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Monday, January 31, 2011

A Built-In Audience?

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How is everyone? While we're at it, what happened to January? It seems to me that we were just wishing one another a Happy New Year, and suddenly it's February! Any moment now and we'll see that flowers are blooming!!

I was a bit absent last week, and I'm sorry for that. The week started off with a bang as I (and many of you) participated in the music blog-fest that was sponsored by Alex J. Cavanaugh and well attended by well over 100 bloggers. I don't know about you, but I had a wonderful time talking about music and reminiscing about old memories that the tunes conjured up. I also got to meet a whole bunch of new people, which is always fantastic. I'd like to think I made some new friends in that group. I hope so.

Unfortunately, my allergies flared up. I made it through a terribly busy week at work, but feel as if I lost a day somehow. Friday morning, I was sure that it should only have been Thursday. I love my Fridays too much to have thrown it back, however. Just sayin'.

Something potentially earth shaking did take place last Tuesday. I was interviewed by my local paper. The reporter came over to my house and stayed about an hour. The paper is a shared one, including both Kingsburg and our neighbor, Selma. We'll find out this week how well it went.

Being a local author featured in one's paper should generate some interest, right? How about if you wrote a vampire book? With a trending topic like that you'd hope that the interest would be more magnified, right? Now how about if the setting of the novel was Kingsburg? What if the action in the fictional novel took place just before the very real event of the Kingsburg Swedish Festival which I have been going to since I was a kid? How large might that interest potentially get now?

I'm not bragging or anything. I'm only saying that what might take place in the next few weeks could potentially GROW VERY BIG! I don't have any circulation numbers for you, but the combined population of these two cities is about 30,000.

I thank those of you who stopped by a few weeks ago to offer ideas and advice about what I should be doing with my new paperback. I'm doing some and thinking about doing others. We'll see which way the wind blows this coming month. I have reached out to the local Branch of our library, the large retailer in both Kingsburg and Selma, and a magazine in the much larger city of Fresno, California, which is 25 minutes away.

Rest assured that you will be amongst the first to know how the interview worked.

P.S.: You can't discern him, but my oldest son is one of those students pictured beside the headline above who are going to New York City. My wife and I are going as well. It's going to be amazing because I have never been there before. I'll be reporting back about that, too.

Take care of yourselves.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Favorite Songs of All-Time Blogfest

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. For those of you who know me well, you are keenly aware of the fact that I must have music surrounding me at all times. If you worked with me, you would see what appeared to be me talking to myself, but I assure you that it is me singing. No one needs to call Bellevue for a pick up. I’m good.
Today’s blogfest is being hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh over at his blog.

The idea was to have a bunch of people sharing their favorite all-time 10 songs. Knowing me the way you do, it probably doesn't surprise you that my original list had 34 songs. It wasn't easy, but it was a heck of a lot of fun compiling.

I had bands in my head like Pink Floyd; however, one doesn’t really listen to only one of their songs, but entire albums. Dark Side of the Moon needs to be played front to back, am I right? I then felt bad that I was skipping songs by Van Halen or “All Right Now”, by Free. How could I skip over some of the hair metal bands that I grew up with from the Eighties? What happened to Whitesnake, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, and Judas Priest. I cut my teeth, as it were, with Kiss. How could I leave off “Rock N Roll all Nite” or Shout it Out Loud” or “Lick it Up” even? Do you know how many times I have listened to those songs over the years?

Finally, I came to the conclusion that I should not try and record the best 10 songs ever, but rather the 10 that mean the most to me. The 10 that I could not possibly do without on that fabled deserted island. After much consideration, I realized that what I really needed to list were the 10 songs that would make me drive around the block in order to hear the entire song; the 10 that make me stop what I’m doing and crank the volume.

With that thought finally in mind, here are the 10 tunes that rock my world. Prepare yourself, I have eclectic tastes:

"Don’t Look Back” by Boston. It was a sad day indeed when Brad Delp took his own life in 2007. There are not too many bands that sound like Boston. The debut album is one of the best debuts by anyone: however, if one song summed up what made that band work it is this one off the second album. It has power, a great vocal and a hook that stays with you for the day.

“Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen. Folks, I don’t even really care for The Boss all that much. I do own the big 1975-85 live three-disc set; however, when this one song comes on, I stop in my tracks. There’s simply something about this tune that makes me want to sing along. I do a mean imitation, but you’ll have to buy me a drink if you want to hear it.

