Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A November to Remember

(Subtitle: what doesn't kill you can only make you stronger)

Blogging should not be a torturous writing activity. But for me it has been! For the last month or so, I've read umpteen Facebook and Twitter posts of people I know who have joyfully announced: "My Blog! It's been updated!" Last summer, it was a goal of mine to update the Betrovia blog at least once a week -- and not with just commentaries/updates about my writing! And I felt that I had done a admirable job in maintaining that goal. (I especially like the short series on UAVs!) The goal of blogging at least once a week even carried into September. But after that month, I must confess that I've been a slacker. I suppose one reason is I've been spending a certain amount of time tweeting. Now, of course, blogging is to tweeting as having bacon, eggs and hash browns for breakfast instead of a milk-drowned bowl of Raisin Bran.

As I waved good-bye to September and welcomed the cooler but shorter days of October, the desire to tweet compared to blogging became even stronger. My desire to tweet instead of blogging was fueled with the notion that tweeting was going to be more productive in sending people to Amazon to buy my stuff. About 1/10 of my tweets have been directly about Betrovia, etc. so I don't feel that I've used my tweeting time to spam my stuff like I've seen too many authors do. (I mean, really, how self-depricating is it to beg someone via a tweet to buy or to even just "like" your book and/or Amazon author's page?)

While I munched on left-over Halloweeen candy the first few weeks of November, plans to head to Kansas for a Thanksgiving celebration began to fly into my in-box. (Wifey has developed this curious habit of emailing me her travel ideas instead of just talking to me about them!) Her plan for this year? Invite ourselves to one of her sister's place. And that is exactly what she did! We checked the long-range forecast and it appeared that neither ice nor snow was not going to hinder us from driving to Kansas on Thanksgiving day.

However, the Monday before Thanksgiving, I got a phone call from one of my older brothers who said that Dad was going in for emergency surgery on Wednesday (Thanksgiving Eve). He sressed that if Dad chose to not go through with the operation, he would most-likely die fairly soon. Our travel plans were consequently altered so I could use the 2004 Altima (which had been loaned to us by our wonderful daughter for the trip) to head to Topeka from Lawrence to visit Dad after the surgery. And there he was, laying in the hospital bed on Thanksgiving Day, watching the dog-show on NBC that people who don't want to watch NFL football choose to watch instead. We had a good talk, one of the only ones we have ever had between just the two of us. Before long my sister and Mom arrived. Before I left, there was talk about Dad undergoing a blood transfusion later that day (which is a normal follow-up procedure for the surgery he had experienced). So I volunteered to take Mom home and on the way to her place the two of us had a wonderful, one-on-one talk as well.

We made it back home before 8 PM Thanksgiving night--a perfect time for Wifey to hit the hay in preparation for getting back up at 4AM for some frenetic Black Friday shopping. So at a few minutes in front of 4AM she got up and was out the door by 4:30. I laid in bed until close to 6 when the phone suddenly rang. Of course, I thought that it was Wifey wanting to get my opinion about something she was thinking about buying. But it wasn't her; it was my eldest brother. He called to tell me that Dad had not survived the transfusion. What else could I do after getting that bad news but call Wifey? The Black Friday shopping came to an abrupt halt.

By Saturday, the funeral plans were made and the following Tuesday we headed back to Kansas. The temperature that morning was in the lower twenties when we left Jefferson City--nearly 40 degrees cooler than our excursion just six days earlier. Instead of borrowing the Altima again, we rented a 2013 Kia Optima. (I have never driven a brand-new car before so that was an interesting and thought-provoking experience!)

Dad's visitation was Tuesday night and the funeral was on Wednesday afternoon. Both took place in the first church that our family attended when we moved back to Kansas from Florida in 1968. Needless to say, it felt very strange to talk to people who said they remembered me when I was only "this" tall. It was also amazing to see three of our Jefferson City current-home church pastors walk in the door Tuesday night! It was a great blessing to have those three men there praying with us at that time!

About 30 minutes before the funeral on Wednesday, my oldest niece Sarah (who's been battling a rare form of intestinal cancer since last Spring) arrived. She was in a wheelchair. It was the first time I had seen her in at least three years. During the funeral service, I glanced a few times over at her and it looked like her head was bowed as if in prayer. After the funeral I found out that the plan was for her to go very soon to the Cancer Treatment Center of America facility located in the Chicago area. I've heard many good things about the CTCA and was hopeful that they would know what to do for her.

At the sun-lit but windy gravesite service, Mom was asked if she wanted to say anything and yes, she certainly did. She said that she felt very blessed to have such wonderful children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. By 3:30 Wednesday afternoon, we were leaving Kansas and headed for Jefferson City.

In less than a week's time, we had made two trips to Kansas in two different vehicles but for two related events. Three days ago I got an email from Sarah's dad (my oldest brother) and the CTCA people in Chicago said they were not able to do anything for Sarah that had already been done. He wrote that she promptly informed them to unplug her so she could go back to Kansas.

I told Wifey last night that I do not want to go back to Kansas for another funeral. She replied that God is a miracle-worker and that we should continue to pray for Sarah's complete healing. I had to agree. What else could I say?

Dad's sudden departure from this world and Sarah's serious and now somewhat-terminal condition have made the 2012 holiday season one destined for somber reflection. The head pastor at our church has been preaching a series on The End Times (the rapture of the church, etc.). And of course people around the world continue to over-react to this wacky Mayan calendar thing!

Like I wrote at the beginning: what doesn't kill you ...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Who can be a true worshiper? Anyone can!

Heart Hungry to Worship--Is Jesus Enough?
David Herndon

It's been awhile since I've read a book about ministry. I'm glad that I was given the opportunity to read this one! In Heart Hungry to Worship, David Herndon gracefully weaves personal histories of people he has been blessed to minister to with the uplifting histories of Bible figures like Philip the Evangelist, Saul the radical Jew who became Paul the Apostle and many others. And within the pages of this easy-to-read and entertaining book, David focuses on how all kinds of people--even those no one would expect--have become true worshippers of God.

David has compared the lives of people he knows, focusing on their fears, doubts, frustrations and failures, with the merciful insight of someone who has experienced first-hand God's grace and love. And it's because of this that Heart Hungry to Worship can be a great tool for ministry. I can see David's book being used effectively in home-based Bible studies as well traditional Sunday School settings.

At the end of a few chapters of this 14-chapter "handbook," David challenges the read to accept God's grace as it has been presented through Jesus. At the end of a few others, he suggests taking the concepts presented within those chapters and applying it to our daily walk with Jesus. So what does this mean? Heart Hungry to Worship is not just a book for someone who is already a Christian; it's also a wonderfully-inspiring read for someone who has never read about Saul, the woman at the well or even Mary Magdalene.

As with any self-respecting handbook for Christian living, David has done a fine job with referencing and explaining key Bible passages, and he does this with a much-welcomed conversational style that seemed to be missing in more than a few of the other Christian-growth texts that I have encountered. Of course, it should go without saying that it could be concluded that listening to one of David's sermons would have a similar effect!

Here's one of my favorite parts of Heart Hungry to Worship: "There is no one so bad, so evil, so immoral that He cannot redeem him or her. There is no one so tainted by sin that He cannot cleanse. There is no one so far away, so lost, that He cannot find." This passage comes from the book's conclusion. But throughout the book, David hits on this essential truth about God's amazing grace. And this makes Heart Hungry to Worship a great read for everyone!

A Heart Hungry to Worship


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review of Fading Empires: Volume I

Fading Empires Vol 1
Ian Kane

A few years ago, there was a computer game with the strange name of "Quake 3 Arena". It was one of more than a few "first-person shooters" on the market at the time. The opening sequence of Q3:A showed a character named Sarge, a burly ex-Marine sporing a buzz haircut and chewing on a stubby cigar. Sarge carried a massive machine gun, one that could be thought of as a .50-caliber. In this "cut scene," Sarge takes on a huge number of enemies and defeats them all. As I read the first chapter of "Fading Empires: Volume I," where the main character, Kilbane, fights his way through a dense jungle to reach an extraction point, I found it very easy to picture this Sarge character.

