Dec 202018
 

WARNINGTHIS POST HAS MANY MORE PICTURES THAN NORMAL!  AND THEY’RE AWESOME! 

First of all, yes, I missed last week’s blog post.  But I have an excellent excuse this time.  I flew to New Mexico to help Baby Bird move from Santa Fe to her new apartment in Albuquerque.  Of course, flying during the holidays can be all sorts of fun, as you can see in the picture here.  That was the scene at a bit before 5 AM last Thursday at Tulsa International.  I can only imagine how wild it was later in the day, and TIA is a small airport compared to some of the larger cities.  Places like Houston, Chicago, or New York must be truly nightmarish during the holidays.

But it all went smoothly, and I arrived the morning after the first snow of the season in Albuquerque.  And while the snow was beautiful, the ice on the roads was most definitely not.  Still, we made it all right, and there’s that whole, “all’s well that ends well” thing, right?  ;)   And the view was really nice once we were safely at the apartment.  I mean, isn’t that beautimous?  (Well, other than the chain-link fence, that is.)

She had a few friends to help, so I got to meet some of her cohorts.  They were really nice… wow, I almost called them kids.  And when I think about it, they’re all around the age MBH & I were when we got married.  (And here’s where I insert the obligatory “where did the time go?” comment… Oy!)  

Over the next few days, we finished packing her life into boxes, (though she had honestly already done most of the packing), got one of those big, orange, moving trucks, packed it up, moved her from Santa Fe to Albuquerque, unpacked her life at the new location, and organized things in such a manner that she could function in the new apartment.  And for an artist, that includes setting up the improvised painting studio in the breakfast nook, and hanging lots of artwork.

And I LOVED being able to see how she does that, and to help with it.  There is painter’s canvas on the floor, plastic sheeting on the walls, flaps cut in the plastic for air vents and thermostats… it was a pretty intricate setup.  But it’s necessary for a college student who would like to one day get back her security deposit.  LOL

MBH and I worry about her commute now.  She’ll have classes in Santa Fe, so there’s about an hour commute each way.  But in truth, it’s not the distance or the time that concerns us.  It’s the fact that there’s the potential for her to be driving it in snowy, icy conditions.  And for someone used to living in Houston and San Antonio, those are some seriously different driving conditions than she’s used to.

But Baby Bird isn’t really a baby anymore, so we’ll just have to worry in relative silence.  RELATIVE silence…

The Ladies – six panels, oil on canvas

Now, I’m going to move on to my writing progress synopsis, but since we’re talking about Baby Bird and her art work (yeah, I’m a proud papa, so sue me ), I’ll be sprinkling some pictures of some of her paintings throughout the rest of this post.

 

 

Writing Progress

Animorph – Acrylic on paper

AP2 – .  Between the holidays and travel, I haven’t made a whole lot of progress on The Payne Before The Storm.  It’s currently sitting at just over 99k words after the third major revision, but that isn’t counting about 20k that I excised as part of the beginning of AP3, the third in the series.  So once this one is finished, I’ll already have a decent start on yet another Amber Payne novel.  No promises on when it will be finished, because I have other books I also need to be writing.  Nevertheless, it’s a little bit of a head start.

TBL – I haven’t spoken about The Burning Land in quite some time, have I?  The only reason I’m mentioning it now is that I’ve decided to use it as practice for recording my own audiobooks.

Owl – Watercolor on paper

After the problems I ran into with my narrator for Year 12, I’m leaning more and more toward starting to do my own narrations. I think I have a decent enough voice, and I’ve done some minor readings and sound editing for a few podcasts, so I’m familiar with the basics of the process.

But none of that is a guarantee that I can really do what I think I can do.  With that in mind, I decided that it made sense to start with something small.  And since The Burning Land is the shortest work I’ve published, what could be better?

So I set up and recorded it the day before I left for New Mexico.  It’s a 5k word short story, and it took me right at an hour to do a master take.  Next step is to make a copy for backup, and then begin the editing process.  After that, I hope to be able to submit it to ACX for release on Audible, iTunes, and of course, Amazon. So if things go well with the production of the TBL audiobook, then I can make a more informed decision on whether or not there’s an ROI to doing the audiobook for Y12.

