Dementors, Cough Drops, and a Book Update

 

My nose and throat have been very dry at night lately, so I’ve been sneaking into the kids room to huff air straight from their humidifier in the middle of the night. I wear a dark, oversized bathrobe, and the kids’ humidifier looks like a little frog. Basically, it looks like a dementor delivering the kiss of death to a small amphibian.

What is it with me and frogs lately? I have no idea.

The past few nights I’ve ended up just sleeping on the kids’ bedroom floor, since the air in there isn’t quite as dry. Last night, about 4 AM, I was in there and started coughing pretty bad. So much that my three-year-old daughter finally said:

“Daddy, I think Mom put some cough drops by your bed, for you to have them during the night. Why don’t you just go get one of them?”

I really was fine–just a little something caught in my throat at that point. A few more coughs and it would be done.

Then my almost-two-year-old son said, “Sister said cough drop. Sister said cough drop.”

I guess I was bothering them or something.

Fortunately, the coughing stopped. Half a minute later, my son said, “I want chicka-boom-boom.”–referring to the alphabet classic, Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom, where the letters all climb a coconut tree. Haven’t read it? Get it. It’s great.

Anyways, I guess he wanted to cuddle with that book. So, I got up and handed it to him, then laid back down on the floor.

What happened next requires a refined sense of humor to appreciate. Just a warning.

All the coughing and standing up and laying back down had caused quite a stir in my bowels. So much so that it had created a gas bubble in my guts, which I passed rather noisily.

Both kids started giggling. Then my son said, “Hehehe…. Elephant fart.”

Sometime after that, we all fell back asleep.


In other news, editing Happily has been going very well. I write very clean rough drafts, and kept notes of changes and areas that needed to be retouched. By Saturday, the first copies will go out to my invaluable team of alpha readers.

I’ve also been considering writing a short series of blog posts on writing and storytelling tips. I’m not a master at either, but I believe I have some information and little tidbits that could be very helpful to others. I probably wouldn’t start that series for a little while, though. Not until Happily was safely on its way to launch.

As always, any book bloggers out there interested in an ARC copy of Happily, or a review copy of any of my other books, need only ask. It is literally my pleasure.

Happy reading, friends.

Perspectives on Fantasy and Horror

Happy 2018, one and all! For those who are curious, we celebrated the new year by putting the kids to bed and then playing a couple board games. We like to party pretty hard, obviously.

The other night we had an incident in our home, which made me consider what the differences are between horror and fantasy.

Becky and I had just tucked the kids into bed. While she stayed behind and sang them a lullaby, I stepped outside to get some firewood. When I opened the door, I was greeted by the crinkly frown of a cold, dead, frozen frog.

I’m still curious how it got there. Frogs don’t belong on porches in December, not in my neck of the woods. It’s much too cold.

Without thinking twice (and perhaps only barely thinking once), I bent and picked up the little amphibian carcass, then brought it back inside, put some lukewarm water in a dish on the counter, and set the frog floating in the middle of it.

Then I got in the shower. I doubt a minute had passed before I’d forgotten all about the frog.

Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in this, but I have a fear of something happening while I’m in the shower–the house catching on fire, someone having a medical emergency, an earthquake, etc. Some situation that would force me to decide whether or not getting clothed again was worth the time. And that night, I thought that was exactly what happened.

My wife screamed. Not a normal scream, but a full-blown scream, a shriek of unadulterated terror.

I just about stumbled out of the shower, assuming that something completely terrible has happened. I stopped when I heard my wife (rather angrily, and still kind of screaming), “Why is there a dead frog on the counter?”

It honestly took me a second to process what she was talking about, I’d so thoroughly forgotten about the desiccated little thing. When I remembered the dead frog, I felt more than a little bit silly.

Still, she deserved an answer. So I gave it to her.

“I wanted to see if it would come back to life.”

My wonder and curiosity–elements of fantasy writing–turned into my wife’s surprise and horror–elements of horror writing. Of course, stories should have a blend of many different things, but it was interesting to me to consider the way that people’s introduction to things can flavor their emotional response. Not groundbreaking, I know, but it gave me something to think about.

Also, for those who are concerned, I’m not totally insane. Frogs can and do recover from death by being frozen, and from drying out. This particular one, however, did not.

