Monday, December 30, 2013

2013's Final Epiphany. "What's Your Book About?"

I hope you all have had a wonderful holiday season. Mine was busy. Too busy. But this is the longest I've ever taken off of work EVER, and it's been great.

So with Dragonfly Warrior being released early and my getting to reunite with friends and family, I've had the dreaded question posed to me:

"What's Your Book About?"

I love science fiction and fantasy, so of course my debut novel is science/fantasy-related. Almost all of my family and close friends don't read "that stuff." They either read romance, nonfiction, or just the newspaper. Many of them have purchased my book, but I'm pretty sure a tiny percent of them will actually read it.

While I truly appreciate their support, knowing they did it just to support me makes me a little sad.

So how do I answer the dreaded question? Usually it goes something like this:

"It's science fiction/fantasy. Steampunk actually. Lots of adventure and action." And then I'd kind of dismiss them. Why? Because I'm pretty sure the person inquiring wouldn't want to actually read my science fiction/fantasy novel. And I admit, I'm a little embarrassed to say that I write genre fiction. But I'm also bothered by how quickly I dismiss others.

Now, if I was surrounded by my fellow geeks, I'd have no problem going on and on about the cool steampunk machines in my book. The awesome action scenes, the mix of all kinds of world mythology. I could easily talk their ears off about my book.

But what about those that don't read the kind of books I write? 

Not only do I struggle with that embarrassment, but I think I'm a bit of a science fiction snob. It's not right of me to dismiss others like that. Just because someone doesn't exactly fit in our "club," it doesn't mean that they wouldn't enjoy my book or others in the same genre. A few of my beta readers don't read science fiction or fantasy at all, and they said they loved it. They were surprised by how much they enjoyed it? Why? Because underneath all that steampunkery and science fiction/fantasiness...it's just a story after all.

And who doesn't love a good story?

So the next time someone asks me, "What's your book about?"

I will not be such a jerk. I will look them straight in the eyes and reply, "It's about a naive sent on a quest out into a cruel world to save his people."

2014 will be the year of inclusion for me. I will promote and market my book to anyone willing to read/hear what I have to say. Because it's the story that draws readers in. The story, the characters, the conflict. That's what counts.

Oh yeah, and my book has kick ass steampunk in it too.


Quick Updates:

* The paperback version of Dragonfly Warrior is NOW available. Click HERE to go to the Amazon link. Sales were brisk early on, with friends and family buying my book. Now, I'm dead in the water. It's a marathon, not a sprint, right? If you want a personalized and signed copy, let me know in the comments. I'll reach out to you and get that going.

* I've decided to create a mailing list. I promise not to fill your inbox with junk. Just quick announcements and such. 2014 is going to be a big year, as I've got some pretty HUGE goals set. Wanted to keep people updated of my books coming out. The sign up is below.

* I want to do a very EASY blog tour. I have never done one of these before. I will reach out to those who did the cover reveal and see if you're interested. I'll also put up a new sign up form in the coming weeks. I'm thinking of doing the blog tour sometime in March.



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Monday, December 23, 2013

Early Release Holiday!

Oh steampunk tree, oh steampunk tree...
I hope you and yours are having a great holiday season.

Dragonfly Warrior was released early, just last week, and it quickly skyrocketed up the charts. In fact, it reached #39 on the Amazon Best Sellers List for Science Fiction - Steampunk.

Pretty cool. I guess technically, I can call myself an Amazon Best Selling Author.

But then Amazon's newest algorithm can not only giveth, but it can taketh away. After my friends (which includes many of you great people) and some family members bought it, sales pretty much slowed to a trickle. I will say that many of my friends are waiting for the paperback (which will be available on Amazon very soon). Whenever a book climbs the rankings in a short amount of time, then sales stop, Amazon punishes you.

It's an effort to stop manipulating the numbers, I understand. But you can bet you bottom dollar that I took a screenshot at the pinnacle of my glory.

I didn't plan very well for what happens after the release. In fact, I'm going to be in New Orleans from January 6-9th on business, so I won't be around to do much promotion during my official release day.

So my Christmas Wish is to get some help. What should I do next? How can I get more steady sales? I know many of us struggle with this aspect of the business, but I'm open to any and all suggestions to make sure Dragonfly Warrior doesn't end up being a dud.

Thanks so much, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, Christmas, and I look forward to posting here next week for the last time in 2013!!!

This is my proof. The matte finish is gorgeous!


Ebook versions available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas = Childhood


Before I get to my post, I wanted to share my book trailer with all of you. Some of you have already seen this, so forgive my indulging in showing it to you again. Once again, the artwork was done by the very talented Enggar Adirasa.




* * * *

I was talking about Christmases past with an old friend, and we talked about all the cool toys we grew up with. In this digital age, will the kids of today look back at their childhood and have that same sense of nostalgia that we all do? I wonder.

This year, my A-Z Challenge topic was everything 80s. It was totally radical. So I wanted to share some of the cool toys I either WISH I had as a kid, or did actually own. To this day, when I think of these fun toys, I always think of Christmas (in no particular order).

