Save Kepler!

I know being an independent writer is a struggle. It’s partly why I’m shopping Holland Bay to an agent. But the numbers and the reader feedback seem to favor Northcoast Shakedown and Bad Religion. Road Rules sometimes pokes through the crowd, but it’s normally the Keplers that draw readers. A spike in one novel tends to carry sales of The Compleat Kepler, the collection of Nick Kepler shorts up to and including “Lady Luck.”

But one novel seems to always lag behind. The reviews always seem to be good, but even Kevin Burton Smith, the genius behind Thrilling Detective, seems to have forgotten there was a book between Northcoast Shakedown and Bad Religion. Second Hand Goods is not feeling the love. What to do? What to do?

National Lampoon: Buy this magazine, or we will kill this dog.

And the dog’s name is “Kepler.” Think about it.

Well, I’m stealing a page from National Lampoon. Or rather a cover. Lampoon threatened to kill a dog if you didn’t buy their magazine. (And then PJ O’Rourke ran it into the ground. Come on, PJ. You’re better than that, even after you abandoned your subversive brand of conservatism to become a Tea Bagger.) We don’t have to worry about that because, once the novella Gypsy’s Kiss is done, the Kepler stories are done. Gypsys will be a reboot of the short story, with the setting changed to after the events of Bad Religion and an ending that…

Well, this is where I rip off Tony Hendra and PJ O’Rourke. I haven’t ended Gypsy’s Kiss yet. You’re going to decide how it ends. How?

Simple. I want to sell 50 copies of Second Hand Goods by July 31. This can be any combination of countries and formats. Fifty copies. If, on August 1, 2014, we’ve sold only 49 copies or less of Second Hand Goods, Nick dies at the end of Gypsy’s Kiss.

Yep. I’m holding Nick hostage to sell books. Gimmicky?

Sure is.

In conclusion, mwahahahaha.

And if you like the book, or any of the other books you buy, be a peach and leave an honest review where you bought it.

Friday Reviews: Hearts In Atlantis by Stephen King

Hearts in Atlantis

Stephen King

Following the pattern of Different Seasons, Stephen King creates four novellas. This one is different, however. It traces the lives of four children from a town in Connecticut: Bobby Garfield, Carol Gerber, Willy Shearman, and John Sullivan. The first novella, Low Men in Yellow Coats, is the story the movie Hearts in Atlantis is based upon. Ted Brautigan, an old man from parts unknown, moves into the apartment above where Bobby Garfield and his mother live. His mother dislikes Ted instantly, but Bobby and Ted forge a bond that has been lacking since Bobby’s father died. Ted, you see, is on the run from the Low Men, nasty creatures from King’s Dark Tower epic. Bobby learns what Ted believes to be a man and learns it well. While his best friend John Sullivan is away at camp, he saves Carol Gerber from a severe beating at the hands of some older toughs, one of whom is Willy Shearman.

Fast forward to the title novella, which refers to the narrator Pete Riley’s idea that America in the mid-sixties is Atlantis and that the war in Vietnam, which he soon finds himself protesting, is Atlantis slowly sinking into the sea. The titular “hearts” is a manic, almost 24/7 game of Hearts played in Pete’s dorm. The obsession causes many to drop out of school as their grades suffer, which means they will be dying overseas within months. Pete meets a girl, though, one who becomes a radical. Her name is Carol Gerber, and he considers Carol leaving school just as they become lovers to be the most serious loss of his life. Musing years later, when Carol has disappeared, believed to be dead, he wonders if he could have saved her.

Willy Shearman also wonders. The man who beat Carol as a child became a hero in Vietnam, saving the life of Carol’s high school sweetheart, John Sullivan. But Willy has seen where his original path was leading in a battle that resembles the My Lai massacre in all the wrong ways. So Willy does pennance. He travels by train from his home in suburban Connecticut to Manhattan, goes up to an office no one will ever visit, climbs through the ceiling to another office no one will ever visit, and changes into his disguise. He changes into another disguise as Blind Willy, the blind, wounded veteran. Willy chooses this disguise because, as he and Sully John (as John Sullivan is called all through the book), recovered from their wounds, Willy was blind. And as the blind beggar on Fifth Avenue, Bill Shearman does his penance for hurting Carol, wondering if she ever survived the manhunt that followed a botched bombing.

John Sullivan picks up the story, recounting the battle, those he fought alongside, and even some of Pete Riley’s former card shark pals. Sully John suffers from PTSD in the form of hallucinations. One of Pete’s dorm mates, the aptly named Malefant, bayonets an old woman to death, one of the horrors of war. The old woman appears to Sully John over the years, going from a reminder of the horror of war to an imaginary companion he knows is unreal, but has come to welcome anyway. She has not appeared for some time until 1999, when a fellow soldier’s funeral triggers her appearance. In a traffic jam, she even talks to him.

It is Sully John’s funeral that lures Bobby Garfield back to the story. He is shocked when a woman who “doesn’t know any Carol Gerber” shows up. Ted is mentioned. The Dark Tower is barely hinted at. And yet Bobby and Carol, each other’s first boyfriend/girlfriend, bring the story to a close by stashing something Bobby thought he’d lost in a hiding place they once used in a more innocent time.

I like that King wants to tell a story through five different novellas (Well, four and a short story). However, the crux of the story seems to be the sixties and its impact on those who lived through it. I don’t mind King injecting The Dark Tower into some of his work. It tends to unify his storytelling. However, most of Hearts in Atlantis takes place in a world where the supernatural is irrelevant. Otherwise, it was a beautiful sight watching these four people go from preteen to middle age in a way only King can write it.