In Other News….

  • I finished reading Unraveled, and have posted my review to GoodReads. It’s a light fantasy that proved quite predictable but was nonetheless enjoyable.
  • I finally coaxed my wife into letting me get pet rats (one for me, one for our daughter). I’ll put some pictures up at some point, because I’m positive that the one thing that the world-wide web needs are some photographs of my fancy rats floating around in it.
  • I’m quite close to finishing Happily (which I may have referred to earlier under the project title of The Glass Heist). I’ll soon be on the lookout for willing ARC readers. To any and all who read this, if you’re wanting/willing to be an ARC reader, don’t be shy! Just ask (either in a message or in comments).   🙂

Color Photos with Explanations

Okay, as promised, here are the color versions of those same pictures from yesterday’s post, along with an explanation for why I chose them. These pictures each reveal something about me, but taken altogether, they reveal that my photography skills are not fully developed.

1

I chose a picture of our Christmas tree because I love Christmas. I love seeing family, sipping hot chocolate, decorating, wearing sweaters and scarves–it’s all wonderful. Additionally, my faith is a big part of my life, and I love taking time to remember the babe of Bethlehem.
You’ll also notice the candy canes. We love sweets. We also had to place them a bit higher up, because there are some little hands in our house who will otherwise get them.

2

This is our family crest. The shield isn’t my design–it’s traditional. One sword has the family motto inscribed on it in Latin and English: “Love Conquers All.” The other is inscribed with “Happily Ever After” and “For Time and Eternity.” The swords are also replicas of Anduril, from The Lord of the Rings, because we’re big Tolkien fans.

3

My daughter picked these bouquets. The vase on the left was made in Tajikistan, and was gifted to us by family. The vase on the right is a shell from an A-10 Warthog cannon, and it was also a gift. We trade out wildflower bouquets frequently, thanks to our kids.

4

For a long while I didn’t read fiction. It started off with me reading military history, and then expanded into general history. This is my history bookshelf. I wish I could say I’d read all of those books, but I haven’t. Nearly all of them are about WWII, but a good handful are about the US Civil War. The crossed sabers were souvenirs from a trip to Gettysburg, PA. The Soviet-era beaver fur hat came from Russia, and was a souvenir my parents brought back when I was younger. The helmet beside it is from WWII.
History of all kinds is important to me. I believe that understanding how we got where we are today is crucial in understanding the path to where we want to be tomorrow.

5

The final picture is of my adventuring hat. Around 2002, my parents adopted my younger brother from Russia. This hat was brought back and given to me, and I’ve worn it on many, many adventures since. I enjoy new experiences and being outdoors, and this hat shows up in a lot of family videos and photographs as a companion through them all.

Seven Day Black & White Photo Challenge – Modified

Yesterday, the wonderful Sophie Li challenged me to do the Seven Day Black & White Photo Challenge, and I accepted… sort of.

Here are the rules, as posted by Sophie (who did not create the challenge, it should be noted. I’m not hunting down where it originated, though):
“Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.”

Here is how I’m doing it:
“One day. Five* black and white representative of your life. No people. Post color renditions and explanations the next day.”
*
Full disclosure: I was going to do seven as well, but apparently can’t count that high, since I thought I was done after five pictures. Since I’ve already put the camera away, five it is.

So, without further ado, here are my seven black and white photos.

1
2

 

3
4

And finally…

5

So there you go! Nothing to it, folks, if you want to do it yourself. Tomorrow I’ll put up the color editions and explain why I chose these pictures.

Until then, only the best.

I Survived & Progress Update

Last week we celebrated Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. My family always takes the week to go to the beach in California–one final burst of warmth and sunshine before the dreary Midwestern winter sets in. We meet up with all the family on my wife’s side and snuggle into a little beach house together.

This year there were 16 people in the house–fewer than on some other years, but still a good number.

Now, remember in high school history classes, when they talked about industrialization, migration, and urbanization? People crowded into apartment buildings. Then, when they got sick, the sickness could just spread like wildfire, the people were so cramped.

Well, I suppose you can see where this is going.

On Wednesday, the first person got sick.

On Thursday night, three more people were sick.

On Friday, six more people were sick.