 

Untitled – Oil on Canvas

Learning to Write

And finally, in the writing “business” category… the flights back from New Mexico gave me a little time to read.  I didn’t get time to read on the way out because I ended up in a fun conversation with a very pleasant gentleman across the aisle on the flight to Albuquerque, and we were back on the ground before I knew it.  By the way… Nate, if you actually read this, here’s me saying hello.  ;)

Untitled – Oil on Canvas

However, on the way home, I was able to finally make quite a bit of progress on the book I mentioned in WW115, way back in August… (Newsletter Ninja: How to Become an Author Mailing List Expert).  I’m about 90% through it now, and am amazed at just how much sense the book is making… and in just how badly I’ve missed the mark in what I should be trying to do with my mailing list.  In fact, a LOT of what I always considered “conventional wisdom” with mailing lists and newsletters really doesn’t make sense when you examine it closely.  So yeah, another project to tackle at some point in the future.  What’s more, some of what I’ve read might actually affect this blog, as well.  But more on that whenever the changes get closer.  For now, there are too many other irons in the fire.

Don’t Be an Ass – Watercolor on paper

And finally, I’ve been studying a bit on Amazon ads, keywords, book categories, and the like, in an effort to (hopefully) learn how to gain more visibility for my books.  The more I learn, the more I’m reminded that writing is a business… and that business is always shifting.  When you try to settle on a working model, the industry has a tendency to shift and leave you in the dust.  I need to be more vigilant on that side of things.

All right, I suppose I’ve meandered on for long enough.  However, in reading back through this post I realized that with all of Baby Bird’s paintings, I didn’t show anything to give the scale.  She doesn’t do much in the way of small paintings, so these last few pictures will give you an idea of what kind of size we’re looking at.  Enjoy, and stay safe.  :bye:

Dec 062018
 

Just a short post here to catch up with everyone.  I’ve obviously fallen off the wagon with regards to posting here in a timely manner.  If you check the dates, you’ll see that my weekly blog post has been missing for a month now.  That happens every year around this time, with the holidays.  Our big one this year was Thanksgiving.  Hope yours was good (those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving). We managed to make a whirlwind trip down to see family for a couple of days. We drove down Wednesday, spent Thanksgiving day at my son and daughter in law’s new home, rested on Friday, and drove back on Saturday.  It was way too brief, but well worth it.  Even more so since my daughters, mother, sister, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, and one of my nephews also made it over to visit.  It was the first time in several years that we were all able to spend time together.

Of course, right after we got back, I got sick.  Nothing terrible, just the typical chest cold.  I still have a touch of it, but I’m getting better.  Unfortunately, MBH has it now.  Yeah, I made her sick… even more so than usual. 

Hmmm… what else?

Ah, well, I got a ticket a few weeks ago.  Actually, I guess I need to back up a little bit more for this one…

See, MBH developed some eye issues that made it unsafe for her to drive.  Lattice degeneration that resulted in some torn tissue in her right peeper.  Luckily, she recognized that something was wrong and got in to see an ophthalmologist quickly.  The doc did some laser magic on her eye, and she’s healing up nicely now.  However, there were a few weeks where her vision wasn’t good enough to drive, so Yours Truly did the honors.  It was actually pretty nice, being able to drive her to and from.  But one afternoon, my foot was a bit too heavy on the accelerator, and I found myself on the wrong end of a speeding ticket.  

In other news, I’ve been studying the marketing side of the writing business.  I keep saying I’m going to change some of the things I’m doing with regards to writing.  One of the things I started looking at was why I’m not selling.  See, things have changed a lot since I first got into this.  Back then, you wrote a book, you published a book, you placed the book in a few mailing lists, and then you left it alone while you went and wrote the next story.  That’s not the case anymore.  At least, not if you want to make a living at it.

