Jan 172018
 

Paxton Lee Frombaugh

About a two and a half years ago, I reconnected with Paxton Frombaugh, an old high school friend.  As often happens, he and I had fallen out of touch after school, each going our separate ways in pursuit of our lives.  We found one another again in August of 2015 through Facebook when some mutual friends reintroduced us and we began catching up again.

I won’t pretend that we struck up our old friendship like nothing had ever happened, or that we were just as close as we had once been.  Like I said, we had both pursued other lives, and there was about a thirty year gap since we had last spent any time together.  But the occasional chat session would remind me of how much fun he was back in the day, and he always brought a smile to my face.  There was even a certain amount of nostalgia involved as I recalled our old weekend D&D sessions. (Yes, we were some of those people.) 

And yes, this is the same Paxton that I named the leader of the Guard team after, in Pangaea: Exiles.  Paxton, Pax, Peaceful… if you remember that character from Pangaea, that was him.  He even chatted with me at one point about how much he loved that he finally got to be the “badass” that he’d never been in real life.  If you knew how kind he really was, the idea of him ever being a badass might make you chuckle.  

But I also knew he’d had some pretty serious health problems.  He spoke of them publicly, so I’m not betraying any confidence when I mention that he had kidney disease.  In November, he posted that he had some necrosis in the heel of his foot, but also mentioned that the doctors had assured him that it was under control, and that amputation wouldn’t be necessary.

Then the holidays came around, and he stopped posting.  I never thought anything about it, assuming that he, like many of us, was just busy with the holidays and family.  Then a friend of ours posted that she’d just heard Paxton was back in the hospital, and that they had been forced to amputate his leg, after all.  Apparently the necrosis had spread, despite what he’d first been told.  Worse, it had gotten all the way into his abdomen, and they didn’t expect him to live much longer than a few weeks.  I was shocked, to say the least.

That was January 7th.  A few hours later I went back to that same post to check his status.  As I was reading, a new comment popped up letting everyone know that Paxton had just passed away at about three o’clock.

Rest well, Peaceful.

 

Justin Macumber

Then, just a few days ago, on January 15th, I found that one of the people who inspired me to get serious with my writing passed away unexpectedly.  Justin Macumber also had kidney issues.  He’d just recently gotten a kidney transplant, and most of us assumed that was good news.  Unfortunately, his body rejected the transplant and he passed away.

Justin was the founder of the writing podcast, The Dead Robots’ Society.  This podcast was what caused me to revisit my old love of writing, and get off my butt to actually do something with it.  If you run a search through my blog here, you’ll see that Justin and the Dead Robots’ Society are mentioned pretty often.

And while he and I weren’t terribly close, I can indirectly attribute much of what little success I’ve had to him. For without Justin, there would have been no DRS Podcast.  I wouldn’t have learned about the ins and outs of indie publishing… wouldn’t have received encouragement from him and the other “robots” back in the days when DRS had its own online forum… wouldn’t have enjoyed the friendship of even more fans when they closed the old forum in favor of a Facebook page that allowed them to reach an even larger audience.

When I think back on the online writing community I’ve come to embrace, there is so much of it that ties back to Justin.  He inspired me, and so many others in the writing world.  I know I told him a few times, and I saw occasional posts where others told him.  I can only hope he truly understood it.

Goodbye, Justin.  We’ll miss you.

 Posted by at 3:16 pm
Jan 102018
 

Sure, it’s ten days late. But it’s the first post of 2018, so Happy New Year.  

I going to try to be short and sweet with this one because one of my personal resolutions is to buckle down more with the writing.

I don’t have a lot of time to read these days. If I have time to read, then I have time to write.  That means I feel guilty for reading and not putting more content out there.  But I do still listen to audiobooks, since I can do this when I’m walking the dog, or working in the house.

And there is something I’ve noticed.

Some of the more successful writers I’ve listened to just really aren’t all that good.  Or rather, they aren’t as good as I would expect, based on their financial success as authors.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic indie authors out there.  But there are also some pretty mediocre writers that are still extremely successful.

I know, I know, that sounds like the epitome of vanity for me to say something like that.  And it’s not that they’re actually bad writers.  They just aren’t where I would expect them to be as full-time writers who are making a good living at their craft.

And that got me to thinking… what are they doing that I’m not?

