Dysfunction and Dynamics

Dysfunction and Dynamics

Doug's father burst through the front door, wisps on the night's mist following in with the breeze of his sudden entrance. "Where's your mother?"

Doug put down his tattered geography book and looked up from where he slouched on an upholstered divan, finger combing long black curls out of his face. "Where she always is, sitting in front of the mirror in her bedroom. What did she do, call the mayor a cow again?"

Warren LeRoux's eyes flashed with impatience. "You know she never called her that."

Doug knew his mother denied it. He also knew commenting on it would get under his father's skin and at fourteen years old, he couldn't help his teenage self. He shrugged and retrieved his textbook.

His father peered at him as if debating whether to continue. Doug figured he would. "That rumor is not the only thing damaging Bonita's reputation. And remember, what tarnishes her reflects on the rest of us as well."

Doug slammed his book shut. "I didn't marry her. I had no choice but to be born because of the two of you. Her tarnish, your tarnish, follows me like a black cloud every day. Have you ever wondered why I have no friends? If I could change my parentage, I’d do it in a heartbeat."

His father blushed red up to the top of his bald head. Long, black curly hair, like his son's—though only at the sides and back—was pulled into a thick ponytail that whipped as Warren spun and stomped to his bedroom.

Thick, dark, eyebrows protruded over Doug's eyes as he scowled at his father's back—his thin lips forming the flat line of a vindictive smile. As soon as his father closed the door to his room Doug hurried to stand close enough to hear.

Houses in the land of Vampire varied wildly in quality and construction. Warren felt, as a councilman in the city of Moordwick and having the mayor's ear, he should be afforded the luxuries of carpeting on wooden floors and real glass in all of the windows. Muffled by expensive imported rugs, Doug’s father shouldn’t be able to hear the creak of floorboards outside the bedroom.

Gossip circulated about how the civil servant was able to purchase such luxuries. Among the rumors following Doug’s parents were stories of foreign gold coming with Warren and his bride fifteen years before.

Bonita looked to be an ordinary vampire woman. But, her scream was unlike any other in the land. Once heard, a vampire would never forget its sound or the weakness hearing it left in their bowels.

The solid wooden door was not so thick, or his parents didn't attempt to lower their voices, and Doug listened with interest to their conversation.

"Silvia Hashmeer has been ensorceled or zombified or something. She's sitting in her home in a catatonic state, staring, unseeing, unresponsive and others are pointing their fingers at you," Warren growled.

Bonita's voice was cheery. "Why yes, dear. I've had a wonderful afternoon. And how was your day?"

"Don't play with me, Bonita. This isn't a time for levity. Everyone knows that you were at her house this morning. And while the whole town thinks they know what you're capable of, no one really knows what your skills are. It scares them and they jump to conclusions."

She laughed, though it was dry and humorless. "Very convenient. The cthulhu spawn visits someone by herself and the next everyone knows, the hapless woman is trapped in a vegetative state."

Doug's father hissed. "Don't say that."

"Why not? That's what they think. That's what they all say when my back is turned and they're too stupid to think that since I'm not looking at them, I won't hear them. Or maybe, they want me to hear. So, I walk past them, hiking my skirts to avoid non-existent mud. Let them see I have ankles and legs just like they do."

Warren coughed and cleared his throat. "You shouldn't ask for trouble. It makes my job so much harder."

She snapped at him. "I don't ask for trouble. Trouble is all over this town and if your job is difficult, that's your problem. It was you who brought us here for your great opportunity. You never considered the home we left or the lives we would have to lead to facilitate your climb up the political ladder. You knew all about me from the time we were children. If you didn't want trouble, you should never have asked me to marry you."

Doug heard his father step toward the door and dashed quietly back to the couch before the doorknob turned. As his father crossed the room to his study, Doug asked with feigned sincerity, "How's mom?"

His father shot him an appraising scowl but said nothing, closing the study door without a word.


The following day, Bonita stroked her son's hair as he finished his breakfast. "My boy is becoming such a man. Do the girls chase you all day, like I would have when I was your age?"

He put down his spoon and turned in his chair. "Did you chase dad? I can't imagine him waddling fast enough to escape from a tortoise."

She slapped him gently on the shoulder. "You! Your father was much more slender when he was young. And he had more hair. But, no. I never had to chase him. He always had his eye on me. I remember when he came to talk to my father and ask for my hand..."

"Your father. You hardly ever talk about him. Why don't we visit your parents the way we do dad's?"

A bang came from the front of the house as something heavy struck the door, followed by the crash of shattering glass.

Doug jumped to his feet but hesitated to run into the sitting room in case another rock or brick was about to fly through the window. He looked to his mother who remained rooted where she was. Her knuckles were white where she gripped the back of his vacated chair.

Someone rang the front bell. His mother bit her bottom lip.

The bell rang again and someone called through the broken window, "Bonita? Are you there?"

Like a statue coming to life, Doug's mother rushed to the front door.

Doug followed, his leather soled shoes crunching on the broken glass.

Bonita opened the door. "Hephzibah. It's you."

The two women hugged. The woman patted Bonita on the back. "I saw some children running away and then I noticed the broken window. Bonnie, are you alright?"

They stepped apart. "Yes. Thank you, dear. It's very shocking." She fanned her hand in front of her face. "I think I need to sit down."

Hephzibah helped Doug's mother to the couch. "Let me get you some tea."

The woman passed Doug on her way to the kitchen. "I think you should get to school, young man. It's getting late. I'll help your mother clean up this mess."

Blood rushed to Doug's face at the woman commanding him in his own house, though she was right. He needed to be off. "You'll be alright, mom?"

"Yes. Thank you, son. We'll get the house cleaned up and I'll go talk with your father. Behavior like this from neighborhood children is unacceptable. Warren is supposed to be an important person in our community. He should be treated with respect."

"Okay." Doug hesitated, then headed out the door wondering what his important father would do about this vandalism.

A rock sat on the steps down from the porch, obviously the first to hit the house as it had a note tied to it. Doug slipped the note from beneath the twine and shoved it in his pocket to look at when he was alone. He hurried around the corner and down the street to the school. He wondered who the children were who Hephzibah had seen throwing the rocks and running away. The rock on the steps was big enough and must have been thrown with enough force to make such a loud bang on the door. No small child could have been the culprit—most likely it was someone his own age.

Arriving to the middle school Doug wondered which of these children might have written the note and thrown the rock. There weren't many students around his age, only a few hundred, and most were as reclusive as he was. He passed a few groups of people as he entered the two-story, brick building. None turned to greet him or acknowledge his passing.

His first class was art and he sat at the large table. He spread out sheets of paper and arranged his pencils from the softest leads to the hardest. Fifteen minutes before class was to begin, and he was alone in the room.

Doug slipped the paper from his pocket. The writing was neat, the letters precise on unlined paper, though the message was unclear, 'Slimewalker, go back to your swamp.'

The beginning of class neared and others entered the room. Doug quickly slipped the note back into his coat pocket. Two students across the table laughed under their breath and seemed to glance at Doug every time he looked away. At the end of class when the young people gathered their supplies and slid their chairs back from the tables, had someone whispered, "Slimewalker"?

Doug walked down the long hallway toward his language arts class, ignoring the actual or imaginary stares of those he passed, looking at anything but the faces of his fellow students. On impulse, he stepped into a classroom, empty of everyone but the teacher. She concentrated on the papers before her, not noticing Doug's silent approach until he was almost at her side.

She smiled. "Doug. Biology isn't until this afternoon and no assignments are coming due. Is there something I can help you with?"

Doug stopped in front of her desk, shoving his hands into the pockets of his baggy corduroy pants. "I have a question, Ms. Shardsmith. Is there something called a slimewalker?"

She sat up straight, and blinked her eyes several times. "Well. Yes and no. That is a derogatory term, not an actual classification. And, whether the creatures actually exist to which the term has been connected, well, no one really knows for sure. To accuse someone of being a, well, of one of those creatures, defiles the accuser as well as the accused, because to have knowledge of such requires rather intimate contact. And no one would admit to that, since, otherwise, one would just be spreading rumors, which is also wrong."