From that first chapter all the way to the cliff-hanger ending (it is a massive cliff-hanger as well!), "Fading Empires" delivers a ferocious amount of physical carnage, much like what can be expected when playing a "first-person shooter." The novel begins with parallel scenes: Kilbane fighting his way to an extraction point where he is picked up by a remote-controlled UAV while the other scene presents a professor being interviewed on a pirate radio/video show about the horrors of the "have's" of this dystopic futuristic US of A fighting off their respective "have-nots" Because of these first scenes, the reader is given a quick but thorough layout of the novel's main conflicts.

Yes. reading the novel got thinking (more than I wanted to) of playing a sci-fi first-person shooter like Quake 4:Arena or Modern Warfare; Kane must have spent a copious amount of time and effort to delinate the descriptions of so many kinds of hand-held rifles, machine guns, RPGs, etc.

Even though "Fading Empires" is set in a dystopian society fairly far into the future, Kane chooses to present that "global warming" will be a major cause of society's downfall. In this novel, global warming has caused the seas to rise which has moved the coastal populations further inland. One minor side note: it is interesting that the street-gangs (at least one gang, anyway) have very sophisticated weaponry but have to watch how much is discharged since ammo costs are very high.

I liked how Kane made a subtle transition from the action to show a more tender, dramatic side when Kilbane partners with two of his buddies. They are in the middle of planning a mission that will benefit not only themselves but possibly thousands of other like-minded souls when he gets a message from a childhood friend who's been badly injured in a gang-related excursion. It is from this point until the end of the novel that the main plot-line becomes (thankfully) very obvious.

Like I mentioned earlier, the novel ends with a heavy cliff-hanger. It is so abrupt that I literally grunted my out loud when I hit that proverbial concrete wall! Then I was greeted by an appendix that includes a "cast of characters" along with a glossary of terms for the weaponry, etc. described in the novel.

"Fading Empires" is a very-quick, action-intensive read that introduces gang-bangers, ex-cons, industry tycooons, and yes, military types like Kilbane. Even though Kane's first action-packed novel ends with a massive cliff-hanger (which I suppose should lead interested readers directly to volume two of the series), I give it a bloody -- but frustrated -- thumbs up!

Fading Empires: Volume I

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Review of U-TURN KILLuR: Death Row edition

Gabe McLaughlin is a full-time firefighter, a lieutenant as well as a respected member of the fire department. He has a wife that loves him dearly and a three-year old daughter who thinks he's the best daddy a little girl could ever have. So what does Gabe think of them? He's too busy wrapped up in writing a novel that hopefully will take him--and them--out of their hum-drum existences into a brand-new life to even notice that they are slipping away from him. And what's wrong with that? According to Teric Darken via his revamped novel, U-TURN KILLuR, everything!

Through this novel (which appears to be a part of a series that began with KILL FM 100) Darken reveals his talent for poetic prose as well as fanciful fiction. Like his other novels, U-TURN KILLuR is a combination of live-action and stream-of-consciousness narrative and dream sequences. And because of the novel being packed with what is dream/fantasy/metaphor and what isn't, anyone looking for a thrill-by-the-minute action-packed fireman's adventure might be disillusioned with this novel.

But like he has done with his other spiritual/metaphysical pieces, Darken focuses on how a man can have everything and still miss what's most-important.

Tha author graciously provided a PDF of the manuscript and in thankful response I have uploaded this review.


Friday, October 5, 2012

We have a winner!

Gratz and kudos to Lisa Vazquezanzua, one of 422 entrants in the 10-day Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls giveaway on Goodreads! According to Goodreads, Lisa entered the giveaway on Sept. 30th.

Lisa, I mailed your copy today! Hope you enjoy it! :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls--FREE via Goodreads!

From now until Oct 5, log into Goodreads to register for a FREE paperback edition of book two of The Land of Betrovia trilogy!


Saturday, September 8, 2012

That Pesky Mayan Calendar Thingy!

And so! It's the first weekend of Autumn, 2012. Not really, "autumn" yet, if the calendar is the sole indicator of the change of the seasons. But the cold front that came through MidMO yesterday afternoon brought strong, NW winds, a little over an inch of rain (which brings the total in the past week to over 4" according to the gauge on our deck!), and much-cooler as well as dryer air. Lots of folks coming into the MFA in Freeburg said their ponds are nearly full now thanks to the storms. The temp this morning when I finally got out of bed (close to 6) was 55. And that's a very-fine temperature for the start of a sunny weekend! (Wifey was already gone on another one of her Springfield adventures which is one reason why I allowed myself almost an extra hour's shut-eye!)

Before 7, I pulled the weed-wacker out of the storage shed (we use an electric, non-battery powered weed-wacker -- and it works great when tethered to about 100' of extension cords!) to prepare the yard for its first complete mowing since May! (Yes, it has been a very dry, very hot summer here in MidMO.) The grass at that time was still too wet for mowing -- but perfect for wacking -- so at a little before 9, I pulled Ryan away from his mindless Saturday-morning cartoons, and we ventured to the Habitat for Humanity "re-use" store. It's like a Salvation Army/Goodwill store, but there are no clothes or things like that. There's all kinds of used furniture, tools, larger sporting goods (bikes, exercise equipment, etc.) appliances and even plumbing and electrical supplies. But what's one nice thing to grab if we can get there right at 9?

Free donuts! Woot!

Before we finally gave up trying to find anything that we couldn't live without, I had polished off two of those wonderful somewhat-fresh pastries (Ryan, however, practiced a bit more self-control -- he had only one!). It was nice to have some REAL junkfood for the first time since my little hospital adventure three weeks ago -- especially since the pastries were FREE!

By 11, the lawn had been exposed to enough dry winds and warm sun, so we headed outside to mow the lawn. Since the mower has not been used a least once a week, like it normally is during the Summer, it just didn't want to keep running. But after fiddling with the choke and waiting for the carberator to reassimilate after such a long vacation, it finally agreed to keep running. Ryan and I traded off guiding that beast back and forth across the yard and by 12:30 the front, both sides, and the back yard were mowed! Man oh man, does the whole yard look good now! And isn't it just amazing how crabgrass and other wonderful MidMO weeds look just like regular grass when they are sufficiently watered and trimmed to about 3" high? :)

After getting a little something for lunch, I thought I would be able to plop down at my desk, watch some college football and maybe even start on the first chapter of Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation. Well, I am at my desk, and I am typing away on something. But is there any football on the tube? (I do need to add here that we do not have cable or dish; we have to rely on whatever is broadcasted via the good ol' fashioned way!) I have been given the choice of US Open tennis and some golf tournament. And so here I am, hammering away on this noisy keyboard, watching the 5 seed take on the 3 seed on the men's side of the US Open tournament. I could try to convince myself that if some college football game was on the tube that I would be hammering away on that elusive first chapter. Well, I could! (As another side note, the tennis tournament commentators keep talking about Ivan Lendl, one of the tennis greats from the middle 1980's, who just happens to be in the stands watching the same match that I am! I can't say that I liked Lendl Ivan the Great  that much when he was terrorizing the professional circuit. But I must say that he looks like he could just jump out of that box seat and show those two youngsters dancing around on the court how the game should be played!)

So when will chapter one of the final book of The Land of Betrovia trilogy be drafted?

 Who knows?

Maybe I have the goal of drafting a chapter a week, figuring on at least 16 chapters total for the book, and that would mean that the entire book would be completely drafted around the new year. And wouldn't that be nice? The goal is to publish Ahnak by Spring 2013 and having the whole thing drafted by New Years Day would be fantastic!

But will it happen? A previous goal was to have Lycentia drafted by July 4th (goal met) and published by Labor Day (another goal met).

Oh  no! Wait just a second! I almost forgot! It's that pesky Mayan calendar thing! The world as we know it is gonna end on December 21, 2012 The End of the World .

Well, so much for that!