Answer –

  1. They produce more titles than I do.  A LOT more.  Sure, they’re usually shorter books, but there are a lot more of them.
  2. They market better than I do. They keep their name and titles out there so that they always have something in the new releases.  And the more the public sees your name, the more they buy your books.
  3. For better or worse, they don’t worry (obsess?) over the quality of the writing as much as I do. The quality of the prose is secondary to the quantity.  
  4. For the most part, they concentrate on a single series until there are several titles under its umbrella before they ever move on to another series.

In short, they’re better businessmen and businesswomen than I am. Now, I can’t do much about the last two items on my list.  It’s in my nature to worry over the quality of my writing and I’ve made myself a promise that I’ll never intentionally let my quality slide.  That’s not to say that I’ll be producing literary masterpieces, but it’s just not in me to do less than I can reasonably be expected to do.

As for the series, I’m already committed to the four series that I have going.  Two are under contract, and the other two make me more money and have established fan-bases, however small they may be.

But I can address the first two items.  I can get better organized and increase my word production.  I’ve already gotten better since the beginning of the year, simply by employing some of the techniques I’ve read about and heard about in various writing podcasts.  In the last few weeks, I’ve almost doubled my average daily word count.  Not only that, but I think I can see ways to do even more.  Fingers crossed here. 

And I can learn more about the marketing side of things.  The problem here is that the marketing aspect of the business is constantly changing.  What worked in 2012 won’t work in 2018.  The marketing tips and tricks I learned back when I started just won’t cut it.  And I haven’t taken the time to keep up with current trends.  I need to address that.

But part of that whole “produce more content” thing also means I need to spend less time on my blog posts.  I need to stop trying to think about something clever to write about, and put my effort into increasing my catalog.  So from now on, I’m going to limit myself on this blog.  It will be a sort of New Year’s resolution… posts will be either shorter than 1000 words, or I will limit myself to half an hour’s time in which to get them written.  On thousand words or half an hour, whichever comes first.

So moving on to other writing news:

Pangaea: Exiles – Severed Press sent me word last week that PE1 has been selected by their audio partner, Beacon, to produce as an audiobook.  Estimated time to release is about three months.

Payne and Suffering – After a few derailments, P&S is really moving along now.  I had a few plotting issues earlier in the week that forced me to slow down and open up some mind mapping software, but it only took a few hours to get things back on track.

Crazy Larry – I had dropped CL into the virtual file cabinet several months ago when the story went stale for me.  When MBH asked me how it was progressing, I had to admit I was stumped.  She brainstormed with me, and helped me see a way out of the bog.  So I made a bit of progress on it, too.  Man, I love that woman.  

And with that, I’m beginning to approach my self-imposed 1000 word limit, so that’s it for today. Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.  :bye:

Dec 282017
 

Belated Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah, or Winter Solstice, or whatever holiday you may or may not celebrate.  I hope you had a good one. Now, I’m not sure if it’s because of the holidays, or because of all the traveling I’ve been doing lately… or maybe it’s just me getting older… or my brain not firing on all cylinders. Maybe it’s a combination of all of the above. For whatever reason though, I truly thought today was Wednesday.

So yes, here’s another Website Wednesday post going out on a Thursday.  Late on Thursday, at that.

Sorry.  

Now, I’ve not posted a lot over the last two months anyway.  I mean, three “weekly” posts in two months is hardly a reliable schedule.  But like I mentioned in the first few sentences, there’s been a lot going on.

I mentioned back in WW93 and WW95 that the contract work I was doing had me traveling.  What I didn’t mention was just how much I was traveling.  For five weeks, my schedule was something like this… Monday morning at 3:30 AM, MBH and I would get up, get ready for the day, and get me to the airport between 4:30 and 5 so I could catch a 6 AM flight from Tulsa to Atlanta, Georgia.  With the time difference, that put me arriving in Atlanta at roughly 9 AM.  From there, the company I was working for had arranged for me to rent a car, so I would travel the two trams from the gates to the rental facility, get the car, then drive from Atlanta to Columbus Georgia… about an hour and a half drive.  Now, this sometimes meant some absolutely beautiful sunrises from the plane.

Of course, there were some pretty nasty mornings, too.  As you can imagine, during the winter months, the weather was somewhat less than reliable.  As a matter of fact, my last day on the job was December 8th, the day an unseasonably bad winter storm rolled into Atlanta.  You remember me mentioning Atlanta, right?  The airport I flew in and out of for the job?

