Sunday, March 19, 2017
For those of you not familiar with a Hobbit Birthday Party it goes like this...
My birthday is coming up on March 30th, but instead of asking for presents I'm giving one away to anyone who wants it. The present in this case is a FREE Kindle copy of "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home"! The catch... none.
I simply want to get the newest installment of the Para-Earth Series into the hands of as many readers as possible, because word-of-mouth is THE best promotion tool out there.
So stay tuned and start spreading the word. It all begins on March 30th and will last until midnight April 3rd. That's a whole five days to grab a copy and meet the newest vampyre in town. What is he like?
For starts, he does NOT sparkle. He's much more your traditional style of vampyre: drinks blood, sleeps in dirt, shape-shifts (animals, mist, etc.). Best of all but he's a hundred and fifty years of fun with life experience both here and in other versions of Earth. Want to learn more?
You can check out some of the free short stories over at his Blog site:
Or take a sneak peek into the novel itself at:
So start spreading the word and marking your calendar to take advantage of this opportunity. You'll be glad you did...
Friday, March 10, 2017
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Isaac Asimov is well known for his extremely numerous writing contributions to science and science fiction. But not everyone knows he was also a mystery author and regular contributor to Ellery Queen Magazine, as well as a few others. His most famous crime sleuths never actually went to a crime scene, nor did they go into police headquarters and announce they had cracked an important case.
No, these amateur sleuths, who call themselves the Black Widowers because once a month they come together for a dinner of just themselves and one invited guest, a man. Women are not allowed to attend this function, hence their nickname. For one night a month they can enjoy just the company of each other without female company, not that they object to women. It's simply their own little club. The members of this little club are based on friends from the author's own life and are listed here:
- Geoffrey Avalon, a patent attorney (based on L. Sprague de Camp)
- Emmanuel Rubin, a mystery novelist and acquaintance of Isaac Asimov (based on Lester del Rey)
- James Drake, a chemist (based on Dr. John D. Clark)
- Thomas Trumbull, an expert in cryptography for the United States government (based on Gilbert Cant)
- Mario Gonzalo, an artist, who usually draws a portrait of the evening's guest (based on Lin Carter)
- Roger Halsted, a high school mathematics teacher, fond of jokes and limericks (based on Don Bensen)
- Henry Jackson, the club's waiter, was not based on an actual person, but according to Asimov was inspired by PG Wodehouses character Jeeves.
At each meeting a guest is brought by one of the members and after being served an excellent meal, are then 'grilled' by the group, usually by being asked "How do you justify your existence...?" What happens in the first story sets the stage for the rest of the tales within the pages of this excellent work.
A puzzle is presented to the Black Widowers who systematically try to help find the answer to their guest's dilemma. In the end, it is the esteemable Henry who provides the final solution to each of the twelve tales you will find here. Each story is presented fairly and the reader is supplied all the hints that the Black Widowers are given. Although Henry supplies the answer, he always credits the club members for having helped eliminate all the other options, allowing him to discover the final solution.
My personal favorite in this collection is "The Acquisitive Chuckle" which is also the 1st story. In it we learn a great deal about our hosts and even more importantly we gain keen insight into their wondrous butler Henry, a scrupulously honest man, but who is not above delivering a little payback to an old partner.
There is one puzzle that involves a death of one of the club member's sister, which is touching and bittersweet, but handled very well.
As for the rest of the tales, each has its own flavor and unique outcome. I can safely say that they are wonderful puzzles that will keep you guessing and wondering. But at the same time it is the interplay between the characters will also keep you smiling and laughing.
There are 5 books in this series and I will tell you right now, each one is a 5-Star read. I intend to review each of them as in the near future.
Wednesday, February 8, 2017
Have you ever felt like you would never fit in? Of course you have, we all have at one point or another. But for some this is not simply being awkward socially, but much more. For 10 year old Matica, the problem is a physical one. She is not growing. Despite her age and having a younger brother, Matica has the body of a much younger child which has made her life a real challenge as far as making any friends in the little village in Peru where her parents are missionaries trying to help the local tribe. The tribe finds Matica's situation strange and tend not to associate with her, making her more lonely than ever.
