In light of the recent solar eclipse, the following excerpt from my second novel, Ghost of Eden, seems an appropriate share...
“When I was young,” Uncle Xander began again, without lifting his head, “only eight years old, there was a solar eclipse. I was excited because even then I had an intense interest in stars and space, in things wondrous and greater than myself. My father did not understand why I was so eager and interested, but I begged him to let me go up on the roof of our house so I could be as close as possible to the phenomena. He reluctantly agreed to set up the ladder for me, but my mother said it was too dangerous, said that I needed a special scope to look at a solar eclipse without damaging my eyes. So I sulked quietly in my room until my parents were distracted and then snuck outside and climbed up the house. I tiptoed carefully across the roof so my parents wouldn’t hear me, and took up a position on top of the protruding chimney. When the eclipse began, I took short, furtive glances as the moon became a dark blot over the sun, then the sun became a crescent, then a sliver. When the moment of complete eclipse arrived, I turned fully to look upon the fiery ring of light and I remember laughing to myself. I remember laughing with complete joy at seeing something so rare and amazing.” Uncle Xander sighed. “Then the world went black.”
Kayla watched her uncle slide his pipe from his lab coat. In an instant it sparked to life and those lightly bearded lips drew deeply on the slender instrument.
“I was blind. All was blank. Then, slowly, a face began to coalesce in the dark, ghostly and half formed, but I could still distinguish her features. She was young—my age—but I already knew what she would look like when she was older. She smiled, looked at me. I felt strange, like I was seeing something I shouldn’t. I was warm suddenly, even though the air was brisk and chilly on the roof. I was in a forest and there were other faces watching me, but mostly all I could see were their eyes, reflective and glowing. Then the vision was gone. I blinked my eyes, but still my sight would not return. I groped from my perch upon the chimney and slid to the roof. I began to panic; I called out for my mom; I rubbed my eyes frantically; I lay on the roof and I cried. When my parents found me, I was in such a state they couldn’t be angry with me. My sight returned a couple of hours later, but I haven’t looked at anything the same way since.”
I told you I'd be writing about whatever I damn well pleased on my blog from now on, and here's the proof. This way, at least, with all of the various whatevers going on in my life, you'll know why I don't get more writing done than the little whiny voice in the back of my head tells me I should be.
Alright, here we go...
Rip it all up. Get a circular saw, set its depth to just a tad deeper than the floor thickness. Then lift the blade guard and dip the blade into the floor. Cut out the border of the section you're removing, careful not to slip and cut into any of the good boards, because then you'll have to take them out too.
Now get out a couple of good chisels and a hammer and get ready to get bruised and banged up. Clean it really well, scrapping up all of the excess glue and cutting out all the edges.
Then you can put the insulation down, which absorbs sound. If you want the floor to be solid, glue it down using a floor adhesive.
Carefully cut your floor planks to fit using a miter saw and slide the planks into place one at a time. Go slowly and make sure they're as tightly packed as possible. On the edges you'll probably have to cut the seams, but keep them where you can. Use wood glue along the edges of the planks and floor adhesive when you really need a plank to stick.
So, in conclusion, installing laminate flooring is like writing. It, uh... It's hard work and... It, uh, takes a lot of time and trial and error... But seriously, writing actually is a lot like putting in new flooring: it involves tearing shit up that's not working, learning from mistakes, and then making new and better shit.
Write on, my friends! Write on!
Life has been challenging this past year and a half. Major changes have affected my life in a big way. I'll be honest: I haven't had much time for writing. I've still been tinkering, of course, and my brain is always turning over ideas, but I haven't been able to write as much as I need to to maintain the momentum I had going for awhile there. For a couple years I was able to publish 2 novels a year plus numerous short stories and novellas. I was active on Facebook and Goodreads and I was blogging regularly. Then, my wife got pregnant when we didn't think it was possible, and we had Violet, who is amazing and to whom I am dedicated to providing everything she needs--food, shelter, safety, education--everything. So my writing became less of a priority. And then I took a teaching position last year, middle school science, and it consumed my life. No longer was I able to use my headspace for story and character, but for lesson planning and classroom management. So my writing became even less of a priority. And now Violet is going to have a little brother and here we go again.
