Feb 012017
 

 

It’s been a busy couple of weeks.  Remember that water heater that was leaking?  Well, while the leaking was down to a minimum, the pilot light kept going out on it. So that had to be replaced after all.  And after it was replaced and the plumber was gone, I let the water heat up, then went through the house testing all the faucets to make sure the hot water was flowing the way it should.  As you might imagine, there was a bit of air in the lines, and the pipes rattled quite a bit at first, so I left them on for a few minutes and went out in the garage to sweep up the water that had leaked out when the plumber removed the old water heater.

Imagine my dismay when I finished sweeping, and after only a few minutes opened the door from the garage into the laundry room to find the floor covered in water!  :eek:  See, our laundry room has a storage cabinet with a sink in it, and the faucet is one of those kitchen faucets with the extendable, hand-held sprayers. Evidently the air in the line caused enough vibration that the connector for the faucet came apart, letting the line spray water into the cabinet beneath it, flooding it, and pooling on the floor of the laundry room.

Luckily, it was easy enough to fix, though it took about every spare towel to sop up the water.  But hey, I was already in the laundry room, so cleaning them afterwards was simple enough.   :laugh:  Wet towels went from the floor directly into the washer, and voilá… problem solved.

WW70But we also ran into issues with MBH’s car.  A few months ago, she had several dashboard lights come on… the check engine light, the LSD (limited slippage differential – used for added traction on slick roads), and the VSC (vehicle stability control – also related to traction control). So those three lights came on for about a day, then just as mysteriously, they went out.  About a week later, I took her car in to the “local” dealership (and living a bit off the beaten track as we do, said dealership is about a forty minute drive) for a recall on a completely unrelated issue, and while there I spoke to the mechanic about it. Since the lights were no longer on, he couldn’t hook it up to the diagnostic computer and see what it specifically was, but he mentioned that he had seen some of those lights come on in relation to a bad gas cap.

A day or two later, the lights came back on again.  This time they were only on for a few hours before they went out.   ?:-)

Hmmm…. well, maybe it was worth trying that whole gas cap thing.  I had heard of a bad gas cap causing other problems in the past, so I figured “why not?”  Before I got the new gas cap though, the lights came back on… and this time they seemed to be staying on.  They stayed on for a few days before I got the new gas cap and put it on.  From what I had read, it could take several times of driving the car before the lights would go back off again, if that was indeed the problem.  Nearly a week later, the lights were still on.

Now, you have to understand, as far as MBH or I could tell, the vehicle was driving just fine.  It wasn’t sluggish, smoking, missing, running hot… there were none of the basic indicators that you typically see when your vehicle is giving you trouble. Just those freaking lights. (sigh)  But not wanting to do some sort of hidden damage to the vehicle, I broke down and took it in to the local mechanic.  After waiting for a couple of hours, they came back with a report…

The code on the check engine light told them to check the code related to the VSC light.  The code on the VSC light told them to check the code on the check engine light.  And the code on the LSD light told them that the rear oxygen sensor was bad.  Bottom line, they didn’t know for sure what was causing all of the lights to come on, but they were sure that the rear oxygen sensor was bad, and it was going to cost over $300 to fix it.

When I asked if that would take care of the other lights, the best I could get out of them was “it should, but we can’t tell for sure until we do it.”  I called MBH to let her know and, being the practical woman she is, she asked what I should have already asked the mechanic.  “What does the rear oxygen sensor do?”

So I asked the mechanic.  His answer (paraphrased… if I remember correctly) “There are two oxygen sensors in the vehicle. The front oxygen sensor is tied into the proper mix of oxygen in the engine, and can cause the car to start backfiring.  The rear one detects proper mix in the exhaust and catalytic converter.”

When I asked if it’s detrimental for the car to continue driving the way it is, he told me that if it was the front sensor, he would say yes.  But with the rear one, it probably wouldn’t hurt anything at all.  So for the time being, MBH has a well-lit dashboard.  ITMT, I’ve been looking at online videos on how to replace the sensor myself, and it doesn’t actually look all that difficult… as long as everything goes smoothly.  I saw one video where the sensor had been on so long that it stripped the threads when it was removed.  If that happens, then you could end up having to take the car to a muffler shop to have them weld a new sensor housing into the exhaust.  Of course that’s assuming the sensor is on the housing.  That’s the other issue.  There is conflicting information as to where the sensor actually is.  So, project for the near future.  Wish me luck.

