Mar 152017
 

WW75AWell, as you can see, we got the fence back up, though it did take a few days longer than expected. I managed to get the old post out of the ground well enough.  See that big “log” on the ground in front of the fence?  If you click on the picture, you’ll see that it’s really not a log at all.  It’s the two feet of concrete that the old post was set into… two feet of concrete that I had to dig out of the ground before I could plant the new post.

I suppose I should be grateful, though.  The guy that put up our fence used an auger to plant the posts, so the holes are all nice and neat – smooth cylinders of concrete straight into the ground, and relatively easy to find and dig loose.  Not so easy to get out of the ground by yourself, though.  I mean, that much concrete is heavy!  :beatup: 

However, I managed it all right, though I had to go wide enough with the hole so that I could get enough leverage with the shovel to help lift it out.  And that meant that the nice, neat, round hole, was no longer nice, neat, or round.  Now I had an oblong, ragged, gaping hole in the ground, with considerably more volume to fill than I had bought concrete for.  But yours truly is nothing if not inventive. You see, I get buckets from the local bakery for use in my various gardening experiments.  They’re free, and give me considerable freedom to test out various ideas for planting, irrigation, or to just carry tools around.

In this case, I just sacrificed the bottoms of two of them, cutting them out so that I had a couple of empty plastic cylinders.  I poured a little concrete in the bottom of the hole, slid the first bottomless bucket around the new post, filled it with more concrete, and when it was full, repeated the process, stacking the second one on top of the first.   The end result was a post set within concrete filled buckets that were then easily surrounded with the fill dirt I had dug out in order to remove the old post.

So there I was, feeling quite clever… old post still propped up, holding the horizontal rails and fence in place so the dogs couldn’t get out and nothing else could get in. The new post was standing straight up in the ground (I knew it was straight, since I had repeatedly checked it with the level while placing it).  And that was when I realized that the horizontal posts from the old fence had to go into the new post before the concrete completely set.

And I still hadn’t even taken them off of the old post!   :eek:

The next several minutes were filled with me frantically struggling to remove the fencing staples that held the fence to the rails with a screwdriver and hammer, all the while hoping the “QuickCrete” I had bought, wasn’t so quick that I wouldn’t be able to move that post to get the rails into the holes on the new post.  And after considerable hammering and prying at the staples, (you know, those crazy “U”-shaped, double-headed nails?) and more than a little bit of cussing, I managed to get the rails loose from the fence itself, and then from the old, broken, post.

And the concrete hadn’t set so much that I wasn’t able to move the post.  So I shoved the new post out a bit, placed the horizontals in place, and shoved the new upright back into place, all with the concrete still pliable enough to fill back into the hole. Crisis averted.  Whew!  :struggle:

At that point, the new post and rails were in place, but the concrete hadn’t set well enough to put any tension on them.  The QuickCrete bag said it would be four to six hours at a minimum, so I still had to prop the old fence back up again with old lumber (and a bit of wishful thinking) right up against the new post.

Saturday came, and as promised, brought with it more than enough rain to keep us from working on the fence any further. No big deal though, we still had Sunday, right? (sigh)

Unfortunately, Sunday brought its own set of issues… namely, me.  I’d been having problems with my asthma for the last few weeks, which let me know that I was probably getting ready to have a full-blown allergic reaction sometime soon.  “Soon” ended up being Sunday.

MBH and I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  It was another experiment for us, as we had never made them before.  They turned out pretty good, though as with most experiments, there was room for improvement and we’ve already decided how we’re going to change the recipe for next time.  After breakfast, we bundled up (Saturday’s rain brought more cold weather with it and the temperature was down into the upper 30s), and took the girls for a brisk morning walk.  That was all it took.

WW75BMany years ago, I was diagnosed with exercise induced allergies.  My first attack was when I was a teen.  I had just finished one of my karate classes, and was jogging home when I started noticing how much my feet were hurting. Within a few minutes, I was having trouble breathing, and by the time I made it home, I was in the midst of my first asthma attack, accompanied by my first experience with hives.  My mom freaked (understandably), and rushed me to the local emergency clinic, where the doctors also just about had a cow.  To be fair, I suppose I would have done the same.  I mean, you see a thirteen year old kid on the table, face so swollen that his eyes are barely able to open, and he’s wheezing like his throat is swollen shut.  My mom told me later that they were about ready to trache me.  Luckily, one of the docs recognized my symptoms, administered a dose of adrenaline, and within several minutes, I was breathing normally again and the swelling was going back down.

