successful writer was to write something, send it off, then wait for the check to show up in the mailbox. Several rejections later from the fine folks at RD disabused me of that pipe dream. Anyway, dear readers, I promised you a synopsis of my first commercial, mainsteam novel, Signs of Struggle, so here it is.

Thomas O’Shea just wants to be left alone after his wife and two daughters are killed in a fiery wreck coming home from Christmas shopping in Atlanta. At first, he toys with suicide, then tries to get on with his life in Belue, Georgia. But it doesn’t work. Too many painful reminders of his lost family. So, after eighteen months, he sells his business, house and lake house, ski boat and Porsche. Then he gets in his pickup truck with Gotcha, the family’s English Bulldog, and drives straight through to his home state of Iowa to heal, to regroup, to live again.

Meandering through the countryside one May morning, he is nearly run off the gravel road by a speeding, skidding Corvette. Shortly after, he sees a beautiful, bloodied, screaming woman sprinting down the lane from her farmhouse. He tries to ignore her. He has his own issues, after all. But he stops to help and she leads him to her dead husband, victim of a farm accident. But Thomas wonders if it really is an accident, especially after he finds out that the owner of the Corvette is the dead man’s “evil” brother. What was the bad brother doing so near the accident scene? Why was he speeding away? Thomas begins nosing around, being a bit of a pest and a smartass. He keeps asking questions and tough people keep trying to discourage him. His nebulous Special Forces background proves useful as he tries to get to the bottom of the farmer’s death. In the course of his quest, he meets an array of colorful characters such as Lunatic Mooning, the laconic Ojibwa Indian owner/bartender of The Grain o’ Truth Bar & Grill. He also runs into the lucious Liv Olson, divorced English teacher at the local high school.

Thomas uncovers multiple murders, sexual depravity, suicide, and the core of the corruption, a $32 million fraudulent land scheme. During the course of his story, Thomas struggles with his faith, his gravitation to alcohol, and a long-dormant tendency to enjoy violence.

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13 Responses to Synopsis of Signs of Struggle

  1. Erin says:

    VERY excited for it to come out!!

  2. So excited for you, Uncle John!!! Looking forward to getting my own copy in the mail! (I laughed out loud at the reference to Gotcha- ah, Mable. :D)

    • Anna: Thanks for your kind words. I’m excited, too! In the meantime, I’m revising another novel, a commercial literary Southern romantic comedy. We’ll see what happens with that. Glad you picked up on the Mabel connection!

  3. I am telling all y’all, the world is in for a major treat when SOS comes out this fall! Take it from someone who knows. Way to go, John!!!!!!!! Melinda

  4. Meagan Trammell says:

    I would love a copy( maybe even autographed)!!! Please let me know where I may purchase a copy!

    • Meagan: Thank you for your kind words and enthusiasm. Made my day. I’ll be sure to let you know the details of when and where you can pick up a copy. I’d be happy to autograph it for you, of course. Have a great summer!

  5. G.S. says:

    I’m excited about this, John!! Sounds like an interesting character in really interesting circumstances… and considering the author, I have a feeling the story will be told in a very engaging and witty way. (…and you know I know what I’m talking about because you know that I share your deep appreciation for the perfect story arc constructed in that cinematic masterpiece, “Dumb and Dumber”.) Joking aside… I’m excited to read it, and thrilled for you!

    • Thanks for the kind words. I just finished my next-to-last revision of the whole thing. Now I’m waiting for the suggestions from my publisher this summer. Then it’s off for publication. I’m also revising a literary commercial Southern romantic comedy that does not quite reach the humorous level of “Dumb and Dumber,” but I tried. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks again.

  6. Dave N. says:

    I will buy this, and it will go between my copies of “The Road”, “No Country for Old Men,” “The Green Mile,” “Wind in the Willows,” and a blank space I always keep on my bookshelf for my book. I’m positive this will be a great story with characters as rich and deep as Stephen King’s.

  7. profmondo says:

    John, I believe I actually read “Shagger!” those many years ago, possibly during the childhood summer in which I read a couple of decades worth of RD. A terrific magazine that is unfortunately now merely a shadow of what it used to be — a decline that started, I think, when new generations of editors began to regard their readers as rubes. Ou sont les neiges and all that.

    • Warren: That’s cool that you might have read “Shagger!” I sold five more pieces to RD over the years, and then they started rejected me as the magazine declined. Do you suppose there’s a connection? I admit to being a bit of a rube myself, but I don’t even read RD any more, or submit anything to them. Mostly ads, it seems like.

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