February 2010 – Jimmy the Groundhog from Sun Prairie, Wisconsin predicted only 6 more weeks of winter. Guess we still had to have at least one more blizzard in Green Bay. It hit on 2/09 – the day before my Run at Destruction True Crime/Memoir Book talk to the Learning and Retirement Group (LIR). We are a hardy community and even with our advancing ages… it appeared that everyone was shoveled out. At the Neville Museum, I talked to a packed house of about 130.

Two days later my sights were set on another LIR talk – this time at UW-La Crosse where I’d been the commencement speaker back in 2007. It was appropriate that I’d told the graduates to “journal your life” and that’s what I had now done. 

Of course we all have memories of the school we graduated from – whether high school or college. One of mine was getting hot doughnuts at Mr. D’s with my boyfriend (now husband – Jim) after bar time.  Well… the original shop has closed but a new establishment on the same corner is still selling their doughnut recipe. Valentine’s Day was approaching. Nostalgic  Mr. D’s doughnuts would be the perfect gift for my sweetheart!

I made a sharp turn into the coffee shop’s parking lot, dashed in, purchased a dozen doughnuts, climbed back in my vehicle, while chewing on one, and put my key into the ignition. It wouldn’t turn… my steering wheel was locked! Ah, oh! I had fifteen minutes to my talk and nothing I was doing was working.

Lucky I’m still a runner. I grabbed my computer case, and with temperatures close to zero, jogged the six blocks to the Cartwright Center on the UW-L Campus. I got there in the nick of time, but when I opened my laptop, my heart sunk… my computer wouldn’t come up. (Guess it doesn’t like to jog!) Finally with a number of reboots, I got it working in Safe Mode. Whew… 

The group was great and very interactive… one told me that she had a sister in Green Bay. She called her during the break and discovered that she’d been at that LIR  just two days before. Both sisters ended up buying signed books!

Tomorrow I’m heading to Madison for a Booked for Murder Bookstore talk – more travels, talks and hopefully, not too many more tribulations!

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Race Director Sean Ryan with Mac-Attack Jim Genrich and Poké-mom Lynda Drews

The foliage color was at its peak as I lined up in the small fishing village of Gills Rock to tackle the first leg of the Wisconsin Door County Fall Fifty that would finish in the shipbuilding community of Sturgeon Bay. The race director, Sean Ryan, approached me, giving me a warm hug, as the chilly wind whipped off of the waters of Green Bay, tousling my head-banded hair.  In this region, Sean’s name is synonymous with quality athletic events. I also hold a special place in my heart for him. Sean gave me my first blurb for my first book released in August, 2009: “Run At Destruction is written with the beat of a runner’s heart: steady intensity racing toward an inevitable finish. Drews is the John Grisham of the running world, pulling readers into a unique subculture where the drama unfolds.”

Well today I was surrounded by this unique subculture. There were the

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Poké-moms - Barb Kiser, Dianne Smith, Kathy Kapalin, Lynda Drews, Suzie Prue

 Victoria’s Secrets, dressed in bikini swimsuits over running attire, an Alice in Wonderland team, a group of Halloween Caped Crusaders, and of course my teammates, the Poké-moms. These four women would be jumping into our decorated van to drive along the picturesque shoreline until they reached the exchange point. Since 1977, I’ve been part of a close-knit running community. If some calamity befalls a member, only one call is needed and the group responds. Each asks how the other is doing, and honestly cares. My True Crime book revolves around one of these members, Pamela Bulik, who was my best friend and running companion. During the running boom of the 80’s, she mysteriously drowned in her bathtub. This led to a first-degree murder arrest and a sensational trial. As Dave McGillivray, the Race Director for the Boston Marathon says: “Run at Destruction captures the family-like culture of a running group, showing how its members support one another especially in times of crisis.” He’s so right!

Today’s excitement was invigorating. A beautiful voice pierced the cold crisp air. Gazing up at our American flag that flapped in the pearl-grey sky, we listened to the melodic National Anthem, hands over our hearts, hopping in place to keep our leg muscles warm. As the last notes hung in the air, the gun exploded. Collectively we took off. What an adventure! I’d never run a fifty-mile relay race before. Like my new career as an author – I figured there might be challenges at every twist and turn.

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Finish Line for Poké-moms (Dianne left for cancer benefit)

Even though our running group is extremely supportive – we are also competitive. Just like finding a mainstream publisher for my book, we were out to beat the odds. There was a team called Mac-Attack – a name chosen to honor Bruce MacNeil, a fellow-runner who had recently passed. This team, though, was also known as our significant others.