But the news isn’t all bad.  We’re getting ready for good friends to visit from Houston.  We have some really great friends that we left behind when we moved up here, and it’s always exciting when we get to see any of them.  But are some that are so close that they might as well be family.  That’s the way it is with the couple that are coming to spend a few days with us this weekend.  They’re just all-around wonderful folks, and MBH and I are really looking forward to getting to spend time with them.

Now, writing news…

CV1 – I received a request for interview last week from Nick Kelly, who had read Chucklers: Volume 1.  Needless to say, I was tickled that someone would like the book enough that they would reach out to me that way, and the interview was a lot of fun.  You can read it here if you’re interested.  And afterwards, Nick was kind enough to leave a nice review on Amazon.  Thanks, Nick.   :)

Y12 – Speaking of reviews, they’re finally beginning to come in on Year 12, too.  And while I know it won’t last, so far all of them (only three so far, but still…) are five-star reviews.  So thanks to those of you who like my writing enough to leave a review.  It helps with the visibility in Amazon’s rankings, and that helps with sales, which helps with the rankings, which helps with sales… well, you get the picture.

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is moving again.  I had a bit of a slump, but I’m pretty sure I’m over it, and the story is flowing well once more.

CL Crazy Larry is moving slowly but surely, too.  I’m not really going to make this one a top priority, because as a novella, it’s honestly not going to make me much money.  And let’s be honest, if I’m going to treat the writing like a business, I have to be a bit mercenary with some things.  I will definitely finish it, and I will definitely publish it.  But short stories and novellas simply don’t make money like full-blown novels do.  I mean, sure, they’re shorter, and somewhat easier to write.  But the overhead for them is almost as much as for a novel.  I mean, you still have to pay for your outside services (editing, formatting, cover art), but you can’t charge as much for them.  And unless you charge over $2.99, you only get 35% of the sales from Amazon, which means it takes even LONGER to recoup your initial expenses.  But I still want to get the story out there.  It will answer a lot of questions for those of you who have read the other titles in the HPM world.

And that’s it for now.  Time to get to cleaning for our guests.  Hope you all have a great week.  Stay safe, and I’ll talk to you later.   :bye:

Dec 012016
 

ww63a-copyHope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving – at least, those of you who celebrated it last week. My Canadian friends are likely looking down here to the US thinking, late to the party again, eh? (Heavy emphasis on the “eh”.)   :laugh:  But for those of us here in the US, we just finished our Thanksgiving, and immediately began the after-party madness that is Christmas decorating.

Yep, MBH is a traditionalist. The day after Thanksgiving is always the day we put up Christmas decorations. Honestly, I would probably be a bit of a Scrooge if not for her, but I love seeing how happy it makes her to put up the tree, and garland, and the lights and all the admitted cheeriness that also is Christmas decorating. And she does a great job with it (and I’m not just saying that because I know she’ll read this later.)  :-)   I mean, just look at the tree!

ww63b-copyOf course, for the girls, the tree is just something new for them to sniff at and figure out.  Is it an intruder? A piece of furniture? A chew toy? And evidently, at least part of it fell into the latter category. I had to take MBH’s car into the dealership yesterday to address a recall on the rear suspension.  Five hours after they started the two and a half hour job, I finally got out of there, only to come home and find that some of the insides of the new tree skirt, had mysteriously migrated to the outside of the new tree skirt.

Yeah, see that puff of white in the bottom of the pic there?  And if you look closely, you’ll see a little more back behind the tree, and the little tear where the skirt spontaneously erupted, spewing its guts onto the floor. When I walked into the house and saw it, of course I wondered aloud what had happened.

ww63c-copyAnd for some strange reason, when I asked Cricket about it, she immediately rolled onto her back.  I could almost hear her telling me, “Really Dad!  It jumped up and attacked me!  It was all self-defense! Honest!”  It was all I could do not to laugh at her attempts to apologize.

As for writing news…

Y12 – Year 12 has gone through two rounds with the editor and it off to the final proofreader. After that, it comes back here, where I add the front and back matter (dedication, acknowledgements, etc.) and then send it off for formatting.  And at that point, it should be ready to publish.  Woot!

Oh! And speaking of Year 12, I let those of you on my mailing list get a sneak peek at the cover a couple of weeks ago.  For those of you who aren’t on the list, I guess I can finally let you take a look, as well.   ;)  Here are all three titles in the Half Past Midnight universe, so you can see them all together.all

 

Hat tip to Glendon Haddix at Streetlight Graphics, for the outstanding cover work.  He did all three covers here, as well as much of the work on my Streets of Payne covers.