Yeah, that’s the one.  That storm on December 8th was bad enough that Delta alone canceled more than 600 flights.  And of course, mine was one of them.  My initial flight from Atlanta to Tulsa was supposed to leave at about 4:30 PM.  I got there at about 2:30, returned my rental, rode the tram back to ticketing, and found that my flight had already been changed.  My 4:30 ticket was rescheduled for a 10 PM flight.  About 5:30, they announce that my 10PM flight was canceled.  As a matter of fact, that was when Delta decided to cancel just about every flight out of Atlanta.  So thousands of other people were also finding out that their flights were canceled, too.

That meant there was a mad scramble of people who were A) trying to book alternate flights out for the next day, and B) trying to find hotel rooms for the night near the airport.  Yours truly got extremely lucky in both regards.  First, when the gate attendant announced that all those flights were cancelled, customers were instructed to line up at some desk so that booking agents could get them booked on flights for the next day.  I saw that line folks.  Within the first couple of minutes, it was hundreds of people long.  

So I went to the gate attendant who had made the announcement.  And while he explained that he wasn’t supposed to do it, he did put me on standby for a flight leaving at 8:30 the next morning.  He warned me that there wasn’t much chance of my actually getting on it, since it was already full, but that it would almost guarantee that I made a later 2 PM flight.

Then I sat about trying to find a room.  It needed to be someplace nearby with a shuttle service to the airport.  I got on my phone and searched for “lodging near me”, then refined my search by making sure they had shuttle service to and from ATL.  Unfortunately, hotel after hotel let me know that they had just filled up.  Like I said, there were thousands of people in the same boat I was in.  As that occurred to me, it also occurred to me that those people were likely looking at a search list just like mine.  So I stopped searching from the top of my list down, and moved to the bottom of the list and started working my way up.  After half an hour of phone calls, I got lucky with a Howard Johnson’s. The conversation went like this:

HJ: “Howard Johnson’s. Can I help you?”
Me: “Yes, ma’am. Do you have any rooms available?”
HJ: “Yes, sir. It’s a single, non-smoking room with a King sized bed. It costs-”
Me: “I’ll take it!”  

So I got my room, got a decent night’s sleep, and made it back to ATL an hour and a half before the 8 AM flight that I was on stand-by for… me and forty-one other people.  Yep, there were forty-two of us on the standby list for that flight.  As several of us sat around talking about the situation, we found out that the order in which they chose who got the stand-by seats was a matter of who got on the list first the night before.  That meant that I, by virtue of the gate attendant helping me out, was number six on the list.

As the flight time approached and the flight crew began gathering information, we found out that there were five cancellations.  So I was number six, on a flight with five open seats, and I resigned myself to waiting for the 2 PM flight to Tulsa.

Ten minutes before they were going to close the cabin door, they began calling for a David Williams.  Five minutes later, they announced the final call for Mr. Williams, letting him know that if he didn’t get to the gate immediately, his reservation was going to be canceled.  One minute after that, they called my name.  David Williams had just freed up seat number six.  Woot! 

Thank you, David Williams!

Of course, we still weren’t out of the woods.  Because the weather was so unusual for ATL, the airport was still running behind.  Our plane pushed back from the gate, taxied a short ways onto the tarmac, and promptly announced that we were in a line of fifteen to twenty planes waiting for clearance.  It was an hour later that we moved once more – this time to another group of jets – all of us waiting to be de-iced.

Ever had the opportunity to see the wings on your jet getting de-iced?  It looks a lot like this picture.  As a matter of fact, it looks exactly like this picture… some guy in the freezing weather, on a cherry-picker, with a high pressure hose, spraying what looks like a mixture of water and sand at the ice and snow that’s caked on the wings.

And then we went back into line for the runway.  Twenty minutes later, we took off, and I don’t think I have ever been so glad to be in the air.  It was a day late, but I made it home.

It was the end of the job… the end of having to travel every week, living out of a suitcase, and missing MBH.  You would think I was done with flying around for a while, wouldn’t you?

HAH!

