Nikki’s thought on summer …

“There are a lot of great things about summer, but perhaps the best is no students or teachers will be killed or injured in a senseless shooting.”


Streaks of Blue readers have now donated $223.98 to the Newtown Memorial Fund

StreaksOfBlue_ebook (1)Another donation was made today. Half of all proceeds from this book go to the Newtown Memorial Fund in a tribute to the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting three years ago today. Find out more about the fund and how it helps the families here …

Two years ago today …

13_FEA_111213BF03 Another reminder to hug the women and children in our lives a little tighter. RIP Sandy Hook 26. “Streaks of Blue” readers have now donated $183.96 to the Newtown Memorial Fund (link below). Great story by my colleague Paul Singley today about Sandy Hook Principal Dawn Hochsprung’s daughter.

25 chapters deep into “Nikki Blue: Source of Trouble”; third book likely will be “Nikki Roulette: Red or Black?”

sourceoftroubleI’ve written 25 chapters so far for the sequel to “Streaks of Blue.” Progress has been slow but steady, with more than 54,000 words already written and a likely target of 70,000-75,000 for this book, considerably longer than the first one. The arc for the second book will extend into a third book, tentatively titled, “Nikki Roulette: Red or Black?” There is also a chance this series will go beyond three books.
My goal for “Nikki Blue: Source of Trouble” is to publish it in the spring of 2016, though I may have ARCs of it ready for NetGalley before that.
Here is a chapter title listing so far:
1. Rainbows and Unicorns, Part 1
2. Enterprise Story
3. Weirdos Make the World Go Round
4. Hot Tip
5. Silver Sands
6. Busted in Bridgeport
7. 25 Grand
8. Money Trail
9. Coffee in the Lobby
10. The Other Kind of Auditing
11. Rainbows and Unicorns, Part 2
12. Your Enemy’s Enemy
13. As Long As We’re Both Being Honest
14. Climbing the Lion
15. Captain Rookie
16. Howl at the Moon
17. Nikki Blue
18. Earth Wing
19. Mars Wing
20. “I Crashed My Car Into The Bridge … I Love It”
21. Cruise Missiles
22. Adam Bomb
23. Nikki Beach
24. Loveless Fascination
25. Channel 77

A little love from Texas …

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Wicked cool review of “Streaks of Blue” by Whitney Martin of Abilene, Texas, today on Goodreads, Amazon and her blog She’s also the first reader so far who wanted to see the main characters hook up.

“This story is different from any story I’ve ever read. I loved Nikki. She was an awesome character, and I really respected her bravery in this book. I also really liked Adam even though he was pretty messed up. I felt like these two started an awesome friendship. And this book really does show how hard it is to be a teenager, and lot of the really hard things in life no one wants to see. I loved how the author portrayed everything in the book. The only thing that I wish would have happened is Nikki and Adam would have become more than friends. But alas that didn’t happen but it was still a really good book! Kudos to the author for doing so well on such a hard topic!”

11 more copies of “Streaks of Blue” sold at Hickory Stick book signing! $99.11 now raised for Newtown families

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It was a fantastic day at the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, Conn., on Sunday. I met some great people, signed some books and raised a lot more money for the Newtown Memorial Fund. Members from a book club in Northfield came to the signing and told me they have chosen “Streaks of Blue” as their next book club selection. They even invited me to discuss the book with them at a dinner party in January. I signed books for a ninth-grader all the way up to an elderly couple from Newtown. One woman bought three copies. Thank you to all who turned out and to Hickory Stick owner Fran Keilty for hosting this event. Fran also will be donating a portion of the proceeds to a Newtown-related charity.

The great news is I get 60 percent of paperback sales at Hickory Stick. That means those 11 copies sold add $79.13 to the $119.09 in royalties already collected.

“Streaks of Blue” has now sold 58 copies in just over 2 months for a total proceeds of $198.22. That’s $99.11 raised for the Newtown Memorial Fund!

Litchfield author dedicates novel to victims of Sandy Hook school shooting

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This story about “Streaks of Blue” ran on the cover of A&E in today’s Republican-American …


Like so many people in the area, Litchfield author John Cullen could not get the unspeakable horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School out of his head. The father of 2-year-old twins, he was forced to think the unthinkable: How safe are my kids, really, if such a thing can happen at Sandy Hook?

Even for someone who has worked in newsrooms for 22 years, and thought he’d seen and heard every permutation on human tragedy, Cullen was left dazed by what happened in Newtown on Dec. 14, 2012.

