Yeah, I’m back. Not that I ever really went away. It’s just that, as I mentioned in my last few posts (wow – all the way back in June), Life with a capital “L” was poking us all with sharp, pointy objects and I’ve been more than a little distracted.
At the time of my posting, I wasn’t really ready to discuss some of the things that were going on. But now that most of the crises are past, I can talk a bit about them. As I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I sold our home back in May. The intention initially was that we would move a little farther out of town, downsize the house, and upsize the property. We were going to stay with my sister & my brother-in-law while we looked for our new digs. Almost immediately after we moved in with them though, my sister fell very ill with acute pancreatitis. It was pretty bad, and I guess I had never really realized just how dangerous pancreatitis could be. She had it pretty rough, spent a few months in the hospital, and we feared at one point that we might lose her. But she’s tougher than that, and she’s now almost completely recovered.
At the same time, my parents have been going through their own struggles. My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few years ago, and he’s been fighting that particular demon for a while. Over the last few months, he’s had some pretty serious setbacks with the cancer spreading, and it has taken its toll, both physically and emotionally, on both him and my mom. Last week, things got particularly tough, and Dad was in the hospital for the Thanksgiving holidays. It was touch and go for a bit, but as of today, he is back home. Any prayers or positive vibes you see fit to send his way are appreciated. They live in Oklahoma, and my wife has been up there helping out for several months, while I’ve stayed here in the Houston area with my job.
And that brings me to the latest — the job. I turned in my notice at work a couple of weeks ago. Yeah, when Dad got bad this last time, it drove home the fact that family trumps everything. And in retrospect, it almost seemed that everything my wife & I have done over the last couple of years has indirectly prepared us for this move. My wife left her job last year. This was what gave her time to work on the old house and prepare it for a good sale. Because of all the work she put into the house, we were able to sell the house for more than we initially thought we would be able to get. Once we sold the house, she was also free to go help my parents in Oklahoma while I stayed down here in Houston. And as crass as some may think it is to discuss, the sale of the house also gave us a nice nest egg so that we didn’t have to worry so much about money. It’s still a concern, but we don’t have to panic for a while.
So yes, my better half and I discussed things and decided that it made more sense for me to leave my job & move up there. Friday, December 5th will be my last day at a job I’ve held for more than fifteen years. I’ll really miss some of the friends I’ve made there, but life goes on. And I’m not getting any younger.
As mentioned in earlier posts, my wife has been out of town for several weeks. My parents are getting a bit older, and Dad especially is having some health issues. My better half has been with them for the last couple of months helping them out with the day-to-day, as well as visits to doctors, etc. She has been in human resources with a few medical facilities over the last several years, and is familiar with medical procedures, insurance, medicare, and just about anything else they need to know to get through this time, so it only made sense for her to go up there to help out.
But in the meantime, I have a job back home that I have to maintain. As a result, we’ve been apart for longer than we’ve ever been separated before, and I miss her terribly. Bella and Cricket miss her, too. See?
In addition to all that, since we sold our home a few months ago, my sister and my brother-in-law have been kind enough to let me stay in their home. So, since my better half is gone, I’ve developed a morning routine.
I get up at 4:45 AM, let the girls outside, and feed them. Once they’ve been taken care of, we head back upstairs where I shut them up in our bedroom while I shower. This morning, I went through all that, came back into the bedroom, and found Cricket laying in her bed. Bella, however, was nowhere to be seen. I wasn’t terribly concerned, not really. I just figured she had followed me back out of the bedroom when I left to take a shower, and wandered downstairs.
So I opened the bedroom door and called her. I didn’t want to shout, since my brother-in-law was likely still asleep, so it was more like a loud whisper. ”Bella?” Nothing. ”Bella!”. Still nothing. I watched down the hallway in the darkness for a few minutes, but didn’t hear or see anything. I still wasn’t really worried, but at that point I was confused. Bella is usually pretty good about coming to me when I call. But I mentally shrugged, and turned back into the bedroom to finish getting ready for work.
That’s when I saw her. A fifty pound prankster, hiding behind my pillow.
Other news -
Well, my marketing experiment/contest seems to be a big flop. On Monday I announced that until midnight (central time) on June 20th, for anyone who purchases a copy of my latest novel (Streets of Payne) in any format, I would give codes for the free download of all three of my current audio books from Audible.com. All they had to do was email proof of purchase to me at jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom. So far, there have been three responses.
Oh well. Like I said, it was an experiment.
On the personal front, my wife is coming back to town for a few days as I type this, (I miss you, wife! ) and I’m really looking forward to holding my lady again.
