Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG for November 2015

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!

It's that time of the month when we can all express our fears and insecurities, and this month, I've got a doozie. I'm secure about pretty much everything right now.

The last several months have been difficult. Hurting my ankle and knee, and having to curtail any kind of exercise for two weeks took a much bigger toll on me than I expected. Depression is a strange thing, and it seems to take hold of me at my weakest. Sweating and doing strenuous exercise has always been my line of defense against the "Big D."

I'm battling this mindset that nothing really is going right in my life right now. That might seem like hyperbole, but man, it's true. So for this month, I'm battling insecurity on a whole new level. I know there's some positive stuff around me, but I'm having to put a lot of effort into finding it and focusing on it.

It's not easy.

So if you're the praying type, I wouldn't mind a few prayers thrown my way. Positive vibes welcome all around.

Monday, October 26, 2015

It's Halloween!

I'm a big Halloween fan, and I'm hoping to get my health back in time for the festivities. I've been icing my knee and ankle for the last for days, and I'm getting stir crazy! I'm ready to throw these crutches out the window.

Since it's Halloween, and I'm not feeling that great, I thought I'd share one of the scariest posts I've ever done. I first wrote about the REAL Exorcist story back in 2008, with an updated repost in 2012, and it continues to bring visitors to my blog almost every day. I've updated it with some very recent developments. For us here in St. Louis, the story is well known. The supernatural events actually took place here in town.

So give it a read, if you dare.

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 [2015], 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.

2015 Update: A local radio show who investigated the home where several of the exorcisms took place will be back this year, and this time, they're bringing Discovery Channel's Destination America with them. They will be broadcasting a LIVE investigation.

Monday, October 19, 2015

To NaNo, Or Not To NaNo...

...that is the question.

November is NaNoWriMo month. And for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I'll just say that NaNoWriMo is a worldwide event for writers to challenge each other to write 50,000 words in the month of November, which comes out to just under 1,700 words a day.

For years, I thought about participating, but I never took the plunge. I finally did in 2012. Amazingly, I surpassed my goal and "won." In 2013, I somehow managed to also win, despite studying for a VERY difficult professional certification exam at the end of the month.

Last year, I got to around 22,000 words and burned out. I struggled, I fought, and I lost. My fellow NaNo'ers in my region remained supportive, and I gave myself a pat on the back for trying.

Honestly, I still haven't recovered from that burn out. Not sure what happened. But I wrote very little after that November of 2014, and my slump continued into 2015. I took some time off of work during the holidays, so I did get back to writing in January. My creative spurt continued into February. But then I had nothing left in the tank.

I really have no explanation for this. I do think a big part of this has been how difficult my personal life struggles have been this year. Battling depression took its toll. I tried to continue my marketing/promoting plans, and that took every ounce of my energy.

Now it's time for NaNoWriMo 2015...my regional facilitators started a new Facebook page for us, I'm getting emails daily from NaNoWriMo.org, and I went onto my online dashboard to look at my past accomplishments. A big part of me wants to give it a try again. Maybe by challenging myself, I can get out of my writing slump.

However, I've decided to sit it out this year. I don't feel like I have enough gas in the tank to win, and I don't think my ego can take another failure. I've decided to focus on another project with my writing partner, take my time, and help stir the creative pot in my head instead this year.

For all of my buddies doing NaNo this year, I wish you nothing but the best. I wish I could be a part of it in 2015, but I know this is for the best.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Attending Cons...A Newbie's Perspective

After writing about my last science fiction/fantasy convention experience last week, it got me thinking about cons in general. This is the second year I've been going to these events as an author. My very first con of any kind was way back in 1984, and it was a big Doctor Who convention. Despite that, I don't consider myself a convention veteran, but after two years of sitting on the other side of the table, I've learned a few things.

1) Many vendors leave out bowls of candy as an incentive for visitors to stop by. This year, I took a mental count of attendees who took my candy before saying a word to me, and every single person never even looked at any of my books. Not one. They just sauntered over, grabbed some candy, and took off. So the candy stops now!

2) Cosplay continues to be the main attraction at these cons. As a vendor, if you dress up, I guarantee you will get more people stopping by, which means more sales. I put on the Captain Nemo outfit, and I got stopped a bunch of times for a photograph just walking to get some water.

3) Since cosplay is the big thing, the weird thing is, comics are NOT the main attraction at these so-called-comic-cons. Baaaack in the day, comics were the main draw. Not anymore. Other forms of entertainment take the main stage. Even just regular books have taken a back seat.