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is back on the front burner as my primary WIP.  I stumbled for a few days after being away from it while working on Y12 edits and then the holidays. When you’re gone from something like that for a while, you tend to forget the characters and plot twists that you’re trying to weave through the story.  So it took me a couple of days to regain the momentum.  But I’m back in, and the story is flowing well, once more.

CLCrazy Larry is a planned novella I’m working on.  It’s another HPM title – the story of what happened to Larry Troutman after Leeland left him on D-day. So far, I’m about 8000 words into it.  And while it’s planned as a novella, it’s beginning to feel as if it might just be a bit shorter.  I’ll just have to see where the story takes me.

And that’s it for now. Time to get back to work. So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

Sep 212016
 

ww57How’s that for a post title?  Beginnings and Endings… sounds like I’m talking about writing, doesn’t it?

Well, not exactly.  At least, not the way you’re probably thinking.  I’m talking about writing-related activities, but not the actual act of writing.  (Yeah, that clears things up, doesn’t it?)

Okay, I’ll start with the “beginnings” part.  I’m going to begin a new habit.  Or rather, I’m going to resume an old habit that I swore off back in 2011.  I’m talking about reviewing other author’s works.  For those of you who don’t know, I haven’t reviewed a book in five years.  It’s the result of my having critiqued some fellow author’s books as peer critiques, but posting them as book reviews.

For those who don’t know the difference, a peer critique is a very blunt, and usually critical, synopsis of weak points that one finds in a story, whether they be spelling, grammar, plot points, characterization, or whatever else.  They are often (or they used to be) exchanged between writers during the development of a story, during critique gatherings or writers’ group meetings.  I used to be a member of several such groups, both online and in real life, and got used to that style of criticism.  It was a valued tool that we used to hone our craft.

However, they were NOT presented to the general public, and certainly not as a review after publication.  No, a book review is another animal altogether.  Think of it like this… a tough critique is the doctor warning you that there may be some complications with your upcoming procedure.  A bad review is someone telling you that your newborn looks like a monkey, and smells like it’s been flinging its own poo.   :footmouth:

I made the mistake of posting some reviews that were more critique than review, and in doing so, ended up insulting some people who didn’t deserve it.  I was a rookie in the business, and it was a rookie mistake.

Of course, on the opposite end of the spectrum, there are also those who view authors giving favorable reviews to other author’s works as cow-towing in an attempt to curry favor with one another, or simply trading good reviews in order to boost sales.  Either way, the reviewing author was sometimes caught in a no-win situation.  So, rather than worry about what I should and shouldn’t say, I simply stopped reviewing books completely.  As a matter of fact, the last review I did was a review of Fiends, a collection of stories by Paul Cooley.  I wrote that review five years ago, in July of 2011.

But lately, I’ve come to realize that I’m short-changing some of my fellow writers. Some of their works really deserve to get some attention.  Some of their work is really good.  For instance, there’s a book I’m reading right now, that really deserves a good review.  And in thinking back, this same author wrote another book that I read a few years ago, and that book was also really good.  He deserves to know it.

I read quite a bit, and most of it is either indie published, or one of a few select traditionally published authors.  Why?  Back in the day, I could spend hours at a time in bookstores, exploring various books, thumbing through them to see what looked interesting.  I would stack four or five at a time, often more than that, and buy them because they looked like they might be worth the time investment.  Of course, the books were four or five dollars at that time.

At today’s prices, I can’t afford to just buy any trad-pub book that looks like it might be interesting. If I don’t already know the author is fantastic, and writes stories I’ll like, I can’t afford to take the chance.  For that matter, there are some authors who I know are fantastic, and I still can’t afford to buy their works unless I find them in a used bookstore.  Jim Butcher is a prime example.  I really like his Dresden books.  Unfortunately, I can’t afford them.  The Big 5 publishing houses have priced themselves out of my wallet’s reach.

But good indie authors who cut out the middleman (because that’s what the Big 5 have become), are selling books at prices I can afford.  Many have discovered that putting a book out for free is a good way to get their foot in the door, introducing their work to new buyers, much like the stereotypical drug pusher who lets you have the first sample for free.   ;-)    Now admittedly, some indies are pretty dreadful.  But many others are good… every bit as good as the mid-list authors that are traditionally pubbed.  Better yet, there are some who are every bit as good as some of the best Big 5 stuff that’s out there, and I’m coming to realize that they deserve to be recognized.