“Heaven and Hell” by Black Sabbath. I’m a big Ozzy fan. I also own much of the late Ronnie James Dio’s solo albums; however, there’s something about the haunting vocals and Tony Iommi’s rhythm guitar work in that first verse that makes me want to pause and journey with them.

“You Shook Me All Night Long" by AC/DC. Come on. Do I really need to say anything with this tune? The lights don't go down at a concert until this song is done. They even play it at dances!

“Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)" by Marvin Gaye. I had no idea until I took a chance and bought this album well into my 30's, and now I know that no collection is complete without What's Going On?. It is haunting, honest, beautiful, tranquil and, of course, hopeful.

“Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue. When I'm in a poor mood or feeling tired, I just cue this bad-boy and run it over!

“Closer to the Edge” by 30 Seconds to Mars. If one wonders how a song that is merely months old could end up on this list, I agree with you. However, if you don't know this band, you should. The album before had some great tunes on it, but This Is War kicks all ass. After this song plays once, you will not get it out of your head.

“Limelight” by Rush. Talk about stopping you in your tracks! When Alex Lifeson begins this classic from Moving Pictures with that riff, I stop what I'm doing, end the conversation and jack up the volume. It took a long time before I realized how fantastic this band was. Every bass player wants to master "YYZ",and when Rush plays, all I do is stop and watch Neil Peart. Best drummer ever, hands down

"You're My Best Friend" by Queen. My wife and I are huge Queen fans and I was pretty devastated when we had one day to soak in the fact that Freddie had AIDS, only to be greeted by the news that he was dead the next day. This song played on one of our first dates together and became our song.

"Stairway to Heaven" by Led Zeppelin. Sorry, folks. This list only ever was about the other nine songs. I came to this party late. Although I was born in '69, I didn't discover what the world already knew until I saw the three remaining members of the Mighty Zep on MTV during Live Aid. I know Jimmy isn't happy with the play from that fateful day, but the next day I was ordering the fourth album. Once I heard that record, with this landmark cut closing the door, I was never the same. Starting slow and building to a magnificent crescendo, this is the the greatest rock song ever.

Well, what did I miss? I listen to almost everything. Where do we disagree? I look forward to checking out everybody's lists. I just know I am going to hate myself later for having forgotten something.

We'll talk soon.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tina's Book Reviews

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How's the weekend treating everyone so far? Mine has been very interesting, to say the very least.

My oldest son, the honor musician, is auditioning for another thing. Yesterday was for the new play at his high school (Wizard of Oz), which he got. Today is for County Band. If he gets this, then he'll have made this and County Choir. He's got skills!

Anyway, I have been on the road all morning because it is foggy as hell and I wasn't about to let him drive himself that far to Madera, Ca. (45 minutes into a fairly large city. In an hour or so, we have to go back and leave him a car, trusting that it will be better visibility when he comes home. If he makes it, he stays all afternoon to rehearse. We then are going to Fresno to have an afternoon with our youngest who is turning 13 next week. We're going to buy him his first phone, a guitar for his Xbox 360 game and have a good lunch.

On top of all of this, I am the Saturday Author Spotlight today over at Tina's Book Reviews. I just haven't had much time today to tell you about it until now.

I want to thank Tina for this very nice opportunity to share a little bit about myself with all of her followers...and there are many. I hope some of you will go over there and visit her as well. Perhaps, if you do not already, you might give her a follow.

Thanks to her and to all of you.

I'm heading back out onto the freeway again soon. *sigh*

We'll talk soon.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

So I've got a Paperback - Now What?

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I hope you are having a good week.

As you know, my novel was released as a paperback just before the holidays. The e-book version has been available since February 2010. It was positively reviewed by my high school; a local magazine, Traffic; and the Internet magazine for which I work, Kings River Life. It was also positively reviewed on a few blogsites. I have several satisfied customers on the store, as well as iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Sony. I am grateful for everyone who has given my debut novel about vampires loosed in my home town a chance.

Now that I have the paperback I am beginning to focus my energies toward print media. I have reached out to a major magazine as well as the major newspaper in the Central Valley of California where my family and I live. We’ll see how that goes. Rest assured that you will be amongst the first to know.

I am currently reaching out to local retailers in Kingsburg as well as the local Starbucks to see whether we might be able to do something together. From there I will be attempting to get through to the major book sellers in my area.

