I’ve spent the past few months revising several old manuscripts, one of them dating back to the days immediately after I finished the first draft of The Wolfcat Chronicles. I’ve breathed some new life and adventure into them prior to submitting them to my publisher. No guarantees any will be approved, but after investing the time, I’ve decided the stories are worth it. My most recent submission is a series called The Attributes, it’s two books plus a 5700 word short story prequel.
In case you don’t follow me on social media, please do to stay up to date on everything Elgon.
Lately, I’m sporting a Pandemic beard and have grown my hair out to a length it has not been since college. I’m thinking of keeping both, even if I look like Santa’s demented uncle. I may trim the hair and beard a bit before jetting to Florida next month to celebrate my great niece’s wedding. (Congrats Britters – I’ll post some pics if I can.) I don’t know, though. I’m kind of favoring the continued scruffiness. In my old age, I’ve become a rebel again. Leave comments.
On the personal front: Just before Thanksgiving last Fall I contracted the modern day plague. My son and daughter-in-law came down with it around the same time, and I was babysitting for my grandson when I must have been exposed. Definitely not something you want to catch, though my symptoms were not nearly as bad as my roommates, who I suspect caught it from me even with all the precautions of washing hands, wearing masks in the house, and being hyper focused on cleaning surfaces. You see, this virus is as highly contagious as the officials say. Two of my roommates ended up in the hospital, one was there for a bit on a respirator. It is a lottery how bad your response will be to this thing. I believe my immune system fought it off because I take doses of Vitamin D and am otherwise pretty healthy. I had about a week’s worth of aches and pains, a low grade fever that never went past 99.5 F, a cough, and a little nasal congestion. My senses of smell and taste have not yet fully returned, though I’d estimate they’re back to 90%.
Over the past month and a half, I have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with no side effects other than my arm being sore around the vaccination site (the first time lingered longer than the second and was a bit more painful). Other than being tired for a day or so and my temperature running about half a degree higher than normal, I was blessed to survive it without much to report. Here are the options as I see it: catch this crud (as eventually you will) and take your chances on how severe your symptoms may become – or – take a couple of shots (the needle is fine gauge so you hardly feel it) and even if you’re one of the 5% who still catch the crud, you won’t have the severe consequences. Protect yourself, your loved ones, and neighbors.
As always, you will do you, but there’s my advice.
We are on track for the final book in the Thuperman series being published sometime this fall. Titled THUPERHEROES, it wraps up the summertime adventures of Will and Sandra, though they will appear as adult characters in future books. We’re also looking at DAMMERWALD, the long awaited Book 1 of The Wolfcat Chronicles, for later this year. And NINJA BREAD CASTLES, the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, is also currently in edits and may make it to publication before the end of the year. Lots going on in 2021 in the world of Elgon.
Naomi and Luke have only one thing in common: they both died by suicide. They can earn a second chance at life by efficiently guiding their loved ones through grieving their untimely deaths.
Naomi excels at making her friends and family mourn, but the Death Shadow stalks ever closer to Luke. The dark entity carries non-compliant souls straight to Oblivion where unspeakably terrifying torture and the final goodbye await.
The two are forced to work together to navigate the in-between world in which they’re stuck. The only certainty is that the rules are unclear and shifting, and things are not always as they seem.
The pair must prove they’re worthy of another shot at life before time runs out. Can Naomi and Luke get better at living now that they’re dead?
You’ve got to love an author who is willing to take chances, challenging norms, and pushing beyond the conventions of a genre. Penni Jones has done that with each of her previous novels: ON THE BRICKS and KRICKET. Although her writing has elements of mystery, suspense, and thrillers, there is always a gritty kind of realism as well. We can readily identify with her characters because they remind us of someone we know, or perhaps ourselves. She is frank, honest, and unafraid to tell us things others might decide not to. And what she says tends to be what we would think if we were in the same circumstances. This lends an immediacy to the story that allows the reader to become immersed into the story and care about what happens to its characters. SUICIDE SOULS is no different in its style but deviates from its siblings in subject matter. It is about life, death, and an afterlife that clearly is not exactly what the characters might have been led to expect. There is depth here that is subtly presented as a fairly simple, straight-forward story becomes more involved and complicated as the telling progresses. And in this, death becomes more and more like life, just with more frustrating differences.
