Friday, December 11, 2015

Words are a Form of Conjecture

A word is a word, but the understanding of a word both depends on the speaker, as well as the listener. Both have a responsibility to contribute to the atmosphere of any given conversation.

As a writer, I can take any word and put it into any context to make it either offensive or supportive in nature.

In the past, it was the listener's responsibility to understand the speaker based on the contexture in which a word or phrase was used, given the speaker's implied intent.

Today, we live in a world where the speaker is responsible for interpreting how the listener will interpret the conveyed meaning. The listener has the right to dissect the speakers words out of the spoken context and imply a meaning of their own without having to explain their intentional misunderstanding of what was said in order to change the conversation in the direction from how it was intended to be considered. The listener today has the right to hijack the words of the speaker and intentionally skew them to reflect on the speaker any discernment the listener intends.

This fundamental concept is exactly why you are afraid of who you may offend with what you may say and it is backward and wrong. A listener should be held accountable for their intentional misunderstanding.

Still, that doesn't stop the speaker from being responsible for their implied meaning even if the meaning was intended to be benign in the spirit it was given.

Mark Twain is the perfect example. In his time, his attitude may have reflected the majority opinion of the culture. He may have had racist points of view given the society he lived in.

But NO ONE can deny the fact that his work, "Huckleberry Finn" outlined a disparity in an ethnically divided society and advanced the conversation of equality to a degree. His work was considered inflammatory against the status quo.

And yet today, we allow people of low intelligence, low education and absolutely no critical thinking skill to hijack a valuable part of the dialogue for equal rights by belittling the speaker's contribution simply because of a single word he used in a dialogue that was intended to stun its original audience into seeing their flaws. He wanted the people of his time to wake up and see how obtuse they were.

But those of us with critical thinking skills and have informed opinions are afraid to correct these individuals with no critical thinkings skills because we know we are not only responsible for what we say as a rebuttal, but we are also responsible for how these low thinking, uneducated individuals from ALL corners of our society and global culture can and WILL intentionally misinterpret our rebuttals to tear down the voice of reason through character assassination.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Life of Purpose and Meaning

Consider, if you will, that our choices guide the direction of our lives, and yet when we look at the experiences that shaped us, whether victory or tragedy, it feels like it was meant to happen that way to get us to the point in our lives where we are presently.

I have always taken an interest in exploring these philosophical concepts.  Are our lives one of our own making?  Are we predestined to a fate we cannot avoid?  What is the point of having free will?

My struggles with these concepts began very early in my life.  By the time I was five-years-old, I had already dealt with my parents divorcing when I was two, my father had remarried twice leaving me to feel I had been replaced twice, I had been kidnapped by my father from my mother and I had been sexually assaulted twice.  I suffered from serious abandonment issues and when I went to church, I heard the resounding message that Jesus loved me loud and clear.  It is easy enough to indoctrinate a child with religious tenants, but in my emotionally vulnerable psychological state, my beliefs became my salvation, but also one of my greatest obstacles.

I understood that we were free to accept or reject Jesus as the savior as a religious concept of free will, but I was also indoctrinated to believe that God had given me a purpose and through that purpose I would do God's will.  I also saw example upon example of people saying "it's God's will" when something bad would happen.

Like any other human being, I made mistakes, but always tried to keep myself within the guidelines of my personal beliefs in God.  I firmly believed I would be shown the way and God would open doors of opportunities in my life so I could do his will.  I had a worrisome personality, fretting with every decision I had to make, constantly praying for guidance.

The result was inaction in my life.  As I stood by waiting for solutions and signs, I remained immobile.  Sure, I had dreams and aspirations, but I did not set clear goals for myself well until I reached adulthood.  When I had a crisis of faith, I became truly lost without any sense of direction and a future that overwhelmed me with uncertainty.

Lucky for me, I had always been a bookworm and I enjoyed reading.  I began researching, studying and learning what I could.  I spent a considerable amount of my time trying to understand human behavior and other spiritual concepts.  I searched for answers.  One of my emerging passions was science.

Theoretical scientists who have studied quantum mechanics have proven to collation between Space Time and Causality, which basically says the Universe exists in all points and is all happening at once, so our futures already exist and are happening.  On the surface, this would leave one to falsely believe that their choices and actions have already been predetermined, so it would seem moot to believe you have the power to dictate your own future.  These theorems are only one piece of the puzzle because you also have to consider quantum entanglement and the uncertainty principle

Intrigued by what I learned, I focused on examining myself closely, trying to understand my own behavior and what level of control I had over my life.  My wife and children challenged my way of thinking as I tried to avoid making the same mistakes as my parents.  Keep in mind, I am not bashing spiritual concepts here because I truly believe my childhood faith afforded me a measure of peace and shaped me into the man I am today.  I try to be kind and compassionate, as well as fair and empathic to the suffering of others, but if I had simply been a product of my childhood misfortunes, I don't believe I would be who I am today.

Since I have loved writing since I was 12-years-old and I was also a big fan of fantasy stories, I decided to explore the idea of Fate vs Free Will in my first novel, Heir of the Blood King.  Essentially, I developed a fantasy world filled with mythical creatures and magic, which leaves the imagination open to many possibilities, but then I implemented the idea that everyone who lived in my world was predestined at birth.  I then inserted a character who for some reason or another was left out and was born without a fate.  Pondering the storylines over the eight book outlines that I planned, I began to truly understand how powerful the concept of free will is.

I've always been one to hold myself accountable for my actions, never placing the burden of my failures onto what may have been preordained in my life, however I did not take actions after experiencing a failure usually because I took it as a sign that I was not intended to take that route.  It was not in God's plan or else I would have succeeded.

What I discovered was that our successes and failures shape who we are.  We are a collection of our experiences and if you remove any of those experiences, no matter how insignificant they may seem, you will change in some form or manner.  Let me give you an example.  I am an avid chocoholic.  I love chocolate and I can turn any conversation into a declaration of how much I love it. What if I had been ill the very first time I had chocolate and what if it had made me sick.  It could have created an aversion to chocolate that could have affected me for the rest of my life.  I can honestly say that I would not be the same person if I didn't love chocolate.  That's how much of an influence it has over me.

So the reason all these experiences that make up your path feel so much like they were meant to happen is because it is all of these factors, these stimuli that shaped who you are right now.  A year from now, you will not be the same person you are today.  We are a constantly changing image of ourselves.  In fact, when you look in a mirror, you are not looking at yourself.  You are looking at a version of yourself about one billionth of second in the past because that's how long it takes for your reflection to bounce back to your eye.

When you understand that your fate is in your own hands and your choices matter, you claim the power of your free will to act.  When you exercise this free will, it becomes a purpose.  It is not for me nor anyone else in this world to tell you what that purpose is.  No one can possibly know your mind more than you do because as I have already said, you are a collection of all of your experiences and interactions.  You can know someone's one mind better than anyone else and if you spend a week apart, there are things that could happen within that week that will change the person you knew.  Luckily in most situations, events are rarely that dramatic.  People change over time in much the way the flow of water slowly reshapes rocks.  One simple truth that will always hold true is that everything changes.  This is one of the reasons people move in and out of our lives.