I will continue to push the e-book, and for those of you who own e-readers already, you know why. It is the convenience of the thing, wouldn’t you agree? It is what caused CD to push out vinyl, and probably why digital storage devices will push out the CD eventually.

The thing that the paperback has done is to allow so more doors to open to me now. Whether they allow me in the store is quite another thing, however. As I mentioned before, we’ll see.

Mentioning all of this was not to present my feathers to you, but to put all of my cards out upon the table. What do you folks think I should be doing now? Am I going about this the right way or am I barking up the wrong tree? For those of you in similar situations, what have you done that worked well and what not so much? I’m really curious and would like to know your opinions as well as to hear your PR stories. For those of you who will have a novel released in the near future, what sounds right to you and what does not?

I’d really love to know.

We’ll talk soon.

Monday, January 17, 2011

An Article and An Interview

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How's your Monday? This is a great Monday for many, since in America we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King with a holiday. My company isn't closed, so I am unfortunately working. Although I do not have a post about the good Doctor, I definitely believe that some time should be spent in reflection of where we've been with regard to equality for all, and how much farther we need to go. Not only that, who will the next peacemaker be?

The reason why I am posting this morning is due to the fact that I had a good writing weekend, and I would like to share it with you.

I was interviewed on Sunday by Lorelei Bell, author of the novel, Vampire Ascending, on her blog: Lorelei's Muse. I hope you will take a moment to see the questions she asked me, as well as read my responses. While you are there, take a look around the place and see what you think. Perhaps you'll find yourself giving her a follow, too. She also has a new novel out that seems to be going places. I'm hoping to pick up my copy very soon.

The other thing that happened for me was the posting of my newest article for the on-line magazine, Kings River Life. I'm writing for the magazine, you may recall, in order to get my name out there. Having said this, know that I take this position very seriously. Sometimes the assignments that I am given are cute and light-hearted. However, very often the assignment is incredibly important or worthy of sharing.

This month the subject of my article is the C.O.P.S. organization. Concerns of Police Survivors is a national organization with local chapters all over the United States. In February 2010, a Deputy and Police Officer were both gunned down in Minkler, California, simply attempting to serve a warrant. My article explains how the Central Valley C.O.P.S. rushed in to assist the families in their time of need. The President of Central C.O.P.S. has a heart for this work because he, too, lost a son in the Line Of Duty.

If you find that you have some time, perhaps you can give each of these a measure of your time. Enjoy your day, whether it's a regular Monday or a special one.

We'll talk soon.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Day The Music Died

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. I hope everyone is well and that the New Year is still being good to you.

I come to you today to announce a change to my blog. Perhaps for some it will be something to celebrate. For me, however, it is a bit sad. I have taken down the music player from this site.

Knowing me the way you do, you must expect that this would bother me some. For me, music is essential. It lifts up my spirits and carries me away. Where some require absolute silence in the morning until they have grown accustomed to the sun, I am quite the opposite. If the house were empty, I would immediately crank it up! With the music player, what I was hoping to do was to simply give the visitor an overall experience: this is me, this is what I write, these are my fellow writers and newest friends, and also this is the music which currently moves me.

Unfortunately, I have just come to realize that I might have been the only one who thought this was a good idea.

This past week on Wicked Writers, we spent the week discussing what we did and did not like about other people's websites. Can you guess what the consensus was? That’s right: kill the music! I can't be sore with my friends at Wicked Writers Headquarters; it turns out that my wife wasn’t a fan, either. In fact, even I must admit that the constant reloading each time I added a comment or navigated about the blog drove me a bit nuts as well. So, bowing to the whims of the masses, I have done exactly this.

Those who are older than I believe The Day The Music Died to be February 3, 1959, and they wouldn't be wrong. That was the terrible day that the plane which carried Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper crashed just shortly after takeoff, killing all aboard. Those closer to my age might think the day music died to be when AC/DC’s Bon Scott passed away, Led Zeppelin's John Bonham died, when Stevie Ray Vaughn’s helicopter crashed or perhaps when Freddie Mercury succumbed to bronchopneumonia resulting from AIDS. In the case of my wife, the day to have been when INXS’ Michael Hutchence’s body was discovered in that hotel room (and just what did happen that night, only God knows).

In any event, the music is gone. Perhaps when I am selling thousands of novels and I can break all of the rules that I want, I shall bring it back… It's a joke, folks.

On the other hand, if the removal of the music gets me more visitors, new followers and more comments, than I am all for it. Hopefully, it will, because I miss the music already and it’s only been a few minutes.

Take care and have a great weekend, everybody. I’ve got to go get my iPod now… ;)

We’ll talk soon.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Hating Game

Hello Fire Enthusiasts. How is the year treating you so far?

At the end of last year, I did a little bit of complaining about how I couldn't read the way I would have liked to. With all of the writing I was doing last year, and still am, I could not possibly devote any real time to reading. It's a shame really, because I really love to read.

In any event, I did manage to get some reading done during the holidays. Although I have new books by Patricia Cornwell and Pat Conroy on my radar, I finished the year by purchasing the works of many of our blogosphere buddies. The last one that I read was so good that I thought I might spend a few moments telling you about it.

As you have already guessed, the novel I read was "The Hating Game" by Talli Roland. For those of you who know me well, not to mention know what kind of novels I write, you may be wondering how I came about reading this particular novel. Well, I'm about to tell you; however, let me first allow the official blurb to describe the book's plot:

"When man-eater Mattie Johns agrees to star on a dating game show to save her ailing recruitment business, she's confident she'll sail through to the end without letting down the perma-guard she's perfected from years of her love 'em and leave 'em dating strategy.

After all, what can go wrong with dating a few losers and hanging out long enough to pick up a juicy £200,000 prize? Plenty, Mattie discovers, when it's revealed that the contestants are four of her very unhappy exes.

Can Mattie confront her past to get the prize money she so desperately needs, or will her exes finally wreak their long-awaited revenge? And what about the ambitious TV producer whose career depends on stopping her from making it to the end?"

Okay, now let's get back to how a horror-reading guy ends up reading "The Hating Game". Well, truth be told, I love romantic comedies. An Affair To Remember, Casablanca, Notting Hill and Love Actually are just a few of my favorites. I love these and many more. Yet I don't love every single one of them in this genre, especially if they are simply retreading the same old ground. What I want is originality.

Those aforementioned films had it, and this excellent work of Talli Roland's has it as well.

From the reality television game show subject matter to the strong-willed lead character, I found the story to be fresh and timely. The Hating Game as a show sounds like something we might see with next fall's television line up. I also found the unfolding drama to be well-paced and the twists and turns difficult to anticipate. There wasn't one instance where I felt that Roland had become lazy or had taken an easy way out with regard to plot. Her characters are layered and believable, and I felt as if I knew many of them.

I'd like to talk about writing now. Often, we authors do ourselves a disservice by attempting to show off with our mastery of language. As readers, when this occurs, we can find ourselves "tripping" over words that are either out of place or suddenly several grade levels higher than we had thought we had been reading just paragraphs before. Roland doesn't do this. Her prose is so well-written that it is akin to eating comfort food after a difficult day. It is the perfect combination of education and wit and clarity, as if she agonized over each word.

Another thing that I commend Roland on is the quality of the edit. I found no errors in spelling, grammar or formatting. I have bought other novels from some of our blogosphere friends, and they have had formatting errors which brought down my enjoyment. If there were errors, I was so engrossed in the plot that I didn't notice.

This novel is something special. It is a wonderful piece of fiction, and, once again, much different than other books that I have heard of or read. I found it to be an excellent effort and look forward to seeing what Roland has planned next.

We'll talk soon.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. Happy Monday! Yes, I know. There's no such thing. I thought I might give it a shot, you know?

Well, perhaps it still can be.

How, you ask? I was blessed by my good friends Carole Gill, from Demon Vampire Horror and J.D. Brown with The Stylish Blogger Award. My thanks to them for having thought of me. I would like to nominate a few of you as well, but first a bit of business. In order to accept this award, I must reveal 7 things about myself:

1) The easy one is the fact that my first novel took twenty years to write.

2) Our cat is named for "Jones" from the film, "Alien". He looks like that cat, too. Likewise, all he does is hide whenever the damned aliens come around.

3) I'll be making my first trip to New York City this year when my son and the Kingsburg High School Wind Ensemble plays at Carnegie Hall.

4) I can go from W*A*S*P, Ozzy Osbourne and Iron Maiden to Barry Manilow and then back to 30 Seconds to Mars in the blink of an eye and dependant upon my mood.

5) I write horror but don't really watch scary movies. I would prefer to watch a romantic comedy.

6) I sing high notes in the Steve Perry (Journey) and Freddie Mercury (Queen) range.