Doug shuffled his feet. "Maybe, someone might admit that they're one of them."

Ms. Shardsmith cut him off. "No. No one would admit to that. They're purported to be very dangerous with psychic abilities to control the minds and actions of other people. No. To admit that would be asking for exile or death, even."

"If slimewalkers, sorry. If that term is bad, what are they really?"

"I can't say they really exist. If they did they would be referred to as Cthulhu spawn. They are believed to have descended from the ancient gods and allegedly have hidden in the southern swamps for generations. They are indistinguishable from regular vampires. That's all I know about them, so, unless you have other questions, I must get back to my work."

Doug shook his head. "No. No other questions. Thanks."

He turned and headed toward the door. The hairs down the back of his neck seemed to stand on end. Was Ms. Shardsmith's watching him leave, making assumptions about his motivation? He glanced at her quickly as he opened the door. She had been staring at him.


The broken glass was all cleaned away when Doug came home from school and brown paper was taped up, covering where the window had been. Examining the front door, he found where the rock had struck it, leaving a deep gash in the wood. For the first time in his life, he found the door locked. His mother must have really been upset by the attack that morning.

The back door to the kitchen was unlocked. "Hey, mom. I'm home." He dropped his books on the kitchen table and walked further into the house. "Mom?"

With no response he walked to her room and knocked on the door. "Mom? Are you in there?"

All was silent in the house. He couldn't remember the last time he'd been in the house all by himself.

The back door opened and closed. Bonita LeRoux hurried into the sitting room from the kitchen, breathing heavily and straightening disheveled hair. "Doug. You're home."

"Yeah. I just got here. You were out?"

"Yes. I was out," she repeated absently. As if waking up she added, "I was in the backyard."

Doug frowned. "The front door was locked, so I came in through the back door."

She nodded, walking to her room. "Good. We need to keep the front door locked, after this morning."

He pursed his narrow lips. "I didn't see you in the back yard."

She stood as still as a statue, barely taking a breath. "I was around the corner."

Bonita went into her room and closed the door.

A moment later, the front door rattled. Doug wondered if he should check who was there, until he heard a key in the lock, followed by his father opening the door. His jaw was set with grim determination as he charged to the bedroom. Doug watched through the open door as his father challenged his mother. "Bonita. What have you done?"

No coy response this time. She spat back, "Are you accusing me of something? Your wife? I've done nothing but hide in my home all day fearing who will attack next. And where have you been?"

"Me?" Doug's father stepped back, dramatically, as if he'd been struck. "I've been chasing around the town trying to convince people not to burn you at the stake."

"And why would someone want to do that?"

Doug stepped into the bedroom and held out the note he'd taken from the rock. "They think you're a slimewalker."

They both turned to stare, open mouthed, at their son. His father's pale face was a stark contrast to his mother's bright red blush. Warren took the note from Doug's hand.

"Where did you get this?"

Doug shoved his hands back into his pockets. "It was tied to one of the rocks thrown at the house this morning. I tried to look up what a slimewalker was in the school library, but there were no references to anything like that. Do you know what that is?" He looked from one parent to the other for an answer.

Doug's mother walked to the bed and sat, staring at her hands.

"Dad? What's a slimewalker?"

His father snapped at him. "Don't use that term in this house."

"Fine, then. I'll go use the term outside in the street and I'll ask people what they know about them. And I'll keep asking until someone gives me an answer and can explain to me why it was written on that note and thrown at our house."

Doug's father closed the bedroom door on his wife and showed Doug to the sitting room. "Take a seat and I'll tell you what I know." He looked back over his shoulder as if to see if Bonita had followed out of the bedroom. "No one admits to being one, and no one admits to knowing one, because they are believed to be psychic vampires who siphon off the mental powers of regular people. Their victims are left like Silvia Hashmeer was yesterday and like the other two women were left today."

"What two other women? I haven't heard anything."

"I don't want to say." Doug's father closed his eyes and sighed dramatically. "But you should know. Your mother is implicated. One is Hephzibah Gournish and the other is Alathea Fourie."

Doug shook his head. "Hephzibah was here, this morning, after the kids threw those rocks."

His father nodded. "And your mother visited Alathea earlier this afternoon. All three women were last seen with Bonita before they were found bewitched."

Doug could barely control his anxiety and got to his feet. He walked around the couch and stared at his parent's bedroom door. "Is mother a, well, one of those things I'm not supposed to mention?"

Warren said nothing.

"You would know, wouldn't you? They said at school, knowing one is as bad as being one. You would know she's not, if she was just a normal vampire. You can stand up for her, then. You can defend her."

"No Doug." His father stood and walked to his side. "I can't defend her. And the evidence against her is too damning. Your mother had close contact with each of these women shortly before they were found. If she had visited only one of them, we could reason that away, but you know the saying, 'Three's a Charm'."

Doug pointed at his father. "Wait. You can't defend her because the amount of evidence against her, or, because you know what she really is?"

His father's eyes seemed to bulge out of his face. "What she really is, is your mother and my wife. I'm not going to throw her to the wolves just because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or times."

Doug folded his arms. "What are we going to do, then? Board up our windows and dig a mote around the house?"

"No. We're going to move. People are too superstitious in small towns like this. We need to go somewhere bigger. Somewhere more accepting to people who are...different." Doug's father headed toward the door.

"Where would that be? The capitol? Hordamere"

His father shook his head. "California. Lock the door and don't let anyone in."

"Warren?" Doug's mother stood in the open doorway to her bedroom. "Where are you going now? You always seem to leave, just when we need you to be around."

Unable to disguise his annoyance, Warren rolled his eyes. "I'm going to find out if I still have thirteen friends who will join with us to form a circle and send us away, magically. If not, I'm afraid we will be hounded all the way to the borders of Vampire and the land between where we can make the transfer ourselves. Pack a single suitcase of what is most important to you. We have to hurry."


Doug's mother found him in his room, sitting on his bed, next to an empty suitcase.

"You haven't packed a thing. Your father will be back soon and you won't be ready."

Doug hunched forward, resting his elbows on his knees, and scowled sideways at his mother. "I don't want to be ready. I don't want to leave. Everything I know is right here. I don't want to start new somewhere else."

She leaned against the wall. "It's not safe to stay here. They threw a rock through our window. It could have been a burning bottle of alcohol and we wouldn't have been able to gather up any of our belongings before we left."

"It was kids. Teenage boys looking for a little excitement. Are you going to let a couple of punks chase you away from the home you've built over the last fifteen years?"

"Ideas have to come from somewhere. If kids are talking about something, it's because they heard adults talking about it."

"But why?" Doug stood up to face his mother. "Why are we running away? Are you what they say you are? Did you do to those women what they said you did?"

She put her hands on her hips as if it would make her more right. "Of course I didn't hurt those women. They're my friends. But, people will believe what they want to believe, and right now they want to believe I'm guilty."

Warren burst into the room, nearly knocking his wife over. He looked around the room frantically. "Why aren't you packed? The ring will be formed in the backyard in less than fifteen minutes. We have to be ready to go before anyone can interrupt the ceremony."

"Take mom and go. I'm staying here." Doug sat back down on the bed.

His father stomped toward him. "Are you insane? They're organizing near the town center. They'll be coming for us within the hour. They'll burn the house down and anything, and anyone, in it."

"No. They're coming for mom. When they get here, I'll tell them you left town with her, and they'll leave me alone."

Doug's father seized him by the arm and pulled him to stand. "You're not insane. You're stupid. If they think your mother is a creature with supernatural powers, what does that make you?"

A mixture of frustration and anger boiled inside Doug. "If mom is innocent, just a normal vampire, we should be able to go to court and talk to a judge. If she's not normal, and I'm not normal, tell me what she is, now, or leave without me."

"Okay." Warren pointed through the open door. "Let's go." They followed Doug's mother out to her suitcase. "Your mother is a descendant of Cthulhu spawn, ancient gods with psychic powers to control others. Because she is, there is a chance that you are too. We won't know for a few years if you have those characteristics. But if we don't get the two of you out of here soon, we may never have the chance to find out."