4) So much diversity. I saw tons of families, people of various ethnicities, and the LGBT group was well represented. This is one of my favorite things about cons.

5) It helps to have help. Unless you have an iron bladder, you will have to pee. And maybe eat. So having someone to run your table is a HUGE deal. Make sure your backup knows all about your books and stuff too.

6) Sexy cosplay is a big thing too, but if your butt is hanging out of your skirt, the con staff will stop you and make you either change or cover up. This happened right in front of me. A girl was telling me about her favorite books, and a staffer stood next to her, patiently waiting. When they turned around, I understood right away what the problem was. Yikes!

7) All the awesome geekiness inside the vendor's hall is like walking into Willy  Wonka's factory. But WHOA, what's going on these days? Can you say MARK UP? Dealers are making up their merchandise like never before, which makes me think that their costs have gone up too.

8) Speaking of costs, how do any of us artists keep going to cons? Seriously. Maybe 8 out 10 actually covered their expenses. Thats' really sad. The cost of just getting a table in artists' alley or in the vendor hall also seems to be going up, and people are buying more of the collectibles, toys, and other high ticket items these days

9) Beeeee yourself. I think so many con-goers love going to these events because they get to be themselves out in public. No judging, no bullying...and you're surrounded by like-minded people. It's a great atmosphere.

10) Did I mention not to bring candy in the hopes of luring people to your table???

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

IWSG for October 2015

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!

Last weekend, I attended St. Louis' longest running science fiction/fantasy convention, Archon. In its 39th year, attendance looked pretty strong, and the vendors hall was busy. In 2014, I shared a table with another publisher, and we sold close to a 100 books together.

It was my most awesomest event EVER.

So this year, I got my own table next to my publisher buddy, and I brought plenty of stock. On Friday, I nearly tripled my sales compared to last year's Friday. Saturday is the big day, and I was incredibly excited to, at the very least, match last year's Saturday sales.

At the end of Saturday, I wasn't even close to my goal.
The Dad REALLY looked like Agent Coulson!

Sunday was dead last year, and I was fortunate to have some people who said they'd be back to buy my books actually come back. In the end, my sales were down more than 20%. Not horrible, but my costs this year doubled.

I don't do this to make tons of money. I do it because I love it. At the same time, self publishing the very best, most professional book costs a lot. I rely on sales to help fund and offset the tremendous costs involved with putting out a quality product.

Once again, I find myself all full of doubts and wondering if this is the best use of my resources (mostly my time). I hope you're all not sick of my rollercoaster ride of emotions and insecurities. It seems after each event or con, I'm either flying high or feel low. This year, I don't think I hit any real highs at any events.

I have mixed emotions right now, and I'm planning for next year. I'm trying to figure out if the cost of going further away to new venues - and then having to pay for hotel stays - is even worth it. Going to these cons and shows are so much fun, and I love meeting new people. But I'm not meeting my financial goals to pay for my very expensive hobby.

Monday, September 21, 2015

"I Can't Feel My Face"

Whenever I'm in the car and turn on the radio, it seems pop stations are playing the same five songs over and over again. One of the tunes that's stuck on REPLAY is The Weeknd's "I Can't Feel My Face." It's a weird thing to say: Hey, I can't feel my face when am with you. And I love it.

So is this guy just so nervous about some girl who might hurt him, he goes numb? Is it cold outside? Why can't he feel his face? I was in the car with my teenager, and he decided to look it up. He started laughing and told me that this song is about...

COCAINE.

Really???

This got me thinking about a bunch of songs that have similar hidden or ambiguous meanings. Here's a few of my favorites:

Harder to Breathe, by Maroon 5. This song just kicks ass. The lyrics just drip with anger and betrayal. To me, it was obvious that this song was about a girl totally breaking some guy's heart, and he's pissed. But later, I found out Adam Levine indeed did write this song out of pure hatred, but his angst wasn't directed at a woman. It was directed at the music industry. The record label kept pushing the band to add one more track at the last minute, and so the pressure got to him. And their breakaway hit was the result of that anger.

Closing Time, by Semisonic. This song became a huge hit when my wife was pregnant with baby number one. And for some reason, it resonated with me on a subconscious level. To me, the song's meaning was fairly simple. These guys are at the bar, and it's time to shut it down and either go home or go elsewhere. I was watching a Semisonic live show on YouTube, and the band's leader, Dan Wilson, confessed that "Closing Time" is a song from a baby's perspective of having to leave the comfort of Mommy's womb and be born. Ha!