Friday, August 31, 2012


End of August Musings

August 2012 has been an August to remember.

Now just why is that? Let's count the ways in which August 2012 is one for my personal record books:

1. My little "hospital adventure": 2.5 days cooped up on in the geriatrics wing suffering from the after-effects of my pancreas that apparently had attempted to commit hari-kari. (If more information about this is needed, refer to the Blogpost entitled "Hospital Adventure".) Today, on this rainy last day of the month, I met with my GP who decided to set up a "HIDA scan" to determine if my gall bladder is what enticed my pancreas to malfunction. The main thing I am not looking forward to with this HIDA scan? Having to lay motionless inside a machine on my back for over an hour! Having radioactive isotopes flowing through my veins and then down into my intestinal tract doesn't concern me. No, not in the least! It's having to remain immobile for over an hour! And to be attired once again in a loose-fiting hospital gown to boot! ACK and PTL!

2. Both of my parents needing to vacate their cozy two-bedroom condo where they have lived for nearly 20 years to begin a new chapter in their lives in an assisted-living community 30 miles from the city where they have lived together since 1969! Since this has been happening nearly 200 miles away, I've thankfully been kept abreast of the details via emails with my siblings who have done all of the leg-work, etc. Now the issue of putting the condo up for sale and deciding what to do with all of their things must be dealt with. ACK and PTL!

3. The polshing and then publishing of the second book in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. (For more information, check out this Blogpost: "Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls -- the Process".) Three months ago I promised via The Blog that Lycentia: Harrak's scrolls would be out by Labor Day. And so it was! Is it perfect? No. Does having it "out there" for anyone to read and comment on make me nervous and/or naseous? Maybe. Do I feel as good about finishing it as I did about publishing Betrovia about this same time last summer? Oh yeah, I sure do! ACK and PTL!

4. The fourth-straight month of nearly no rain to hit the ground in MidMO. The word "drought" has been used even by the national media to describe what we have been suffering through all summer here in MidMO. Thankfully, though, today, on the last day of the month, there's almost 2" of the glorious wet-stuff in the rain gauge on the deck! Even though it took the remains of Hurricane Issac which just two days ago dumped nearly 25" on Louisianna and Mississippi to break this long dry spell, the relief is much-needed! ACK and PTL!

5. And last but not least: the beginning of the defense of my Fantasy Football title in the FF league I organized 4 years ago. I have sorted The PreDraft List. I have written a note and placed it on the table next to my computer desk to remind me of when the online draft will happen. And what if I get, for some out-of-this-world reason, FIRST PICK in the draft? Who will I pick? I don't know! I just don't know! Last year, I got to pick last of 12 "managers" (which means I also got the 13th pick as well). ACK and PTL!

I suppose it would be important to add that in the middle of all this, I still worked every day for MFA Freeburg (at least a little bit each day!) or at church (my part-time job). Do I wish September 2012 to be just like August 2012?

NOT IN THE LEAST! ACK and, most-importantly, Praise the Lord!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Little Hospital Adventure!

Last Monday afternoon, after enjoying another great "brown-bag" lunch at work (lunch consisting of my normal fare: a processed-turkey sandwich, some baby-cut carrots, etc.), I started experience an unusual amount of intestinal gas. By that evening, the gas had moved into my lower abdomen and was causing a great deal of pain. By midnight, Wifey convinced me that it was time to visit one of our local ERs. So, by 1AM Tuesday morning, there I was, stretched out on a cold ER gurney, still in a great deal of pain, where a handful of ER techs poked, proded and pricked my swollen body to their liking. Over two hours later, an ER doctor came into my "stall" and told me that I was experiencing acute pancreatitis. Wonderful, I thought; now that this pain has a name, how about giving me some relief from it? After he left, a nurse returned and pumped a few CCs of antacid into my veins. Now, I do know what heartburn, etc. feels like and this sensation was definitely not heartburn. So, after about another half-hour, I told the ER staff that the pain was still there. And it wasn't too much longer until one of the nurses introduced my body to about 50 CCs of Demerol. This was one fine medical invention that the nurse liberally pumped into me. In less time than it takes to remember my home phone number, I was so dizzy that I could not even open my eyes without causing the ceiling to spin wildly. Wifey was seated not more than 3 feet to my left. But as she talked to me, she sounded like she was a hundred feet away. And when I was actually able to create some coherent vocalizations, all I remember saying was "I don't like Demerol." Oh, do I need to add that for the first time since that previous afternoon I was "feelin no pain"?

By 4AM, I was admitted to the hospital and for the next 2.5 days, I lived in the "geratrics" wing of St. Mary's hospital, just a few feet away from the oncology ward. As far as I could tell (from when my IV-tree buddy and me took our little walks around the third floor) i was the youngest patient on that floor. My roommate was a 72-year old former school bus driver who had been in-and-out of the hospital since January. Charlie the school bus driver was so weak that he could not get out of bed or even back in on his own. And when he did stand up, his BP would drop from something like 110/70 to a scary 80/38! Wednesday morning, Charile's doctor told him that he was going to give him some new meds to help increase his energy level as well as to raise his BP.

Each morning around 6:30 a gastro-intestinal doctor told me about my gall bladder being the cause of the pancreatitis. She stressed during each visit that it needed to come out within the next six weeks. Tuesday morning my GP said that he wanted to wait for the results of the ultra-sounds (which occured later that morning) before pinning the blame on my poor gall bladder. Wednesday morning, my GP returned to say that the ultra-sounds showed that I was blessed with a "slushy" gall bladder (which is what a 2004 ultra-sound also revealed). He went on to say that since there were no stones, he wanted to prescribe one more test which would have to happen once my pancreas had calmed down (which is going to happen the morning of Aug. 31). He added that because the pancreas was surrounded by intestinal gases, its condition could not be effectively-analyzed via those ultra-sound images. Thursday morning the GI doctor said that even though the most-recent blood samples showed a slight increase in pancreatic enzymes, it was nothing to get excited about. So she said that I could be leaving the hospital as soon as noon that day.

Even though Charlie's condition was obviously more-serious than mine, ironically he had more freedom than I did; I was not allowed to eat or drink ANYTHING from the time I went into the ER until breakfast-time Wednesday morning (even though one of the night-nurses stuck me a cup of delicious ice chips late Tuesday night!). However, Charlie could have anything he wanted for his meals. But because he was struggling with staying awake and lucid, he hardly ate anything. While the nurses gave Charlie access to oxygen, he wasn't tethered to both an IV tree and a vitals-monitoring device like I was. Too many times, I had to call the nurses' station to complain that the IV monitor was beeping; most of the time it was malfunctioning because I bent my arm and therefore constricted the flow of the magical fluids. It would also beep when it was time for a refill. Every 4-6 hours (depending on how much fluids the hospital staff surmised I needed) a new bag of lactose was hooked up to that noisy contraption. And just about every 4-6 hours I had to make a trip to the bathroom! Sure glad that IV tree was on wheels! Woot! Something else that was on that IV tree was a small pump full of Demerol (have I mentioned that Demerol is nasty stuff?). The nurses told me that whenever I pushed this little button, I would be blessed with 5 CCs of pain-killer. They also explained that the computerized pump would not allow me to have more than 15-20 CCs per hour, just in case I happened to "lay on" the button a bit too much. So, from Tuesday morning until about 9 that night, I pushed that button off and on. But from 9PM on, the pain was basically gone (for which I am very thankful!).

Now to continue with my hosptial diet: Wednedsay morning, I was allowed plain-liquids: hot chicken broth (hot water flavored with chicken boullion cubes), apple/cranberry juice, frozen orange juice (not sure if it was intentionally frozen for my benefit) and jello. And I could drink as much water as I wanted as well as even a can of Sprite with each meal! That was my menu for all three meals on Wednesday. But because my pancreas did not act up after eating that wonderful food, they allowed me pancakes, cereal (with fat-free milk) and decaf instant coffee for Thursday's breakfast. By the way, decaf coffee is just hot brown water; I had not ingested any caffeine from early Monday morning until Friday morning when I endulge myself with a cup of REAL coffee! Three cheers for Folger's Coiombian! I don't think I have gone that long without caffeine (from Folgers or otherwise) since I was in high school!