As Naomi and Luke introduce themselves, we not only learn how they offed themselves but, over the course of the telling, we learn more than just the why. We learn about their character flaws, their insecurities, and their self-images that have followed them beyond death. Even though their physical natures perished with their bodies their self-images have followed them beyond the grave. For example, Naomi is busty and, in her own eyes, that has defined her relationships with men. Luke is insure about nearly everything including his obsession with superficial primary gender characteristics. Luke’s eyes rarely stray from Naomi’s boobs, even though they are merely echoes of what they were in life. As the story evolves, each of them must reconcile their pasts with their current situations. In due course, they come to realize how thin and vapid they were in their own lives – and perhaps why these flaws contributed to why they ended their lives. Although their lives were complicated and not all the different from the situations that define many of our own lives and those of our friends, they decided to end it all, only to learn that the end is only the beginning of a more complicated mess.
In death, Naomi and Luke’s existences become convoluted, confusing and, on the whole, a lot worse. Jones envisions an arbitrary structure that permeates everything around her characters as they navigate a minefield of manipulation and selfish intentions set against them. Redemption is not guaranteed as the author presents the world with a wry eye for the absurd and ill-conceived that reminds me of the societal commentaries embedded in the stories of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Jones’ characters make do with their lots as they progress toward uncertain conclusions. What results is an often biting treatment of the human condition that attacks conventional aspirations, ambitions, hopes, and dreams with hellish potentials largely beyond the characters’ control. The taking of one’s life is not glorified. Far from it. Death here is not the escape from life that some assume but an inevitable consequence of a larger process. Nothing is given. Nothing can be taken for granted. Your situation may vary and is not intended to get better. The best anyone can do is paying a lot of attention to the decisions one makes. The result is an engaging story that becomes more compelling and even hilariously farcical at the conclusion.
Penni Jones is a writer, movie buff, concert t-shirt enthusiast, reluctant multi-tasker, grunge music listener, and blogger extraordinaire of Scapegoats and Sacred Cows Penni started writing stories as soon as she learned how to hold a pencil. She is an avid reader whose favorites include Mark Haskell Smith, Ariel Gore, Chuck Palahniuk, Kurt Vonnegut, Gillian Flynn, Christopher Moore, and Kelly Braffet.
Penni is an Arkansas native with a nomadic spirit. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from St. Martin’s University in Lacey, Washington. She has worked as a bartender, restaurant manager, bank teller, payroll specialist, event planner, and office manager. These days she focuses on writing. She currently resides in Michigan and probably has too many pets. She is currently the Membership Chair of Michigan Sisters in Crime. Follow her on Twitter at .
In the Crescent City, darkness blurs the lines between sinners and saints.
Having been brought back through the veil after her death, Zéolie wakes to find she’s being cared for by the mother superior. Secrets are slowly revealed as Mother Micheaux explains her connection to the past Zéolie’s father kept hidden all her life. Once her strength has returned, Zéolie tries to ease back into her home and life without Louis, but soon finds herself helping a young man who mistakenly shows up at her house looking for his long-lost mother. Feeling compassion for the young man who is far from his home in France, she and the Marchon girls attempt to help him locate his mother while making him feel welcome.
Julien, the young man, finds himself strangely drawn to Zéolie and slowly loses his heart to her, but his feelings aren’t returned when Zéolie makes a new discovery that changes her life once more. Jilted, Julien unleashes his grief in the form of magical power he didn’t know he had and finds comfort in the friendship of a local madame. Out of control and angry, he succumbs to the darkness inside of him and the taunting voice of a raging spirit hungry for revenge.
Can Zéolie and her magical menagerie pull Julien back from the edge of hell, or will the past take them all down? Walk down the gritty dark streets of 1830s New Orleans where the line between sinner and saint is as blurred as the line between life and death.
As a follow up to the wild ride of CRESCENT CITY MOON, Nola Nash outdoes herself with the sequel, CRESCENT CITY SIN. I’m compelled to write spoiler alert here, but I will refrain from revealing any secrets. Having said that, if you haven’t yet started your journey into the freaky, surreal, spookiness that permeates The Crescent City Series, you need to punch your ticket now. Trust me, you need to start with CCM. However, you could easily read these two books out of sequence as each is solidly written and entertaining in its own right, though the second book would spoil some of the surprises of the first.
