Monday, July 30, 2012

You want me to do what?

Here it is, two days before the release of my debut novel, CLAIMING MOON, on Kindle (Nook, other formats to follow). I should be all wrapped up in preparing for that, nervous, thinking more about how to get the word out, continuing to find reviewers for the work, all that sort of stuff.

I am doing that, I really am. But you know what is foremost in my mind right now?


Any of you who know me know I coach, or I did coach, a girl’s high school varsity team up until March of this year. (For a little more on the end of that season, and why I coach, check out my blog from Feb. 29).

As much as I love coaching, I decided to give it up for two primary reasons. It is an all-consuming commitment. There’s practice planning, conducting practices, studying the strengths and weaknesses of your players, designing drills to address those, scouting other teams, watching video, preparing specific game plans for some games, travel to games…the list could go on. The team I coached played 35 to 36 games every year, traveling across three or four states to do so. We start practice in August and finish the season in March.

It’s great, but it’s long and takes, as I said, all my time outside of work.

My first reason for giving it up was simply to spend more time at home, with my family. I have five kids. Two of them are attending a local community college and will be transferring to four-year schools after this upcoming school year. This is my last chance to be at home with them (although, to be honest, they both work, they go to school, they have boyfriends – there still isn’t all that much family time at home with them).

The second reason was more time for writing. This summer I’ve edited and revised and prepared a novel for publication, I’ve collected a novella and some of my short stories for two upcoming collections to be released (some are original stories, some reprints), and I’m about a third of the way through a new novel.

None of that, most likely, would have happened if I were still involved with basketball.

So what’s the problem?

I opened my e-mail yesterday and there was a little note from a coaching buddy of mine. He started up a girls homeschool basketball program two years ago and, quite frankly, has done a remarkable job growing from a start-up to a fairly competitive program in just two seasons.

Now, the parents want to start a boys program, with a junior varsity team this year. He asked if I’d be interested in helping to get it up and running and to serve as the coach.


I was just thinking a couple of days ago about how it’s nearly August, and how much I miss the preparation work I’m usually doing at this point for the first practices, but also how much I’m enjoying the freedom from that time commitment.

If you followed the link I supplied earlier in this blog, you know a little bit about my coaching. I coach because I love the game of basketball, and I’m far too old to try playing competitively. I coach because I get great satisfaction from working with kids, watching them struggle and work and then suddenly get it, master some skill, understand the offense, figure out how to play defense. It’s amazing to watch -- sometimes you can literally see their face light up with excitement.

That’s usually just the beginning. They grow more confident, on and off the court, become a stronger, more self-assured person. I’ve had a handful go on to play some college ball.

I enjoy the competitive aspect of coaching. The chess game, matching wits with another coach. The feeling after a close, hard-fought game (elation with a win, disappointment at a loss). I’m not above bragging a bit here – in three seasons we won 72 games, we went to two state title games, winning one and nearly pulling of a major upset in the other. There’s a camaraderie between coaches, between coaches and officials, coaches and players, that can’t be matched anywhere else.

All of those are reasons I so much enjoy coaching. And, honestly, miss it already.

Yet that is a chapter I had closed, at least for now. I had moved on. Or so I thought.

Anyway, I’m going to give it serious consideration. It is a junior varsity, after all. Not as much practice, not as many games, no late-night video sessions to scout the other teams, not quite as much time, right?

For now, maybe in writing this I’ve gotten basketball out of my mind for a few hours. Time to focus on writing.

If I can.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

CLAIMING MOON rises in three days

People are dying in Southwest Virginia, their bodies ripped open, each missing a vital organ.

Clearwater Police Detective Frank Taliaferro has served in larger departments, advised the FBI, even worked international cases for the United Nations, but now he’s back where his career began, in the small town of Clearwater, Virginia. And he’s never seen anything like these killings.

Nor has he met anyone like Cassandra Kincaid.

When Frank is forced into a charity bachelor auction as a prospective date, he meets Cassandra, a reporter for the Clearwater Daily Dispatch assigned to participate in the auction as a bidder and report her experience.

