The Book Signing

Last Saturday, I had my first book signing.  Village Books in Columbia, MO was nice enough to host me.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Would anyone show up?  Would I sit for 2 hours with nothing to do?  Would I be more of a hindrance – in the way of real customers?

Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.  I had a steady stream of book lovers come in to purchase my novels and hang out to chat for a few minutes.  “Real customers” stopped to ask about my books and a few were talked into giving them a try.  And those in attendance got a taste of Butchered Dreams, before it was released, because I did do a short reading from the novel.

Becky and Doug did a great job of making me feel welcome and wanted.  I couldn’t have asked for a better bookstore to do my first signing.  Pictures were taken and in the few moments of down time, they helped me stay focused, calm, and entertained.  They deserve a huge pat on the back for their efforts and attention.

Also, I want to thank everyone that came out.  And not just because they bought books, they chatted, listened to my horrid reading aloud, and lended their support.  I had readers from as far away as Springfield, Missouri and Topeka, Kansas show up.  I may write for myself, but I publish only because people keep reading my books.

Sorry this post came late.

Researching is Hard

Tonight, I broke out my copy of The Lesser Key of Solomon.  I forgot how complicated the book was.  Actually, I had forgotten how complicated demonology is in general.  And before I get a thousand comments about the dangers of dabbling in the dark arts, I’m not summoning demons.  I am starting to delve into my next book.  Writing requires research, even when writing fiction, and research can be very hard work.

Now, I remember why I used to own all those summary books on demonology, demon names, and the hierarchy of Hell.  My collection has dwindled to one book and it is currently on loan, I think I need it back.  The Key provides me with rituals and spells, a cursory piece of information for what I need.  As a matter of fact, those I pretty much remembered.

After realizing I was getting nowhere, I began a search of Amazon.  You can get everything on Amazon.  I wish I could get my amazing copy of demonology for Kindle, unfortunately, I can’t remember who wrote it.  A title search didn’t help, since it is titled Demonology.  And, it probably isn’t available on Kindle because I believe it’s about 50 years old.

So, I looked at other books.  And looked.  And looked.  And looked.  I found two… or rather, 1 1/2… One is written by someone I think is a crackpot.  This doesn’t mean they don’t know their demonology and demons, it just means that I’m leaning towards the other simply because I think the author’s elevator fails to go all the way to the penthouse.  In the author’s defense, I don’t know them personally.  They are a friend of a friend’s cousin or some such nonsense and I have never had a face-to-face, just heard stories.  They might be perfectly sane and lucid.  But, like everyone else on the planet, even I occasionally go “uh, yeah, sure… I’m going to go stand over there… out of reach… and please, ignore the Taser…”  Should this influence my purchasing of their book?  Probably not.  Does it?  Oh hell yeah.

In the end, I purchased neither book and shot a text message to my friend asking for my book to be returned.  The real question is, what to do in the interim…  Start the book and add the demon later?  The whole demon summoning thing is an intricate plot point.  It seems like a big piece of the puzzle is missing if I don’t know which demon is being summoned.

If anyone knows of any good books on demonology, I’m taking suggestions.  I’d prefer ebooks.  My house is already overflowing with reference books on weird things, hence my purging of my collection on demonology (true hauntings, a huge chunk of ancient history, and US history also went in that “cleaning”… I didn’t go crazy, I kept all my medieval history and paranormal phenomena books – including the super-awesome printing of Mysteries of the Unexplained put out by Reader’s Digest in the 1990’s).

Archaeology – The Staunch Science

Among my early childhood books, was an amazing work of non-fiction on ancient civilizations.  It covered the beginnings; Egypt, Phoenicia, and Sumeria.  It also discussed a few others; Assyrians, Hittites, and Nubians, all of which appeared to be more nomadic and less organized.  Instantly, I wanted to become an archaeologist.  Not the Indiana Jones type of archaeologist, but the real deal… digging in sand, uncovering ruins one painstaking inch at a time and trying to decipher artifacts and relics from times long gone.

Fast forward about ten years and my dreams of becoming an archaeologist were a distant memory.  A very distant memory.  There were three serious flaws with archaeology as a profession.  1) I don’t like being outdoors.  2) I don’t like being dirty (or sandy).  3) It is really hard to change the minds of archaeologists.

For some strange reason, of all the sciences, archaeology is pretty set in its understanding of the world.  This realization came when I was reading an article about Gobekli Tepe.  For those who don’t follow antiquity, I’ll give a brief explanation.  Gobekli Tepe is a series of large stones located on top of a mountain in Turkey.  No, that doesn’t really sound impressive.  What is impressive is that it has been dated to between 10,000 – 8,000 BCE.  That’s about 5,500 years earlier than the building of The Great Pyramid in Egypt.  There was no such thing as civilization during the time period that Gobekli Tepe was built.  The stones have impressive carvings on it and there is some debate about some of the carvings because they may depict animals not native to Turkey.  Also, the stones really are massive.  We are talking tons, as far as weight goes.

So, how the hell did nomadic tribes with no wheels build a massive stone circle with massive stones?  Also, as a general rule, nomads don’t build huge monolithic structures.  Monolithic structures using stones that weigh several tons require the tribe to stop wandering, because it isn’t being tossed together in a week.

The reason this killed my passion for the science was because the German archaeologist who undertook the task of uncovering it, was labelled a crack pot when he put forth his dating.  Unfortunately, for the rest of the archaeological world, the date seems to be fairly accurate. I once asked an archaeology professor about Gobekli Tepe and he rolled his eyes and told me he taught “fact, not fantasy.”  That’s a really disappointing answer.  I’ve seen the pictures and read the literature.  Gobekli Tepe is fact, not fantasy, so why wouldn’t he talk about it?  If he didn’t know much about it, he could have plead ignorance, that is allowed, even by archaeology professors.

I do continue my interest in archaeology, but it’s a hobby now.  I read and digest and think about what I’ve read and wonder “what if?”… A question that doesn’t seem to be allowed in the academic field of archaeology if it bucks the “known information.”  And for any archaeologist who is a little more open-minded, my apologies, I’ve just never met one that is open to finding new information that goes against what we “know to be fact.”  Of course, I’m also throwing stones in a glass house… I’m a historian… heaven forbid we decide not to accept “known facts.”

The Ordeal With The Magnuson Grand Continues

Last week, I posted about my experience with the Magnuson Grand Hotel of Fayetteville in Arkansas.  You can read it here.  I gave the hotel a few days to return my money before actually publishing the post.  When they didn’t, I went ahead and let the world read it.

Today is the sixth business day.  Guess what?  No money.

At this point, I’m not even sure it’s about the $160 due to be refunded.  It’s about customer service and acceptable business practices.  This is not some internet scam or online business headquartered in the someone’s basement.  They have a physical address.  I’ve been there!

I’ve issued refunds before at different places where I worked, it isn’t that difficult.  I admit, I’ve never worked in a hotel, but could it really be so different?  Also, we have provided the hotel with documentation of the extra charge.  Yet, we do not deserve even a call back?

The original charge happened 25 September.  I was informed 7 October that the refund had been issued.  It is now 15 October and despite leaving a message yesterday, I did not get a return call.

So, I have taken it to the next level.  I have contacted the Arkansas State Attorney General’s office and filed a complaint.  I am flabbergasted by the lack of contact and communication from the hotel.  How can a business be run is such a fashion?

The Importance of Beta Readers

With Butchered Dreams, I am seeing exactly how important beta readers are.  Big publishing houses use multiple editors for a single book and I fully understand exactly why… now.

My editor had over 5,000 suggested changes.  Most of these were implemented before it was sent to the beta readers.

I am using ten betas on this particular book, the most I’ve had so far.  Several have gotten back to me with suggestions.  One caught the glaring spelling error on the first page.  Even the editor, reading it twice, missed it.  Another caught that I had used the wrong word in one spot.  While yet another picked up that I used the wrong first name for a character, three times.

So thank you beta readers for helping make the book better.  My Magic 8 Ball is not as pleased, it got tired of being shaken.  ;-)

Still Awake

It’s 2 am and I’m still awake.  Mainly because I’m still sick.  When I lay down,  my head clogs and I cough more.

All this night time awake hours has led to thinking about “writing as work.”  Especially since I am currently not writing a new book. I have 4 paragraphs on a new novel, but that’s it.

I know a lot of writers treat it as a job. The work the standard 8 hour day and then make time for the rest of their life.

Not me. I write because I love it. However if the words are not flowing, I don’t force them. It’s counter-productive.  Sometimes,  it’s just laziness.  Sometimes,  it’s because whatever I’m writing is fleshed out enough in my head. Sometimes, it’s a lack of ideas.

For example, the next Dreams novel could be in progress… But it’s missing a killer and I’ve just sent the mysterious, creepy sidekick after a Jack the Ripper copycat. So, what sort of monster should Aislinn and the SCTU start chasing? No killer, no novel.

My 4 pathetic paragraphs are the start of a fantasy trilogy. Yet, it isn’t finished forming in my head. I have an idea for a horror novel, but no characters.

If I start forcing these onto a page, they will be clunky and garbled.  They won’t even qualify as a rough draft.  In this way, writing sometimes fail to adhere to an 8 hour day.  And I am fine with these lapses from time to time. It keeps writing interesting. Sometimes the thinking of and rejection of ideas is just as necessary as putting words on a page.

I hate the editing process…

I know, I sound like I’m beating a dead horse, but I’m not.  It isn’t actually editing that I hate.  I hate the process of editing.  Here it is:

1.  I send a manuscript to the editor.

2.  The editor goes through the manuscript and sends it back.

3.  I (using the track changes function) look at every change the editor has made and accept or reject them based on some intangible concept that gets plucked from the ethereal.  (There are usually about 5,000 marks on a manuscript of average length, I type fast, but not at the same speed as my brain works)

4.  I send it back to the editor.

5.  The editor goes through it again.  (This time there are usually an addition 500 changes, most them to things I changed – like entire rewritten paragraphs and what-not)

6.  I get it back from the editor and go through the suggested changes yet again, accepting or rejecting using different mystical objects; Ouija boards, divination rods, crystals, chicken bones or Tarot cards, depending on my mood.

7.  The manuscript goes to the Beta Readers.

8.  The beta readers find more errors and suggest even more changes.  These trickle in over a period of a couple of weeks.

9.  I read through all the suggested changes and accept or reject them using a Magic 8 Ball.

10.  The final two readers go through the manuscript and inevitable find yet another spelling error and another paragraph that still doesn’t make sense and has their own feelings about the way the book flows.

11.  I either tell them where to shove it or I implement their changes.

12.  Realizing that I have now read at least several parts of the book at least 17 times, I publish it, vowing to never read it again.

Honestly, I don’t mind the edits.  They make the book better.  It’s the time it takes to go through the process that bugs me and in three weeks, I really will read the book 17 times or more.  I will actually hate the book by the time it gets ready for publication.  It is during this time that I start to second guess myself (maybe I should have done this instead) and wonder about the plot (does it have holes in it?  I mean, more holes than it should?  Some Cain novels need a few holes…).

Bad Customer Service

Somethings just really irritate the shit out of me.  The big one is bad customer service.  I know that things happen; wait staff have bad days, computers screw up, messages go missing, but there is still some common courtesies that should happen when these things happen.

In August, my SO and I stayed at the Magnuson Grand Hotel in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  We were there for a dart tournament.  Our hotel room was appalling.  The curtains were being held on the rod by safety pins, our shower curtain rod was broken, we stayed two nights, the toilet wouldn’t flush correctly, and they never replaced the shampoo (which we needed on day 2 of our stay).  It was so bad, I actually took pictures of our room because I had never stayed in a “hotel” that was this bad… and I travel, a lot; darts, vacations, trips to see family, weekend getaways that are spur of the moment, for work, etc.

Now, the tournament was 8-10 August.  I let the room complaints slide because the guy at the front desk was nice and I’m not really the type to complain about those things anyway.  It was obvious the hotel was going through some changes, both in a physical sense and management.

On 25 September, my debit card was charged for these two nights, again.  We discovered the charges on 27 September and I was in the first stage of my current bout of yuckiness, meaning my SO got to handle it.  Now, he and I handle things very differently and I am far more polite than he is.  I’m sure there was yelling and swearing on his part.  That’s how he handles things. We were asked to provide documentation of the charges, which we emailed to them.

And heard NOTHING for several days.  At this point, he begins calling them two or three times a day – after all, we haven’t heard anything, did they get the email?  Also, the original hotel charge was to his credit card.  The new charge was to my debit card.  I had reserved the room and he paid for it upon our arrival.  So, was there a problem finding the charges because they were in different names?

Still nothing… Monday, my voice returned and I called and I had to leave a message.  (The man who answered the phone at that point was nice enough to inform me that the charges were the result of system glitch, we were not the only ones that had been charged twice and that it was being worked on, but it wasn’t his job to explain this to me…)  When I didn’t hear back by the end of the day, I called and asked to speak to the supervisor and was told they were also unavailable.  I left a message for her to call me back.  Tuesday afternoon rolls around, my calls haven’t been returned.  My SO’s calls haven’t been returned.  I fire off an email and I was polite in my email, requesting at least a status update.  An hour later, I’ve still heard nothing.

I call again.  Yes, now I’m calling multiple times a day to try to get some kind of status update or just anything at this point.  I tell the woman that answers the phone who I am and ask to speak with the person I need to speak with, I get put on hold.  A few moments later, the woman who answered the phone gets back on the line and says “So-and-So wanted me to tell you that your account has been credited.”

