Local author to speak at writers' conference

By Clay Wilson

Local bookseller Barbara Bird says there are a lot of aspiring writers in the Southern Crescent.

Dale Cramer isn't one of them – at least not in the sense of still aspiring to become a published author. The Hampton resident's second novel, "Bad Ground," is rolling out from major Christian publisher Bethany House this weekend.

Also this weekend, Cramer is set to speak at Barnes & Noble Southlake's first writers' conference, encouraging local would-be authors to act on their dreams of getting published.

"If you know that it's in you to do it, don't wait," he urges.

Cramer said he's had the material for "Bad Ground" in him for almost two decades. Its setting and some of its characters are based on his experiences on an area water plant construction project in 1985.

"?Deep in underground darkness, miners sometimes discover beautiful crystals in bad ground.' This lovely symbolism permeates Cramer's second full-length novel," notes a "Publisher's Weekly" review quoted in promotional material for "Bad Ground."

The review was one of the trade publication's "starred reviews," which according to Cramer's publicist, Teresa Fogarty of Bethany House, is a "coveted" honor. "Bad Ground" also received starred reviews from Booklist and Library Journal, and Cramer said that to his knowledge it is the first Christian novel to have gotten the honor from all three publications.

His first book, "Sutter's Cross," also received critical acclaim, according to Fogarty. Cramer said Bethany House has tallied sales of almost 20,000 copies – and that doesn't include sales through the Crossings Book Club, which picked up "Sutter's Cross" as a Main Selection.

"I'm just blown away by all of it. Nobody's more surprised by any of it than I am," Cramer said.

Originally an electrician, the South Georgia native got his first work published at the suggestion and with the help of his friend Terry Hadaway, to whom "Bad Ground" is dedicated. The article, on relations between labor and management, was published in the international business magazine "Industry Weekly."

After dipping his feet – or his pen – into the waters of professional writing, Cramer went on to have several short stories published. He started working on "Sutter's Cross" in 1997, and got it published last year.

"I don't have one of those big, long stories about years of rejection," Cramer said. "I've been really fortunate, I would say."

The writers' conference set for today at Barnes & Noble Bookseller's Southlake location is designed to inform aspiring writers on getting published and several other areas of their craft.

"We've got something for everybody who's interested (in writing)," said Bird, community relations manager for the bookstore in Morrow.

Twelve authors and publishers are set to give presentations on various topics at the conference, scheduled for 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. today. Cramer plans to talk on "Inspirational Writing." He is planning a book signing for "Bad Ground" on Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.

Cramer, who now considers himself a full-time writer, encourages local aspirants to push themselves over the hump to trying to get published.

"Once you find what you were meant to do, just begin it," he said, "and it seems like the universe conspires to help you."