Free Books Reminder

Just a reminder that I have some FREE BOOKS! That’s right, if you make use of Amazon’s Kindle eReader, you can download three FREE BOOKS from Amazon RIGHT THIS VERY SECOND!

Want more info? Read the post below…

Free Books!

I usually get a pretty decent number of downloads for these FREE BOOKS but I feel the need to remind people every once in a while that they’re there. Especially the Lore Valley and Organization books.

Author Interviews

Every once in a while I’ll do a book promotion through promo website, and included in that promotion is an author interview. I think I’ve done about a dozen or so of these by now, and they all tend to follow the same pattern. They’re a little bit impersonal and canned, with pre-listed questions that rarely get into any detail about your book. They’re more designed to ask general (and sometimes vague) questions about you, the author. Mostly fluff. Very little substance.

That being said, this one wasn’t terrible. Over 200 questions to pick from, and even though a number of them were the same question asked in different ways, some were pretty insightful, and new (to me at least). So I didn’t mind answering these questions, and the answers gave me a chance to impart some useful information.

The interview was for a promo with, which you may have seen on Facebook. Normally, I don’t suggest spending a lot of money on book promo sites because the return is rarely worth the investment.

(One of these days I’d love to do some research on how well these sites actually work out for anyone but that requires a little more work than I want to do right now.)

But this one isn’t too expensive for what they offer ($49 I think???) so I’m going to give it a shot for Olympia. I’ll let you guys know if it works out. Of course, if it REALLY works out, you’ll see Olympia all over the amazon sales charts.


In the meantime, I’m posting my interview with the site here in the hopes that you learn something interesting about either me or my writing. Or, maybe this is just a ploy to not have to do any serious thinking for this week’s blog post, which is already a little bit late.


1. Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

No, but it helps. I happen to be one, but even with my normally rigid expectations for other people’s writing, I sometimes let a few things go in my own. Writing a novel is a big, complicated, sometimes overwhelming job, and it’s rare that a single author can get his or her work through the gauntlet without letting something slip by.

But all that being said, I’ll spend all day yelling at people on the internet.

2. How important is research to you when writing a book?

It’s very important, and I enjoy it immensely. I actually got into writing through my love of history, which of course spawned thousands of dramatic stories of my own.

3. What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Computer. I do a lot of writing on notebooks, and I like to switch things up, but the vast majority of my writing is done on my laptop. You can’t beat copy/paste and undo/redo.

4. What inspires you to write?

Pretty much everything.

5. How often do you write?

Every day, usually. The amount of time I spend writing changes but I’m a creature of habit, and I believe consistency is key in being a good writer.

6. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I used to, but that’s gone out the window. It’s dangerous to wait for inspiration to start writing, because you could end up staring at a wall for two months, so I try to stay consistent in my writing schedule. But the quantity of my writing varies a bit from day to day. I still try to keep up with word counts but that’s only when I’m doing first drafts. After that, I rewrite as needed until it’s ready.

7. Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

There is for me, but I don’t think that applies to all writers. I know several who are extremely sociable. I would say that I know more extrovert writers than I do introvert, but that feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Introverts are at home, not meeting people.

8. Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

I’m definitely a plotter, but I’ve been known to experiment with writing on the fly, usually with short stories. But at least one of those short stories turned into a full-blown novel (Sanctuary, in case you’re wondering), so there’s definitely value to it.

9. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

Coming up with language that paints a picture in people’s minds. I’m good at laying out the groundwork for a story, or writing dialogue, but flowery descriptions that build an image that springs forth from the recesses of my readers’ minds is hard to do.

10. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

I think a more appropriate term for Writer’s Block is “laziness” or “lack of motivation”. You cure writer’s block by writing. That’s it.

11. Have you ever left any of your books stew for months on end or even a year?

Yep. Olympia and Sanctuary are both books that stymied me for a long time. I had issues with the plot and no matter which way I went, or what I tried, I never felt comfortable, to the point that I had to walk away from both books and work on other things for a while.

12. Do you believe a book cover plays an important role in the selling process?

Yes, and that can’t be undersold. Visual media plays a huge role in allowing us to connect with characters. When you can see someone on TV or in artwork you immediately start to associate certain emotions or ideas with that image, and that builds up your attachment to them. So a good cover helps you do that. Just make sure it’s not a cheap, stock art cover. That does you no favors. If you’re going to splurge on something, then either do it on the cover, or editing, or both.