However, Matica does have knack for making friends. In this case its a pair of condors, which seems to fascinate the local villagers. But they are even more surprised when the bond between the undersized girl and the huge birds becomes so strong that when their egg is threatened by poachers they allow her to watch over and care for it. Soon the egg hatches and Talon is born. The villagers are more impressed than ever by the young girl as she helps raise the young condor, becoming an expert on the birds and soon Matica finds herself no longer the source of curious glances but a bit of a celebrity. But her true love for family and her condors never takes a backseat to this new status. Her dedication to both her families is unwavering and continues to grow just as quickly as Talon who is soon big enough and strong enough to take flight. But is he powerful enough to grant Matica's most secret wish?
Aimed at preteens, this is a story that can be enjoyed by any age. As I said at the beginning of this review, we've all felt out of place and thought we'd never find where we truly belong. Matica's journey is a tale that everyone can relate to. Sometimes its not finding where YOU fit in, but making a place for yourself in the world and watch it start swarming towards you.
This is such a wonderful tale, I have not problem giving it the 5-Star rating it deserves. I'm even more delighted to know that this is only the first installment. As of the writing of this review, there are four more books in the series. Needless to say, I'll be adding them to my library and more reviews will come with time.
And now I will take my hat off to the author Gigi Sedlmayer, may she, Talon, Matica and the rest of this fine cast soar high and far for many years to come.
Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Having finally gotten moved out of my old apartment at CSUMB, and into a new one, I can finally start getting back to regular postings here. I'm not taking any classes this semester either which also frees me up to do more writing in the future. And let me tell you all, I've been feeling the itch something fierce. Some days I think of myself as a parent whose been neglecting his kids, and I've hated it. But this doesn't mean I haven't been thinking and plotting like crazy. Once I get going again, which will be soon, look out. I've got plot twists and turns that will make a game of Twister played by a bunch of octopuses, look boring.
However, I haven't only been thinking about story ideas, I've been thinking about some of my recent experiences with one of my collaborations. Those who've been regular readers have already been introduced to my high school buddy and partner in crime Rich Caminiti.
We've been working on an unusual story that involves certain historic events in the 1800's and mixing mythical beings from not one but several cultures. While this may sound complicated, the way we've been working the story all of this makes sense and will take the reader on one of the wildest adventures you've ever read.
But how we've gotten this far is the real topic today. Our collaboration has been one of friendship, respect, consideration, and trust. Rich and I are able to raise questions about ideas the other has come up with, without fearing for our friendship. But how we approach these things is the key. Being the more experienced writer, I'm more used to scrapping ideas or changing things in mid-stream if it's not working for the story. However, not every idea has to be scrapped. Sometimes they just have to be approached in a different way.
Recently, Rich was designing a scene where our two male protagonist characters (he created one, while I gave life to the other) were having a heated discussion about how to tackle facing an enemy that seemed unstoppable. I was not keen on this concept at first because it seemed to be a cliche namely "Two alpha males butting heads, but their friendship will survive... yadda- yadda..."
Now as a rule, I try to avoid cliches. In fact I may set up scenes that seem like they're going down a familiar path and then stand it on its head and shock the reader with something very different. I was almost tempted to talk him out of using the scene, but held my tongue because he'd worked so hard and was so keen on the idea. So I kept my own counsel for a while and my mind kept going back to the problem. Finally, I started thinking about the situation from the point of view of the "Alpha" I had created. It occurred to me that what was troubling me with this scene was the fact that my character does not have an "Ego" per se. He's not really human so he does not always act or react the way one would expect. Yet by the same token, he has been a leader of packs before. Many times in fact. But he has also relinquished that role because he knows when the pack is relying too much on him, instead of its own kind.
With this in mind I saw the scene Rich had created with new eyes. The two alphas are surrounded by officers and soldiers who are waiting to be told how to take on their enemy. My alpha who I call "Hunter" is already held in high esteem by these men and knows they are looking towards him. But deep down he feels his cohort is better suited to lead this 'pack' and allows the tension to grow so that his comrade will be seen in a new light.
When I suggested this angle to Rich his face lit up as we Skype'd. The whole scene took on a new meaning and direction that he absolutely loved and started running with it. Hunter's decision not to be leader becomes even more poignant when it is revealed that he needs his friend to lead the charge on one front, while he takes on the enemy on another front in a battle that will literally shake the heavens.