CCS begins shortly after the conclusion of CCM with a well-conceived, succinct first chapter that eerily links the two books, while reinforcing the underlying theme of the series, that the city of New Orleans is a world unto itself where natural laws are often subjectively applied. After all, voodoo is not only practiced but generally accepted as part of the subculture. So, it should be no surprise that witchcraft is practiced with often life-threatening consequences and the line between devout faith and magic is at best blurred or ignored altogether. The barrier of death can be transcended if you possess the method and means for the right reasons. Nash reminds us nothing in New Orleans stays buried for long.
Nash’s rare gift is weaving her descriptive settings and well-developed characters into the plot. Truly, the city she loves is a character in this story. It serves as a bridge between old and new, and an effective backdrop for the creepiest elements of this tale. The story ranks among the best I’ve ever read, both engaging and memorable. It becomes a fast read because of its pacing, which builds gradually to an adrenalin-pumping, gut-punching crescendo. And we’re left with a hint of yet another story to tell because, after all, nothing ever truly ends in the Crescent City.
Originally from south Louisiana, Nola Nash now makes her home in Brentwood , Tennessee, with her three children. Growing up in Baton Rouge, she spent long hours onstage or backstage in the local community theaters, or writing stories that refused to leave her head any other way than to be put on paper. Her biggest inspiration was the city of New Orleans that gave her at an early age a love of the magic, mystery, and history. There are few better places for her to dream up stories than walking through the French Quarter or Garden District imagining what those places could tell.
When she isn’t writing, Nola is teaching middle school English, which means she gets to play with words all day while dodging hormones and drama. Except for the school plays and musicals, that is. Then, she’s the one creating the drama. If the weather is warm enough, she’s out on her balcony tending her garden and suburban wildlife that hang out there. If the weather isn’t great, she’s geeking out over BBC America. When she can, Nola sneaks a few minutes to meditate (only a few minutes because meditating can lead to naps and those make her discombobulated.) She also considers tacos and coffee major food groups.
Based on Jessica Reino’s widely viewed and successful monthly Twitter chat with writing novices and successful authors, The Writer’s Zen is a tool for writers to use during their own journeys from concept to publication and the many different ways to get there. It will help writers stress less during the creative process and find a writing routine that works best for them on their way to publication. Jessica uses her experience as an editor, author, and a senior literary agent to explain the paths that a writer can take to writing success.
Anyone who desires to become a successful author must read this book.
Whether you have ever dreamed of being a professional author or are already on your way, THE WRITER’S ZEN is designed to help you explore alternatives to make the most of every opportunity. Best of all, it’s told in a friendly, conversive way offering advice based on the author’s wealth of experience as an author, editor and senior literary agent. Reino presents the various aspects of becoming successful regardless of the author’s background, prior writing experience, or prior knowledge of the publishing industry. She also exposes the changing nature and challenges of the digital age to old paradigms, including self-publishing and using social media in book marketing. As the title indicates, there is a Zen-like balance to be struck and a would-be author’s quest that goes well beyond the hard work and self discipline of harnessing basic composition skills in telling a story or expository, subject-based non-fiction writing.
There is something for everyone, and I highly recommend this book for anyone who aspires to write, whether it is a story, a text book, or the next great novel.
Jessica Reino is a literary agent and multi-genre author. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, developing new stories, and helping other writers achieve their goals. She is a member of the The Editorial Freelancers Association, The Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Teens lighting firecrackers at front doors, ringing doorbells, and running away. What could go wrong? When one of them is shot and killed by a homeowner, it looks like the shooter will get off under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. But wouldn’t you know it, the shooter ends up bludgeoned to death with a golf club.
The dead teen’s adoptive father, Jimmy, is arrested for the murder. He’s an old friend of Zeke Adams, former sleazy tabloid journalist and landlord to a menagerie of weird tenants. Zeke promises to save his friend by finding the real murderer. He discovers the dead shooter’s profession involved opposition research on politicians. And that includes scandalous video footage of a U.S. Congressman. If the video goes public, it could throw the upcoming election.