“This event will never go away,” said Cullen, a layout editor at the Republican-American whose pen name is Jack Chaucer. “It seemed like the rock bottom of civilization had been reached. Twenty first-graders are gone just like that? It was a hopeless and helpless feeling, but you want to do something on top of donating money to change the world your kids live in. It almost forced me to write about it.”

He said he felt numb for a month after Sandy Hook.

“As a novelist, my mindset was either I write nothing for a long, long time, or I tackle this head on,” said Cullen, who previously wrote the futuristic thriller “Queens are Wild” (2012). “Any other subject seemed trivial.”

So, he did what came most naturally to him — he began writing. Before long, he realized that the act of writing had gone beyond the therapeutic and he suddenly had a cast of characters, a setting and a plot that carried him along as much as he helped shape it.

“I knew I wanted a girl with blue hair as the main character,” he said. “Thematically, we are in a streak of blue with all of the shootings that have happened. But I also knew that I wanted the students to be older, in their teens. And I didn’t want to saddle any specific town, so I made up a fictional town and set it in New Hampshire.”

The end result is a newly published 259-page novel with a long title: “Streaks of Blue: How the Angels of Newtown Inspired One Girl to Save Her School.” The book is available in both trade paperback edition ($11.99 at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington, Conn., and Amazon) and as an e-book ($2.99 at Kindle, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Cullen is donating half of the proceeds to the Newtown Memorial Fund, which supports the families of all 26 victims and others affected by the massacre.

Though the general plot backdrop was inspired by the Sandy Hook tragedy, the danger lurking within the story bears more resemblance to the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo., in April 1999. At Columbine, two boys filled with hostility toward their classmates plotted out their shooting rampage with military-like precision weeks ahead of time.

With a slightly futuristic cast to it — set mostly in the weeks leading up to the two-year anniversary of Sandy Hook in December 2014 — “Streaks of Blue” imagines a similar story arc taking shape at Lakeview Regional High School in New Hampshire. The would-be Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are Adam Upton (echoes of Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook) and Thomas “Lee” Harvey (as in Oswald, the alleged shooter of JFK). Their main “beef” is the contempt with which the majority of the school holds them for being “trailer trash.” They also come from broken families with a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

The only person standing between them and their goal of annihilation is 17-year-old Nicole Janicek. A sensitive, outdoorsy girl who likes to dye her hair blue, “Nikki” has a scary premonition while camping under the stars on Mount Washington just before her senior year. In the dream, the “angels of Newtown” appear and urge Nicole to reconnect with Adam, a boy she used to know in elementary school.

The angels not only warn Nicole about the shooting plot, but they also give her hope that a friendship with Adam could prevent it.

“My hope was to channel their bravery, strength and goodness into Nicole,” Cullen said. “So far, based on the positive reaction to the book — and especially Nikki’s character — I think that’s how it turned out.”

During its launch this fall, “Streaks of Blue” garnered 345 requests for advance copies from around the world on the website NetGalley. To date, the book has been reviewed by 47 readers on Goodreads and 17 on Amazon. The interest and feedback, particularly from teens and teachers, has been particularly gratifying, Cullen said.

“A teenage girl in Georgia (Asia) wrote in her review that she felt as if I had actually been to her own high school,” Cullen said. “She was inspired to reconnect with former friends after reading the book. Another teen in India wrote that she wanted to start mountain climbing. I love that the story had such an impact on two young people from the other side of the world.”

He noted that he tapped into his own experiences from growing up in Rhode Island. One particularly effective scene in “Streaks of Blue” — in which a teacher makes Nikki’s class discuss the lyrics from the album “Synchronicity” by The Police — was drawn from real events in Cullen’s high school classroom experience.

“My English lit teacher Paul Richards did that exact same lesson with us back in 1985,” he said. “My point in using it in ‘Streaks of Blue’ is that same discussion becomes very different today. You can’t talk about a song like ‘Murder By Numbers’ the same as we did in 1985. Back then there were no Columbines or Newtowns.”

Whether Nikki succeeds or fails in her attempt — no spoilers here — “Streaks of Blue” directly addresses the issue of school violence, but in a creative, compelling and non-preachy manner.

“I don’t attack guns. I don’t focus a lot on mental health. I do focus on human relationships and having the courage to be friends with people who don’t have many friends,” Cullen said. “At the end of the day, I wanted to write something meaningful. If you can reach out and inspire a kid to help another kid before he or she does something terrible, then I would be happy.”

For information, visit the author’s website,, and Goodreads page,


Litchfield author John Cullen will appear for a book discussion and signing Dec. 1 at 2 p.m. at the Hickory Stick Bookshop, 2 Green Hill Road, Washington, Conn. Both Cullen and Hickory Stick will donate a portion of the proceeds to Newtown-related charities.