The woman in the financial department that I need to speak won’t even take my call?  Are you serious?  I thanked the woman who told me my refund was on the way and then they hung up on me.  I can’t even talk to someone about the poor customer service.  Really?

Originally, if I was going to rate the Magnuson Grand of Fayetteville, Arkansas, I would have given it three stars – lacking in the room department, but great customer service.  After this incident, they get none, zero stars.  If you have to stay in Fayetteville, don’t stay at the Magnuson Grand.  I would actually recommend sleeping in your car first.

And I’m adding a picture of our bathroom just to show that I wasn’t lying about the condition.  This was our shower curtain, notice how it bunches in the middle because the ends are broken and it curves down.  We couldn’t close it to shower:

shower curtain MGHotel

Grammar Anarchy

I have a confession to make: I don’t follow grammar rules very well.  Like most school children, proper grammar usage has been drilled into my head since I started kindergarten.  The rules repeated and repeated until they were recite-able on command.

That’s all well and good, but language is an evolutionary process – look at the introduction of slang – and rigid, sometimes archaic grammar rules just don’t fit.

For instance, I was taught never to end a sentence with a preposition.  What pit of Hell did this rule came from, I don’t know.  It’s preposterous.  “Up with this I will not put!”  Good example, but a better one, that we use everyday is “I have no one to talk to.”  Yes, I could reword this sentence to say “…”  Actually, I can’t think of a way to reword the sentence.  “I have no one to talk to because I live alone and my only friend is on vacation drinking fruity umbrella drinks on some white sand beach that are brought to her by cabana boys.”  Do you need to know all that?  I think not.  For the record, my only friend is not currently on vacation, but if she was, this would be her idea of a good one.  It’s even harder to avoid in questions.  “Where are you from?”  means the same thing as “From where did you come?”  But who says that?  I want to add a “whence” to it, just to sound more proper.

Beginning a sentence with “and” or “but.”  Seriously?  Sometimes a good “but” at the beginning of a sentence adds emphasis.  And when we speak, we speak with “and” and “but” at the beginning of sentences.  How many times have you said something, paused for a moment then added a “but” or “and?”  Thousands?  Hundreds of thousands?  That pregnant pause is the end of the sentence.  The “but” or “and” that follows it, is an after thought about whatever you’ve just said.

The abused comma.  I am terrible about my comma usage.  I know where they go.  They don’t always make it.  There are times when I seem to suffer “comma spasms,” which is the insertion of unnecessary commas.  “Comma spasms” are dreadful and long, I have been known to suffer through it for entire chapters.  My editor once told me “I’ve never edited a novel where I had to remove more commas then I added.”  Other times, I seem to forget the key exists.  Then there are times, I leave them out on purpose, in dialogue.  *gasp*  I do this for a reason.  One day, while helping a fellow student with a paper, she lost it.  I believe her monologue regarding how evil I was lasted a good five minutes.  During this rapid fire, verbal assault, I realized that she only paused to gasp for air and it rarely coincided with commas or periods.  When people are talking fast, they don’t use commas, hell, they may not use periods.  If your character is flapping their jaws at the roughly the speed of light, why are you using commas to give the reader a break in the sentence to catch their own breath?  The character isn’t.

The even more abused semi-colon and colon – I just avoid these as much as possible.  Of the four hundred million people in the US, I estimate that a million know how to use these properly; English teachers and editors.

Finally, the use of swear words.  In real life, I swear well enough to make even the most black-hearted, scurvy riddled, syphilis suffering pirate blush.  I try to tone it down in my writing.  While it can be a useful tool, at some point, it becomes oppressive.  However, the use is becoming more and more accepted.  But I like to buck trends, I jumped off the fashion train around 1995, part of what I’ve missed is the advent of modern slang.  It took me asking one of my nephews if “sick” had taken on a new meaning and it had!  What do you mean it means “cool?”  I thought “cool” meant “cool?”

The Next Book

I’ve finished Butchered Dreams, except for some editing.  At this point, I start thinking about my next book.  What will it be?  What’s the plot?  Who’s book is it?

Strangely, I have no answers for these questions.  I have no idea what my next book is going to be.

If I write a Dreams & Reality novel, I don’t know what novel it will be.  Or should I start a new series?  Turn my pen towards some of those stand-alone novels that are floating around in my brain?  Those stand-alones aren’t formed yet, the ideas are there, but there’s no meat – characters, plots, rising action, falling action, etc.  I’ve been laboring on a Dysfunctional novella, but it really has been slow and torturous.

So… what to write?  Honestly, I can’t go more than a week without writing – writing is my fix.  Sometimes what comes out is complete crap, but it still has to come out.  We’ll see how this week goes…

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