Doug saw through a window they passed, people gathering on the front lawn. Some carried torches. "It looks like the circle is forming out front."

Warren gritted his teeth and picked up his wife's suitcase. "Those are not our friends. I told them to form the circle in the backyard. The people out front are a mob come to exact their own justice."

At the door to the back yard, they peered through curtains. Doug counted a half dozen people gathered in the shadows. "There aren't enough people yet."

The front door rattled and then someone kicked it hard, several times.

"Let's go," Warren said, opening the door to the backyard.

They hurried down the wooden steps to the dry grass of the dead lawn.

Incomprehensible shouts came from the other side of the house.

A woman stepped from the shadows--the mayor. "Form the circle, quickly, the others will be here in a moment and we can start."

Even as she spoke, the side gate opened and three more dark forms slipped into the yard.

"Where's your suitcase, Dad?" Doug asked as his mother hanked him toward the ring of people forming in the middle of the yard. A low chant groaned from their midst.

His mother interrupted. "Warren. We only have twelve participants. We need another."

Doug's father stepped into the single gap in the circle. "It's okay. I'll catch up with you later."

With Doug and his mother at the center, the area inside the circle rapidly filled with fog until he was no longer able to see the participants around them.

When the fog cleared again, Doug and his mother found themselves alone, on a short gravel driveway to a dilapidated cottage.


Standing five yards away from a paved road visible between hedges to both sides of the gravel drive, they heard the roar of something approach. Doug and his mother jumped back as a metal, horseless carriage shot past, humans inside, clearly visible through large glass windows.

Doug heard the crunch of gravel as his mother walked to the cottage. Unwilling to resign himself to his apparent fate he folded his arms and stood in the center of the driveway, watching her climb the steps and push open the door. After fifteen minutes of silent rebellion he saw his defiance was getting him nowhere and followed her into the house.

It appeared that humans had not lived there for many years. Paint peeled around the door frames and the linoleum floor tiles were discolored and cracked. Once through the doorway, the kitchen opened to the left and a small sitting room lay directly ahead. From the sitting room, two doors lead to bedrooms on the right, with a bathroom between them.

Doug entered the smaller of the two rooms. Brown light tried to shine through the filthy, north facing window. There was no furniture in the dusty room.

He turned around to find his mother considering him. "How am I supposed to live here?" he growled at her. "I didn't have a chance to bring any of my stuff and there's no furniture in the house. Dad's not even here to suffer with us. Did you know he wasn't coming along?"

She folded her arms. "Well, no. I thought he would be here. We didn't have much time to talk this adventure out. But, you had the chance to pack. It's your own fault that you sat there brooding like a child."

Doug tried to think of a sassy response. His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a horn from their driveway, and then a knock on the door.

Opening the door, Doug was greeted by a young vampire, not many years older than himself. He didn't smile, but indicated a vehicle behind him in the drive, its open bed loaded with boxes and furniture. "I'm Randall. We brought you some stuff. My parents got word you'd be here today."

Doug stepped out onto the porch.

Randall pointed to a girl beside him. "This is Theressa. She and I both came from Vampire, too. This other girl is Marrissa. She used to be human."

Doug glanced at each person. "Are you from the local coven?"

"I'm in charge of the tributary." Randall pulled a box of mason jars filled with thick red liquid from the bed of the truck. He handed the box to Doug. "My parents lead the coven for this part of town. How old are you?"


Randall smiled. "Perfect. There's an elf your age I need someone to keep an eye on."

Free eBooks

I've scheduled some promotions for the next month.

January 11-15 the ebook of "Shooting Stars: A Teenage Vampire Love Story from a Boy's Perspective" will be free on Amazon.com


January 25-29 the ebook of "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age" will be free on Amazon.com


February 1-5 the ebook of Shooting Stars 3 "Blue Moon" will be free on Amazon.com


Yes. I'm still here.

These are not new years resolutions, only the things I currently have planned, coinciding with starting a monthly news letter and email list. With the way Amazon, Facebook, and other platforms may change their policies over night and cut my exposure down in an instant, it only makes sense to create a more intimate source, a more individually captained source, for contact with people who might be interested in my fiction.

So, if you're interested, here's what I have planned:

A monthly newsletter updating the status of each of my projects, sharing personal successes in writing, running, and family life, probably sharing an absurd observation or two, and sharing a short story from one of my fictional environments which shouldn't be available elsewhere.

Projects I currently have going are:

The Price of Friendship (ebook). It is through edits. I'm working on the book cover and formatting. It should be out by the end of February 2019.

The Galactic Battle Base: Space Dust (ebook) It is also through edits, the cover is almost done, and it needs formatting. Also should be out by the end of February 2019.

The Pariah. Episodes 15-20 are ready to be recorded and released as podcast episodes. After that, they will be released as the fourth novella/chapter book. I'm editing Episodes 21-24. When they are recorded and released as podcast episodes, I will re edit the entire novel and then send it to an editor.

Shooting Stars 4 needs another major edit with another 10K words.

Next week I'm taking a day off from the day job to outline my short stories for my monthly new letters with the first news letter due out at the beginning of February.

Book Review: Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow

Girl in Pieces, by Kathleen Glasgow, starts out with a nameless, silent girl in a mental hospital sharing her mental observations. Silent Sue, one of the other patients calls her. All the women on this floor are the self-harmers, the NSSI--Non Suicidal Self Injury, the cutters and burners.
We learn her story is small slices--the chapters are short, some a single paragraph. But the author's ability to pack so much information, characterization and emotion into the each sentence is one of the things that makes this novel so great.
Left on the lawn of a hospital, freezing and bleeding to death, her own story comes back to her in pieces. Charlie begins to open to her doctors and fellow patients as she begins to remember who she is and what happened.
I felt her anxiety as she has to leave the safety of the hospital and enter the public world in the care of her mother whom she fears.
That's all the plot I will share, because the discovery of herself and of her capacities, scraping away the surface and finding the abuses and fears below is what kept me reading, (or listening in my  case).
I have written a novel where my main character is a teenage girl who cuts. It's science fiction, set 800 years in the future and I've shared some of the chapters on my blog. I've written it as "the other", as it is called in literature--writing from another's point of view, position of experience, not having lived it myself. I hurt for these girls, and the growing number of boys, who have  suffered so much at their own hands, whose only break from depression and anxiety is to create their own physical pain. I wanted to say something that would bring their plight more awareness.
Kathleen Glasgow comes at this novel, not as the other, but as the person who has experienced this life first hand and hearing her own words at the end of the audio version brought the impact of the novel to an even deeper level to me.
I loved this story for the author's beautiful, some call it poetic, writing. For Charlie's ceaseless striving for acceptance and love, and her eternal struggle to overcome her weaknesses and doubts.
Note: This novel contains strong language, violence, and sexual situations.

Source: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Pieces-Kathlee...

What is Relevant about Kindle Ads?

I've been using some Kindle advertising recently to see if I could generate some sales.

There are different ways you can use Kindle ads, though they all use targeting on Amazon.
One way is to target groups. For instance, I've been using "Flypaper Boy: Coming of Age" for my ads. Here's my blurb:
He always wanted to fit in but never had the skills. Now he has the moves, confidence, and the opportunity to choose. Will he be a superhero or a villain?

You're limited for the number of characters, so you have to spend a lot of time refining your blurb to say exactly what you want, very concisely. 
Then you choose your target. You can target interests or products. Interests are like, Reading: Fiction: Young Adult. There are not a ton of them to choose from, so it's really hard for me to create a target group that is successful.
The other way is to choose products like books by Bryan Cohen or Brandon Sanderson, or any other author or series that is similar in some way--that an audience for that product would be interested in your book, read the blurb and buy.
On the page of that target group or product, a little picture of my book shows up as a suggested purchase, with the little blurb next to it.
The final step to reach people is that you must name your price, the amount you are willing to pay to have your ad 'clicked'. Others may be out there bidding higher than you and will have their ad placed before you, but I've found for $.60 I get a lot of 'impressions' (the ad being placed on a page.)