So I’m going to start reviewing some of the better books I’m reading.  I may even go back and review some of the books I’ve read in the past, if they stick out in my mind… books that have made such an impression that I want to let the world know how much I like them.

And that’s the “beginnings” part.

As for the “endings”, that’s a real bit of good news.  Things have fallen into place for Year 12, and I hope to be finished with the first draft within the week.  I have several beta readers lined up, am on the schedule for my cover designer and formatter, and I happened to call at just the right time for my editor of choice.  It turns out that they had just had a cancellation, and I was able to fill that slot.  Good news for me, though my beta readers might not agree.  It means that, while I thought I would be able to give them a month to do the beta read, it now turns out that it will be more like two and a half weeks.   :struggle:  But that’s the way of things in this biz.  I’d rather get it out sooner than later.

I also got word from the publisher for Chucklers.  It seems there was a misunderstanding on the editing.  They didn’t realize I had already turned in the last round of edits a month ago, and thought they were still waiting on me.  That’s both good news and bad.  It’s good because it means the book should now be in the final stages of being published.  It’s bad because we lost a month, and it might have already been out, if not for that lost time.

Like I said though, that’s the way of things.  I think we’ve got everything straightened out now, and it actually looks like I’ll have three titles out before the end of the year now.  I’ve got Chucklers (the apocalyptic horror novel being published by Severed Press), Year 12 (sequel to Half Past Midnight), and The Burning Land (the short story previously published in the “Explorers: Beyond the Horizon” anthology).

So here’s my little plug… if you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter, please consider doing so now. It’s the easiest way for me to keep people informed about when I have new titles coming out.  I’ll never give your contact information away or sell it, and I ONLY send out a news blast when I have a new title coming out.

And that’s it. I still have a lot of writing to do, so stay safe, and I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

 

 

Dec 022015
 

The new homesteadEach day on Facebook I get a reminder and a link to a set of posts that I made or participated in on the anniversary of the date.  Today’s reminders contained a link that started this reflective mood.  One year ago today is when I first posted about having turned in my notice at a job I had held for seventeen years.  I wrote about it on this blog in the post titled “Rebooting My Life“.

Reading back on that post made me reflect on all the things that led up to that decision.  More than that, it made me look back on the year that has passed since then.  Needless to say, not everything in the last year has worked out the way I expected it to.  Some of it has worked out better, some worse.  Of course, I suppose that’s pretty much the way life is.  No complaints.  I’ve got a good home, good life, and a wonderful wife to share it with.

Sure, there are things that I wanted to accomplish in 2015 that didn’t pan out the way I planned.  There’s the book that I spent the first several months of the year writing.  Chucklers now languishes unpublished in the virtual drawer awaiting a fresh perspective and rewrites.  My second writing project of the year is Year 12, the sequel to Half Past Midnight.  If things had gone according to plan, it would already be published.  But it’s also still unfinished.  In fact, the only thing that I’ve managed to publish this year is a horror novella that I wrote in 2014.  It sold well for Halloween, but now is barely moving.

Then there’s my gardening.  I had high hopes that I was going to be able to help cut costs on our groceries by bringing in all sorts of fruits and veggies.  Instead, between the bad growing season we had this year, and the money I spent on getting good soil into the garden, I think I probably managed to cost us a couple of hundred dollars more than what we would have spent just buying the groceries.

But here’s the thing… I learned what to do next year.  I learned where I messed up by planting too early, and so stunting some of my veggies.  I learned that the huge garden I have is simply too big for me to handle.  So I’ll be scaling it back for next year, and I’ll hold off on planting for next year until late April or early May.

And for my writing, I should be set up pretty well for the next year.  My plan for Chucklers is to clear up the confusing timeline issues by splitting it into two different books.  And the first draft of Y12 should (hopefully) be finished by the end of this year, setting it up for publication next year as well.  If all that goes according to plan, I could have three new books published by this time next year.