Just a draw-ring!
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, by John Lennon-The Beatles. We all thought this song was about
LSD. I mean, they took it and loved it during 1967. So duh. The song's initials even spell out L-S-D. But John Lennon swears it's not. He said that the song was inspired by a drawing his son Julian had made in school of his friend...Lucy.

Take Me Home, by Phil Collins. I am a big Phil Collins fan. And I did a report on his song "Take Me Home" for music class in 7th grade. The lyrics seemed to be about a guy who's homesick and just wants to home. Right? But years later, I was at his concert, and he said that the song was inspired by the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." It's about a guy in a mental institution who wants out!

Love Shack, by the B-52s. Okay, this song's meaning is pretty obvious. But there's one line in the song that became practically iconic. Which line? You KNOW which line. Tin roof, rusted. What the hell does that mean? I was a sophomore in high school when this song became a hit, and I was told that this infamous line was some sort of hidden message about being pregnant. That made no sense, but hey, most music from 1989-1995 made no sense anyway. I saw in an interview where one of the band members admitted that one of the singers just blurted it out during an outtake, and they loved it. So they kept it.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Imaginarium 2015

Last weekend, I attended the Imaginarium Convention in Louisville, Kentucky. Last year was this creative writing convention's inaugural year, and the event continues to evolve in its second year. It's an amazing experience being surrounded by writers of all genres and mediums, although I'm pretty sure most of us were novelists.

Imaginarium included: panels from morning until night, a live rock concert on Friday night, a vendors hall, indie film festival, awards banquet, masquerade and costume contest, a gaming tournament, and all other kinds of fun stuff creative people love.

I had a table in the vendor hall, and I spent most of my time socializing with other authors. People came from all over to be at this event. A couple of authors were from New York, one from North Carolina, and several were from Virginia. I didn't sell a ton of books, but I did better than last year. What hurt sales was the fact that Half Price Books was holding a huge event at the Expo Center just across the street from us. Ouch!

What was really cool was getting to meet two blogging buddies: Julie Flanders and Tara Tyler! I bought a couple of their books, and we got to spend some time getting know each other face-to-face. As in real life interaction.


For the costume ball, I dressed up as Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen). I decided to go all out and even get a fake mustache and beard, stuck to my face with "theatrical glue."

As I sat there during the costume judging portion of Saturday night, I started to get lightheaded. The glue was making me SO HIGH. Finally, I got up, tore the beard and mustache from my face, walked out of the room into the large convention hallway, and threw the damn thing away...

or so I thought.

Apparently, my sticky mustache didn't make it to the trash receptacle. It had landed smack dab in the
middle of the carpeted hallway. The event staffers came upon my mustache after I had left, and one of them started kicking at it with his foot, thinking it was one of those poisonous, huge caterpillars.

When they realized what it was, they picked it up and stuck it to a small glass table in the hall. When all of us costumers walked out of the room, they asked if anyone had lost a mustache. I couldn't believe it, and after telling them my harrowing tale, we all had a great laugh.

And I think my mustache is still stuck to that table...

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG for September20115

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!

It has now been a solid seven months since I've written anything new. This has to be my biggest dry spell EVER. Many of you know that I've been through a lot of personal (real life) stuff, so it's no surprise to me that my creative well is pretty empty.

Recently, I have felt the urge to get back to it, but I still lack the mental energy. This scares me. It's been so long, I'm wondering if any progress as a writer I've made the last five years will have gone down the drain after such a long absence.

Having finished a trilogy, I also have to admit part of this is a bit of a end-of-project-letdown. You finish a huge project you've been working on for years, and you're left wondering "now what?"

So as I head into September, and the seasons begin to change, my hope is that I overcome this massive writer's block.

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Limitless" Pill

In the movie Limitless, Eddie (Bradley Cooper) is a writer struggling with the worst case of writer's block known to man. His girlfriend leaves him, and he somehow gets his hands on a new pharmaceutical that will allow him to access 100% of his entire brain at once, making him a super genius.

Well, looks like real life is about to imitate fiction once again.

Modafinil is a drug that is drug for those suffering from narcolepsy,
sleep apnea, and other sleeping disorders. Here in the U.S., it's sold under the name Provigil. Like many powerful pharmaceuticals, however, people often take the pills for "off label" use.

Many college students have been taking Modafinil to increase focus and thinking.