7 hours and 46 minutes later we achieved our goal, finishing nearly fifteen minutes ahead of them. The Poké-moms weren’t Poké anymore!

Authors - Mike Dauplasie and Lynda Drews at TitleTown Book Release Party

Authors - Mike Dauplasie and Lynda Drews at TitleTown Book Release Party

I was ready! A press-release was in place, my Fox11 television interview was completed and invitations had been sent.  August 7th had arrived! Tracy Ertl, my True Crime publisher from TitleTown Publishing was officially releasing  two of her new titles – my book Run at Destruction and Mike Dauplaise’s book Torture at the Back Forty!  And… what more could you ask for,  then to have our release party at TitleTown Brewing Company in Green Bay, Wisconsin – the city that was the setting for both of our books that took place in the mid-80’s.

Hundreds of people showed up as the line stretched a block long.

Sgt. Jim Taylor, me and Judy Taylor at Release Party

Sgt. Jim Taylor, me and Judy Taylor at Release Party

 Everyone patiently waited to purchase their first-edition signed copies. Among them were key principals that had played major roles in our books – now-retired Coroner Genie Williams and now-retired Sergeant James Taylor with his wife Judy.

Sgt. Taylor in Bulik home on the day of Pam's Death - April 7, 1984

Sgt. Taylor in Bulik home on the day of Pam's Death - April 7, 1984

Taylor was the lead detective on the investigation into my best running friend, Pamela Bulik’s suspcious bathtub drowning death – the subject that my book revolves around.   

Two hours later, having sold about 250 books between us, Mike and I finally rested our pens to join family and friends. 

But… by Monday I picked mine up once again. Beezie MacNeil (a character in my book) and I met for coffee inside the Green Bay B&N store. Of course I checked where my books were positioned. Previously they’d been prominently displayed at the information desk beside my poster. I was dismayed to find no books on the counter. I was told they’d sold the last one they had on Saturday and were anxiously awaiting a replenishment shipment.

I met with Shirley, their Community Relations Manager. She informed me that my book had been the #1 seller in the store last week! Pretty amazing! Temporaily, she gladly agreed to take two cases of Run at Destruction that I had stored in my van… to tide her over. Then… the two of us sat in the Cafe – chatting away as I signed my books while she adhered a green “autographed by author” sticker. 

The past several days had certainly been a great team effort!

Yesterday I arrived at the Fox11 Station, nervously pressing the building buzzer. A young woman opened the door and quickly led me down a hall. WeDW-Event-Calendar-icon waited near a lit overlead sign that said the Good Day Wisconsin Show was in progess.  As the light went off, I entered the studio. Being my second television interview in less than one week, you’d think this would be a piece of cake, but not so… I was situated in a chair by a fake fireplace, waiting and watching. To my left was a mock-up kitchen for the Living with Amy Show and to my right were the news and weather personalities, Rachel Manek and Pete Petoniak. Viewers were being informed about a herd of galloping horses that had escaped onto a highway where one horse had even attempted  to jump over a moving car, smashing its windshield. 

Rachel Manek of Fox11 Good Day Wisconsin

Rachel Manek of Fox11 Good Day Wisconsin

At the break,  Rachel joined me and whispered that the station had found actual footage of Pam’s April 7, 1984 death and the subsequent February 1985 sentening hearing.  I gulped hearing that! The camera then focused our way… We were live… You can see I was a bit nervous… Oh well, I’m only human!   

MacNeil Family in 1984 sitting on Scout

MacNeil Family in 1984 sitting on Scout

Bruce MacNeil – the founder of our Green Bay/Ashwaubenon Fun Runs passed away in Nov. of 2008.  He and his wife Beezie are major characters in my book Run at Destruction that takes place during the running boom of the 1980s. Bruce had fashioned these runs after a 1970’s Runner’s World article.  

 On July 1, 2009, it was fitting that Bruce’s whole family returned to the park where we continue to hold our weekly Fun Runs, to help dedicate a park bench in Bruce’s honor. 

MacNeil Family sitting on Bruce's Bench in Klipstine Park on July 1, 2009

MacNeil Family sitting on Bruce's Bench in Klipstine Park on July 1, 2009

There was a huge crowd that attended. Something that Bruce certainly would’ve loved, especially since we followed up the dedication with a run or a walk. Then of course there was our cookout. Chef Bruce was only missing in body, but not in memory as the entire group stayed late… remembering and celebrating his life!