On Saturday, one more person got sick, and we all went home. That makes 11/16 people sick, a pretty decent infection rate. I’m sure it will remain the defining feature of this year’s Thanksgiving vacation.

Miraculously, I was not one of the ones who fell ill, and neither were my two children. We still had a lovely vacation, even though it we were haunted by the fear that one of us might be the next to fall victim to the plague. Because, seriously, that’s kind of how it felt to watch it spread through the house.

Anyways, enough about that.

Being on vacation, I didn’t do much writing, but instead devoted some time to checking out other people’s book/writing blogs. Met some wonderful folks. Seriously, the book-blogging community is a lovely place, generally speaking. Sometimes things can get a bit heated, but that’s because it’s a community made of people who are passionate about the things they blog about.

In other news, I finished Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. I might just write up a proper review for it. It is, I’m coming to realize more and more, my favorite novel. I find it deeply meaningful and symbolic, without being remotely stuffy or pretentious. A masterwork. Can’t decide if watching the movies would be a good idea or a dreadful one.

Final news is that, although I didn’t do much novel writing this week, I think I did strike upon a story idea I want to run with. It won’t be my next novel, or the one after that, but perhaps the third novel release from now (and my fifth overall). Hooray!

Hope everyone else stayed healthy out there!

A Nightmare & An Update

Dreams are strange things. I don’t worry too much over what they might mean, but I certainly enjoy talking about them.

The other night I had a dream. It turned into a nightmare, but from my experience that’s how all nightmare’s go. You never start out in a nightmare; rather, a dream becomes a nightmare. Sometimes it happens slowly, and sometimes the change feels instant. I guess it’s just a reflection of life in general. Fortunately, not all dreams become nightmare–another reflection of life.

In my dream, I was visiting a high school literature class to discuss my writing with them. The entire junior class was reading one of my books (though I honestly can’t recall if it was Home To Roost or Cleaving Souls).

At first, it was very exciting. But then the longer I talked with them, the more I realized that very few of them cared what I had to say. It dawned on me that my book had become another one of those much-loathed required readings, like A Separate Peace or The Scarlet Letter. And if that were the whole dream, it would have been strangely sad, but I wouldn’t have called it a nightmare.

The nightmare began when I noticed that even the teacher thought my story dull and drab. She said that the only reason that they were reading it at all was because someone in the school district was making them. When I asked more about it, the teacher said that someone (she never said who) had basically destroyed their family and their finances in support of my book, and bought copies for the entire district. It had wrecked that person’s personal life so badly, that Child Protective Services had to take their kids away, and now the school had to take care of the kids all the time.

So that was pretty awful.

But then the teacher released the class for the day, and took me to the room I would be staying in, courtesy of the school. Where was it? At the school. What was it? The school cafeteria.

The high school emptied and made that magical transformation from a lively school to a dusty mausoleum (and if you’ve never been in a school after everyone else has left, then trust me, that’s exactly what happens). Also, it was suddenly night time.

The school had provided me with a sleeping bag that smelled faintly of urine, and had me bed down atop one of the cafeteria tables. All the lights were off except one: the lights to the adjacent hallway, visible through a series of windows set in the far wall. The rustling of the sleeping bag and sound of my own breathing echoed in the cavernous room. Rather uncomfortable, but not necessarily scary.

But then I heard children crying. Not high-school age, but small children crying for their daddy. I realized that they must be the children of my patron, now wards of the school district.

“Your daddy isn’t here,” someone said, “but the man who made him go away is. Do you want to see him?” Somehow, I knew that he was referring to me, and I prayed that the children would say no.

They didn’t.

The lights were still off, except for the hall light. In the quiet, I could hear the fast drumming of little feet running, and a series of too-thin shadows scurried down the wall of the adjacent hallway, flashing from one window to the next as they ran towards the cafeteria’s doors. The kids weren’t crying anymore; they were coming for me.

I wanted to shout out that they couldn’t come in–that I didn’t want to see them at all–but I couldn’t speak.

The cafeteria doors banged open, but nobody stood in the doorway.

I heard little feet again, this time close by, moving slowly in the darkness. I could feel eyes on me as I lay atop the cafeteria table.

Then one of the kids whispered, “We want to touch him.”

I tried to scream, tried to yell for them to get back, but I couldn’t. All I could do was breath, and so I breathed as loud and as hard as I could, until I woke up panting.

Now, it may sound like a pretty stupid dream, but in that moment, it was terrifying. However, once the moment was over I was able to calm myself and go back to sleep. Sometimes silly things are very upsetting. Being silly doesn’t make them not upsetting, and being upsetting doesn’t make them not silly.

Makes me think of my three-year-old daughter. She gets upside-down about plenty of dumb things, but in the moment they’re very upsetting to her. I’ve found that it can be helpful to her if we show that we understand her feelings, and then try to put those feelings into perspective for her to see. She’s often able to recognize that whatever is upsetting her really isn’t a big deal and actually can be managed, and she calms down.

It seldom goes as smoothly if we skip the part about sympathizing.

So my thought for today is that we should try to understand and sympathize with people. Before we jump in and tell people what they should or shouldn’t do, or how they should solve their problems, we should first take a moment to try and understand what they’re feeling and thinking.


And now here’s my update:

Cleaving Souls is almost ready for launch! It’s going to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 10, in both ebook and paperback format. I’m pretty excited for that, especially since some great reviews have already rolled in! (And few things are sweeter than a positive, unsolicited review.)

The only thing left to do before the release is revamp the blurb. It’s not too bad now, and I might end up keeping it, but I’m still stewing over making it a bit longer and less generic. But I’m not sure. Blurbs are tricky for me, because I really don’t want to take away anything from the story–I’d rather my readers gets to discover everything for themselves.

For anyone else who’s excited enough to want to post about it, I’ve made some simple promotional material. Feel free to use any of it on whatever social media platforms you use.

In other news, I won a self-publishing book cover art contest (first and second place in the horror category, and first place in the thriller category). As you may or may not know, I go against all sound advice and make my own book covers. I think they turn out well, and I have a lot of fun doing it. Perhaps sometime I’ll have to make a book-cover-creation-process post, featuring different iterations of one of my covers.

That’s it for now. Happy readings!

Book Release Plans

Ta-da! Cleaving Souls is almost done. Rough draft. Check! First round of edits and revisions. Check! Second round of edits and revisions. Check!

Now I just need to contact early readers, distribute copies to them, plan the release schedule, makeup release materials, contact book bloggers for a blog blitz or tour, organize with said bloggers, and record and edit the audiobook.

Geesh.

I’m also expanding out and trying my hand at editing some other people’s work. Gotta keep those editing skills sharp (or sharpen them up, as the case may be.) And I’m still plowing into the rough draft for The Glass Heist.

It’ll be interesting to see how my hard-earned experience with publishing Home To Roost affects this next book release. Fingers crossed for good things!

And speaking of good things, I’m looking forward to another blogger’s review of Home To Roost, this time on Southern Today, Gone Tomorrow.

In more personal news, we saw some family for the eclipse, which was great. There was a lot of cloud cover, so we didn’t see the eclipse, which was less-great. But oh well. We’ll just plan more carefully for the 2024 eclipse, I guess.

Apps, Chickens, Sheep

I made a decision just now: I will not be using the WordPress mobile app to create blog posts. Here are my reasons:

  1. I don’t think that it syncs well.

That’s pretty much it, actually. Everything else would be fine. But I’d just written up a nice little post, published it, went to check it online and…..nothing! So I checked it on my phone, and it had the design for site a mashup of its current design and its former design. Yikes! I waited for a while, and the post never did show up on my computer, so I’m just ditching the app when it comes to writing posts.

But what I had posted about was this:

We had a nice little book club meeting. My wife is a member in a small book club, and they gave Home To Roost a try. We had the club members over to our place for a luncheon and a tour of the actual locations in the book, given by the author, yours truly!

I wish I’d prepared for the tour better. Maybe come up with some more amusing anecdotes or something. But it was muggy outside, and I was nervous, and it was probably for the best that it didn’t last too long.

I did make a great chicken cake, though! (Don’t worry, it wasn’t a chicken cake. Just a chocolate cake with a picture of a chicken on it.)