For me, I chose to make my purpose writing because I enjoy it so much.  I feel that the more I write, the better I get at it.  I have an active imagination and writing provides a powerful creative outlet.  You may seek your purpose in something else.  Anything that you choose to do on purpose is the course your life will take.  If you choose to do nothing, do not do like I did and ask why nothing ever seemed to happen.  This is the surest way to lose control of your life because as I said, we are a product of all of our experiences.  The world will move on around you.  Seize your opportunities, take hold of your dreams.

Where there is the will, there is a way.  This is how we give our lives meaning.  Once you find your purpose, you can align your goals towards that purpose and surround yourself with people who can understand and possibly share your vision.  I made my purpose writing.  I give my work meaning by exploring concepts like free will, teamwork, friendship and loyalty.  I explore ideas about the minds of bullies so others can share the knowledge of what I have discovered for myself.  This has brought a level of happiness into my life that I had never before imagined.

So find your purpose and give your life meaning.  If you want to make your purpose playing video games, set goals for yourself. With opportunities today like Twitch, you can make a living and possibly more.  If a charity weighs heavy on your heart, you can find a way to use your purpose to game to bring awareness or even donations to that charity.  You will have true meaning.

If you struggle with your purpose, don't give up.  Keep trying and find different ways to succeed.  Learn, discover, research, change plans.  You will learn more from your failures than you ever will from your successes.  People who truly succeed in life never quit because it is too hard and they never blame fate for their failures.  Get up, brush yourself off and take your destiny into your own hands...



Friday, September 25, 2015

Grammar: The Writer's Greatest Misconception

One of the greatest struggles a new writer faces is how self-critical they are of their own work. They get a brilliant idea and passionately pound the keys of their keyboard, working in a frenzy.  Once the initial adrenaline rush of inspiration wears off, they proudly kick back and read their manuscript.

Their hearts become shattered.  They see misspelled words, wrong words used and improper grammar in every other sentence.  The writer begins to have doubts about their abilities and their self-worth.  The writing is crap.

This is a natural part of the cycle of writing.  Ernest Hemmingway once said, "The first draft of anything is crap."  He actually used another word besides "crap", but I'm trying to keep my blog G/PG whenever I can.

A writer doesn't need grammar.  We have many talented editors, educators, students and everyday folk who have amazing literary skills and know how to format a sentence properly.  They also know how to catch bad writing habits and more.

What the literary world needs are innovative ideas and imagination.  We need writers to take us into new worlds and new adventures, opening our eyes and expanding our understanding of our place in the universe.  Ideas do not require good grammar to deliver themselves.  That's what an editor is for.  To see your idea and to know how to shape your idea into a story.

The greatest tool of a writer is their voice.  An author's voice isn't changed by an editor correcting a word if the voice is strong.  Focus on your voice as a writer.  What is your style?  For instance, I like to focus on miniscule detail because I like to think of my voice as a paintbrush painting a picture.  The trick my editor taught me was how I can go into exact detail without damaging the pace of my story.  An editor is the YANG voice to your YIN!

So write.  Then write some more.  You can then start self-editing once your first draft is done and correct what you know is wrong.  Move sentences, rearrange paragraphs and do the best you can.  Get a professional editor and request them to look over your work.  Accept their wisdom and knowledge.  An editor doesn't want to kill your masterpiece.  They want to help you avoid the pitfall mistakes that many published writers have made.

The more you write, the more you self-edit and the more you work with editors, the better you will become at Grammar.  Remember, your ideas are what we need.  Write!


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Lessons Learned: The Hard Way

Life is really too short.  You can dwell on this or that.  If it makes you happy, then good for you.

One of the most difficult challenges I have faced in life is not always being able to see when I was wrong about something.  I try to be honest with myself, but sometimes that doesn't always work.  So if you are losing sleep, and something is taking away your ability to live your life, then you have a problem.

I have an issue I have struggled with this year and I have finally done what I needed to do.  I've said my peace.  I've accepted my responsibility and I'm moving on.  My children are the top priority in my life and their smiles offer rewards beyond compare.  I have a loving and supporting wife and I stand on my own two feet without depending on the graciousness of my friends or family.  I have doors of opportunity open to me and there are many ways I can explore my horizons.  I realized that I'm capable of turning in any direction that I choose.  There is no course of action that I'm locked into.


Sometimes it is better to just make your point & move on. If you try too hard and if you are wrong, you might overplay your hand.

Friday, September 18, 2015

One Thousand Books and Counting

I want to humbly give my readers my deepest appreciation.  Today, I surpassed 1000 PAID DOWNLOADS on Amazon with my debut novel!

Thank you for your support and for telling your friends about my little story!


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Writing Tip #1: Do Not Edit As You Go

Before you start setting writing goals or anything else involved with writing, the first and foremost thing to remember is "Do Not Edit As You Go."

When I'm writing in a frenzy trying to get my ideas onto the page, the thing that will break my rhythm faster than anything is if I am a thousand words in for the day and find myself thinking about the red underlined word that I misspelled in my first sentence.  If I go back and correct just that one word, I am done for the day.  I will obsess about every error I just made and that lowers my confidence.

Editing happens later.  All mistakes can be fixed in future drafts.  Don't worry about whether or not that sentence fits.  If you need to add it to a different paragraph, it would actually be better to just write the remainder of the paragraph.  And if it bothers you that much, rewrite the sentence again in the new paragraph.  You can delete the displaced sentence later.

The absolutely most time-consuming issue related to writing is editing.  And for you to get the progress you need to build a long work, you don't need anything to slow you down or discourage you.  Just write it, move on and fix it later.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Gaming Improves Critical Thinking

I have people ask me questions about my creative process all the time. The main thing I'm specifically asked about is why I have such a vivid imagination.

I'd like to say genetics or my personality as the answer, but that would be dishonest.  In truth, the thing I attribute most influential to my imagination, my creativity and my critical thinking skills is gaming.

And I'm not talking about video games, although I think they have helped me too.  I'm talking about role-playing games, specifically tabletop role-playing.

It's more than just pretending to be a character.  The real trick is to think in terms of how your characters think.  And if you are dealing with a fantasy world, it is important to imagine in your mind what the character you are role playing sees.  The more you role-play, the more characters you play in different settings, the more your mind can process highly detailed images in the imagination.  And this is considered as real as it gets "out of the box" thinking.  A tabletop gamer can put together pieces of a situation that normally wouldn't fit into the real world.

Role playing also has the benefit of teaching very important skills, including leadership skills.  Given a specific problem, a group of players may have various ideas about how to resolve that problem.  In my experience, a leader tends to rise up among the players and uses critical thinking skills to deduce the problems.