Zeke has to navigate the worlds of kinky furries, animal-rights militants, anti-government militias, horny dolphins, a wayward alligator, and a conspiracy-buff assassin who has Zeke in his sights. Can Zeke stay alive long enough to clear his friend? Find out in this dark, deadly, and diverting Florida-noir thriller. If you enjoy Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, and Janet Evanovich, you’ll go wild over Fur.
My Take: Although I usually recommend you read previous books in a series, it isn’t necessary to enjoy FUR, the new installment in the Zeke Adams Series. In fact, during a recent video interview on the Pandaverse Book Club, Ward explained that the foundation of the storyline for FUR predates the writing PARIAH, the first book in the series. So, technically much of the plot for FUR came first.
Once more, Zeke Adams is drawn into a convoluted puzzle disguised as a seemingly simple whodunit. While his intentions are mostly pure – are talking about a reformed tabloid sleaze monger – he tries to help Jimmy, a high school friend and current husband of an old flame, who is wrongly accused of murdering an unpopular neighbor who has accidentally killed his adopted son. But, as was the case in the series’ first book, things in Zeke’s world are not always what they seem, and certainly never easy.
The more Zeke pulls on the threads to unravel entangled mess, seeking the find the true culprits, the more the knot tightens around him, endangering not only his life but also his other friends, his unique assembly of weird tenants, and his latest lady friend. Springing his wrongly accused friend from jail requires Zeke to dive tail-first into a strange world of the Furry subculture as the twists and turns expose corruption at the highest levels of state and national politics. While he battles for his own survival against extremists bent on pushing their own agendas and a whacked out murderer skilled in the many ways of eliminating “problems” like Zeke, reluctant prosecutors, hesitant police, and misdirected federal agents, keep telling him to stay out of their investigation. Zeke must enlist the aid of his collection of weird tenants as he navigates a procession of absurd circumstances that likely could only happen in coastal Florida.
If you’re looking for something guaranteed to give you lots of laughs – and who doesn’t need that in these times? – FUR by Ward Parker is a top pick. You can find it at Pandamoon Publishing’s website and on Amazon.
Ward Park is a Florida native and author of the Freaky Florida series, a romp through the Sunshine State with witches, vampires, werewolves, dragons, and other bizarre, mythical creatures such as #FloridaMan. He also pens the Zeke Adams series of noir mysteries and The Teratologist series of historical paranormal suspense. He lives in Florida (of course) with his wife, cats, and a demon who prefers to remain anonymous. Learn more at his website.
I suppose waxing philosophical is natural when a milestone
is reached, but I tend to be a quiet observer. If you’re expecting a boisterous
blowhard pontificating pompous bombast or boring people with flowery fluff,
that’s not me. I write a bit, though. Fortunately, I have editors to ground me
and help make sense of my ramblings that eventually make it onto a printed
There is nothing else like this feeling.
My love of writing compels me in a way that no previous
endeavor in life ever has. The physical execution of the process consumes a
portion of each day, but truth be known, I am writing all the time, even when I
rest, and always when I dream. In fact, a writer is never not writing. Even
while suffering from writer’s block, a writer is still engaged in the creative process,
whether it is realized or not.
Yesterday, I received a physical copy of the third book I’ve published since signing with Pandamoon Publishing. I published a few others before becoming a Panda, a couple of self-published things, and a pair of works released through another, now defunct, small publisher. Personally, I don’t consider those in my totals anymore. There will come a time when I revisit them as newly minted manuscripts, heavily revised and reborn, because the stories within are important and tie into the overall creative universe that has spawned Fried Windows and The Thuperman Trilogy. But I never recommend them, despite that there are copies of them floating around. You see, publishing is a thing that cannot be undone, especially once an ISBN number is assigned. But One Over X served a developmental purpose for me as an author. It granted me insight into the publishing business and book marketing. And it established a foundation that produced an ambitious project that occupied my time for better than seven years. That series has yet to be published, but I learned many necessary lessons from creating The Wolfcat Chronicles.
I was a different kind of writer twenty years ago when I was working on my first manuscript. My processes and the quality of what I produce has changed, for the better, I think. My stories ramble less. They have coherent structure. The dialog is more realistic, which is always a challenge when you write fantasy. The characters have lives to which readers can relate. All of that was acquired through the processes of learning to write, something that one must teach to self.