Here are the results of three ads I placed for Flypaper Boy.

The first was based on groups, such as that mentioned above. I got:
110K impression
54 clicks at an average of $.49 per click and a total for $26.66 spent
0 sales when I stopped the advertisement.

I saw that was going nowhere, so I stopped it and changed my approach. I picked three different authors and targeted about fifty books.

I only got 35K impression and 11 clicks over four days for a cost of $5.95, but I had 3 sales for $6.20 in profit. Kindle shut down my ad because they said, "It lacked relevance." I realize I wasn't getting hundreds of thousands of view and clicks, but I actually turned a profit.

I beefed up the same ad but added a about 700 more specific books to target. That got me really relevant. I got 233K impressions, 101 clicks and spent $52 to get $16 in sales. (That's about $10 in revenue for a loss of $42.)

What is my take away from these three trials?
The ad that is relevant to Kindle Direct Publishing is one that makes them money fast.

Sharpening the Saw - Random Ruminations Remotely Related to wRiting (and Running)

To say I ran a marathon four years ago would really be glorifying the experience. I ran the first seven miles.

It was the St. George Marathon. If you know anything about that event, you probably know the first seven miles is very scenic and all down hill. After that it may have been scenic. I have no idea.

The next thirteen or so miles was a run walk. Three gruesome miles seemed like I was climbing straight out of a gorge and though the next ten miles were roughly level, it seemed like I was still going uphill. I don't remember much of the final six miles. The last mile was accented by terrible body cramps. At one point, with the finish line in sight, people were cheering me on with "You can do!" type encouragements, but my legs had physically seized up and I could barely move. Somehow, I made it across the finish line in something like five and a half hours total time. I think two or three people came in behind me.

Clearly, the saner side of my brain vowed to never do that again, and truth be told, I may have run ten miles in the last four years.

When I began a running program in July of this year, my goal was to make running a part of my reasonable life. Or was it, a reasonable amount of running part of my life. However I said it, I meant that I would consider myself a runner, get in reasonable shape, reduce my weight, and not overdo it.

Starting with only a mile and a half with more walking than running, I slowly built up to four miles, twice during the week, and five to six on the weekend. Then the insanity hit me...

I reconsidered running another marathon.

My problem at St. George was that I had stopped preparing about six months before the event. My long runs had gotten shorter with more gaps in between. By the time I hit the marathon, I was running, maybe, two days a week.

Long story short, I've set a goal to run the California International Marathon in Sacramento in December of 2019 with the goal of running at a Boston Marathon qualifying pace for a 60 year old. I'll turn sixty the following June. I'll follow up with the Modesto Marathon in March of 2020 to keep my momentum and improve my time. However, I will not do this if I haven't kept up my running lifestyle for the next four years. The intermediate goals are three half marathons in 2016, four in 2017, five in 2018, and at least six in 2019, before the CIM. If I can maintain this level of running, I should be able to comfortably run the CIM and Modesto Marathon with a qualifying time. Then it will be off to Boston in the fall.

YA Books Podcast

I know. I've tried podcasting before, and believe me, I intend to finish the Pariah Podcast. I'm recording episode 11 right now, with 12 ready to record right afterward. I'm editing episode 13 and am writing 16 which will fold Nit into the story completely.

This new podcast is supposed to be my effort at doing something for the community. Whether you are readers of YA fiction or writers of the same, my hope is that you will find interesting interviews with author you read or want to emulate.

I want to interview authors of all types of YA Fiction: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, Romance, Mystery, even Literary.

I've done about ten interviews so far and have launched the podcast with the first four episodes.

It's available on iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/yabookspodcasts-podcast/id1044942015?mt=2 and on Libsyn.com. However, if you go to Libsyn, download the episodes. If you try to stream them they...well, they don't after 28 seconds.

I'm meeting lots of great authors and am having a blast talking with them about their lives, their books, inspiration and their writing methods.

Come by, check it out, and, by all means, subscribe and leave me a review. I don't care if the review is bad...that's what I need to get in front of more listeners: subscriptions and reviews.



September Book Deals

Here are some fantastic ebooks on SALE! Who doesn't love a sale, right? Please pass this on to your friends who might be interested. And help us share it on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks!!

 Check out all these books!

Imperfect Love by Rebecca Talley 

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99 

Purchase Imperfect Love

Lauren Wilson is well on her way to her happily-ever-after. She’s passionate about her career as a middle school English teacher, she adores her handsome, hard-working husband, and with a baby finally on the way, her perfect life is within her grasp.

But then a devastating test result changes everything.

Forced to choose between her baby and her husband, Lauren makes the only decision she can live with, and she returns to her small hometown in hopes of rebuilding her shattered life.

Ethan Campbell is a gifted photographer who travels the world and has no desire to settle down. When his mother dies, he must go home to settle her estate. Then it’s back to exciting adventures across the globe.

When Lauren crosses paths with Ethan, her teenage crush, old feelings resurface—feelings she’s not prepared to face. Will Lauren have the courage to trust again or will she spend her life alone? Imperfect Love is a story about sacrifice, healing, second chances, and discovering that although love isn’t always perfect, sometimes it’s the imperfect love that’s the sweetest of all.

A Change of Plans by Donna K. Weaver

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase A Change of Plans
Audiobook  (If you own the eBook, the audiobook is only $1.99)

When Lyn sets off on her supposedly uncomplicated and unromantic cruise, she never dreams it will include pirates. All the 25-year-old Colorado high school teacher wants is to forget that her dead fiancé was a cheating scumbag. What she plans is a vacation diversion; what fate provides is Braedon, an intriguing surgeon. She finds herself drawn to him: his gentle humor, his love of music, and even his willingness to let her take him down during morning karate practices. Against the backdrop of the ship’s make-believe world and its temporary friendships, her emotions come alive.

However, fear is an emotion, too. Unaware of the sensitive waters he navigates, Braedon moves to take their relationship beyond friendship—on the very anniversary Lyn came on the cruise to forget. But Lyn’s painful memories are too powerful, and she runs off in a panic.

Things are bad enough when the pair finds themselves on one of the cruise’s snorkeling excursions in American Samoa. However, paradise turns to piracy when their party is kidnapped. Lyn’s fear of a fairytale turns grim. Now she must fight alongside the man she rejected, first for their freedom and then against storms, sharks, and shipwreck.

Salem Witch Haunt by Theresa Sneed

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $2.99

Purchase Salem Witch Haunt

When she finds herself thrust back in time, 17 year old Bess Martin, a senior at Danvers High, sets out on a mission to save her 11th great-grandmother from the gallows-tree. With a near-perfect knowledge of the historical events about to unfold, Bess knows the untimely fate of many. 

The problem is that Bess has inherited her grandmother’s sharp tongue—a tongue that caused her grandmother to be tried and hanged as a witch in Salem Village, 1692. 

Can Bess stop the hangings and change the course of history, or will she share her grandmother’s fate? 

Felicity A Sparrow's Tale by Loralee Evans

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase Felicity A Sparrow's Tale

Tales of adventure and danger have thrilled Felicity since Augustus, her ivory-billed woodpecker friend, taught her to read as a little nestling. She adores the tales of heroes and heroines who forge ahead in spite of all odds, and who always seem to succeed no matter what. More than anything, Felicity wants to be brave and selfless like them. 

But adventures are in short supply, especially for someone who’s just an ordinary sparrow. 

Until the day an unexpected visitor shows up at her tree with an unusual request…

Newbie by Jo Noelle
Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99
The housing market is crashing, and Sophie’s life is crashing with it. At twenty-four, her successful real estate career evaporates. She’s broke, can’t find a job, or pay her bills, leaving Sophie wondering how her successful lifestyle became so fragile.
At the urging of her roommate, Sophie accepts a job in her fallback career—teaching six-year-olds. She hopes it’s temporary. After all, how long can a tanking economy last anyway? The best part of the new job is Liam, another employee at Rio Grande Elementary. The worst part of the new job is, well, teaching.
Sophie has a surprise real estate closing from a contract she wrote months ago, leading her to a niche in the real estate market and to a new partner, Kevin. Sophie must choose between Liam or Kevin and between a lucrative career or recess duty.