So one of the ways that I encourage my children's creativity is to get them involved in role playing.  I'm sure there is a scientific study out there somewhere that will probably say the same thing.  I'm just saying that I've seen it first hand with countless table-top gamers because they are some of the most creative and intelligent people I've ever met.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Food for Thought

Creatives who dwell on criticism are searching for validation of their self-worthiness, but the ones who create for the pleasure of doing so measure their successes through the gratification of completing their projects to their own satisfaction.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Save Your Pennies and Your Dollars Will Take Care of Themselves

Advice for kids: Save Your Pennies!
Over the last few weeks, I've been speaking with my children about saving money and planning for the future.

When I was around 10-years-old, I remember my Uncle George telling me about an elderly woman who was in the same store as he who was buying a ring.  She was dressed nicely and wore expensive jewelry, so she was well to do according to my uncle's assessment.

The price tag on her jewelry purchase was $399.99.  When the clerk entered the amount into the cash register as $400 even, she stopped him because the price was wrong.

Uncle George was confused as to why she would object to rounding up to the next penny. He felt embarrassed not only for the cashier but also the woman who was squabbling over a single penny.  My uncle reached into his pocket and offered the lady some change, attempting to make peace about the situation.

"You don't understand, sir," the elderly lady explain. "I have the money, more than enough change of my own to cover the price.  This isn't about principle or feelings. This is about business. I didn't come in here all willy nilly to buy a ring on impulse. I have been eyeing this ring for more than six months. I knew the price and I planned accordingly."

"Yes ma'am, I can understand that," my uncle replied. "I didn't mean to offend you. I just wanted to hand you some change in case you are short."

"No sir, you didn't offend me," the elderly lady smiled in reply. "I'm trying to help you.  Here you are offering to give away your loose change to help a stranger out who doesn't need it.  I have what I have because I know the secret to wealth."

"There's a secret?" my uncle inquired.

"If you save your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves," the elderly lady answered with a grin.

After the cashier corrected the price and the lady left the store with her purchase, Uncle George reflected on what she meant. The answer seems simple on the surface, every one hundred pennies saved is a dollar, so if you save every penny you can at every opportunity, it will add up to more over time.

As I explained this to my kids, I took it a step further. When your mind is set to thrifty mode because you are watching your pennies, it allows you to save even more money that you can invest into products of quality that will not simply break after having them for a month. Replacing stuff that wears out quickly will cost you more in the long run always.

Also, if you are watching your pennies, it will help eliminate impulse buying and thus buyers remorse. Buyers remorse will cause depression and people tend to spend money when they feel unhappy.  After a while, they can become addicted to impulse buying and the cycle of having to spend more wasteful money leading to more buyers remorse.

I wish I would have had the opportunity to have sat down with this woman. Her simple five-minute exchange with my uncle not only changed his life but those he shared the wisdom she imparted to him, like myself.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

2005: You Remind Me of the Babe

When my oldest daughter, Luci, was 4-years-old, one of our favorite pastimes was to sit down and watch Jim Henson's Labyrinth while her mom looked after our newborn, Lilly. I'm not kidding you, we all must have watched the movie more than fifty times.

In the Fall of 2005, we were living in Smyrna, TN. Late one night, we were heading to the grocery story when we drove nearby the bowling alley just off Sam Ridley.  We saw a carnival had setup and Luci became excited.

We stopped and purchased some tickets to let her get on the kiddie rides. Lilly was resting peacefully in her stroller and my wife was able to unwind while I focused primarily on keeping up with Luci.

We saw an airplane ride and there was no line.  Luci wanted to ride in the airplane, but there were no other children there.  My wife and I were both very hesitant to let her go up by herself.  Yes, we were still in that very over-protective phase. Finally, reluctantly we agreed when the ride operator assured us that he would stop the ride immediately if anything went amiss.

Luci was daring, no fear in her little eyes and she was ready "for the rush". She climbed into one of the planes, was fastened securely and off she went.  About one minute later, just as the airplanes jetted from the ground, high above our heads, we heard what my wife and I thought was screaming.  I knew for certain Luci was freaking out at being so high from the ground.  My wife asked the operator to stop the ride.

Just as the ride started to slow down a bit, we were finally able to see and hear Luci.  She was leaning forward with her hands outstretched into the air and she was singing "Magic Dance" from the Labyrinth movie.  The part where she would belt out "left my baby blue" was what we heard that sounded like screaming.

Knowing she was happy and safe, we asked the operator to continue the ride.  People from all around began to gather to watch Luci and to take pictures (and of course, I didn't have my camera with me).  She was such a ham.  When the ride stopped, all of the airplanes were filled to capacity and the ride operator let Luci get a second go-round on the house.

Some days, I was I could shrink this teenage version of her back down to that wide-eyed little girl once more.  This is one of my favorite memories of my daughter growing up.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Special Preview: Adventures of Adam Book Two Preface

When I released "Heir of the Blood King", I wanted it to serve as an introduction to the characters of the series with a very narrow focus on the choices they made.

We get to see the world Adam lives in through his eyes as he attempts to make sense of what is happening around him.  His world is controlled by a force greater than himself and the people are assigned a destiny that they are required to fulfill. He has his perceptions of how his world operates and why things are happening, but he doesn't have all of the facts.  He is left with a choice to either adapt to surive or perish when he finds himself a victim of circumstance. He has lost his home and the only family he had left in the middle of the night.  He has some basic skills, but  remains untested in the real world.  This is a very scary prospect for a 14-year-old boy who didn't know his life was about to change so drastically.  He tends to be driven by insecurity and fear of the unknown.

Two other characters also find themselves in the same predictiment, Talia and Donadeir.  Talia was made for such a task.  She was prepared to be a survivalist and a warrior for years by her father. She knows how to handle herself well and she is an analytical thinker, refusing to give into emotions that change her perceptions.  Talia is the most likely of the three characters to survive.  And then there is Donadeir who has never had any real responsibilities and doesn't seem to be in touch with reality.  He is unskilled and when faced with a great challenge, he's thinking about food.

When the three very different characters come together, we discovered that each are an asset to one another allowing the group to become stronger than each of them are individually.  This bond becomes so strong that it literally breaks the chains of destiny upon their lives, giving them Free Will (well, for the moment at least).

The choices these characters make and how they come together are the key to the series.  Now that we know their world based on their unique perspectives, it is now time to open that lens all the way so you can truly see the world they live in.  I want to share the Preface of the story with my readers. Welcome to Adventures of Adam Book Two:

