Journey of the Caged launches tomorrow

…and you can grab it here on Kindle. Paperbacks will be available very soon.

A dark fantasy novel in a brand-new series, this one follows Gavrien Kelwind, knight-magister in the kingdom of Ariama. Tasked with escorting a prisoner to his judgment in the nation’s capital, Gavrien and his companions are hounded by the Sheriff, out to avenge the death of his brother. It’s a lean, violent book, and the best part is, it is an entirely standalone novel. Each book in the Forever Lands will feature a different cast of characters in a new setting. I’m planning the next for release in 2020.

On a more personal note, this one is a strange release for me. I’ve had the basic ideas of Morton’s Rock (the primary setting), Bekol (the prisoner), and the Sheriff in mind for… hell, over a decade. It’s a novel I’ve tried to write over a dozen times, and I finally came up with a draft that works. I think the core idea – a world without end – has the potential to be a lot of fun, but ultimately, that’s up to my readers to decide.

I am tired, but in a really good way. This one took it out of me, hard.

This is basically going to conclude my writing year, at least in terms of published stuff. I’m deep in the guts of planning out the next supernatural thriller series Seven Heroes. The first in the series will be called Savor the Wicked, and I think you’ll find it an intense, fun romp through Rankin Flats with a funky cast of characters. Look for that (and its two sequels) in the spring of 2020.

For those of you who picked up A Shot at Us, Fundamental Obsession, or Journey of the Caged this year, thank you. I’m coming out of this year making less but also spending less. I’ve figured out a lot of things about my advertising this year, what works, what doesn’t, and I feel confident coming into 2020 I’m on my firmest footing yet. And with two new series coming, I hope you’ll be entertained.

Hit me up in the comments with what you’re reading to close out the year.

Paperback pricing in 2020 and beyond

This is going to shock you, but I like money. And I like getting my name out there. Unfortunately, one of the things damming up the works on both those accounts has been my reluctance to go with expanded distribution with my paperbacks.

Well, the time has come to change that, but unfortunately, that’s going to mean some painful changes to my pricing. For all books released in 2020 and beyond, my paperback prices are about to jump significantly – from about $9.99 per book to what I believe will be $13.99-14.99, depending on my costs.

This is NOT (at least for the foreseeable future) going to affect any of my books out now or Journey of the Caged, though the latter may see a price increase when I have more books in the series out. I’d love to keep the Rankin Flats and romance novels I have out now as cheap as possible as an introduction to my writing. But I am a business, whether I like it or not, and I don’t want to say these prices are going to stay super low like they are now.

The new pricing will suck, I know. I’m not thrilled about it. But in order to get my books to libraries and retailers, this is a step that needs to happen. It’s painful, but it’s also progress.

And if you’re really hurting for money, go to your public library. My books ARE in circulation in the library system. And if your public library can’t get them, contact me with the name and address. If it’s in my power and I’m not terribly strapped for cash, I’m always happy to donate a book or two to a library in need. And that’s something that’s never going to change.

That sweet special sauce

Get your mind out of the gutter. You know who you are.

Every book while it’s being cooked has to have a special sauce moment. Everything we write needs that little extra flavor to it, or otherwise we’d all be making the same staid cheeseburgers. And that’s fine in its own way – cheeseburgers are pretty damn delicious (insert a Randy from Trailer Park Boys reference ehre) – but readers and writers alike would get tired of it awfully fast.

See, most of the great concepts of writing have already been developed. We tend to rely on old recipes to come up with our daily creations, because those recipes have been around forever and they’re popular for a lot of reasons. Plus, it’s damn near impossible to just go and invent a whole new food – or book. So instead, we have to flavor it, to spice it up or do something a little different and memorable. It really doesn’t have to be much, just a little something unique in the blend of herbs and spices to make the book your own. Say, maybe it’s a different perspective, or a unique character, or a bit of dialogue that blossoms into this wondrous strip of bacon of a character. Something like that.

With all my books, those have been relatively simple things. The Ghost at His Back is different thanks mostly to that first line – ghosts are assholes, and not at all perfect or necessarily evil or good. With Forever and Farewell, the spice was Lauren, perhaps my finest culinary creation to date. With A Shot at Us, it was dropping the Clarence character from It’s a Wonderful Life (who I absolutely love, don’t get me wrong), and focusing on the trials of a modern couple whose own goodness was their spiritual savior. With Fundamental Obsession, it was the idea of an inherently good and sweet character who never means to hurt anybody, and yet tears his friends and loved ones apart.

Truthfully, it’s something I’ve been struggling to find with Seven Heroes, not for a lack of ideas, but because I’ve been trying to add too many spices to the soup. I want it to have more of an urban fantasy feel to it while still existing in the world of the Rankin Flats supernatural thrillers, and to that end, I thought maybe I needed to add more fantasy archetypes. I kept having this fantastic idea of an ogre-ish type character as a taxi driver, but I couldn’t figure out how that would work with the concept of the Rankin Flats world, which does have very special creatures in it, but most of whom are in hiding or disguised.

The solution was terribly simple, but I wanted it so hard to work for Seven Heroes that I refused to see it any other way. I wanted my recipe to work, damn it, and only just this morning realized the stock I was cooking with could make for two culinary creations – and that I already had some ingredients in the fridge that would make for an excellent, separate soup. See, I’ve also been thinking for roughly a year or so how to update and make special my YA idea The Extraordinary Ordinary, which despite its title, felt kind of… well… ordinary. I think I can split off most the concepts I had for the urban fantasy world I wanted to implement in Seven Heroes and drop it into the world of Extraordinary Ordinary.

TL:DR – I’m shaving off portions of my delicious roast cooking in the oven right now to make literary au jus and French dips later. Also I’m hungry. Someone bring me cookies!

Journey of the Caged is now available for pre-order!

You – yes, you, you lucky so-and-so – can make sure your digital copy of Journey of the Caged arrives on your Kindle doorstop on day one by pre-ordering today. Just $4.99, this dark fantasy follows Gavrien Kelwind, a knight-magister in the kingdom of Ariama. Tasked with keeping a murderer safe across thousands of miles of territory, Gavrien faces the wrath of a vengeful Sheriff, brother to one of the murderer’s victims. This is a fun, fast-paced tale, perfect for fans of Joe Abercrombie or Richard Morgan’s fantasy novels. Give it a shot. It’s out on October 31st!

Click here to pre-order now!

Legally Blind – An embarrassment of riches

Today was a bad day.

Losing my sight in general isn’t something I can mark with big occasions. Sure, there was certainly my detached retina back in 2003 or so, but by and large it’s a long, incremental process. The last four years or so, I’ve begun losing my small reading vision. It’s not always possible for me on a day-to-day basis to read cooking instructions, dietary details, or pill bottles. I still have workarounds, thankfully – taking pictures with my phone helps a ton, and my family is great about assisting me when they’re around – so I don’t tend to notice or think about the loss of reading vision.

That has to change after today.

I went grocery shopping with my mom today. Nothing major, just our usual out-of-town shopping at Super 1 Foods, which is usually one of my favorite stores. I brought my cart full of stuff to the front, not really thinking about much as I ran my card through the machine. Nowadays I have to practically press my nose to most those machines to see the screens. It’s just a thing I have to do. Today it asked for my PIN. I entered it. And when I looked up to take my receipt, the clerk was holding out quite a large amount of cash and a fistful of change.

“What’s this?” I asked, smiling pleasantly.

The woman, sweet and extremely helpful, looked puzzled. “It’s the cash back you requested.”

The machine did not, in fact, ask me for my PIN.  It asked me how much cash back I needed.

Now, thankfully, this month has been an okay one financially. I could transfer some money around and get it covered, and I did – plus we made it home in time to deposit the money I withdrew back into the account, and it only cost me double humiliation of the pity on the clerk’s face at the store followed by the utter bafflement of the ladies I dealt with at the bank.

I’ve had a few drinks tonight. Some beer, some vodka. It’s the first time I’ve tied one on in a while. My poor mom thinks I’m angry at her or upset because she wasn’t around to help me with the debit card reader. She’s asked me, no joke, probably eight times tonight if I’m okay. And honestly, I don’t know how to comfort her on that one. I will be. Of course I will be. But I am humiliated by something completely out of my control. I am angry, not at her or anyone else, but at my condition, especially because this is just another day. There will be more unexpected humiliations like this. There already have been, stuff that makes me ill to think about. It’s one more thing I have to ask for help with. And you know what? That fucking sucks. There’s no way to sugarcoat that. Today was an absolute crap day. Tomorrow will be better and I will adapt. I always do.

But today, I get to feel alone in a spectacularly shitty way. And there is nothing to do but grit my teeth and take the beating.

Screw you, eyes.

Team Chug and the editing process

Here’s a funny Team Chug story for you.
I do my edits in two phases. The first is on the computer, where I edit for story content and add in whatever I think the novel needs to round it out. I try to do grammatical edits along the way, but due to my vision, black on white writing isn’t usually the best way for me to go about this.
So when it comes time to focus on grammatical polishing, I run through the book on my iPad, where I’ve got the Kindle app set to a black background with white writing. It’s much easier for me to read, and I catch probably ten times as many errors this way. Now obviously I don’t need to be sitting at a desk to read on my Kindle, so I allow myself the comfort of reading from my big recliner or from my couch.
My dogs love this. They get to cuddle up with me – usually with Yoda sleeping on my shoulder and Sadie curled up on my man boob. We do this probably for a week or two – I read the book at least six or seven times before it’s released.
Well, since I’m also working on a short story collection at the moment, I’ve been doing edits in the morning and afternoon, interspersed with some writing runs when I get the itch to take a break. My Chihuahua Sadie is fine with this. Sadie is fine with everything. She is, straight-up, the most independent dog I”ve ever seen and wouldn’t really give a damn if the house crumbled around her. Yoda, my sweet fussy pug, on the other hand, believes he’s being tortured. He thinks we need to cuddle every day all day. So when I finish up up an editing jag and swap out for a writing one, he’s right there, sitting beside me, crying his little pug self to sleep in his bed next to my desk.
Poor little guy. It’s a rough life not having a meat pillow around for you twenty-four seven.
Team Chug

The worst timing for a gut punch

In every book I’ve written, there’s generally a scene that gets to me, hard. Usually the waterworks don’t turn on, but every now and then I might be cutting a few onions in this house when I write certain scenes. When I was writing Journey of the Caged, there were two such moments, and I think it’ll be pretty obvious when you read it which two I’m talking about (no spoilers here).

The first one I got through pretty okay. I had to stop for a while, do some dishes, mop, and get my mind off the project. The second, I was on a freakin’ roll, just slamming down words until I hit this part and then… bam. I have to stop and deal with it. And in this case, we’re talking full-on waterworks. I’m bawling like a three-year old who just had his favorite Transformer taken away.

And right then, my mom calls me.

Now, mind you, my mom has seen me moody about my books before, especially For All the Sins of Man and Plague of Life. I regularly have lunch with her just about every weekday so it’s inevitable that some of the emotions necessary to what I write seep through. But she’s never hear or seen me full on choked up from writing.

So here I am, about two sentences from finishing a scene, trying to type with already trembling fingers, and my mom calls me. First thing I say into the phone, with a throat about as squeezed as you can get without choking, is, “Mom, I’m writing one hell of a scene at the moment and I’m a blubbery mess, so don’t worry about me.”

Of course she did, but I think she got it, too.

Writers, any scenes ever get to you when you wrote them? Readers, any one particular scene in something you’ve read nab at your heartstrings?