Lost Without You by Annette Lyon

Regular price: $2.99
SALE Price: $0.99

For months, Christopher Morris has been Brooke's idea of the perfect man—attractive, charming, and fun to be around. But lately he's begun acting strangely, becoming possessive, controlling, and moody. Brooke feels she has no choice but to break up with him, but Christopher doesn't take it well. He drives her wildly back home and gets into a car accident. 

That's when Brooke first meets police officer Greg Stevens. After she keeps meeting him—at the worst possible times—they begin dating. Greg confesses he's a widower and that Brooke is the first woman he has so much as looked at in years. 

But as Brooke agonizes over whether Greg will ever be able to truly love her, Christopher makes a dangerous return into her life, deciding that if he can't have her, no one can.

The Man from Shenandoah by Marsha Ward

Regular Price: $2.99
SALE Price: $.99

Purchase on Amazon
Purchase on BN
Purchase on Kobo
Purchase on iTunes

When young cavalryman Carl Owen returns from the Civil War, he finds the family farm destroyed, his favorite brother dead, food scarce, and his father planning to leave the Shenandoah Valley to start a cattle operation in Colorado Territory.
But Pa does a bit more: he also chooses a suitable mate for both Carl and his younger brother, James.
With no one else in mind, Carl is agreeable to marrying the delightfully flirtatious Ida Hilbrands somewhere along the trail, but James is devastated. Ellen Bates isn't the girl he loves and must leave behind.
Making their way across the vast continent, the Owen family and their friends battle a prairie fire, internal strife, a band of vicious outlaws, and the land itself to try to achieve their goals, but before that can happen, the two brothers are fighting over the hand of one girl—and only one of them can win!

Dangerous Favor by Joyce DiPastena

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: $.99

Mathilde needs a champion.

Her father has been accused of stealing from the king, an allegation that has reduced her family to poverty. She has one chance to find and marry a man who can help her prove her father's innocence. Lord Therri, heir to a rich barony, has the wealth and connections Mathilde needs to delve into the mysteries of her father's past. Furthermore, Therri embodies all her romantic dreams.

Etienne, the younger son of a disgraced family, has neither wealth nor connections, but is smitten with Mathilde at a glance. She finds the knight intriguing, but believes he is only out to seduce her. While she seeks for a way to win Therri's attention, Etienne tricks her into granting him her favor, an embroidered white ribbon, for a tournament, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction of events. 

Can Etienne save Mathilde from a nightmare from her past and prove himself the true hero of her dreams?

With No Regrets (Book Two) by Julie N. Ford

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $.99


Living With No Regrets Is Harder Than It Seems

Finley isn’t exactly sure when her life began to feel unfamiliar. She suspects the transformation started long before she caught her husband and fellow garden club member doing the white-trash-two-step on her new Bernhardt sofa. Now free from the shackles of a loveless marriage, and with her children off to college, she’s finally able to go searching for the missing pieces of her heart.

Finley’s best friend, Cathyanne, is already working hard to ensure that Finley finds true love this time around. But when Finley is unwittingly tossed into the arms of two men—their sexy trainer and her neighbor, a popular country star—Cathyanne fears finding the right guy will be more complicated than she ever could have imagined.

For Finley, building a new life feels as impossible as flying a paper airplane to the moon. But maybe, just maybe, with the right help, she will find her whole heart—even if it’s in the very last place she thinks to look.

This Very Moment by Rachel Ann Nunes

Regular Price: 4.99
SALE Price: $.99 

A Compelling Story of Heartbreaking Loss, Inspiring Faith, and a Newfound Love Strong Enough to Heal All Wounds.

Bill Dubrey is a sought-after plastic surgeon for LA’s prestigious and wealthy, and an equally sought-after bachelor. On the surface it appears he has it all—money, respect, and fame. Yet behind his aloof exterior lurks a tragic past that prevents him from finding lasting happiness.

All that changes on the day Kylee Stewart reenters his life. She alone knows Bill’s secret agony, and she is determined to help him face his past. During the years they’ve been apart, Kylee’s own life has been far from easy, but unlike Bill, she has turned to God in her need, finding a faith to which she desperately clings.

The tentative friendship they begin has Bill rethinking his stark future, yet he keeps his heart in check—afraid to commit, afraid to lose again. During Kylee’s darkest moment, when she needs him most, will he be there for her? 

Shooting Stars by Philip Carroll

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 15- 19

Chuck McWilliams is fourteen years old and had just started high school in Washington State when his father lost his job and moved them to the hot, dry, valley of Central California. Starting his freshman hear six weeks after the rest of the students, Chuck is insecure about finding his way, making new friends and overcoming bullying from members of the cross country team. 

When he is invited to the Homecoming Dance by a strange girl in his English class, Kelsey Llewellyn, he can't think of any reason to say no. Later that day Dahlia Chand, an attractive girl on the cross country team, asks him to the dance, he wonders if he has made a mistake. 

How a secretive student, Doug Le Roux, avoids the notice of the rest of the students, yet stands out so clearly to Chuck makes him wonder if something extraordinary is going on at this high school. 

Chuck will become entwined in an ages old battle with werewolves, vampires and elves that most of humankind is unaware of in their midst. Remarkably, he will find the most enchanting magic comes from romance.

Ideal High by Valerie Ipson

Regular Price: $4.99
SALE Price: $1.99

There’s no way I’m taking Blake’s place as president of the student body. As soon as the memorial for him and six of our friends is over, I’m resigning as VP. Really.

Except people say the fire was no accident. (I say it’s way too easy to blame someone who’s dead.)

When I read the writing on the wall, literally, the bathroom wall, I know what it means. To get to the truth I have to come out from under my paisley comforter.

But, seriously, what stage of grief says I have to be the one to fix what’s wrong at Ideal High? Maybe I’m the one who’s broken.

First Love Second Chance by Lindzee Armstrong

Regular Price: $.99

When wedding planner Keslee gets asked on a date by her long-lost high school crush, Bryce, everything should be perfect. But Bryce mistakes Keslee for her deceased twin sister, Jadyn. And Keslee doesn’t correct him. Talk about awkward. To make matters worse, she learns they’ll be seeing a lot more of each other because Bryce is the marketing director at the venue where Keslee’s new client has chosen to get married. Keslee knows the charade can’t last much longer, and fears she’ll lose Bryce forever when she tells him the truth.

Emerine's Nightmare by Anna del C. Dye

Price: $2.99

What would you do if one night, life as you know it changes and you are left alone in despair? That is how Emerine’s nightmare starts and now all he does is run.

His family lived at the edge of the forest until dark shadows killed them all. Now they want him, and so does a magic tree. He has never seen dark shadows or enchanted trees before. Emerine has to get to the heart of Red Forest, to the fairy people. Only then he will be safe. Safe? He has never heard of fairies before and once he gets there what?

We have a fantastic line-up of great books that are on SALE! Everyone loves a sale, right?

Cassandra Jones by Tamara Hart Heiner

Regular Price: $3.99
SALE Price: FREE Sept 16-17

What's special about Cassandra? Absolutely nothing. She's as ordinary as any other fifth grader. And yet her ordinary life is riddled with hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking mishaps as she guides herself through the world of pre-teens on the brink of adulthood. 

Cassandra Jones is the new girl at school. She's been uprooted from her beloved state of Texas and relocated to the hillbilly Ozarks of Springdale, Arkansas. She wonders if she will like her teacher or if she will have any friends. She can only hope school won't be harder than it was back home. 

She doesn't expect to have two close friends, and even worse, two friends that don't like each other. As she tries to make a spot for herself, will she keep her friendships intact? 

Here I am Trying Again.

Drawn into the Mist is going live on September 15th and with that I'm trying a Rafflecopter giveaway.