A paper just published in the European Neuropsychopharmacology (phew, say that 5 times) last week reviewed several studies where test subjects took Modafinil and had their cognitive abilities measured. What they found was that this drug actually does enhance thinking.

Ruairidh McLennan Battleday, one of the co-authors of the paper, said that Modafinil does affect the "higher brain functions that rely on contribution from multiple simple cognitive processes."

Obviously, more research needs to be done to further examine what brain functions are enhanced, as current studies show that creativity isn't increased by those using this drug. Despite some of the unknowns and known side effects, college students will continue to take Modafinil to get an edge.

Is this what our country has come to? Back in my day, college students took drugs to get high. Now, they're taking drugs to get on the Dean's List!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Ear 'Ye, Ear Ye!

To celebrate my ten years of blogging, I'll be reverting to my old format for the month of August. This month, I'll be sharing the weird, the strange, and the funny...TRUE science stories. Why? Because oftentimes, science can be stranger than fiction.


An Australian artist, who goes by the name Sterlarc, has had an actual EAR surgically implanted to his left arm. The process has taken twenty years, and he's hoping to take the next big step with being able to make it an actual functioning ear in the near future.

The ear itself is made up of a combination of the same synthetic material used in plastic surgery and his own cells. It has completely fused and is a real part of his body now. Sterlac calls this endeavor his "Ear on Arm" project.

Yeah, I know...not very original. I mean, duh, it's an ear on a freaking arm.


Sterlarc is not a stranger to such...um...strange ways to artistically express himself. He's been big on cybernetics and dangling his naked body from hooks and wire. Please don't Google some of his projects. Definitely not safe for work.

Anyhoo, the next big step includes using his own stem cells to give his ear a real ear lobe and inserting some kind of microphone and transmitter that will connect his ear to the internet. Why? So people log on and listen to whatever Sterlac's third ear is hearing.

Sterlac also wants to enable his ear with GPS so folks can track where his ear is.

This project does sound a bit odd, yet fascinating. But I think there's an easier solution that Sterlac should have thought of. Instead of undergoing the tedious and expensive process of surgically growing an ear on his arm, he could have gotten one of these:





Since we're talking about Sterlarc behind his back, I wonder if his ears are burning...


Monday, August 10, 2015

My Blog is TEN years old!

The best laid plans of mine and men often go awry...

I had all these big plans to celebrate my decade of blogging...all these cool things I was gonna do leading up to this huge event. I mean, how many blogs do you read reach this milestone? But life got in the way, and all the great stuff I wanted to do has fallen by the wayside.

Oh well.

Maybe it's appropriate that my blogging took a huge nosedive during my 10th blogiversary, actually. I had been on quite a roll the last few years, and perhaps I needed a reminder of just how fragile the blogging-thing can be.

Life has been rough since about June for me. Things are up and down. Some days, I feel like things are great, and then something happens that makes me think that things aren't as progressing as I had hoped. The good news is, right now at this very moment, things are feeling better. With the heaps of stress on my shoulders, I've sought help from a professional just to talk things out. 

Therapy = lighter load

So to celebrate my ten years of laboring here in my little corner of the blogosphere, I'd like to revert to my old format of sharing goofy science stories with you this entire month. I want to start with sharing my VERY first post with you.

Thank you so much to all of you who still come back to read my posts. I appreciate it. I also hope some of my old blog buddies stop by to say "hello." This will be a month of nostalgia for me, and on a personal level, I also hope it'll be a time of healing so I can get back to writing and blogging again.

Without further ado, here's the post that started it all way back on August 3rd, 2005.

When You Gotta Go on the Go

Have you ever been stuck in traffic and you're just not able to hold it any longer? Nature calls, and you can postpone the inevitable for only so long. What about those with medical conditions that complicate things? Or maybe that chimichanga you had at lunch isn't agreeing with you while you're in the car. What's a person to do?

The new Indipod by Daycar is the answer.

It allows you to do your business in the privacy of your own car. This British invention is an actual in-car toilet. What about prying eyes while you engage in one of life's most private moments?

The Indipod comes with this built in inflatable privacy bubble to cover all the windows and such...and it creates a more relaxed and comfortable environment. Plus, I'm sure the bubble protects those outside your car from any malicious odors. Even those foolish to remain in your car while you take care of business are safe...as the bubble completely surrounds you and the air fan masks any embarassing noises you should be making.