No Sarlacc Pit can stop me
Star Wars Figures. I wonder how many hours I spent playing with action figures. Half my childhood was spent on a tennis court and the other half was spent having my action figures (not dolls) re-enact my favorite parts of the movies. And in my version, Boba Fett survives and kicks Han Solo's ass.

Atari. This was a huge evolution in home entertainment. I remember getting Atari for Christmas and beating my dad mercilessly in Combat (which came with the console).

Stompers. These were so cool. At least the TV commercials made
Look at those tires!
them seem that way. These were little trucks with giant mudders that could traverse over everything. Even your hand! Or pencils! Or Lego pieces! I actually had one that you could replace the rubber tires with foam ones, and the darn thing could go in water.

Voltron. I got this from Santa (okay, not really. I was 12 and played along for my siblings' sakes), and it was incredible. It was die-cast metal, and it weighed a ton. It was made by Matchbox. I wish I still had that toy. In mint condition, I've seen it go for over $700

I want you back, Voltron!
G.I. Joe. I was one of those kids that mixed and mingled his G.I. Joe and Star Wars action figures. I know, take away my Geek Card. Snake Eyes was my very first one, and I had the lunchbox too. Had both of these things before G.I. Joe even had an enemy to fight (Cobra hadn't been invented yet).

Transformers. Okay, hell, my Transformers also entered my Star Wars/G.I. Joe Universe. My imagination was just full of all kinds of unholy alliances!

Maybe it's the holidays. Or maybe it's the fact that my birthday this week reminds me that I'm getting old. Either way, it's always fun to go back and remember a time before you had bills, taxes, traffic, back pain, and deadlines.

Deadlines...that reminds me, I've got some work to do. 

Have a great week!

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Science of Terrible Gifts

Tis the season...for getting really crappy gifts.

Do you throw it away, or are you a re-gifter? No matter how you deal with the mounds of useless stuff, every year it never fails. It's as inevitable as the sun rising and Santa ho-ho-ho-ing. You will receive some gifts that make you think:

What the hell?

Why do people give crummy gifts to the ones they know and love? There was an interesting study published in The Journal of Consumer Research suggests that familiarity actually makes it more difficult to figure out and predict what our loved ones prefer.



Dr. Davy Lerouge of Tilburg University, the Netherlands and Dr. Luk Warlop from Katholieke University, Belgium found that we buy crappy gifts even even when armed with lots of information about our loved ones. In fact, we have the most trouble understanding the tastes of those we know a lot about.

Lerouge and Warlop set up a bunch of experiments in which couples, who had been together more than two years on average, tried to predict which kinds of bedroom furniture the other would like. In the experiments, half the couples knew they were trying to predict their partner's preferences. The other half tried to predict the preferences of someone they were told was a stranger, but who was, in fact, their partner.

The results: Subjects were much better at predicting a stranger's preferences than their own partner's.

Why???

Lerouge and Warlop explained that when predicting what a stranger would like, we are forced to "rely on general and stereotypical information about the stranger, which can be quite diagnostic." But when predicting what our loved ones would like, we "ignore this valid information" and rely on more intimate information "that is often found to be invalid or irrelevant when predicting product attitudes."

In other words, you might remember the time when your significant other overslept because the clock's alarm was too quiet. And so you find an alarm clock with a louder alarm. Does this mean they will love their gift? Hardly.

Here are some gifts you should steer clear from for sure. Take my word for it, do NOT buy the following:

Hair removal: This includes nose hair trimmers, personal groomers, or ear hair shavers. Unless your loved one begs for one, just don't do it. Nothing says "You're a walking Sasquatch" like getting any sort of hair removal apparatus.

Stupid puzzles: If your loved one is under six year old, go for it. Otherwise, don't buy that 50,000 jigsaw puzzle. I don't care if it is the Taj Mahal. And no, it doesn't matter if it's a 3-D puzzle. This gift suggests that the recipient has too much time on their hands.

Used crap: OK, you cheapskate. Don't be going around the house looking for something to wrap and give away. You don't think we can tell? The seals on the box are all broken...duh! All the cheese popcorn in the tin is missing! Hmm.

Drug store perfumes/colognes: This stuff should be banned. Talk about tacky! Not only are you suggesting that your loved ones smells bad, but why give them something that would make them smell like a mix of potpourri and whisky? Hai-Karate anyone?

Weight loss products: Free weights, exercise videos, or a treadmill might sound like a great gift, but guys - do NOT give your lady anything to do with weight loss. Nothing says "Babe, you're a fat ass" like getting her weight loss stuff. It's about as subtle as hitting them over the head with a Honeybaked Ham.

You might as well just smack her hand when she goes for that Christmas cookie. See how that works for ya!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My FIRST IWSG Post!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog.

I'm super-happy to finally be a part of the IWSG. It's been a long time coming, and I feel like I need to vent my fears BIG TIME and just put it out there.

My debut novel is set for a January 6th publication, and I'm terrified. My writing career has been a long, strange journey. It's strange to be on the precipice of such a huge landmark, and I think I've just gotten so accustomed to the struggle.