I love working with Rich for many reasons. He's created some excellent scenes that I've been able to build upon and vice versa. Our collaboration is unusual in the fact that we each work on different sections of the story, while keeping one another posted on what's happening so the other can refer back to those events or have characters react to them.
We also discuss scenes where our characters are together and plot out how to have things unfold then one will write the scene and allow the other to make adjustments for dialogue or behavior that is more fitting for certain characters. This of course means it takes us longer to finish a story, but the results have been really impressive. We each bring certain strengths to our endeavor such as his expertise in military manuevers, weapons, chain of command, historical facts, etc. While I focus on more of the paranormal, or unusual, personalities, behaviors, and making stories go in unexpected directions. Together we are a stylish team...
Um... well sort of stylish I guess.
Anyway, the thing is with collaborations its important not to get too wedded to certain ideas. You're a team. The story is what's important. Check your egos at the door. And if there's something you don't agree on, let it simmer. Explore and examine the issue from multiple angles and take a variety of approaches. Maybe in the end it does need to go, but maybe not. Be ready to compromise without being a doormat. You're a team. Work as one and be prepared to work and rework the story, just like you would one you did completely on your own.
When I write with Rich, or my wife Helen, I want them to shine just as much if not more than me. I want their contributions and inspirations to be seen and applauded. Just because I've got more stuff out there than they have, doesn't mean I have all the answers because I don't. But I'm more than willing to be taught by them, as they are to learn from me as we continue our writing journey together.
That's all I've got to say for this entry. If you've had any experiences with collaborations and wish to share them, please put them in the comment section below. We're all here to learn from one another.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
*Before delving into the discussion, I wish to apologize for the long delay in posts. Currently my wife/co-author and I have been looking for a new place to live which has taken much longer than we'd hoped. Furthermore, I started this discussion just before the holidays and we all know how distracting they can be. Our search for a new place continues, so don't be surprised if future postings are few and far between. Once we're settled I hope to get back onto a regular schedule, as there are many topics I have in mind I wish to share with you all. Thank you for your patience and understanding. Now on to the discussion...*
When I last posted I had shared how Helen and I received a Kindle Fire for Christmas back in 2015 and that I had started learning more about how to use it and to download books. Again, many of you thought, "That's it we've lost him. Good-bye paper, hello electronic..." But that did not come to pass. It took me a little while to get used to the page turning abilities and how many paragraphs there are on an e-page (usually less than in a typical printed book from what I can tell). The simple swiping of the pages on the Kindle really threw me for a long while, because I'd accidentally go to far and would then have to slowly swipe back to get to where I needed to be. Then recently I learned there was a simple App already on the Kindle that when used would simulate the turning of a SINGLE page and even had the sound effect of a paper page turning which solved that problem for me.
Yet, I still enjoyed pulling out my paperbacks and hardback copies of books. As a writer, its much more satisfying to smell a book, and feel the cover in your hands, as well as actually be able to put your signature inside a physical book. But as the days have drawn on and Helen and I have had to start packing in anticipation of moving to a new place, I really took notice of how many books we had.
Every bibliophile reading this knows exactly what I'm talking about. You find sometimes you have more (heavy) boxes of books than you do most other things as you pack. Plus you find yourself wondering, "Am I really going to re-read or need ALL of these?" This question came up several times... okay I lie, it came up a LOT of times in the last few weeks. Part of the solution for us was to sell some of our less desired collection to book stores for "Store Credit". Yes, the collection will expand once more in the near future MWAHAHAHAH! But in the meantime it meant less boxes for us to take with us. Yet, we still found we had more than we actually had room for. The solution to our problem came in the form of our recently acquired Kindle. Many of the larger books in our collection were anthologies which were rather heavy in some cases. Now, in case you haven't heard, both Helen and I suffer from Fibromyalgia which means we're in pain and our muscles do not always act the way we wish them to. On some days, holding one of those heavier volumes could be more of a discomfort than a pleasure as we tried to forget our physical pain. So we replaced most of those books with e-book versions, allowing us to keep the stories we loved but manage them more comfortably.
I believe most of you can already see where this is going.
Also, during the recent holiday season I had heard that famous song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Andy Williams on the radio which brought a new thought to mind. There is the passage, "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmasses long, long ago..." which had always struck a chord with me. Why ghost stories at Christmas? I already knew from my mother who had been born and raised in England that this was a tradition back there, that stretched long before Dicken's "A Christmas Carol". So I began researching and found that this was indeed true and even learned there were collections of Christmas Ghost Stories out there. Many of them were out of print, BUT could be obtained for the Kindle. So I wound up getting several collections really cheap on Amazon (free or for just .99 cents) and have been enjoying tales from famous writers such as Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, Ambrose Pierce, and many many others )who I'll be covering in future entries).
However in the case of Mr. Blackwood, I got a collection of ALL his works in one volume. Now let me tell you this is a BIG collection, which would've translated into either a book with very tiny print or a really large and heavy book which may have wreaked havoc on my Fibromyalgia. So getting it in e-book form was just right for me.
Yet when I take a bath or am relaxing on break at work, I love to pull out a lightweight hardcover or paperback and enjoy myself. Having a Kindle has not ended my love of reading, but merely allowed me to have another avenue to enjoy books with less strain.
So as you can see, I have learned to use my Kindle as a tool. It permits me to deal with my physical limitations, while also allowing me to see how the latest book I'm putting out appears to e-reader fans. I get to see firsthand how the layout is looking for myself and make whatever adjustments are needed before releasing the story for others to enjoy. In fact, I order physical proof copies, as well as electronic ones, because I want to make sure my readers are getting a good product that they can be proud to own and feel like they got their money's worth.
As you can see, for me there is no Print vs E-book struggle. It all depends on how you choose to build and maintain your collection.
That's all for now. So until next time my friends, take care and keep writing.
Monday, January 2, 2017
****HAPPY NEW YEAR ONE AND ALL****
To help start the new year off on a good note, we've lowered the price of all 3 books in the Para-Earth Series to just 99 cents (just the e-book versions mind you, I'm not THAT generous) for the entire 1st week of 2017.
So from now until midnight January 7th, 2017, you can get any one of these 4 and 5 star rated books: "The Bridge", "The Ship", or"The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home", for just a third of their normal price ($2.99). And remember, you can also gift one of these to anyone who has a birthday or other special occasion coming up.
"The Bridge" is where it all begins as Alex Hill, reluctant psychic, and his girlfriend Police Sergeant Veronica Ross investigate what starts out as a simple car wreck but becomes much more. Soon their friends Julie Cloudfoot, niece of a Seneca shaman, and Cassandra Elliott a billionaire heiress with psychic talents and a ghostly guardian, join them to learn what has been drowning people inside cars and empty rooms. Their journey will bring them face to face with a threat that is of Earth, just not this one.
The adventures continue in "The Ship" where we find Julie and Cassandra heading to Santa Cruz California to bring the ashes of Julie's late uncle, and family shaman, to his children for a proper send off. The two women are also hoping to learn if their new romantic relationship is destined to be. As it turns out their desire to be together will be tested much sooner than they'd hoped. For not only are they being stalked by a mysterious white-haired man who has been haunting Cassandra for the past year, they also come face-to-face with a new Para-Earth threat from the sea. A legendary ghost ship aptly nicknamed "The Deathship" has arisen from water and is now hunting Cassandra. It's goal, to make her a part of itself in a most horrifying fashion. Now the two women must rely on family and ghostly ancestors to thwart the nightmare vessel by launching an all-out attack from the decks of a concrete boat from World War I.
In "The Vampyre Blogs - Coming Home" we are introduced to Nathaniel Steward, who at the age of 16 left home to fight in the Civil War. During the battle, an event takes place that changes him and the course of his life forever. Forced to drink blood, and avoid the light of day as much as possible, he spends the next 150 years wandering the world helping others using his newfound talents of shape-shifting, turning into mist, being practically unkillable, and aging ever so slowly. But when the house he grew up in is slated for the wrecking ball he comes home to claim his birthright, not knowing that an old foe, a being he battled in the same Para-Earth where he was forever changed, has entered this world. And now it is hunting him to finish their fight and anyone who stands by him. For he is the only thing that can stop it from devouring the dead, while making more, so it can slowly envelope the entire world.
All three books are available in Kindle, Nook, Apple, Sony, PDF (for desktop/laptop computer users), phones, etc. Just click on the appropriate link below to get the one that works for you:
Nook, Apple, Sony, Kobo, PDF (for laptop/desktop) and all other e-readers:
Saturday, December 10, 2016
With the holidays coming fast, I thought now was the perfect time to cover a topic I'd hinted at many times: Print books vs. E-books.
I will be the first to say that when e-readers came out I was more than a little skeptical. I really didn't think they would take off the way they had. Online newspapers I could see, because for one thing it was a great way of lessening the amount of paper going into landfills (in spite of the fact that me and great number of people out there try to recycle). However, I also saw it as a chance for less trees to be cut down because let's face it, a number of them were being taken down in spite of all the paper recycling (yes I'm very much into 'green' living and recycling). But I digress. At the time I really did not see a lot of benefit coming from making books electronically available.
Besides, I was already in love with bookstores. They're like a magnets to me and my wife Helen. And the books inside are like mint to a cat (catnip for those who don't get the reference), we go bonkers over books. So you can understand why the concept of electronic books did not really capture my fancy... at first.
However, things began to change when I tried my hand at writing. I went the traditional route, looking for an agent, getting rejected, and so on and so forth for three years. During that time I was told time and again I had something unique and interesting (i. e. my Para-Earth Series), BUT it was too unique. I had crossed too many genres to the point that even agents who were interested had no idea who to try and sell the idea to. Most publishers have been quite strict about genres and from what I understand still are. So I had to take a few steps back and have a really long think about what to do.
I could go back and whittle certain elements out and make the story a more traditional horror, or a mystery, a paranormal tale, or a work of pure science fiction. But none of that appealed to me. The people who had read or heard about what I was creating were fascinated BECAUSE I had created something entirely new and different. To lose any of those elements would be tantamount to killing the entire series before it began.
Meanwhile, Helen and other writer friends had been talking about going the independent author route and use Createspace or some other print/electronic publishing system. I'd be responsible for my own marketing, but as I found out through research, most traditionally published authors were responsible for their own marketing these days as well. Unless you had the power of Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, or some other mega-star author, most publishers don't help out as much as they used to.
So I took the plunge and "The Bridge" saw the light of day. As expected, I soon found e-sales rocketing while traditional paperbacks were only so-so. This disappointed me in some ways, but I found the benefit of still having paperbacks available a benefit. Because there are no substitutes for owning a SIGNED edition of a book in the eyes of even the most devoted e-reader fan.
Still I did not invest in any e-readers. Oh from time to time I thought about it, just to see how my own works appeared so I could see if the formatting held up to the transition (I'm very particular about my work looking right for my readers). But I still bought paperbacks and haunted used bookstores left and right.
Then last Christmas something unexpected happened. Helen and I were given a Kindle by her mother as a gift.
Helen took to it right away for its photographic capabilities, while I was pleased but slightly hesitant. I guess a part of me was afraid just touching it would lead to me falling out of love with my beloved books. But over time I found the internet function useful, but still I resisted trying to read a book on it. The screen 'felt' too small and I didn't like not being able to see how much was left to read in each volume. (I've since learned how to know the # of pages left) But still, I held back.
Then some of my fellow writers online were offering free copies of their books for an honest review in return. Some had done this for me and I wanted to return the favor. Plus, with our finances being so tight, a free-read seemed acceptable. (also in one or two cases, they only had e-versions of their books) So I began downloading a couple of freebies and proceeded to read.
I soon became quite comfortable with using the Kindle and even found my reading speed increasing, much to my surprise. Eventually I started actually buying some new e-books every so often.
Now, I suspect you're all thinking "That does it! He's hooked. Good-bye paper, HELLO Electronic!"
To find out, you'll have to tune in next week when I complete this two-part entry. Please understand I'm not just doing things this way because I'm hoping to really boost my numbers. This topic is lengthy and I don't want one entry to become as long as the classic "War and Peace". So please sit tight and I'll be back next weekend or sooner to finish my tale about print vs electronic and what the results turned out to be.
Until then, take care and keep writing!