Since that first time, I’ve learned to deal with this as a normal part of my life.  I’ve also learned to recognize the symptoms leading up to an attack, and minimize their effect.  MBH has also learned to help me deal with them.  Because of the tightness of chest and trouble breathing I’d been experiencing for the last few weeks, we knew it was coming.  And since I had shut down the last few attacks before they’d really run their course, we suspected I was due for a relatively bad one.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we had feared, though as you can see in the picture, I did end up with a few hives.

But the end result was that my Sunday was spent kicked back, trying not to scratch, while I tried to let the attack run its course.  A few hours of hives, with the accompanying itching, swelling, high blood pressure, and asthma, meant that I wasn’t about to be outside working on the fence.  Instead, I ended up sitting like a lump in the easy chair, waiting on the symptoms to peak so I could take a Benadryl and crash.

But Monday, I finally got to get outside to finish the freaking fence.  Yay!  It’s still not perfect.  It turns out that I set the pole a couple of inches higher than the original, and the gate is about an inch higher off the ground than it was.  And while there’s nothing I can do about the post being higher, there is enough adjustment in the gate itself to line it up properly.

So that’s it for my “Post about the Post”.

Other news…

End Point PangaeaEPP now sits at nearly 55k words, and is still moving.  This has been my main focus (other than visiting family, fence posts, and allergic reactions :wink: ), so no other real writing news to report.

The Burning Land – “But wait,” you say. “I thought there wasn’t any other writing news.”  That’s true.  However, I’ve done a bit of recording, and am going to see about releasing TBL as audio via ACX and Audible.  We’ll have to see how that works out.  But with the changes that Amazon has made in terms since they bought out ACX, it’s very difficult to find voice actors who are willing to work for a royalty split.  These days, they want payment up front, and for anyone that does a decent job, the cost is usually at least $200 per finished hour.  Since ACX lists Year 12 as an estimated 12.8 finished hours, that means I would have to come up with roughly $2600 to have it produced.  And I just don’t have that kind of money.  So it occurred to me that perhaps I could do it myself.  But I need to start with something smaller… MUCH smaller.  Most sources agree that you can count on working about eight to ten hours per finished hour when you begin audio work.  Thus, this experiment with TBL.  I’ve already recorded the basic reading, and I already have the software, and know how to use it.  I’ve used it to record my promos for my other books.  Now it just remains to be seen if I can get a decent enough production level to put out something good enough to Audible.  That means editing out the miscellaneous train whistles from town, jet noises as they pass overhead, stomach gurgles from when I try to record just after eating (lesson learned there), wind whistling through the trees, laptop fan when it kicks on… I think you get the idea.  But IF I can get all that done, and manage to produce a decent audio file, then I might consider tackling the recording for Y12.

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

Oct 262016
 

ghost-story-final-bI’m in a little bit of a lull, as far as the work load goes.  I’m sure it won’t last long, but there are no immediate, pressing deadlines overhead at the moment.  The Burning Land is out… Chucklers – Book 1 is with the publisher… Year 12 is with the editor… and there’s no one depending on me to get anything done with my writing at the moment.

It’s an odd feeling.  Sure, I’m still working on End Point Pangaea, and there’s a certain amount of urgency to get it done, but it’s not like things have been for the last several weeks, where there are people waiting on me to get something done before the titles can be released.  For once, no one is waiting on me.

Of course, that will change as soon as Severed sends me the final (or what I hope will be the final) .mobi file for CB1, or when I get back editorial notes on Y12.  Hopefully, the CB1 file will be problem free, and can then be released.  And the edits for Y12 will likely take a week or two, but for now, it looks like the main project is going to be EPP.