For about twelve years, I advised and edited other people's work. I was damn good at it (still am), and I enjoyed it. When I started blogging in 2005, it was my creative outlet. And my blog got HUGE, which led to a syndicated podcast attached to the blog. It was fun, but I felt unfulfilled. I yearned to write again.

So I did.

In 2011, my novel, Dragonfly Warrior, was my baby. And I threw it out into the world. I was in query hell. Then I had the opportunity to pitch to a publisher face to face. The result was a contract. But the publisher shut its doors in mid 2012.
Steam-powered spider from Dragonfly Warrior!


I was down, but not out. Another publisher knew of my manuscript and I received two contracts - one for Dragonfly Warrior and another for its sequel, Shadow Warrior. I was part of a great team of writers, and everything was looking great.

But the publisher was having financial issues, and I decided to jump ship. I got my rights back and I decided that no one was going to care about my work more than me. So I decided to go full-on indie.

So here I am, a little more than a month away from publishing Dragonfly Warrior (AGAIN), and what if people don't like it? What if it never finds its audience? What if it's not sci-fi enough? Fantasy enough? Steampunk enough?

I've had some writing friends suggest I have a book launch party, but I've decided not to. I'm not sure many people would show up. My friends and family are not into reading the kind of stuff that I write, and I don't want them to feel obligated to buy my book. Maybe if I had written something more mainstream...but I can't handle any more rejection at this point.

There are moments where I lay awake at night, wondering if I'm just delusional. Maybe I should just go back to editing. Hide behind another person's work and share in their joy and triumph instead. Life was so much easier!

At this point, I have no choice but to leave my comfort zone. Hopefully it will be worth it. But I guess even if I fall flat on my face, and I'm a big fat FAILURE, I don't see myself just giving up. Maybe I'm too stubborn.

Monday, December 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo Recap 2014

I'm exhausted, but I had a very productive November.

This year's NaNo was a very different experience for me. I had a huge optometric exam I had to take on the 21st, and I was essentially cramming for it. I have no idea how I did, and I hated all the trick questions. Gotta wait until January for results. Boo.

So no local write-in gatherings this year (which is the greatest part about NaNo), and I was worried that I wouldn't be able to win with all the studying I was doing. But I had planned well for it, and I did a ton of writing at the beginning of the month. And it all worked out. I hit my goal early on the 25th.

Please come back Wednesday, as I will be posting my very FIRST IWSG post ever. I know, isn't that weird? I read all of your IWSG posts and have done so for two years now, yet I never officially signed up. So I aim to remedy that on Wednesday.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Easter Eggs and Inside Jokes In Books

First of all, congrats to Miranda Hardy for winning my "Thankful" contest last week. I will make a $50 donation to Direct Relief where all of the money will go directly to help those in the Philippines. I hope all of the generosity shared by so many all over the world inspires you to give. So I challenge all of you to give to. You can match my donation, or offer whatever you can. Every penny matters.

* * * * * * * *

We all know about fun "easter eggs" in movies and video games, but my favorites are those little hidden gems in books. Sometimes, you'll find the "easter egg" on the cover, other times it'll be in the actual book itself. What's so cool about them is that it's just yet another way for an author to communicate to a reader on a different level. Almost like an inside joke you get to share with your favorite writers.

Here's just a few of the cool hidden messages in books that I've read:

See the nekkid-ness in those eyes?
1) Nekkid Lady in The Great Gatsby.
I had to read this book as a junior in high school, and this was the cover on my book. I thought The Great Gatsby was a pretty damn good book, but one day during class, I started to space out and I stared Daisy's face on the cover and noticed the naked ladies in her eyes. Got my attention!

2) Real Phone Number in Cormier's I Am the Cheese.
In this Young Adult classic, the narrator tries to call a girl from a phone booth. The phone number published was actually Robert Cormier's. And when many kids called and asked for the girl, Cormier would play along and pretend to be the girl's father. When I was a teacher, I called the number and had a great conversation with this amazing author just before he passed away.

3) The Da Vinci Code.
On the inside panel of the hardback's dust cover, you'll see bold letters. If you write each bold letter, you get: ISTHERENOHELPFORTHEWIDOWSSON. Many speculate this has something to do with a speech given in 1974 connecting Freemasonry and the founder of the Church of Latter Day Saints. The name of that speech given to an audience of Mormons: Is There No Help for the Widow's Son?

4) The Courtship of Princess Leia.
The book that covers Han Solo and Leia's marriage, Solo goes under the alias "Jenos Idanian." You unscramble the letters of that alias, and you've got Indiana Jones. Anagram fun!

5) Stephen King.
King loves to have characters and settings criss-cross all of his novels. There's way too many "easter eggs" in his books to list, but the most obvious has to be IT. Here's just a few:

-Dick Hallorann, the chef at the Overlook Hotel in The Shining. In IT, he's a 19 year old Army cook. 
-The setting of IT is Derry, Maine which is the setting of several of his other books including Insomnia, Dreamcatcher, and 11/23/63
-The car from Christine makes an appearance
-There's a reference to Cujo when Beverly Marsh gets trapped in her car and has to pee

In my upcoming novel, Dragonfly Warrior, I have fun with a pair of characters, drawing inspiration from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from William Shakespeare's Hamlet. I have had only ONE beta reader out of eight catch it. I guess you have to be a Shakespeare fan to catch it, though!

