The cover of the novel.
Quad-City Times sports writer, 1978-2004. Genesis Health System senior communications specialist, 2004-present. And now Craig Cooper has an additional title – self-published novelist.
Cooper, 62, has written a book called “Convergence of Events.”
The story is about a collegiate hockey player in Minnesota who leaves for home after practice, where he suffered a concussion, becomes disoriented and, said Cooper, “dies unexpectedly and tragically, and they don’t know at first what has happened.”
It happens during the winter, and his body is found in some woods.
Adds Cooper: “They wonder if it was hypothermia – it was very cold that night – but they wonder why he couldn’t figure out how to get home. Why was he out in the middle of the remote woods?
“It turns out that he’d had a sports-related concussion at practice that day and had had numerous concussions throughout the years he’d been playing hockey.”
The central character, Cooper said, is a Denver reporter, who is on assignment in Utah.
“While he’s on assignment he finds out – it’s no surprise to him – that it would be the last edition of the newspaper that day. It’s closing down.”
Cooper, who strongly believes in the importance of community newspapers, said that’s reminiscent of what happened at the Rocky Mountain News.
The reporter in “Convergence of Events” needs a job and is offered one at a community newspaper in northern Minnesota. The hockey player’s death occurs on the second night he’s there.
Cooper said the college in his book doesn’t follow its protocol regarding concussions, leaving the player alone in the locker room. “And he’s still disoriented when he leaves the locker room (to go home) after practice. It’s a very, very cold day. It’s a remote area and heavily timbered. He gets lost on the way home.”
Cooper began writing the novel in January 2015, but he had been thinking about an idea on which he could base his story long before that.
He had written newspaper stories about the danger of concussions 15- some years ago, notes Cooper. A friend of his, a former Mallards hockey player he had covered for the paper, had suffered repeated concussions.
“His career ended that way – because of a concussion in a game. He’s had some very significant issues because of his concussions over the course of his career.”
One of the issues was depression. So sports-related concussions became the central theme for the book.
Cooper, who with his wife Susan has two grown sons and five grandchildren with another on the way, knew little about self-publishing – specifically about designing and uploading a book — in the beginning.
“I knew it could be done, but I didn’t know very much about it.”
A designer of ads, publications, brochures and websites at Genesis, Heather White, who also a senior communications specialist, has a design business of her own and used the appropriate software to format Cooper’s story.
“You can upload your book at Amazon or Barnes & Noble and get it listed,” he said. “It’s not a difficult process, and it doesn’t cost anything to do it.
“They take a portion of the proceeds when you sell a book. It’s not even that much of a percentage. It’s kind of cool to do.”
To those who say they’ve always wanted to write a book, “I say just sit down and do it because it is so easy now” to have it listed.
Cooper also worked with a company called blurb.com. “They will actually take your manuscript and turn it into a soft-cover book. We did that too, and that’s where I order books from.”
Cooper said novels usually range between 60,000 words long on the low end to 200,000 words on the high end. His book is roughly 300 pages or 76,000 words long.
When did Cooper find time to write?
“I sat down and started working on it is what it came down to. I would watch TV while I was writing at night, weekends. Whenever I had spare time I would do it.”
He gets up early each morning, he said, and walks on the treadmill.
“I’ll think of something while I’m down there. Or mowing the yard. I’ll think of something and go back to the computer and add it in. You just come up with ideas in different places, and I go to the computer and put them into the story and see if they work.”
He said one can Google how to write a novel, but “I did everything basically wrong. They tell you to write like it’s your job. I did everything wrong because I work for a living – I have a job. I have to write when I can, so that’s weekends, holidays and early mornings.”
Cooper said he didn’t write “Convergence of Events” to make a lot of money or sell movie rights. If you’re not a best-selling novelist you’re probably not going to sell that many books, he noted. He said there are about 12 million books listed on Amazon.
“I thought I had a story to tell that people might like to read. That was my whole idea,” said Cooper. “It was fun and exciting to just make stuff up. Especially in our business where everything we do has been based on fact. If there is one thing I really enjoy about the process, it’s that.”
You can purchase a soft-cover copy of “Convergence of Events” by Craig Lynn Cooper by sending him a message on Facebook.com. Or you may download a copy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Copyright 2016 by Phil Roberts, Creative Enterprises. This piece ran as a column in The North Scott Press, Eldridge, Iowa.