There’s a certain amount of relief in the knowledge that it’s not all waiting on me, at the moment.   8-)

So, what else is going on?  Hmmm…

Oh!  My first horror short story, Ghost Story, is free for the next five days, (though at a bit over 15,000 words, it’s technically it’s a novelette, not a short story.)  According to the Hugo and Nebula awards:

  • … a “short story” is 7,500 words or less
  • … a “novelette” is 7,501 to 17,500 words
  • … a “novella” is 17,501 t0 40,000 words  AND
  • … a “novel” is 40,001 words or more

Yeah, aren’t you thrilled? ;-)

Now, hang on while I grab a copy of the cover to insert into this post……

Okay, I’m back.  Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, Ghost Story is free.  I figured it would be a good Halloween read, so if any of you are looking for a something to give you a few chills for the holiday, grab a free copy.  And if you’re so inclined, leave a review.  Just be aware that it’s not like most of my other published titles to date.  After all, it’s HORROR!   :devil: 

And now for something completely different… I got a nice email out of the blue last week, from one of the honchos at Telemachus, the company that published my first novel, Half Past Midnight.  He was writing to let me know that, though the company had published the novel a few years back, he had recently re-read it for pleasure, rather than work, and said that he had greatly enjoyed it.  I can’t tell you how much a kind message like that means to a struggling author.  It’s a really nice shot in the arm.

But that’s it for now.  I’m going to keep this post short, and get back to work on EPP.  Because, despite what I said about not being rushed at the moment, once those edits come back to me, I’ll once more be working under pressure.  And the more I can get done on the novel before that happens, the less stress I’ll have to deal with then.

So, stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

Oct 202016
 

081215_1754_WW8Publishi1.jpgIt’s been a few weeks since I posted here.  Last you heard, I had just published  the short story, The Burning Land. Since then, I’ve been working like a fiend on my next two releases, Chucklers – Book 1, and Year 12, both of which are very close to being published.

CB1 – I have to admit to a bit of panic when Severed sent me the CB1 ebook file for approval.  See, I had requested a copy of the formatted .mobi file with the cover, table of contents, front matter, back matter, etc.  Basically, I wanted to see exactly what it was going to look like when a reader loaded it onto their Kindle.  I’m one of those readers who reads my Kindle with the nighttime mode on.  I find it easier on  my eyes.

If you don’t already know, night mode is the setting on most Kindles wherein you can invert the standard setting of black text on a white background, to white text on a black background.  There is even a sepia setting for those who prefer black text, but find the white background to tiring on the eyes.  However, I’ve run into documents that have formatting issues that only become visible in night mode.  Things like a bad tag on the text color that makes it black, even when the color of the background changes.  Yeah, try reading black text on a black background sometime.  See how well that works for you.  :dazed:

Another common problem is when certain parts of the work refuse to accept the night setting. You’re reading along, relaxing with your low light, white text/black background setting, when WHAM!  You click to the next page and there is a section that has black or gray text that is “highlighted” with a bright, white background, like in the picture above.

I’ve dealt with those, and other issues, either with my own titles, or in other books I’ve read.  As a result, I’m a little cautious.  I like to make sure my titles are as problem free as I can make them.  So when I opened the file they sent me, only to find no cover, no TOC, no front or back matter at all, and more than two dozen formatting problems, I have to admit, I began to panic.  I contacted the fine folks at Severed with a list of the issues and got a puzzled reply.  They weren’t having the same problems, even after testing on multiple devices.  They sent another copy of the file, and when I opened it, lo and behold, the cover, front matter, back matter… everything that had freaked me out when I found it missing in the first file, was there.  There were four minor problems, one of which was an error I had made in the original manuscript, that I didn’t catch until going over it again for this pass.

I have no idea what happened, but can only assume that the first file was somehow corrupted in transmission.  Whatever it was, Severed responded quickly, and I’m now confident that CB1 is going to come out as a fine product.  Better yet, it’s close enough to being ready, that I think it will probably be out pretty quickly.  So again, if you haven’t signed up for my new release mailing list, please consider doing so here.  I always make my first announcements and cover reveals there, before anyone else gets to see them.

 

Y12 Year 12 is off to Red Adept Editing.  I’ve used RAE for editing almost everything I’ve self-pubbed, and they’ve never disappointed.  They’re the people I always recommend whenever anyone asks for a good editor.  Since this is the beginning of the editing process, I know I probably have another month or so before Y12 is ready to publish, but believe me, I’m going to keep you all up to date as it winds its way through the process.  Besides, I still need to do a blurb, dedication, acknowledgements, and all the other finishing touches that go on a manuscript before it’s published, not to mention the cover.