Are there any "easter eggs" in music, movies, book, or even video games that are your favorite?



Monday, November 18, 2013

Thankful in the Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

After Typhoon Haiyan struck the central region of the Philippines, I had a lot of friends reach out to me and ask if I had any family still over there. And if I did, were they okay.

Luckily, all my relatives are safe.

Many of my friends asked me all kinds of questions about the Philippines, which got me thinking...many here in the States don't know much about the country my parents came from. So I thought I'd share some very interesting facts about the Philippines.

1) Demographics: 100 million people, with 1.8 million here in the States. And the median age of people living in the Philippines is a VERY young 23 years old

2) Georgraphy: Its made up of 7000 islands, with more than 200 volcanoes.

3) Religion: 80% of Filipinos are Catholic, another 10% are other Christians, and another 10% are Muslim.

4) History: The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 375 years. In 1898, it was ceded to the United States, and it was granted Commonwealth status in 1935. After World War II, the Philippines was granted independence.

5) World War II: Some of the fiercest fighting in the Pacific occurred in the Philippines. The Japanese committed many atrocities against Filipinos and Americans. Some of the more well known incidents were the Death March at Bataan and the Manila Massacre. My grandfather was taken prisoner by the Japanese, and during their march, he and a handful of American G.I.s beat up their guards and ran into the jungle. My grandfather didn't talk about that horrible experience much when he was alive.

6) Inventions: Karaoke was invented in the Philippines, not Japan! Other inventions include: the butterfly knife, the yo-yo (which was also a weapon), the medical incubator (the kind used today in hospitals NICUs), and the florescent lamp.

7) Super Typhoon Haiyan was 3.5 times more powerful than Hurricane Katrina. Original death estimates were put at 10,000, and the most recent number I've seen is that nearly 4,000 are confirmed. So many bodies were washed out into the ocean. 11.3 million Filipinos have been affected, with nearly 700,000 of them homeless.

Which brings me to this post. So many lives have been lost in the Philippines, and I've been touched by the outpouring of love and support from all around the world. When these kinds of horrible disasters occur, it's a swift reminder to never take what you have for granted.

So I want to help. In fact, I want to help YOU help. In the comments below, I want you to tell me just one thing you're thankful for. When you're done, click the entry on the Rafflecopter widget. You have until this Saturday the 23rd at 11:59 to enter.

The winner will get a special prize. I will donate $50 in YOUR HONOR to the Direct Relief organization, where 100% of the money donated on your behalf will go straight to help those in the Philippines. Direct Relief is helping in many fronts, particularly with sending critical medical supplies and outfitting medical personnel to the Philippines.

Direct Relief is a fantastic organization. It has been given the full 4 Stars from Charity Navigator, and they allow people to donate as a tribute to another person. And I want to donate as a tribute to one of YOU!

I will announce the winner next Monday.

Thanks so much for participating, and remember to be thankful for what you have in your life right now, no matter how bad things can get. And we all can do something to help others who need it most.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cover Reveal Thanks...And Drawing!

I'm constantly amazed by how supportive and positive the blogging community is. This was my first promotion ever, and the results far exceeded my expectations. When I posted the sign up form for my cover reveal, I was hoping for maybe 20 bloggers to help me out.

I had over 60 sign up. And another 7 emailed me directly wanting to participate and post Dragonfly Warrior's cover on their sites. Amazing. And the response on all the blogs blew me away. You all have such wonderful readers.

Once again, a big humongous "thank you" to all who helped me out.

So now the fun part!

I was originally going to use Rafflecopter to do the drawing for the steampunk bookmark, but I decided to go 'Old School' and draw names out of my steampunk hat.

Here's the steampunk hat and goggles...



And it's full of bloggers' names. 71 to be exact!


My 9 year old daughter is mixing them up good. Really good. And finally she picks one slip of paper.


And the winner is...(drum roll please)









CONGRATS TO PK HREZO!!! You're the winner of a brand new steampunk beaded bookmark!!! (I hope you're understanding of my little girl's mispronouncing your name after she pulled it).



Thanks again, everyone, and I plan on doing this again in December for the book launch on January 6, 2014. The prize for that sign up is SPECTACULAR, and it will a lot of fun. I hope you'll all be a part of that too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Oh, How I Miss You Blogfest

The bloggers we miss… and the ones we would miss!

Do you have a couple blogger buddies who aren’t posting as often? Those who’ve pulled back and seem absent from the blogging world? Do you have blogger buddies you are grateful they are still around and would miss if they vanished? Now is your chance to show your appreciation and spotlight them!

List one to three bloggers you really miss and one to three bloggers you would miss if they stopped blogging. Then go leave a comment on those blogs.

