Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Greatest Challenge I Face as a Writer

Since I've self-published my action adventure fantasy novel, "Heir of the Blood King", I have discovered a new threat to my writing:  Time.

Before I published, my challenge was insecurity and self-doubt. Whether my book is decent or horrible, it no longer matters.  I wrote one.  It's online for the world to see and there's a certain level of satisfaction that comes from it. 

At times, I grow impatient because I'm not reaching enough readers, so when I sit down to write, I find myself asking questions about what readers expect from me. Then I start thinking about my social media and how I need to do more blog posts, tweets and interact more with my readers.

My writing gets lost in the shuffle of time management. I can write a short story fairly easily, but I hit a snag when I can't sit at my PC uninterrupted for six to eight hours to work on my next novel. Fortunately, Adventures of Adam: Book 2 is nearly done in the first draft stage. 

The plan for moving forward for me is to place writing first on my list of daily priorities and to not stop until I've written at least 1,000 words. From there, I can do my social media, then explore my options for promotion.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review: Path of Exile - The Awakening

My Rating:  4/5 Stars

Whenever I feel stressed, I write to alleviate it, but when I get stressed out about something writing related, I game.

To be honest, I have to call myself a casual gamer these days. Working a full-time job, homeschooling our children and also being a full-time writer, there are not enough hours in the week to play games as much as I would like.

This past week, during the book blitz, my stress levels were off the charts. I really wanted to write and I really wanted to engage my social media, but I was so overwhelmed, I was starting to shut down. I needed a break from reality. This was a good time for me to play the new expansion for Path of Exile, The Awakening.

Usually, I like to play cyclone marauders, but when I logged into the standard league and reassigned my skill points with my level 88 marauder, I was very upset because I lost almost 6k DPS. Even with the skill tree changes, I was able to allocate my skill points pretty much the same as I had before the expansion. What really upset me is that I wasn't able to run my three heralds and Anger at the same time for my auras because of the mana reservation changes.

So, after I tested my build out, I started a new marauder on the Warbands League.  My wife decided to play a witch summoner. The changes that were made to the original game content, such as moving the waypoints around and consolidating zones in Act 2, as well as removal of filler zones was nice. I felt the gameplay at early levels was much easier, and yet challenging. As we moved through the quests and completed zones, I was happy to see our character levels were staying within a level of the zone levels.

Finally when we reached Act 4 in Normal, I was excited to see the new content.  The zones were well designed and I liked the new mobs we encountered. I really enjoyed the Dried Lake area because of the large open space.  I was still using molten strike as my primary melee attack at that time, but I could imagine slicing and dicing my way through with cyclone.

Once I reached Abomination Piety in Belly of the Beast Level 2, I was not happy. I think my fps for my laptop is too low, but the fight wasn't easy.  My wife and I ended up zerging her.  We continued on into The Harvest and killed the three bosses to complete the organ quest.  We turned in and then when we tried to enter the Black Heart, we were both kicked.  So we reloaded and had to kill the three bosses again.

Up to this point, I was still ok with all the Act 4 content even if I had to redo three boss fights I didn't particularly enjoy.  Keep in mind, I'm not a uber gamer.  I like to farm and find stuff.  That's why I like to play. We did find a low-level unique we had not found before. I can't remember what it was at the moment, but it was a new league drop.

We didn't do any prep work and learn about Act 4 beforehand. I wanted to experience the content myself through the first encounter, so when it came to the final fight, I had no idea what was going on.  I usually play with my sound off so that my wife can keep her sound on. I get confused hearing two sounds and I don't like wearing headphones when I play.

The fight with Malachai was ridiculous!  I didn't understand that he kept bonding to Piety and we had to attack her. We pretty much zerged that fight too.  And then we went into the heart and I must have died 30 times. My FPS was so bad, I would zone and die without even making a single attack.  The video lag was ridiculous! I know it was my laptop, but still, Dominus has never been that bad.