Six Things Diabetics Are Sick Of Hearing

Oh face

Actually, other things make you go blind, too.
Gregg O’Connell, Creative Commons

Diabetes sucks. You can’t eat a lot of sweets. You have to prick your finger, which is not as much fun as fingering your prick. (Ahem)They might, yanno, chop off your leg if it starts rotting on you. (Always wanted a pegleg, though. It’d be a hit on International Talk Like a Pirate Day.) You might even go blind.

For some, like me, it’s manageable. Pop a couple of pills, exercise, and watch what you eat, and life is somewhat normal. Others have to shoot insulin several times a day, since their pancreas is basically just bogarting space below the liver. For those with diabetes that bad, life is an adventure. And not the good kind. However, there is one hazard of diabetes that even those with the mildest cases cannot avoid once it gets out that you pee urine sweeter than anything at Dairy Queen. What are they? Find out after the jump.

Go ahead. You taste it.

Go ahead. You taste it.

Continue reading

How Fast Do You Write?

I discovered not too long ago that morning is the best time for me to write. So I started forcing myself to get up at 5:30. Should be 5, but hey, anything before 6 AM is an achievement for me. With the new job closer and starting half an hour later than Medishack, I now have about 45 minutes to write between morning ablutions* and heading out the door. If I’m in the zone, I can bang out about a 1000 words, but I’m happy with 500.
There was a time when I was almost hypergraphic. If I was home, I wrote. If I had a few spare moments, I wrote. When I bought my first laptop, I’d spend hours at Starbucks writing. And I used to write at a pretty good clip.
But was it quality work? While I frequently was what Chuck Wendig calls a “pantser,” my biggest problem was writing so fast, I’d skip a word. Or three. Occasionally a whole paragraph. Even with an outline (which I cannot consistently do despite my best efforts), I write fast. Once, in the story about Himself, I spent an entire weekend just riffing and got 17,000 words for my trouble. Mind you, I was working on something that will never be read (and is up to 250,000 words as of the last thing I wrote in it. Wow!) Doing it for real?
Road Rules is about 55,000 words long. It’s original draft was roughly the same. Wrote it in 13 days.
13 days.
Stephen King wrote The Running Man in 72 hours (and says he’ll never be able to do it again.) Mickey Spillane wrote I, the Jury over a weekend. And yet Jack Kerouac spent months on On the Road. Philip Roth refuses to start a new page until the current page is perfect. Don’t know if he outlines. I’m guessing no, but that has to save a lot of editing time. John Scalzi writes 2000 words a day.
Yet most people can’t devote that time. I admit to being undiagnosed ADHD, which means when I focus on something, I have to seize on it like a poorly-raised pit bull because concentration is a rarity for me. But what if you’re not Stephen King? What if you’re not Scalzi or Spillane or, what the hell, even me (though I hope you’re more successful if you do write like me)?
Wendig says you can’t finish a novel if you don’t write. And if you do 350 words a day, that’s a novel in 9 months. George Pelecanos says if you write a page a day, you’ll have 365 pages in a year. That’s longer than most manuscripts.
You don’t have to do NaNoWriMo to write a novel. You don’t even have to try and get 1000 words out. Novels are about persistence, not production quotas. When your books start making money, then you’ll notice that it’s easier to block out time. Because, hey, those 50 books downloaded on Kindle will pay for groceries more than that unfinished manuscript that’s been sitting in a file cabinet for years.
*Oh, come on. Sheldon Cooper used the word. Deal with it.

Hitting The Trail

Abandoned rail signal on Little Miami TrailThis weekend, I start riding the Little Miami Trail, a different section each weekend. I began this ritual in 2007 when I would walk part of the trail. Took a lot longer since I could only walk so far, so I had to walk shorter sections. One afternoon, after walking into Loveland took longer than in previous years, I realized I’d be gone until evening if I walked back. There was a bike rental place in Loveland along the trail (which is one of that town’s biggest attractions), so rented a bike, through it in the back of our Santa Fe, and drove it back.

The trail is kind of a mental reset for me. I start in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from downtown Cincinnati. This is actually part of the Ohio River Trail, which has come together rather quickly. The completed section extends from the Levee, an entertainment and dining complex right on the Ohio River, to Lunken Airfield. In recent years, Lunken’s five-mile hiking loop has been extended to a park on the far side of the Beechmont Levee and also into a nature preserve across the Little Miami River.

There is a gap between Lunken and trail itself. I’ve improvised a route along the highway that runs between the trailhead and the airport. From there, the trail is 76 miles from suburban Cincinnati all the way to Yellow Springs, near Dayton.

The old Jeremiah Morrow BridgeIt’s been a year of change for the trail. One section is detoured in rural Warren County due to flood erosion. One of the trail’s most spectacular attractions, the 300+-foot Jeremiah Morrow Bridge, is being replaced with a new concrete bridge. One span is finished, and the trail was closed between Morrow and the tiny hamlet of Oregonia when the original northbound span was demolished. On a more upbeat note, Hamilton County has begun to extend the trail from the Newtown end to connect with another trail in nearby Anderson Township. Unfortunately, the date of construction on a section that would connect the existing trail to Lunken Airfield and the Ohio River remains “someday.”

I like being out on the trail. At one point, I would load up the iPod and ride all day. Last year, I was happy just to ride without sound. Normally, I start my ride on Easter Sunday. This year, the weather did not cooperate.It was not warm or dry enough until well into May. So naturally, I waited until this weekend, when temperatures are predicted to top 90 degrees and scattered thunderstorms are forecast. Hey, life is nothing without an adventure. My goal this year is to get all the way to Yellow Springs. However, in two years, I plan to start in Yellow Springs early in the morning and ride all the way to Newport, all 76 miles, part of a birthday week celebration I hope will include the Flying Pig Marathon.

With maybe a stop at the haunted factory near King’s Island.

Peters Cartridge Factory