A friend and fellow author told me that anyone can dream only to have it evaporate into the mist of morning wakefulness, but an author can capture a dream and give it physical substance. There is a lot of truth in that. And I’m reminded of it each time I hold one of my books. It takes weeks, months and sometimes years to compose a manuscript. It takes courage to send it in raw form to beta readers to test the viability of its story. More months pass in revisions based on feedback received and then several more months pass while the manuscript is edited. Dressing it up into a pretty cover and testing the nearly finished version of the story with advance readers who will hopefully offer some reviews is the next step in the publishing process. And then the book arrives, launched upon a largely unsuspecting world that, for the most part, does not read books anymore.
On the surface, writing professionally does not make sense. For
nearly all of us who do it, it will never pay the bills. But there is
satisfaction at the conclusion of each journey when you hold one of your dreams
in your hands.
Six months ago, when it was a definite maybe that HOMER UNDERBY would launch sometime this summer, I thought about visiting the Midwest again, maybe even going to Normal, IL, where The Thuperman Trilogy is set. Usually, when I travel in the Heartland, I fly to Cleveland and connect with my best friend and publicist, Christine Gabriel. For the past few years, every we’ve gotten together to do something to promote our books. Last August we toured some schools, libraries and bookstores in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. But this year, life has gotten in the way.
Last winter I relocated to the West Coast to spend time with my newborn grandson, Jackson. And a couple of months ago I helped my son and daughter-in-law move to Las Vegas. Currently, I live about three miles from their place. I like it here. The people are friendly. The city, despite its size and how much it is growing, still retains a small-town vibe – as long as you are away from The Strip.
Anyway, because of the expenses of moving and all that, I had to forego any plans of flying to the Midwest this year. Perhaps next summer, when THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA, Book 3 of The Thuperman Trilogy, is released. We’ll see. A lot depends on how well books sell. And somewhere between Books 2 and 3, there will likely be the launch of the first book of The Wolfcat Chronicles. Busy times ahead, especially the next six weeks or so. HOMER UNDERBY launches on August 14.
Last Thursday, I spent the evening with my Rob, Laia, and Jackson at Knickerbocker Park in the Providence suburb of northwest Vegas, within walking distance of their house. Each year they have a 4th of July celebration there, with live music, food vendors and such in the park that rest on a ridge that overlooks the valley, and the city – a great vantage for all the fireworks displays both public and private. It was a little hot, but there was a breeze, and because the humidity is low here in the desert, once we found a shade where we could spread out a blanket and sit on the grass, it was comfortable. Note, grass is a rare thing here, sort of reserved for parks and golf courses. Beyond The Strip (which has a curious vibe all its own) Vegas has the feel of a small town. The community is diverse, not really by anyone’s design but the fact that it has grown in a period defined by a different set of circumstances. There are parts of the city that people consider less safe (usually closer to The Strip or the older, east side of town) but where most of the expansion west and northwest of town has come without any other qualification except being able to afford the mortgage payments. Also, I’ve discovered there are people here from all over, but mainly the Western states, especially California. Lots of younger professionals who have less of a stake in the Golden State come here to escape the high taxes and cost of living on the coast.
I had fun at the celebration. It’s always great spending time with Jackson. Every time I see him, he’s grown a lot. It had only been a couple of weeks since the Father’s Day outing when I last spent an afternoon with him and his parents. In that time, he has started sitting up by himself and playing and continued developing a personality. Jackson was unfazed by the exploding fireworks but mesmerized by the shower of colors. The Homeowners Association where my son and daughter-in-law live put on a 15- minute display that was up close and personal -launched from one of the increasingly rare vacant fields next to the park.
The other thing that happened on Thursday was the quake across the state line in the Mojave Desert. We felt it in Vegas, though it was a slight thing. We are about 150 miles away from the epicenter. I noticed it. Mainly I wondered why my window blinds were rattling. Since that there have been several other tremors and aftershocks, one larger than the original, but here I haven’t felt any of those. My thoughts are with the friends I left behind in So Cal, though.