Remember me mentioning a while back that Baby Bird had been accepted into a Master’s program in Santa Fe, New Mexico?  Guess who went to help her move?    You got it.  I flew from Tulsa to San Antonio, where she had made arrangements to get a moving truck.  Of course, my flight was three hours late, so she had to move the pickup time back.  But luckily, she had gotten some of her friends to help us load the truck.  The bad news was that she was on the third floor.  That was forty-two steps up to her apartment, forty-two steps back down.  Eighty-four steps for each trip to the truck… or to the dumpster.  By the end of that day, my legs felt like rubber.  To top it off, her internet provider, who was supposed to send a tech out to pick up the router “sometime between 8 AM and 9 PM” still hadn’t shown up by the time she was supposed to go to a goodbye dinner that her employer was throwing for her.

So I stayed in her apartment, waiting for the tech that I was pretty sure wasn’t ever going to show up.  Baby Bird left to go to her dinner at 7:30.  At a few minutes before 8, she texted me asking if they had come for the equipment.  When I told her no, she said they had sent her a receipt, indicating that they had completed the service request.    Just to be safe, I stayed until 9, so we could honestly say that someone had been with the equipment for the entire service window.

Next morning, I drove the moving truck, and she drove her car from San Antonio, to Santa Fe.  We got there late, but the apartments she was moving into had arranged for the head of their maintenance crew to meet us. He let us in and helped us move in her bed and a few other essentials before we called it a night and she drove me to my hotel.

We spent the next few days getting her moved in and mostly unpacked.  Then on Christmas Eve, Baby Bird drove me to Albuquerque airport, where I once again got to catch a delayed flight.  I have to say this though… they’re smart about it in Albuquerque.  They have dogs that they walk through the place with “PLEASE PET ME” printed on their vests (the dogs, not the walkers.) But I got home in time to spend Christmas with MBH.  And as much as I love Baby Bird, and spending time with her, I also didn’t want to spend Christmas away from my wife.

It occurred to me recently, that out of the six weeks of flying, I think there was only one flight that actually left on time.  Five weeks to and from Atlanta is ten flights.  Add to that the two flights involved in getting from Tulsa to San Antonio, and the two from Albuquerque to Tulsa, and I only recall a single flight that actually left when it was supposed to.  I don’t remember flying being such a problem in the past.

Oh well.  It’s done for now.  And more importantly, I got carried away with this post, so an already late post, has just gotten even later.  So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  Next year, even.  :bye:

 Posted by at 10:29 pm
Dec 062017
 

WARNING – LOTS of foul language ahead.

This post is going to hearken back to the early days of my blog.  It’s going to be a discussion about a writing topic – namely, foul language in writing.  If this offends you, then you might want to pass on this week’s post.  If not, then read on at your own risk.  And if you have a few minutes afterwards, I’d really like to hear what you might think about it.

The line of thought came about when I read a recent review for Streets of Payne.  It was a Goodreads review, and was written back in July.  But I seldom log on to Goodreads any more, and so I just read it recently.  It was a good review, four stars, but something she said struck me.  During the review, she (the reviewer) mentioned that it made her cringe to see that I went out of my way to avoid “common curses like ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ and effectively replaced them with ‘fudge’ and ‘sludge’.”

I’ve seen and heard discussions wherein authors get upset because reviewers take them to task for dropping too many F-bombs.  On the other hand, I’ve been told by some people that I don’t curse as much as I should (whatever that means).  LOL.  In my normal life, I don’t curse that much.  That’s just the way it is.  It’s just the way I am. I don’t feel the need, for the most part.  In my writing, well, it depends on the character.  I have some characters who are reserved, and some who are real ass holes.

Charlie Griffe, in Chucklers Volume 1 is a prime example.  He’s a conniving, narcissistic, misogynistic, schizoid douche-canoe with a mouth to match.  Cussing fits his character, and when I read the comment about me going out of my way to avoid harsh language, I had to go back and check to see if I had misremembered.  Nope, I hadn’t.  I shit you not… actually, I shit you a lot.  88 times to be precise.  88 shits, 63 damns, and there were 44 fucks given, most of them from good ole Charles Griffe.

But here’s the thing about Streets of Payne… it takes place more than a hundred years in the future.  I don’t recall exactly what year it starts, and I don’t honestly want to go look at my notes.  I think it was about 140 years in the future, though.  And I actually put a lot of thought into how that would affect how the characters speak.  SoP was published in 2013.  So go back about a hundred years to the early 1900s and think about the idioms of the time.  How many of you would know what “hog-eye” refers to?  What about “purr-tongue?  What if I said my “Mr. Horner” was a “roaring jack”?  And believe me when I tell you that at one time back then, if someone said they wanted to go to the “barrelhouse”, and his buddy said he wouldn’t mind going with him to get a “bit of keg”, they were NOT talking about getting a drink.  