13. How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

It would feel like any other Tuesday.

14. Do you read and reply to the reviews and comments of your readers?

No. I have once or twice, but that’s a bad practice, I think. You don’t want to get argumentative with your own readers, whether they like you or not. Even bad reviews are from people who took the time to read your book.

15. Any advice you would like to give to your younger self?

Yes. Start writing about fifteen years earlier.

16. Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Shogun by James Clavell. I remember it sitting on my dad’s shelf when I was young, the stark white cover with red lettering, and I always wondered what it could be about. I imagined a hundred different things, none of them even close to the actual story. When I was 12 I decided I couldn’t wait any longer so I reached up and grabbed it and started plowing through that beast of a book. It was eye-opening to say the least, and Clavell ended up as one of my favorite authors for some time. To this day, I still think King Rat is an awesome story that needs to be made into a movie.

17. Do you read any of your own work?

Not like I do other books. I don’t read my own work for the same reason I don’t typically re-read other books. If I already know where the story is going, then I’m not as interested in it.

18. Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

My mom. She was an early champion of my writing, reading everything I put out. She still does, to this day, and tells people all about it.

19. Does your day job ever get in the way of your writing?

Every single day.

20. Another misconception is that all writers are independently wealthy, how true is that?

That is a horrendously false lie.

21. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

Ummmmmm, that would be a horrendously outrageous lie.

22. They say books die every time they are turned into a movie; what do you think?

I don’t believe that at all. If you look at sales numbers, it’s pretty obvious that book sales go up when a movie comes out. People are always interested in the original story, and that goes triple (or more) when the movie is good.

Do People Still Smoke?

A few years ago I took a 10 day trip to Europe with my daughter. It was my first real vacation in probably a decade, so I went all out with it, or at least as all out as I could afford at the time. Ten days spread out over stops in Rome, Florence, Milan, and finishing up in Zurich, Switzerland, making sure to see as many historically significant tourist traps as possible along the way.

It was an awesome trip, and I’d jump at the chance to go back and do it all again. But, despite the overload of cool foreign culture, food, and sights, there was also a dark underbelly over there that, quite frankly, caught me by surprise. Especially in Italy, where….

Nearly. Everyone. Smokes.

I didn’t pick up on it at first. I’d see packs of Italian dudes standing outside restaurants or cabbies at the corner, all of them with cigarettes in their hand. But I’d grown up seeing the same thing as a kid. It wasn’t unusual.

It didn’t hit me until we went to the train station in Rome, and walked into a literal wall of second-hand smoke. The station itself is just a huge room with train tracks, platforms, and ticket booths, and the far end (where the trains come in) is open to the outside. But even all that space and (questionably?) fresh air couldn’t keep clouds of cigarette smoke from following us around. I’m pretty sure 90% of the people in that building were taking a drag. Want to feel like you’ve failed as a parent? Take your then-eleven-year-old daughter to a run-down river barge casino, sit her in between two chain-smoking, leather-skinned old ladies, and you’ll probably feel about a quarter as bad as I did that day.

Full disclosure, I hate smoking. Always have. Never touched a cigarette in my life and I never will. In fact, hate might not be a strong enough word, so let’s use loathe instead. Growing up here in the US, though, smoking was a pervasive little bitch. You couldn’t go to a restaurant as a kid in the 80s without worrying how close you might be to the smoking section. Bars and clubs in the 90s were a mine field of pretentious 20-somethings with a pack in one hand and a lighter in the other, although we always somehow managed to fight through that toxic mix of tobacco and cologne/perfume thanks to the mask of alcohol and the lure of the other sex. It wasn’t until you got a whiff of your clothes the next morning that you fully realized the price you paid.

But somewhere in the 2000s everything slowly started to change. New rules and regulations crept up in every corner of society, pushing smoking farther and farther out to the fringes. I don’t know a restaurant in town that has a smoking section anymore, and I think city ordinances have banned smoking almost everywhere else. I remember some uproar at the time, but that died away real fast. I doubt there are any organized movements to “Get Smoking Back” in our eateries and grocery stores and Montessori schools, and if there are, well…

[Quick note – visited San Antonio for the weekend and noticed some people smoking in a few restaurants, so the no smoking ordinances there might not be as tough as in Dallas, but even so I didn’t see a TON of people doing it.]