Right after breakfast on Thursday my day-nurse said that it looked like I could be discharged at noon. Now that was good news! But she cautioned that once I left the hospital, I was still to be on a low-fat diet. My GP didn't visit me that morning, but he did send one of his associates. This doctor concurred with my GP that the out-patient gall-bladder test (he told me the exact title of it but I really wasn't listening well enough to remember it) still needed to be implemented. Around 10AM, the discharge nurse brought my discharge papers on which I signed that I was allowed to leave at noon. And here is where I must confess that I've been a bad out-patient of St. Mary's hospital: the discharge papers said that I could return to work on Monday the 20th. Wifey and I were back home here on Merry Lane by 1PM and I was at the MFA in Freeburg around 2PM and did not get home until after 6PM. I washed windows from 6:30 to nearly noon on Friday and then went to my "other" job at our church and worked there until almost 5. Yes, I was pretty tired last night, but I went to bed about 9:30 and stayed there until 6 this morning. By 7:30, I was back at church where I worked until noon.

So what to think about all this? The test scheduled in my GP's office for the 31st seems to be the pivotal point in the life of my slush-producing gall bladder. Since 2004, I've talked to some people who no longer have a gall bladder and most have said that the out-patient procedure is quick and relatively-painless. But a handful have said that the after-effects were infections and digestive problems. Now I don't want either of those, that is for sure! So if this test reveals that I can keep that ol' gall bladder for awhile longer, what should I decide to do? I definitely don't want to spend another 2+ days in the hospital nursing an inflamed pancreas! It most-definitely will be a serious prayer issue.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls -- the Process

A few months ago I thought I would have Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls to the point where I could kick it out the door and feel that I had done a good job with it. Three days ago, I realized that there was only one more chapter/scene to flesh out before the novel was ready for publication. Yesterday morning, even though the temperature was a balmy 57 degrees, I forced myself to grab the keyboard and hammer away on that one persnickity chapter. By 1PM, it was done which includes formatting it for both Kindle and Createspace (paperback). The last steps, uploading them to the respective servers, was a fairly-simple process (since I've had lots of practice uploading refinements of Betrovia!).

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls is the second book in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. Last July, after publishing the first book of the trilogy, most of book two was already outlined. But instead of jumping right into drafting book two, I spent the next 4 months refining Betrovia, creating a "book trailer" for Betrovia, creating a map for the book, as well as writing and publishing a few short stories. Around Christmastime last year, I got to work on drafing Lycentia. By the end of February, the book totalled 4 chapters. The plan at that time was to have at least 14 chapters, and around 70K words, by Labor Day. Yesterday, as I finished that last chapter (chapter 13 was the one that needed more "detail"), I realized that the novel was going to have nearly 75K instead of just 70K. Now, 5000 words is not that much (about one more chapter), and I've been "researching" that for a novel to be labeled a "novel" it should be at least 60K words long. Lycentia is definitely not a novella (the supposed-correct label for something less than 60K).

Somebody commented a few weeks ago that he was amazed that Lycentia's cover was already finalized; this is something I learned through trial-and-error with Betrovia. Since publishing as an "indie" writer, I need to get images as well as blurbs/excerpts of the novel onto the Interwebz months before the novel is released. This time, I used Facebook primarily to accomplish this; when Betrovia was done, there wasn't even a Land of Betrovia FB page! I was so naive this time last year.

I've enrolled Lycentia in Amazon's Select program (the Kindle program that allows me 5 "freebie" days in a 90-day period to promote the novel) like I did with Betrovia and the short stories. A major stipulation with Select is I have to agree to not sell the ebook version of the novel(s) through any other venue. One of Lycentia's beta-readers today told me to reserve a Lycentia paperback for him since he owns a Nook (which is unfortunately chained to Barnes and Noble). So, when do I plan to "promote" Lycentia with a few free days? My research of the last year dictates that the novel should have at least 5 4-star or better reviews before setting it "free." Betrovia sold fairly well last March and April after a few free days even though it only had 3 total reviews (averaging 4.5 stars). But no reviews came from those free days or the subsequent sales which was a bit disheartening. But, as someone wrote: "Sales lead to reviews and not the other way around." So, even though I feel the Betrovia Kindle sales were respectable, not enough copies were sold to garner reviews.

So, to answer the question: I haven't decided yet. Right now, I'm lising Betrovia at $2.99 instead of its regular $3.99 price while Lyceentia is listed at $3.99. I suppose I could lower Betrovia to $.99 and keep Lycentia where it is and then get the word out about the "great deal" for both books. Still, the idea of how to get "good reviews" lingers in the shadowy realms of my brain. Two of Lycentia's beta-readers asked for copies of Betrovia, so they could read what happened in the major plotlines before reading Lycentia. I could ask them to review Lycentia. I suppose I could...

Now onto book three: Ahnak: Edelin's Revelation (which is still a working title). I do not plan to create any book trailers, nor a map, for Lycentia. I want to "beat" my deadline of publishing Ahnak by June. A few months last spring, I averaged close to 15K per month. So, if my goal once again is to have a total of 70K for Ahnak, and I can crank out that many words per month between now and , let's say February, there should be at least 70K on the hard-drive. So I suppose that is my goal: 70K words by the end of February.

As a side note, Ethan, our oldest son, is heading for the agrarian community of Guangfu located on the eastern side of Taiwan. The interesting thing about this move is that he will be less than an hour's trainride from where he was born! He will be working with the OneHope organization. Here's their website if more info is needed: OneHope. He will be flying out of Kansas City this Tuesday. He has a six-month "contract" with the organization but hopes that it will be extended this winter.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review of Tycho by William Woodall

Tycho a sci-fi novel set not too far into Earth's future, focuses on the adventures of Tycho McGrath and a small group of family, friends and associates who are faced with a tremendous challenge: stay on Earth and most-assuredly die or steal a spaceship and relocate to the moon that was "terra-formed" a half-century before.

Once Tyke and the others make it to the moon (even though some perish in their ship's crash-landing), the next big challenge is to learn how to survive there. Even though it has an atmosphere similar to Earth's, the drastic changes in weather, etc. make it very difficult for the former residents of Earth to refer to the moon as a "home away from home."

Before long, Tyke discovers that the scientists who turned the moon into a little Earth were a bit too enthusiastic about the enduring effects of the drastic transformation.

Woodall tells an interesting sci-fi story, through the eyes of Tycho the young scientist, of what might happen to Earth if someone releases a virus - intentionally or not - that can kill every creature on the planet that has lungs. The novel's first chapters are interesting as Tyke and more than a few others develop the plan to steal the spaceship and head for the moon. I was hoping for a bit more tension here - as well as more description - of how the Orion Strain was rapidly making its way around the globe. I suppose I was thinking about the novel The Andromeda Strain as well as its film adaptation as I read the beginning chapters of Tycho. Woodall also uses the first two-three chapters to reveal how intelligent Tyke is. Learning that the narrator was not a typical nerdy/goofy/uppity teenager was a pleasant and welcome surprise!

Now the part of the novel that feels too much like a summmary (where it seems that Woodall wanted to "run through" the section as fast as possible to get to the "fun stuff") was the middle part. Let's just say that the summary part begins right when the characters fall into a routine of living on the moon to when another Orion Strain disaaster occurs.

But right about when Tyke convinces enough people that the moon is not a good place to raise a family to the very end of the novel (not including the epilogue!) is the best part of Tycho. Woodall paces the life-and-death action scenes with effective and mature dialogue. Getting to the last third of the novel made wading through the first 2/3 worth the effort.

Editing-wise, Tycho is relatively free of anything that detracts from the plotline. I also appreciate that the novel is completely free of any use of gratuitous profanity, etc. If this were a movie, it would have to be rated PG (and that is only due to a few places of blood and gore that is standard fare for all action/adventure novels).