If you haven’t already guessed, all of those words and phrases were considered foul language for the time.  They refer to either sexual acts, or descriptions of genitalia.

So with the idea that language changes, I thought that in another hundred to two hundred years, isn’t it likely that the word fuck would change, as well?  So it… slid.  Fuck became “fuggle”.  I thought, you know… you take the phrase “fuck it all”, slur it around a bit, and it could easily begin to sound like “fuggle”.  And what else might be considered foul in a few hundred years?  Maybe some kind of sewer sludge that smells so rank that it makes the eyes water just to think about it?  I mean, if you’ve ever lived in an area where you aren’t on a city sewer system, and you’ve had to have your septic system pumped, you know just how strong such a stench can be.

Like I said, that comment stuck with me for whatever reason.  And I want to re-iterate that the reviewer was actually pretty complimentary to the book.  But the comment presented an opportunity for me to get back to something that I haven’t done much of lately… namely, posting about actual writing topics.

So tell me, how do you feel about “cussing” in books?  For me, it depends on the story and the character.  Each character and story presents their own special circumstances.  If I write a character that is a straight-laced, Sunday-go-to-meeting devout religious type, it’s unlikely that I’ll have him or her dropping F-bombs on the pages of the story.  But when I write Charlie Griffe in the Chucklers series, well, you’d better believe he’s not going to give a damn about who he might offend.  Not unless he needs to keep them happy in order to get something from them.  That’s just the self-centered kind of character he is.

If you have a few minutes, and you feel so inclined, drop me a comment.  Let me know your thoughts on the matter.

Stay safe.  TTYL.  :bye:

Nov 292017
 

Yes, Pangaea: Exiles was released last week.  It was a bit of a surprise, since I had turned in the final edits back in August.  I heard nothing back from them after that for the next few months.  I’m not complaining, mind you.  I know that working with a publisher is much different from publishing indie, and I am far from the only author they have in the stable, so I was okay sitting back and working on other projects in the meantime.

Then, out of the blue I got an email on the 11th.  It was pretty much, “Hey, you okay if we publish this thing next week?”  Obviously that wasn’t the exact wording, but that was the gist of it.

Well, hell yeah, I was okay with it.  

The only problem was that I was on the road when I got the email.  You remember me mentioning that Baby Bird has been accepted into a masters program?  Well, It involves her having to move from San Antonio, TX to Santa Fe, NM.  Yours truly was in Santa Fe with her, helping her find a place to live when she moves.  Needless to say, that made it a bit difficult for me to work on any of the normal release items.

So there was no newsletter, no cover release, no nothing.  Just a post on Facebook… “Hey everyone!  My book is out!”  And since I didn’t get home until a week later, by the time I was in a position to make an announcement, it was pretty much old news.  Still, I suppose I should go ahead and send out an announcement newsletter, since not everyone follows me on Facebook or on this blog.  

On another note, I hope you all had a fantastic Thanksgiving (at least, those of you who celebrate the US Thanksgiving).  Ours was low-key, just MBH, myself, and my sister-in-law.  SIL, who knows of our love of buffalo meat, brought us a buffalo tenderloin to cook for our thanksgiving meal (we seldom do the whole turkey and dressing thing).  We cut it into individual serving sizes, put them in a marinade, and into a vacuum container to make sure the marinade got into every ounce.  On the traditional day of gluttony, we pulled the steaks out, put a nice searing rub on them, and tossed them into a scalding hot cast-iron skillet for a few minutes on each side.

That ended up being the absolute best bit of red meat I’ve ever had in my life!   Top it off with MBH’s crab stuffed portobellos, and fresh green beans roasted with bacon and pine nuts, and WOW, that was a fantastic meal.  Definitely something to be thankful for.

And that’s all I’ll bother you with this time around.  I have another topic I was going to talk about, but it’s a more serious discussion… back to the nuts and bolts of the writing world, and not necessarily something that fits with the tone of today’s post.  Besides, it gives me something to write about next time.

So that’s all for now.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you all later.