How much can this Indipod hold? It has an 8 person-days capacity. In other words....it can hold 8 days' worth from one person or one day's glorius medley from you and 7 of your best buddies.

Leave it to the British to invent a sophisticated product like the Indipod...

I guess the American version, the Bumper Dumper, has some pretty heated competition.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Catching Up

Dagnabbit!

So I missed posting last week immediately following my "Hey I'm back!" post. Yeah, I'm a naughty blogger. I had every intention of putting something up, but I ran out of time.

I went to Phoenix, AZ for a weeklong business trip.

I've been going on a lot of business trips this summer. In fact, I've missed a week every month going back to May because of out of town business trips. For my day job, I actually travel regionally all the time by car. But that's for 1-2 nights every other week at the very most.

You take all the personal stuff I've been going through, add a heavy dose of airplane travel and being gone for an entire week, and then the stress of having to be on your "A-game" all week because your boss, and your boss' boss, and your boss' boss' boss are there with you...you get one terrible blogger.

Oh, and I'm going on a much needed vacation the second half of this week that goes all the way into the end of next week. Looking forward to that, however.

So what's been going on with me?

1) I have not written anything new since, oh, February. My creative tank is empty because emotionally, I'm just not all there. Hopefully I'll get back on track soon.

2) Dragonfly Warrior ebook is still FREE, and people have been downloading it every day. That's great. I've gotten a few new reviews, which helps the cause.

3) I have some events coming up this fall. Gateway Geekfest here in St. Louis at the very end of August, The Imaginarium in Louisville, KY September 11-13, and Archon in St. Louis October 2-4. Lots to do and prepare for.

4) To Kill A Mockingbird is my all time favorite novel, and no, I decided not to read Go Set a Watchman. 89 year old Harper Lee is not all-there, frail, practically blind and deaf, and when her sister, Alice, passed away, her new "guardian" brought the manuscript to HarperCollins. The whole thing is one big money-grab. Besides, Go Set a Watchman isn't a sequel to Mockingbird, it's just a rough draft of what was to become the classic many high school kids get to read for English class.

5) This has been my summer of MISSING movies. I didn't see Jurassic World, Mad Max, Inside Out, or Minions. I did see Ant Man just last Friday with a bunch of guys. It was a good movie. I liked the light tone of it, and it did give several sneak peaks into the upcoming Captain America/Civil War movies.

Since I've been absent, what's been up with you?

I'm out of the loop starting Wednesday, and I deliberately made reservations for a remote cabin in the Arkansas mountains with NO wi-fi. I will come back rejuvinated and energized, ready to celebrate my 10th blogiversary next month.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Unintended Hiatus

Whoa, I haven't blogged since June 15th. Almost a month. Probably my longest hiatus since in several years. Sorry I missed so much. In the blogging world, disappearing for a month is like being away for a year.

Life got in the way. I was out of town for a week for work, and some pretty heavy stuff in my personal life also came crashing down on me. Big time. I'm happy to report that I was able to come out of my turmoil a-ok.

Everything will work out.

From a blogging perspective, my unintended hiatus came at a really bad time. My ten year blogiversary is next month, and I was hoping to ride a wave of euphoria while reaching a pretty huge milestone. Instead, I'm having to struggle to get in the right mindset.

Get back in the blogging saddle.

Having done this for ten years, I have lost count of how many bloggers simply disappeared and never came back. The real world has a way of sometimes wrecking even the best laid plans, doesn't it?

So maybe it's appropriate that I had to leave the blog in order to take care of some very life-altering matters when I did. Now that all that stuff is over (hopefully), I'm right back here, typing away on the old blog. It's not easy, but after going through a rough time recently, I take comfort in knowing I can count on blogging to make me feel at home again.

Blogging is like...exercising. You take one too many days off, not working out becomes a habit. But you drag yourself to the gym and force yourself to do it, eventually, doing the right thing also becomes routine.

I hope you are all doing well, and I look forward to catching up.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Huzzah to the Renaissance!

Jousting in nasty weather. Yuck!
This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to go to my very first Renaissance Faire. I've always wanted to go, but the timing was never right. Just last week, out of nowhere, a publisher who had connections with the operations of the Renaissance Faire that comes here every summer reached out to me and asked if I wanted to fill an open spot at their tent.

Without thinking, I just blurted, "Sure."

This was supposed to be the Saturday I was going to kick back and take it easy. I already regretted agreeing to go to this show. My audience won't be here. This isn't science fiction/fantasy! I don't write books about knights in armor or princesses and fairies.

When I got there, I was surprised that I was entering a forest once I walked over a bridge. I guess I expected a big open field, and indeed, there was one...but it was for the jousting.

I was walking into freaking Sherwood Forest. And all the vendors had these renaissance-ish wooden buildings and elaborate tents. I was totally floored. And I was not prepared, nor dressed for the occasion.

All the vendors were dressed in proper costume. Me? I was in a black t-shirt and khaki shorts. And I
She put ice cubes in her bosom as she spoke to me.
was sweating in the humid, nasty air despite the tall trees surrounding me. The other authors were great, and we worked together to figure out how to set up our table under a huge tent...a tent that had been invaded by about a billion long-legged daddy spiders.

After a couple of hours, I got comfortable with all the crazy sights and sounds all around, and I began working my magic. We were next to a stage, so crowds often walked right by me after a show. There was a pirate band act that was hilarious. Two very lovely ladies who did a comedy act that involved swordplay. And a guy that was a dead ringer for Captain Jack Sparrow (I've seen him at local cons before, and he's a bit of a local celebrity). He even had the voice down.

Even when the heavy rains came down and we scrambled to pile boxes of our books on top of a spare table, I still had a great time. In fact, I sold several of my books to people taking cover under the tent and waiting for the rain to die down.

At the end of the day, after packing up all my stuff and wringing out all the sweat from my shirt, I couldn't help but be surprised at how well I did at a Renaissance show. For one day, I did about as well as I do at a normal convention. I will always believe that the sci-fi/fantasy conventions are my sweet spot, but still...I have to admit that I need to keep my mind open to other avenues to promote my work.

You just never know.

Huzzah!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Heavy or Light?

I recently had a discussion with someone who read my debut novel, Dragonfly Warrior. He's not a friend, but more of an acquaintance. So I appreciated his opinions and objectivity. His big hangup with my book is that it wasn't "heavy enough."

"Heavy?" I'm pretty sure I looked at him cross eyed. "It's 400 pages, so it weighs..."

He shook his head. "It lacked grittiness. Profoundness. Heaviness."

I thought about his criticism for a long time before I replied, "I don't write heavy books. Or profound ones. I write adventure books. My books are an avenue for escapism and imagination."

This reader knew of my English degree and background in classic literature, and it boggled his mind that I was more Indiana Jones than King Lear. And you know, that suits me just fine. I'm actually happy that this person thought my books were too light for his taste.

I have not had an easy life. In fact, I'm pretty sure none of us have. Many writers use their harsh experiences as fuel to their writing fire. Their passion gets put to paper, and they bare their souls through the written word. Me? Life is gritty enough. Heavy enough. Hard enough. The last thing I want is to read a book that is equally heavy. Or watch a movie or TV that pulls me deeper into the pit of our existence.

Not to say that I don't appreciate a profound and heavy book once in awhile. My most favorite books To Kill A Mockingbird is at the very top of my personal favorites list, and I consider it mandatory reading for everyone. (Seriously, if you haven't read it, go!). I go back to read it every two years and get something new out of Lee's book every time.
are the ones you could say are important to our society.

I write the kind of books that take me back to my childhood. Growing up, I got lost in books filled with adventure, mystery, heroes and villains, and conflict. I wanted to be taken to another world to forget about life for a little bit. Does that mean I'm an intellectual lightweight? Maybe to some people.

How about you? What are your most favorite "heavy books?" How about books you loved to read just for pure entertainment? 

Dragonfly Warrior, the first book in The Mechanica Wars, is still FREE! So download it NOW and spread the word! Thanks.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

IWSG for June 2015

Before I get down to this month's IWSG post, I just wanted everyone to know that Dragonfly Warrior, the first book in my Asian-Steampunk series The Mechanica Wars, is FREE! So download it NOW and check it out.


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!

So yeah, I've made my debut novel FREE. There are several legit reasons why this is a bad idea. Many say it's a terrible thing to do. Readers might download the heck out of your freebie, but there's not much incentive to actually read it. And if they do read it, they probably weren't necessarily your target audience and they will just trash you when they write a review...IF they even write a review.

Giving your book away for free just makes readers expect free stuff all the time. It hurts the entire industry, and it will probably cause climate change.

My reason for making Dragonfly Warrior free is pretty simple. I decided to do some kind of marketing, and this is the best I've got. Book Bub turned me down. As did E-Reader News Today (which is weird because they've promoted me in the past). So after last month's post about me being too burned out to promote the third book in my series, I decided to do SOMETHING that wouldn't take a whole lot of effort.