The Cult of Draenar

As the city of Cindermoor below began to light up lanterns and torches for the night, Strahl’s eyes glowed beneath his lowered cowl. His hawkish features twisted with the shadows as they danced across his face and his skin appeared to be drawn taut over his elongated chin and thin pointed nose. He clutched the wrought iron railing of his balcony perch with long, skinny fingers. His tall, slender form, shrouded in black robes, gave the impression he was a bird of prey seeking a late meal. A sneer formed across his jagged expression as the door opened behind him.
“Master,” a timid voice said warily, “the king has summoned the Conclave.”
“I’ll be there shortly,” Strahl replied with a whisper which echoed across the tower’s vast upper chamber.
“Yes, Master Strahl,” the voice answered just before the door closed with a soft click.
Strahl looked to the sky to see the Blood Moon rising from the east. It trailed its path across the sky, midway to its apex. He felt the air around him come alive with anticipation as the deep-red glow of the moon’s light reflected in his piercing blue eyes, giving them an unearthly glow. Tonight, decades of planning were to come to fruition.
It was he who had chosen the location so Draenar, the Blood King, could perform his dark ritual to recharge the phylactery which extended the necromancer’s king unnatural life. The king would not suspect his plan, for Strahl had done nothing different from the last five times before. Every eleven years, the king needed to perform the ritual by the massacre of blood of the kingdom’s citizens and after sixty-six years of service, Strahl had become impatient as he waited for Draenar to share his dark secrets of longevity. The Blood King was not a lich, or any other undead thing, and Strahl wanted the living gift for himself.
Tonight, the Blood King would be at his weakest with his attention fully focused on the task at hand, Strahl thought to himself. A decade ago, he had begun his search for the heir. Five years ago strange anomalies began to surface in the kingdom, causing Draenar to lock himself away within the central laboratory deep beneath the keep’s surface to explore his magic. The king was blind to what was transpiring around him.
As he looked to the northern horizon, Strahl knew the Blood Guard was preparing their attack against the unaware village of Riverside. He suspected he had located the heir somewhere near to the village. The former adventurer, Stolice, resided there with his family. He was the only one who had not responded to Strahl’s requisition regarding the orphans of the village, heightening Strahl’s suspicions. If the heir was there in that black hole of nothing they call their home, he was confident his plan to usurp the king would be realized soon. Strahl, Master Inquisitor of the Conclave of Knowledge, second only to the Blood King himself, would become king.
The Order of the Fates Divined would be thrown into chaos, he reflected. The Order believes all peoples have a destiny, but Strahl knew only the most powerful, such as himself, were deemed worthy enough to be handed a fated path.
Strahl had spent countless hours over the last five years investigating the possibilities brought on by the anomalies and forming a plan of action. He didn’t need to find the heir at this time. He just needed to thin the herd to make the heir easier to discover. Strahl planned to locate the heir and take the power of his blood. The Conclave of Knowledge, or as the commoners refer to them, the Cult of Draenar, would be no more. The other ten members will fall into line behind him or be vanquished.
The door opened once again.
“I’m coming,” Strahl answered sternly as he walked away from his perch on the balcony toward the inner chamber door.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Book Reviews for Heir of the Blood King

This week during my book blitz with a tour wide giveaway, two of my tour hosts also did reviews of "Heir of the Blood King."  I wanted to share these on my blog because both reviewers are book bloggers who received the original copy release of the story before it was professionally edited:

Monday, July 20, 2015

Download Heir of the Blood King for Free

As part of the book blitz running this week, I will giving away my book for free through July 24th. Also, don't forget to register to win one of two $50 Amazon gift cards!

Download this exciting action-packed fantasy adventure today!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Update for Heir of the Blood King

I would like to thank Ashley, my editor, for an excellent job refining and polishing "Heir of the Blood King".  The professionally edited version in now LIVE on Amazon, so please check it out.

When I originally published my book back in April, I made a lot of amateur mistakes. Ashley helped me to make some crucial changes to the story.

Originally, the story shifted points of view rapidly (known as head hopping) which leaves readers feeling disconnected from the characters.  We streamlined the story to stick with a single point of view longer and replaced inner dialogue with normal dialogue. It helped to flesh out the characters and enhance the story.

We also added some minor world building information about The Order, the Blood King and some historical events. Overall, I would definitely say that I'm satisfied with the final product.

So this week, I am running a Rafflecopter giveaway for two $50 Amazon gift cards during my promotional book blitz.  You can download "Heir of the Blood King for FREE from July 20th through July 24th during the tour! Let me know what you guys think about the enhanced story.


Friday, July 17, 2015

1987: My First Role-Playing Experience

In the Fall of 1987, I was sent to the Lakeside Middle School auditorium during an entertainment basketball game because I didn't have the .50 cent admission fee.

I was pretty upset about not participating, not that I enjoyed basketball, but because all of my friends were at the game.  As I was sitting there, quietly to myself, a face I sort of recognized came down and he sat a few rows ahead of me.  He opened his book bag and took out a large book and started reading.

Needless to say, I was pretty bored. After all, I was an avid reader and although I didn't know this guy too well, my thought was we were in the same boat and there wasn't any rule about talking.  I got up and sat closer to him and introduced myself.  He told me his name was Dentye. We instantly connected as friends.

I asked him if he had forgotten his money too and he told me he did not. In fact, he said to me that he didn't care for sports and preferred the opportunity to read.  I inquired to what he was reading and he showed me something I had never seen before, a 1st Edition Dungeons and Dragons Dungeon Master guide.

Growing up in the 1980's I was familiar with the Dungeons and Dragons Saturday morning cartoon, but I had no idea there were books about it.  I asked him about the story and he explained to me that it was a game, not a fantasy novel.  To me, this sounded very confusing, so I asked him if we could play the game.  He explained that it took time to prepare and also I needed to create a character. He and his brother had a game planned for that very night along with a friend of theirs who was a grade older than us.

After school, Dentye decided to introduce me to this friend of the family to see if he was cool if I joined the game.  He asked me to think about what kind of character I wanted to play and so I did.  We went to Main Street in Lake Village, Arkansas to meet his friend who was busy stocking shelves.  The friend asked me, "I'm cool with you playing, but what do you want to play?"

I had no idea how to answer, so I said, "An elf!"

The guy just looked at me and started to laugh.  He knew that Dentye had not explained much to me about the mechanics of the game. So, he clarified by asking, "Yes, I can see you are eager to play an elf, but what CLASS do you want to play?  Do you want to be a fighter, a thief, or a magic user?"

Once again, I had no real answer since my only real experience with "this game based on a book" was from a Saturday morning cartoon.  I said, "I dunno, but I certainly want to be an elf."  To this day, I have absolutely no idea why I was obsessed with being an elf.

So the guy told Dentye to bring me along and he would talk to Dentye's brother and come up with something for me.

Later, Dentye and I went to his house after I explained to my mom that I was going to be out for awhile. Luckily, he lived close by and his step-dad was a police officer, so my mom said it was ok for me to stay out later than usual since it was a Friday night.

When we arrived at Dentye's house, his mom was very kind and friendly and she offered to feed us. Dentye was rushed and wanted to head to his brother's room where his brother and friend were waiting to play.  I walked in and saw Dentye's older brother, Butch sitting behind a large cardboard screen, but that was not the oddest thing I discovered in this first introduction.

Butch was sitting there with long, blond hair and large brown eyes wearing a straw hat, a heavy metal t-shirt (I don't remember the band, sorry) and bright orange sweatpants complete with a big pair of cowboy boots.  My first thought was that this guy was completely off his rocker, but then I learned that he liked art and was a good artist.  Later, I discovered it was his intention to appear as freakish as possible just to make a memorable impression.  It was absolutely most memorable!

Dentye and I sat down and his friend handed me a character sheet.  He explained to me that Dentye was playing a duel class magic user/thief and he was playing a new class from a book they had recently acquired called a Cavalier.

Since I was wet behind the ears new to the game, Butch and his friend decided to roll up a fighter character for me, but something that would be simple.  They rolled up my character, a human barbarian.

Needless to say, I was disappointed but understood their logic. Butch explained to me that even a basic elven race character had some understanding of magic and that he preferred to not have new players dealing with the game mechanics of magic.  This was his way of easing the learning curve.

They handed me a set of dice for the game.  I was only familiar with a six-sided dice at that time, like the ones used to play board games.  The little pyramid, four-sided die looked odd, but not nearly as odd as the diamond shaped eight-sided die or the ten-sided die.  It blew my mind when they handed me the twenty-sided die. Admittedly, I was completely overwhelmed and Butch could see it.  He decided that I would just hang on to the d20 as he called it and he would roll the rest of my dice for me.

The only thing that I had to do was come up with a name, so I chose the name "Barad".  It sounded to me like something you would hear on the other Saturday morning cartoon that I enjoyed, Thundarr the Barbarian.  That was the extent of what I knew about barbarians at the time, except for the Conan comics my uncle owned that I wasn't allowed to read because they were mature.

The game went quite well.  Butch unfurled this amazing story full of adventure and intrigue.  We worked our ways through several traps and a few monster encounters.  Dentye and their friend were searching corpses and finding gold, healing potions and other treasures. When Butch told me I had taken damage, he told me to mark off my hit points.  They were getting pretty low.

Finally, our characters walked into an old laboratory.  There were empty potion vials and tubes everywhere.  I started to get an idea of how this game was played, so I told Butch I wanted to search one of the tables he described.  There was a potion bottle resting there with no stopper on it and the ooze inside was green and putrid.  He cracked a little smile at me.  He knew I needed a healing potion and I jumped to the conclusion that he was taunting me, testing me with that sarcastic smile under his silly little straw hat and unlit corncob pipe.

I needed the healing.  Dentye and his friend had been scooping up all the treasure.  It was time for me to get into this game.  I declared that I wanted to drink the potion.  Dentye and his friend protested.  I knew I had made the right decision.  They wanted the potion for themselves.  Surely, it wasn't gonna kill me.  This was my first time playing and Butch seemed like a nice guy.  Plus he gave me that curt smile trying to send me some kind of signal.  Bottoms up, my character inhaled the vial.

Butch looked at me and said, "You seem like a nice guy and a smart kid, so I'm going to show you a bit of mercy.  The taste of the liquid is vile and you feel like you want to puke it from your mouth before you swallow."

This was some ploy, these guys were fooling with me and I knew it.  I said, "Nope, I want to swallow it."  I mean, why would this guy kill off my character?  My hit points were low and I would most likely not make it through the next encounter anyways, so what could I possibly have to lose.  Dentye and his friend smacked themselves in the face with what is referred today as a facepalm.

Butch explained to me that the poison was creating damage to me at one hit point per round for the next twenty rounds. I had six hit points, which would mean that in six minutes, I would be at zero hit points and be rendered unconscious.  And just because he felt sorry for me, he would allow me to go to negative ten hit points before I could not be healed or resurrected.

Dentye and his friend scrambled.  They knew we had almost completed the dungeon.  The Cavalier dragged my character's unconscious body in front of the room of the final encounter of the adventure, where the big bad boss was waiting.  He explained to Dentye that there was no time to detect and remove traps and so he threw my limp, unconscious body through the doorway where I took enough damage to reach negative ten hit points and died permanently.

Yes, that is correct.  My very first role-playing experience lasted for just a little over two hours before my character's death because I was not only new to the game, but I was also a complete idiot.

Dentye and his friend slew the master in the chamber and looked around to see if there was anything to rescue me.  They believed Butch put something there because he gave me extra time.  In fact, Butch just wanted them to get creative and use me to complete their mission anyway.  His friend did just that when he used my character's broken body to disable the traps.

Dentye and his friend paid an homage to my character and his stupidity.  They removed a finger in case they could find a priest who could resurrect me from it.

At the end of the night, Butch walked over to one of his bookshelves and handed me a novel entitled "The Crystal Shard" by R.A. Salvatore.  He explained to me that although my character died in my first game, I shouldn't give up playing and I should do some research.  He said that once I read this book, he would consider letting me play another barbarian because Barad was dead, buried and gone.

That was my first role-playing experience and how I discovered my favorite writer who inspired my writing.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe: The Tell Tale Heart (Why It Wouldn't Fly Today)

This morning I was fooling around with some free-writing and decided to check my work using Grammarly for errors. I was not surprised at the number of errors it had discovered, but I was surprised by the number of advanced errors it had found.

Curiosity got the best of me, so I decided to check one of my favorite short stories of all time for errors.  I googled "The Tell-Tale Heart", then copy/pasted it into Grammarly.

First thing I noticed, Grammarly discovered eighteen critical errors. A few were misspellings, but most were punctuation. The English language has changed over time, so to find a few of these instances was considered acceptable to me.

But when I took a look at the 39 Advanced Errors the program discovered, I was actually a little surprised.

  • 15 errors of "Wordiness"
  • 8 errors of "Improper Formatting
  • 5 errors of "Passive Voice Use"
  • 4 uses of "colloquial phrases"
  • 2 incomplete sentences
  • 5 more advanced errors

Keep in mind that this isn't a novel, but a short story of only 2,147 words! That's a large number of major errors for a work this small.

It boggles my mind that this work is considered a masterpiece among the same scholars who absolutely refuse to accept breaches of writing protocol.  Today, modern writing standards are designed to strip the artistic prose of a subject matter, leaving it dry and soulless, with only a few truly amazing authors like J.K. Rowling who have the gifts of a true wordsmith.

So when you are reflecting on the classics and want to read more works like them, think on this: Writers are told to abide by modern writing standards and there are now a considerable number of armchair critics who spout on about writing etiquette.  An author today wants to be recognized for their works of artistic expression, but in our modern world, most average writers likely they will never succeed if they go against the grain.

Authors are expected to dumb down their work by breaking apart their artistic expression so that it will appeal to the largest common denominator.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

1978: The Year Batman Saved Me From The Aliens

When I was five years old, there was a routine around my house when I came home from a long day of being in my kindergarten class. First, I would grab the small flashlight my mother had bought me which came with a detachable "Bat Signal" faceplate that would allow me to cast the signal on the wall. Then I would find the nearest towel and wrap it around my neck because I couldn't fight bad guys without my cape. Last, but certainly not least, I would tune in the varnished wooden console television in our living room to the correct Bat-Channel. I knew exactly when it was the correct Bat-Time because Mickey Mouse's long hand was pointing at his feet on the watch my grandmother had given me for Christmas.

As the Batman theme song would blare through the house, I would jump from couch to couch belting out at the top of my lungs "Na, Na, Na, Na, Batman" with a super fast cadence. To say that it was my favorite part of the day, after every single school day, was an understatement.

But that wasn't the only school day routine that I had to abide with. Growing up in Lake Village, Arkansas had brought me up in a relatively safe area. We were living right next to the railroad tracks on Lakeside Street right across from the school bus mechanic shop. Catty corner from our house was the elementary school that I attended. Behind the school along Lakeside street was the high school football field and finally Lakeside High School overlooking the lake. There was a lot of traffic in the area especially before and after school.

One of my sisters, either Deborah or Lisa, would help me get dressed each morning and feed me breakfast. They would make sure that I had my "homework" which usually consisted of cutting out pictures in magazines that started with a certain letter, "A is for Apple" and I would have fifty apples glued to the assignment. Back then, I did not think apples were rubbish. Once it was time to go, I would grab my Batman backpack and one of my sisters would walk me across the street, straight into Ms. Karen Broggin's kindergarten classroom.

The day in class was usually a blur because there was only one part of the day that I looked forward to:  naptime.  Not because I especially cared for naps, but Ms. Broggin had a special friend and time for us near sleepy time. His name was Orco. He was a friendly alien.  Ms. Broggin would read to us a story with this skinny green and yellow Teletubby looking puppet (without a tv in its belly) sitting in a chair beside her. She told us that of course it was only a puppet, but by having the puppet representation of Orco out during naptime it would let the affable alien know that we were all good kids and he would teleport in and bring us a treat. Usually, naptime didn't go so well for my oldest friend, Darlene, and I because we constantly plotted to catch Orco delivering candy into the goody bag.

On one particular day, as Darlene and I laid down listening to Ms. Broggin tell us Orco's story of the day, I had overdone it.  My eyes were heavy and before I knew it, I was out cold, dreaming of an alien invasion. When I awoke, I grabbed my treat and gave my sweet teacher a big hug. Once I had my Batman backpack on, the clock was ticking, so I ran out the door of the classroom.

The second part of my daily school routine was to wait beside to cypress tree at the corner of the schoolyard and wait for either Deborah or Lisa to walk down from Lakeside High School and help me across the street.  On that particular day of the alien invasion dream, they were both suspiciously late and I began to worry about the real possibility they had been abducted. Looking down at my watch, Mickey's long arm was getting very close to the tip of his big shoe and I knew that if something didn't happen soon, I would miss my show.

That was when I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I knew that my sisters were always telling me to look both ways before crossing the street and I had convinced myself that it sounded easy enough to me, even if I didn't know for certain exactly what I was suppose to look for.  Aliens I presumed in this instance, so I looked both ways and off I went.

After panting for breath on the other side of the road in the corner of our yard, I was relieved. It didn't register to me what the loud screeching noise was that I had heard crossing the road. My mind was on walking through the unlocked door, grabbing my Bat-signal and cape so that I could tune into Batman.

A booming, ominous voice behind me cried out, "LITTLE WILLIAM!"

I turned to see my older sister, Deborah standing across the street by the cypress tree in her denim bell-bottom jeans and silver polyester shirt with a very large collar.  She was trembling all over. She waved to a 60's style turquoise painted car letting the driver know it was ok to pass.  I did not understand why it was stopped on the road.

As Deborah moved with a determined pace across the street, her eyes burned through me and it looked like at any second she would blow steam from her ears like in a Looney Tunes cartoon. Her long, black hair bounced high into the air with each step of her approach.  I knew that I had to think fast and explain what happened. After all, I couldn't miss Batman.  I knew that I wasn't suppose to cross the road by myself, but I had to explain it to her so that she would understand because I knew she would want to know. She was seventeen which basically made her a grown-up. In an instant, the answer was crystal clear to me as Deborah dropped to her knees in front of me, grabbed me by my biceps and screamed, "Why did you do that?"

"Well, you see, aliens were attacking people from out of the sky and I knew that they had already gotten you and Lisa, so I was scared. But then, Batman and Robin showed up and started fighting the aliens," I explained with a flurry of words. "They knew that I was trying to get home to watch their show, so Robin checked the road both ways and he told Batman it was ok to cross the road.  Batman swooped down out of the sky and scooped me up and dropped me off on the other side of the road and that's how you found me here,"

Nonchalantly, Deborah spun me around and positioned me on her knee and delivered four or five stunning blows to my derriere. As I looked up to see my other sister Lisa standing over us, I was just as shocked as the expression on her face indicated that she was. It was nothing for Lisa to give me two or more spankings a day because being my younger sister at thirteen, she reminded me constantly that I "was a turd", but Deborah had never spanked me before. Ever.

Deborah spun me back around and looked me right into the eyes. I could feel the salty tears streaming down my freckled cheeks. I didn't understand.  I didn't lie or anything.  I was 100% convinced that I was telling the absolute truth. As my big sister wiped the tears from my cheeks, she pleaded, "I'm sorry, please don't cry," as her watery eyes fought back tears of her own.

She quickly scooped me up into her arms and held me tight as she carried me into the house and sat me down on the couch. She found my Bat Signal and my towel and handed them both to me. Deborah then turned the tv on and Batman was just beginning, but I didn't get a chance to jump around on the furniture.  Instead, my loving sister sat down beside me and wrapped her arms around me as she gave me a kiss on the top of my head.

Years later, my dad recounted a story to me how when Deborah was just beginning school, she had gotten off the bus one afternoon and a drunk driver had ran over her, breaking her leg. It was at that moment that I realized why she was really upset about that day. That had been the one and only time in my life that Deborah had ever spanked me and then I knew why.

So when I look back on my life on all of the times that I had gotten myself into trouble or punished (and there are many, many times that I can recount), I look back on the day that I was spanked because Batman had saved me from the aliens and it is the spanking I am prouder of than any other.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Will's Top 5 Favorite Musicians of all Time

So the other night I watched High Fidelity starring John Cusack on Netflix. I was inspired to come up with my own Top 5 list like the characters in the story, so I tossed and turn trying to fall asleep while I thought about all the music that I loved to listen to.

At first I thought about making a list of songs that I prefer to listen to while writing, but there were too many contenders for me to process. I felt like I was abandoning children as I consider scratching songs from the list that all seemed equally as important to me.

Then I thought about going with my favorite albums, but there were only three albums that I could think of as my favorite albums where I loved every track with equal affection.

Finally, I decided on just focusing on my favorite musical artists. This proved to be even more challenging to me in a way because there are a considerable number of genres that I have enjoyed listening to throughout my lifetime.  For example, should I consider Hank Sr. leading up to David Allan Cole? What about "The Papas & the Mamas" through Joni Mitchell?  Or perhaps Nirvana through "Diary of Dreams"? Sure, these seem like random mix mash lists of artists and genres when I list them like that, but think of similar music to each one of these great musicians that I have named and progressively think about music that matches all the way to the opposing artist.

In the end, here is the list of the favorite Top 5 artists of all time.

1) The Cure

2) Nine Inch Nails

3) Tori Amos

4) The Clash

5) David Bowie

Honorable Mention: Weird Al Yankovic

So what is your list of Top 5 Favorite Musicians of all time?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Suggested Reading: 4 Things Every Writer Should Know About Beta Readers

While my editor completes her first pass of my manuscript, I've been prepping the groundwork to be ready for beta readers once we complete the second pass.

I came across this article from one of my favorite writing blogs about beta readers. Check it out!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summertime Is Here

This past week, the family and I have spent a lot of time outside, grilling and enjoying the sunshine. We got the swimming pool set up, as well as the kiddie pool for our little man.

We do like to grill year-round, but we always pick up the pace when the summer approaches. Usually, we avoid the sweltering humidity of living in the South whenever we can by mostly staying active outdoors as the evenings start to cool.

This year has been different. I believe I've been outside more during the mid-day hours these past two weeks than I have in the past two years.  The children are older and after all of us remained cooped up during all of these storms that have come through in the last two months, we are making up for lost time.

I know I will end up spending a fortune in sunblock this summer, but honestly, we all feel much better than we have in a long time.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Learning From My Mistakes

So while talking with my editor the other day online, we talked about my journey with publishing Heir of the Blood King.

I wrote an article after I first published it and I complained that it was making me pull my hair out.  There is a reason it was so difficult for me.  I was doing it wrong because I not only missed steps, but I got them in the wrong order.

My editor clarified for me that the steps should be:

  1. Writing
  2. Developmental
  3. Copy Edits
  4. Proofreading
  5. Format
  6. Cover
  7. Publish
I have a lot of excuses for doing things the way that I did, but that is just what I have, a bunch of excuses. The main reason, to be honest, was that I didn't believe in myself enough to make an investment into myself.  I cut corners and I did everything the hard way.  Here are the steps that I took in the wrong order:

  1. Writing
  2. Four Revisions by my wife and I with no professional input
  3. Format
  4. Publish
  5. Proofreading
  6. Cover
  7. Copy Edit
As it turns out though, there were a few things that I did do correctly.  As I was writing, I didn't attempt to edit, so it made the creative process must faster.  After I finished the first draft, I did a read through to check pacing.  I wanted it to be fast and I had the result I was looking for. As we worked on drafts 2 through 4, my wife and I took turns reading out loud to catch any errors.

So, when I release book 2, I fully intend on following my editor's advice.  You can call what I do a hobby and there are many people who invest thousands of dollars into their hobby with no hope of recovering any of their investments.  I should be ashamed for not spending the money that I should have spent on my hobby because I am creating works that will still be making returns on my investment long after I am dead for my children and grandchildren.  Very few hobbies offer that kind of potential return.

I also discovered a few more things:  

  1. It pays to be patient because it will cost you not only more money, but opportunities to connect to readers if you rush through the process.
  2. When writing a series, be sure to have at least a couple of installments ready before you begin the release process. No one wants a one book series and you never know what can happen to you before you have a chance to write it.
  3. Reviews are for readers, not authors.
  4. When you get a bad review, never, EVER start a discussion about it no matter the justification.  Let it be.  Find something constructive and work on your craft.
  5. Always trust your editor. They know what they are doing.
  6. Connect with your readers one on one.  Yes, it is a slow process, but in the end, you are building loyal relationships and nothing will boost your opportunities like word of mouth conversations about your work.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Having Fun Working On Something New

While I've been gearing up getting ready for the book tour and my editor to make her first pass over my novel, I've been working on several short horror stories that I intend to publish over the Summer.

One of the stories is about a young girl who is hearing impaired and it has proven to be quite a challenge writing.  It has required a lot of research into the interactions of people that are hearing impaired.  It is my goal to depict a realistic picture and to also use her condition as a profound skill in her defense against the book's antagonist.

The setting of the story takes a leap back into time to the year 1987 and takes place in Lake Village, AR, where I grew up. Although I didn't put a "Gary Sue" into the storyline, I did draw from many of the experiences and scenes from my time living in Lake Village as a kid. I talk about mixing M&M's into a bag of Doritos to mix up the flavor. I talk about the now defunct boat races held annually at the Water Festival and I reference a few businesses that are no longer in operation that were once held in high esteem when their doors were open.

It should be an exciting journey and I hope that most of my nostalgia doesn't disrupt the flow of the story, but add to its realism.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Thinking about those who have fallen to give me the right to use my voice and speak my mind.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Why You Should Be a Book Blogger and Reviewer

Are you a bookworm or reading enthusiast?

Being an indie author who just published my first YA fantasy novel, I had the fortunate happenstance to learn considerably more than I had expected to about book reviewers and bloggers. In this new world of digital publications, the audience is vast and everyone has the ability to become not only a consumer, but also a critic. The next J.K. Rowling will be discovered in the multitudes of book blogs and reviews, not by a major publisher.

People such as my wife and myself live for books.  We are avid readers and a bit particular about what we like to pick up.  I say we, but my wife has been on the indie book scene much longer than I have and she has discovered numerous series that she has grown to love connected directly to self published authors and bloggers.

It's nice for me to talk about this in a purely abstract sense, but that isn't why I decided to write this article.  You might consider my proposal and become a book blogger, but the task may look challenging.  Honestly, I don't know about the work involved, but from what I could see, the initial tasks of getting started can be simple.  The number of new writers entering the self publishing market are growing exponentially.  This means content and for a blogger, new content can become a tedious task.

Here's the basics of what I believe you need to get started:

  1. A Blog
    1. There are plenty of sources out there that will let you start an online blog for free. You can find sites like Blogger, Tumblr, Wordpress, so just take your pick.
    2. You can set up a URL very easily with most of these services.  I think my personal URL was like $12 on Blogger and it was very easy to setup.
  2. Content
    1. As I said, blogging can become tedious when it comes to content.  That's the great thing about becoming a book blogger and reviewer. You can do a search for blog tour website and sign on to become a tour host.  This means that when an author contacts a blog tour organizer, the organizer provides a media kit with the basics on the tour (or blitz) so that you, the blogger, has content to write about.
    2. You should also think about what kind of books you prefer to read.  You should also add a "Review Policy" on your blog so that new authors can discover your guidelines for doing a review on your site.
    3. Giveaways - Wow, this is the coolest part from what I can see (other than getting free books to review).  Many new authors, like myself, lack exposure.  When I signed up for my book blitz with Lola Book Tours, she suggested that I do a Rafflecopter giveaway. This was by far the most powerful tool I found as an indie author to get my voice out there with the big audience.  Book bloggers and reviewers benefit from Rafflecopter giveaways as well. This is a service that they can provide their blog readers that makes things a bit more fun.  
    4. Content for your blog can range from posting a Cover Reveal for an author to using exerts from the media kit provided by your blog tour organizer or even as I've suggested here, writing a personal review of an author's work.  You can schedule these posts weeks, even months in advance, carefully ensuring that you have fresh posts scheduled to be posted for each and every day.
    5. If you plan to do book reviews, find your voice and style.  Book reviewers that I follow tend to be humorous, for example, but if your style is more poignant, then you should feel free to express yourself. And remember, you will most likely attract readers that share the same tones that you share with your readers.
  3. Social Media
    1. Start a Facebook page for your blog.  You will also want to do Twitter (which I have found a lot of fun in doing) and of course Google +.
    2. Goodreads:  I cannot stress enough the exposure you can get as a reviewer on Goodreads.  You can find many groups of other readers and bloggers to help you cherry pick the best of the best indie authors out there and this will also give you some virtual street cred as you make friends on the site who may come to appreciate your reviews and suggestions. Zig Ziggler said it best that the best form of advertising is mouth to mouth.
    3. Sign up for Bloglovin and get a button to put on your blog. Also register your blog and claim it on bloglovin to expand your audience.
    4. You should also consider other accounts to interact with your audience like Pinerest and Instagram.  You can even do video blogging and do video reviews of your books.
  4. Monetization
    1. This is the big one that comes after you built your foundation with the other three points of this article. The number one revenue generation resource on the internet is paid advertising.  This is how companies like Google make their bread and butter. You can sign up for a Google Adsense account and place a few, well placed, google ad widgets directly into your blog.  You can also control what kind of ads you would like to run by using suggested terms and blocking terms you don't want to see on your site.
    2. You can also offer to premium advertising spots on your blog for publishers and other indie authors, however, this will probably take a lot of work.

Of course, these are not all the things that it would take to be a successful blogger and book reviewer, but this is enough info to get your feet wet. Remember, if you are an avid reader, the idea of "free books" is usually more than enough motivation to do something you love to do anyways.

And if you don't want to do a blog, there are still other ways you can get involved with indie authors. If you just like winning stuff, you can follow some of these book bloggers that I have suggested and enter Rafflecopter promotions for free books, gift cards and more.  There will be a continuing, ongoing supply of these as more and more authors discover the power of this tool.

You can also use your social media links you have now to talk about books your reading and posting Rafflecopter links so that your friends and family can join in on the fun.

So, this is a great place to start with all of this. If you are serious, honestly it wouldn't take that much to get started.  It can begin in a single day if you motivate yourself to make it happen.  Remember this however, the cardinal rule of being a blogger is to blog every single day.  I'm guilty of breaking that rule myself (as recently as NOT BLOGGING the last two days) and my site traffic has suffered for it. That is why that I recommend scheduling a blog launch for yourself. Setup the blog, make connections to blog tour sites and tell them you are just getting started and any pointers are welcomed. Give yourself a few weeks to get some initial blog posts scheduled and each day, try to have content ready for the days you don't have something schedule. If you have a really good, productive day, you can even get a week's worth of posts done. Try to stay one to two months ahead on your scheduled posts.  And if you decide today that you want to post something different, you can always add a new post for the day (just as long as you have yourself covered for future posts).

Good luck!  Send me invites to your blogs if you take the plunge!  Would love to see the great things you have to offer!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bumps and Bruises

I was neck deep into writing this past week, as well as promoting the book blitz for Heir of the Blood King in July, but all of that came to a screeching halt early Friday morning.

You would expect that with having four children between the ages of three and thirteen that I would be accustomed to emergency room visits. Yes, when my oldest was little, it seemed that I was overly concerned and if there was a sniffle, we were running to the doctor's office.

On Friday, however, we had our first real scare.  It wasn't life or death, but it was definitively serious. Our ten year old, Lilly, who is also our most emotionally sensitive child, was chasing after her little brother to stop him from hurting himself when incidentally, she slid, landed on her knee and busted her knee open requiring eight stitches along the bottom.

I was not as prepared for such an event as I would have liked to have been.  My emotions run the gambit because she was in serious pain.  I had some stitches on my hand when I was around fourteen, but I never had an injury as severe as the one she had.  I wanted to take the pain away.  I wanted to make things better.

Lilly and I loaded up and headed to the ER, where despite her pain, she remained strong and in good spirits.  I got a wheelchair from the nurse and while I filled out the paperwork, Lilly decided to take a spin and did everything she could to distract herself from the pain.

The real agony didn't begin until they called us back. Lilly was so calm and insightful and answered all of the doctor's questions in a very mature way. When the nurse began to clean the wound, that's when the screaming began.  She cried out, "Oh god, why me?"  Her torment didn't end there.  The way the wound was flayed, the doctor had to give her a series of shots around it so he could cinch the wound closed. He had told her that it would only be three or four more seconds of pain, and yet it took more than five minutes to properly numb the injury.

The nurse held down her feet and I held Lilly's hands. I looked into her eyes and offered her messages of assurances and of love and she kept saying to me, "It's not your fault, Daddy."

I felt like it was my fault.  I felt like there was more that I should have done.  I asked myself, "Oh god, why me?"  "Why my baby girl?"

After it was all said and done, Lilly sat up and looked up at me with pride.  She said, "Luci never got hurt like this before."  That's true, her older, stronger sister had never endured as much pain as she. I told her she was correct.

That was when Lilly stated to me, "This is my war wound.  It proves that I'm strong."

I looked back at her quite astonished. There was a truth to what she had said to me.  When we went to go get ice cream, you could tell that she didn't have a care in the world and she wasn't going to let her experience take away an opportunity to hang out with her daddy and have him all to herself.  It was an experience that she got to share with me and she knew that she was loved.

It has only been a couple of days since the event and she has been made stronger by the experience. She is more confident and independent, no matter how much all of us beg her to stay off her wounded knee.  Something small, and yet so significant fundamentally changed for our little Lilly Bean.

Lesson here for me was this.  Yes, the deepest wounds hurt the most. When we take responsibility and meet the challenge head on, it will make us stronger.

Lilly Bean is stronger than she was before the incident.  She has the war wound, the battle scar to prove just how strong she is compared to the older sister she had admired so much more than herself.  She is now the one that has earned the respect of her older sister who cannot relate to her experience of pain.

Our wounds and triumph over adversity is the source of our self confidence and strength.  No one can take that away from my Lilly Bean.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Life: Fight The Good Fight

As a kid, I always enjoyed board games.  I played Monopoly for hours, Uno, Risk, Sorry and yes, even Life.

Being a child, I thought the concept of Life was simple. I didn't think about a real job, getting married, kids and retirement. 

But the older I get, I realize how much a game living your life can be. I'm not talking about what events happen to you, but how your perceptions about those events fundamentally shape you.

For example, you can have a challenge enter your life and you can go with the "Woe is me" attitude or the "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger" mentality.  Your choice of how you accept what comes your way, much like which paths you choose when rolling the dice on the board game, guide you to where you want to end up.

So let the backstabbers in your life do their thing.  They are petty and they don't control how you will take that experience and grow.  Your critics will do their best to create calamity and ruin.  The reason that they do this is because like the bad choices they made, their characters are flawed because they choose to be the victims instead of growing from their experiences.

I view challenges and criticism in a different way.  I take what I can and find something constructive to do with it.  Sometimes it fuels the fire to prove them wrong, other times, it helps me find critical flaws in myself and the things I do and I try to change those things that I don't like about myself. 

So don't be hurt, don't cry.  Yes, tears are important for healing and releasing the pain, but once you have processed what has happened, use the experience to grow, especially if the attacks are intended to change who you are.

You can fight the good fight and win the game of Life no matter what your dice roll result may be.