I was given a PDF version of Tycho in exchange for my honest opinions about the novel.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Review of Resistance

Resistance by David F. Weisman


I have read too many sci-fi novels since grade school, and I can't say that I remember any of them focusing on what Weisman has focused on in Resistance (formerly called Absoprtion). I cut my sci-fi teeth on Heinlein, Bova and Bradbury and found my "thrill" with Asimov, etc. But what Weisman has attempted with this novel is unique to say the least.

Resistance is a sci-fi "concept" novel that is set not too far into the future. Humans of Earth have figured out how to build massive space vehicles and have ventured light-years away into the galaxy. On one planet, named Oceania, settlers have learned to not only communicate with a being they refer to as the Overmind (which is also referred to as the super-mind, etc.) but to participate in a collective of shared neurons, so to speak. This collective consciousness allows even certain Oceania inhabitants to develop scientific advancements that far exceed those developed by non-Oceania humans. The novel's main character, Brett Johnson, early in his military medical career, is sent to a Federation colony called Roundhouse where he is to investigate and tend to the survivors of a massacre there that has been attributed to members of this collective consciousness or "hive mind." Ten years later, Brett is sent as part of a peace excursion to help convince Oceania to give up much of their hive-mind activities or suffer the catastrophic consequences.

The relationship that develops between Brett and Ariel, one of the ladies of Oceania, gives the novel a gritty and fairly-entertaining romantic feel; the only real "action" between at least two characters in Absorption occurs in their love scenes. Yes, that is how it is: this novel is definitely NOT a man vs. alien, man vs. cyborg, or even man vs. himself piece of fiction. Resistance is an analysis constructed through a copious amount of dialogue with a smattering of conceptual narration. The strongest (if that's the best word) narratiive sequences in the novel are located in its final third. As another reviewer mentioned, even though Resistance presents something akin to Star Trek's "the Borg", the novel only delivers an interesting perspective on the concept of a "collective consciousness" without any of the gory action/battle sequences.

Even though the storyline is presented via a third-person omniscent narrative style, it feels like the only "mind" the reader has has access to is Brett's. Brett Johnson, his thoughts, his actions, his faults/weaknesses, and even his lusts are on every page of the novel. If the reader does not become an expert in who Brett Johnson is by the end of Resistance, they have not been paying attention. To put if simply, Resistance is about Brett Johnson's coming to terms with not only his painful past but also with what could be his prosperous future.

I could go into how Brett chooses to learn more than he wants to learn about the "hive-mind," but this would be adding more spoilers than I should. By the way, a few other reviewers have already written about this :)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Adding Lasers to Predators? Oh My!

Another article directly related to UAVs appeared on my computer screen this afternoon. What's the gist of this article? The US Air Force will be attaching lasers to Predator drones, like the ones being used currently in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and will be  "testing" these laser-weapons over the skies of North Dakota. So what's the problem? Even though the flightpaths over the Dakotas is nothing like those over larger metropolitan areas, US airlines are concerned about the negative effects these "tests" might have on their pilots. Laser-equipped drones

So would this guy be even more-intimidating if it sported a nifty red laser?

Since I'm still quite interested in how UAVs are -- and more than likely will be -- utilized here in the US, last week I decided to focus my interest on how UAVs might be deployed here in MidMO. But who am I when it comes to writing about such things? The answer is "just another concerned US taxpayer," that's who! And so, I have exercised my "freedom" as a hard-working taxpayer to vie for the attention of a few of our public servants, specifically Col. Ron Replogle, head of Missouri's highway patrol, Cole County Sheriff Greg White, and Maries County Officer Mike Bonham who is also a candidate for Osage County sheriff.

As I communicated in my previous UAV posts, local law enforcement agencies should be closely-monitored as they begin, or continue, to use UAVs. All three of these men agreed with me on that point.

Officer Bonham specified that UAVs should be used for "rescue, (a) fleeing felon, drug eradication and (a) known armed suspect but not for day-to-day use of keeping tabs on suspects." He then added that the latter "would be unconstitutional." Sheriff White stressed that MidMO "is not a war zone" and therefore UAVs, at least the kinds that are being used in Afghanistan, should not be deployed here. But he did add that non-military UAVs could be used in the pursuit of an escaped prisoner, for search and rescue, and for fuel pipeline emergencies. Col. Replogle communicated that the MO Highway Patrol is fully-supplied with the more-traditional methods of aerial reconnissance, i.e. helicopters, and then said that he does not feel his agency would pursue acquiring UAVs in the immediate future.

I am satisfied that these members of local law enforcement and I agree on this major point: UAVs should not be used here in MidMO in the ways they are being used in the Middle East. But since MidMO is currently plagued by a methamphetamine problem, "wouldn't it be nice" (to quote that wonderful Beach Boys song!) to see how a few small, quiet and nondescript remote-controlled flying vehicles could be used to help correct this problem? But the ramifications of deploying them currently outweigh any proposed benefits compared to the technologies already in place.

But what if someone were to offer a handful of "robocopters" that were effectively equipped with highly-sensitive cameras to the agencies these men work for? Even when none of these men would actively pursue acquiring the machines?

Officer Bonham said "I would not be interested because of the stings that would be attached. In past experiences, these types of tests come with hidden costs that are too high to pay. Nothing is for free." Col. Replogle would be concerned that agitators on the ground would try to "jam" the communications between the authorized operators of the vehicles and the UAVs in question and therefore these jammings would pose a threat to public safety. He feels that the MO Highway Patrol's current stable of aerial vehicles is more than sufficient for accomplishing what he wants them to accomplish. But Sheriff White said that if UAVs were offered to his departmnent, he would accept them as long as the funds for them were already allocated.

Another concern I have is how the Intrawebz are packed with information for constructing and operating UAVs. And one website that continues to raise my dander as it continues to receive a supertanker-ful of traffic is diydrones.com

Officer Bonham believes that "technology is a wonderful thing when used in a lawful way and for personal use. The problem comes in when technology is used to harm others.... The right to privacy is a right I'm not ready to give up."

The talk in MidMO, even in the MFA at Freeburg, is that drones should be used to track down meth labs that have been set up in hard-to-reach places. So, after talking with these long-standing members of Missouri's law enforcement agencies, the fine people of Missouri are very blessed: as long as people like Col. Replogle, Sheriff White and Officer Bonham are in charge, we should not concern ourselves with the flagrant misuse of unmanned aerial vehicles here in MidMO.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A Little Rain... and a Teaser!

At 3PM today, thunder could easily be heard in the Jeff City area. And the temperature was 105. An hour later, nearly .1 inch of rain had fallen (a good start!) and the temperature had receeded to a mere 84.

More rain is predicted all day tomorrow! Woot!

And to celebrate the cooler temps and the RAIN! Here's another teaser from Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls!

So, as Galena began to mix up the batter, Patrik thought of something to talk about to insure that she would not ask him about the dream.
“When your mother and I,,,” He paused to wait for her reaction. “ When we began to talk seriously about our relationship.” But she continued humming one of those childhood tunes as she stirred the batter, “Please feel free to stop me if you've heard this already. For the life of me, I cannot remember if I have ever told you about this before,” he added.
“Relationship? Between you and mother?” she asked.
“Yes, your mother and I... well... for the most part... even though she was just about the prettiest girl in Noran at the time... I can't say that I had much interest in her. That is...,” he paused again, anticipating that she would interrupt. “Until that day she came to the house delivering that wonderfully hot soup and freshly-baked black-bean bread. It was then that I realized I had some... feelings... for her. But I wasn't... I didn't know how... how to tell her I how I felt.” He stopped to watch as she tested the thickness of the batter and then sprinkled in a bit more flour. “A few days after I was feeling better, I even asked Pieter how I might tell her.”
“Uncle Pieter? What about Uncle Pieter?” she asked. It appeared that she was barely paying attention, so he determined to make the story more interesting.
“Yes, your Uncle Pieter,” he said. “He suggested – and you'll probably laugh when I tell you – that I sketch a portrait of her and then give it to her... what I had drawn... as a symbol of my affection.” Galena didn't laugh; she didn't even smile. But she did glance in his direction.
“So did you?” she asked.
“Did I what?”
“Father!” she exclaimed as she shook the batter-covered wooden spoon at him. “Did you give her what you had sketched?”
“No, I didn't. I drew nothing. At the time, I was very...” he struggled for the right words, “I was quite shy about my artwork and basically wasn't showing it to anyone except Mother... and whenever he pestered me about it... to Pieter. A few days after he shared his idea with me, he challenged me again to follow through with it. He was certain that once I showed her the evidence of my talent, she would fall in love with me.” He then scowled but only to emphasize the point of the story. “But I didn't do it.”
“Uncle Pieter wasn't serious,” Galena said with a smile. “He really didn't expect you to give her the portrait. He always was such a kidder, don't you know?”
“Yes, he surely was.” Patrik had to agree. “And then one day...  not too long after that... the two of us... Pieter and I... we went hunting.” The innkeeper didn't realize that this new topic was hardly related to the first, but that didn't hinder him from continuing. “We grabbed our bows and arrows and headed into the bean field east of town. We didn't have to wait long before a huge buck came within range. Oh, he was massive, I tell you! At least a 10-pointer, he was! I was certain that this was the beast that I had been scouting for more than a few years. Amazingly, he stopped not more than twenty yards from us. Oh yes, this was going to be the day! I quietly loaded the bow and pulled back on the string – ”
“And you shot him dead where he stood! Slam! Right into the heart!” she exclaimed. He was so startled by the excited interruption that he had to reconstruct his thoughts.
“No, not even close,” he mumbled. “Just as I was about to release, Pieter let loose with a scream that would rival the war-cry of a crazed Haarigoian axeman. And I never saw that buck again!”

Monday, July 2, 2012

Aerial Drones, Part II


Can you believe it?

 The FAA now claims frustration with the plethora 
of "unauthorized" drones available for purchase via the Intrawebz? 

A few weeks ago, I posted via the Betrovia blog my comments about law enforcement agencies here in the US using aerial drones, like the Predator that has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan for many years. When I posted those comments, I felt that law enforcement agencies should be severely restricted in their use of aerial drones. Basically, a sheriff's department should be required to procure a judge's warrant before being allowed to deploy a drone to "spy" on, for example, a suspected meth lab manager.

Since posting those comments, I have to say that I am even more opposed to law enforcement deploying drones even if a warrant has been given.

In 1997, Half-Life, the computer game, sucked away many precious hours of my free time (and even some hours that weren't actually "free"). And in 2004, Half-Life 2, its long-awaited sequel, was released. Much of that following summer and fall was devoted to sinking more time into the dystopic, alien-infested universe of Half-Life.

One of the more-interesting aspects of Half-Life 2 was the inclusion of aerial drones. Basically, there were two kinds/types of these flying robots in the game:

1. Flashers: annoying little machines that sported an extremely-bright strobe light with which to attempt to blind the player
2. Man Hacks - a more-insidious version of the flashers armed with a small blade which spun as the drone attempted to attack or "hack" the player

In every chapter of Half-Life 2, the player was forced to learn how to maneuver around flashers and man hacks. Successful progression through the game required mastering this skill.

Within the Half-Life universe, it is understood that the technology required for designing and building these drones came from an alien world. But because the technology is not that far from what is currently available to our military, someone playing Half-Life today would not have to suspend much -- if any -- disbelief to get sucked into that mesmerizing but highly-dangerous world.

So what do flashers and man hacks have to do with the aerial drones of 2012?

A quick Google search of the Intrawebz reveals that the technology behind the inner workings of aerial drones is not restricted to the militaries of the superpowers -- not in the least!

One website, diydrones.com, contains a wealth of information on how to design an aerial drone, how to acquire the hardware, and software, to build one, and even how to circumvent, legally or otherwise, law enforcement's attempts to curtail the utilization of such contraptions.

Today, July 2, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International  published their "code of conduct" for the use of aerial drones. Here are a few highlights from that publication:

"We will not operate UAS in a manner that presents undue risk to persons or property on the surface or in the air.”
“We will establish contingency plans for all anticipated off‐nominal events and share them openly with all appropriate authorities.”
“We will establish contingency plans for all anticipated off‐nominal events and share them openly with all appropriate authorities.”

I enthusiastically applaud the AUVSI for their noble response to the unveiled threat to a free people's way of life.

But at the same time, I shudder to think of how closely current technology resembles what was only a computer game less than a decade ago.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Revising Time for Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls!

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls is drafted! The first complete draft of the second book of The Land of Betrovia trilogy is done!

And I am excited!


As an English teacher of twenty-so years, I liked to edit/proof/critique/grade other people's writings. Even if the content was drab, the grammar atrocious... even if the document wasn't complete! I really did like reading what my students came up with.

The problem was having to read/edit/proofread, etc. ALL of my students' assigned writings! On the average, I had three classes of students who were writing one large paper per month. And no, I don't even want to tangle with the math to compute just how many papers that would add up to in a year!

During my first year of teaching, I was responsible for helping a group of about ten eighth-graders learn above-average grammar and composition skills. Most of the lessons were dull, drab, and disappointing. But one assignment I gave them turned into the first novel that I almost completed! I assigned each student to take a sentence... the first line of a story, and write at least one page (300 words) to continue that story. By the time the activity was over, we had a short story that was ten pages long! Was it a cohesive piece of fiction? Ha! But it did spark something in me that I hammered away on via an electric typewriter most of that winter! All 125+ pages of that novel are still in my house... somewhere. :)

So, as I begin to revise Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls, I will try to pretend that it is one of my students' works. And it is the ONLY one I have to deal with!

Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls should be available via amazon.com for the Kindle, etc. by this Labor Day.  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Quick SSFF Review

The Summer Solstice Free Fantasy promotion has ended. And it was a blast watching it come together! 23 fantasy authors chose to promote 29 works of fantasy: historical, epic, urban, Arthurian, you name it. The best part was watching the downloads pour in (out?) via my Amazon KDP page.

Betrovia was downloaded over 2900 times in a 72-hour period from the US Amazon server alone.

Folks who access the UK server grabbed over 50 copies while the DE server surrendered 12.

The big news is that 5 people via the IT server downloaded Betrovia! And up to this promo, NONE had been downloaded from that server!

And what about ES and FR? Zero... nada... zilch! And what do they know about historical fantasy anyway?  :)

Kudos must be given to Chris, the husband and promotions manager for Tristan Tarwater. He set up the wonderful SSFF webpage as well as organized the paid and the free advertising for the promotion.

I also want to thank J.R. Tomlin
 for posting my interview on her blog! 

Greg of Ereader News Today AGAIN picked up Betrovia! Woot! And Spirit Filled Kindle's FB page also publicized the promotion!

So what to do now? Historically, after a decent number of free downloads, sales should begin 24-48 hours after the promotion has ended. But my expectations are very low considering that the TaX Day Free promo in April only netted about 15 Betrovia purchases.

There's talk now of the SSFF group continuing to amass our talents/skills/hutzpah to create a "paid" promotion sometime in the near future.

I'm going to hold off committing to this until for a few days... until I see the results of the SSFF promo.

And here's a bit of news about Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls -- the first draft should be completed by tomorrow night! And it will be over 60K words! The first draft! Woot!

NOTE: A "Donate" via PayPal button has been added to the blog... it's on the right side of the page close to my snarky mugshot! If anyone would like to contribute to the "cause" or to even prepay for a signed copy of Betrovia, the button is there for just for that! :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

JR Tomlin's Interview of Me!

Dave, welcome to my blog. I thought it would be fun to ask some questions absolutely none of which are about writing. 

So, Dave, if you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?
Let's say that I just happened to grab my laptop before the boat/plane sank, so I would have that. And of course I'd also rescue a solar-powered generator to keep the laptop battery charged. And the third thing would have to be a harmonica because I've always wanted to learn how to play one of those things. So when I'm not writing novels/short stories, I would be mastering The Devil Went Down to Georgia on the harmonica!

What is one book everyone should read?
Even though it's a compendium of 66 books, it would have to be the Bible. The gospel of John is the best book of the Bible to start with because so much of it are the words of Jesus.

If you could meet one person who has died who would you choose?
I would love to meet Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is one of my favorite novels; I loved re-reading it every year when it was required reading for my high school students. It would be stellar to have a long sit-down with Mark to talk to him about his business adventures as well as his inspirations for writing. He was, BTW, one of the first successful “indie” writers!

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
Favorite thing for breakfast? I'd have to say it's what I usually eat: boxed cereal! Myfavorite when I was just a wee child was Lucky Charms; something magical happenedto those little crunchy marshmallow stars, etc. when they were soaked in cold milk! If my Wifey hadn't already stocked the cabinet with Raisin Bran, etc., I would run out immediately and buy a box of Lucky Charms!

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Everyone is challenged to do what is right, and Patrik, Betrovia's protagonist, takes thechallenge and doesn't regret it!

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 
Betrovia is the first in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls will beunleashed on the general populace this Fall. The third book (working title of Ahnak:Edelin's Revelation) should be available Summer of 2013.

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?
I'm almost embarrassed to admit it, but it would be great to hang out with Bilbo, etc. inthe Shire! The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite stories. It would be great to go fishing with those hilarious hobbits, to take part in their drinking contests (in which I would lose since I don't drink!), and to lay on a Shire hillside in the middle of the night, staring up at the stars while puffing on a bit of Gandalf's select pipeweed.

Would we survive if we met your villain in a dark alley?
I can't really say that there's one die-hard villain in The Land of Betrovia trilogy. Viktor,one of the antagonists in the first two novels, could be considered a scary individual,but that is only due to his adamant opposition to the publicizing of Harrak's scrolls. Soif we were on our way to delivering the scrolls to the Netherene High Priest, and if wemet Viktor on our way there, I'd say that our survival may be in doubt!

Would we want to have dinner with your hero?
Why of course we would want to have dinner with Patrik! Besides being a greatconversationalist,  he's also experienced at running a road-side inn where he cameface-to-face with many very interesting characters! He's also a master hunter and trapper, and it would be great to listen to him as he told of his hunting and trapping adventures!

You have won one million dollars what is the first thing that you would buy?
A million dollars? Whoa! Tax-free? Let;s see... I've never had a brand-new car, so I guess my first purchase would be a brand-new Mercedes Benz E350 coupe with all the fixin's! Even though there are more expensive vehicles, there's just something about a Benz! Woot!

What inspired you to want to become a writer?
When I was a little kid, just about the same time that I began eating Lucky Charms for breakfast, I loved to read. And the first story that I wrote in either second or third grade was fawned over by my teacher. This got me thinking that I might like to do this for a job someday! I even dreamed of owning a black leather briefcase (with brass hardware and one of those combination locks) so I could carry my manuscript around with me to show off at work or wherever!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Going Free... Again!

Last Fall when Amazon announced the KDP Prime Select program, I thought that it was a great idea.

If I agreed to sell any e-books that I would upload to the Amazon servers to be sold only via Amazon.com for a 90-day period, then I could offer those e-books as "free" for up to 5 days during each 90 day period. The "free" downloads would count as actual sales when considering the popularity ranking of the e-book that was being offered as free. Also, any Amazon patron who has paid their yearly "Prime" membership fee could "borrow" my e-book, and that borrow would be part of a multi-thousand dollar payout each month (the KOLL program).

In December, I enrolled my only e-book, Betrovia, and quickly used up all 5 of my free days that month. I had no idea what I was doing. I simply designated the days that it would be "free," and hoped that thousands of people would download it.

Betrovia was only downloaded a few hundred times in December, and there were no sales or borrows associated with those "free" promotion days. There were also NO reviews! :)

Huh? How was that possible?

It was so simple: I didn't research HOW to differentiate Betrovia from the thousands other e-books that were also "free" during December.

Oh, I did I let my Facebook friends know via my Facebook page that the book was free. But at that time I only had a few hundred FB friends, and most of them don't even have a Kindle or any kind of e-book reader! (Yes, I have some OLD friends!)

So, after using up all five promo days in December, I impatiently waited for that first set of 90 days to expire so I could re-enroll Betrovia in another session. And I also decided to figure out how to get people to notice the novel.

One thing I did was learn how to notify web masters, bloggers, etc. that my e-book was going to be free. The websites, etc. that appeared to be influential last Winter were Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink as well as a few others.

Another thing I did was revamp Betrovia's blurb. I asked friends as well as other people via Facebook, Kindleboards.com, etc. for help with improving the blurb.

I also created a new cover for Betrovia. The original cover was the one that I picked from Createspace's default styles last summer; it was a nice forest scene, but communicated little about the plot/characters/conflicts of the novel.

So, in March, when the new 90-day period was about to begin, I was ready!

On March 16th, Betrovia went "free" for just that day. And it was downloaded over 2000 times! It was one of 16 or so that Ereader News Today profiled that day. For a week or so afterwards, nearly 50 Betrovias were actually purchased, it was borrowed a handful of times and even a few paperbacks were ordered!

Later that month, Betrovia was free for another two days but neither ENT or Pixel of Ink profiled it. Because none of the "big" players chose to post it, it was only downloaded a few hundred times, and no sales, borrows or reviews resulted from those downloads.

Around the first of April, a few of fantasy writers who populate kindleboards.com's Writers' Cafe forum came up with a promotion idea. We teamed up to advertise that one of our fantasy e-books was going to be free on April 17 and 18. Someone even paid to have a digital artist create a nifty banner for our Tax Day Free promotion.

Of course, we all notified POI, etc. and we then hoped for the best. Betrovia was downloaded nearly 2500 times on April 17th because ENT once again profiled it. However, POI again did not post it. For about a week after the promotion, barely a dozen e-book Betrovias were purchased, it was borrowed maybe twice and only one paperback was ordered. And no reviews were uploaded.

Yes, the "newness" of KDP Select had worn off a bit.

One of the fantasy writers who took part in that Tax Day Free promotion also writes science fiction. He also has been very active in monitoring and analyzing how Amazon views "free" downloads as they relate to the popularity rankings. In May, one of his sci-fi novels went free for three days. During those 3 days, he hit the jackpot! Thanks to both ENT and POI posting that novel, it was downloaded over 26000 times in that three-day period. That novel, Breakers, is still ranked in the top 1000 Kindle books.

On June 20 and 21, this coming Wednesday and Thursday, an even-larger number of fantasy writers are making at least one of their e-books free. Betrovia will be one of those freebies. We've entitled this promotion "Summer Solstice Free Fantasy." Of course, we are all hoping that ENT, POI and a few other influential websites profile our e-books. And this time we are doing something that for some reason no one thought of doing in April. All of the fantasy e-books that will be free on those two days are included in the "Summer Solstice Free Fantasy" Listmania webpage:  Summer Solstice Listmania . And the nifty thing about a Listmania page? At the bottom of the page is ONE button that, if clicked, will add ALL of the e-books described on that page to the shopper's cart! So, as one member of the Summer Solstice group pointed out, even if POI only picks up ONE of our e-books, potentially it will be like ALL were profiled by that mega-monster of the Kindle freebie world!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rand Paul and the Drones

Important Update!

On April 23, 2013, Rand Paul clarified his stance on the use of aerial drones against US citizens:

"I've never argued against any technology being used when you have an imminent threat, an active crime going on," Paul said. "If someone comes out of a liquor store with a weapon and fifty dollars in cash. I don't care if a drone kills him or a policeman kills him." Foreign Policy

And how did that song go? Oh yeah: 
"And another one bites the dust! Yeah, another one bites the dust!"

On June 12, 2012 US Senator Rand Paul introduced a bill that would require law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before they could legally dispatch a "drone" that could be used for surveillance.

Warrants for Drones

Good for him!

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past decade, you are familiar with how aerial drones are being used in Afghanistan, etc. to combat terrorism. Of course it is a great idea to enslave technology in the pursuit of saving the lives of our American military men and women. A week has not gone by in the last ten years where a new blurb about an aerial drone sending a terrorist or two to their eternal dirt-nap has not entered the Interwebz. And this is a good thing!

But should your local sheriff be allowed to dispatch a drone to "spy" on a suspected meth lab manager without the procurement of a warrant?

I don't think so.

Warrants are still required for wiretaps and for placing GPS gadgets on suspect's vehicles. And this is a good thing!

So, even though I have not been much of a fan of the libertarians Rand Paul or his father, Ron Paul, I have to agree with the Senator from Kentucky on this issue.


"Hey there, Sheriff Brown! Want to send up an unmanned remote-controlled helicopter to investigate what Bubba and his buddies are doing out there in the woods?" 

"Get a warrant first!"

Friday, June 1, 2012

Justice vs. "Literary" Justice?

Yesterday afternoon while I was cleaning the windows of the Freeburg Cafe, I overheard on the TV that a jury was about to deliver their decisions. I hadn't thought about the John Edwards case for awhile and was glad that I happened to be reminded of the trial. As I listened while cleaning those windows, I couldn't help but think that the jury would find him not guilty. But I didn't give that thought any credence and finished what I was doing and left.

This morning I get on the Intrawebs and discover that the jury could not reach a decision and therefore the judge ruled it a mistrial.

I almost fell out of my chair.

The evidence was right there! The man had taken money from contributors and used it like it was his own.

So, I thought, another obviously-guilty politician gets away with swindling the American populace. Bah!

But wait!

Here's something interesting...

Rielle Hunter writes her memoirs

What? His former mistress has written a book in which she reveals what he did for her with all those campaign dollars? Very interesting...

Now of course John Edwards will have to rebut -- in some way -- Rielle's story... or will he?

If he publicly criticizes what she has written, then of course we should ask him:

"Mr, Edwards, then what really happened?"

Very interesting...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Three covers... three ideas...

With a little more than one more chapter to go to say that Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls has reached the "beta" stage, it's getting close to finalizing AT LEAST the layout of the book's cover.

So here are three layout ideas:

Here's cover number one (with lotsa blue!)

Here's cover number two!

And last but definitely not least!

I would love to get some feedback on what would look best as an ebook cover and paperback as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

More from Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls

     In this yet another "clip" from Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls, Patrik and Galena have almost arrived in Lycentia and hope to meet up with their old friend Franck. But as they depart on the last leg of their journey, they witness something horrifying:


The next morning after Patrik and Galena had arrived in the village just outside Lycentia, the stable master assured the innkeeper that attaching an entirely-new wheel to the wagon was better than repairing the old one. As the replacement was made, Galena casually looked around the stable for the little girl. But she was nowhere to be found. And except for them and the man repairing the wagon wheel, the square was completely deserted. Patrik was not concerned about the girl's whereabouts and reminded Galena that one of the first things they would do once entering Lycentia was to find Franck.
Patrik gave the stable master a few silver coins and thanked him for his trouble. He and Galena then climbed on the wagon and proceeded to head back down the narrow road for the capital city. As the wagon approached the first curve outside of the tiny village, Galena pointed at something in a clearing just to their left.
     “What is that? It looks like a bunch of people,” she said.
     “Yes, it's a small gathering of people,” Patrik replied but then refused to even look in the direction of the distraction.
     “Father! Stop the wagon! I want to find out what they are doing over there!” She grabbed the reins and pulled back on them,
     “What are you doing? We need to be in Lycentia!” Patrik yelled as she leaped off the wagon even though it had not come to a complete stop. “Galena!” But it was no use. Instead of arguing with her, he coaxed the horses to move as close to the edge of the road and then also exited the wagon. By the time he had gotten off, Galena was already standing next to the small gathering of people. They were standing in a circle around a large pile of wood. And on top of that woodpile appeared to be a small body.
     “It's a funeral,” she whispered to the innkeeper as he walked up to join her.
     “Funeral? For who?” Patrik asked. Galena tapped the shoulder of a man who was close to her and asked who had died. The man replied so quietly that Patrik couldn't hear the response. “So, who is the funeral for?” Patrik asked Galena again.
     “The man said that it's for a little girl,” Galena replied. A solitary tear made its way down her left cheek.              “A girl who was only five years old,” she added with a quiet sniffle.
     “What did she die from?” Patrik then asked. The man who Galena had talked to heard the question moved away from the small gathering and walked over to the innkeeper.
     “Food poisoning,” he said. “At least that's what we're supposed to think.”
     “Poisoned? How could “ Before Galena could finish her question, the man turned around and walked back to the group. A few minutes later, the same man who had talked to them picked up a torch, lit it and walked up to the woodpile. Surrounded by near-silence, except for the chattering of a squirrel high above them, he thrust the torch into the woodpile, the dry tinder nearly exploding into orange and yellow flames.
     “Why are they burning her?” Galena asked. “Why didn't they just bury her like people in Noran bury their dead? Like we buried Uncle Pieter?” Patrik shook his head.
     “I don't know,” he replied. “I just don't know.”


BTW,  two more chapters to go before Lycentia: Harrak's Scrolls is drafted! Woot!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Facebook's Not-so-big Day

Today was a big day for Facebook. The social networking behemoth's IPO began this morning with the cost of one share at $38. It is believed that over 400 million shares were up for grabs. In just a few hours, the cost of one share had not risen: it had actually gone down. Underwriters soon stepped in to guarantee that the share price would not drop any more. By the end of the trading day, a share of Facebook stock was selling for around $38. A few analysts have concluded that Monday would be a good day to try to sell Facebook stock.

Facebook is now a public corporation. According to its stockholders, it needs to show a profit. Facebook, according to its stockholders, is now worth over $100 billion. Facebook, according to market analysts, is worth quite a bit less than that. And that is why Facebook stock will be purchased for less than $38 a share come Monday.

What can be learned from this?

Below is a breakdown of how Amazon ranks ebooks for the Kindle based on how many are purchased per day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 40,000 to 100,000 – selling close to 1 book a day. (per kindleboards)
Bestsellers Overall Rank 8,500 to 40,000 – selling 1 to 10 books a day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 3,000 to 8,500 – selling 10 to 30 books a day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 2,000 to 3,000 – selling 30 to 55 books a day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 1000 to 2,000 – selling 55 to 100 books a day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 200 to 1000 – selling 100 to 350 books a day.
Bestsellers Overall Rank 80 to 200 – selling 350 to 550 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 65 to 80 – selling 550 to 650 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 20 to 65 – selling 650 to 1,100 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 10 to 20 – selling 1,100 to 2,000 + books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 5 to 10 – selling 2,000 to 3,500 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 1 to 5 – selling 3,500+ books a day.

Let's say that 5 ebook copies of Betrovia are purchased everyday. That would give Betrovia a ranking of 20000 or so. Is 5 books a day a lot? Yes, that would add up to over 150 ebooks purchased per month. And that would almost be enough for a mortgage payment here in Jefferson City. And that would be a good thing.

What if a system like Amazon's ranking system was used to rank corporations based on shares of their stock sold on a daily basis? Actually, there such a system is already in place. It's called "value."

If a share of Facebook stock was a "hot item," like any Amazon ebook that is ranked in the top 100, then that share would cost a whole bunch more than $38.

Some of the ebooks ranked in the top 100 are being sold for $.99 while others are being sold for much, much more (take the 50 Shades of Gray series set, for example). And why would someone pay even $9.99 for a digital ebook when a paperback or even hard-cover version is not that much more? "Value," again, is the answer.

While many people, including me, get lots of pleasure out of reading, liking, sharing and posting on Facebook, how many people "value" Facebook?

The share price come Monday evening will be the answer.

The value of a share of Facebook