I figure if it doesn't work, I'll make it $2.99 again and figure something out. It never hurts to try.

In an ideal world, two positives will come out of this:

1) I will get more reviews (and hopefully several 4 and 3 star ones. Having all 5 stars kinda looks suspicious)

2) Readers will want to continue the series and pick up Shadow Warrior (Vol 2) and Iron Warrior (Vol 3)

But I've got my doubts. I look at my own Kindle, and I see a graveyard of free books I downloaded but haven't read. I've got tons! When I read, there's more incentive to read something I paid actually money for. I tell myself, "I'll get to those freebies later." Ha. Yeah right.

I have to be honest with myself. I'm fairly sure a majority of those downloading Dragonfly Warrior probably won't read it. But hey, if a few readers like it and want to continue reading the other books, I'll count that as a victory.

Have you made any of your books free? If so, how did it go? Or are you against giving away your work for nuthin'? You poured your blood, sweat, and tears into your masterpiece, and darnit, that's gotta be worth at least 99 cents! Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wizard World Comic Con St. Louis

Last weekend was St. Louis' biggest event, Wizard World Comic Con. I shared a table with fellow author, Eric Asher. This was supposed to be my largest event so far in my young writing career, and that might have been the case attendance-wise.

The con was a mixed bag. Here's my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly...

The Good:

1) It's always such a pleasure and privilege to get to meet and talk to my readers. Several of them have visited with me at other events, tried my first book out, and wanted to get the other two books in the series. One reader even created a steampunk costume for his son, and on the back of the power pack, he put a little red dragonfly on it just for me.

Wow. That's so cool. I put that up there with a fan who made a customized action figure for me.

Meeting people who enjoy your work never gets old. It's what fuels me, actually. No matter how tough this road gets.

2) Eric Asher is just a cool dude. We laughed our asses off. It's always great to hang out with someone who has a similar sense of humor. The guy sells more in one day than I do in six months, and he's always full of knowledge and experience I try to tap into.

3) The cosplayers. Whoa. The costumes many of the con-goers create never cease to amaze me. If you want to see just a small sampling of my favorite ones, check out my Instagram posts:
Mr. Freeze's helmet was fog-proof, I believe

Instagram

The Bad:

1) Don't get me wrong. I think Hayley Atwell (Captain America/Agent Carter), Rick Coswell (The Flash), Elvira, George Romero (Dawn of the Dead), Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Jason David Frank (The Green Ranger) are awesome. But lacking this year were the headliners who have come to WW Comic Con in the past like William Shatner, Nathan Fillion, Matt Smith, or Adam West/Burt Ward.

2) The crowd stuck to the periphery. Photo ops and autograph booths were all around the outer edge of the arena. Artists row was in the middle. People pretty much kept to the huge booths at the entrance to the arena and all along the perimeter. There was no natural traffic flow through artists' alley.

3) It's always disheartening to see steampunk people walk on by. I know steampunk is a lot of different things to different people. It's fashion, jewelry, cool brass guns, goggles, etc. But steampunk is more than asthetics. Steampunk began as a literary movement, and it makes me sad that a vast majority of steampunks don't even stop by my table despite the obvious steampunk-ness of my banner, book covers, etc.

The Ugly:

1) It was Memorial Day Weekend. Holiday weekends tend to be weak. Overall attendance was WAY down compared to previous years. When there was a celebrity panel going on, the arena became a ghost town. That was weird. Usually, this show has about 20,000 people come through. I'm sure it was well below that number this year.

2) With reduced attendance came reduced sales. Most of the artists all around me ended up losing money. The cost of just a table was $325. Add parking, meals, and lodging for many of us, and that spells RED. Luckily, I split the cost of my table, and I live in town, so I was able to reduce my risk and end up in the BLACK. But barely. After I pay sales tax, I might be even more depressed.

3) With many vendors having lost their shirts, there was a lot of negativity. It's easy being dragged down into despair when all that anger and frustration is around you. I tried to take a deep breath, and just be thankful for all the good stuff that I was able to experience.

So the show was a mixed bag, but in my mind, the positives outweigh the negatives. Even if I had lost money, I'd still be immensely happy that I got to meet some people who either love my work or are willing to give my strange Asian-Steampunk books a try.