Our blogger friends are special – time to let them know!


You ready for a time machine to take you back in time? The blogs I miss (and WOULD miss) go WAY back. In the last eight years, I can't tell you how many of my blogging buddies have disappeared. Blogging back in the day was really more like an online journal, a place to rant and talk about whatever.

These days, you have Facebook and Twitter and all the other micro-blogging sites. Sigh...sorry. Just waxing nostalgic. I hope you all can appreciate being introduced to blogs you've never seen before.

Here are the 3 blogs I miss:

The Musings of David Amulet. RIP (2005-2009) Music, movies, books, and anything else...this blog had it all. And the quick wit that rolled it all together is something I haven't seen in the blogosphere yet. 

Blugstuff. RIP (2005-2008) Fuzzbox was a strange and fun mix of dirty, sexy, and artsy stuff. Yeah, his posts often depicted half-naked women. But the guy was unapologetic and raw.

Rocky Road Scholar. RIP (2005-2009) This had to be one of the greatest blogs I have ever read. Talk about getting a slice of life. Rocky never posted a lot on a regular basis, which made each post a golden nugget of charm and humor. 

Here are 3 blogs I WOULD miss if they suddenly stopped:

The Blog. 2004-Present. Cube has been blogging longer than me. I don't get to visit her place as often as I used to, but she's still going strong. Going to her blog is like coming home. Current events and politics galore.

Heavy Metal Time Machine. 2005-Present. Love heavy metal? Even though I'm not a huge fan, I do have my head-banging moments. Metal Mark has been rocking for eight years too, and I don't see him quitting anytime soon...at least I hope not!

Rantings of An 80s Nut. 1999-Present. I DARE YOU to find a blogger that's been doing this longer. FOURTEEN YEARS!!! Martin's writing style is easygoing and introspective. He just talks about whatever is on his mind. I'm an 80s Nut myself, and it's always great to read about life from a fellow Generation X'er. Go check out this blog, as it's a piece of blog history, my friends.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior Bonus Art

This has been a fun start to the month. NaNoWriMo is in full swing, and if you're curious, you can see my progress over on my sidebar. I need to write a ton in the first half, knowing my word count will dry up in a couple weeks.

Also, another big thanks to those bloggers that shared my cover reveal the last several days. I look forward to seeing more posts throughout this week. I will draw the winner for the cool bookmark out of my steampunk hat next week. I decided to go old school with the drawing instead of using Rafflecopter.

The responses to my cover reveal have far exceeded my expectations, and I've gotten a bunch of emails asking for more information on Dragonfly Warrior, so I decided to share a little more today.

Below are two central characters that accompany Zen on his quest in the New World:

Enapay
"How about a little wager?"

Enapay is a member of the Nabeho Tribe in Southwestern Agrios. He's an inventor and engineer who built his own airship. Enapay has a problem with stealing and gambling, but deep down, he's a good guy who just needs a little direction in his life. He is a direct foil for the idealistic Zen. The two stand on opposite sides on many things, but that's a major reason why they become good friends.


Neva (Geneva Bouvier)
Never get between a pissed off mother and her child!

Neva is an ex-pistoleer in the Francian Army. She led a small battalion during the Rebellion against the Iberian Empire. After the death of her husband, she married a wealthy criminal to support her nine year old son. When her child is kidnapped, Neva goes across the Atlantica Ocean to Agrios to get her boy back. Neva is a strong mother figure, but she's one not to mess with. She is the fastest gunslinger in all of Europa. And she's angry.


The world I created in Dragonfly Warrior is an alternate universe, but it's definitely late 1800s with a very different take on the Industrial Revolution. Everything is powered by steam, and whatever nation possesses the biggest and baddest machines rule.

I drew from all different mythology in this series too. Lots of Greek, Japanese, Chinese, and even Norse myths are intertwined. The Odyssey and King Arthur are two of my favorites. But I also grew up with Westerns and martial arts movies, so you can be there's lots of that in there too. And what's a steampunk book without pirates? I know, it all sounds like such a weird mishmash, but it works (without being cheesy).

I wanted a cover that screamed ACTION and FUN, and I love how it reminds me of old comic books and pulp fiction. However, beneath that cover, I've created a rich world with many literary themes and elements that weave a tale of adventure, betrayal, and old fashioned good vs evil.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Dragonfly Warrior COVER REVEAL, The Bashan Agenda, and NaNo

Thanks to all of those participating in the cover reveal for my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. Hopefully, many of you will see my cover throughout the blogosphere in the next week.

Here is the full book jacket reveal:


Isn't it just awesome? (If you click the cover, you'll see the full image. Depending on your screen, it's probably cut off on the right edge).

I must give props to those responsible for this cover. Enggar Adirasa is a talented artist, and he and I went back and forth until he captured one of the scenes from my book. Mr. Adirasa will be doing the covers for all my books in the first trilogy in The Mechanica Wars series. Check out his other work HERE.