It took me several hours and several tries to get it to look right and to add in all the links that I wanted, but it looks like it actually works.

The giveaway is right there, to the side.

Go sign up and see if you can win the Kindle HD7.



Something else that didn't work...Channillo.com

Last March I started posting a serialized version of a story I've worked on for years, actually two of them, that are set in the Galactic Battle Base environment. I posted a weekly chapter on Channillo.com. They were a new site that 'promised' to bring readers who were interested in following serialized literature.

Long story short...it didn't work for me. After seventeen weeks of posting a chapter each Sunday, I went from having four subscribers to two. I asked for analytics of how many people visited the site, clicked on my chapter descriptions, etc, but was told they wouldn't make that available.

My story, "Trigger Warnings" is about several of the inhabitants of the galactic battle base who suffer from some kind of mental or emotional, even physical, trauma and the mental challenges they have dealing with that. The main character cuts herself, (Non-Suicidal Self Injury - NSSI), and the boy she's falling for was a victim of childhood sexual abuse. (Note: There is no graphic content, but these are mature themes.)

I feel this is an important story and I was hoping to reach new audiences with it.

I've taken it off of Channillo and created another blog on this site where I will post chapters on a mostly weekly basis. The first chapter is up, if you're interested.



"Veils and Vengeance" a Book Blast Book Review

If you've read my blog at all, you know I'm trying to find my place as an author and trying different things to "build my platform".

At the LDStorymaker's conference I attended the Indie Publisher's track and at one of the panels they mentioned The Author Indie Hub. It seemed like the social network I wasn't able to establish or find on my own. So, once I got back home I signed up.

Reading the daily posts on the group, I was that Rachelle Christensen was doing a Book Blast for the launch of he newest book, "Veils and Vengeance". I signed up to participate to get an inside view of what a successful book launch looks like.

So far I've gotten more Facebook page likes for my author page, more Goodreads follows and more Twitter followers than from any other promotion I've run on my own.

But, enough about me. You are here about the book.

I figured that though the book was described as a mystery, there would also be a substantial amount of romance. I'm all for romance in the books I read. Love is a part of life and happens at the best, and worst of times. In "Veils and Vengeance" there was a continuous romantic sub-plot with the appropriate amount of tension. Knowing that the author is a member of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" I assumed the romance would be light and not heavy on sexual content. I was happily correct.

After writing my Amazon review, I read what others had written. Most described the mystery aspect of the book as "cozy". I hadn't heard this term before, but saw how it applied. There was murder, attempted murder, and mystery though not to the point that I felt uncomfortably anxious.
The book takes place in Hawaii. While I was reading it to write my review my wife was binge watching "Hawaii Five O" on Netflix. Sometimes when thinking about the story I tried to remember how Steve Magarret amd Dano Williams fit into the story.

Also, I lived on Oahu for three years when I was in the army. That was twenty-five years ago and I have never really wanted to go back. Reading the book showed a different side to the tourist trade than what I had seen and thought it might be nice to see one of the less visited islands.

I enjoyed reading "Veils" from beginning to end.

I've been reading "Indie" authors, trying to help out others trying to make it into the established author world and have read a lot of garbage as a result. Rachelle's writing was a breath of fresh air.

I recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read a Romance, a Mystery, a Travel Book, of just an entertaining story without having to worry about objectionable content. What follows is the review I wrote for Amazon and other sites.

With trying to give an honest review in mind, I tried to find a reason to not give this book a five star review.

Full disclosure: I received an advance reader copy a week ago, but after only a few chapters I pre-ordered it so that I could have it on my kindle and share it with my wife.

Rachelle Christensen's writing is immaculate. Told in the first person point of view of Adri, a wedding planner from Idaho who accompanies her client to a dream wedding in Kauai, her characterization is deep and consistent. The plot moves forward at a quick but comfortable pace with island descriptions and back story seamlessly tucked into the action and dialog. The occasional romantic interlude reminds us that even murder suspects have a need to love and be loved.

If five stars means I loved the story, Veils and Vengeance gets all five.

Beat - How To Suspend Disbelief

I recently read the book, "Beat" by Jared Garrett. I was really looking forward to it because I've been impressed with what Adam Sidwell and Future House Publishing have put out. Adam even says that if you liked Hunger Games, you'll like this one.

While it was a good story, with driving action and suspense, at times, I didn't find a comparison to Hunger Games nearly accurate.

This is a great book for a teenager who wants an exciting book with action and tension. For a teenager who is analytical or an adult who is marginally familiar with statistics it could only be considered an average read--too many plot holes and far too many bullets for a fifteen-year-old boy to survive.

I'll try to avoid spoilers...

The premise is fun but a little too simple to work. Ninety percent of humanity is wiped out by a bug that kills when a victim's heart rate exceeds 140 to 150 beats per minute. This happened about 100 years before Nik Granjer rides his bike through New Frisko, a calm and controlled reproduction of the former, but now dead, city. I got the impression that the infection came during out current era. By my calculation there should have been over 700 million people left on earth; many more than seem to be left in this society.

This was the first thing that challenged my ability to suspend disbelief. With only ten percent of humanity left there would not be enough infrastructure left to not only continue the existing level of technology, but actually advance way beyond that.

Some simple things threw me off as well. Like the redwood trees and seeing snow on the mountains. I got the impression that the New Frisko was near the old one. You can't see any mountains with snow on them from anywhere near San Francisco and the redwood forests he describes would have to have grown up since the Infektion, about 100 years before. For trees to grow the size he describes, they would need closer to 1000 years.

The story is told in the first person point of view. I'm not a big fan. As a result, the middle twenty percent of the story drags as Nik "notices" and "realizes" things, and processes his thoughts over and over, and develops his theories.

Finally hooking up with a friend, the story picks up its pace again and becomes more interesting.

The author alters some spelling conventions under the pretense that these letters have been outlawed to simplify communication. I found these misspellings distracting and inconsistent.
Overall, the pace is fast with interesting--though not always believable--details. As I said at the beginning, a great read for a teenage boy.

Bio-rhythms, Editors, and Metaphors

I don't know what's wrong with me, recently. I've been short tempered, grumpy, and negative. I have some ideas, but they're kind of personal, and you don't really want to know that kind of stuff. Probably something to do with my Bio-rhythm and internal chemistry. (I don't really believe in Bio-rhythms. They were a thing in the 1980's.)

I got my manuscript of The Galactic Battle Base: Trigger Warnings back from the editor I sent it to. He obviously didn't get my vision and chopped it into pieces, deleting much of what I thought was the focus of the story.

Either, I didn't explain my story clearly enough--through dialog, description, and character conflict-- or he went into it expecting to get one thing and was confused by finding another. I imagine it is a combination of the two.

So, with my current state of mind, I was pretty much torqued. With each correction and deletion I found myself becoming angrier and angrier. I had set myself a pretty demanding goal of getting this book published by mid May, to take it with me to the LDStorymakers conference. I could see, from the amount of work he was suggesting I do and with all the other things I have going, this was either an unrealistic goal, or it was going to require a whole lot of effort.

Instead, I shifted gears. (That's a metaphor. Some say you shouldn't use them when writing science fiction because the readers will take them literally. I would have to say, "Come on. You read science fiction. You're supposed to be more intelligent than the average reader. Don't be stupid." While I have a car with a manual transmission, this doesn't mean that I actually went out and changed from fourth speed down to third. Maybe this is a worn out metaphor, which is a danger when using them, but I think it's pretty apt.)

My biggest projects at the moment are The Pariah podcast and gearing up for www.Channillo.com.

With the podcast I have to get another episode recorded and in the can this month. That shouldn't be too hard, I have the next episode edited and ready to record. But I also need to edit the first five episodes and publish them as a chapter book for Kindle and Print on Demand, as I've promised my www.patreon.com supporters. With Channillo I had said I would do chapters from the Galactic Battle Base story, "Family Ties" and publish an episode every two weeks. I've decided, instead, I will also use chapters from "Trigger Warnings" as well and change the output to ever week instead of biweekly. This will allow me to focus on that story, develop each chapter with its own story arch, and hopefully make it clearer to the reader. Once I've gone completely through the novel in this manner, I can resubmit it to an editor and see if I'm closer to publication as a separate novel.