I seem to do better at medium/smaller shows. The price of the table is a fraction of the cost, and there seems to be more readers at these less-than-huge venues. I probably won't go to Wizard World next year as an artist, although I wouldn't mind going as an attendee.

I've now been doing events and shows for one full year, and I'm still learning and trying to figure out where I belong.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wizard World Cosplay Pics!

To check out my Instagram Feed of all my favorite cosplayers at this year's Wizard World Comic Con here in St. Louis, go to my official author's website at www.jaynoelbooks.com


Monday, May 18, 2015

Grammar Map

Miss me last week?

I was in Birmingham, Alabama all week on business, and I have always been fascinated by how people speak in different parts of the country. Since I've traveled a lot, and I've been fortunate to have friends from coast to coast, I consider myself pretty damn good at figuring out where people are from just by listening to them speak. Not just by their "accents," but also by their word choices, colloquialisms, and grammar.

For example, in Alabama, a lot of local folks like to but "a" in front of verbs.

I'm a-goin' to the store to buy some bread.

Incidentally, many southern states also do this. West Virginia, for example.

Yale researchers have been studying how people in certain regions of the country use grammar, and they even created a pretty cool map. It's amazingly accurate. In fact, the map shows that many caucasians in Alabama do that A-Prefixing thing that I noticed.

Here in the St. Louis area (along with much of the Midwest - Illinois, Southern Michigan and Indiana, the Dakotas, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Iowa), we tend to use the Positive Anymore when talking. Here's a couple examples:

Yes, we still have several Blockbuster Video stores around here anymore.
The only thing anymore about baseball I like is watching home runs.

I have friends in Los Angeles, and along with other parts of the country, they like to do the Drama So when talking:

I am so going to kick his ass when I see him next time.

People in New York state and Houston, Texas, and Seattle also tend to do the Drama So.

I spent some time in parts of Pennsylvania back in the early 2000s, and I always found Pennsylvanians had a very distinctive usage of the the English language that became easy for me to pick up. They are one of the regions that do the Needs Washed.

After driving through the mud, my car needs washed.

By the way, I've been told that I have absolutely no accent at all when I speak. People have said that I speak as if I could be on the news. Not sure if that's a compliment or not.

You can learn more about the Yale study and take a look at the entire Grammar Map HERE.

QUICK NOTES:

* Amazingly, Iron Warrior shot up the Amazon Best Sellers rankings despite a lack of marketing. It hovered in the Top 20 in the Asian Myths and Legends category before tumbling. Oh well. Easy come easy go.

* I will be at Wizard World Comic Con in St. Louis this weekend, sharing an author table with Eric Asher. It's the biggest show I've ever done. I'll be blogging about my experience next week.

* My blog turns 10 years old this August, and I think I'm going to celebrate with a bunch of giveaways AND I'm going to revert to my old format for the entire month. So expect whacky science stories in August.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG for May 2015

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!

Blog tours, cover reveal, podcast interviews, social media campaigns...so many different ways to market and promote my latest release.

And yet, I'm not doing ANY of it.

On Monday, Iron Warrior, the third book in my Asian-inspired steampunk series, The Mechanica Wars, became available on Amazon and B&N (iTunes coming soon), and all I did was post about it on Facebook to my friends and family.

Why am I not cranking the marketing machine for this final volume in this trilogy? I just don't have the will. It's not just about insecurity, which is usually my best friend in this 'ol writing career o' mine. I've run out of steam. It takes effort to promote, and I have nothing in the tank.

It's really sad, because I feel like Iron Warrior is the best book out of all three.

My day job is demanding, and right now, it's sapping my time and energy. I'll be out of town all next week. Once again in June. Not to mention all the regional travel and overnights I do on a daily basis.

Iron Warrior is a BIG book. 428 pages. 105,000 words. It cost me quite a bit to have it edited, proofread, and formatted. This was my most expensive project to date, and the total cost reached four digits. Ouch. It's my fault, as I'm a perfectionist, and I never settle for second-best. But dang!

Because I've been running on fumes the last couple months, my writing has taken a nose-dive. I think the last time I felt like writing something new was back in February. Back when there was snow on the ground.

I'm usually in a constant state of anxiety, excitement, and insecurity with a new release. This time, I'm too tired to actually care. Maybe that's a good thing. I've been reading up on the Power of Intention and how detachment can help you manifest what you want.

To quote a Disney Movie I hear at least twice a day inside pediatricians' waiting rooms, I'm going to "Let it Go."

Let go and let God.