Also, Jenn Howard has been instrumental in the ebook and full cover design. Without her graphic design goddessness, this cover would not have been possible. And she happens to be my longest running blog friend, so we go back 8 years. Jenn is one of the designers at The Author's Red Room. You can look at her book covers HERE.

Somebody asked me, "So, what's your book about?" Luckily, I'm a sales guy. And elevator pitches is part of what I do everyday. My reply was:

"It's about a young, naive prince who is sent on a desperate quest to the other side of the world by his father. Everything the hero thought he knew about the world is going to be turned upside down. Oh, and there's pirates, ninjas, samurais, and kick ass steampunk machines and weapons."

When we get closer to my publication date (January 6th...for now), I look forward to sharing more about this book that almost never got published. Twice! It's a relief, and pretty terrifying, to finally get my work out there. And thanks to everyone's support.

* * * *

And here's something new from the lovely Melanie Shulz...



The Newstead Trilogy is one story in three parts, The Bashan Agenda, part two, picks up right where The Newstead Project left off. Nathan's truck eventually stops in the small town of Wilson, NY, and Rachel's still in it, not that she wants to be. But she figures at least in Wilson she'll be able to have a fresh start. She forgot one thing: they can be anywhere. As Joel trains with his father, doubts begin to rise in his mind. Is he really who he claims to be- and more importantly does he have an agenda all his own? When the maps to Bashan come out, Joel realizes maybe it's not such a good idea to be putting so much trust in one man.

The Bashan Agenda is available on:

Find Melanie on:


* * * *
NaNoWriMo kicks off at midnight tonight. The holidays are almost upon us too. So several bloggers decided to combine them into: All I Want for NaNo Bloghop! It's a great way to promote the upcoming book, The Spirit of Christmas Anthology.

So what do I want for my second NaNoWriMo experience? Really simple: to pass my optometric exam AND win! It's a crazy pipe dream, trying to cram for a very difficult test and try to write 50,000 words in one month. And in reality, I might not hit that word count goal. But that's okay.

Big picture, the test is more important to me. And from what I hear, it's full of trick questions. I'm not a fan of trick questions. If I know the material, I should get a good score. Right? Alas, the American Board of Optometry doesn't see it that way.

Is it asking too much to ace my test and hit 50,000 words...all in one month?




Monday, October 28, 2013

Spooky Story: The Lemp Mansion

It's Halloween this week, so here's one of my favorite spooky story I posted a long time ago. Enjoy! Don't forget to come back here on Friday when I kickoff my cover reveal.

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 stands today.

The mansion is pretty gorgeous, and it sit on top of the famous Cherokee caves. From the basement of the mansion, William Lemp built a tunnel that led through caves to the brewery. Caves were often used as refrigeration centers, but later William built a grand theatre, concrete swimming pool, and a bowling alley down there.


Throughout the years, the Lemp family suffered a lot. Most notably, several of the Lemps committed suicide. Four members used a Smith & Wesson .38 to end their lives. In fact, the only Lemp to NOT live in the mansion lived a long life and died of natural causes. Interesting, huh?


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). Rumor has it the ghost is of an illegitimate child with Down's Syndrome that was locked up in 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. The house has been investigated by tons of people, including the TAPS team from Ghost Hunters on SyFy.

Have a fantastic HALOWEEN!!!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Crunch Time

So much is going on, my head is going to explode.

I'm studying for a big Optometry exam that I will be taking at the end of November. Brain is fried. All that crappy math I thought I'd never have to do again has reared its ugly head!

Also, I'm working on putting the finishing touches on my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. Sheesh, I sure hope you bloggers aren't sick of me talking about this project. The road has been bumpy as hell, and now the fears and insecurities are kicking in.

Got my manuscript back from my editor. And she's my THIRD editor that's worked with me on this book. My goal is to get everything squared away by November so I can do any last minute stuff in December in anticipation for my January 6th publication date.

Oh, and NaNo is obviously in November too. I will do my best, but I just love spending time with my local writers here in St. Louis. Even though I probably won't win this year, it will still be good to stay involved with my fellow WriMos here in town.

So yeah, I'm a little overwhelmed.

Thanks to all that signed up for my big cover reveal! Sign up is below if you haven't already. A cool steampunk prize awaits the lucky blogger. I will be emailing the cover and blurb later this week to everybody.

And I've prepared an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of Dragonfly Warrior in PDF format. It's not the absolute final draft, of course, but I did want to get some feedback from readers. If you are interested in getting a preview of my awesome Asian-Steampunk novel, just let me know in the comments section.

I wrote the acknowledgments page last night, and it made me reflect on how wonderful all of you are. This blogging community has been my rock during all my ordeals, and many of you were there for me when my heart got broken TWICE. Can't thank you all enough!

Have a great week!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc. Book Your Time Trip Today!

I know, I normally post on Mondays, but today is a special exception. Today, I want to celebrate PK Hrezo's Butterman (Time) Travel, Inc.'s cover reveal!  Check it out:


Welcome to Butterman Travel, Incorporated
We are a full service agency designed to meet all your exclusive time travel needs. Family-owned and operated, we offer clients one hundred years of time travel experience. A place where you can rest assured, safety and reliability always come first.
Anxious to attend a special event from the past? Or for a glimpse of what the future holds?
You’ve come to the right place. We’re a fully accredited operation, offering an array of services; including, but not limited to: customized travel plans, professionally piloted operations, and personal trip guides. *Terms and conditions do apply
Conference us directly from our Website. Our frontline reservation specialist, Bianca Butterman, will handle all your inquiries in a professional and efficient manner, offering a tentative itinerary and free fare quote, so you can make the most of your time trip.

We look forward to serving you at Butterman Travel, Inc., where time is always in your hands.

Hmmm...so where and when would I book my time trip? I'm a big history buff, so I think I'd love to go back to Ancient Rome as a guest on Emperor Caligula's pleasure barges. I would not participate in any of the bacchanal activities going on, but I just want to know if all that craziness is true. Was Caligula really that nutty? This inquiring mind wants to know!

I've always been a time travel fan. The very first book report I ever did was H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. It's the book that made me fall in love with Victorian Steampunk. PK's own novel is set for publication on 11-12-13! How cool is that?

   

PK Hrezo is a native Floridian whose life could easily be a Jimmy Buffet song. She shares her home with her firefighter husband and their two children. When not creating characters and their worlds, PK can be found at her other job of rearranging passenger’s itineraries for a major international airline. The only hobbies she loves more than traveling, are reading, writing, and music, and when the four are combined she exists in total bliss.
She blogs regularly at PK HREZO: Fearless Fiction http://pk-hrezo.blogspot.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PKHrezo @pkhrezo

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Black Eyed Kids Won't Die

It's October, and it's beginning to feel like Fall around here. I've been doing a fun Spooky Stories series on here for several years now, and in 2011, I dedicated a series of posts on the Black Eyed Kids.

You can check them out, HERE, HERE, and HERE

The Black Eyed Kids is a new phenomenon, making the rounds on the internet message boards in the late 90s. But interestingly, stories continue to pour in from all over the world. I'm sure a bunch of them are hoaxes, but there are others by very credible people telling eerily similar stories.

Their encounters always include one or more children or teens with strange black eyes. Absolutely no sclera (the white of your eyes), iris, or pupil. Just large pools of black eyes like freakin' aliens. They knock on your door and ask to come in. They might ask to use your phone to call home.

These weird kids also seem to be dressed in outdated clothing. And they seem polite. I mean, who would be so cruel as to turn away from a child in need? But for some strange reason, the people who open their doors to these B.E.K.s all experience a feeling of dizziness and a deep, dark foreboding like they are about to die.

Every single story I've ever read ended the same way: they never let these demon-kids in. Thank Thor they all listened to their instincts and kept their doors shut. What's really weird is that the B.E.K.s NEVER force their way in. You must give them permission to enter, which kinda reminds me of the vampire mythology.

But earlier this year, there was one story where a person actually let these Black Eyed Kids in, and he lived to tell his story. And here it is:

I was sitting in my bedroom at home when I heard a knock on the door, it was not too late so I didn’t hesitate opening the door to whoever it was. when I opened it there was two children standing there, both were looking at the floor. “Yes,” I said. The taller one asked if they could come in as they were lost and the other boy needed the toilet. I live in an area where it is very easy to get lost, so I just assumed that they were telling the truth and was looking down because they were shy, even though the one talking, spoke very confidently. So I let them in. The one who needed the toilet just walked in and straight up the stairs, so I shouted up, "its on the right."

I told the other one that the phone was down the hall. “Thanks,” he said, and he started to walk down the hall. I followed him, and then I suddenly came over with a really awful feeling like something bad was going to happen. I became very nervous and a bit shaky. I still can't explain how that happened. The boy stopped at the phone and paused. “Everything OK?” I asked. He turned to me and looked up, and that’s when I saw his eyes. Trust me, I will never get that picture out of my head. I was so scared that I couldn’t even scream. As I turned to run down the hall the other kid was standing at the end.

I became very dizzy and struggled to stand up. He walked closer to me and said that they had been sent to collect me. I still couldn’t bear to look into his face. I pushed away from him and ran into my front room and slammed the door shut. I was in so much shock about what was happening,I couldn’t think straight. I finally got the courage to make a run for the back door, so I ran to it and unlocked it. I ran to the back of my garden and jumped over the fence not once looking back.

My friend lived close so I ran to his house. I told him the story and as I guessed he was a bit skeptic about what I had said. I convinced him to come back with me, when we got there we looked around the whole house but couldn’t find them. Ever since this happened I always have a dream that this kids with the black eyes stand over my bed with there hands stretching to me.

I hope to god that I never see these kids again.

What the hell does that mean, they came to collect him? That's messed up. So if you hear a knock at your door, check their eyes. If they are all black, as dark as the night, don't open your door. It just might be the last thing you do.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Asketh You for a Favor

For years, I've been helping authors promote their work in all kinds of ways. I've been an editor, a beta reader, a cover revealer, and launch blogger. It's been great being a part of an author working to get the word out there.