Okay. I've gotten that off my chest. My self-doubts have been aired.  Now, if I can adjust my bio-rhythm or my internal chemistry I'll feel much more like the author I thought I was two weeks ago and get back to getting things done.

Professional Suicide: Writing a Bad Review?

I just want to document this event in case it goes terribly against me. 

I just posted a 2 star review for a book I tried to read. No. I'm not talking about the one I reviewed earlier today. I gave Water So Deep 4 stars.

This other was by an author I've run across on Twitter. I thought I would give her book a try and write a review. She had a number of 5 Stars on Amazon and Goodreads, and she claims to work in secondary education.

I thought about saying nothing, just letting it go. But, you know me. If I can't take every opportunity to shoot myself in my foot, I'm just not me.

Honestly. After five pages I stopped and sent an email to my editor telling her how grateful I was for her hard work. I don't believe this other author used an editor, let alone beta readers.

I'll admit, I only read 10% of the book. I couldn't take much more. I couldn't tell who the POV character was, (maybe it was all of them), the description was obscure and verbose and dialog was circuitous and redundant. 

It's books like this that gives self publishing a bad name.



Water So Deep by Nichole Giles: A Book Review

As all of you regular, imaginary, reader know, I'm trying to find my was as an author, and specifically, an author of Young Adult Fiction. I'm trying various ways of connecting with people and building my platform. I tried reviewing a book for a 'Virtual Book Tour' and as you know, reading a book someone else asked me to read and review was a lot more like work than recreation.     

So, this time I decided to read and review a book of someone I've met at the LDStorymakers Conference. Someone who writes YA and seems to have a pretty good foundation as an author. This review is completely voluntary, so I can say what I want, with no expectations to meet and no strings attached.

Here is my review I am posting to Amazon and Goodreads:

I just finished reading, "Water So Deep" by Nichole Giles.

This is the story of Emma, a senior in high school with a mysterious side. The story introduces her problem immediately--she's got mermaid issues. But, you know that already. You've seen the book cover. We just don't know how big of a problem that is until we see how erratic it make her life. She can't have any real friends; that would require honesty and trust; and she can't be honest with anyone, including her family or her best friend, Heather. The only one who knows the reason for her periodic need to get into the ocean is her grand-mother, on who's porch was left the baby Emma seventeen-odd, years before.

Enter, James, the amazingly handsome, totally buff, loner, with emotional needs of his own.

The story unfolds for us through these two perspectives. We are privy to their individual, inner turmoils which result in the majority of their relationship conflicts. As an adult (read that as old) man, I felt like if they had only followed through with their resolutions from one paragraph to the next, most of their problems would have been eliminated through a little simple communication. But then, we would have missed Chapter Three of, "The Book of Love", where, "You break up and then you give it just one more chance." (See, that's how old I really am... I'm referencing 1950's Rock and Roll.)

I'll admit, much of what I've read in the past which has been labeled, "Young Adult" was more fantasy than romance, and wonder if this book's plot is typical of creating romantic tension. As an old man, again, I enjoyed the romantic elements of the story, while I appreciated the development of the "Mer Lore" the most. I didn't expect a simple resolution to Emma's dilemma, as this is admittedly, "Book 1". But, I did enjoy the ending for the extent of its resolution and foreshadowing of the expected conflicts in the next book.

I happily give this book four stars and look forward to book two.

This is where my review will end on Goodreads and on Amazon. What follows is fraught with plot spoilers and addresses some of the things that came to my mind while reading that weren't resolved in this book. So, I would recommend that you read the book before you read further on this post.

I mentioned above that I thought both main characters were inconsistent in their resolutions and that if they had followed through with many of the things they had just thought out, their conflict would have been resolved and they could have moved forward with more important things, such as, preventing Emma from permanently becoming a mermaid and finding out why Keith was now stealing so much.

It bothered me that her parents seemed so unsympathetic. I mean, the first time we see her father he is absent mindedly blowing off the safety of his son. Even her high powered lawyer mother only seemed engaged when there was a legal threat to her kids. Granted, this is YA and we need to get them out of the picture somehow and focus on the youths.

Maybe I'm threatened by physically strong male characters, but I felt like James was a little too buff for someone his age. To have biceps so rock hard that blood vessels shift between them and the skin seems unrealistic to me in someone so young, unless he's doing steroids or spends all of his time in a gym. It didn't sound like James had that much time, or money.

I got the idea that contact with salt water would cause Emma's physical change, yet, when they took pizza to the beach she got her feet in the water and nothing happened. If there was an explanation given why this was an exception, or that it didn't happen all the time, I didn't pick up on it.

I was a little surprised about Emma's sudden recognition of her love for James. It was like it was a brand new realization and only the page before she had giggled at his allusion to having sex with her in the back seat of the car or right there in the sand of the beach, whatever it took to make her undesirable to Merrick.

Then there's Merrick. Granted, his motives become clear at the end of the book. Before that, I felt like his behavior was more animalistic and less rational thinking than I would expect of a creature which is part human--and longer lived than typical humans.

Finally, some mention was made to the siren call or the mer people. I wasn't clear if this was an intentional allusion in the story or if I read into the the comment that it had to do with why boys were so attracted to Emma and then she "Iced" them and shut them down.

I read the story on my tablet and I read it somewhat faster than I would have, wanting to get it read so that I could do a review for Nichole while the book was still newly published. Because of those two conditions, I may have misunderstood, or completely missed something which the normal, more intelligent, reader would have picked up.

Again, I hope you read this, if you haven't, and enjoy it as much as I did.


Facebook Advertising: It Didn't Work for Me.

Here are my results.

I started a Facebook ad campaign to get "Page Likes" for my author page. I planned to pay up to $2.50 per day for ads to bring people to my page and get a "Like". I ran the ad for four weeks, and this is what I got.

I muddied the purity of my study by a getting a 'wild hare' and boosted a post, right in the middle of this campaign and paid an additional $60.

I started the campaign with 22 page likes, which had remained unchanged since I first started my author page and sent out "like requests" to all my friends on my regular facebook page. I tried to add a comment to my author page everyday, but probably ended up posting once every two to three days.

After 28 days, here's what I got:

Paying up to $2.50 per day, I spent $68.27 on this specific campaign and they say I got 84 page likes from it, costing me $0.81 each.
From the 'wild hare page boost' I got 123 page likes for that specific page.
I now have 136 page likes for my author page.
During this time period I had 2 organic page likes from people I met on twitter, so there were 15 pages likes from other sources--possibly secondary to the 'wild hare boost' or from posts on twitter.
During this time period I had one (1) conversation with a person on Facebook from these new page likes. I cannot say that I have sold any more books as a result of either of the advertisements. I have had a hand full of Kindle Unlimited downloads and cash sales. If all of these were from the facebook ads, they would have a value of about $5.

So, I got one conversation and (maybe) $5 in sales from an investment of $128.27. Was that worth it? It depends on whether those page likes will read further posts, repost them, and/or buy my books.

Going forward. I will be interested to see if I continue to get any Author Page likes. My hope, all along was that this would build a momentum that would carry on a consistent page like increase. We'll see.


Is there value in a 'Virtual Book Tour'?

So. As my regular (imaginary) readers know, I'm trying different methods of marketing to see what will gain me traction as an author, what will "Build My Platform", find me readers to buy my books and increase the size of my audience.

Here's what happened to me. 

I paid "Free and Discount Books" $60 to promote my book launch of "Shooting Stars". Well, $30, actually. I paid them another $30 to promote my Kindle Count Down of "Flypaper Boy" which occurred at the same time. I got ZERO benefit from it. Okay, part of it was my fault. I got stupid and set my countdown deal to start at 8:00 am on that Monday. According to their site, I needed to start it 12 hours before they were supposed to begin advertising, or I would be S-O-L. Lesson learned.

For Shooting Stars I was supposed to get Tweets throughout the day from their site and their sister sites, thus going out to hundreds of thousands of "Readers". I never saw any tweets. I did twitter searches on my name, the books name, their website and found nothing to do with me or Shooting Stars.

The following day I get a Direct Message from elitebookpromotions.com asking me if I wanted to bring my book out of obscurity. What author would not? So I asked what guarantee they had that they would do any better for me than "Cheap and Discount" did. Her eventual response was, "Do you have any books?"

I noticed a tweet that they were looking for bloggers to participate in virtual book tours for some of their authors. I figured this would be a good way to observe someone else's success before committing my own cash. And, hey, they give you the book to read, free. So I signed up to read, "Reporting Lives." EBP asked me what day I would like to post my blog. I said either the 12th or 13th. They gave me the 12th.

The cost is $295 and EBP will provide you with five days of blog posts, interviews and reviews.

Feb 11th was a special day on this tour as the reviewer was Sam G. an "Amazon Top 1000 Reviewer" scheduled to share his or her reviewing magic. After a little research, the honor became a little dubious to me, as Sam G. writes only 5 Star reviews. and wrote three others 5 Stars on that same day. It appears that Sam G. reads 24/7 to be able to write so many reviews. Maybe he/she listens to one on audio while reading another. Maybe he/she listens to two at the same time. I was hard pressed to read the entire book in 10 days, on top of a full time job, caring for family and trying to promote my own work at the same time. Sam G.'s got the skills.

I noted the Amazon Kindle standing of "Reporting Lives" was around 300K at the beginning of the week. I'm familiar with the place. It is truly 'obscurity' and the place from which any author would want their book brought from. On the day of my blog post, I had a Kindle Unlimited Download of "Shooting Stars" and it moved from 300K to 133K (Not exactly 'out of' but definitely 'Less of' obscurity . A single download moved me almost 200K ranks. I watched "Reporting Lives" walk consistently back up the ranks to around 400K as of this writing. My guess is that the only obscurity "Reporting Lives" was brought out of was from the books "Gifted" to the people volunteering to read it for the 'Virtual Book Tour'.

I was told to make sure my post was up by 9:00 am eastern time, on the day I was scheduled. When I was sent the schedule they had put me on the 10th instead of the 12th. I was graciously moved back. I was also told that I should expect to see visits to my sight before and after the scheduled day. I did. I had several visits the three days before from three different ip addresses referred from the author's site, which were all close enough together to have been the same person. I assume this was the author, checking to see if the post was up yet. I posted my review on the afternoon of the 11th. That ip address visited once more after the post and never returned. That's cool. She wanted to see what I'd said. The day of my post, a link on the "Elite Book Promotion" site went active. I got two visits to my site on the 12th directly to the blog post, from twitter, and one today. Two came from EBP.

The EBP site is fairly unimpressive (he with a really boring site says). Every page has the same heading, a huge graphic for EBP. On my laptop, that's all I get--their emblem and links to other pages. If I didn't scroll down, I would never know I was on a different page. I would expect to see the latest and the most important information at the top of each of these pages, like, the daily promoted book, links to videos, what book is on tour, etc. Not their overly large self.

In conclusion, you may ask, "Would you pay $295 real dollars to have your book take a virtual tour?" My answer is virtually, "No way in hell." Another question is, "Was participating in the book tour beneficial?" My answer to that would be, "No and yes." While the book cost me nothing, I spent 10 hours reading it and two hours writing and editing my review, and working with it on my blog. This is all time I could have been writing, recording my podcast, or promoting myself. For my time I got, possibly, one Kindle Unlimited Download and no remarkable increase in visits to my website.

But! Learning that there is virtually no value in a virtual book tour by EBP has saved me a real $295 knowing that they will not bring my book out of obscurity. It's up to me.

"Reporting Lives" - A Book Review

'Reporting Lives' is Debra Picket's fiction debut. She is a long-time writer and award-winning reporter/columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2004-5 she made a series of trips to East Africa to cover the response of the Chicago philanthropic community to the AIDS pandemic and subsequent orphan crisis there. While there, she began developing the idea for this book, which is largely based on her experiences.

'Reporting Lives' tells the story of Sara Simone, a twenty-something single woman and reporter for a local Chicago television channel. She is tall, attractive, and emotionally crippled. As a reporter she's intelligent, intuitive, and extremely confident to the point of narcissism. We never learn if her emotional unavailability is due to a tragic family accident which occurred during her college years. She does mention feeling some guilt for choosing not to accompany her parents on their tragic journey, though the author never ties that into Sara's inability to commit to a relationship or open up honestly to friends or co-workers. Perhaps her behavior is a result of parental unavailability, as she was raised by two highly successful and driven professional parents.

Regardless, it is this lack of human connectivity which sets her up for a fall on an assignment which has lead her to the slums outside Nairobi, Kenya.

After a bus load of Kenyan exchange students die in a fiery crash on a Chicago freeway, Sara is sent to Nairobi to get video of the families' reactions to the loss of their children and brothers. Sara has the unique ability to draw out this type of story. Things don't go as planned and she spends two months traveling the countryside--not quite breaking through her own emotional walls to find meaning to the abject poverty all around Kenya, and the root of her uncharacteristic response to it.

While Sara seems to wander through the story, passively bouncing from point to point--even her crisis in the Mathare slums seemed randomly inexplicable, out of character, and lacking remarkable impact--the strength of the author's prose and African experiences come forward to win the day. 

Descriptions of Nairobi and later at a hotel near a game preserve came alive for me. I had spent a few years in South Africa during its financially independent and economically robust period during apartheid, working in the townships of Soweto, Chatsworth, and others of the Bantu Tribes and mixed races. Then, returning decades later to find a struggling economy with many of the opulent hotels and businesses in disrepair, or boarded up, many of the scenes described in this novel were particularly poignant. There, in the hotels and restaurants, is where we meet the many characters which make this story grandly diverse.

Though Sara Simone never came alive to me as an empathetic and active character, many of the secondary characters did. Trisha, Simon, Vince, even Mr. Handleburg, and many more all came to life with depth and personality. Finally, Ms. Picket's skill with word craft brought the scenes to life--from a horrific accident on a rain-slick Chicago freeway to the desolation of the Nairobi slums, and the marginal existence of post colonial, and post embassy bombing, Kenyan tourism.


The Grape City Con in Lodi, CA.

I attended my first Comic Con this last weekend. It was the Grape City Con in Lodi, California. (About 45 miles from my home.) I've been to Baycon and World Con, which are both science fiction and fantasy genre based. (Much more writing than visual. Though each had a strong role playing, cosplay, component.)

But, this was my first time as an author with a table of my own, trying to sell books. I sold three books. For the price I paid I certainly didn't get my money back. But making connections and learning how the whole system works was worth it.

Here's what I learned and how I would do it differently next time. Stockton Comic Con is in August and I plan on being there.

1) Wear a t-shirt. I was wearing my standard long-sleeved, button-down, plaid type, shirt. If the shirt has a super hero on it, that's even better. Maybe I can get a "Flypaper Boy" t-shirt made. It would have the caption, "A teenage superhero with tenacity". Or any other t-shirt with something clever to say would help a guy like me blend in. I was certainly not the oldest coot in the building, but definitely the uncoolest.

2) Take my daughter with me. She would have fit right in with a lot of kids her age and she loves to draw. I think the inspiration alone would have been good for her. Plus, I could walk around a bit without wondering if someone would have stopped at my table if someone was there.

3) Make eye contact, smile, and talk. Like I said, I sold three books. No one walked up and asked for a book. Well, one lady did, but she was one who bought one before and said she needed another for her sister. For the most part, people walked past me without looking. Those who looked for a split second and I smiled at them, they smiled back and looked at what was on the table, before they walked away. Those who smiled back and I asked how they were, replied and spoke with me. I was able to tell them about my podcast, my books and what I had coming in the future. It was also those people who bought books, or vowed to buy one for their Kindle.

In summary. I had fun and will do this again.