Also, in the past month or so, I’ve started a Street Team in support of The Thuperman Trilogy. If you want to join the fun and receive notice of anything new going on with my books, Pandamoon Publishing, and my fellow authors, all you have to do is go to: https://www.facebook.com/groups/390025901609170/
This past weekend marked another milestone. HOMER UNDERBY is now on pre-sale for Kindle with a launch date of August 14th. That also means the ARCs are available and being distributed for pre-launch reviews. I’m proud of this book, not that I haven’t been proud of my others. But this one is a little different because of the collaborative effort that went into its conceptualization.
If you’ve been following my blogs, I mentioned that the first draft of BECOMING THUPERMAN was written in the summer of 2013, while FRIED WINDOWS was in editing. I polished up the draft a bit and submitted it to my publisher who eventually put the book under contract a few months later. From the outset I intended the book to be a one of kind thing as an author. It is a story about kids, after all, and although my books have been kid-friendly for the most part, they have been intended to be YA or older. Despite the ages of the two main characters, BECOMING THUPERMAN is not a children’s book, per se.
During the editing process for BT, about a month before it was released, Jessica Reino, the substantive editor, suggested that a couple of story lines might be easily extended if I feathered in some foreshadowing earlier on in the story. And after an hour or so discussing the possibilities, I had two more books plotted out in a rough outline. I know that’s the way some writers work, but it was unusual for me. My first drafts tend to be free form. I create an outline after the fact to organize the resulting chaos. So, you see, HOMER UNDERBY is the first book I have ever composed according to an outline. The third book in the series, titled THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA, will be the second book produced that way.
What about all my other manuscripts? They were created the old way. However, I am revising all my Wolfcat books and have begun imposing an outline structure for the sections that require some rewriting. And for those who are interested in following their favorite characters in other series, Brent from Fried Windows is in HOMER UNDERBY and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA as well as THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES. Will and Sandra from the Thuperman Series are also in the sequel to FRIED WINDOWS, titled CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD. Ela’na from THE WOLFCAT CHRONICLES appears in other manuscripts the titles for which have not been determined. In some of those stories Brent, Will and Sandra are also included.
For the past couple of months I have been in revision mode working on some unfinished and unpublished manuscripts. Two of the novels-to-be serve as background on Brent Woods, the lead character in FRIED WINDOWS (IN A LIGHT WHITE SAUCE) published May 2014 and CASTLES OF NINJA BREAD (coming in 2020). Brent Woods also appears as a supporting character in the final two books of The Thuperman Trilogy, HOMER UNDERBY (Coming 2019) and THUPERMAN AND CASSANDRA (Coming 2020). So, it was important to sift through the background material I composed several years ago and flesh out something in book form about Brent’s past. His senior year of high school is chronicled in WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT as well as his first semester of college contained in Losing It.
WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT were originally contained in a draft that was over 2,000 pages. After revisions and putting the story that now spans two volumes on a strict diet, it’s now around 500 in total with the WRESTLING IT comprising about 275 pages while HAVING IT is around 235 pages. I’m hoping both will receive good haircuts in the editing process. The story covers a lot of ground and introduces several characters that become important to understanding Brent’s motivations and relationships. There is more story to be told, enough for a third book about Brent’s senior year but it feels anticlimactic. The draft of what part of the story was never finished.
LOSING IT, a book about Brent’s first semester of college, was already close to finished. In fact, I had arranged for an editor to take on the project and it was waiting in her queue. Over the past few years it existed under different working titles but has never been published. As originally composed, it was told in subjective as opposed to chronological order. So, one of the major revisions this year was to reformat its flow so that it events are presented sequentially. Some scenes were removed. These may appear in future novels or separately as short stories. Also, some sections needed to be rewritten to accommodate adjustments made to the WRESTLING IT and HAVING IT story lines, including the addition of new characters.
The third book I’ve been working on is titled DEADMEN DON’T WEAR WATCHES, another book with an odd title. Unlike the two FRIED WINDOWS books, this one is presented in third person. Brent Woods is a supporting character in this one and there are appearances of the grown-up Will and Sandra from The Thuperman Trilogy. The story is an urban fantasy, crime mystery thriller mash-up that follows Detective Mona Parker who is struggling with a perplexing serial murder case that threatens her job as well as her reputation for solving tough cases. DEADMEN is necessary to fill backstory elements for The WOLFCATS Series, book one of which is coming soon.
