Category Archives: Commentary

PennedCon 2017 Recap

Wow.

PennedCon is a well run machine thanks to the dedication of Rick and Amy Miles and a ton of volunteers.

Oh wait, what is PennedCon you ask? It’s an annual author convention which just celebrated its fourth year. It’s an event that raises money for Action for Autism by bringing together over 160 authors and readers over two days in St. Louis, MO.

Dominated by Romance authors (I think the first year it was almost exclusively for Romance authors) it is now open for all genres. I will say, if I’d gone in with only my dark short story collections, I wouldn’t have sold much. My young adult sci-fi novel “The Selection” really helped with sales over the weekend.

PennedConSwagI got to meet readers who actually read my books beforehand! For me, that’s an amazing experience. I had one twenty-something young lady (man that makes me sound old!) bring by a bound book she had created with pictures of the covers of some of the books she read of the authors there. It wasn’t like taped together or anything, but bound with a metal spiral binding. She opened it up and there was the cover to my book “Moments of Darkness.” We talked about the book and the stories and then I signed the page for her. Just floored me!

I got to meet potential new readers and sold a fair amount of books over the two days of the convention.

They also had workshops, keynote lectures, and more. At one point, Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords stopped at my table and I had a nice conversation with him about his service. I have one book I used Smashwords for: (Almost) Average Anthology. I used a different service for my other two books. He asked a bunch of questions as to why I tried the other services and what I thought about them. I’m not gonna lie, it felt slightly awkward telling the CEO of such a well known company why I tried his competitors. It was all good though. Later that day he sat at my table for lunch along with several other authors and we all talked a bit more.

PennedCon does an amazing job of after-hours events for VIP ticket holders and authors. We had a pajama party on Thursday night and there was a party thrown on Friday night featuring a lip synch battle. I didn’t get in on the battle, however as the night wore on, several of the guys decided to do one last song. Somehow I got roped into the group and we did a pretty funny rendition of Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar On Me.” And yes, there is video. Lots of them. 🙂 There was a casino night Saturday night, but my wife and I decided to leave after the signing room closed and made it home late that night.

JohnAndMyselfThough I didn’t sell a ton of books, I sold enough to cover my table fee. Beyond that, I got to catch up with a few author friends like Amy Hale, John Smith, Eric Asher, and more. Actually, my wife and I hung out with Amy and her husband for most of the after-hours events. I met new authors to me like John Hartness and Bess Sturgis and meeting potential readers ultimately made the event that much more enjoyable.

I’ve already booked a table for next year. Maybe I’ll see ya there!

 

 

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The Dedicated Dead

What are you a fan of? Is there a television series, book series, comic, or something else that excites you like nothing else?

Just the other day, I was discussing this subject with a coworker of mine trying to figure out what I’m a big fan of.

I enjoy some of the suspected franchises. I’m a big fan of Star Wars. I’ve read several of the books, seen all the movies, been to midnight releases, and played some of the video games. I don’t collect memorabilia or create my own costumes though, and I couldn’t have an in-depth discussion on which sith lord is the most powerful and back it up with “facts” from the books or expanded universe.

I used to read comics. Judge Dredd, Batman, and the X-Men were my favorites. Still, I’d lose in any argument that requires more than surface knowledge of these characters. I enjoyed the comics, tv shows, and movies, but my level of interest only goes so far.

My entertainment interests are like a person called a “Jack of all trades, master of none.” I’ve got a great surface knowledge of most of pop culture, but the depth isn’t there. I have enough understanding to appreciate most new ventures, but lack the committed time to the deeper competency in the subjects.

However, through our discussion, I did come to the realization that I did have a pretty good knowledge of and committed interest in one brand or show: The Walking Dead.

I’ve watched the original show from the beginning. I remember when my wife and I eagerly awaited the first episode. I hadn’t read the comics before then (still have only read a few of them since) but the commercials for the show looked amazing. And zombies? Yeah, I was in! We’ve watched every episode since.

File_000 (4)I can tell you a lot about the characters on the show, their back story, their motives for what they do. I’m invested in them. When certain ones die, I’m crushed.

I own several pieces of merchandise from t-shirts to coffee mugs to pop figures. Last year my wife and I went on a trip to Savannah, GA and left a day at the end of our vacation to visit Senoia, GA where they film The Walking Dead. We spent an entire day in that little town, doing a guided walking tour, eating at Nic and Norms (a burger restaurant owned and ran by Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl on the show, and producer Greg Nicotero) and enjoying one of the coolest gift shops with a small Walking Dead museum inside.

So yeah, I guess I do have a pop culture franchise I’m all in on. What about you? What’s your guilty pleasure that you know way more than you should about? It’s ok, all are welcome to share here! Leave yours in the comments below and lets leave the judgement aside. I’m curious to know what else all of you enjoy.

Indie Thoughts

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always held a strong independence about myself. Sometimes to the detriment of others around me.

I recall distinctly when as a young skater punk wearing denim jackets with band patches sewn all over them (think Metallica, Anthrax, Suicidal Tendencies and more) and I had a girlfriend who had a hard time with it. She was a little embarrassed when she said “everyone’s gonna talk about you.” My reply? “Great! At least they’ll be thinking about me!” I didn’t care what they thought, just that they thought of me. Owning a small slice of space in their minds for free was awesome.