Writing- Chucklers (an apocalyptic/horror collaboration I’m working on with Edward Lorn) is really moving along for me now. The main manuscript is sitting at almost 60k words, and there is still so much story to tell. I’m currently working on the “Charlie” part of the story, and Charlie is a truly despicable character. Not like a cute, kind-hearted criminal with a heart of gold and minions. No, this guy is someone I want to meet in real life just so I can punch him in the throat. If I do my job well enough, readers will hopefully hate this guy as much as I do. Writing someone this foul has been quite an experience for me. Trying to put myself in that mindset is an exercise that I suppose all writers and/or actors work through at some point. I think it helps you grow as a story-teller.
But there are times when I feel like I need a shower after being in Charlie’s head for a while.
Well, I’d better go for now. I just got a text from my wife that she is currently driving through Dallas, and should be home in a few hours. For some reason, I’m grinning like a little kid.
Yeah, I’ve been quiet for a while. Ironically, it’s not because I haven’t been busy. Quite the opposite. Life has been pretty “interesting” for the last few months. As in “may you live in interesting times” interesting.
My wife & I sold our house about two months ago. The idea was that we would downsize to a smaller house with more property. But during the interim between selling the old house & buying a new one, we were going to stay with family members. We expected it to be a matter of a few weeks, possibly a month or two.
But right after we moved in with them, life jumped up and smacked us all. We had a few crises that have demonstrated to us that Murphy is alive and well, and apparently has taken a liking to our family. I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell. But a minor side effect has been that I haven’t been paying much attention to marketing for my writing, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know when this is going to change. As a result, my numbers have slipped drastically, and I simply don’t have the time or setup to pursue the “traditional” marketing venues.
So I’m going to try an experiment here. It may work, and it may not. I just figure this is the perfect opportunity to try something off the wall.
My book with the worst numbers right now is “Streets of Payne”. I don’t know if it’s because the book is cyberpunk, and there simply isn’t the following for the genre that there once was, or if it’s because that’s my newest book, or if I’ve made a mistake with the cover, or blurb, or categorization, or what… All I know for sure is that the thing isn’t selling.
So here’s my experiment. If you think you might be interested in a cyberpunk-ish techno-thriller, check out Streets of Payne. If it looks like something you might be interested in, buy it. I recently lowered the e-book price to $2.99, so it’s not like it’s going to break the bank. And for the first three people who purchase the novel in the next 24 hours, and can provide me with electronic proof of purchase, I will give you an Audible.com promo code for the free download of each of my three published works in audio format.
So, buy “Streets of Payne” in print or electronic format within the next 24 hours, email me (jlb DOT author AT gmail DOT com) with your proof of purchase, and I will send you promo codes for the free download of the Audible.com audio book versions of “Streets of Payne“, “Half Past Midnight“, and “The Road to Rejas“.
I will do this for the first threepeople who contact me with proof of purchase before 10PM central time, Monday night.
And then I’ll do it again for the NEXT 24 hours… and the next… until Friday night, or until I run out of codes, whichever comes first. Like I said, I don’t know if this little experiment will help, but I figure it probably can’t hurt, either. Right?
Linda Prather contacted me last week and invited me to participate in something called the “My Writing Process” blog tour. Linda is a great author, and I’m proud to say, a good friend, as well. She is the author of the Jacody Ives Mysteries, and the Catherine Mans psychic suspense novels (some of my personal favorites), and recently participated in marketing her novel “The Gifts” as one of “The Deadly Dozen”, a boxed set of twelve mysteries and thrillers by some of the best writers in their fields. It was this boxed set that recently landed her the coveted titles of “USA Today Best Selling Author” and “New York Times Best Selling Author”. Yeah, I wanna be like Linda when I grow up.
To see what Linda had to say about her writing process, check out her blog post here.
Now, for the blog tour itself. The ”My Writing Process” blog tour is where various authors answer four particular questions about how and why they write what they do. It’s always the same four questions, but as you might imagine, the answers are as varied as the authors themselves. Curious about it, I looked it up and tried tracing it back to see if I could find the origins of this tour. HAH! After finding literally hundreds of entries spanning back over at least three years, I finally gave up. This thing is simply too huge and widespread to find an origin. I can imagine someone one day asking an author, “Hey, how do you write the stuff you write?” and from there becoming a tradition of sorts.
Whatever its origins, I am honored to have been asked. Thanks for inviting me along, Linda.
Now, on to the questions of the tour…
MY WRITING PROCESS
1) What are you currently working on?
I have a few irons in the fire at the moment. My main project right now is Chucklers. It’s a collaborative apocalyptic/horror novel that I’m writing with horror writer, and good friend, Edward Lorn. Ed approached me with the idea of expanding on a premise he wrote in his short story “He Who Laughs Last” from his story collection, What the Dark Brings. After talking a bit, I think we both got pretty excited about where it looked like the story was going to go, and we dove in. Recently, we realized that Chucklers is a much larger story than we anticipated, and it looks like it’s going to end up as a trilogy.
I also have a sequel to my first novel in the works. I’m working on it under the working title of “Year 12″, and as is the nature of working titles, it may or may not change. It will be the story of Zachary Dawcett, the young boy who was kidnapped in the last part of Half Past Midnight. As the title implies, it is set twelve years after the Doomsday War of HPM, and Zachary is a young man now, in a world struggling to rebuild.
And finally, I have something new. WC1 is my manuscript code for a more traditional SF novel. I wrote a little bit about it in an earlier post. I like to call it “military sci-fi – light”. I don’t have a military background, and what I have in mind is going to be considerably different from what most people would think of when they hear the words “military science fiction”. But it will definitely be science fiction, and will deal with a war, so for now… military sci-fi light.
2) How does your work differ from others in its genre?
First of all, I don’t think genre really applies to me. In this breakneck paced world of e-books and self publishing, many authors no longer seem to stick to a single genre. I know that has always been the case to a certain extent, but it is so much more common now, and I’m nothing if not common.
Currently, I dabble in several genres; post-apocolyptic, cyberpunk, horror, science fiction, and am even considering writing a reference book for writers. So let me address the question as a matter of writing style; How does my work differ from others?
Something that I try to do in all my work is to bring an air of inner strength to my characters. Whether the story is about a family in a near future east Texas after a nuclear war, or a female detective three hundred years in the future, I try to make my main characters as independent and resourceful as I can. And then I try to test their limits.
I’m also a bit of a research junkie. I strive to bring as much realism into my settings as I can. I once spent three days researching atmospheric density, Rayliegh scattering, types of photosynthesis, stellar classifications and the frequency of the various star types in our galaxy, molecular composition of translucent atmospheric particulates… all to see what color the sky might be in the world of a short story I was writing for an anthology.
3) Why do you write what you do?
As strange as it sounds, I think I want to help people. I want to write stories that show readers that everyone can be a hero. You don’t have to be a hulking mass of muscle to win the day, as long as you embrace your inner strengths. I’ve mentioned it before, but much of my writing is influenced by my martial arts training, as is my life in general.
I learned early on that there are advantages and disadvantages to all physical attributes. If you’re tall and muscular, you likely have a longer reach and body strength. But a smaller, lighter person is likely faster, and can be trained to take advantage of a larger person’s higher center of gravity, unbalancing their opponent. It’s a lesson I learned early in life when someone half my size wiped the mat with me during a judo randori. That was roughly forty years ago, and the lesson has stuck.
I’ve seen too many people (including yours truly) underestimate the abilities of their opponents, as well as their own abilities, whether they be physical or intellectual. I want my stories to get people to think outside the box. I want them to realize their own strengths and weaknesses, to ask themselves, “could I do that in that situation?” I want people to keep the thought in the back of their minds that there are often unorthodox solutions to common problems, if only you are willing to embrace them. I want them to realize that they don’t have to rely on someone else to be the hero of their story–that heroes are often just ordinary people who are willing to step up and face the crap that life throws at them.
4) How does your writing process work?
It varies. (I suppose that shows that I’m still pretty new to the writing business.) I’ve had instances where a story comes to me pretty much full-blown, beginning to end, all at once. There is one currently on my “to do” list that came to me in a dream one night. It was an entire story that I woke up with and scrambled to get on paper before it left me. There are others where I have nothing but a specific scene or idea that I have to think about for a long time before the actual story comes to me. For instance, my short story The Burning Land (the one for which I did all the atmospheric research), in the Explorers: Beyond the Horizon anthology, also started because of a dream. (I wrote about the process of that one in more detail in an earlier blog post.) For now, I’ll just say that I awoke from a dream about a story, and the dream led me down a days-long rabbit hole of research that I found so fascinating that I believe I will likely revisit the world later on to expand the setting of The Burning Land into a full length novel.
And yes, I am definitely a research junkie. I get carried away with my world building to the point that most of what I write in notes never makes it to the final manuscript. I’m sure it’s a common frustration with writers–you spend hours and hours writing notes so that you know the world of your story inside and out, only to have most of it end up on the metaphorical cutting room floor. But in my opinion, it is a necessity. As the author you have to know your world in minute detail, but you don’t want to burden the reader with extraneous information that doesn’t really contribute to the story you’re writing.
And I’m now learning about writing with another author. Collaboration writing is much different from anything I’ve done up to now. It’s exciting, exhilarating, and incredibly satisfying to see the words fly almost effortlessly onto the page. And working with a good partner helps keep the story fresh. I’m lucky enough to be working with someone who thinks a lot like I do, yet different enough that we often surprise one another with what we come up with. It keeps the story fresh and exciting for us while we write it. The only problem is scheduling, and that is something that can always be worked through.
So that’s it. There are my answers to the “My Writing Process” questions. And now it’s time for me to pass the baton. I’d like to introduce you to three authors whose work I have read and enjoyed. They have accepted the invitation to post a bit about their writing processes, so watch for their blog posts next Monday (April 28) to see how they approach the craft of writing.
So next week, watch for…
Edward Lorn is an American horror author presently residing in the southeast United States. He enjoys storytelling, reading, and writing biographies in the third person.
Once upon a time, during a session of show and tell, a seven-year-old Edward Lorn shared with his class that his baby brother had died over the weekend. His classmates, the teacher included, wept while he recounted the painful tragedy of having lost a sibling. Edward went home that day and found an irate mother waiting for him. Edward’s teacher had called to express her condolences. This was unfortunate, as Edward had never had a baby brother.
With advice given to her by a frustrated teacher, Edward’s mother made him start writing all of his lies down. The rest, as they say, is history.
Edward Lorn and his wife are raising two children, along with a handful of outside cats and a beagle named Dot. He remains a liar to this day. The only difference is, now he’s a useful one.
Justin Macumber is the author of Haywire, A Minor Magic, and the newly released Still Water. Justin was the founder and host of the popular Dead Robots’ Society podcast, having only recently stepped down as host to spend more time on his writing. He is still a co-host on The Hollywood Outsider, a weekly podcast about movies and television and does weekly TV Talk chats for Grimm and Sleepy Hollow.
He and his lovely wife live in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex along with their motley pack of dogs and cats that they think of as their children.
A resident of New Jersey, Mary currently works in financial marketing. She has been an avid reader for as long as she can remember and especially enjoys the infinite possibilities and out-of-this-world experiences of science fiction and fantasy. In her spare time (when she has any), she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and exploring new things—she’ll try almost anything once.
Mary graduated Magna cum Laude from Princeton University in 2010 with a Bachelor of the Arts in Music, specializing in composition. Although she is currently focusing on writing, music is still her first love, and so in her spare time she composes songs and soundtracks. You can follow her at her blog, on twitter, or on Facebook.
My alarm goes off at five o’clock every morning, Monday through Friday (barring holidays and vacations). I get out of my bed, get into my shower, get ready for work, go into my kitchen to get a lunch out of my refrigerator or freezer, go through my front door, down my sidewalk to my driveway where I get in my car to go to work.
Why all the emphasis on “my“? Because tomorrow we sign the papers finalizing the sale of our house. As of tomorrow afternoon, it will no longer be my house. That occurred to me as I got out of bed this morning and it was an odd feeling. This is the house where we raised our youngest two kids during their most formative years. It’s where we’ve had friends and family over for festive holidays, raucous game nights, pleasant dinners, and fun barbeques for the last thirteen years. It feels strange to think that our home for more than a decade will tomorrow belong to someone else, and that for the next few nights, we will be staying in their home.
It’s not a bad feeling. It’s just… odd.
And after this weekend, my wife and I will begin a new phase of our lives together. My better half put it into perspective a week or two back. I don’t recall her exact words, but it was something like, “Let’s not worry so much about what might happen. Let’s not be afraid of doing something wrong, and instead, let’s concentrate on enjoying whatever comes our way.”
She’s a smart woman, that one.
So we move out this weekend. We’ll be moving in with family for a short time while we look for a new home… a new place to start a new phase of our lives. And we’re determined to face it with open eyes, open minds, and open hearts. Wish us luck.
Writing news -
A few minor changes since my last post… first, it looks like my writing partner, Ed Lorn, may be about ready to jump back into Chucklers sooner than anticipated. Between his projects, and my moving, it was beginning to look like the novel was going to get put on the back burner soon. However, we had a quick discussion about it, and it looks like we may be picking it back up in just a few more weeks. At this point, my only real concern is that I’ll be unable to keep up with Ed’s prolific writing pace.
Also, I’ve been invited to participate in something called the “My Writing Process” blog tour next Monday (April 21). It’s an interesting little exercise wherein authors answer a few questions about how and why they write what they do, then invite other authors to follow them. Thinking about it, I suppose it’s a bit like the old Faberge shampoo commercial. You write your post, then ask some other authors to participate, and they ask some more, ”…and so on, and so on, and so on…”
I can see how it could become like the Song That Never Ends, an amorphous, never-ending entity, winding its way through the ages. Sounds like fun. So watch for my contribution to the beast next Monday.
That’s all for now. Have a great weekend, and as always, stay safe.