Our Running Group is such a close-knit family. What’s wonderful is that it’s  something that’s been instilled in our children, who are now passing it down to the next generation. 

Isn’t that the best tribute after all?

Dedication Plaque

B&N front windowI got an email last week. My book – Run at Destruction: A True Fatal Love Triangle had shipped early. Could I come into the Green Bay Barnes & Noble to sign copies. This was it! My book was now being sold in an actual brick and mortar store. 

I parked out front of the Oneida Street location, in close proximity to the Bay Park Square Mall. Approaching the entrance, I was drawn toward the front window display. There were my books! Unbelievable! 

Inside the store ,  in addition to this prime location, they were stacked on the information desk adjacent to the sign to pre-order Dan Brown’s new novel. What an honor. I next located some in the True Crime section – after all Ann Rule did endorse it saying it was “Wonderfully written. A must for true crime readers.” I also discovered books on one of the front tables and in the Wisconsin Local Section focused on history and sports. (My book revolves around a terrible tragedy that occured within Green Bay’s close-knit running community in the 80’s. A correspondent for Track & Field News endorsed it saying, “This is the 2009 runner’s read.”)  

I’m sure appreciative that Shirley VerBruggen, the B&N Community Relations Manager had given me such good placement!

One of the employees provided me a pen, and offerred to buy me a Starbucks

Author Lynda Drews

Author Lynda Drews

from their Cafe, while I proceeded to autograph each book that she carried from the various locations mentioned. As she did, we talked about the story and my lost friend, Pamela Bulik. Both of us blinked back tears. During her dinner break that night, she said she was starting my book.  

The two of us had sealed a connection.

2009 Bellin BoothWhat a whirlwind the last few days have been at the Bellin Run promoting Run at Destruction!   Talk – Book Signings – Run – Books Signing – Party!

At the 33rd Bellin Run – I was awed to share the  pre-race stage with Marathon Olympians Joan Benoit Samuelson and Bill Rodgers. Kelly McBride from the Green Bay Press-Gazette also ran an article about me. Because I’d done research for my book, Run at Destruction, a true murder mystery about my best friend’s death, set in Green Bay during the 1980’s running boom, I’d become a bit of a historian about the sport’s beginnings in our community.  In addition to reading excerpts from my book – I shared how our running movement was launched.

In 1976, George Kerwin, now Bellin Health’s President and CEO, attended the Quiet Company 10K in Milwaukee where Frank Shorter, the Olympic Gold and Silver Medallist ran. Following that race George contacted my husband, Jim Drews (an all-American cross country & track runner), Dick Lytie (our local running guru), and Ron Dauplaise (former East High Track Coach & father of fellow author, Mike Dauplaise.) The four of them met at Dick’s house, sitting around his kitchen table, discussing how Bellin might approach this kind of run in Green Bay. Then in June of 1977, the first Bellin Run was held, attracting around 700 runners. A big turnout at that time! (This year’s had more than 15,000.) I looked back at that first year’s participant list and within the top 40 runners, 20 were personal friends of Jim’s and mine from college. Sure they thought the race sounded interesting, but honestly most of these guys, that were in their mid-twenties, also liked the idea that Jim and I were hosting the post run party in

1986 Bellin - Joan Benoit Samuelson at my house

1986 Bellin - Joan Benoit Samuelson at my house

 conjunction with Bellin – and it included free beer.

My husband had been used to winning races, but because Frank Shorter had agreed to come, Jim placed second, running a 30:41, ten seconds behind Shorter. In later years, I remember George Kerwin escorting the elite runners over to our home. I told the audience that both Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson actually sat on my couch eating potluck food, compliments of our Fun Run Group.  

So… after my talk – Joan and Bill took the stage. Joan told a story about how she kept special “treasures” in a tackle box in her bedroom. One of these was her 1984 Olympic Marathon ring. A friend called her and said that he’d seen it for sale on e-bay. Sure enough, she checked and it was indeed missing!  Luckily she got it back, but she turned to me and said, “Lynda, maybe that can be the next mystery you write about!”   In turn, Bill Rodgers talked about his previous Bellin Runs. He’d brought his first place plaque that he’d won in 1978 to donate back to Bellin. But instead, he decided to sign it over to my husband. At the second annual Bellin, Jim had once again placed second – running a 29:56 – this time 19 seconds behind Rodgers. 

Finally Jim has a first place Bellin plaque!