FreeNow, I didn’t go out of my way to be different, I was just being myself. If that meant denim jackets with patches, then that’s what it was. I didn’t care what anyone thought of me. I knew myself. I knew what I liked and didn’t like. I did things my way how I saw fit.

That doesn’t mean I always did the right thing. Just ask my mom or my wife about the crazy haircut I had. (If you go through my posts from August you’ll see a picture of me in a yellow shirt. That’s the haircut I clung to). I wanted to try something different and I let the style linger through my senior year in high school. Not my finest moment but then again, I did things my way. At the time I could care less what anyone thought of it. Looking at it now I can laugh, but you know, I don’t regret it. How many times do we want to try something but don’t because we let fear rule us?

My tendency to do my own thing leads me away from a lot of things too. If some book or movie or band is the newest thing, I purposely stay away from it. Call it my old punk rock spirit. Call it being non-conformist. Call it whatever, but that’s kinda my reaction to things. I still haven’t read the Harry Potter books, mostly because “everyone loved them” and my natural tendency is to steer clear of super-popular things. I’ve never watched Dr. Who because it’s expected of scifi fans. I know, it doesn’t make sense, but it is who I am.

The indie spirit, so prevalent in the music I listened to (and still do!) is alive and well within me. I’m myself. I make no apologies about it.

 

Going Full-On

I’ve written before about moments in my writing “career” where I’ve felt dejected and full of self-doubt. This is not one of those posts.

I have a strong tendency once I get past my initial doubts where I go full-on confident.

man-1902765_960_720You see, there are times when I don’t give a damn what someone else thinks. I know I will succeed. I have no doubt. I believe in myself when no one else will.

I’ve never been given anything. If I wanted it, I had to work hard for it. My family didn’t have money. I started working when i was 13 or 14 as a newspaper carrier for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, OH. I got up every morning before the sun and delivered the daily paper all along my street.

Not having money taught me to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and suck it up. I didn’t always enjoy the jobs I had, but I dealt with it and gained strength from it. Everything I gained is because of determination.

I can’t tell you how many times my stories have been rejected (Well, actually I can. My stories have accumulated 74 rejections since 2014 with only 4 acceptances). Many for good reasons. It’s ok. I know they’re good. I know they belong somewhere. So I continue sending them out.

The thing is, I can’t let those get to me. What’s the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” I feel that way about my stories. They weren’t right for some places but a perfect fit for others. I gotta find that fit.

So for those who reject my stories just know, you’re gonna be part of my success. You will push me to prove you wrong. It might not be the most healthy attitude, but it keeps me focused.

(Almost) Average August Recap

It’s finally August 31st and I can back down from posting a bit. If you’ve been following along this month, you might’ve noticed I went on a post frenzy, sharing a new post every day.

I decided in late July to give it a try and I’m proud to say I’ve made it to the end. I think instead of my normal once a week posting schedule I adhered to prior to August, I might up that to three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

calendar-159098_960_720During this past month, I’ve had the most visits, views, likes, and comments since I’ve started this blog several years ago. I was blown away by the response I’ve had and hope to continue offering interesting posts going forward.

So in case you missed it, here’s a rundown of the last 30 days.


New Release: Twilight Madhouse Vol.1: My post about a new horror anthology featuring 10 stories, including my short piece “Achievement Unlocked.”

“Gate” Crashing: My rant on using the suffix -gate for scandals.

Writing Ideas: My tips and tricks when trying to get the creative juices flowing.

Reality Bites Book Awards: I was nominated in four different categories.

Rough Writing: I reminisce about a difficult lesson learned.

Morning Routine of a Non Best-Selling Author: It’s exactly as it sounds.

Reviews, Reviews, Reviews: I discuss the latest reviews for my book The Selection.

Review Circles for Authors: I’ve started a Facebook group for authors to give and receive reviews.

Tools of the Trade: A nice discussion about the hardware and software I use to write.

Forgetting to Remember: My terrible problem with remembering names.

Dirty Dish Philosophy: Lessons learned from washing dishes.

5 Posts for Indie Authors: 5 blog posts I thought were informative to the indie authors of the world.

Flash Fiction – “Zombie Says”: I offered a free story for you the reader!

Author Spotlight – Greg Alldredge: An interview with scifi author Greg Alldredge.

Review – “Fire Eyes Awakened”: My review of R.J. Batla’s new book.

“Self To Younger Self, Come in”: Words of wisdom I’d share with my younger self.

Review – “Twilight Madhouse Vol.1”: My review of the horror anthology with my story “Achievement Unlocked” in it.

10 Things Learned Since I Started Writing: As the title implies, 10 lessons learned since I started this journey.

Reality Bites Book Awards – Final Round: I made it to the final round in the category of “Sci-Fi Author.”

Giving Back: I strongly believe I need to give back to other writers in any way I can.

Eclipse Comic Con Recap: I attended an awesome event and met new friends.

Upcoming Events: A list of all the places you can find me in the next few months.