So I’m having to study some of the new tools available for writers.  I need to learn more about keywords and how Amazon has changed them.  I need to learn more about Amazon Ads, leveraging newsletters, working your title through Amazon’s niche categories so it can climb into the larger categories…  and the more I read, the more daunting it is to realize how far behind I’ve fallen.

So you may see more of the old style “Learning to Write” posts in the future as I go through various lessons and try different things.  Some folks will enjoy them.  Others will likely roll their eyes at the writer tech-speak that will ensue.  Of course, if no one leaves me any comments, I won’t know either way, right? 

Writing progress – 

AP2 – The second Amber Payne novel is mostly finished (I think).  I’ve settled on a new title… “The Payne Before The Storm“.  Or maybe I should drop it to “Payne Before The Storm“… Anyway, all but a few scenes are written. But because of all the cutting and rewriting, many of the chapters are a huge, jumbled mess.  This has, by far, been the most difficult book to write that I’ve done.  But stay tuned for a cover reveal in the near future.

IMR– This was the so-called “sekrit projekt”, and unfortunately, it fell through.  The author who contacted me about it said that his attorney had advised him to not job the project out.  He was going to have me write a prequel series that led into his current series, and there was too much chance of confusing the overlapping intellectual property rights.  That’s a true bummer, since I was actually very excited about the project, and had already written a few chapters and had ideas for six different books.  But nothing written is ever wasted.  What I wrote for that project can be adapted later.  When and/or if I ever get back to the “Warrior Clan” series I was fiddling with, these chapters might fit right in with just a little adjustment.

PE2 – So with IMR off the schedule, it looks like the next book in the lineup will probably be a new Pangaea novel.  Looks like it’s time for Sean Barrow to mount his camelo again. Wonder what he and his friends will run into this time?  

 

And that’s enough.  I said I was going to make it a short one, and that was more than 800 words back.  So I hope you have a wonderful holiday season.  And whether you celebrate Christmas, are in the midst of Hanukkah, or celebrate any other holiday, whatever it may be… stay safe!  

Aug 222018
 

It’s been a while, right?  Yes, I’m still working the contract IT gig.  And you remember how I mentioned last time that we’d had two of our three kiddos, as well as their families (as in daughter-in-law and grand-kids) come visit for a bit?  Well, it was “two of our three kiddos”, and we really needed a trifecta.  So yeah, we just got back from visiting the third kiddo. You’ve heard me mention Baby Bird before, right?  She’s going to school in Santa Fe, and MBH hadn’t seen her in about a year.

We rectified that situation with a road trip.  It was about a ten-hour drive from Claremore, OK to Santa Fe, NM, and while the drive was long, it also held some beautiful sights.  As we drove west, the hills and greenery gave way to plains and windmills, and eventually to long expanses of desert, scrub, cacti, and mountains in the distance.  What was especially awe-inspiring was the sight of thunderclouds in the distance, with dark sheets of rain falling so far away that we couldn’t even begin to judge how many miles lay between us and that rain.

Our arrival in Santa Fe, however, was somewhat less awe-inspiring.  We’re some of those folks that like to use Air BnB to find places to stay.  Sometimes you find a real gem, and sometimes not so much.  This time, we followed our trusty Garmin to the little casita we had rented, but were stopped before we even got there.  When we tried to pull up the little gravel road, our way was blocked by several police cars.  And of course, as soon as they saw us, one of the cops got on the radio.

So what do you do in that situation?  If you turn around to leave what appears to be a pretty intense situation, you look like you’re running from the cops.  If you get out to ask them to move, you look like you’re trying to cause trouble.  And to top it all off, we weren’t even completely sure we were in the right place.  MBH suggested I simply ask if this was the correct address. (gulp)  So, masculinity on the line, I got out of the car to speak to the nice, intimidating, scowling officer.  I asked if this was “456 That-street”,  explaining that we were trying to get to a casita we had rented through Air BnB, and weren’t even sure we were in the right place.

Nope.  They were at “452 That-street”.  Right street, wrong address, and our casita was four doors farther down, with multiple police vehicles between us and it, and no way around them.