7) I could go weeks without food, a few days without water, but would curl up into a ball and die in hours without music.

And now, without further ado, here are the ten bloggers that I nominate:

A Bourbon for Silvia

Laura Marcella

Jessica Brooks at My Thoughts Exactly

Michele Shaw

Lorelei over at Lorelie's Muse

Jen over at Jennifer Wylie

Chasing the Dream

Almighty Heidi at Aliens Have Invaded My Brain

Alex J. Cavanaugh

The Missing Word

I know it's a little bit of work, but I hope you will have fun with it. Thanks for the light you all have added to my days. Take care and have a great week.

We'll talk soon.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

From One Jimmy to Another

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. How's your Sunday? I just thought I would take a moment to give a little shout-out to one of my favorite Jimmys in the world: Jimmy Page.

Today is James Patrick Page's 67th Birthday and I just wanted to mention it.

I play a little guitar, but mostly for fun. I picked it up too late in my teenage years and have never had time to get better. If there is one in the room, however, it will begin calling out to me until I step over and pick it up. Jimmy Page is one of the reasons why I first thought to strap one across my chest, although I could never hold it as low as he does...nor play it as masterfully.

Although I was born in March of 1969, the year that the mighty Led Zeppelin began to take flight with a massive debut album before the year started, and soon to follow with the brown bomber, Led Zeppelin II, it would not be until 1985 that I would discover them. I was a fan of Def Leppard. I remember people comparing the way they spelled their name with the way Zep did. I thought of Zep as being these old guys who were on their way out as hair metal was on it's way in. Little did I know.

When Phil Collins of Genesis fame played his "Against all Odds" song before a closed curtain, I had no idea that my taste in music was about to be blown wide open. He finished playing to good applause and then suddenly introduced three friends: Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. I understand now that their might be a bit of bad blood between Collins and Page over the quality of the set that night, but it doesn't matter to me. When the curtains finally pulled back, and the world seemed to explode in my ears, I simply had to listen.

I've been listening ever since...and The Song Remains The Same.

Thank you, Jimmy. And Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Surprising Treat

Hello, Fire Enthusiasts. It's Monday and that means that my two week vacation is over, and that I am back to work. Many of you have read that I have to get up extremely early for my day job, so you know that I am a little sad that I am back to the grind. On the other hand, after being away for as long as I was, if I didn't get back soon, I probably wouldn't. Am I right?

Therefore, rather than talk about it being Monday, I'd rather discuss what I did for New Year's Eve. No, I didn't drive from California to New York City to watch the ball drop in Time's Square. I didn't drive to Las Vegas to see the band, 30 Seconds to Mars, which I really wanted to do. If my teenagers had been a bit older, we would have done exactly that. I didn't paint my town red, nor did I party the evening away. What's the big deal then, you ask?

Well, it gets back to my previous post. New Year's Eve was my wife's birthday; and it is so every year, in spite of what she may tell you. ;) In any event, what we typically attempt to do is to take some time for ourselves, go to a movie and have a real quality dinner. Long story short, we had a great afternoon/evening. What I really want to share with you, however, is the film we attended.

If you have yet to hear, The King's Speech is a wonderful film about the terrible stammer that practically debilitated the Duke of York (Colin Firth) and father of Queen Elizabeth II. Reluctantly elevated to the throne after his older brother abdicates, freeing him to marry a divorced socialite, King George VI battles through to find his voice with the assistance of an unorthodox speech therapist named Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).

Weeks ago, this appeared to me to be one of those smart Oscar-worthy films that no one would want to see outside of the Academy; however, every week, this film seemed to be generating more and more positive buzz. It is rare that hours later I find myself unable to stop talking about a film, but it had everything. My friend, the Author Nicole Hadaway, mentioned on her Facebook page that the film had "no dull moments/no wasted scenes" and she couldn't have been more right. I already thought that Firth and Rush were great in everything they did, but there were also awesome performances by Guy Pearce as Edward VIII and Helena Bonham Carter as George's wife. I usually don't like anything that Carter does, but she was brilliant.

In fact, the entire film is brilliant. It has humor, it has wit, it has powerful moments that will bring tears to your eyes more than once. When the screen went dark for the final time, I was actually hoping for another scene. Our audience actually clapped and that rarely happens. Hopefully, this is the year that Mr. Firth walks away with that Oscar that he lost out on last year.

See this movie, folks.

We'll talk soon...