Just Finish Already!: Get that story out of your head and on the screen.

Indie Comic Creator – Todd Black: A super talented creator of indie comics I met at the Eclipse Comic Con.

Musical Inspiration: How music inspires my writing.

Sacrifice for Greatness: What are you willing to sacrifice in order to be great?

Choose Wisely: Important decisions can lead to lasting consequences.

Author Spotlight – Pamela Morris: My interview of Pamela Morris, an excellent horror author you should know.

“The Selection” – Chapter 1 Preview: I offer the entire first chapter of my novel The Selection.

Youthful Dreaming: When I was younger, I really, really wanted to be Spider Man.


 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my month of madness. When you have time, please check out the posts from this past month and please consider clicking “like,” commenting, or sharing whatever interests you.

Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose Wisely

Shortsighted thinking often results in less than ideal situations. Not seeing beyond the present can have consequences that last a lifetime.

When I was in college, I didn’t know what I wanted to major in. I considered Radio and Television to prepare for a job as an on-air radio personality. I love music and thought that would be the coolest job. I had to choose a minor and one of the three available choices was history, which I was a big fan of.

I told my guidance counselor about my plans and she yelled at me. She scolded me for picking history. So, in my stubborn arrogance, I chose History as my major.

books-2606859_960_720That’s all good, except I never considered becoming an elementary or high school history teacher. All the ones I knew were “coach” first and teacher second. They treated the subject as secondary while I thought the importance of the subject was paramount to everything else. Every field of study has a history to it and in order to fully appreciate the current trends and future prospects, we have to know what came before.

So I completed my undergraduate studies with a Bachelor in Arts in the field of History. I had no idea what to do with my degree, so I continued on to graduate school where I focused on early Medieval history. I studied the British Isles and Ireland extensively. My Master’s thesis was on the Christianization of Ireland with a focus on the figure of St. Brigit who shared one two many similarities to an ancient Celtic goddess also named Brigit.

During my entire time in grad school, I never considered taking education classes to earn my teaching certificate. I studied history for the sake of knowledge with an eye to maybe teaching in college, but never in high school.

Now, over 16 years removed from my last class and thesis defense, I’m no where near where I thought I’d be. I joke that I have a master’s degree in history and I sell t-shirts. The truth of it is—that’s exactly what I am.

For the past 17 years, I’ve worked as a sales rep. for a screen-printing company, steadily growing my customer base and increasing my output to the point where I sell over $1,000,000 worth of t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, and other items annually.

doors-1767562_960_720I’m not sharing life altering historical knowledge with anyone, but I do enjoy my work. Our company has a laid back feel (I mean, I can wear t-shirts and shorts to work every day!) but we’re also highly professional and one of the best in the business, all while staying in rural Southern Illinois with customers all over the country.

There are times when I wonder what it would be like if I’d have made the decision to add education courses to my college career and earned a teaching certificate. I wonder what kind of an impact I could’ve had on kids learning to figure out what this world is all about. I don’t dwell on it too much. As I’ve grown as a fiction writer, I do feel these past 17 years have given me the foundation to sell my books to potential buyers and made me comfortable in that role.

I guess the moral of the story is this: when those critical decisions are to be made, think about the long-term impact. Don’t get caught up in what consequences it will have in the next couple of years, but think how it might effect you far down the line. Do you want regrets or satisfaction from your decision? I can tell you which one I’d rather have, and it doesn’t include regrets.

Sacrifice for Greatness

Nothing worthwhile has ever occurred without tremendous effort and sacrifice. You must be able to set aside your “wants” and make it happen.

Anyone’s who has ever wanted to be a writer, a musician, or an athlete cannot attain greatness without some sort of sacrifice.

I’ve heard time and time again from would-be writers that they want to write. Ok, well do it! You cannot call yourself a writer if all you do is wish to be one. Add pen to paper, scribble a word, and add more. Sit at your computer and type those glorious words one after another. Those are what begin to make you a writer.

guitar-1837044_960_720Learning to play an instrument isn’t easy. Figuring out chords, notes, and timing takes…well, time. You have to practice a lot. There’s no other way around it. Wishing to be a musician doesn’t make it happen.

You must do something in order to achieve these goals. You must get up off your chair and lift weights if you intend on improving your physical strength. You must go out and run if you intend on improving your cardio health. Sitting down and wanting to do these things doesn’t make them happen. Actually doing them does.

runners-373099_960_720In order to achieve any of this, you must be willing to sacrifice something. All of these take time. So instead of playing video games, lift weights. Instead of sleeping in late, you have to get up early to write that story. Instead of watching television, you should practice your scales.

Time is both finite and infinite. We as humans only have so much of it, limiting what we can do with it. How you chose to spend your time will dictate how successful you are in your endeavors. You must be willing to give up whatever time you dedicated to doing nothing to activities that will get you closer to your goal.

Wanting to do something is one thing, but putting your actions into play–actually giving an effort into it–will get you closer to your dreams. Doing so means not doing something else. That’s the sacrifice required to achieve your goals.

How willing are you to let go of what’s holding you back? You’ll be amazed at the results when you are willing to give up your fleeting entertainment in order to focus on your dreams.