Needless to say, we decided to go visit Baby Bird a bit earlier than planned.  A few hours later, we went back, and this time, Johnny Law was gone.  We found our accommodations for our stay without any further issue and settled in.

While we were in town we took advantage of an annual event in Santa Fe.  The Santa Fe Indian Market is an annual show in (you guessed it) Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It’s sponsored by the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts, and features Native American artists from all over the US and Canada.  Just to be allowed to exhibit, the artists have to apply months in advance, must be able of Native American descent, and have their work judged and accepted by a jury for the show.  It’s one of the largest shows of its kind in the country, and Santa Fe actually closes down the streets downtown to make room for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come (as we did) from all over to visit.  After seeing the work on display, I think (hope?) we may have convinced Baby Bird to apply for a booth next year.  At the very least, I hope we’ve finally convinced her to stop undervaluing her work.  She was able to see that some of her peers who had paintings on par with some of hers, were selling them for thousands of dollars, where she’s been reluctant to charge hundreds.

Of course, there were artists of all kinds at the show… jewelers, painters, weavers, potters, and even traditional dancers.  Yeah, this was an event where the phrase “dancing in the streets” takes on a whole new meaning.

But one of the stars of the show (at least for us) was the giant teddy bear of a dog, ironically enough named “Oso” (which is Spanish for “bear”).  Oso is a Malamute almost shocking in his size.  I mean, look at the picture there.  Look at the size of his paws, as compared to his master’s.  He was huge!  But he was also as calm and gentle as you could ever imagine.  Oso is a service dog, who has been trained to smell sugar levels in anticipation of diabetic problems.

After we’d worn ourselves out at the art show, we went back to cool off and get ready for a nice dinner.  I didn’t know it, but Santa Fe is apparently known for some pretty fancy dining spots, and we decided to treat ourselves to a very rare night at a fancy restaurant.  Let me tell you, if you ever get the chance to eat at the Fenix at Vanessie Restaurant, I highly recommend it.  The food was amazing, as was the atmosphere.  The decor was (of course) high end Native American, and there was a piano bar.  And did I mention the food?  (insert drool here)

Anyway, MBH and I took Baby Bird, and it was an evening we’ll remember for a LONG time.

I could go on about the trip, but I’m already pushing a thousand words on the blog here, and I haven’t even said anything about the progress on revamping the web site (not a lot to talk about anyway), writing progress (same), marketing (learning some things, getting ready to put the learning into practice), or the business side of writing (bought a book that’s beginning to convince me I’ve messed up with my newsletter philosophy).

I guess that just means I have something to write about for next time, right?    But until then, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.  :bye:

 

Mar 212018
 

Wow.  My last post was three weeks ago?  Well, yes, I’ve been busy, but three weeks? (sigh)

Sorry ladies and gents.

Even now, it’s after 9PM, almost past Wednesday completely.  But I really don’t want to miss another one, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on…

I was given the green light to talk about the anthology story I’m working on.  It’s for Severed Press, and is an anthology for their dinosaur market.  Initially, I thought I would write the story of the first group of scientists that came through the Pangaea portal in the Pangaea: Exiles story.  It was briefly mentioned in the book, but never really fleshed out.  Since they said they don’t really want that story, (opting instead for something totally different), it’s a story that may never be written.

So that’s one more thing that I’m working on.

And someone else has contacted me about a sekrit projekt… someone whose writing I really admire, and who I know and respect on a more personal basis.  They wanted to know if I would be interested in co-writing a novel in their universe.  Now let me tell you something here folks – there really aren’t that many series that I get into enough to read (or listen to the audiobooks) of as soon as they come out.  This person writes one of the very few.  As a matter of fact, I had just finished the most recent available audiobook in their series the day before they contacted me.  It’s not firmed up yet, but I have hope that this one will actually take place.

Fingers crossed. 