This was the point that I said enough. I logged into Standard and did Act 4 with my level 88 cyclone marauder and basically, had the same result, zerged from Abomination Piety to Malachai.  I knew it was time to hang up my marauder and try something else.

So my wife and I decided to try a couple of new builds and we both decided to play Dual Flame Totem Witches. I've never played a build like this before, so for me, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

Once we made it to Act 4, I felt comfortable with the character and had prepared a plan for the boss fights. I think I died twice on Piety and four times on Malachai.  The experience was actually enjoyable.  I've now made it to Act 3 Merciless and I'm getting ready to go after Dominius and to finish Act 4 Merciless.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Act 4 content even if my system's FPS is next to nothing in the final battles.  The new quests are fun and I love the changes to the skill tree for jewels. The Warbands League is a blast, I love killing the Warbands.  We hunt 4 stars.

I don't like the way my cyclone character was nerfed, however.  I've never been Atziri viable so I don't think it was an OP issue that needed to be adusted for game balance, but then again, I'm not a hardcore gamer anymore, so it might be that I'm just failing.

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.


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Thank you to Lola Blog Tours

So this week, Lola's Blog Tours hosted a book blitz for "Heir of the Blood King".  We received some very positive responses and several wonderful reviews.  The book blitz was a success!

To see all the tour stops simply stop by the tour page.

And even though the free promotion of the book is over, you can still download it for .99 cents or if you have Kindle Unlimited or are a Prime subscriber, you can borrow the book for free.

And it still isn't too late to join the $50 Amazon gift card Rafflecopter giveaway.  There is one day left to enter to win one of two gift cards.  Winners will be announced early next week upon verification and prizes will be emailed within the next two weeks.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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

Rafflecopter Giveaway - Only 3 Days Left on FREE Download!

You can download my ebook "Heir of the Blood King" for Free to get additional entries in the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Only 4 more days to register to win one of TWO $50 Amazon Gift Cards!  Stay tuned for more details!

Plus, you can download "Heir of the Blood King" for FREE for the next 3 days!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dear Mr. Neil Degrasse Tyson


I don't think I need to tell you that it is hot outside.  It is very, very, very hot.  As a writer, I understand that using the word "very" is a lazy way of writing, however my brain is so fried from this heat, so this is the only word besides "hot" that comes to mind.

You have proven your argument. My children and I watched Cosmos last year (kids rewatched it again this month) and you have thoroughly convinced us of the science surrounding Global Climate Change. You've made your point, so turn heat down, please.  It's just too hot.

Yes, I understand, weather and climate are two different things and so daily weather conditions can fluctuate, whereas climate change is the pattern of weather over the course of time.  The pattern here lately is hot.  So hot my goldfish are panicking and they live in a bowl inside my comfy air conditioned house.

My wife is threatening to leave me because I won't do the yard work.  My dogs hate me because I won't take them for a walk. My kids are starting to hate on me because I promised to take them rock hounding this summer and I haven't.  Why?  Because it is very, very, very hot.

You said climate change is everyone's problem and we each need to do our part.  I've replaced every light in the house with an LED light, reduced the excess mileage I put on my car and we plan to move into a more energy efficient home with energy efficient appliances.  I would even like to have a solar panel array to produce my own power.

My family and I are big fans, so we know and believe in your mission.  You made us believers even if the science doesn't require us to believe for it to be true.

So I've done my part, Mr. Tyson. I now place this into your good hands.  You are a very smart and charismatic guy, so I know you got this.  I believe in you, man.  I know you can fix the problem.  It's just too hot!


Monday, July 20, 2015

My thoughts so far on Batman v Superman

When we were living in Oregon, my daughters took me to see Man of Steel for Father's Day. My expectations were reserved because I didn't know what to expect. I was not disappointed.

So later on, when it was announced that a Batman v Superman movie was in the works, I was very excited. Two of my favorite heroes on the same screen with a storyline that had been in the comics for quite some time.  My mind soared with casting choices and sequences they might choose to bring to the big screen.

My excitement diminished when I heard Ben Affleck was playing Batman.  It's not that I don't like him, to the contrary, I've been a fan since I saw him in Chasing Amy.  I even loved his performance in Daredevil.  I could not see him as Batman because I kept imagining the Ben Affleck portraying the caricature of himself in Jay and Silent Bob Strikes Back.  I couldn't take the casting seriously.  My wife was excited for this movie as well up until Affleck was announced.

I reserved judgment.  I know he can be one hell of an actor and he might surprise us.  Plus he had the right build.

When I started to worry was when I saw all of the other casting parts for JLA members.  It's not that I didn't like the actors involved, it was the number of actors involved.  I wanted to see Batman v Superman, not a JLA movie right now.  Do JLA later, ok.  I get it though, the movie is subtitled Dawn of Justice, so a head nod would be necessary at the least.

After seeing the teaser trailer, I still wasn't on board fully with the project, still reserving judgment, still not getting my hopes up.  Then came the 2015 Comic Con trailer.  Man, I was blown away.

When I watched Ben playing Bruce kneeling on the streets of Metropolis protecting that little girl as he watched Zod and Sups duke it out shattering skyscrapers, that's when I knew Ben was born for this part.  The look on his face, as he portrayed the real Dark Knight, angry and needing to come out of retirement to save the world from this new threat, was AMAZING!  Affleck didn't need to say anything.  His face told the whole story.

And then the fight sequences.  When Sups walks up to the Batmobile and rips the shell from it, I felt the chills run down my spine when Batman slowly stood up.  Oh, it's on!

So, needless to say, I'm no longer holding out and playing it safe.  I'm ready for this movie even with all the additional characters that I don't think are needed.  WW looks beautiful and powerful. Aquaman is spectacular and Lex, oh wow, is gonna be wonderful.

"Do you bleed?"

"Yes, my heart is bleeding because I want to see this movie, RIGHT NOW!"


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.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Enter to Win Rafflecopter $50 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

The Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win one of TWO $50 Amazon Gift Cards is now LIVE! Plus, you can download "Heir of the Blood King" for FREE from July 20 through July 24th!

Signing up for Rafflecopter is fast, easy and secure.  You can sign in using your Facebook account.  You can register to win by completing as many of the steps below as you chose.  The givaway will run until Saturday, July 25th and my tour organizer will select two names at random.  Your digital gift card will be sent to the email you sign in with and can be used on any purchase you make from Amazon!

Feel free to share this post with your friends and family!

Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jeffrey Collyer"s Author Spotlight: W.O. Cassity

I had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with fantasy author @JeffreyCollyer to talk about my book, "Heir of the Blood King".

He asked me some pretty tough questions about my writing and the characters.  Please check it out!

Author Spotlight: W.O. Cassity

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.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

Only 11 more days before my book blitz begins!

On July 19th, the Rafflecopter givaway for my book blitz will begin and run through July 25th. We will be giving away two $50 Amazon gift cards!

Beginning Monday, July 20th through July 24th, numerous blogs will be promoting "Heir of the Blood King".

I will post tour stops as they become available!

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.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Considering a Web Serial

This past week, I was in the mood to write something different, but still fantasy related.  I created a bard character and his apprentice, then wrote a 5,200-word short story about the characters.

My wife and children are avid Minecraft fans and they frequently watch players that stream their gameplay content on Youtube. She was telling me that there was this site called Patreon that allowed fans of online content to make donations to support their favorite content creators, like some of the people that do Youtube videos.

Since I'm planning to give away "Heir of the Blood King" during my book blitz that is scheduled from July 20th through July 24th, I have considered the idea of making my novel available for free. I don't feel my story is reaching enough people.  My target audience is primarily tweens and young adults, who have the vast resources of the internet to discover interesting content without paying out of pocket.  In addition, I have done very little in the way of advertising and promotion to reach this audience because the plan was to start with the scheduled book blitz.

So, I disabled the auto-enroll function into Amazon's KDP Select program so I could set my price to free when my enrollment period expires on July 15th.  With the book blitz, the free promotion, and the tour giveaway for two $50 Amazon gift cards, this should garner enough attention onto my story to attract the readers of my audience.  I mean, after all, how can it get better than a free download PLUS a chance to win money, am I right?

This begs to question, however, how I do recover my investment into "Heir of the Blood King" and earn the funds that I need for my next novel?  I paid out of pocket to have a professional book cover made and professional editing of my manuscript.  I also have money invested in the tour and giveaway.

The answer was simple.  I could use Patreon just as streamers do. Of course, when I researched it out, I didn't find very many successful authors doing more than $100 a month.  Besides, who would donate money to me and wait three to six months for me to release a novel?  I know I would have trouble trusting that unless it was someone who was already established.

This morning, I came across an article on ways authors could market themselves successfully online. When I came across #3 under "Build your fan base", the answer struck me. "Start a controversial web series". I'm not one to be controversial, per se, but my new story already had some intriguing elements that would stand apart from my peers.  First off, the main character is just old with a much younger assistant and he has arthritis. Performing with a sword has become a burden for the character, but why hasn't he quit?  Plus the character is unusual because he is a black main protagonist in a fantasy setting.  I couldn't help it.  As I wrote the story, I kept hearing Samuel L. Jackson's voice speaking the iconic words, "Say what again!"

I know what I want for a cover design for the short story and I had already been thinking about future installments for the characters. I was dreading the additional costs for future works since I've not made a lot of money from my initial investments in my first story.  By investing in one cover and finding an editor who would be willing to edit installments of a serial publication, I could lower my overhead and produce a manageable stream of regular content for fans of my work. This allows me much greater flexibility and will keep me engaged with my audience as well.  Patreon will fulfill that need for me by giving me a platform to offer early content to not only my novels and short stories, but my serialized content as well.  It is a win-win situation.

So moving forward, I need to do my research and find the best practices for setting up and maintaining a web serial. I'm very excited about the idea and I would like to get started on it right away.


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?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Talia and the Blood King's Guard

Today, I wanted to talk about a scene in "Heir of the Blood King" from chapter three.

As Talia was leading Donadeir out of Riverside when the Blood Guard arrived in the village, the two were stopped by one guard that insinuated that he wanted to molest Talia.

I went out of my way not to sexualize the characters in my story, so adding this part was a bit of a challenge for me. It isn't really about sexuality per se, but more about decency. What I aimed to do was address issues that teens and young adults may struggle with in their daily lives.

My oldest daughter just turned 13 years old in May. She has become very conscientious of how her body has been changing and "boys" are starting to take notice.  If it were just the boys, then no one would be worried about that, but unfortunately, that's not the world we live in.

When I was 14 years old, I remember going to play pool with a few older guys.  There was a 12-year-old girl that was there with her father.  One of the men who was with us actually went to school with her dad.  After we left, all this man talked about was the 12-year-old girl saying stuff like "If they are old enough to bleed, they are old enough to breed." It disgusted me. I knew he was talking about molesting a girl that was close to my age.  I went home and told my dad about it and then I didn't hang out with the man willingly in the future.

It is a fact that girls are sexually abused more than four times the rate of boys. Now add that to how boys (and men) talk to girls, the amount of inappropriate attention they receive from "cat calling", innuendos and more can have a major impact on a young woman's psychological development.  And then we wonder why young teen girls become obsessed with their body image!

I wanted to show Talia as a strong character for girls who have to deal with this day in and day out. They are forced to be self-conscience and many times they are put into positions where they can't say anything about it because they become embarrassed, especially tween girls who are still transitioning from being children.

Talia is faced with this dilemma in my story and she keeps a level head. For me, it was showing young women that they can be empowered and hold their heads high.  Talia attacks her tormentor with a sword, so I'm not wanting to go so far as to advocate violence against these predators (unless I witness it myself and I can't promise that I won't react violently).

The point is young women need an example to show them that men who are inappropriate towards them do not have the power to steal away the pride and self-respect. Girls should be educated with coping skills and to have the courage to speak up. I hope Talia serves as an example to these girls and reminds them that they are not alone.