The point I’m trying to make here is that somewhere along the way, smoking receded into the background for me. There were slowly-dwindling smoking sections at work, and some people with their arm hanging out the window during rush hour, and that was about the only time I saw someone holding a cigarette. A despicable practice that had surrounded me all the way into my twenties and early thirties suddenly faded away so effectively that I didn’t even think about it anymore.

But that Europe trip (literally) blew it all back into my face. It was such a stark contrast to American life that it rattled me. And ever since then I feel even more aware of how out of place smoking seems to be here in the US. I saw a few women standing outside the main door of an office building earlier this week, finishing off their cigarettes before walking in, and I asked myself the same thing I always do these days when I see someone smoking…


At this point, it’s clear that the cons MASSIVELY outweigh the pros. You increase your chances of cancer, you destroy your lungs, you stain your teeth, you STINK.

(seriously, smokers REEK and they seem to be the last ones to realize that…)

And you spend a small fortune just to buy cigarettes these days. But it’s still happening, albeit in smaller and smaller pockets. So I guess my question at this point is “Why are you still doing it?” Why still smoke? Why even go to the trouble in this day and age? Is it the high? Or is it the desire to be a contrarian? There’s nothing wrong with either answer, I guess. I just can’t wrap my head around the fact that there might be a plausible explanation for something so detrimental.

I get that habits are hard to break. I’m in my 40s now and I STILL eat cereal for desert (I can’t quit you Multi-Grain Cheerios!). And I get that some people only do it irregularly these days, like with a beer, or after a short jog. But I’m such a rational/pragmatic/structured kind of guy that it would be extremely difficult for me to do something that destructive in the face of overwhelming evidence, so I have trouble seeing how other people can do it. Now that I think about it, though, sugar is kind of in the same category. Large amounts of sugar slowly destroy our bodies over time, too, but we’re even less aware of how much we ingest of that every day. Seriously, go check the foods you eat (or drink) on a regular basis and be prepared for some serious sticker shock. In fact, I should do a second post on the crazy amounts of sugar that goes into our bodies, so maybe I’ll table this discussion for now…

I also have a secondary question, though, and that is, why is it so popular in Italy? I told my daughter while we were over there that Italians must not have gotten the memo that smoking isn’t cool anymore. Is it a lack of awareness and education? Does Italy not have a Surgeon-General, or giant billboards of diseased lungs? Once we got to Switzerland, the percentage of smokers dropped significantly. Probably about the same as what you see in the US if I had to guess, although I was only in the touristy areas. Maybe it’s a localized or cultural thing.

For some reason I have no problem imagining a pack of Russians standing around on a cold street corner, lighting up cheap cigarettes and lamenting being ruled by a guy named Putin. And I’m pretty sure I read an article not that long ago about how smoking is pretty pervasive in China. Both are large countries, with huge populations, and at least some level of technical and medical awareness, so it’s not like they don’t have access to the same information we do. Maybe those countries don’t have the same cultural bias against it that seems to have taken root here.

Maybe we were fortunate enough to have a number of really small, gung-ho, anti-smoking groups that quickly ballooned their message so loudly that city and county and state leaders just couldn’t ignore it anymore. If that’s the case, then bravo to those people. It couldn’t have been easy to root out something that a huge percentage of the population did on a regular basis. I’ve seen Mad Men, I know how bad it was.

So for you anti-smoking campaigners, I present you with a [/slowclap]. You’ve saved lives, you’ve lessened my irritation, and you’ve made the world a better place. Now go treat yourselves to an Italian vacation!

P.S. Before I go, I have to ask two more questions. First, what happened to all the former smokers? Did they quit? Do they just smoke at home? I’m genuinely curious about that.

And secondly… Am I being completely condescending to people who still smoke?

A New (Hope) Home

Yes, I finally have my own website. I’m still fully involved with but I decided it was time to get my name out there along with the overall brand, and also sell some of my other books. Most of my posts here will feed into and the Facebook page, so no worries on missing out on anything important or hilarious or just plain insightful. But I encourage readers to sign up for my regular newsletter and keep a look out for regular (hopefully weekly) posts and updates.