On the personal front, we’ve had bad news, and then we’ve had BAD news.  First, yours truly ended up blowing up the engine in my Rav 4.  I was going to meet with some friends on Saturday a few weeks back.  It was a nasty, rainy day, and I was traveling down the toll road when I heard a bit of a thump like I had run over a branch or something.  At the same time, I had several warning lights on the dashboard light up, including the battery light.  This made me think I might have thrown a belt.

So I got off the toll road at the next exit, and turned around to take the back road to head back toward home.  I knew I ran the risk of overheating the engine so I kept a close eye on the temperature gauge as I drove back toward town.  I got lucky (or so I thought) in that nearly every traffic light I hit was green, so I didn’t have to stop until I got back into my home town.  That was when I first smelled the steam of an overheated engine.  Still, the temperature gauge showed the engine was cool.

It lied.  There was no way for the engine to be cool, and still produce that smell of steam and hot coolant.  By the time the engine died, it was too far gone.  It had died two blocks from our mechanic.  And since it was a Saturday, I couldn’t have it looked at until Monday.  Even then, I hoped it was just minor damage.

No such luck.  I’d killed the thing.  It would have cost more to fix it than the Rav was worth.    So we’re down by one vehicle in the Brackett household, at least for the immediate future.

But that’s not the BAD news.  You know that old saying about feeling sorry for yourself because you have no shoes, until you see the man who has no feet?  Well, that’s the way MBH and I have felt lately.  We’ve seen some people close to us going through so much worse than what we’re dealing with.  I won’t go into details, because those stories aren’t mine to tell.  Suffice to say that some of what our loved ones are dealing with is truly heartbreaking.  So much so that we feel blessed to only have minor things like burned out ceiling fans, broken fence posts, (a few other minor issues) and car engines to worry about.

And we are SO lucky in so many other ways.  We have friends and family who love us, and are loved by us.  And no matter what happens, I don’t see that changing.  In the end, that’s really all that matters.

So hug your loved ones, stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again soon.  :bye:

Feb 072018
 

You know that flu that’s been making the rounds?  Yeah.  I can now vouch for just how crappy this bug can make you feel.  The sinus pressure was bad enough that I was fantasizing about removing my own eyes with a spoon in order to gain some relief.

Okay, maybe that was a slight exaggeration.  But only slight.

Two nights ago, the sinus pressure eased, as the crud in them began to shift into my chest.  Of course, this presented its own set of issues.

Imagine, I’m in the guest room trying to sleep (because I’m bound and determined that I will NOT give this crap to MBH).  I lay down and try to take a deep, relaxing breath before sleeping, and the rattle from inside my chest causes me to start coughing.  And I mean, the deep, gut wrenching cough that makes you think your abs are about to leave your body by way of your esophagus.

After fighting it for a bit, I decide to sit up and watch a bit of late-night television.  A few minutes later, the rattle subsides, the coughing stops, and I lay back down.  Within about thirty seconds, the rattling begins again, which brings on another bout of coughing.  I sit up again, and guess what?  Yep, everything calms down again.

Lay down, rattle, cough. Sit back up, cough stops, rattle stops, I begin to drift off.

After about three hours of this, my coughing was interspersed with considerable cursing.  And as I established in an earlier post, I really don’t cuss that much.  That night was an exception.  By midnight, I was frustrated.  By one o’clock, I was exhausted.  By two o’clock, I was coughing and cussing and punching my pillow as if it was its fault that I couldn’t find a position or angle that would allow me to sleep without the incessant and irritating noise from within.  I think I finally succumbed to the exhaustion around three AM.

If not for the fact that I was so frustrated and tired, the whole situation might have been funny.  In the wee hours of a frustratingly restless morning, I found absolutely zero humor in the situation.

Go figure.  

Needless to say, I’ve gotten very little writing done over the last week, though.  Yes, I’m beginning to feel better.  Actually, I’m almost feeling normal again.  The rattle is beginning to subside, and I was able to get a relatively decent night’s sleep last night.  Tomorrow, I plan to get back in the saddle with the writing, and hopefully get Amber Payne back on the case.

Wish me luck.  In the meantime, stay safe, and don’t catch the flu.  :bye: