Looking for a new story for summertime? These authors with Ocean City connections may have just the book you need.
A SWEET summer romance is perfect to read on the beach.
Of course, a carefully plotted mystery could be just the thing, too.
Then again, there are also classics and thrillers, graphic novels and biographies, local history and historical fiction … and the list goes on and on.
But that’s the magic of reading at the shore, feet buried in the sand and sun shining in the sky. Any book can be a beach read.
“If you ask me what a beach read is, it’s the book you’re reading that you’re taking to the beach,” Lori Samlin Miller said. “It’s whatever you enjoy. You shouldn’t feel limited to one genre.”
Lori is the author of “Stay Where I Can See You,” a children’s story with a poignant lesson inspired by discovering a bale of baby diamondback terrapins on a Jersey Shore beach. Lori, of Cherry Hill, wrote the tale the summer she spent shuttling her son to and from his job at Johnson’s Popcorn on the Ocean City Boardwalk from the family’s beach house in Ventnor.
While Lori’s book is geared toward kids, with fun, engaging illustrations by Frank Zampino, the book also includes facts about diamondback terrapins in the back, which speaks to the author’s background as a special education teacher.
“I’m really interested in taking my experiences and helping parents and helping society to better accept everybody the way they are and for what they have to offer and for helping people reach their potential,” Lori said.
Having written two other children’s books – with another on the way – Lori said the journey has been exciting, although not unexpected. Growing up in West Philadelphia, Lori remembers unloading her stress by hiding out in the school library. Books were always a comfort – and an escape.
“My father was a storyteller and my mother was always reading to us. There were always books in my house. My older sister is an avid reader and became a librarian. I became a teacher,” she said. “I feel like I know how to tell a story in a way that will make it interesting.”
Being able to keep a book interesting is, naturally, a necessary ability for a writer. Writing about what one finds interesting, though, seems to be a trick of the trade, too.
Such is the case with Fred Miller, an Ocean City history aficionado who came into the field quite unconventionally. Miller, a longtime member of the Ocean City Beach Patrol, was put on public relations duty in 1981 when then OCBP Captain George Lafferty was unhappy with the patrol’s press.
“That got me interested in writing and researching,” Fred said. “After the beach patrol, I got interested in all the other histories.”
Fred – alongside his late wife, Susan, who passed away in 2015 – has written nine history books. The first was “America’s Greatest Family Resort” about – you guessed it – Ocean City, which was published in 2003. Miller wrote this when the town was gearing up for its 125th anniversary.
“That’s still my favorite book,” said Fred, who served for years on the Ocean City Historical Museum board and as the institution’s president. The last book Miller wrote was “Legendary Locals of Ocean City,” which profiles 150 individuals with ties to this seaside resort. Fred said he’s gotten more comments on that book than any other.
While he doesn’t have any plans for another book on the horizon, unsure if he could (or would want to) tackle the project without his wife by his side, he keeps busy writing history columns in four area publications – Ocean City Magazine, Ocean City Sentinel, Shore Local and the Ocean City Sure Guide. He enjoys the weekly commitment, and while he said he does it for himself, there’s another reason Fred can’t stop writing.
“I just feel I’m doing a service for the community. I love Ocean City. I’ve lived here since 1965,” he said. “I want to keep it in the news and keep people aware of the history.”
Kelly Brady Channick, a 2009 Ocean City High School graduate, had a personal goal with her young adult Asbury High mystery series, too. She wanted to bring back old fashioned, feel good mysteries she remembered her mom reading to her when she was young. The sixth book in the seven-book series just dropped earlier this summer, with the seventh expected this winter.
Kelly, a standout basketball player at OCHS who went on to accept a basketball scholarship to Holy Family University, wrote the first of her series, “Asbury High and the Thief’s Gamble,” the summer after she graduated high school, but her four fictional amateur detectives – Maddie, Cornelious, Carly and Pilot – had to take a bit of a hiatus after college started since Kelly had to focus on basketball and her studies.
During a creative writing class her junior year, however, Kelly’s professor encouraged her to continue the series. She had written out an outline for all seven books before writing the first, so now it was a matter of putting pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard.
A seven-book series is no small feat, of course, and over the years, the Upper Township resident has also had her biggest fan in her husband, Ryan. The pair are parents to Declan, three, and Patrick, one.
For Kelly, writing starts with extensive outlining. With the bones of the series worked out, Kelly deep dives into outlining chapter-by-chapter before she starts writing.
“Once it’s outlined, you have no choice but to go back and turn it into a story,” she said.
Kelly is a lifelong reader and writer (she’s written in a daily journal since middle school and, yes, she still has them all), so making the jump to becoming an author was a natural progression.
Reading – and lots of it – is what sparked the writing bug for Jennifer Shirk, too. The Ocean City resident wasn’t a writer in high school or college – she actually graduated with a pharmacy degree – but when she was pregnant with her daughter, Juliette, she found herself filling all of her extra time with books. This continued when her daughter was young, with nap time equaling reading time for Jennifer.
Eventually, she drifted from her much-loved mysteries and discovered the romance genre.
“When I was reading, I was kind of rewriting the stories in my mind, thinking I would have done it this way or wondering why did the author end it that way,” Jennifer said. “I thought maybe I should try writing my own since I’m not seeing what I want to see.”
It wasn’t always an easy road, but she kept traveling down it. She invested time in researching, attended a writers’ workshop at the Ocean City Free Public Library and didn’t give up when her first manuscript was rejected.
Or her second.
For Jennifer, the third time, as they say, was the charm.
“Once you have that under your belt, it gets a little easier,” she said.
Jennifer has now published a dozen books. Her agent has one finished manuscript she’s shopping around, and she is putting the final edits on another. She has been checking off her writing goals through the years– to be published, to have a book in print, to hit the USA Today bestseller list – and now she’s working on getting a deal for a mass market paperback.
“I call them stepping stones of goals,” she said.
The solitary nature of writing books can be a bit challenging, Jennifer said, but she keeps her connections strong through writing groups and serving as the board president at the Ocean City Free Public Library.
And at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
“Honestly the best part for me is I have a legacy that I can show my daughter and maybe her children one day,” Jennifer said. “It’s memorable. That’s really special.”
Want to check out one of these local reads?
Learn more by visiting Lori Samlin Miller at www.lorisamlinmiller.com, Kelly Brady Channick at www.kbchannick.com, and Jennifer Shirk at www.jennifershirk.com. Visit www.arcadiapublishing.com and www.schifferbooks.com for a compendium of Fred Miller’s books. Most books are also available at Sun Rose Words & Music, 756 Asbury Avenue, and various online retailers.
Find this and more stories in the August issue of Ocean City Magazine