That's when things get complicated. The first murder occurs while Frank and Cassandra are on their date, and the two soon find themselves drawn together in an uneasy yet passionate relationship, while they both race to uncover what is behind the macabre murders. Working independently of one another, each discovers an awful truth – the deaths are revenge killings, and someone, or something, is still on the loose, looking for more victims.

Cassandra’s probing also uncovers a dark secret from Frank’s past, one that drives a wedge of mistrust between them, yet Cassandra finds she can’t get the detective out of her mind.

In the end her feelings for Frank may not matter because the two find themselves in a deadly face-off with an ancient cult deep in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. Only then do they learn the truth behind the grisly murders, but that discovery may be too late for either of them.

CLAIMING MOON will be available on Kindle Aug. 1, Nook and other formats to follow. More details soon!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Seven days and counting to the release of CLAIMING MOON

Today puts me one week away from when my paranormal thriller novel, CLAIMING MOON, will be released as an e-book on Kindle. Other formats will follow, but Kindle will be its first trip out into the world.

I have to confess to being nervous. Venturing into the world of e-publishing is a new experience for me. I’m not breaking any ground, plenty of other writers have done this, but for me it’s all new, and in essence one grand experiment.

I’m not sure what my expectations are. In a way I don’t really have any. This being a new venture for me, I haven’t the foggiest notion of what to expect, what would be a good and successful run and what would be disappointing.

I suppose if I’m sitting here a year from now with maybe a dozen sales I’ll be terribly disappointed. If I have a thousand sales I believe I’ll be beyond ecstatic. A couple of hundred sales would make me pretty happy, I think. So there, I guess between a dozen and a couple of hundred sales is the difference between happy and disappointed.

Even then, is this all about sales? If the writing (already done) and the publishing/marketing teach me something, either about this business or about myself, doesn’t that count for something?

Lots of questions, huh? That’s just a sample of what all’s going through my head right now, not to mention all the work I still have to get done before a week from today (formatting for e-publishing is taking forever).

But for now, I just wanted to remind everyone CLAIMING MOON will be available on Kindle one week from today (and if you don’t have a Kindle, fear not – there is a free app you can download for a PC, Mac, or a number of different devices – click right here to get yours!)

Looking down the road a bit, my novella PROTECT THE INNOCENT will be available Sept. 1 in the collection PROTECT THE INNOCENT AND OTHER TALES, and on Oct. 1 – just in time for Halloween – will be a collection of my stories in SOME KIND OF MONSTER.

But for now, I’m getting set for the release of CLAIMING MOON. I hope you are too.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sleeping with skunks, dancing with yellow jackets

That title line could easily be the description of the mini-camping trip we took over the past several days. It was a quickie to a state park here in the mountains of Virginia. With so many of my family now working (my three oldest all have jobs), it’s hard to find time for a family get-away. But we managed, arriving at the camp early Sunday and leaving mid-day on Tuesday.

It was pretty standard fare as far as a state park goes – cookie-cutter camp sites for pitching tents and grilling, crushed pebbles for sand on the lake, lifeguards who looked as if they would rather be anywhere (even back in school) than sitting in their chairs blowing their whistles at teens chicken fighting in the shallow swim area.

Still, it was a nice get-away. No computers, no television, no radio, nearly no telephones (my wife and two oldest daughters took their cell phones because they are addicted to the things). And we had a nice sized crew – my wife and I, our five children (ages 20, 18, 17, 15, and 11), and boyfriends of the two oldest kids.

Not to bore you with all the details, but we arrived early Sunday, set up camp and spent the rest of the day at the lake, bobbing in the water, splashing one another, throwing the football around – all the usual stuff.

Sunday night we had our first encounter with a bit of wildlife, when a skunk ambled by our campsite. Other than making sure he kept going as far as our flashlight beams would reach, we gave it little thought.

Later that night, as everyone was turning in, my youngest son – the 15-year-old – complained about it being too hot inside the tent, and he was right. I’ve never cared much for tent sleeping in the summer, because the heat builds up inside and takes most of the night to dissipate. So he and I bedded down outside, under the handful of stars we could see through the canopy of pine and oak trees.

Around two o’clock, my youngest – a girl – woke me. Some creature, we figured it was a raccoon, had tried helping itself to a few of our supplies. My son apparently heard him, turned on the flashlight and found himself in a stare-down with the little bandit. Being the he-man that he is, my son high-tailed it for the tent and only by chance woke up his little sister. Dad? Oh, well, my son conveniently forgot about me. It was the 11-year-old who thought maybe they should wake me and let me know I wasn’t alone out there in the forest.

Eventually we all got back to sleep, including the 15-year-old, the two of us still sleeping outside.

The next day was fine – hot and breezy, perfect for hanging out at the lake, swimming, building sand castles, just an all-around nice day. Lunchtime, however, was a bit of a challenge. Seems a horde of yellow jackets decided they liked the scent of our water melon, so lunch ended up being the Dad Run and Dance Olympics. With the bees swarming our site’s picnic table, we ate at the vacant adjacent campsite; with yours truly being the one who darted in and out of the bee swarm, grabbing the cooler, the bread, the napkins – whatever someone else decided was needed.

I’m not certain, but I think a few of those requests were simply to see me dancing in and out of the bees. Amazingly, I was not stung a single time, although I may have been risking permanent injury with some of the contortions I put on display.

The afternoon was more of the same – hanging out at the lake, not dancing with bees, I mean. Things changed a bit in the evening with not one, not two, but THREE skunks moseying on in and out of our campsite whenever they darn well felt like it, even while we were still sitting around the fire making s’mores.

When time to turn-in rolled around, the 15-year-old decided he was going to sleep outside again.

“What about the skunks?” I asked.

“No skunk’s going to come around as long as we’re out here,” he replied.

“They did while we were making s’mores.”

“Well, even if they do, they won’t bother us while we’re sleeping.”

I told him okay, if he was up for it, so was I. Truth was, I really did not want to sleep inside the tent. We went inside, grabbed our sleeping gear and stepped back out, only to see two of the little stinkers walking around exactly where we planned to unroll our sleeping bags.

My son and I looked at one another and, without a word between us, turned back into the tent and slept there for the night.

You know what? Despite all the wild creature problems, it was a nice trip. My two oldest are in college now, still living at home, but likely to move away in another year. The next two are right behind, and even the youngest, with another seven or eight years before she’s ready for college, will be grown and going her own way before long. These sorts of family times are, I’m sad to say, dwindling, and it was a good time to enjoy being together, away from the rest of the world, even if it was just for a couple of days.


Being away from the e-word doesn’t mean the writing stopped entirely. As many of you know, my debut novel CLAIMING MOON is set for release on Aug.
1. One of the things I’ve been struggling with is a follow-up, the sequel to the book, a way to carry the characters (at least the ones who survive) on as their lives continue to evolve.

While the wife was lying on the shore, getting a little sun, and the kids (and the boyfriends) were all off splashing and playing, I spent a few moments out in the water, floating along, watching the opposite shore line, when my attention was drawn to a sailboat drifting, seemingly without any direction from its occupants. For a few minutes I even wondered if anyone was on board, or if it were going to come on in to the swimming area, carried there by the summer wind.

That’s when the germ of the idea hit me. I spent that night, and the next, once everyone else had gone to sleep and the camp-invading creatures weren’t intruding too much, working out some plot lines, and I think the little mini-vacation has given me what will become the second novel in my series.

Now I can’t wait to get cracking.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Thunder, lightning and memories of The Mist

Where I live, in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, and work, in the foothills of North Carolina, we’ve had quite a summer so far.

The tiny little town where my family and I call home has sweltered through record-breaking temperatures – never in recorded history of the town had a high temp in June reached 90 degrees until this year, when we topped out at 102 – and in recent days we’ve been pounded by storms.

As I write this, it’s raining hard outside, and the rumble of what I call gentle thunder is echoing across the ridges and hollows. I call this gentle thunder because lately we’ve experienced a fair bit of ground-shaking claps of thunder, with lightning filling the sky, hailstones as large as marbles pelting the ground. On one recent morning I watched as wind literally ripped large trees apart, pulled shutters and shingles from homes, and sent anything that wasn’t locked down flying across the land.

In the midst of that storm, I was reminded of one of my favorite Stephen King stories, THE MIST. The work was made into a movie a few years back, and I’m happy to say I have yet to see it. This is one of those stories that played out in my mind in full living color (despite Mr. King’s insistence in his notes that this was the sort of story best seen in black and white, at the drive-in, with your girl (or guy) snuggled up against you). I don’t want to see some director’s rendition; I have my own images from the novella, thank you very much.

Funny, how random happenstances will bring to memory songs or events or, in my case, novels and stories I’ve read. Sunday, when I was watching the power of that storm, I suddenly wanted to dig out my copy of King’s short story collection, SKELETON CREW, and read THE MIST. Unfortunately, it wasn’t on any of my bookshelves, which means it’s packed up in a box somewhere.

Later in the day we drove out and saw some of the damage (professional curiosity, of course, being that I’m a journalist). Trees were down, utility poles had been snapped, and some roads were even blocked. We stopped at a hardware store to pick up a window air conditioning unit, and saw people dejectedly walking from the store after learning there were no generators within 150 miles to be had (widespread and long-term power outages left many in the dark for a week). We stopped at a grocery store which had no power, its workers dealing with frustrated customers who didn’t seem to understand why they couldn’t go ahead and buy milk and other items from cold storage.

And my thoughts drifted again to my first reading of THE MIST so long ago, when I was very young and the world was still full of mystery and promise.

Does that ever happen to you? Do you find yourself drawn to something you’ve read years ago? Do you read it again when that happens? Or do you simply spend a few moments fondly recalling the work, and then move on?

Share your memories, your answers, or anything else you’d like to say in the comments section here – I’d love to read what you have to say.

As for me, I may very well have to go digging through my boxes. See, the gentle thunder has grown now, the ground is shaking, lightning streaks fill the air, and I can think of no better time to read such a tale as THE MIST.

See ya ‘round.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Well, it's about time

For those of you still around, you know it’s been a while since I lost blogged. Kids, work, other family obligations – you know the drill, a thousand different things get in the way but in the end it comes down to this: If you don’t make the absolute commitment to blog and tweet and write regularly, then…well, you end up not doing it.

Guess I’ve been a little soft on that commitment.

I have been writing, editing, and revising though, even if I haven’t been blogging and tweeting about it, and now it’s time to return to the blog, Twitter, Facebook, and the rest of the digital world so many of you inhabit.

And I do have a few things to tell everyone about, first and foremost being that my novel, CLAIMING MOON (formerly known as THE RETURN), is due out Aug. 1. More details on that, and another publishing surprise or two, will be forthcoming.

Second, I’ll be doing a bit of regrouping here as I return to the blogosphere, and most likely will be moving on over to Word Press soon.

Truthfully, I like Blogger better – it seems to be easier to use for those of us whose minds just don’t wrap around technology very well, but for some reason Blogger doesn’t seem to want to play well with Amazon. I’m an Amazon Associate (these days, who isn’t?), which means I’m kinda working as an independent sales contractor for them. That means I get paid a teeny weeny little bit (something like one one-millionth of a penny, I think) if you click on a link from my blog that takes you to Amazon, and then you purchase the book or item through that link.

Blogger has decided it just won’t let its users do that – when I take a linking code from the Amazon Associates program and place it here on my blog, Blogger automatically adds extra computer code which invalidates the link. If you click on it, you go to a page which says you’ve followed a bad link. I spent a fair bit of time on the phone with Amazon, and they’ve looked at it eight ways to Sunday and can’t do anything about it.

Interestingly, at least to me, if I just take a generic link from Amazon (or from anywhere else) and place it on my blog, the link works. It is only the Amazon Associate links which Blogger monkeys around with. It would appear Blogger (and by extension, Google) wants us to utilize their services, so long as they are the only ones making money off of it.

Oh, well, if I can figure out all the trap doors and rabbit trails of Word Press, I’ll be moving over there. Stay tuned.

For now, the countdown is on….28 days til CLAIMING MOON is released!