Here’s a thought.
What if the Yoda species regenerates?
Here’s a thought.
What if the Yoda species regenerates?
When I started out with Amazon’s KDP service, customer delivery was less than stellar. I had customers on the other side of Canada simply just not get their book because they weren’t home to receive it, and a wait time from click to doorstep of longer than three weeks.
Well, welcome to 2019!
Not only was I grateful to hear a reader had ordered both of my novels for Christmas (Merry Christmas!) on Thursday, but I was amazed when she told me it was delivered Saturday morning!
That’s a huge improvement.
To think that we’ve arrived at a time when the purchase click creates a printed book, ships it, delivers it into the customers hands, records and sends statistics on the sale directly to the author, and instantly deposits their advance, all in under 48 hours, is pretty mind-blowing, even for a jaded old get-off-my-lawner like myself.
Maybe this isn’t news to our American KDP comrades (and maybe even Canadian indies operating through KDP have already grown accustomed to this), but it sure is a rapid advancement in business efficiency for me.
Speaks well for the future of all indies. In a world where new creative product is, I feel, the biggest of future economies, making our products available faster for cheaper, and, I assume, catching us up to speed with the American ‘Zon market practices are the kind of assist we can all benefit from.
Speaking of cheaper, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that both paperbacks of To Drown in Sand and its sequel, To Drown in Ash, are on sale in time for the holidays, in case you’d fancy a copy.
Dis is mah Puppeez. Herz is hopin’ your last week of NaNoWriMo is the bestest, and makes you as proud of your writing as she is of her bow tie.
I really did.
I admit to being old and cranky. I confess to LOATHING the new Star Wars films (Except Rogue Squadron and Solo. They were enjoyable. Good even.) I rewrote the script to The Force Awakens in less than an hour, and was told that was far better than the film. I did all I could not to scream through The Last Jedi, for the peace of mind of my kids.
They hate my dramatic outbursts.
So, I held my breath through episode 1 of The Mandalorian. Bit my lip through episode 2. Got ready to abandon hope on everything if episode 3 did not come through, shout verbal emesis at the world, throw up my fists to the gods, and give up completely.
And, for the record, it takes a lot to make me not like something. Like, a LOT. Mostly because I really, REALLY, want to love all the things.
But sometimes, it’s just crap. And one can not polish a turd.
But I waited. Mostly because of my huge crush on Gina Carano, and my hopes that she’ll become the huge star she deserves to be.
(Spoiler warning. Back in my day, we called that “talking”, but whatevs).
I was a kid when the original films came out in theatres. We actually had to wait for YEARS to see A New Hope and it’s sequels on TELEVISION (that’s how it was; yes, I predate VCR’s.) The only way to hear about a movie was to talk to someone who had seen it.
So, the franchise, its worlds, and all things Star Wars is very, very important to me.
So it was very difficult to witness it’s demise.
But, I am happy to say that it seems that The Mandalorian has brought redemption to at least this embittered old fart.
Jon Favreau’s Episode 3 finally brought the right elements: tough, existential choices, difficult circumstances, actual peril, and a character decision that unravels future storytelling. To me, things had been somewhat…inert…up until now.
(Baby Yoda? Force powers? WHAAAAAAT?!?) #NOTatwist.
So, Old Man Laybolt is all in. You got me, Favreau et al. I’m down.
Thank GAWD. Because I was really ready to punch the eject button there, and give up on all things Star Wars. A bitter thing, that.
So, there it is. More than happy to embark on this bold new journey with optimism, eagerness, and wide open fanboy eyes.
Go watch it. It really might be worth it.
(DISCLAIMER: Totally unlike me. Typical attitude being completely expecting my hopes to be shattered as per most other creative bankruptcy-plagued current franchise content, as evidenced by a THIRD Charlie’s Angels reboot. WHO SIGNS OFF ON A THIRD REBOOT OF ANYTHING?!?)
So here’s to The Mandalorian. This is the way.
I’ve been keeping it under my hat for awhile now, and believe me, it’s been a struggle to keep my mouth shut. (A constant struggle at the best of times).
But I can finally announce that recording for the To Drown in Sand audiobook starts in two weeks!!
My friends over at Iron Wave Studios have announced that they are good to go and will begin production in less than 14 days!
The cast has been picked, the mics are hot, and the crew is ready!
Venturing into the audiobook field is a new world for both me and the Ironworks gang, so there’s lots to learn. I’ll keep all of you blog peeps updated as things unfold (read: catch fire and trip me up as I stumble my way through this new venture).
If you haven’t read it, To Drown in Sand is Book One of my trilogy about a man who goes to a war zone to find peace. His regiment is populated by people from all the different Atlantic Canadian cultures.
Since it’s military sci-fi, those places don’t exist anymore (the earth died; sorry), their accents and cultural nuances are what stand out in their dialogues, and would make for a challenge for any production team.
That, and the signature sound of a rail gun rifle. I am dying to hear THAT.
Almost as much as hearing the people in my head given voice. Surreal.
If you haven’t heard of Warhammer, I’m sorry. Not for me, but for you.
But don’t worry. You’ll soon be assimilated into The Emperor’s Will. We all will be.
Warhammer Fantasy, and it’s bigger brother Warhammer 40,000, is a cold, terrifying, gothic, brutal, and absolutely addictive set of tabletop games and stories that is available in almost every language in every city of every country in the known world.
Warhammer 40,000 is an immersive saga in the military sci-fi genre that has been turning into a global powerhouse since 1987. I truly believe it is the only remaining modern myth, after Star Wars.
Warhammer is dense with lore. No, that’s not quite right. it’s monstrous.
While we wait to see if any original stories remain to be told within the context of our current creative, sci-fi-fantasy choices (*CoughCoughTheMandalorianCough*), Warhammer’s people have been holding back from going mainstream for decades. But that may all change with what they announced in July, which I missed, because life, but I grieve for my lapse in vigilance.
(Lapses in vigilance are VERY BAD in Warhammer. VERY. BAD.)
To the cardiac risk of a world full of fans, Games Workshop has announced it is going forward with a live TV series.
That series will be based on Eisenhorn, the creation of one of my favourite authors of all time, Mr. Dan Abnett.
This is enormous news. The Eisenhorn series is three books deep, and THEN there’s the Ravenor series, and THEN the Bequin Trilogy, where Eisenhorn and Ravenor meet…(see how crazy deep this is?)
NEVERMIND how it could possibly, if it is executed properly, tee up the whole Warhammer 40K universe, which already has millions of hungry fans waiting to consume anything this IP produces. If strategized, written, and marketed properly (an admittedly huge ask in 2019), prepare yourselves for the most immersive sci-fi world you have ever seen. And yes, I mean you, Star Wars (not knocking Star wars at all; I watched the originals on a VCR. And still have them. So there).
But the time is ripe for a whole new world in fantasy and sci-fi. And Warhammer offers that in spades.
Bricks in the wall. That’s my process. Same as training in the gym; everyday, one more brick, neatly mortared and tucked into place, grooved the gaps and levelled, before moving on.
That’s why I find NaNoWriMo not really workable. I write every day at around 5 am, and have for about 20 years. Many brick walls have resulted. Several now, thanks to Indie pubbing, turned into actual novels and short titles. I’m more like a NaEVERYWriMo sort.
But I love the energy November brings to everyone who puts their thought-worms to the page during NaNoWriMo. And it’s always encouraging to hear about so many independents working on their craft. Community, and all that.
It’s been a tight month so far, with life and work demands. Some mornings I’ve only been able to swing little more than 20 minutes at the keyboard, but they are a happening 20 minutes, let me tell you, as I race to squeeze the juice out of every second and every creative synapse.
So, 17th day, and I’ve pumped out 7,665 words. That’s at chapter 22 of my current project, which is closing in on a healthy 150k words as I roll into Act Three.
That’s also while working on several different projects during the same period; the actual word count output is much higher, but I only count one major, current project at a time.
One in the man (first draft and rewriting), one in the can (being edited and prepped for publish), and one for the fan (new title on the shelf) is my approach. And I just received word that my current ‘work in the can’, a dark Fantasy anthology that tees up my whole new series titles , is almost ready for final read and cover prep. Gonna be an exciting year!
In what many feel is the brave new world of constantly evolving indie economies, several prophets are emerging that I believe are the heralds of change. Alan Moore is one of them. I came upon this article in which Moore rings the bell that tolls for so many of us. That we are early in an industrial revolution that provides the arts with unprecedented opportunity.
But think of it in terms of the discovery of the new world. Very few in old Europe had any idea what North America was like, or what those who dared venture there had to do, and who to learn from (as in, they all would have DIED without help from the peoples who already lived here and ACTUALLY ALREADY OWNED THE LAND, but I digress), in order to survive. Nor did they care; they had their own concerns.
And I’m not saying Big Publishing is wrong, or that marketed writers are bad. We’d be nowhere without them. Nor am I saying that, given the opportunity, I’d back away from the chance to publish traditionally.
I do feel, though, pretty strongly, that there are few better ways to learn about both writing and publishing and business than to have to build your own canoe and make your own maps…uh, the canoes being books, and the maps being publishing them. I must work on my metaphors.
Getting lost, failing, losing your tools, learning from those kind enough to help, starving…all of those classic, fun trials.
Persistence. Determination. Curiosity. Humility. Those things that keep people going.
Nevermind that if your work didn’t stand up to quality, your would die back then. Little has changed, figuratively speaking.
But what I am saying is that there is a place for all of us, enabled by digital economies and the tools at our disposal. And it is certainly worth knowing that the economies of empire, whatever wilderness your operating in, has its own troubles.
One would never make it far by comparing successes to conglomerates who have already succeeded. Where’s the growth in that?
So, thank you, Uncle Alan, for the encouraging words. I believe you, sir, are particularly clairvoyant in your insight. May very well be quoted someday with a simple shrug and a nod, as a matter of obvious history.
In the current glut of reboots, revamps, abandoned series left to flail, and draining every single last drop of revenue out of dead franchises leaving them in bleached, cadaverous ruin, I mentioned in my last post how our culture is starving for new stories.
Part of the reason behind the massive momentum of a series like Game of Thrones, up until it suffered its horrendous creative demise, was its originality. Folks who weren’t fans of fantasy embraced the new world of Westeros, probably out of sheer imaginative cachectia.
In light of such sparse content of new stories, settings, creatures, and characters, I’m a bit stunned by the lack of buzz about Carnival Row, the new series by René Echevarria and Travis Beacham and starring Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevigne.
From its dark setting, Lovecraftian environment, multi-nation worldbuild, very cool races, and sharp writing, Carnival Row is a breath of fresh storytelling I’ve been craving.
And without spoiling anything…Cthulhu.
For many years now (especially since watching that dreaded last season of GoT), I’ve been pleading for any new worlds and original stories set in them. Carnival Row pulls that off in spades.
Bloom’s character is dour and brooding, and actually has good reason. His conflict unfolds over the span of the entire season, carefully unfolding and intertwining into the Burgue, his city and its politics. Delevingne’s character of the embittered war refugee is both gripping and justified.
It ‘s not a perfect show; there are a few glaring plot pits (EVERY time a Pix takes flight, they lift one leg in a Peter Pan manner that drove me bananas. By episode four I was screaming at the screen for them to “stop DOING that!” And the big villain reveal plays out a bit…ridiculous. Not to brag, but I rewrote that scene into an epic reveal/battle that would have worked perfectly in the time it took me to make a pot of coffee).
But, Carnival Row overcomes these forgiveables with sheer will and dense metaphor for our modern, troubling times. It actually gets darker over the last four episodes, a refreshing change from shows that fail to cross the finish line as they gag and sputter, deprived of any heart or blood from their writers these days.
I’m not sure if I live in a cave, or if it’s because it’s an Amazon production, but for whatever reason, ignore your hesitation and go find this show. It’s certainly a relief from the average rehashed, reheated, leftover fare we have all gotten used to choking on.
In the ongoing discussion about whether indie publishing is tenable, or even a thing, a lot of ugly business emerges. Most of it is discovered after some careful digging through sites like J.A. Konrath‘s and others in the field who have exposed life in the publishing tower’s secrets. Every year, it seems more of Big Publishing’s practices are exposed, and more and more, they remind me of Big Oil and other “Bigs” who are desperately struggling to understand life in this digital age, and failing.
I strongly believe that we are just as immersed in a technological revolution, that has really just started, by the way, as society was during the Industrial Revolution. Fists are being banged onto desks refusing to acknowledge new ways. Furious millionaires are determined to choke every last dollar from dying industries and practices before they draw their last breath. Men who rose to power with typewriters and letters in the mail scoff at those who dare to publish without them, and do their level best to crush their progress.
Don’t believe me? Read through Konrath. or read this:
I’ve written in the past about developments in the publishing field in the midst of all this; I find it fascinating to study. I also continue to describe my own journey through and around the barrage that is modern publishing. Note that I do separate that from writing; I don’t believe the two are necessarily connected, and for most people, shouldn’t be. (Same as self-publishing and indie-publishing are not necessarily the same thing).
Erica Verillo‘s not wrong. The chaos she describes is pretty plain to see; just look at your average bookstore chain’s shelves over a year and you’ll see it too.
I firmly believe the future is micro-economic. Small, cottage producers of content that grow organically to be sniffed at by Big Industry, prompting the creators of that content to decide to sell their wares to the machine, or not. And new, pioneering companies like Engen who take their drive and dreams and carve out a chunk using the current technology and craft relationships with their local writers who would never get a chance elsewhere. That is the future, friends.
This is not a new concept. See Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Dungeons and Dragons, Warhammer, Call of Cthulhu, and every other small project that eventually became a marketing powerhouse.
And how did they do that?
It always starts with quality.
I’m not saying I’m one of those. But I am saying I’m writing to write, small and in the dark every morning, shaping my stories, grooming them for the world that technology has finally made possible.
I’ve gone from coil-ring notebook, longhand writing to typing on paper, to blogging with clickable links, to printed copies in my hand and my amazon store of published novels and short stories.
And we are just getting started. But the journey, the process of this evolution, is really fascinating and worthy of recording. I really do see it as one of the greatest advancements of the arts in generations.
There was nothing like this for H.P. Lovecraft, or Charles Dickens, or Stephen King. Imagine if there had been! I’ve discussed such in The Write Podcast.
Society is quickly growing exhausted of reboots, and throwaway conclusions of stories because the writers had more lucrative things to do, and the endless mining of old material. They are starving for fresh stories, new worlds, and original ideas. There has never been a better time to have an idea. Everything you need to present it is literally at your fingertips.
And that’s me talking; the darkest, most jaded person I know. So, you know,…possibly relevant.
Today? Just for today?
Be this hedgehog.
November. A time to write outlines and novels as the days die far too soon.
Writing in the dark is all I know how to do. Daylight burns away the divine, the imagination pilot light, with its work and worries and wars.
Lack of light has always brought me the solitude I need to ignite the furnace of plots and characters and stories; to pop on the stage lights in my mind, in a way. No sense turning them on without darkness.
Could be why writing can be so dark in nature, too, I guess. It gets in.
Darkness. Worth embracing.
That moment when one innocent message tips you into a rabbit hole of intriguing research from which you never emerge but finally do two days later…
…with a crammed research browser full of war and guns…
…and you suddenly find yourself craving a replica musket because muskets.
NaNoWriMo is upon us! Now is the time to dive into that work you’ve been planning all year.
I’m not the biggest NaNoWriMo’er. Intensive spurts are not my style. I’m more of a disciplinary, brick-on-the-wall-every- day sort of writer.
But I do love the blizzard of activity that hits the writing community every day-after-we-toss-the-costumes day, especially in the indie world.
In that spirit, I’ll be posting All The Memes to keep the bear poked. And I’ll be posting a host of playlists that hopefully will keep your fingers flying on the keyboard for hours on end. I find nothing eats time like a few hours of ambiance sounds tailored to your character’s environment.
(NEXT TIME: Sci-Fi Sounds and Scores!)
Want to cruise the Andromedan Belt? Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion? Settle in for the long shuttle run from Cixca to Shastre? Who doesn’t, really.
In celebration of NaNoWriMo, feel free to find the sounds in my Sci Fi playlist that work for you, put on a hot pot of writer fuel, and get back to the keyboard.
Behold! Propellant for the creation of fiction, jetted into your earholes.