Which leads us to our title about blogging. Well, if writing has become less of a priority, you can bet blogging has become even less of one. To be honest, it never seemed all that important to me and I got sick of social media, filled with opinionated bullshit and aimless arguments and comments meant to tear others down and had to step away. I hate it. But I watched this year in which I was pretty much nonexistent online as my royalties fell each month, smaller and smaller. I know this is partially because I haven't had a novel release in a while, but its also because I haven't been sharing myself and interacting with readers. I like doing that part. I wish I could do it more directly at cons and readings and such more often, but my life and where I live make that difficult. That being said, I've also come to realize how safe I was being online, trying to never speak about religion and politics to the point where I was afraid to share any sort of opinion at all. There have been many times when I've thought about sharing something online and then stopped myself because I didn't want to be judged by family members or whoever else.
Well, fuck that. This is who I am:
I'm a short (5' 4"), white guy who lived as a child in Colorado Springs, CO and as an adolescent in Los Alamos, NM. My parents are engineers and my mom was devoutly Methodist when I was growing up (my dad followed along), but in high school at a bible study group my mom made me attend I once asked how we could be sure Christian beliefs were the true beliefs when so many others around the world had contradictory beliefs that they felt were true. I don't think I went to another bible study meeting after that. I have an overactive imagination and love to consider possibilities, but I've never found much use for religion. If I learned anything this past year as an educator, it's to never make conclusions about anything without sufficient data to back it up. And so I prefer to take a scientific approach to life, driven by skepticism and data collection. Blindly believing in what others tell you to is a dangerous road to take.
Anyway, I'm going to stop there for now. All I really mean to say is that I realize now that this is my blog, that hardly anyone is going to read it, and so I'm going to use it to air my thoughts. I'm going to be myself. Sometimes I'll talk about writing and sometimes, if I feel like it, I'll talk about other things. I'll probably share excerpts of work in progress on here too, because I like doing that. I'll probably also, from time to time, share random verse. I have lots of projects cooking and you should see some new work from me very, very soon.
All the best!
P. S. Here's my new 'bible' if anyone is interested:
At the center of Meridian, deified by its citizens for countless generations—a vast compound of spires and interconnecting tunnels—the Machine, relentlessly, clanked on and on.
Within, among rumors of a horrible crime involving his childhood friend Ballard, Eli Sol lives a simple life as a maintenance worker, spending his days cleaning the endless corridors of the Machine. Eli is content and happy, with Nora, his wonderful wife, and Pia, his intelligent and imaginative daughter. But soon, following tragedy, Eli will be forced to confront a legacy passed down to him for innumerable generations. He will begin a journey that will take him away from everything he’s ever known, to a place filled with wonder…and death.
The Flood is coming…
Some say the world of Meridian is in its last age of existence. The Flood is coming, an event that will wipe the planet clean of corruption. But for humanity, there are more immediate troubles. A war is brewing between the decadent and industrial City of Talos and the rural territory of Nova.
When twelve-year-old Ash Alexander is recruited by the Novan militia, his life—and the life of each member of his family—is thrown into chaos, into a war far deadlier than anyone could have predicted.
While Ash’s sanity is tested against the horrors of war; a woman seeks to uncover the mysteries of the School of the Unseen in her lifelong quest to travel the world; a man will do anything to cure his wife of a horrible sickness; and the chief adviser to the ruler of Talos will align himself with grotesque and otherworldly beings in order to achieve his ambitions.
The Godgame has begun.
THE BLOOD OF TALOS
The territory of Nova is in chaos. The Talosian attack has left hundreds dead, the village of Fallowvane burned, and the Alexander family scattered. While her son is taken prisoner before the ruler of Talos for an insidious purpose, a determined mother emerges as the unlikely commander of the Novan militia.
Here a young girl leaves everything behind in search of a new life; a woman seeks the truth to a dark conspiracy; and a man without knowledge of its cultures and customs will enter the City with warning of a threat far deadlier than the war between Nova and Talos, something that already gnaws at the edges of Meridian, bringing with it the smell of rotting flowers, and death.
I've begun work on a new horror novel tentatively titled COME AND SEE. I still have a lot to figure out about this one, but here is what the opening scene looks like at the moment:
David Dillinger was attempting pathetically to make fire without his lighter when his head filled, once again, with the ponderous beating of great wings.
He had watched it fall, spinning end over end, desperately following its descent with his eyes. He saw it strike the loose scree, flashing once in the sunlight before winking out among the shadows, lost among the thousands of fragments in the tiny avalanche of eroding shale. “Fuck. No, please.” But it was gone.
He had been careless, as was his habit, palming the silver Zippo lighter whenever he was nervous or needed to think, flicking it open, clamping it shut. Fingers flashing. Open, then closed, sometimes striking the wheel, its flame flickering with life--except not anymore. He’d kicked that habit. It had become important to conserve fuel, to use his lighter’s flame only when necessary, to light his evening fires for cooking and warmth or to cast about in the dark after something snapped in the woods at night or a particularly vivid nightmare.
He’d become quite good, his fingers twirling, dextrous and sure, performed sometimes like a card trick, something he used to show off to his friends at parties.
It had been given to him by his wife. His ex-wife. He could remember her face as he’d opened the box on his birthday, on her knees leaning forward, eager and excited. “It was my dad’s,” she’d said. He could remember a strand of her raven hair had fallen in her face and become snagged in one of her eyelashes, flickering as she blinked.
“This is pretty cool,” he’d said, lifting the lighter. He’d flicked the top open awkwardly with his thumb and nearly dropped it.
“I know you’ve always wanted one.”
“I have, but shouldn’t you keep it? I mean, if it was your dad’s…”
Julia had leaned forward and put her finger to his lips to silence him. “I don’t smoke.”
“I don’t eith--,” but she’d interrupted his words with a kiss, abrupt and passionate. He’d brushed the hair back from her face and taken her in his arms.
When Julia had finally pulled back, a little out of breath, she’d said, “I can give it to you because we’re family.” She’d looked into his eyes with absolute certainty. “We’re family now.”
And he’d dropped it--that once in a million occurrence--while standing at the top of a rocky ledge trying to decide in which direction he should go.
He’d nearly leapt after it. Then it had been gone.
He hadn’t cried in frustration or shouted in anger. He’d sat on the protruding rock ledge and stared off into the distance, his mouth dry and his lips cracked, his body screaming for nourishment he didn’t have to give it.
Movement caught his eyes. From the side of a distant hill, something was burrowing free, disturbing the soil and pushing upward from between the wildflowers. A pale arm stretched impossibly long and a hand grasped at the evening sky.
It had been 38 days.
It hurts. It does. No matter your expectations, it stings to not be chosen, to be rejected, but it's important to keep things in perspective.
I recently, and a little impulsively, attempted to wrangle some marketing support from Amazon by being published in the Kindle Scout program. If you're not familiar with the program, all the information you need to know is here. I looked at the titles enrolled in the program beforehand. I looked at past winners. I knew right away that my title was different and not the usual sort of thing they published, but I rationalized that this would make my title stand out from the crowd and be noticed.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. It's the price, I've realized, I have to pay for writing work that is different and difficult to classify.
But it's okay. I've been rejected before. Many times. There was a time when I was writing a lot of short stories that I used to receive a rejection in my inbox almost every day. Back then, when that happened, I'd take the story and immediately submit it to another publication and then wait for the next nearly inevitable rejection. After awhile, however, I began to break through, and when one of those acceptances came, it was an amazing feeling.
These days, I tend to concentrate my writing efforts on longer works. I'm not much of a short story writer. My brain likes big concepts and vast landscapes...
...And there it is, just now my inbox flashed up a new email and it seems my latest horror novel submission has been rejected by a publisher. (No joke!) Ouch. Bad day...
But it's not. Not really. I'm writing. I'm publishing. I'm living the life, playing the game. I never would have made it as far as I have if I hadn't learned how to handle rejection.
Failure is one of the key components to success. All those who find success, first find failure. Most fail many more times than they succeed.
So I try not to take it too hard. It's important, I find, to remember that rejection in publishing does not necessarily mean that one's work is bad. Well, sometimes it does. If you've ever read slush, you know there's a lot of shit out there and I used to write a lot of shit stories myself (still do), but I also know that I am one of one's who has put the time and effort into his development and I have learned how to judge my own work with a critical eye. When I receive a rejection, I take another look at my work and, if needed, edit and re-write before submitting again. But I've also reached the point where most of the rejections I receive are from presenting my work to the wrong audience or to the wrong market. I get a lot of "it's just not right for us" rejection letters.
Which is, I believe, what has happened to THE GODGAME. I've written something really crazy. It's difficult to classify, which makes it a tough sell to publishers unsure how to market it. I call it "dark fantasy," but it has elements of science fiction, a bit of a steampunk vibe, and a complex storyline. I'm very proud of this work and I believe, in the hands of the right audience, it could be very successful.
So, I press on. The self-publishing project continues as planned. My hope is that through the Kindle Scout campaign I have found some supporters for my work and some new readers. Updates will be coming very soon. I have a couple more things to reveal, like the cover art for MARROW'S LEGACY and THE BLOOD OF TALOS, and, as promised, my marketing plan and perhaps some giveaways too.
Onward we march! I promise it will be worth it.
Click the cover below to nominate THE GODGAME for publication with the Kindle Scout program and receive a free copy when it's published.
At the center of Meridian, deified by its citizens for countless generations--a vast compound of spires and interconnecting tunnels--the Machine, relentlessly, clanked on and on.
Within, among rumors of a horrible crime involving his childhood friend Ballard, Eli Sol lives a simple life as a maintenance worker, spending his days cleaning the endless corridors of the Machine. Eli is content and happy, with Nora, his wonderful wife, and Pia, his intelligent and imaginative daughter. But soon, following a horrible tragedy, Eli will be forced to confront a legacy passed down to him for innumerable generations. He will begin a journey that will take him away from everything he’s ever known, to a place filled with wonder…and death.
The Flood is coming…
There's still time--sign up for my email list and you'll receive Part 1 of 4 when it goes out this evening and the other parts one a day for the rest of the week.
By now you've probably heard about my dark and complex fantasy work called The Godgame. The first book is up for nomination for an Amazon publishing contract on Kindle Scout until the end of August and I greatly appreciate your nominations. As a way to help promote The Godgame in this last week of the campaign, I have decided to release an extended prologue that I have written, a novelette that draws further connections between the Machine (as seen first in my novella Marrow's Pit) and The Godgame. As you will soon discover, the Machine and Marrow are central to the much larger narrative that ties all of The Godgame books together.
In order to read Marrow's Legacy early, all you have to do is to sign up on my Mailing List. I plan still to release Marrow's Legacy as its own title on Amazon and will be running a free promotion on it in order to promote The Godgame upon its release, so you'll still be able to get this one for your Kindle, but I thought it would be cool if my email subscribers had a chance to read it early. And don't worry, I'll let all email subscribers know when its free so you don't miss it.
Please share this post and news of the upcoming release with anyone you think would be interested. Anyone can subscribe to my newsletter list, but you'll need to be an active subscriber on August 25th or you'll miss the first part!
Marrow's Legacy Release Schedule:
Part 1: Message from the Machine (August 25, 2015)
Part 2: Marrow's Creation (August 26, 2015)
Part 3: The Flood is Coming (August 27, 2015)
Part 4: The Breach (August 28, 2015)
And don't forget to nominate The Godgame on Kindle Scout. You'll receive a free Kindle copy when it's released!