And speaking of covers… I had a short conversation with Glendon at Streetlight Graphics that leads me to believe they’re already working on cover design for it.  To be perfectly honest, when they contacted me, I was so busy, that I don’t even fully recall the conversation.  But I do remember answering some of the basic questions they always ask before putting a cover together.  By the way, they’re another company I can recommend with the utmost confidence.  They do great covers and formatting if you’re in the market.

So, Y12 is getting close to publication, too.  I feel pretty confident that it will be out before the end of the year.

 

Other projects –

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is back on top as my priority WIP.  I hope to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

TBLThe Burning Land – But wait!  That one is already published, isn’t it?  Well, yes.  But I’m going to use it to try my hand at producing an audiobook.  I’ve already got a few titles out on Audible, but I’ve never taken the time to actually record one, myself.  But TBL, as a short story, is short enough that I hope to learn that process, and so open another income stream.

After those?  Well, I have several titles I plan on doing.  I just don’t know which ones will top the list.  I need to do Chucklers – Book 2, End Point Pangaea 2, the second Amber Payne book, or any one of several other projects.

But for now, I need to go fix dinner.  Sausage-stuffed portobello caps and salad.  Yum!   :-))  So stay safe, everyone.  I’ll talk to you next time.   :bye:

 

Oct 052016
 

tblcover02Those of you who are on my mailing list got a sneak peek at The Burning Land on Monday, the day before it published.  Last night (Tuesday), I got the email from Amazon that it had gone live.  I was out at the time, so when I got home, I checked it online and was initially tickled to see that it was true.

I say initially, because it didn’t take long for me to discover that there was a minor problem with the “Look Inside” sample.  When you click the link (above the cover on the Amazon page), the sample you get ends at the Dedication page.  It turns out that this is evidently common when publishing short stories on Amazon, and has to do with the fact that Amazon normally defaults to a “first 10%” setting on their end.  When looking inside a novel, the first 10% usually gets you well past the forward matter (the title page, copyright material, table of contents, and all the other little requirements at the beginning of a book).  But with a short story?  Not so much.

The good news?  Because it happens so often, it was simple to find the solution.  All I had to do was contact Amazon’s KDP tech support and, using the proper online form, give them the specifics of the problem, the ASIN of the title, and ask them to override the default, setting it to 20% instead.

Simple!

The bad news?   The requested change won’t take effect for three to seven days.  That means that during the first several days that it’s live, sales will likely be hampered by the fact that anyone going to check it out, won’t be able to see a sample before they decide to buy it.   :idk: ww58

However, word of mouth evidently has an effect, too, because I was pleasantly surprised this morning when a friend let me know that TBL is climbing the charts, despite the glitch.  As 11AM this morning, it is #18 in Kindle Short Reads (Science Fiction & Fantasy), #106 in Kindle Short Reads (Literature & Fiction), and #287 in Kindle eBooks (Hard Science Fiction).

Funny thing is, I never registered it in the Kindle Short Reads category.  I can only assume that’s an automatic thing with Amazon, based on the length of the work.  And I know a lot of this quick rise in the rankings is based on the fact that it’s newly published, and the ranking will likely start dropping pretty quickly.  But it’s still pretty awesome to see.   :-D

And who knows? Maybe it will get another boost once they get the 10% / 20% glitch fixed.  That would be great!

So, enough about TBL.  In other news, I’m beginning to get feedback from some of my Year 12 beta readers, so it’s looking good for getting the notes in time to incorporate them before sending the manuscript off to the editor.

And as soon as it’s off, I’ll be able to get back to concentrating on End Point Pangaea.  Looking at my calendar, it looks like I should have three new titles out before the end of the year (TBL, Y12, and Chucklers), and hopefully another one (EPP) in the first quarter of 2017.  Of course, Chucklers and EPP are a little trickier, since they’re part of a collaboration with the publisher.  That makes it a little more difficult for us to coordinate with one another, so things move a bit slower, but I think Chucklers is in the last stages of production.

And I’m at the point where I have to start thinking about what I need to do next (after EPP).  There are a lot of projects that need to be done.  The second book in the Chucklers series, second book in the Pangaea series, second book in the Amber Payne series, I have a couple of short stories (possibly novellas) set in the Half Past Midnight world.  Hmmm…. and now that I think about it, one of them is probably about halfway done already. Yeah, I think it’s time to finish Crazy Larry.  Then, maybe the next Chucklers novel.  I don’t know… maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.

For now, it’s time to get back to work on the Y12 edits.  So take care, 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: