Thursday, December 20, 2012

End of the World? Naw. End of the Year.

If the world ends, I guess this post will never see the light of day. But I'm willing to bet this blog, along with the rest of the world, will be just fine on December 21, 2012. With the holidays upon us, and the new year just around the corner, it's time to shut this baby down.

It has been a fantastic year. Lots happened. Mostly good. Some bad. Here's just a couple highlights:

1) My publisher decided to shutter its doors by the end of 2012, which left my book, Dragonfly Warrior, homeless. Luckily, I was able to get picked up by another publisher that I had met with late last year. It all worked out.

2) I participated in the Blogging A-Z Challenge for the first time where I did 26 posts about steampunk. It was tough, and I got a little burned out at the end, but I powered through it.

3) I was told that my company was closing its doors here, but wanted to move me to Pittsburgh. I initially accepted, but I changed my mind. I went after a job with a company I had long admired, and I was chosen. So now long distance move, AND I'm happier.

4) NaNoWriMo was something that I longed to do for eight years, but just never had the courage to do. I decided to throw my hat in the ring literally a day before it started. And I kicked that 50,000 word goal's ass. My NaNo project is my sequel to Dragonfly Warrior - and I just signed a contract for that book last week, titled Shadow Warrior.

5) I did a lot of ARC reading and editing this year. It was great to help others out. If time allows, I'd like to continue to help. And many of you helped me out with my blurb for Dragonfly Warrior. Thank you so much. I love this writing community!

6) Wanting to always learn and get outside my comfort zone, I decided to collaborate with the wonderful Mirandy Hardy. We're writing a YA paranormal romance together - something that I never thought I'd do. And I'm writing in 1st person. That's a far departure from what I normally do. It's going great, and we're almost done with our first draft. You'll hear more about our project in 2013 for sure.

7) I turned 40 on Wednesday. I don't feel much different. Still feel like a kid. I know I act like one often.

8) I'm moving the week of New Years, followed by a business trip to Colorado Springs January 7th, so this is my last post until January 11th. That's the longest hiatus I've taken in a couple years, and I will still visit all of you until then.

Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope you set some fantastic goals for 2013, and here's to reaching them together!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy in Newtown, CT

I wrote this post maybe five times, but I guess there are just no right words to say about what happened on Friday. As a human being, my heart breaks for the family and friends of those children, teachers, and administrators. As a father, I cannot fathom what those parents are going through. My youngest is 6 years old, and I shudder just thinking about what if it had been my child.

Gun control debates began almost immediately. And all kinds of speculation and digging into the life of the young man that took innocent lives makes for great news. I think people want to gather the facts, because these kinds of horrors just make no sense at all.

The only thing I will say about all of this is that we do need to re-examine how we treat those with mental illness. As a former teacher, I remember parents at their wits end with some of their teenage kids - some with very deep emotional issues that no one could seem to fix. They were told that nothing could be done until their child committed a crime - they needed to be charged with something in order to create a sort of paper trail and maybe get some real help.

There are parents that live in fear of their own child, and that's another whole tragedy right there.

I know I was griping about turning 40 on Wednesday, but wow, I feel like an ass complaining about such a thing. More than 20 lives will not see 40. Ever. And that is just so tragic. No matter how bad any of my gripes might be, they are trivial compared to the hurt those affected are going through.

This holiday season, let's hope and pray that good triumphs over evil - and that we never take for granted our fortunes AND even some of our "problems."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Introductory Introductions

Happy Friday! Hope you had a good week. I was on the road, driving all over God's creation. So glad I have time to sit down and get this post out into the interwebs, 'cause I got some introductions to make.

First up, FRACTION OF STONE cover reveal. Ta da!



Fraction of Stone by Kelley Lynn
Release Date: March 21st, 2013 by Sapphire Star Publishing
Genre: YA Fantasy
Book Description:

Wind tunnels, torrential rains and earthquakes tear apart Casden. The cause of the world’s imbalance is unknown, but the mounting occurrences suggest there’s little time before life ceases to exist.

Rydan Gale and Akara Nazreth are the only humans with the ability to wield magic. The tattoo on their necks and the discovery of an ancient book, dictate they are the key to the world’s survival.

But the greatest obstacle for saving mankind isn’t the bizarre creatures, extreme betrayals and magic-fearing men hunting them.

It’s that Akara doesn’t believe the world is worth saving.

Doesn't it sound so incredibly fantastic? And here's a little information about Ms. Kelley Lynn:

Eventually the day came when the voices in Kelley Lynn’s head were more insistent then her engineering professor’s. So instead of turning to her Thermodynamics book, Kelley brought up a blank page on her computer screen and wrote. Somewhere along the way she became a Young Adult author.

Kelley was born and raised a Midwestern girl. She’s not afraid to sweat and fills her free time with softball, soccer and volleyball. (Though you probably don’t want her on your volleyball team.) She occasionally makes guest appearances as a female vocalist for area bands.

You can find Kelley hanging out at her blog, as well as the group blog she shares with her fellow critique partners, Falling for Fiction. Kelley is a member of the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators.

Kelley Lynn's LinksBlog | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

CONTEST below. Click the link to enter the drawing for 2 ARCs of FRACTION OF STONE which you can enter to win at the bottom of this post! You can enter until December 14th at which point the winners will be chosen.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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I would also like to introduce you to Michael Ignacio. He's a fellow writer with Hydra Publications, and he happens to live in my state of Missouri (not Misery). 

He's also new to blogging, and you can find his new website at www.michaelignacio.com

And his last name, Ignacio, means Ignite in Spanish. Isn't that just kick ass? 

If you could, please say hi to Michael in my comments section and give him some advice/encouragement about writing, blogging, investing, driver's safety, water polo - WHATEVER!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Cheers, Cavanaugh Blogfest

A Blogfest to pay tribute to one awesome rockstar ninja of a blogger, Alex Cavanaugh begins TODAY! Mr. Cavanaugh is a bit of a mystery - no one know a whole lot about his private life - and hey, that's none of our biznass. He's got tons of followers, he gets almost 200 comments per post every day, and he makes an incredible effort to reach out to everyone.

And that is something to celebrate.

The blogfest asks us to answer four simple questions about Alex Cavanaugh. Although the man is an enigma, I carefully read every single post he's made in the last two years and used psychology, sociology, astrology, and a little biology in order to draw more concrete conclusions about this man in an effort to chip away at the myth behind the man.

So here we go!

1) What does Alex look like?
This is easy. Since we know he loves rock n' roll, and I saw quite a number of references to him playing an electric guitar, Alex is a dead ringer for Eddie Van Halen. Long dark hair, denim jeans, silly grin on his face, and an electric guitar in hand. I used skills that are normally employed by criminal illustrators in order to render this drawing below:


2) Who could play Alex in a documentary?
Although he looks just like Eddie Van Halen, the rock star couldn't play Alex in a documentary because #1 the guy cannot act, and #2 he's too old. I think Ewan McGregor looks just like him thought. So that would work!



3) Who does Alex remind you of?
Hmmm...I was going to say David Lee Roth, but I'll go with Eddie Van Halen for some strange reason. The name just popped into my head. Very random. They are both maestros at what they do, their talents are out of this world, so that's what comes to mind.

Did Eddie Van Halen ever don a ninja costume on stage?


4) Flash fiction using these words:
Cavanaugh, Ninja, IWSG, Cosbolt, Guitar

I decided to be VERY original and whipped this out of thin air:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents on Alex Cavanaugh's Cosbolt fighter — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent ninja-like gust of wind which swept up the streets, rattling along the housetops of bloggers finishing their IWSG posts, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the ignited electric guitar Alex played and struggled against the darkness.

Thanks Alex J. Cavanaugh, for all you do!


Monday, December 3, 2012

December Monday Blahs!

It's December!!!! I'm a big Christmas kinda guy. Love this time of year.

But it's Monday, and I'm already tired.

Oh, and I have to move the first week in January, which is starting to stress me out. Lots of stuff still need to be packed and all kinds of little things are bothering me. In my kitchen is a big refrigerator that no longer works. The ice maker literally caught fire and melted everything inside. Need to get that hauled away. Stuff I want to get rid of and sell....staring at me.

Looking at the calendar, I've also come to the realization I will turn 40 in sixteen days. It shouldn't bother me, but it kinda does. On one hand, I'm glad to be alive and I'm sure 40 will be good, but there's still a part of me that is full of anxiety. I mean, where the hell did the time go?

Okay, I need to pull myself out of this little funk by focusing on the positives. NaNo was good to me - and I got to meet some great writers. I'm going to purchase Scrivener and continue to network with others. I hope to just keep getting better. I framed my WINNER certificate. Yes, I'm such a geek. But hey, I'm proud!

I did a photo shoot yesterday with an amazing photographer. We shot at a very industrial-kinda place, so my photos will have a little steampunk feel to it, and I can't wait to see the final "products." Photoshop can make me look good, right?

Finally, here's my most recent version of my blurb. Thanks so much to everyone for their advice. I took everything everyone told me, and here's what I got so far:


Prince Kanze Zenjiro has enjoyed success and glory on the battlefield. The young warrior must now face the most dangerous challenge of his life. His homeland of Nihon is threatened by a foreign dominion. Zen must find a way to save his people and his kingdom.

The Iberian Empire has cast its tyranny over much of the world. Their steam powered giants and iron spiders saturate the battlefield with the blood of all who oppose their might. Now Iberia's greedy gaze turns towards the exotic lands of the Orient.

Armed only with his sword and a pair of six-guns, Zen is sent on a desperate quest. He finds himself on foreign soil, surrounded by dangers he never had imagined. Can he survive a cruel and merciless world ruled by machines and pirates? Will his faith and loyalty endure the ultimate betrayal?

What do you think? I think it's getting there. Any other words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

Happy Monday!!!

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Art of Condensing and The Jealousy Glass

I write big novels. What I can't do very well is write poetry, short synopses, short blurbs, or come up with taglines and slogans.

Maybe I'm just naturally verbose.

I needed to work on a much better blurb for my upcoming novel, Dragonfly Warrior. I have one, but it's just not very good. Also, I wanted to somehow condense 400 pages into one little tagline, which is like trying to poop out a watermelon.

After some help from a fellow writer, here's my blurb so far:

Off in the West, the ambitious Iberian Empire dominates kingdoms with never before seen technology, and all who oppose their dominion fall swiftly against their might. When the eyes of the Empire turn toward the exotic lands of the Orient, it is up to a young warrior prince to find the means of averting their greedy gaze and bring salvation to his people. Kanze Zenjiro embarks on a seemingly quixotic quest and endures an alien and unforgiving world ruled by machines and criminals.

It's much better than the five paragraph one I originally came up with. I'm a perfectionist, so I'd appreciate any help from all of you. Please. HELP!!!

Here's my tagline: Savage Machines Are Afoot

I'm really happy with that one. It's a little spin on a Sherlock Holmes quote, which plays on the steampunkiness of my book. It also focuses on the main theme of my series, The Mechanica Wars.

# # # #

I'd love to introduce you to Gwen Perkins. She's an amazing fantasy writer with Hydra Publications, and her latest novel, The Jealousy Glass has just gone live. Get it HEREGwen is a museum curator with a MA in Military History from Norwich University. She has written for a number of magazines, exhibitions and nonfiction publications. Her interest in history fueled the creation of the world of The Universal Mirror, inspired in part by people and events of the medieval and Renaissance periods.

BOOK BLURB:

"We came to stop a war before it came to Cercia.  And it seems the war has come to us."

Responsibility and patriotism spur Cercia's new leader, Quentin, to protect his beloved country at all costs and he assigns Asahel and Felix to serve as ambassadors and secret agents to Anjdur. Their journey quickly turns awry and Asahel and Felix barely escape a devastating shipwreck, walk a tightrope of political tension, and rescue an empress before they learn they must face an enemy closer to them than they thought.

Will they be able to uncover an assassin's plot before it's too late? Will Asahel be able to unearth a secret that is vital to their mission? Will Cercia survive its own revolution? In The Jealousy Glass, Perkins boldly continues a series of unforgettable characters and events that will leave you begging for more.


Isn't this a gorgeous cover???


Check out this incredible book trailer. It's fantastic!




The Jealousy Glass is the second book in Gwen's Artifact of Empire Series. You can find the first book, The Universal Mirror HERE.


You can also learn more about Gwen below.

Website & Blog: http://artifactsofempire.com
Twitter: @helleder
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Gwen-Perkins/227456783969902
G+: http://gplus.to/gwenperkins

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Formula For Awesome Stories: 7-Point Story Structure

Quick NaNoWriMo Update. Winner Winner Turkey Dinner! So glad I did NaNo after putting it off for so many years. I got to join 25 other writers at a fun "write-in" two weeks ago where we had raffles, enjoyed two large tables of goodies, and got to write together for seven hours. Current word count is near 85,000 words. I plan on continuing to write this rough draft, currently titled Shadow Warrior, and finish it by Christmas.

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I hope all of my fellow Americans had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This year, I am proud to say that I did not partake in ANY shopping this past weekend. I decided to enjoy myself and just hang out with the kiddos.

Looking at my blog, I noticed that I have not written about writing is a very long time. So I thought I'd share a little nugget of knowledge that I hope will help my fellow writers. Even if you're not a writer - it's still cool to know that almost all successful stories (movies, books, etc) follow this 7-Point Story Structure.

This blueprint for creating a fantastic story that will engage the reader (or viewer) is from Dan Wells, science fiction author of the Partials series and other books. Like many speculative fiction greats, this guy was born in Utah (seriously, what's up with that?).

The 7-Point Story Structure

1. Hook: This is where your main character is billions and billions of light years away from where she will end up eventually. Great examples I can think of are Luke Skywalker toiling on his uncle and aunt's moisture farm, or maybe Harry Potter stuck in an abusive family that hates him and he's stuck living under the staircase. Neo is just a hacker. Batman is just Bruce Wayne, a kid with a billionaire father. Superman is just an orphan baby shot through space.

2) Plot Turn 1: Something happens that pushes this main character forward. It's a call to action.

3) Pinch 1: An element of danger presents itself here. Pressure is turned up.

I have decided to become, Superman!
4) Midpoint: Turning point in the story where the main character goes from reacting to acting. This does not necessarily happen in the middle of your story, but it's where the character decides to do something.

5) Plot Turn 2: Failure and despair despite your main character's resolve. But, there's something to learn from that failure, and now our main character has whatever tools he needs to succeed.

6) Pinch 2: Oh crap! Shit hits the fan and there's little hope now. Main character might think of giving up, but finds the inner strength to keep on going. You can dooooooiiiiiiiit!

7) Resolution: Maybe a huge final battle happens. Or whatever profound plot climax propels your main character to be at the complete opposite of where she was in the Hook. Luke destroys the Death Star.

What about complex stories?

I LOVE multiple story lines. It's probably why I write in 3rd person limited episodic. I enjoy telling the story from different perspectives, and keeping it 3rd person allows me to give the reader intimate insight as if it's written in first person. So EACH can be stacked on top of the 7 point structure.

Often, the resolution of a subplot comes at the pinch point of another subplot. So there's always rising action, climax, and falling action all within the larger 7 point structure you've built. You are guaranteed to put your reader through the ringer and on an awesome ride.

Also, your hero should try and FAIL AT LEAST TWICE. Otherwise, the reader loses interest when the goal is achieved too easily. I love the analogy of making your main character climb a tree and throw rocks at him. Suffering is how we grow....and how we can relate to the hero. So make your hero suffer like a sonofabitch.

I actually begin my outlining process with this 7 Point Story Structure, often starting with my RESOLUTION. I need to know where I'm going, and begin to figure out how to get there as I continue to outline and write. During the editing process, often times, if might be because you're missing one of the plot points, or maybe you didn't do a good enough job defining a plot turn or a pinch.

What's really fun is watching a good movie and identifying one of the points. I did that while watching The Matrix a couple of weeks ago. When Neo gets filled with bullets and those nasty Sentinels breach the hull of the Nebuchadnezzar, I said to myself, "Oh, that's Pinch Point #2!"

Sometimes, being a writer kinda ruins things...

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thankful Post #3, I Miss You Blogfest, and a Cover Reveal

Thankful Time: I'm thankful for this awesome blogfest I'm participating in today: I MISS YOU BLOGFEST. Thanks to: AndrewMatthew, and Alex for organizing this great blogfest.

I have to list three bloggers that I miss dearly, and list three bloggers that I would miss BIG TIME if they stopped blogging.


Three Blogs I Miss (All three blogs' links are still working!) And all three are non-writer blogs!

1) David Amulet: This intelligent and funny blogger started his blog right around the same time I did back in 2005. He had a great run, blogging for four years, but he quit in 2009. I was hoping he'd come back, but alas, he never did. Miss this blog!

2) P:fuzzbox: Another blogger that started the same time I did, but quit back in '08. His blog was dirty, raunchy, and could border on Rated X at times. But there was an underlying intelligence and a much appreciated sense of humor in his writing. I was sad to see him just suddenly stop.

3) JD (Jamie Dawn): I am fortunate that this blogger is still in my life (via Facebook). We started reading each other's blogs back in 2006. She quit, but I get updates from her all the time. Her daughter is a talented filmmaker now. JD's son is rockin' out with a fantastic rock group, Crown Jewel Defense, that has toured the UK. It's been cool to watch her kids grow up - from high school to superstars.


Three Blogs I WOULD Miss:

1) David Powers King: Not only is the man witty and funny, but his blog is full of all kinds of helpful and useful information for writers. His outlining method was KEY to my shedding the pantster persona and learning to get my stuff organized.

2) Michael Offutt: Smart, interesting, fascinating, and a real resource. That's how I would describe Mr. Offutt. We might differ in the politics and religious departments, but there's always mutual respect during our discussion. Check out his newest book, Occulus. I'm excited to read the sequel to Slipstream.

3) Alex Cavanaugh: One of the first new blogger buddies I "met" after I returned from a year long blogging hiatus. I'm honestly floored that this man has time to visit my little corner of the interwebs. His blog is just crammed with all kinds of announcements, kudos, and fun trivia. This Ninja Captain is a blog staple, and he founded the Insecure Writers  Alex is the author of CassaStar and CassaFire (which I still need to read).

Bonus: My LONGTIME Blogger Buddies. Going on EIGHT years with these guys. So glad these bloggers are still in my life after all this time.

1) Angel Jr.: This guy has been blogging for even longer than me. He started way back in May of 2004. He was the very first blogger buddy I got to meet - in a small airport in West Virginia. He even got my oldest son a gift. We have lots in common: we're both handsome Filipino boys and were nationally ranked tennis players.

2) Mr. Shife: I have had soda spew from my nostrils from this guy's writing. When we started reading each others' blogs, he was a newlywed. Now he's got TWO kids. He's a big fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, despite living in Idaho, and he decided to finally write a book!

3) Phats: Another tennis ninja. We were both teachers and both coached girls tennis teams, so we can relate. Phats is a big time Purdue Boilermakers fan, and he's pretty vocal about it. He's also an overall sports fanatic, and someday, we're going to have to go out onto a tennis court and hit around...oh, and I want to watch him do his infamous back flip.

4) The Weirdgirl: I remember when her son, Chance, was a little baby. Now, he's a rough and tumble big boy. It's so cool to watch my blogger friends' kids grow up. The Weirdgirl is just weird enough to be cool (not the kid of weird that makes you scratch your head). I thank her for introducing me to the word "STEAMPUNK."

5) Arch Phoenix: This blogger used to live right here in St. Louis, but she moved onward and westward to California. We still miss you here! This blogger might not blog as much as she used to, but I make it a point to visit her site on a regular basis. She's super creative and runs a company theater over there in Cali.

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Speaking of blogs, I want to introduce you to a "new" blogger friend of mine: Erin Danzer. Her book is about to come out, and I get to help reveal the cover of her new YA paranormal novel, Into the Spiral. Her cover is not finalized, but here's what her publisher, Hydra Publications, has so far:



Fifteen-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Lambert wants to get out from under her older brother’s shadow. When Ronnie gets a tattoo and then is struck by lightning, she suddenly finds herself able to see and hear things in shadows that don’t appear to others. Then Ronnie meets Gavin Clearwater, the hot new guy in all of her classes and finds out he can see and hear the same things she can.

Gavin tells her about the Spiral Defenders, a group of warriors that travels through space and time to defend the planets of the Spiral. After meeting the Commander of the Spiral Defenders and realizing his intentions might not be pure, Ronnie struggles between following her destiny to become a Spiral Defender and trying to regain the life she had before being struck by lightning.

Author Bio:
Erin Danzer wrote her first book at 10-years-old for a Young Authors competition, where she was awarded an Honorable Mention and discovered a passion for the written word. She’s written several novels and short stories since that spark ignited. She writes a monthly short story serial, The Cassandra Serafin Chronicles, posting alternately on her blog and in Literary Lunes bi-monthly online magazine. Into the Spiral is Erin's debut novel. Erin resides in Wisconsin with her husband, two children, and their cat.

Twitter: @erindanzer

Monday, November 12, 2012

Thankful Post #2 and More Stuff

Thankful Time: Sunday was Veteran's Day, so I have to give my thanks to all those that have served and/or currently serving. It's so easy to take for granted all the great freedoms I enjoy...like blogging for example. I'm thankful that I live in a country where I'm allowed to write whatever I damn well please on here. And it's our armed forces that remain vigilant in the protection of these rights we exercise every single day.

I attended my very first military funeral just two weeks ago. It was a somber, yet incredible experience. I think everyone should go visit a national military cemetery. I think you will find it to be humbling, moving, and most of all patriotic.

Quick NaNoWriMo Update: I worked my ass off to stay ahead of the daily 1667 word quota. But I kicked it into high gear all this past week - especially the weekend. My oldest son had a robotics competition which lasted ALL DAY. So with all of that downtime, I brought my laptop and got writing.

This week is going to suck, as I'm going to be crisscrossing the Midwest for my job. But I'm already pretty close to the 50,000 WriMo goal. I will hopefully surpass that, as my first drafts tend to exceed 100,000 words.

M. Pax's The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear is HERE!

I always do a double-take when I see the title of Ms. Pax's latest work. I always think it says "Heather Locklear." Huh. Must be a mix of 80s nostalgia and adolescent hormones kickin' in.


A New Adult Urban Fantasy, The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear is the first book in a new series. And it’s now out! The main character, Hetty, is a twenty-two-year-old, stumbling about in an effort to become a full-fledged adult. She struggles with self-esteem, weight, relationships, and making the transition between college and the real world.

Graduation from community college isn’t the magic elixir Hetty Locklear counts on for becoming an adult. Her parents, who work the Renaissance fair circuit, insist she spend part of the summer with them. Hetty doubts pretending to live in the Middle Ages will help her find her way.

 To make it worse, an entity haunts her at her dead-end job, warning her of a dangerous man she doesn’t know. The ghost leads her to a lover who has a lot of secrets. He pulls her farther into peril and into a strange, hidden world of genetic experimentation.

New Adult Urban Fantasy with a contemporary sci-fi twist. Mature content.

Available as an ebook at Amazon / Amazon UK / Smashwords / iTunes / Kobo

Visit www.mpaxauthor.com for more links.

M. Pax is celebrating her latest release with a jousting tournament and contest at www.mpaxauthor.com. Cheer for the knights to help them win the grand prize, and you’ll be put in a drawing to win an ebook copy of The Renaissance of Hetty Locklear. Five will be given away. Huzzah!

Links:
M. Pax website
Amazon
Amazon UK
Smashwords
iTunes
Kobo

Monday, November 5, 2012

Thankful Post #1 and Other Shtuff

Quick NanoWriMo update: I've done pretty well, and I'm proud of myself. I put up a little WriMo widget over at the top of my sidebar. So far, I'm at 8800 words after Sunday. Hopefully I can keep up the pace. Work is about to get very crazy with lots of travel, so my hope is to get ahead of the game.

Amazon: This has been making the rounds all over social media. Joe Konrath's article in the Huffington Post propelled the story, and it seems many authors are pretty pissed off. What do you think? My take is that I completely understand why they're doing this - and HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of reviews have been purged already. There are lots of "writers" that game the system. But lots of indie writers also buy and review books too. It doesn't stop authors from paying for reviews (yuck). We'll have to see how this latest change to their policy works out in the end.

Thankful Time: It's November, and I want to focus on all that I have. Life may kick my arse sometimes (many times), but I think it's always good for the soul to focus on what is going right in my life. I bitch and complain about how much travel I do for my job (drove just under 4,000 miles during the month of October), but you know, I'm DAMN lucky to have a good job.

I'm moving in January. Moving a tractor trailer's worth of stuff is not fun. And the move will happen the first week in January, so yeah, my holidays are shot to hell. On the other hand, I'm fortunate enough to have found a nice place to live. So the move is a good thing.

Finally, I'm thankful that tomorrow is Election Day. I'm so sick of these political ads. I've forgotten what a real commercial is. I'm at a loss. I have no idea what to buy. This consumer is confused.

I'm Jay Noel and I approve this message.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

NanoWriMo...I Have Taken the Plunge!

I first learned about NaNoWriMo back in 2004 just before I started blogging. It seemed like a cool thing to do, but I never committed to doing it and told my blogging buddies, "Maybe next year."

The last couple Novembers have been especially difficult. I had just moved in late June. And then I was almost transferred to Pittsburgh last Fall. So I found another job to prevent the big move soon thereafter.

This year, I find myself in a similar situation. The job thing is good, but I'm moving AGAIN in the first week of January. So of course, NaNo just seemed like the impossible.

But I have been in a big writing rut as of late. I haven't written anything new since late August. Instead, I've worked on editing and doing some work for others - which I loved doing. But now it's time for me to get back on track. And despite my better judgement, I've decided to enter NaNo this year.

November is going to be both awesome and suck atomic donkey balls.

I hope I survive.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Final Spooky Story for 2012: The Lemp Mansion

Want to know where one of the most haunted houses in the world is? The Lemp Mansion right here in St. Louis is listed in the Top 10. The once powerful Lemp family created a beer brewing empire, only to have their company crumble from Prohibition and a string of family tragedies.

Johann Adam Lemp (pictured right) came from Germany and started a grocery store and grew that business into a beer brewing company. It used to stand near where the Gateway Arch is today.

After his father’s death in 1852, William Lemp continued the tremendous growth of the brewery – which took up five blocks in downtown St. Louis. In 1876, William bought the mansion his father-in-law built and renovated it from top to bottom. From the basement of the mansion, William built a tunnel that led through caves to the brewery. Caves were often used as refrigeration centers, but later William built a grand theater, concrete swimming pool, and a bowling alley down there.


In 1901, William’s favorite son Frederick died at the age of 28, William became a recluse. After losing his eldest son, William was never the same. His mental and physical health began to fade. On February 13, 1904, William Lemp shot himself in the head with a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson. Tragically, Frederick’s sister Elsa later committed suicide with a revolver in 1920, but not at the mansion.

William Lemp Jr. took over the company. He fathered a son from one of his extramarital affairs, and he kept this illegitimate son locked away in the Lemp Mansion’s attic. The boy had Down’s syndrome and was kept away from society, and the family referred to him as “Monkey Boy.”

After Prohibition, the brewery was shut down in 1919. William Jr. seemed to fall into a depression, like his father, and on December 22, 1922, William Lemp II shot himself in the heart with a .38 in the family mansion. In 1943, his son William Lemp III died of a heart attack at the age of 42.

Charles Lemp, William II's brother, eventually moved into the family home. Charles (pictured right) also took care of his brother’s illegitimate son that had been kept in the attic. “Monkey Boy” died at the age of 30 in the mansion, and Charles’ mental health continued to deteriorate. On May 10, 1949, Charles Lemp shot his beloved dog in the basement with a .38 revolver, and then shot himself on the staircase to his room.

Edwin Lemp, William Jr. and Charles’ brother, had lived a quiet life in Kirkwood, MO. He didn’t move into the mansion, and he died of natural causes at the age of 90 in 1970. His butler, acting on Edwin’s final wishes, burned every single Lemp artifact.

With all this tragedy occurring within the walls of the Lemp Mansion, it’s understandable that subsequent owners and employees would experience paranormal activity. When the mansion was first made into an inn and restaurant, workers reported seeing apparitions, a feeling of someone watching them, objects being moved when they weren’t looking, and strange sounds. People would quit immediately, refusing to return to work.

There are three areas of the mansion that seem to be “hot spots.” They include the attic, the staircase, bedroom, and the basement – now called “The Gates of Hell” by locals.

Here’s a quick list of just SOME of the reported activity:
The attic is haunted by “Monkey Boy.” People have reported seeing his face in the windows, objects moving, and footsteps. (Notice the picture of the attic on the right - the middle of the floor in that narrow attic is very worn. You can almost imagine the poor child pacing back and forth up there).

The downstairs women’s restroom used to be William Jr’s study. There, women have reported a man peeking over the stalls, only to find the restroom empty.

In William Sr.’s room, people have reported hearing someone running up the stairs and kicking the door. It’s said that when Sr. shot himself, William Jr. came running up and kicked the bedroom door down to get to his father.

A tour guide heard horses neighing and galloping towards his window. It was just a parking lot, and there were no horses there. When the lot was expanded, they found evidence that the area just outside that window had been used to tether horses.

Childrens’ voices have been heard throughout the house. One guest heard a child say, “help me” over and over again. And another visitor heard, “Come play with me” several times.


The bar area has had several incidents as well. Workers have witnessed glasses lifting into the air and moving on their own, voices coming from nowhere, and the piano playing by itself.

As you can imagine the “Cherokee Cave” running underneath the mansion is also quite haunted. Sounds of weeping and strange sights have been reported. Long before the Lemps built their mansion, it’s said that a young American Indian couple, hid in the cave and starved to death – and that story was verified when white explorers did find bones of two people in the cave (near Jefferson Ave. and Arsenal for you St. Louisans).

Cherokee Cave
There have been many ghost hunters and researchers visiting the mansion and trying to find evidence of it being haunted. Needless to say, they don’t have to work very hard to find it.

Other links and spooky ghost pictures of researchers visiting The Lemp Mansion:

Missouri Ghost Hunter’s society
Beck M.’s experience at Lemp
Lemp Mansion Tour
Cherokee Cave
Visit the Lemp Mansion Restaurant and Inn

Monday, October 22, 2012

Laura Eno's Wish, The Awakening IS HERE!!!


Laura Eno is one of the first writing buddies I made when I returned to blogging last year. After reading a few of her novels, I loved how she stayed away from cliches and wrote lots of jarring action. Laura also doesn't stick to one genre - she's always testing herself and trying new things.

I admire and appreciate that.

Her latest work is available today. Wish, The Awakening is a YA dark fantasy

Blurb:
Most residents of Pine Hill shy away from seventeen-year-old Lelah without knowing why. It's the Djinn magic surging through her blood. She lives in a world where wishes are really curses, dark power meant to twist and deceive in unimaginable ways.
When a fit of temper exposes Lelah for what she really is, she must flee to a sanctuary only whispered about, before her family is exposed and enslaved by their ancient enemy. What she discovers is a treacherous path filled with power, lies, and betrayal – a path that's destined to ensnare her and destroy a civilization.

Links:

About the Author
Laura Eno lives in Florida with a very tolerant husband, three skulking cats and two absurdly happy dogs. After spending years immersed in college but never figuring out what she wanted to be when she grew up, she now writes novels late at night with the help of muses from the underworld. And, no, she still hasn't grown up but that's okay.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Did I Notice Your Book? Blog Hop

Thanks to Alex and Ciara for hosting this fantastic blog hop.

When I had to choose a book that I recently read that just blew my mind, the first one that came to mind was Slipstream, by Michael Offutt.

This science fiction book's blurb was the first thing to hook me:

Jordan Pendragon is crazy good at fixing situations that have gone bad. It's a talent prized by his high school ice hockey team. However, when a car accident puts Jordan in the hospital, he wakes up with more than just an amazing slapshot in his toolbox. Jordan can manipulate space-time and in just a few weeks, he'll depend on it to save his life.

I normally breeze through books, but I really had to take my time with Slipstream. It is just jammed packed with all kinds of stuff. The science behind this book was just incredible. Michael must have done hours and hours of research into theoretical physics. But the science is so imaginative and central to the story - it grips your from the very beginning.

I'm not sure what kind of magic pill Michael is taking to enhance his imagination - but the details in this book are so vivid and creative. The world building was immense and fantastic. Slipstream's setting is three-dimensional and you feel like you're there.

Finally, I found myself caring about the characters. They were so real, and as a reader, you could feel their struggles. The hero, Jordan, is such a dynamic character. He's a total jock, a big physics geek, oh...and he's gay. I applaud Michael for breaking the mold of the typical science fiction hero. In the beginning, I didn't really like Jordan, however. He was pretty self-centered and emotionally detached. But as the story progresses, Jordan matures and grows emotionally. 

Although the hero is a teenager, this is not a typical YA book. It's much heavier and cerebral. And the love story is believable and natural. I often get irked at how quickly characters fall for each other in typical YA novels. Romance is often idealized and just not so real. If you love action, intelligence, really good sci-fi, and on top of all that, just a great story - you'll love Slipstream too.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spooky Story #3: The Ghosts of the Isle of Wight

The following spooky story was submitted by fellow blogger Nancyrowina back in 2005. She lives on the Isle of Wight, a picturesque, diamond-shaped island south of Southampton, UK. The Isle of Wight is well known as a perfect holiday getaway and England's most haunted spot. Here, you can attend several "haunted walking tours" and go hunting for ghosts. Being a resident of the Isle, it seems having a ghost story or two is the norm. If her story were to happen to someone here in the States, I believe witnesses wouldn't be as calm as Nancy was during her experience. Here is Nancy's story...

One morning at about 5am I was walking home from my friends house. I was nearly home with just one more corner to turn before I was on my road.

I immediately noticed a man walking towards me. He was quite odd looking - his clothes appeared Victorian and he had a walking cane he was flourishing as he approached. I wasn't aware of any costume ball or carnival near here or anything of the sort. I thought to myself, What a strange old man. Wonder where he got those clothes from? and carried on walking towards him.

Then it got weird...

He was ignoring me and not attempting to make eye contact at all as he got closer, but I wanted to talk to him or at least say good morning as he looked so eccentric I wanted to know why he was dressed that way. I looked directly at his face and smiled when he was about 3 meters away from me. When his eyes met mine he looked frightened, and I felt bad. I didn't want to scare the old guy, but before I could assure him that I wasn't going to mug him -

He vanished!
He disappeared right before my eyes. He had looked so real that I questioned my sanity for a minute, then wondered if he was a ghost. I wasn't scared as much as I was shocked and didn't know what to think, so I carried on walking to my house.

I rounded a corner and there was a family walking down the road. I thought it was extremely strange - bear in mind it was 5 AM. They were all blonde - a mum, a dad, and 2 kids - a boy and girl. They saw me straight away and started smiling, and laughing, but there was no sound coming out of their mouths at all. They all looked very real to me, just as the old man had moments before. Though they were visibly laughing and trying to say something to me, it was as if they were in a silent movie or something.

They walked right up to me and separated politely to let me pass. As I was walking through the path they made for me and saw them all around me...

They vanished too!

I walked in my house, went to bed and thought, I need to get some sleep. I was exhausted and decided that sleep deprivation must've caused me to hallucinate during my journey home.

Perhaps ghosts are always walking among us, I'm not sure. Maybe sometimes certain circumstances create an environment more conducive to bringing the spirit world into our realm. It could also be that there are individuals that are somehow "more sensitive" and the spirits are attracted to them.

I don't know, nor do I care to investigate.


Was Nancy just 'seeing things' because of her lack of sleep? Or maybe Nancy is just one of thousands to have encounters with apparitions on this Isle. They believe that underneath the ground, the "ley lines" charge the electromagnetic field, thereby increasing psychic energy. Isle of Wight is also home to a large ghost investigation team. Encounters with ghosts in taverns, hotels, churches, homes, and even the jail and zoo are simply what everyday life is like for the residents of Isle of Wight.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spooky Stories #2 - The Mothman

I have no idea why I have a fascination with the Mothman phenomenon. Maybe because it's the very first case that introduced us to The Men in Black. Or perhaps it's because so many people in the area reported things to the police and the media. I'm thinking because it's an interesting mix of the paranormal, something alien, government cover ups, and prophecy. 

Below is the first post I did on the Mothman back in 2006. Enjoy!

What is the legend of The Mothman?

On November 12, 1966, five workers were preparing a grave at the cemetery near Clendenin, West Virginia. As they were digging, they spotted something flying over their heads. They described it as manlike with wings.

Just three days later, two married couples driving near an abandoned TNT plant in Point Pleasant, West Virginia had an encounter with a winged man creature with glowing red eyes. They described the creature as being tall, 6 or 7 feet. It's red bright eyes were "hypnotic." The witnesses panicked and sped away, only to see this thing again on a hillside. They watched it rise into the air and follow them. Their car was traveling at over 100 mph and "That bird kept right up with us," said one of them to Deputy Sheriff Millard Halstead. The creature easily followed them down Highway 62 right up to the Point Pleasant city limits.

That same night, several other Point Pleasant residents nervously spoke with local authorities about seeing this strange creature. What made it even more weird was the other phenomena that coincided with this winged monster. Televisions went out, electricity and motors stopped, strange and wild high-pitched screams accompanied sightings. One dog, Bandit, went missing as his owner slept with his rifle in his bed.

On November 16, Deputy Halstead held a press conference at the courthouse. So many law abiding and normally reliable witnesses came forward with their experiences. Deputy Halstead had grown up with these people, and he believed them. Reporters worldwide came to Point Pleasant and dubbed the creature The Mothman.

For 13 months, there were extraordinary sightings and scary incidents...The Mothman was making his presence known to the people of Point Pleasant. John Keel, a New York writer, chronicled the testimonies. He interviewed over 100 individuals that had witnessed The Mothman from November 1966 to November 1967. People also reported stories about strange lights in the sky and the infamous Men in Black visiting Point Pleasant residents. Keel's book, The Mothman Prophecies, became the basis for the movie.

As if UFOs, Men in Black, and The Mothman wasn't enough, many residents told Keel that they were experiencing strange psychic phenomena. Several individuals told himm of nightmares they had of The Mothman's red eyes followed by visions of tragic events. These events supposedly include the stabbing of the Pope, Robert Kennedy's assassination, and something terrible happening where many lives were going to be lost in Point Pleasant.

Unfortunately, on December 15, one of "The Mothman Prophecies" came true. The 700 foot bridge between Ohio and West Virginia in Point Pleasant collapsed. 46 people lost their lives that evening. One of the strange reports that evening prior to the bridge collapse was the sighting of lights in the sky. It was such a tragedy, and Keel reported that many of those that died were first-hand witnesses of The Mothman.

As quickly as encounters with The Mothman started, they ended shortly thereafter. There have been sporadic sightings in the area since then, but nothing paralleled those 13 months in Point Pleasant. The mystery and tragedy of Point Pleasant is far from forgotten, and many people associated with the incident and investigations have died in very sudden, tragic, and mysterious ways.

Just one story is that of Mothman investigator Susan Wilcox of Columbus, Ohio. Susan reported that she had witnessed a creature with wings near her home in 2001. She visited Point Pleasant often during 2001 and 2002 to do her research, but was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of brain tumor that mostly strikes children under 12. Ms. Wilcox passed away two months later. Her son, Brent Fair, was also a budding Mothman researcher had a sealed envelope with her research logs Susan had given him ten months prior to her passing. She left a note on the envelope that read, "B.R., Do not open until December 2002."

Susan Wilcox had died on December 8, 2002. The envelope contained her investigative logs of the Mothman phenomenon she collected from 2001 until her death.

Many say the land where Point Pleasant stands today is cursed by a Shawnee chief. On November 10, 1777, he lay dying from gunshot wounds from soldiers and said, "For this, may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood.” A monument in Point Pleasant to commemorate that time period was later errected. In 1909, lightning struck the crane that was to place it. And on July 4th, 1921, the monument was destroyed by yet another lightning strike.

What exactly happened in Point Pleasant from November 1966 - 1967? What did all those people see? Was it a giant owl or crane as skeptics suggest?

Or is The Mothman real?


Monday, October 1, 2012

Spooky Stories #1 - The REAL Exorcist

I love Halloween! And for the month of October, I will bring you my very BEST Spooky Stories going back seven years. I might even throw in a new one in here. Below is one of the very first spooky posts I did back in 2005. The movie, The Exorcist, remains one of the scariest movies of all time for me.

The freakiest part of it all - it's based on ACTUAL events that happened here in St. Louis. I hope you enjoy this!

* * * *

William Peter Blatty's 1971 novel The Exorcist and the Warner Brother's film from 1973 have etched the term "exorcism" forever within our everyday vocabulary. For most of us, images of a demented Linda Blair spitting pea soup, her head spinning around, and all kinds of spooky scary stuff.

The novel was based on eye witness testimony and a 26 page diary (once thought to be 16 pages). Eye witness testimony includes first hand accounts from Jesuit priests, various professors, family members, friends, hospital workers, and even construction workers.

What exactly happened? What is Blatty's novel based on? Here are the facts in timeline form that have been confirmed by various investigators, and many details have been clarified and corrected:

>The family involved remains anonymous to this day [2012], so we'll call them the Doe Family and the boy that was allegedly possessed we'll refer to him as Rob Doe. The Doe Family was from Cottage City Maryland, not Mt. Rainer, Maryland as previously believed.

>January 1949, strange things began to happen to 13 year-old Rob. He was being scratched and attacked by something unseen. His parents witnessed his blankets flying about on their own, the bed shaking violently.

>Februrary 26, 1949...The Does were Lutheran, so they turned to Rev. Schulze. Rob spent the night in Shulze's room. There, Schulze witnessed paranormal phenomena, such as a rug moving by itself across the room. After taking Rob to the Mental Hygiene Clinic of the University of Maryland, Rev. Schulze recommended the Doe Family consult Father Hughes of St. James Catholic Church in Mount Rainer.

>End of February, 1949...blessed candles would fly across the room, tables moved, and an attempted baptism went wrong. Rob would curse and act violently. They moved him to Georgetown hospital where Father Hughes began an unsuccessful rite of exorcism...it's unclear if it was authorized by the Church.

>Early March...Rob is released from the hospital, and Mrs. Doe decides to go back to her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. She thought maybe the "hauntings" would stop. As soon as they arrive, family members witness various supernatural occurances surrounding Rob.

>March 9, 1949...One of Mrs. Doe's cousins requests the help of her priest professor at St. Louis University, Father Raymond J. Bishop. He sees the scratches on Rob's body, floating objects, and the mattress vibrating on its own.

>March 11, 1949...Father Bishop calls in Father William Bowdern of of St. Francis Xavier Church (at the corner of Grand and Lindell here in St. Louis, pictured left; Fr. Bowdern is pictured right). These two priests and a Jesuit scholar, Walter Halloran, witness the scratches on Rob's abdomen, the bed shaking, Rob speaking to them in Latin and possibly Aramaic, and the 13 year-old boy's violent and strange behavior.

>March 16, 1949...Archbishop Joseph E. Ritter gives Father Bowdern permission to begin the formal rite of exorcism. That night, accompanied by Father Bishop and Walter Halloran, Father Bowdern begin reciting the ritual prayers of exorcism.

>March through April, 1949...Rob's "seizures" become more violent and often is held down by as many as ten people during the exorcism or prayer sessions. He would tear the sheets and even broke Halloran's nose. During this time, Rob is taken back and forth between his relative's house and Alexian Brother's Hospital. Numerous priests, students, and hospital workers witnessed many of the supernatural occurrences in his hospital room .

It was a stressful and scary time. Father Bowdern was known to have lost 40 pounds during the ordeal.

>April 18, 1949...The Final Exorcism...Fr. Bowdern places various religious medals around Rob, and instructs him to hold a crucifix. Rob starts to become possessed, and screams that the medals were becoming hot...soon, he is in full demonic possession and starts hissing and flicking his tongue like a snake.

>The rite continues when suddenly, in a different masculine voice Rob says, "Satan! Satan! I am St. Michael! I command you, Satan, and the other evil spirits to leave this body, in the name of Dominus, immediately! Now! Now! Now!" Rob has one last spasm before falling quiet and witnesses reported hearing a "gunshot sound" throughout the hospital at that moment.

>Rob told the priests of a vision that he had of St. Michael holding a flaming sword, and that the demon was gone.

>Twelve days later he left Missouri and returned to Maryland.

>The story made headlines, and several family members told the story to news reporters. Rob grew up, had a normal life, had three children, and resided somewhere in Maryland. Rob, if still alive, would be 70 years old today. Other than that, we know nothing of Rob [2012].

>Walter Halloran (pictured left) became a priest and often talked about his experience with others. He passed away in 2005

>Fr. Bowdern passed away in 1983. He never publicly talked about his experience. With his report to the Church, he received 41 signatures from those who testified to witnessing paranormal phenomena with this case.

>Following the exorcism, the hospital staff at Alexia avoided the room. The smells and cold air still emanated from under the doorway. No one ever used the room again. The entire wing of the hospital eventually was sealed off, and was demolished.

Before demolition, the crew found a copy of the exorcist's diary, which was given to hospital administrators. The diary was William Blatty's basis his book.


2012 Update: A local radio show did a contest that included having the "winners" do an investigation at the ACTUAL HOUSE in Bel-Nor (suburb in St. Louis). The trees near the house grow inwards towards the room where "Rob" stayed. You can listen to the radio broadcast of the investigation HERE. This group was the first and still only investigation at this house. The homeowner refuses to allow any further investigations.