Yummy Chicken Cake

In other news:

  • I think I’m going to dedicate some time to learning the ropes of some social media tools that I’ve ignored up until now.
  • I need to start being a little more cautious in how I phrase and share opinions on other people’s blogs. I know I’ve been guilty of leaving too long of comments, and perhaps some other sins as well.
  • I had to put my sheep in time-out today. My three-year-old was jumping on the trampoline, and the sheep decided to attack her from beneath. She ran under the trampoline and was headbutting directly beneath my daughter, which was very alarming for her. Lots of tears. Ba-a-a-ad sheep.

What am I doing here?

Okay peoples of the internet, it’s time for me to decide just exactly what I’m doing here.

Not here on earth. I’m not wanting to launch into some big existential conversation or anything. I just mean here, as in here on this blog.

Originally, I’d hoped to mostly keep it to publishing and writing news. Make it about being an Indie author, and the process of trying to make that work for me. But I suppose it’s high time that I reevaluate what that means.

The truth is, I’m not a very successful author yet. I’m working to change that, but for now, I’m still trying to break into triple digits on sales, and it’s been almost four months now. I haven’t lost hope, but I’m realizing that for me to post regularly on this blog, or even semi-regularly, I might have to include some other things.

Things about myself, outside of writing, perhaps.

And so I’ll probably start doing some of that. At least, I will for the foreseeable future.

At first I’d wanted to avoid doing much of that, because, well, it seemed pointless. Then, as I was looking into different book bloggers’ sites, I found this one, by a wonderful person named Kerrie.  She really opens up to her readers in her “About Me” section (which is where the link will take you), and it was such a nice change. Most of the blogger profile pages I’d come across were very guarded. “I’m so-and-so. I like fish, but I hate fish. LOL!” And that was about it. But because Kerrie was willing to share more about herself, I took greater interest in what she had to say.

Now, writing about myself might not have that same effect, but I still want to do it for two reasons.

  1. I think that the world will be a better place when people open up with one another more. If we’re open with each other, then we might understand one another better. And when we understand one another, we will probably be far less likely to hurt one another. I’m not saying I feel misunderstood or anything, but I do hope that by opening up a bit more, maybe somebody else will feel inspired to do the same, just the same way that I felt inspired to open up after reading Kerrie’s blog. (That’s my altruistic reason.)
  2. I need things to talk about. You’re supposed to post semi-regularly on a blog to keep it rolling. Once a month does not qualify as semi-regularly, I’m pretty sure. So, I guess I’ll just talk about myself and other writerly-related things. (That’s my shallow reason.)

And now I’m off to update my “About Me” section. Then I’ll probably do some editing on Cleaving Souls, and then work on an Amazon Marketing Campaign for Home To Roost.

Peace!

Lions and Tigers and Publishing

It’s almost been two weeks since I published my first novel, Home to Roost. It’s been quite a learning experience. For one thing, even when you’re publishing online, the actual process of publishing can be fairly involved. I don’t know what else I was expecting.

For indie publishing, a lot of people who are publishing on Amazon will use CreateSpace to do a paperback run of their book. It’s really easy to find reviews of CreateSpace’s services. I chose not to use CreateSpace, and instead used Amazon’s KDP Paperback program (it’s still in beta). Since CreateSpace is owned by Amazon anyways, I figured that the services wouldn’t be all that different.

Having never really used CreateSpace, I’m probably not qualified to do a very detailed review. However, I can say this: I’m perfectly happy with KDP Paperback. If you have a handle on formatting, are willing to look up a few terms, and have a couple of hours to fiddle and tinker, then you can get a fine paperback copy of your book printed.

As for royalties, I’ve seen quite a few people confused about how those would work for KDP paperback. I think I can break this part down:

You get 60%, minus production cost.

So, if your book costs $10, and costs $4.50 to print, then you’ll get $1.50 in royalties for every copy sold.
10 x 0.6 = 6 ; 6 – 4.5 = 1.5

It’s pretty simple.

For Home to Roost, I just set my prices so that I’d get roughly the same amount from royalties, whether a reader decided to purchase the paperback or the ebook edition.

Now, I had assumed that there would be much higher numbers of sales for ebooks compared to paperbacks–after all, $3 is quite a bit cheaper than $11.50. But I was wrong. They’re actually pretty even. I think that unless people own an e-reader, ebooks are just too uncomfortable for many people to read.

Anyways, I’ll do some more focused posts on what I’ve learned later. Be awesome til then.

 

Current Word Count: 354, 345