And after a couple roadblocks along the way, I find myself now asking all of YOU for your help in promoting my upcoming novel, Dragonfly Warrior. It's the first book in my Mechanica Series - an Asian steampunk adventure series full of samurais, ninjas, pirates, adventure, a little romance, and a lot of action. Oh, and it's got lots and lots of steampunk.

As a fan of the genre, I get irritated when steampunk elements become a "prop" (like all the Chinese curse words in Firefly). Not with me. The steampunk elements are front and center, in fact - steampunk technology is integral to the story.

My plan is to publish Dragonfly Warrior for Kindle, Nook, and iBook on January 6, 2014. The paperback edition will come out a couple weeks later. So that means...

COVER REVEAL TO COME!

I hope you'll sign up to reveal my cover. The goal is to get my incredible cover out into the blogosphere between November 1-8th. Not only would I be eternally grateful for your help, there might be a little somethin'-somethin' for you as a thank you.

After I close the sign ups for the cover reveal, I will do a drawing for a cool steampunk bookmark. It's NOT your typical laminated-type of bookmark either. This thing is a piece of crafty art. I bought almost two years ago for a cover reveal that, um, didn't happen.

Anyhoo, feast your eyes on this:
At both ends of the bookmark...
Okay, so maybe I'm a little too far away.
 The bookmark is over a foot long, and it's bendable wire covered in beads. At both ends, it's decorated with larger decorative beads and a cool steampunk gear. Cool, right?

Below is the form to sign up for my cover reveal. I'll send you all you'll need a week before the reveal. Thanks so much for your support everybody.

Monday, September 30, 2013

My Biggest Crutch - Overused Gestures

I'm going through a very gruel editing process right now, which is why I've neglected visiting everyone's blogs. I promise to get back on track. But this editing business is cruel. I have a lot of bad habits.

Many of you know I'm a big people watcher. As far as how that translates into my writing, I'm finding that each book I write is filled with a particular set of gestures that I tend to overuse. I've also been beta reading a lot, and I find that I'm not alone.

Here are my big gesture crutches:

1) Smiled. I will use the FIND feature in Word, and I'm always aghast at how many times my characters smile. It's crazy. I will try to use other ways to describe a smile, or maybe use a synonym like grin or smirk. If you are a true writing master, you can also craft proper dialog that conveys that a character is smiling.

2) Nods and Head Shakes. Sometimes, I feel like my characters have fits of Tourette's or something. Lots of head movement all over the place. Again, I hunt them down and see if I can cut them. The best thing I can do is to write excellent dialog that makes it easy for the reader to imagine a character nodding or shaking their head. Most often, I find that I'm being redundant:

James nodded. "Yes, I'll drive you to the airport."

Nodded is not necessary in the example above. He already says "yes."

3) Gazes and Glances. When I find a bunch of gazes and glances, it seems like my characters have ADD. They just can't FOCUS. If it's my POV character that's doing all the gazing and glancing, I'll cut it and just describe what the heck they're looking at.

James gazed at the swings swaying on the empty playground.
The swings swayed on the empty playground.

By directly showing you what James sees, I'm actually removing a filter between the reader and the character. As I said before, expertly crafted dialog can also help you do away with these overused gestures, including gazed and glanced.

4) Eyebrow Rumba. Do your characters' eyebrows furrow, raise, or draw together? Mine do. I try to rework as many of them as I can. I also stick this gesture to one character so it becomes part of characterization.

5) Eyes Narrow and Widen. I don't use "widen" as much as "narrowed." Lots of my characters get pissed and their eyes tend to narrow. If I find that I'm using this gesture as a crutch, I'll rework some scenes. Often, I'll just cut it and write good dialog and action that helps the reader imagine the eyes narrowing.

James found the body of his beloved on the floor, the crimson pool growing beneath his fiance's limp body. "They will pay." He pounded his fist through the drywall. "I will kill them all."

With this very intense scene, doesn't it seem anti-climatic to even include some kind of gesture here? At finding his woman dead, his eyes narrowing or brows furrowing don't do it justice. The scene itself, along with the dialog, gives the readers the freedom to use their own imagination to construct the visuals. No need to spoon feed your readers!

Like all crutches, mine change. And there's a bazillion more overused gestures out there. Many of mine also include:

arms crossed
teeth clenched
sigh
deep exhale
glare
shrug

The key to gestures is to make sure you're not overusing them. Also, personalize a few of them. Maybe one character always strokes his beard when he's thinking. It takes more skill to write dialog that lends itself to the reader imaging the proper gestures during a scene. Like my example above of James finding his fiance dead. Obviously, we can picture him very angry and intense.

I bet his brows are furrowed.

* Thanks for all your kind words last week. Snoopy passed away very peacefully in my arms at the vet's office. I held held his blanket-wrapped body, and I felt him take his last breath. When his muscles relaxed, and the doctor verified he was gone, I felt relieved.

Sad, sure. But I was relieved that Snoopy was no longer in pain. When I came home, my 7 month old puppy jumped on me (a habit I'm working to correct), and reminded me that she needed supper.