From sipping perk-caff on a star liner to ducking and scrambling to avoid getting your brains blown out on the battlefield. So much space goodness.
Check in regularly; my playlists are constantly being pruned, grown, and added to. Ambiance producers are soul gardeners to me.
Hopefully it will inspire you to hit your word count today! Enjoy!
In my post last week about the recent Amazon move to provide direct printing, shipping, and list prices here in Canada, I missed a crucial upside detail.
While this development levels the playing field for Canadian indie authors by cutting the time from that holy ‘Buy Now’ button click to doorstep arrival just in time for winter, it also triggers an exciting benefit pointed out by Engen Books ‘ savvy entrepreneur Matthew LeDrew:
Canadian indies can now list their titles at separate prices than their U.S. listings!
Want to run a weeks’s sale (other than Amazon’s existing sales deals) for your Canadian fans? Well, now you can!
Want to drop the first novel in a series for a Canada-based promotional run? Now you can do that too!
While you could always drop the price listing of any title, the end price was bonded to the USD listing and automatically increased for exchange. This resulted in a discouraging price difference between the .com and .ca listings, and made the classic $XX.99 pricing option much trickier in Canada. Now, all titles in both Canada and the U.S. can be the same price listing.
What’s the downside?
Naturally, Canadian authors who drop their exchange-rate balanced price listing take a hit in their royalty payment. And, as the exchange rate fluctuates, that can be substantial. However, if indies are experiencing slowed sales because of awkward CAD pricing, the flexibility allowing them to adjust their price to a more palatable, attractive listing may be the boost their sales needed.
And, the optics of balanced pricing, plus the knowledge of CAD-specific listing for readers from home may be another benefit for all creators of independent Canadian writing. You couldn’t experiment with either if you were chained to traditional publishing practices!
I’ve standardized the price listing for the paperbacks of both of my novels, To Drown in Sand and To Drown in Ash. And, to celebrate, I’ve dropped the price of Book 1 of the Trilogy to $14.99 CANADIAN! Finally looks like something my mom would decide to buy!
Beaver tails, Double-Doubles, and now, Canuck indie fiction! A super development!
Stay tuned, like, or follow for continuing news and updates on any further KDP developments!
Sunday mornings are Note Transcription day. All the week’s thoughts, scenes, moments, and catchy dialogue bits have to go somewhere to be seeded and start germinating.
And my trusty old desktop (completely disconnected from the internet) is the perfect planter box.
All part of the manic scramble to catch my brain leaks. Sunday mornings used to be one of Emma’s favourite times, because the typing always lasted longer. She’s still with me. Just in a small jar.
There’s nothing in the world like music to trigger my writing brain. And in 2019, it’s easier than ever to build writing resources that can keep you going for hours at a time.
Talented ambiance artists all over the Tube of You spend countless hours creating amazing content just for the sweet, sweet happiness of our writing earholes.
This week, I’m sharing my playlist for fantasy writing from my channel. Feel free to give it a listen, build your own, or send me suggestions below this blog entry to check out!
Over fourteen hours of music to swings swords by, or sneak through medieval village markets, harrowing graveyards, and lots more, all in one place. They’re great for role-playing game background sounds, too!
I’m constantly adding more to every playlist I have because hoarding. In my day, we had to build mix tapes of this stuff. On ACTUAL tape. Yeeeg.
Lock yourself away with your keyboard and disappear into wherever your inspiration takes you.
These are just a few of the scores and sounds I’ve gathered that have kept me writing through multiple coffee pots, two novels, and a gazillion upcoming projects.
Before you know it, your characters will be cringing, chasing skittering demon squirrels into the night, arguing with each other, falling off rooftops, and saying things to each other you simply did not expect.
Other genres in upcoming posts!
May your ears send your typing fingers into a frenzy, fellow writers!
Engen books is calling.
Submissions for “pulp era” Sci-Fi From the Rock, their next collection, have a deadline of Oct. 31.
I didn’t think I had anything that quite fit, but I did find one l’il gem buried in my files (Old Man Laybolt Writer’s Rule #3: Never Throw Anything Out). I thought it might work for the anthology, if I ran it through the brain wash and rinse cycle. A quick three hours of rewrite, and a run through Cliche Cleaner and Grammarly, and I think it might be ready.
Now that I’m reading the third draft, I’m really pleased with it. Pulpy like freshly squeezed! So I’m totally hitting that submission deadline.
Stay tuned to see if it gets in!
Click on the image and grab your copy of Juris Lunence, a short story prequel about the 10th Lunen Regiment! FREE today!
Oh, the beautiful expanse of shorts, patiently waiting to be squeezed together into the blessed amazon algorithm.
13 short stories of dark fantasy, all carefully threaded together with character cameos and a tapestry of plot crossings. It will be an anthology that reads like a novel. With blood.
So much blood.
Intrigue, blasphemy, betrayal, and madness.
The Glyph Beckons.
More updates coming soon!
Read the epic short story prequel to my first novel in the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy, now available!
If you’re a writer, write something amazing.
If you’re lifting, make it satisfy.
If you’re loving, squeeze harder.
The clock is ticking, and we only have today.
Another episode of Engen Books‘ podcast, The Write Project, in which I blather about big publishing companies I do not work for, thingies King, Lovecraft, Tolkien, my theory about Game of thrones, and writer’s block, in which I foolishly test the literary divine.
Out of sheer existential terror of all things internet and extinction thereof, I made a MP3 thingy. Take THAT, 6-week Soundcloud storage limit! :
If your ears are not bleeding (or, if they are, and you’re kind of into that), see my previous post for Episode 1, which is actually Episode 54, but I get too excited about being on podcasts, so it’s 1.
Visit my kindle store for terrifying titles like The Dog and more!
That moment when you suddenly shatter total quiet as you shout “Ohhhhh, yeeeaaahhh. BRILLIANT! THAT’S AWESOME!” and actually clap, because of something an imaginary person just said to you in your head in a conversation that doesn’t exist yet, because you are 250 pages deep into your next novel, and you are alone in your office, except for your cat, who now thinks you are crazier than dogs.
FREE now on Amazon! Click on the icon to get the short story prequel to the 10th Lunen Regiment Trilogy! Get the origin story of one of the 10th’s most notorious characters. Available now!
There just ain’t no writing like 5 am writing.
Such things, that emerge from the gloom of the early morning dark and the waking brain.
Click on the link to my Amazon store to read Juris Lunence for free!
Of all of the things I was doing during my blogging hiatus, one of the most exciting was to appear on Engen Books‘ Podcast, The Write Project. In which I discuss dark childhoods, Stephen King, my writing process, “Shut and get typing”, and much more!
Hosted by Matthew LeDrew, the show appears every Monday on CHMR at 4:30 Newfoundland Time, and is available on most podcast platforms.
Out of sheer vanity, here’s an MP3 of Episode 1 of my interview. I am told that if you place the speaker near a sink drain, my voice will scare away fruit flies and Drain Goblin spore vapours. Probably worth a shot. You never want to see what comes out of those spores. *Shudder.*
Here is the location to find the archive of far more talented writers than myself talking about their amazing projects, like Tasha Madison, Julia Blackmore, Tracey Waddleton, and more.
And here is the link to Engen’s The Write Project youtube channel.
May your earholes rejoice, should that be warranted.
Aaron Dembksi-Bowden, one of my literary heroes and one of this generation’s Shakespeares, is mulling dumping his blogging, because it eats time.
Which is true. It does. It SO does.
But I am not him. I am, however, a bad blogger.
I had no idea my last entry was August 2018. That’s like, more than a whole year. Yeesh.
So, I’ve been busy during that time. Silly busy. Life, end of life, a full time career in a challenging field, my wife’s managing a chronic brain disease…oh, man. There’s been LOTS.
But that’s all a bunch of heavy stuff. More on The Heavy later. Too much of that already in this world right now. What I am happy about is the work I’ve been doing while Notblogging.
Holleeeee Firesticks. It’s been a big year at my desk. Dark fantasy short story anthology? Completed. Currently enduring the preparatory rites known as the Thousand Cuts of the Blood Pen, administered by a ruthless ogre who adamantly states it will be ready within six to twelve months. That’s PUBLISHED ready. As in, on the shelf and kindle.
And, I’m 296 pages deep into my fourth book, a fantasy novel that follows one of the shorts teed up in the anthology.
Funny thing, that. There are 13 short stories in the anthology, and each short tips off a separate novel to form a franchise. Which is brain-boggling to me. But there it is.
More details to come; just wanted to drop a hey to show I did not get snatched by a nightgaunt and swallowed in two pieces. I mean, whole would be tasteless, and three would just be messy.
And yeah; I know. They don’t have faces.
It’s called OSMOSIS, Chad.
She was with me every single morning, before the sun came up, sneaking glances at me. As long as I was typing, she was happy. She hated how long it took for me to make coffee, because it meant we weren’t working.
Emma is that little black lump between my feet, sixteen years ago, as I struggled through my pre-req courses to get into university, an old man at 33 desperate to change his life, while a puppy rooted herself into everything I would do for the rest of hers.
Emma was getting older, and our whole family knew it. We made the typical allowances, that slow regression of the tide of life that signals terrible choices. But we ignored them, I ignored them, for longer than I probably should have. We lifted the food bowl up onto a block so her neck wouldn’t hurt when she ate. We carried her everywhere so she wouldn’t jump off furniture. We even bought her a playpen to keep her safe, her vision long gone and her hearing almost nonexistent.
Emma wasn’t just my dog. She was so much more. She heard the early dialogue, and sneezed her disdain if it was cheesy. (Emma loved cheese, just not in her dialogue). She was my first audience for verbal reads. She was my timekeeper, who told me when I had been at the keyboard too long. And not long enough.
She was my kids’ best friend; a sibling and confidante. She was our guardian, who fiercely chased every animal, no matter what size, off her deck and out of her yard. Some people mock poodles, but man, let me tell you, they are tough, smart, ridiculously brave, and unconditionally loyal pets.
I’ve often heard about folks saying how hard a pet’s death hit them, and never understood it. Until I lost my writing partner.
I think you can almost sense it in To Drown in Ash. The time I had to decide that terrible choices had to be made. Ash is about loss and fracture, and was written while Emma waited for me, sleeping and peeking at my back, to make sure I was there and still writing. I was avoiding the decision. I did a lot of that in the early drafts of this book, until our team wouldn’t let me, and made me face the facts. That things could not continue. Emma and I knew it, too. That avoiding choices was costing her too much pain. Mostly out of fear of what it would cost me to lose her.
We took her for one last walk to her favourite park. She hobbled and thought about chasing her favourite ducks. My wife and I gave her her last ice cream, and she devoured it, cone and all.
The next day, we took her to the vet. They were incredibly kind to us. We were given all the time we could need to say goodbye.
They were incredibly patient while Old Man Laybolt tried and failed to hold it together.
She finally sighed her last, and I heard relief finally come from her little spirit. Her only concern was that she was still doing her job. She kept checking on me, with little flicks of her eyes, right into the end.
I’m a nurse. I’ve seen my share of death. Even come to learn to understand and embrace it. To learn that it’s a sacred moment, and a truly spiritual experience that can not be understated. Its impact on our small journeys here in this life are immeasurable. Things of such magnitude have learning for all of us.
Here’s what Emma taught me. Be unconditionally loyal. Be brave. Be ever-striving to take care of your pack. And live. Live every day for your ice cream and those you are lucky enough to contribute to.
Some say that people should strive to be the person their dog thinks they are. I agree. But I’d add to that.
If more of us strive to be more like our dogs; honest, loyal, protective, endlessly curious about others, and fearless, the world we live in can only get better. That’s what Emma taught me.
To take naps when you can. To love unconditionally. Handle strangers based on their body language. Always be on duty. Watch your people.
That, and to keep working until its over.
Like, comment, subscribe, or check out my latest work at:
It’s been a long time coming. People have been waiting patiently. What a great problem to have; folks telling you to hurry up with your next book.
Well, the wait is over. To Drown in Ash, Book 2 of The 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy, is now live on Amazon.
Snowstorms, three years of 5 am sunrises, and a lot of real, actual tears (you’ll know EXACTLY when my ugly manbaby tears hit the keyboard) went into this one. If you enjoy it, please let me know.
As always, a huge thanks to Dylan Edwards for his incredible cover, endless patience, and therapeutic upload support. And to everyone that pushed me further to make this the best book I’ve ever written (See acknowledgements).
Here’s the link:
If your Canadian (high five!), here’s your link:
Annnd here’s the link for my UK fans:
Chillers from the Rock, the third volume in the modern From the Rock series, hit #1 Bestseller in 4 different categories on March 18, 2018: a full 10 days before its release. The categories include Vampire Thrillers, Werewolves & Shifters, Vigilante Justice, and Hot New Releases – Thrillers. As of this writing it has reached […]
Not sure if you noticed (the savvy among you probably have), but KDP quietly rolled out their new reports format!
I’ve wondered since I started with Kindle Direct Publishing why they could not plot out the master sales list for the titles Indies publish. Not only would it make for great nostalgia during those cold, isolated months of dead sales, and drive writers forward after seeing that, yes, there once was a day when you were knocking it out of the park (regardless of numbers; in this day and age, all readers are precious readers, in my opinion), but it’s important to be able to look back and see what you’ve accomplished in total.
At least, my accountant thinks it is.
Well, wonder no more!
KDP’s new Historical Report gives you every single sale monthly since you started publishing, and every single KOLL page read. This enables you to accurately track total sales, identify trends, and total your copies sold and free titles distributed since the dawn of KDP-time.
The new format also sets up by sales period, and lists all royalties earned by country in total, which immediately gives you your best selling countries. The report still offers the month-to-date tables, but now provides a payments and pre-orders tab, all in one header.
Slick, easy to use, and all in one place.
A huge development for Indie writers everywhere!
Stop looking at my short blue poles. I was busy writing.
Go check our your new KDP report page! What do you think of it?
There are many kinds of people who make up our world.
There are people who fight. They grab each day by the throat and don’t let go until they get that day done.
There are people who pretend. Who make it look like they can do the things they cannot so that the world will applaud them. But the world never applauds anyone, not in any real way, and their hearts are destined to break.
There are people who burn. Who carry a furnace fuelled by bitterness because life has flowed around them like a river, and they cannot bend the currents to their will. Steam and noise ensue, and peace is a laughable dream.
There is another kind. There are quiet, shy people who hate storms. Who try, every day, to stand, walk, and even carry others with whatever power they have, which varies every day. Whose tools get lost or break or were never in the toolbox, or the storm has whipped them away, lost in the wind and sound and terror. But every day, they try.
They get up, in the face of panic and fear, and they try. Some days they are beaten before they even open their eyes, and the trying takes too long, and it’s hard.
But somehow, they do it. And life and the world do not record their battles, don’t call their names, don’t applaud. Sometimes, it only announces their failures, which feeds the opinion of the ignorant. The world expects perfection while it takes away their tools. The world demands more while it pressures you with less.
Less money for your work, less support for your children, less respect for your thoughts, less power for your person, less safety for your travels, less consequence for your violation.
It presses down while screaming to get up. And it is hard.
But these people, in the storm, they still try.
These people are called Mothers.
I’m lucky enough to have one for a partner. My wife’s tools are being plucked away by the storm piece by piece. In the cruellest irony, by an invisible disease that very few people will ever understand. They see the vibrant, shining soul that she is, and rejoice in her radiance, and never see her storm. She refuses to show it to anyone.
She’s such a Mother that she’ll be one to those who are not even hers. She’ll take on the job for those in pain out of sheer mercy and grace, and never asks for recognition, or control, or any reward at all.
She will simply because it is Right.
She’ll step into the deeper storm, knowing some of her tools are missing.
Because that is what Mothers do.
My own mother should have folded under the storm a thousand times. Sometimes, the storm was me. Other times, it was the world, trying to crush her. She would have none of that.
I am privileged. Both women made me this man.
We get one day.
To tell them that we get it. That we see them. That we appreciate them. That they are valued. Loved. That we know. That we can never properly thank them, but on this day, we will try.
To my Mom, all I can say is Thank You.
To my wife, I see you. I know. And I see the storm. I hate it, and I wish I could crush it; wither it, so that it did not trample you. But I can’t. I will always offer my hand, even when you refuse to take it. Because you fight ten times harder than I do. Even now, as two young men who you gave birth to, who you taught how to temper my cold spite with your warmth and love, prepare to step away from you and make their mark, two standing examples of your success, you find yourself wanting in their forging. You did it. You mastered it. You won. I love you. I Thank You.
To every one of you reading this who are Mothers, I Thank You. The world will never applaud. Not the way it should. But maybe, having a day that tells you we know you’re important is a sign for you. That we see you, and that we care.
Happy Mother’s Day.
While work continues on the editing of To Drown in Ash, I have exciting news!
Several months ago, during a shameless binge on Tom Waits songs and headline rage, I smashed out a script for an idea for a graphic novel. After pitching the concept around to several parties who generously cheered me on (and several rewrites), my buddy Dylan Edwards read the script and agreed to use his incredible artistic skill to turn it into A Thing!
Behold,some of the early concept art for The War!
That is Sam.
Sam is driven.
We’ll be releasing more info and images as the work progresses. Early input on the project has been alarmingly positive. And Amazon’s graphic novel platform appears tailor made for Indie projects by two guys who’ve dreamed of doing this since high school.
More cool sketches to follow in the coming weeks and months as this takes shape.
So, let’s review.
It’s pretty much a perfect storm.
PBS’ Frontline describes a dissatisfied population demographic, driven to vote in catalysts of political endeavour that end up devouring its own base in Congress, only to replace them with more ardent activists of their cause.
The idea of the Tea Party not being Far Right enough is compelling. The idea of the Freedom Caucus taking Congress is worth massive focus.
Evidence of Russian involvement through servers located at Trump Tower was only the beginning. And, it seems, not the most important aspect of the story.
Then comes Cambridge Analytica and Facebook.
Using something as simple as benign as personality tests, ‘like’ emojis, and shares, they measured and influenced newsfeed prompts that apparently guided the direction of one of the most shocking elections in American history.
For the record, Cambridge Analytica denies any use of Facebook to generate data.
According to Motherboard, Alexander Nix is quoted as saying that his company, Cambridge Analytica, was integral to Trump’s victory.
That means that Cambridge Analytical was the Distracted Subversion engine. It’s company parent, SCL, is an enormous, global network.
I know what you’re thinking. Tinfoil hat time.
But no. This one’s real.
Some writers are saying it’s ridiculous. But even in their own articles, the experts they interview end up summarizing by saying “we just don’t know.”
Investigation of SCL’s website unveils some incredibly informative findings.
Click on this link. go ahead. I dare ya.
Go look. Dig.
Watch the intro graphic.
Scroll down to the bottom. Look at the logos.
Go into the rabbit hole. It’s shallow. Doesn’t take long to see the trails.
Click on ‘Social ‘ from their homepage.
Click on ‘Defence’.
Look under ‘Elections’.
See how many countries SCL has offices in. Campaigns they have engineered.
The UK Ministry of Defence.
The U.S. State Department.
Both Cambridge Analytica and SCL proudly display their service to, and the logos of, these and more organizations at the bottom of their page.
Offices all over the world.
I was hoping that SCL’s site was a fake. Some high-quality page built by an enthusiastic fictionalist.
But no. It’s real.
And there’s more.
Among Cambridge Analytica’s Board Members, according to the Motherboard story and other news outlets?
A man named Steve Bannon.
And he’s working to hire them for the Trump administration.
That a company like SCL exists should not be very surprising. Neither should the idea that an entire industry generates millions from collecting and working with Big Data.
But hiring a firm to manipulate the outcomes and perceptions of international electoral and military campaigns?
Then contract them for Washington’s new administration?
I believe that takes us to a whole new level of Distracted Subversion. One unseen in our history. An unprecedented ability to bend outcomes without our being aware.
Stop clicking ‘like’. Stop taking ‘personality quizzes’. Stop clicking angry emojis.
Start a blog and write about how you feel instead.
The one thing Big Data can not stand. Conversations in person.
Face to face meetings.
Start a blog and write about how you feel instead.
Stop telling SCL and Cambridge Analytica how you feel about things.
By their own admission, they are gathering your reaction data and using it to win wars, change your mind, build empires, and get people like Donald Trump elected.
Das magazine, Trump’s ‘Oppenheimer’: Michal Kosinki, Who is Alexander Nix? The emergence of SCL, Cambridge Analytica , and Big Data.
Distracted Subversion has to have an engine, a core implementer, whose goals are laser focused, in order to work.
On January 28, my mother-in-law sent me an article that flicked on the light of what may be one of the largest engines of social influence that we have ever seen.
On 22/01/2017, antidotezine.com posted this Das Magazine article. My mother-in-law sent it to me, ironically, on Facebook. She may have stumbled on a monumental piece of history, lying out in plain sight for all to ignore.
It carried a Vice article through Motherboard (I know, convoluted, right? But rabbit holes can be like that sometimes).
If you have stuck with me so far in this series, then I’m trusting that you are willing to actually read the entire article in the link. Don’t skim it. Like any good suspense story, it has to build through the whole story. And the article is carefully written, I believe, because there are huge consequences at stake.
Psychologist Michal Kosinki’s ‘Oppenheimer’ moment may seem dramatic. The stuff of Hollywood. Until you find out what’s next.
Next on The Desk: Who is Alexander Nix? SCL and Big Data.
How did this happen?
Well, like most enormously important events, it did not start in a vacuum. President Trump’s victory happened slowly, evolving over several years. I’ve found that this Frontline Documentary from PBS does the best job of explaining this phenomenon’s history. It is worth watching.
The Divided states of America contains what appears to be critical information about the history of Trump’s rise to power, through the GOP’s devastation, rebirth, then its infiltration, and eventual implosion.
Reminds one of watching lava form. Each cooling layer pooling slag upon which fresh lava cooks through and burns over to form the new political foundation.
It’s a long one, so you may need several bags of popcorn. And, perhaps, depending on your politics, a pillow to scream into:
If you’re reading this from Canada, here’s an active link (For some STRANGE reason, PBS Frontline no longer runs its content streaming into Canada. Which is weird. It did last year…):
Do yourself a favour, and watch both part 1 and 2. It’s a comprehensive, detailed saga that brings us right up to the election.
Next time, on The Desk:
How Trump Did It, Part Three:
The Quiet Machine: My mother-in-law’s keen catch, The Antidote Writer’s Collective, Michal Kosinski, Facebook, and Cambridge Analytica.
I’m fascinated by what I like to call Distracted Subversion.
That’s kind of like being a conspiracy theorist, but with deeper weeds, more data, and actual evidence. It’s what large organizations do when they know the world is distracted looking at something else. They do it in plain sight, because everyone, from the media to the governments of other nations, are very busy looking at something 180 degrees in the opposite direction.
Did you know they are making toilet paper tubes bigger to save on shipping costs? Or injecting air bubbles in your toothpaste? That “Frozen Dessert” is not actually Ice Cream, and never melts? Or that the CIA had a torture franchise in Libya?
I wrote about Libya, an example of Surreptitious Things Being Done in Plain Sight, back in 2011 on my now-dead, other blog. I’ve linked it here.
Organizations like the CIA, Israel, Russia, Banks, Media, and political lobbyists and pollsters engage in this Distracted Subversion every day. And it works. Make something go off to our left, and we look left. That real art happens when you’ve planned it that way and use that time to do Something Very Important to make something happen on our RIGHT.
It certainly did in this last, profound presidential election.
As a Canadian, I get substantial flack for putting my Bluenoser proboscis in American politics. But the United States is an excellent litmus test for the rest of the world’s political metabolism. It teaches us larger lessons about the way our own elections can twist and bend, and, perhaps, how to prevent surprises. I hate surprises.
I’ve been baffled by how Trump did it. I just could not figure it out. But I started to think about Distracted Subversion. Then, my mother-in-law sent me an article that she found laying out in plain sight on the internet that offered a key insight into what just happened in the United States.
And it is of critical importance, because the tool Trump’s campaign used reaches all the way from Brexit to any other elective process for the foreseeable future, and even to help determine the outcome of international military campaigns.
If you care at all about political outcomes, I strongly suggest you read on. If you are baffled and dazed and shocked and outraged, you need to read this. If you use Facebook, and are ‘liking’ posts, either with an angry face or a tearful emoji, you need to know what that is doing for the people who want to use that information to get elected.
I’d very much like to be wrong.
I’d very much like to find out that this is a hoax.
I’d love to find out that the SCL Group website is a hoax page built by an eighteen year old member of the Freedom Caucus.
But I’ve dug through their site, and I fear it is not.
And, to me, that’s terrifying.
But to know the future, you have to see the past. And PBS’ Frontline documentary is a necessary place to start.
Next time, on The Desk:
How did this start?
Revisions on the death scene of a favourite character is like stapling through your fingernail. Again.
Yesterday, we got whomped here in Nova Scotia with our first real winter storm this year.
In a classic moment of sheer lunacy, I broke one of my own rules yesterday: “Do NOT go out into the storm”.
But when you’re a writer, and your manuscripts are ready, it got me. Like one of my kids were stranded out there.
Luckily, I headed out into the snow before the worst hit, and made it to Staples (which is like heaven or Disneyland or church to me at this point, apparently) to pick up the last Edit Manuscripts for to Drown in Ash. During the drive I laughed at how my wife would script my obituary, should the worst happen.
Even managed to drop of one of the copies off to Kalip of the Raised Eyebrow, one of my toughest Beta Readers, who clearly thought I was nuts to deliver a manuscript in a snowstorm. But his place was on my way home.
So, not nuts.
Now begins the copy review and edit meetings before sending it to my typist and beginning the cover work with my fabulous graphics guy, Dylan Edwards. After that, we submit, order the galley copy, final read, hit ‘publish’, and release.
What a difference between this process and what we went through for Ash’s predecessor, To Drown in Sand. It’s great to have a system. I love systems.
As payment for my sheer madness, my wife demanded I obtain Storm Chips, which are a real thing now. Especially when your husband is a Mad Writer.
Happy Shovel Day!
The second book of my 10th Lunen Regiment trilogy is on its way for manuscript formatting and final read from the beta team before being sent to my lovely typist. To Drown in Ash will be the major project release for 2017 for me, and I can’t wait to see what happens when it hits.
So, I’m not.
Never have been much of a waiting type.
I started Book 3 halfway through writing To Drown in Sand, and now is the time to pull the trigger, click the dials, shove the shifter and stomp the gas. Tentatively titled To Drown in Fire, it has been almost 8 years in the making and will mark the conclusion of Kyris Issep’s journey.
(Yes, that is Burzum I’m listening to. Don’t judge; I need The Heavy. To Drown in Fire will be HEAVY. Heavy things that end epics make The Best Things).
That brings the total of writing projects for 2017 up to 4. Plus several new short stories I’m planning.
Let’s make 2017 the year we write! The year we produce! Your year to publish! Our year to crush this Indie thing!
What are you working on?
It’s a strange time.
The internet is changing, and the world is changing with it. Uncertainty reigns.
So can you.
Make 2017 the year you armour up. The year you lace up your boots and give the world through your window a hard, steely stare.
Go make today yours. And do it for the next 364 days.
I know you can. You know you should.
Go be amazing.
I’ll watch from here and guard your six and cheer you on.
I adore Kobo.
The interface is clean. Its links with Indigo are seamless, and the austerity of both the Indigo pages and the Writer’s Life sites are refreshingly anti-clutter.
Also, Kobo likes free stuff. They avoid the tendency to control what their writers do with the pricing of their products.
Downside? They take a bit longer to publish things. But, as I get older, I find that things that happen really, really fast are not always the best things.
Therefore, I’m thrilled to announce that The Dog, my first cthulhuian short story (and the first of many more) is now live on Kobo. (The Dog went live on November 20th, on Kindle, too. If you’re a ‘Zonian and a fan of gothic horror, here’s the link).
And, as an added bonus for being a fan of That Other Ebook Reader, I’ve thrown in a surprise.
You’ll see it when you get there.
Hope you enjoy it! If you did, please leave a review!
Horror is one of my favourite genres. I devour it. I love the old masters, and Lovecraft is my favourite of them. So much so that I’ve written several stories that are inspired by his work.
I’m happy as Azathoth (in that cosmic, ironic futility kind of happiness, obviously) to announce that my first Cthulhian short story, The Dog, is now live and available for your consumption! May your pupils protect you from the ethereal terror that waits to unpeel your mind, and all that.
If you enjoy it, please be so kind as to recount the delicious trauma I have caused you in a review on Amazon. And a few stars wouldn’t hurt. Don’t worry. They aren’t the same stars that bury aeons-old, writhing horrors that wait to awaken and shatter our complacency with destruction and madness.
Or maybe they are…
Here’s a link to the Kindle eBook!
Don’t have a Kindle and still want to expose yourself to madness-inducing terror? Well, then, good for you. We should be friends. Here’s a link to the free kindle reader app for your laptop!
“Laptop?!? What are you, a HUNDRED??”
Well, no. But I am thorough. You can also read any Kindle story on your phone or device with the free Kindle app, available when you click on the ‘Read with our free app’ link just under the Kindle price box.
The Dog is also being released on Kobo this week, and I’ll post as soon as it is.
Hope you enjoy it! I’d love to hear from you if you did!
Since I’m going Lovecraft with my new short story release, image wizard Dylan Edwards and I wanted to hearken back to the wild days of Erol Otis and John Holmes with the cover. We wanted weird. Dark and weird. We love dark and weird. It was our thing all through high school.
I give you the final cover draft of The Dog:
Welcome to my world of macabre horror. And puppies.
Rejoice in the campy creepiness.
It’s ridiculously exciting to see what Dylan’s brain will give birth to when he starts working on one of our projects.
Like meeting your new baby.
A weird, dark baby.
The dog will be available on Amazon and Kobo December 1, 2016.
I love Lovecraft.
Since reading At The Mountains of Madness at 16, I have never been able to read enough of his work. He opened my mind to a level of tragic darkness that I had never thought could be acceptable to write about. At that age, for me, darkness was all there was. Darkness was my Disneyworld. Lovecraft taught me to embrace it all and harness it; to welcome the things that pull us down, face them, and wrestle with them. And thus, I think, the writer in me was born.
I’ve written several Lovecraft-themed stories, all of them shuffled away in old file folders, the hand-written ink faded into the browned looseleaf. It wasn’t until recently that I took them out and decided I may as well turn them into product, since that’s what we can do now in indie publishing.
While grinding through the fantasy anthology I’m putting together (with the incredible editing of Espresso’s Holly M. Kothe), and hammering out the final revisions on To Drown in Ash (which is almost Very Nearly Done, I PROMISE), I got Holly to edit The Dog, which I first wrote back in ’89.
You see those two kids there?
That was twenty one years ago.
Two decades. Two decades of change, worry, battles. Life in the storm.
She wasn’t as worried as she looks. And he was far more terrified than he appears.
But he couldn’t believe his luck, and knew how hard he could work to deserve her.
They both did not know so many things.
Their future, a chasm, its depths shrouded in fog.
They both did not know so many things.
But I know.
If I could go to them, twenty one years ago, I would tell them.
I would tell her that she’s good enough. That he adores her. That she needs to set her worries down, because life is too short to be afraid of what other people think. That he will die for her if she needs him to, and that, twenty one years later, he never changed or wavered. That she has just become his best friend, and his payment for that debt is absolute loyalty, no matter who or what comes to them.
That he will figure it out; his anger, his issues, his past, his pain; because of her grace and her gentleness, and he will forever be devoted to her for it. That there will never be enough money, so stop trying to reach the moon with her bare hands. That she will give birth to two strong, brilliant men who will shine with her best qualities, and will emerge into this world champions because of her limitless belief and love for them. That she needs to hug her father more. That her mother will always be there for her, no matter what. That, at 46, she is beautiful, living in a home in Lunenburg that they own, and that she will be taken care of.
I would tell him that he’s going to make it. That he won’t die on her, or destroy the best thing that’s ever happened to him. That he will find peace in the death of his demons someday, and find grace in their passing. That there is a day coming when the angry, scared little boy can come out from under the table. That he will one day take a deep, deep breath and allow himself to smile. That his pain is a furnace, and he will forge incredible things with it, tempered and strong and not destructive. That he will be a nurse. That he would change things in unimaginable ways that help people. That the pain in his body he has every day will never go away, but if he keeps training, it will become noise and nothing more. That the lungs will not collapse again and he will climb mountains with them.
That she will be with him twenty one years from now. That she has something in her brain, and it will change things, and she will need him, and he will step up, and that it will give him the chance to pay her back for guiding him through how to live like a human being and not a hunted animal. That Steve was going to marry Brenda, and be fine. That mom will probably outlive all of us. That he will lose incredible people like Wayne and Earl, and he needs to visit them. That he is going to own a poodle, a toy poodle at that, and not a wolf, because she said so.
That you will actually buy her a tiara.
That he will pull towards him the most amazing people who will bring out the best in him. That a pack of men will gravitate towards him and always be on call, because of what he means to each of them. That he is not a mistake.
That he will have two sons who love him. That he needs to listen to her, and soften as much as he can and save himself years of struggle. That she’s right about the world and about people. That he will never shut down his vigilance, because he can’t, and that’s okay, and that it’s good to always be ready, but for twenty one years, nothing is going to happen. That he can save his energy for later. That he is going to write a book, but not the one he thinks, and that many more are coming. That he’s not his father, and never will be.
That she is with him through it all. That he’s going to make mistakes, and he has to stop being terrified of them, and has to learn how to fix them. That she’s real and true; exactly what he sees in her right now, and that he still won’t believe his luck, even after the grey lines his beard.
That every day with her is a gift, and to keep relishing it, because he was right about how lucky he is.
I would tell them.
“You kids just relax. You got this.”
They both did not know so many things.
But I know.
And I thank them.
Thank you, Lesley, for showing them how it’s done. I love you more than the moment this picture was taken.
Happy 21st Anniversary, love.
Here’s to the next two decades.
Three short stories in the can, three others ready for the editor, and six more in various stages. My next release, an anthology to introduce the world of my fantasy novel, is setting up nicely. Twelve stories so far, each set in this new medieval world of shadows and emerging war. Here’s the finished (but nothing’s ever really finished) prologue:
The Maw of War has opened.
After a century of peace, the world is being twisted and bent by the ruthless egos and dark ambitions of man.
Across the Eastern Sea, a horde of monstrous evil drives the brave Dwarven warriors of Wendthairne into the ocean in a desperate flight for refuge, hoping for solace from their former enemies, the long-silent Elves of Ahmrael.
The north of the Realm has frozen into a wasteland. Deep in the ice-encased mountains of North Elan, creatures stir that the world has never seen. Their hunger for ruin is absolute as they are borne from the shadows, seeking to bleed humanity. Enslaved by a new God, they exist only for his revenge and the destruction of mankind.
In the west, Archduke Lierdstiern schemes for the fall of a nation and the usurping of order. His swelling ambitions seduce him to concert with madness under the corrupting power of a new religion. His lies and merciless drive seduce him to new depths of unspeakable evil.
The kingdom of man, tethered together by the dream of peace in the Hall of Kings, is crumbling. Betrayal and deceit erode the carefully constructed foundations of a centuries’ serenity.
Darkness shrouds the evil work of deceit and murder. Horror and madness are creeping out from under the shadows of the night.
The Age of Peace is dying.
The door to ruin has opened. These are the stories of the destruction of hope. The seduction of sanity. The revenge of the forgotten. The wrath of bones.
The Wrath of Bones will be available this November.
Meanwhile, I’m approaching the halfway point (Chapter Nine, Scene One) of To Drown in Ash, the sequel to Sand. Issep and the Boddies are in desperate times, surrounded by imminent death and unrelenting evil. The sequel has a much darker tone. The central theme emerging is loss.
THAT sounded foreboding.
My father died three months ago.
That sentence alone has more weight and mass than most.
My father was not my hero. I had seen him three times in about thirty years, and we never spoke. The history between us is long, dark, and unkind. I’ll write about all that toxic pathology someday. It will make quite a book.
But not today.
When my brother asked me if I would go see Bill (as he was known to me then; I took substantial pride in denying him his rank, as he had never earned it), I was ready for it. Bill had a stroke on New Year’s Eve, and when they scanned him they discovered a “massive tumour” in his brain. I’m an RN. I know that when radiologists, who usually never use extreme words in their assessments, told the patient something was “massive”, then things are Very Bad.
I also know that Brain Cancer is often secondary to Lung Cancer, and they had found tumours on both of his lungs. That meant that if the cancer had gone bilateral and to the brain, he was what we call in the business “loaded”: if he were to undergo surgery, they would find tumours everywhere and simply sew him back up.
So, Bill’s doctor gave him the options he had at hand: undergo Chemo (to delay the growth of the tumour, but by no means save him or stop its progression), or do nothing, because it was going to kill him anyway.
And that, apparently, was when Bill asked for me.
Growing up, he had not been kind. I did not serve much purpose, and he always made that clear.
But here was purpose.
My brother needed me to go. Bill needed me to go. His new wife needed me to go. In death, there are a thousand things most people simply do not know.
But I do.
Driving there was hard. The flashbacks were really awful. He lives in a slice of isolated coastal country where the last gas was half an hour ago. Halfway there, I had to pull over and send my wife a simple text:
“This is really hard.”
The signal died after I pulled out and kept driving.
When I walked in, I saw the agreement, written in the wrinkles of his thinning face and in the dark mahogany of his eyes. To agree to lie to each other, to buy into his new life; where his grandchildren love him, his grieving wife works through his death, neighbours call and cry over the news, and not pull out the spikes and claws of the past. The invoice for his words and actions against me needed to fall to dust. And he asked me for that now with his eyes.
In a way, his last days were his best. He lived as the center of attention, as he should; his history of catastrophic choices was shelved, the door closed on it.
I’m not sure that he was ever so liked as he was in his last month.
Trust remained a problem for him. I don’t blame him. Beneath his pretence, as though my walking into his house was the most normal, expected thing, doubt sat waiting. I told him we were moving him from the flat bed in his dark room to the crank-up hospital bed his wife’s son-in-law had assembled in the living room, where he could see the harbour and the sun. I told him I was going to lift him. And I saw fear. It flashed through his eyes; the doubt that this had been part of my grand revenge scheme, to gain his trust and then throw him in some final act of vengeance. He was in shock when I settled him into the wheelchair; his eyes were endless. He simply couldn’t understand.
For the most part, neither could I. But that didn’t matter. I had gone where I was needed. It was the only human thing to do. Seeing him marvel at that broke my heart. Imagine living life without grasping the concept of kindness.
I began to understand my father.
Later, on the couch, his wife Shelia pointed out that we were sitting like twins; exactly the same posture. I started watching, studying him. Every minute was like a graduate study of my own psyche. So many answers to why I do the things I do; mannerisms, tone of voice, the fast judgement of fools, all of my habits sat beside me in the form of this dying man.
His workshop was perfectly organized, with all things labelled, right down to the size of nails and screws. I’ve always been frustrated by why I waste time trying to do that, when it always becomes a grand mess anyway. Now, I knew.
I suddenly knew a lot of things.
In the photo album he gave me, I finally saw it. The happier kid he had been growing up, the awkward terror in his wedding photos, the confusion and accusation in my own young eyes, this child who wanted him to be something he just didn’t have the tools for.
I had come into his life needing him at a time when he just didn’t know how. And he saw it every time he had looked into my young face.
I can’t imagine how that must have felt for all those years that we warred against each other.
I asked him to ask me anything. Anything at all, and he would have his answers.
We talked for four hours.
The blocks were out from under the wheels. The brakes were off. Nothing mattered anymore. He knew what he had done in the past; there was no self-delusion there. But history served no purpose now. He only wanted to finally let himself be THIS Bill, the human Bill, now that he faced his humanity and the end of it. He only wanted to finally be my father.
He told me how to fix my water heater. He told me to take his tools to work on my house. He showed me how to snip and grind down the spikes in my attic roof so that I could insulate it. He spoke kindly and supportively and without malice, and the small boy, hidden inside the armour of the grown man I became, cherished every word.
He asked me if he had done it right, by refusing the chemo. He wanted my opinion. On something as massive as his death. And, when I told him he had chosen the right path, and that an unknown number of weeks spent nauseous and in pain would probably kill him anyway, that there would be no miracles here, that he could go soft or he could go hard, and he was choosing soft, I watched relief flood him. He wanted to hang on until my brother could get here. He hoped he hadn’t blown that by refusing the chemo. Both the doctor and I wanted him to avoid that misery that wouldn’t make any difference to when death would come.
Weeks later, Shelia told me the nurses were coming every day, and so were the drugs, and she didn’t know why. I knew what that meant.
I called my brother and told him that it was happening. There were much fewer flashbacks on the drive there this time.
Nurses know death. We can smell it. We can read it in the air. And it was thick when I arrived. He was heavily sedated, and fighting the drugs and death every second. He was holding on. His wife thought he was sleeping, but he was actually fighting through the sleep.
I have no idea how he had the strength to raise his hand and lay it on mine. It should have been impossible.
I told him what was happening. I told him it would soon be over. I told him I was here, and everything would end well. I told him he would not feel pain, like he feared he would.
I called my brother and put the portable against my father’s ear. Shelia brought us a second phone, and my brother and my father and I were together for the end.
Steve spoke, and I told Steve how Bill was responding. How he was fighting through the blanket of drugs to talk, to form words that he couldn’t, to say all those things the dying have to say. I watched my father’s tears crawl from his dying eyes. I choked out to him that we were here together, here at the end, and that we always would be, and to Steve that he was trying to speak and nod and cry, and that he could hear everything Steve was saying, and not to stop, not to stop until he was finished and got everything out, and that Bill was using every ounce of life he had left to listen and talk. I told Steve he was smiling. Steve’s words were the careful, ready words of a soldier and a son. We all cried; a trio of torn souls over a hissing phone line.
When the call was done, I finished the agreed lie that wasn’t a lie anymore.
I held his thin, bony chest against mine, and listened to his thready, tired heartbeat, fluttering and whispy and fragile and failing.
I didn’t know if I could say it, in the end. But I‘m glad I did. I said what I knew he needed.
“It’s okay. All of it. It’s over, and it’s okay. I love you, Dad.”
My tears ripped loose when he managed a grunt through the meds.
On the drive home, I felt something new.
William Hector Laybolt died hours later on March 2, 2015.
His wife asked me to write his obituary. After several visits, I felt I collected enough from the people around him to do it justice.
I think it may just be my finest work yet.
About a year ago, I stumbled over a title minnowing through my newsfeed. It was a free promo, and the description intrigued me, so I downloaded it. The book was called Sweet Violent Femmes by Holly M. Kothe, and it was one of the best Indie products I have ever, ever seen.
I ripped through the book in one night. The theme throughout was the violent revenge of several women scorned. The tone and the writing left me stunned. I love dark fiction that makes me uncomfortable. Holly’s setup for her characters, how vulnerable they were, how driven and intent they were, were the perfect recipe to keep me locked in her pages.
I remember thinking that I wanted my work to read like that. For my books to be packaged that professionally. I considered Holly’s collection of short stories my benchmark.
Holly recently sent another minnow down my newsfeed. She had started an independent editing business. I wondered if this would be the chance for me to climb the writer’s stairs and improve my work. To get it closer to my expectations. It was time for me to take that next step.
I scrounged my lunch money and emptied my writer’s account and borrowed change from my son. (Not really, but almost). I had no idea how much Holly would charge me for her work. I knew that editors are ridiculously expensive and meant only for the marble halls in New York and Who-do-you-think-you-are-anyway-having-real-writer-expectations-of-yourself?
I looked into Holly’s site. Read the reviews by other writers. Counted how many writers she had edited. I studied their covers and Amazon pages. I narrowed my eyes a lot. These were pro writers with solid covers and there were a lot of them.
I sent off the manuscript to Holly on May 6th . I received my contract and bill for half of her (VERY reasonable) price that afternoon. I signed the bill digitally, pressed send, and left the rest to the will of the Gods.
I had the edited manuscript back in my digital hands on May 13th, and the invoice for the rest of her fee.
Her work on the manuscript for my short story was exactly what I had hoped for. She was supportive, objective, clinical, and precise. I could not be happier with her work. With her edits and her suggestions for certain story flow mechanisms, Upon the Devil’s Shoulder reads like a polished, professional work.
And I’ve already finished anther short for the anthology to send to her.
See, because that’s what I’ve learned. How it works when you don’t self-edit, and leave that up to the pros.
You can just go write.
It’s a tough lesson to learn. I know not everyone is in the position to afford an editor. But, after spending 2 years rewriting To Drown in Sand (AFTER it’s been uploaded), when I could have used that time writing its sequel, I can no longer really afford not to. And I’m pretty confident, after seeing what this short story is becoming, that the result in quality will help me afford access to Espresso Editor a lot faster.
I did not for a moment experience the insecurity/protective instinct that I’ve had in the past. Having read Holly’s work, I knew THAT was what I wanted my work to look like. In a way, she is her own best promotion.
And I genuinely feel that I’ve stepped to another platform: from hobby writer to the real thing. Once you’ve read Upon the Devil’s Shoulder, you may agree with me.
If you’re an Indie writer, and are considering going to an editor, stop. Don’t consider it. Go do it. And one of the brightest young women you could ever hope to find will edit your work quickly and quietly at Espressoeditor.
Just don’t get her too busy. I would now be lost without her.
Kindle Select offers quite the pull. As in, towards the Death Star kind of pull. I wondered. I agonized. I rubbed my knuckles on the bones of my forehead. The seductive potential of larger markets tapped at the glass in my dreams.
Giving up other publishing venues for exclusive access to the Kindle Select pool makes sense to the hungry-for-reader writer in me. (Also, making money from someone reading 30% of my work, when the work can be a short story, REALLY made sense).
So, I ran an experiment in KDP select.
The results were poignant and huge.
Like the Titanic.
I wrote a (quite) short story, thinking that the 30% point would be quickly reached by a reader, and then no big loss if they quit after the first page (a theory of mine about free sample readers). I could still reap the benefits of the zillions of dollars in the KDP fund.
Not so much.
I’m not the type to whine. This was a marketing experiment, and I’m glad I dipped my toe in the Kindle Select pool. And, there were inherent process issues against me. I’m an Indie. I’m an unknown. The story may have been too short (although, I thought, for free under a Kindle Select membership, that wouldn’t matter). But in this pool, a shark took my toe, my leg, and pooped them out in the deep end.
I also wanted an opportunity to start my fantasy writing. I find that genre has a wider base than the Military Sci-Fi market has for my other work.
All this knowing that I still have not completed the ‘magic number’ acknowledged by most successful Indies by my research: Three Full Novel Titles In My Genre.
Bone was released on Dec. 20th, 2014. It contained about four pages of promotional material, with links to my other writing, and about four pages of story. It has an awesome cover by the brilliant Dylan Edwards, and, in my humble opinion, is really quite good for a short.
On December 21st, 2014, all downloads of Juris stopped dead and have never recovered.
I thought it was a glitch, or lead-in to Christmas, or celestial working of ancient, playful, blind Gods.
All of my work over 2 years digging through The Algorithm in KDP was undone in one night by signing up to Kindle Select. And, to challenge my sanity even further, I was now locked in for three months.
KDP Select destroyed the momentum I had built with my other titles. Free DL’s flatlined, and only now, FIVE MONTHS later, has the ‘once a day a new reader finds me’ process staggered back out of the KDP Select Sales Shredding machine. It’s wobbly and bleeding, but has started taking baby steps for me, as long as I promise not to do that again.
No problem with that commitment.
Because, after 3 months, Bone obtained ONE download.
And that person did not read the required 30%.
So, lesson learned there. KDP Select is not the system for me. At least not now, and not for my work in the Fantasy Genre.
Bone is now released from the KDP Select isolation chamber. Amazon refuses to price-match it to free (like they did for Juris Lunence), so I gave it the cheapest price they allow, and left it on Amazon. It’s completely free on Kobo.
So, from all things, lessons.
KDP is great for some. Not for me.
I got the coolest new cover yet out of the deal.
And, during my promotional blitz, when Bone ran for free, it was downloaded in Japan, so we cracked another country.
We are retrofitting the cover, and I’m hard at work on several short story projects (more on that in future posts) that is a construct for an anthology to introduce my fantasy novel series.
Bend bad things into lessons, use lessons for good things.
Such is life.
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