Writing is a curious habit by its
nature. Some attempt turning it into a profession with varying results. One
might have better odds winning the lottery than publishing a best seller that
makes the author wealthy. Don’t quote me on that. But I’ll bet the odds are
Creative people, like writers, analyze things, read things into situations
that others may not consider and, yes, see things that are not there. How else
could watching from your back porch as a bird sings in a tree in your garden
inspire you to write a murder mystery thriller? It happens.
With every book you write there comes a point, no matter what the book’s about
or how long or short it is, that you wonder if it is good enough to submit
for publication. If you have never experienced the magic of having someone else
validate your art by accepting your work for publication, you may only imagine
the exhilaration. It is a magical moment. But with each subsequent submission
you will always wonder if the magic is gone, especially if it takes months for
your publisher to get back to you.
In some ways I’ve had
an exceptional experience. Exceptional not in my subsequent success, but
in that it kind of goes against the grain and bucks the usual course. When
I wrote Fried Windows, I was in a bad place in my life. For many years
prior I’d been battling demons, both internal and external, imagined and real.
Toward the end of my tenure as a retail manager I was abusing alcohol
and frequently felt depressed. Often the two are linked. I’d been writing
for years. I’d published a few things, a couple of books through a small
publisher and others I’d self-published. I sold some books, but I didn’t feel
there was a great future ahead of me. Still, I never gave up on writing
because…well, if you’re a writer you know that stopping isn’t a
choice. It’s not how we are wired. I doubt my body would respond in the
same way as if I stopped breathing, but it would be close.
Work, my ‘day’ job that is, had long since ceased to inspire me. Since all my
kids had grown and were out on their own, I wasn’t sure why I was still going
through the motions any more. When I married, I made a commitment to family and
struggled a lot, putting in long hours, many too many times, to support them.
Although I wrote whenever I could, because, again, it is what writers do, I set
aside pursuit of my personal ambition of being a published author.
Every parent understands that a part of the job is subordinating private dreams
for the sake of putting your children first.
On February 22, 2012 I snapped. It occurred to me that no longer did I have a valid reason to continue putting up with my company’s abuse. It was my day off. Although I’d been scheduled to have at least one day off per week for the past 21 days, regularly, I was putting in 16-hour days and coming in on my days off. My masters were abusing their slave all because I was on salary and, let’s face it, they’d always gotten away the abuse before. Okay, technically they were paying me so it was not really slavery, but I wasn’t being fairly compensated for the hours I was working. You see, salaried = no overtime pay = abuse. They surely owned me for all intents and purposes. I received alarm calls waking me in the middle of the night that I had to respond to even when I had to come back later on to work an entire shift. And because my store was old the alarm system was buggy, It went off all the time. Only occasionally had there been a break-in.
I had been a manager all for the sake of getting paid a little more, never having my pay cut when business was soft, and maybe earning a bonus at the end of the year. That last part, by the way, is a moving target, a carrot that corporate dangles to entice while, in the background, doing everything they possibly can to make it unobtainable. If you have ever worked in retail management, you may have experienced some of that. Not every company does it, but the last couple for which I worked did.
It’s a given that nothing was ever good enough. And yet they told me I needed to be more positive. It’s damned hard to be positive when all you receive from your superiors is negative reinforcement. I was told to execute their plans not to think for myself. Hey, my last DM was an ex-Marine. He ran things as if he were still in the corps.
As a result of the pressure and stress, I drank to excess. Whatever didn’t hurt was so tense that I couldn’t sleep without putting myself into a stupor. Yeah, I know that’s an excuse. But it was why I drank so much. And so, roughly 7 years ago, I was enjoying my first day off in three solid weeks. Then, around 1 PM, I received the dreaded call from my boss telling me I needed to come in to work because his boss was there, in the store, raising hell about all the stuff that needed to be done. For some reason I was the only one on the planet who could do the work – oh wait, I’m salaried, so they were already paying me for doing it. Like Inspector Gadget, I was always on duty.
Like a good obedient dog, I went to the store. The guy I worked for was a new boss. In many ways he was the same as my old boss who had just retired about a month before, but in other ways he was not. My past manager was reasonable about dressing down if I was going to be doing physical lab, as in sweating a lot and getting dirty. Since the new guy told me I needed to put away freight, I assumed I could dress to make a mess. Ever before, when I came in to work ‘for a few hours’ to slam freight, that was what I did.. So, wearing casual clothes, I reported to work. When I saw my boss, he asked me why I wasn’t in uniform. I explained. He told me to go home and change. I started to do that, got all the way to the front doors and was about to go home and comply fully, when I asked myself, why am I still putting up with this crap?
Why was I killing myself – figuratively and literally, enduring the torment? My job was interfering with what I wanted to do with my life, what I loved to do, what I had been doing that day (my day off) prior to receiving the call – writing. I was divorced, my kids no longer needed Dad breaking his back to support them. Why was I doing it again and again and again? Because it was routine? Because I had bills to pay? Because it was force of habit?
There is an old saying that most managers know but few heed. Never allow your subordinate to reach the point of not caring. I’d been pushed well past that and, although everyone told me after the fact that I was crazy to do such a rash thing, I handed in my keys and never looked back.
What are you going to do now?
I don’t know, look for another job,
maybe something with lower stress. Or maybe I’ll just focus on writing. I’ve
always wanted to do that, and I got sidetracked.
Are you nuts?
I thought you knew me well enough for that to be established. Yes, I am nuts. That’s part of the reason why I write.
For a few years I’d belonged to an online writing community. I won a couple of feel-good trophies for my writing. But being among other creative people served a valuable purpose, validating what I wrote in draft and posted online for all to read. Having the almost immediate feedback of other writers, be they poets, novelists, script writers or short story writers bolstered my confidence in storytelling. It helped me improve basic writing skills and allowed me to explore and expand the range of my author’s voice. Without that experience I would have never evolved past where the brute force of hammering out words led me, a.k.a. nowhere.
For several years before that, I’d worked on downsizing my life. I’d started walking or riding a bike to work. Getting rid of my car was one huge expense eliminated. You see, subconsciously perhaps, I’d been adjusting for the inevitable all along. Something told me that I needed to learn how to survive on next to nothing because that was what it would take to become a full-time writer
I stopped drinking beer, not only
out of necessity because there was no money for it. but also, because the
reason for my drinking was gone. One day in March 2012, one of the people I
knew in the online writing community challenged me to write a poem about being
a child at a carnival. Not being a poet per se, what I wrote was
of dubious merit. But the poets in the community were kind and encouraging
about the noob’s effort. They wanted more of the same. But
the well had already dried up. Instead, I wrote a short story. And,
because that went over well. I wrote another story based on the first,
receiving a stronger response than before. I continued, for 16 days,
composing a story a day. Each story was part of a series that collectively I
had called Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), based on a scene in the
first story. Still, titling them as a bundle was for my sake and did not
necessarily imply intent for them to ever be a contiguous story.
When I finished, I set all that work aside to pursue other works in progress that, at the time, felt more important. Around me, my world continued falling to ruin. With no job, and no money. I was living with relatives. And, as every writer knows, relatives don’t usually consider writing a valid endeavor – because it doesn’t generate a weekly paycheck and all you appear to do is sit in your room staring at a computer screen.
Have you ever considered the lunacy of that last part? You can sit all day staring at a computer screen in an office somewhere outside of the home and no one has an issue with it (maybe because someone is writing you a check for your attention). But an author gets paid long after the fact – if at all. Therefore, that’s not a job at all. Uh, isn’t that the point? I want a profession not a job.
Around a year from the initial creative spurt that produced the nucleus of Fried Windows, I decided to stitch the sixteen pieces together, adjusting and amplifying the story arc that was there. You see, I’d always thought of the individual parts as a series of stories. But once i read it as a whole, there was some continuity. There were common characters and the same fantastic world. Why had I never read through the entire thing as if it were a novel? I saw the potential immediately. Sure, it was missing stuff. But there was magic in those pages. Somehow, I needed to continue that. Still, I wondered if I had it in me to transform what several people had validated as good, into something better.
Further validation came in a few
months later when I signed a publishing contract for the book. Still,
each time I write a novel there is concern about the magic – if it is still
there. Do I still have what my publisher saw in my first or every previous
work they have accepted? The answer is always ‘we’ll see’ as I send it
off. The only way you ever answer that question is to finish your work in
progress and push it out into the world.