But not if I don’t get my phatass back to work.  So enough reflection for now.  Be careful everyone, and stay safe.   :bye:

Oct 142015
 

Critter notes –

Last week I mentioned some of the furry critters we’re learning to share space with.  Some are harmless, like the rabbits, deer, and armadillos.  Others are nuisances, like the opossum from the other night, or the moles that dig in the yard.  And of course, some are downright nasty.  Just ask Bella and Cricket about that skunk.   :pain:

Brown Orb WeaverSomething else that we’ve noticed lately though, doesn’t exactly fall into the furry critter category.  There are some BIG spiders here that seem to be relatively common.  Now, we’re used to the little grass spiders, wolf spiders, etc, that are common in the Houston area, but these suckers are huge by comparison.  I’m pretty sure that they’re Brown Orb Spiders, but since I’m no expert, I could be wrong.  This not-so-little beauty keeps weaving its web just to the side of our front entrance.  I’ve knocked the web down when it gets too close to the walkway, since MBH is considerably less tolerant of our eight-legged neighbors, but he keeps building back up in the same general area.  I generally don’t have much of a problem with them, and I’ve noticed them all around the neighborhood, so I guess they’re simply more common here.

Cricket has a couple of hot spots on her back, and she’s chewed strips into her fur with all the gnawing.  I looked online, and found that a vet recommends treating it with diluted povidone iodine.  So I made the diluted solution, took her on the back patio, and swabbed the affected areas.  (I’m supposed to do this twice a day until the spots clear up.)

Coming back inside though, I saw this little guy on the left. Black Widow-01 And while I don’t mind sharing space with Orb Weavers, a Black Widow is another thing altogether.  First came the bug spray. Black Widow-02 That was quickly followed by my size twelve spider stomper.  I might not mind spiders, but I’m no saint, either.   :shock:  I have several friends who usually mention spiders and flamethrowers in the same breath.  Black Widows are enough to make me think they just might be right.

So, on to writing notes…

Giveaway notes –

Last weekend was the big giveaway.  Okay, maybe not all that big, but it was a giveaway.  Friend and reviewer, Carol Conley from the “I’m a Voracious Reader” book review blog, contacted me a few weeks ago to let me know she had read Ghost Story, and wanted to know if I would consider running some free days to coincide with the release of her review.  Now, I generally don’t like doing free days, since my experience with them has been mostly negative in the last couple of years.  They worked really well for me back in the early days of Amazon’s KDP Select program, and I’ll never forget that first nail-biter when I put HPM up for free shortly after it released.  In a single day, I gave away more than 11k copies of Half Past Midnight.  That giveaway, and the reviews it sparked, shot followup sales through the roof for the better part of the following year.

For a new author, just getting his feet wet in the world of indie publishing, it was nothing short of miraculous!

Of course, shortly after that, Amazon changed their algorithm, as they so often seem to do.  The next time I ran a book for free, it didn’t do nearly as well, but wasn’t a total loss.  So I tried it again later.  The third time I did it was with the release of Streets of Payne.  This time, not only did I not get as big a response, I completely lost all momentum and sales actually went down.  When I checked into it, it seemed that moving from the Top 100 Sold, to the Top 100 Free was a sales killer.  Since “free” was not “sold”, SoP‘s sales rank dropped like a stone.  No visibility, no sales.  It was the exact opposite of the Ouroboros Effect I wrote about in an old post “In answer to Mike’s question…“, and this time instead of boosting my sales, it actually killed them.

So no, I don’t like doing free days any more.  But Carol is a friend, Ghost Story is just a novella, and it’s not like it was really selling all that well anyway.  So what did I really have to lose, right?   :-/   And while I was putting Ghost Story out there for free, why not also throw SoP out again?  It wasn’t selling either, so what could it hurt?

As it turned out, nothing.  It didn’t hurt, and there actually was a slight bump in sales afterwards.  Not huge, but a few extra sales is a few extra sales.  Yay team!   :-)

Year 12 notes

I have problems with what I call “transition scenes” when I’m writing.  I get scene “A” pretty clear in my mind, and I go after it, flying through it like there’s no tomorrow.  I can see in my mind where scene “B” is, and how it should run.  But the transition from “A” to “B” stumps me.  For whatever reason, I get hung up in the minutia of who says what to trigger what, and why did this do that, and… I get stuck.  I just got through one of these transitions yesterday, and I have to say, I get a little frustrated with myself.  I feel like I should be able to knock out three or four thousand words a day.  Instead, I’m lucky if I average over one thousand.

Yeah, I have problems.  But I’m progressing.  Not as quickly as I want, but I’m progressing.

Speaking of writing, I need to get back to doing just that.  So time to stop whining, and get back to work.  Take care of yourselves, and stay safe.  I’ll talk to you later.   :bye: