Pre-Order: The Falconer’s Stairs

It’s official.  The release date is set, and The Falconer’s Stairs (Glimmer Vale Chronicles #5) is now up for pre-order everywhere.

Jared Tolburt twice almost cost Raedrick Baletier and Julian Hinderbrook their lives: once when he turned on them while they were fleeing the Army, and again when he unwittingly led a group of bandits into Glimmer Vale.  While fighting off the bandits, Raedrick and Julian found a cryptic, magically protected letter that hinted at the location of a great treasure.  Now, with help from Melanie Klemins, Lydelton’s resident mage, Tolburt intends to claim that treasure for his own.

The treasure is hidden far away from Glimmer Vale, and guarded by both physical and magical obstacles.  With Raedrick unable to travel due to his wife’s pregnancy and Melanie eager to assist Tolburt in his quest, Julian has to do the last thing he ever wanted: travel with and help the man he trusts least in the world.

Far from their home and beset with dangers of all kinds, Julian, Melanie, and Tolburt will have to depend on each other even to survive, let alone succeed in their quest for The Falconer’s Stairs.

But Tolburt already sold Julian out once when the going got tough.  What’s to say he would not do it again?

The sale price is $4.99, and the release date is 15 April.  Members of my Advanced Reviewers Program will receive their review copies by next Sunday, 26 March.

So go, grab a copy.  Read, enjoy, and leave a review somewhere!

🙂

Cover Reveal: The Falconer’s Stairs

Howdy folks.

Today I present the cover to my upcoming release: The Falconer’s Stairs (Glimmer Vale Chronicles #5).  Art done by the estimable Jim Beveridge, who I contracted through Lucky Bat Books.

Jared Tolburt twice almost cost Raedrick Baletier and Julian Hinderbrook their lives: once when he turned on them while they were fleeing the Army, and again when he unwittingly led a group of bandits into Glimmer Vale.  While fighting off the bandits, Raedrick and Julian found a cryptic, magically protected letter that hinted at the location of a great treasure.  Now, with help from Melanie Klemins, Lydelton’s resident mage, Tolburt intends to claim that treasure for his own.

The treasure is hidden far away from Glimmer Vale, and guarded by both physical and magical obstacles.  With Raedrick unable to travel due to his wife’s pregnancy and Melanie eager to assist Tolburt in his quest, Julian has to do the last thing he ever wanted: travel with and help the man he trusts least in the world.

Far from their home and beset with dangers of all kinds, Julian, Melanie, and Tolburt will have to depend on each other even to survive, let alone succeed in their quest for The Falconer’s Stairs.

But Tolburt already sold Julian out once when the going got tough.  What’s to say he would not do it again?

The Falconer’s Stairs is scheduled for release on 15 April.  Pre-orders will start in the next couple of days.

Wedding Gifts

I’ve been teasing everyone about the next book in the Glimmer Vale Chronicles for a long time now.  But no kidding, The Falconer’s Stairs is just about done.  Finally.  We’re targeting 15 April for the release.  But in the meantime, I’ve another little morsel to tell everyone about.

I wrote a short story in the Glimmer Vale Chronicles world for an anthology that I ended up not participating in because of scheduling issues.  It’s called Wedding Gifts, and it’s set between Robbed Blind and The Falconer’s Stairs.  In light of the impending release of the next book, that story is now up for Pre-Order everywhere that it can be (for some reason, Barnes and Noble doesn’t let us do pre-orders yet).  Release will be Wednesday, 15 March.

(Not a very extensive pre-order, I know.  Does it really need to be, though?)

Here are the details:

It’s three hours until the wedding of Raedrick Baletier to Lani Millens, and Melanie Klemins doesn’t have a present for them.  Not for lack of trying.  She had an enchantment all ready to go for Raedrick’s new cloak, but one simple mistake sent the cloak flying away out the window under its own power.

So now it’s up to Julian Hinderbrook to find the cloak and retrieve it, or the wedding will be ruined and the couple’s magical day tarnished forever.

No pressure, right?

Wedding Gifts is a 4,600 word short story, about 15 printed pages.  It is set between Books 4 and 5 of the Glimmer Vale Chronicles.

It’s $0.99 for the general public.  I sent a free copy to my mailing list, and I’ll also be giving a copy to all of my Patreon patrons (of all levels).

Enjoy!

Oregon Coast Anthology Workshop

I did not post here much in February.  Nor did I write much of anything in February.  Why?

Well, as you will recall from my January posts, I was writing a story per week for the Anthology Workshop up in Lincoln City, Oregon, put on by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.  I got all six stories written by the end of January.  But then I had to read all the stories.  As in, ALL the stories, written by all forty of the writers coming to the workshop: 240 stories in total, adding up to about 1.2 million words of fiction.

That’s a lot to read in one month.  Especially when you have a Navy job, a wife, four kids, sleep, and a desire to keep in shape at the same time.  As a consequence, I wrote nothing new last month.  And thus I really had nothing to tell you guys here on the blog.  Because the other thing is the rule of the workshop is no one is allowed to talk about the stories, in any way whatsoever, except for the panel of six editors who were buying for the anthologies.

Of course, there were more than six anthologies being made.  Yes, there were the six Fiction River anthologies that we wrote stories for.  But also, the latest Fiction River kickstarter funded an Editor Saves anthology, meaning a seventh Fiction River.  And there was also a secret surprise (not secret anymore because it’s been announced): Dean and Kris are bringing back Pulphouse, the magazine they used to run back in the 90s.  Dean’s the primary editor for it, and he was buying for it during this workshop as well.

So there was a lot going on last week.

Man, I had a ton of fun at the workshop.  And I learned a ton, too.

The first thing I learned was how quickly an editor HAS to get through a manuscript.  I mean, I knew they got tons of submissions, and had to make decisions quickly.  But it didn’t really sink in viscerally until I had to go through more than a million words in a month.  At first I knuckled down and tried really hard to read each and every story all the way through.  But then I realized 2 weeks had gone by and I was halfway through the second anthology’s submissions…and I had 4 anthologies to go.  After that, I found myself giving the stories a page, maybe two.  If they didn’t grab me in that time, I was off to the next one.

Which is what I’d been told editors do routinely.  That always struck me as a bit asshole-ish.  But when sheer practicality smacks you in the face like it did last month, you learn that there’s really no other way to go about it.

The other thing I learned is just how subjective all this Fiction stuff really is.  I mean, I knew it before, but it was enlightening to watch the six editors give their opinions on the various stories: how seldom they all agreed on what they liked and would buy and what they didn’t, and how seldom I agreed with them.

Also illuminating was how many truly wonderful stories were not purchased, just because the editor wasn’t sure how to fit them into the anthology, or because they didn’t meet the editor’s vision for the anthology’s tone.  The writer would most likely not hear that in the rejection letter: it would just be a “Sorry, this didn’t work.”  But it definitely showed how often rejection is not a comment on the quality of the story itself but more the vagaries or taste, or sometimes of something completely beyond the writer’s control (like the editor hates fairy stories but you had no way of knowing that, or the editor had already committed to buying a story with a very similar theme or feel from a NAME author to the one you submitted, and so the editor can’t buy yours too….things like that).  But writers often choose to view everything as a personal reflection of themselves as writers and as people.

Which goes to the narcissism of writers.  But that’s an entirely different topic, altogether.

Anyway, I got some good comments on my stories, and some good constructive feedback on them as well.  And as one day lead to the next I didn’t sell any.  Until Friday, when the story I wrote for Fiction River: Spies! came up.  I thought I had done a good job on this one, but I made the mistake of re-reading it the night before.  And immediately, I thought, “Oh crap, I didn’t put enough setting in.  Well, so much for that.”

Well, it came time for the feedback.  Dean said, “Man, this was smooth.  It just pulled me all the way through and it was completely satisfying.  I’d buy it.”  The other editors gave similar feedback, but three out of four had some criticism to offer.  And then it came to Kris, who’s editing the Anthology.  She said when she saw I was coming that she was hoping I’d write a story like this.  It held her and she liked it, but she put it on the maybe list because she wasn’t sure if she’d remember it.

But then that morning she went back through, and she remembered it completely.  So she bought it for the Anthology.

CHA-CHING!!!

In case you guys are keeping score (and judging by this website’s page hits, you’re not), that is my first professional fiction sale ever.

Needless to say, I felt very good about it.  I was grinning ear-to-ear, and I soaked up the applause that everybody gives to someone who makes a sale at the workshop.  Later, during the next break, I spoke with Dean, and he said, “You know, you just conquered probably the toughest editor on the planet.”  I hadn’t thought about it that way, but she is the only person to have won Hugos for both her writing and her editing, so he has a very valid point there, doesn’t he?

Yeah, that felt really good.

Which is not to say the week was completely fun and nothing else.  I was battling health issues the second half of the month.  In fact, I was diagnosed with pneumonia the weekend before I had to drive up to Lincoln City.  The Doc put me on bed rest for a couple days, and gave me a Z-pack (antibiotics) and some other meds.  But he said I would be ok to go to the workshop, so I went (I probably would have gone anyway, stubborn as I am, and maybe he saw that.  Or maybe not).  Regardless, the Z-pack did its job and I was pretty much all better when I started the drive up.  But man, Oregon is chilly compared with San Diego, and it was wet and damp all week.  I had a bit of a relapse the first few days.  But I got better, and by the time I left I was pretty much good to go.  Then I got back to San Diego and the cough got worse again.

Freaking changes in climate, I tell you.

Now the cough is down to the annoying dry, hacking, unproductive cough that I always get after a cold or other illness.  It generally lasts for a month or two, and there’s never anything the Docs can do about it.  A couple years ago, they diagnosed it as a form of asthma, actually.  Just something I have to deal with.

That’s the other reason I didn’t get any writing done last month: all that reading plus illness was a bad combination.

But getting back to the workshop, I had a ton of fun, even with the cough.  I learned a lot.  And I will have made some money, and a pro sale, out of it as wlel (not enough money to cover the expense of the journey…this time…but it was still worth it).  I’ve already asked Dean to pencil me in for next year’s workshop, and I fully intend to be there.  And since I’m done with the Navy in a few short months, there ought to be no reason I cannot go.

🙂

So that was my February, and the first several days of March.

I’ve got some more cool things to tell you guys.  But that will have to wait for another blog post.  This one is far too long already.

So until next time, have a great fun time, everyone.  Go read a story (make it one of mine though, will ya?  😉  ).  Hit the Patreon link below and send a brother a buck or two a month to keep doing what I’m doing.

And I’ll see you next time.

Bu-Bye!

🙂

 

March Patron Support

I was fairly quiet here in February.  A couple reasons for that, all of them good, and I’ll fill all y’all in over the next day or two.  But for now, just wanted to let everyone know that I’ve posted this month’s short story for my Patreon supporters (or at least, the supporters who will someday show up.  😉  ).

So roll on over and check it out.

More to follow shortly.  In the meantime, have a great day.

A Story A Month

As I stated before, I give my Patreon patrons a short story every month.  I just posted this month’s story:

A single sock missing from the wash – the source of universal frustration and untold family bickering.

Justine never gave thought to what happened to those missing socks, and where they went. Until the day her mother sent her into the basement to change a load of laundry, and she learned the unbelievable truth behind it all.
It’s a little goofy, but it’s fun.  So go on over and become a patron, and then you can get this and every other story I post up.  Because I love you and want you to be happy.
🙂

Fitness Update

Hi guys!

I’ve got some exciting announcements to make, but I’ll save them for tomorrow.  For today, I’d like to check back in and discuss how things have been going in the fitness realm.

In a word: great.

I’m down 12 pounds since Christmas time.  That’s quite a bit faster than I intended; I set my daily calorie target in MyFitnessPal for a 1.5 lb/week loss, but what can I say?  Most days I’ve been coming in below that target, and I’ve been PTing quite a lot as well.  So instead I’m doing a bit more that 2 lb/week.  I’ll take that.  🙂

I’m also getting my pace back.  If you recall it’s been over a year since I was running consistently.  I’ve been taking it slow, because heel pain has started flaring up again, predominantly in my right heel.  So I’ll run and then take a couple days off, keeping it to shorter distances.  I found last week that running two days in a row produced…poor results.  🙁  Anyway, before my various injuries, my fastest 5k time (that I can recall) was 23:48.  I’ve got myself down to 26:26 now.  Not awesome, but not too far off my previous peak.  So that’s going well.

I’m also slowly getting better at boxing and jujitsu, and that’s wicked fun.  The guys at the gym are like, “Dude, you’re really slimming down!”  Yes.  Yes I am.

I’ve also been lifting, of course.  I brought my weights way down, to work my way back into it again, and I’ve been using the 5×5 strategy.  For transparency’s sake, here’s what I was lifting in my latest workouts:

  • Bench: 185 lbs
  • Squat: 225 lbs
  • Deadlift: 235 lbs
  • Overhead Press: 115 lbs
  • Standing Barbell Row: 130 lbs

I also do pull-ups during each session (at least 5 sets of 5, assisted with a band so I can get more reps in), and vigorously punch my heavy bag in between each set to keep my heart rate up.

Now, I agree those squat and deadlift weights are pretty bad.  In my defense, over the years I had almost completely neglected squat work, and never did any work on dead lifts at all until 2015 before I got injured.  Now, that’s a piss-poor defense, but there it is.  Still, I don’t find squatting 225 lbs particularly challenging (way back halfway through in High School, as a scrawny little guy, I maxed 260 lbs; I’m certain I can do that and more now).  The deadlift is tougher, but still I’m nowhere near failure while lifting that weight.  But as I said, I started light so as to not hurt myself and to focus on technique.

The 5×5 plan is to increase by 5 lbs each week, so very quickly I’ll be up to respectable weights in those areas.

That said, I am concerned by my lack of Power Rack as my squat weight gets larger and larger.  Losing it with 225 lbs would be bad enough without something to catch the bar.  Losing it with 300+ in six months’ time without a bar could be catastrophic.  I’m also going to have to get more plates: I have 310 lbs of plates now, but that will become insufficient before long.  So looks like I need to save up for new toys.

Poor me.

So that’s what’s up in the fitness realm.  Writing update, and announcements, in the next post.

Yeah, I Need Deadlines

Next month, I’m attending the annual Anthology Workshop that Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch put on each February in Oregon.  Basic premise of the workshop is they have several editors attending, and the writers are given assignments to write stories for 6 upcoming anthologies: 2 stories in December, 4 in January, one week to write each story.  Then we all send each other our stories and we all read them.  The editors read all the stories as well, and then at the workshop each editor tells why he or she liked or didn’t like each story, and then selects the stories he or she will buy for his or her anthology.  The anthologies are then published by WMG in the Fiction River series.

It’s a pretty cool deal.  I was going to attend the workshop last year, but I had to cancel because of changing work schedules for the Navy.  Not so this year: the schedule is set, my leave is approved, and I am going!

This week was the 5th assigned story.  Just like the other 4, I got it in before the deadline.  Just one more story to go, then the reading commences.

But here’s the thing.  I didn’t even start this story until about noon today, but I cranked it out (3,400 words) and had it in to Dean before 4pm.  I could have started it earlier in the week.  Should have, even.  But…I didn’t.  I did a lot of other things this week, but not that.

3,400 words for the day is pretty decent.  It’s far from the most words I’ve ever written in a day, though (I think that record is about 9,000 or so, but it’s been a while so I could be off a bit).  Now, what’s stopping me from writing that many every day?  Well, going to work for the Navy, working out, time with the kids and wife.  You know, real life.  But still, given I write between 1,500 and 2,000 words/hour, there really is not good reason why I can’t get at least 1,000 per day.

Right?

Reflecting back, I got all the stories written, on time, for last year’s anthology workshop as well, before I had to pull out.  I then promptly failed to get much other writing done in the year until the fall, when the deadline for Blaze‘s anthology loomed near.

Here we have yet another data point that I simply must have external deadlines, or i will slack the hell off.  That’s why I set up my Patreon page: another deadline that I have to make.

Going forward, I’m going to look for more ways to set external deadlines for myself – hard deadlines that I cannot just push arbitrarily.  So, I suppose I’d best start putting titles up on pre-order.  Can’t move the release date (with Amazon at least), and if you miss the deadline for uploading the final manuscript there are serious consequences from the bookstores, to say nothing about from the readers.

And I’m also going to work on methods to kick myself in the tail to just sit down and write.  Because, seriously, there’s no excuse to not have production.  The real question is how to do that, effectively and consistently.  The answer is simple, of course: discipline and accountability.

Clearly I need to alter my process to force more of the later, to help myself regain some of the former.  And I’m going to, so I can make 2017 a really awesome writing and publishing year.

🙂

That’s all for now, folks.  Until next time!

My Letter To Congress

I decided to write my Congresswoman and Senators tonight.  Because.

Since I feel like sharing, here is the text of that email.

Hello Congresswoman,

I’m a legal resident of your district, though I currently live in CA because the Navy stationed me here. I’m writing to share a Civil Rights proposal that is probably 15 years overdue, and I hope you’ll seriously ponder it.

After 9-11, there was serious discussion about how to deal with airline security. That discussion has been revisited now because of the Ft Lauderdale shootings. Back in 2001, there was a proposal that could only be called common sense, but evoked much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth: why don’t we permit pilots to carry guns in the cockpit? If memory serves, eventually, after much demagoguing on both sides, this provision was put into law. I have no idea how many pilots actually carry, but frankly I feel better that they do.

Aside from that, every other provision that we as a nation took was not only nonsensical but arguably against both the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the nearly millennium-old traditions of British common law from which our system sprung. No one can seriously argue that the TSA is anything other than security theater and a jobs program, but we permit this agency to treat every person in the country as a suspect, and force us to submit to searches without probable cause to think we have committed, or are going to commit, a crime, just because we wish to exercise our natural and Constitutional rights to travel and engage in commerce.

This is more than absurd: it is a travesty, a usurpation in the worst degree. And it is a flagrant violation of the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution.

But what about security?

That is a legitimate concern. It is also one that can be addressed without treating every citizen as a criminal and spitting on our long-standing traditions and legal framework. Instead of the massive drain on the public coffers and the vivisection of the Constitution the TSA represents, I propose the following:

Allow all citizens who have a valid concealed carry permit, issued by any State in the Union, to carry his or her gun onto the plane, with the caveat that said weapon can only be loaded with frangible rounds of a type that Air Marshals use.

I know. This is an appalling proposal! How dare I even suggest it!

Consider this. Had we honored the US citizens’ natural and Constitutional right to keep and bear arms while they engaged in their natural and Constitutional right to travel on 9-11, and said citizens had been armed on, say, Flight 93, how different would that result have been?

It is impossible to know for sure, because counterfactuals are unprovable, but certainly the odds of a better outcome could only have improved.

But the Air Marshals might think the citizen is a bad guy and shoot him instead!

That is a risk. But considering the number of Air Marshals compared with the number of flights per day, that risk is small. Then again, if armed citizens can provide security on the plane (they have every incentive to do so as long as we don’t remove their ability to do so), why would we need Air Marshals? Perhaps this is (yet another) place we can trim the fat from the Federal Budget.

Please take some time and really think on this proposal.

Given the bill currently under consideration in the House to require national concealed carry reciprocity, and the widespread support it is gaining both in political circles and with the public, I think perhaps this is the right time to consider lifting the restrictions we have placed on Americans’ Civil Rights on airplanes as well.

Thank you for your time, and for the time of your staffers who are reading this (assuming it’s not a bot doing it – perhaps I’m being a tad cynical there, yes? 😉 ).

Best Wishes

Too much?

Not hardly enough, I think.  I have no illusions that the Congresswoman of Senators will actually read the note, or that anything will come of it.  But DAMN IT!  Especially residing in California as I am now, I am sick and tired of being treated like a criminal and having my natural rights stomped on just so some douchebag politicians can assuage their egos.

Whether or not concealed carry gets allowed on planes, one thing is for certain: the TSA needs to go.  It needs to go 15 years ago.

And then the entire Dept of Homeland Security needs to follow it.  It was an abomination when proposed, and has only grown worse over the years.  Get rid of it.

Zero chance this will happen.  But it would be nice if it did, because freedom.

You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me

I listen to a lot of podcasts and audiobooks.  Have done since….2005? There abouts.  That’s for podcasts, anyway.  Audiobooks, I came to later.  The first I can think of that I listened to was “Playing for Pizza” by John Grisham.  It’s MUCH different from his other lawyer novels, a great fun story about a pro football player who moves to Italy to play there.  He spends an entire chapter describing the various courses of an italian dinner – holy cannoli!

My mom gave me and my wife that book on disc as a gift, and we listened to it in the car as we drove from Maine to DC back in early 2008.

I didn’t really look into audiobooks again until 2010 or so, when I was stationed in upstate New York.  I was 8.5 miles from work, so I decided I would just ride my bicycle to and from work (when it was warm enough anyway).  To pass the time on wheels, I listened to podcasts, but I quickly decided to try out audiobooks too.  Fell in love.

I now listen to either an audiobook or a podcast any time I am driving, riding my bike, running, or working out.  Other people run or lift to music – I listen to a book.

As I said, I’ve been doing podcasts for longer, and I listen to a lot of them.  One that I’ve listened to consistently since about early 2011 when I was just getting into this writing gig is Mur Lafferty‘s “I Should Be Writing”.  I’ve never met Mur in real life, and I’ve only read a little bit of her work.  But I like her show and, from what I can tell of her from the show I think I’d like her in person.  I’m pretty sure we have extremely different views on a number of matters, but she seems to genuinely be a good person and I certainly appreciate how open she is on her show about her own struggles as she goes forward.  So I always “tune in” when she has a new show ready for the download.

That said, as I was listening to her latest show, #369, I would have choked from shock had I been eating or drinking something.  At about minute 33:30 in the first interview, she asked the guy why he wasn’t putting out some of his older work.  His answer, and I shit you not, was that he couldn’t because his contract forbids him from putting out any novels, anywhere, until the third book in his series is published.  Furthermore, he cannot even submit a book to anyone until the 3rd book is submitted and accepted.

Seriously, listen to it for yourself.

Dude just, apparently cheerfully, signed away his career, completely, for at least three to four years.  And I’ll guaran-damn-tee he got only a pittance for it.

I was utterly shocked.  Literally shouting at my cell phone as I drove, saying something along the lines of, “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

Dude justified it by saying that MacMillian 100% would not negotiate that point.  And Mur just said yep as though hey that’s how it is and what are you gonna do.

What are you gonna do?  How about you get someone with some negotiation skills to act on your behalf to get that shit out of the contract!  But if they really won’t budge on it (and I am extremely doubtful that is the case – more likely his agent couldn’t care enough to try, or wasn’t competent enough to know why it makes a difference), WALK THE HELL AWAY.  And if no one else will offer a deal without that sort of jackassery in it, just publish the damn thing yourself.

I know I shouldn’t be flabbergasted, but I am.  I mean, I’ve spent a lot of time over the last six years learning about the publishing business and how to not be a sucker.  And I have a tendency to assume others are as, for lack of a better term, curious as I am.  And I’ve been around so many savvy indie writers that it seems natural that others will follow suit.

Apparently not.

This dude seriously needed to have read Dean and Kris‘ blogs before he went for that contract.

Too late now, though.  He’s screwed.

Royally.

Don’t be that guy, folks.

*shudder*