Over And Out

It’s the end of the line today. I’ve reached a decision. The name of Jim Winter will be no more.

I know. I just shocked the four of you who still read tJim Winterhis blog. So what’s going on?

I no longer have time to maintain two identities as a writer and worry about my day-job career and attempt to start a new business. I’ve talked about getting pulled in too many directions at once before. But with writing science fiction as “Dick,” it’s one more direction that’s exerted an even greater pull than it did before I graduated college last month.

So who is the Dick Bachman to my Steve King? Well, in reality, Jim Winter is the Richard Bachman name. I just never told many people for the last 15 years. My real name is TS Hottle. Why did I go by Jim Winter?

Hey, I thought I was going to be the next Dennis Lehane and didn’t want to get mobbed in Kroger. G’wan. Ask me how well that worked out. But hey, it worked for Lee Child. I knew him for about four years before I found out his real name. (It’s Jon Stewart. Now you know why he’s leaving The Daily Show.)

So I suppose that leaves a few things hanging.

What about Nick Kepler?

Nick is pretty much done. I said as much when Gypsy’s Kiss was released. I wanted to move on.

Will your books remain available?

Yes. They will. Those books have made me a good $2-3 a month for some time now, and I would never kill a source of steady income. I do plan to redo the print books to fix some formatting issues. (Apparently, some of you thought the text change near the end of Road Rules was a mistake. No, that was on purpose, but no one seems to have realized that.)

What about Holland Bay?

Holland Bay remains a novel I am very proud of. I worked hard on it, and I don’t want to see it just gather dust in a drawer for the rest of my life. Eventually, I will release it. Whether it will be as Jim Winter or some other name remains to be seen. And I sent it to a publisher. If they pull the trigger, we’ll figure it out then.

Will you release anymore material?

I have some shorts, some of which appeared here, that I will probably release in the next few months. I also still want to release The Kepler Omnibus. But the science fiction work has an ambitious schedule that I have to stick to in order to build an audience. I also have two more posts over at Sleuthsayers to finish before I call it a pen name. Hey, I’m a believer in giving notice, even if there are days I almost don’t go back to work.

So where is this… TS Hottle you speak of?

Glad you asked that. He…  Er, um, I… can be found here pontificating on science fiction and indie pubbing and IT and beer and… It’s kinda like this blog, only not as ranty. (Hmm… Ranty. Now I know what I’m posting next week.) I am working on a series called The Compact Universe about a not-so-Trekkish future for humanity. If you’d like to get the latest on this, you can subscribe to the newsletter. Do it by June 7 (Holy crap! That’s Sunday!) and you can have the first episode free of The First One’s Free, a novella that serves as the series first season. (See what I did there? I named the first novella The First One’s Free, serialized it, and made the first episode free. Get it? Huh? OK, you had to be there.)

So come on over. It’s still me. I’m just not carrying a fake ID anymore, and I’d love to bring some of you along for this wicked ride I’m going to be on.

What about this blog?

I’ll leave it up for a while. For starters, the last two times I moved or killed a blog, someone cybersquatted on the domain and used it for… I’m not really sure what they used it for. Besides, people have found things here interesting. I may take it down eventually, when it no longer matters.

Social media will start going dark eventually. It’s hard to maintain two Twitter accounts, two Facebook pages, and still have time to neglect all the other social media I don’t like and don’t pay attention to.

So you’ve given up?

15 years. If that’s not your definition of patience, I’m very, very confused.

Growing Up Cleveland, Living In Cincinnati

640px-Cleveland_Skyline_Aug_2006I was born in a small farming town about 35 miles south of Cleveland. All our TV and radio came out of Cleveland. To us, the world was Cleveland. We lived by it. We died by it. Which meant we suffered through the second longest playoff drought in Major League Baseball history. When I graduated high school, the Cleveland Indians were owned by a dead man and usually mathematically eliminated from the pennant by the end of February. The Cuyahoga River burned when I was 3. (I don’t remember that. I do remember the moon landings that year.) Snow from Thanksgiving to St. Patrick’s Day was a fact of life. In fact, many of us had “winter cars,” an old beater you got for chump change in the fall and kept until the salt and snow melt dissolved it by spring. As I got older and traveled more, I found that Cleveland had a lot more in common with Chicago and New York than it did the rest of Ohio.

Then I moved to Cincinnati back in 1991. It was a strange city to me that got stranger by the day. Here I learned that the West Side was a foreign country. Or maybe everything this side of I-75 was a foreign country. I learned chili was thin, watery, scooped over spaghetti, and piled with mounds of cheddar cheese. I learned that “please?” means “Excuse me?”

I grew up near a city of heavy industry where the unions still hold sway, last names often end in vowels, and ethnic humor is often penned by the groups made fun of in the jokes. I now live in a city once described as being “as far north as you can get and still be south.” Instead of a tumultuous inland sea someone laughingly called “a lake,” Cincinnati sits on the Ohio River, usually placid, occasionally prone to flooding but never fire.

Cleveland goes through pronounced boom and bust cycles. When the steel industry in the US collapsed, it hit the town hard. The auto industry’s fortunes did little to improve their lot. But still, Cleveland often markets itself on comebacks. It felt the Great Recession when many people were still overmortgaging McMansions in other cities. And yet it was also one of the first places to notice the current recovery.

Cincinnati’s pace of progress is maddening. Where Cleveland’s response to news that a stadium and an arena would replace part of a rundown neighborhood near downtown was to push out the pawn shops, gun stores, and check cashing places for bars, nightclubs, and retail, Cincinnati built two stadiums and a museum on the riverfront, then let the so-called Banks sit empty for ten years. The Banks, however, are a thriving place. It just takes time. The place is staid, conservative, and takes things slowly. Mark Twain once said if the world ended, he would just move to Cincinnati since everything happens here ten years later. But because of this, the city tends to weather booms and busts better. It doesn’t become a mecca during periods like the dotcom boom, but it withstood the Great Recession much better than most cities.

I held onto my identity as a Clevelander just into my forties. But I’ve now lived more adult years in Cincinnati than I did in Greater Cleveland. Twenty-four years in one place makes you a part of that place. I even know some of what happened here when I grew up more than those who lived here back then.


Nothing Like Having A Stranger’s Knife At Your Throat

Barber shaving with straight razor

(CC) 2006 Hendrik Dacquin

For women, it’s the mani-pedi or the hairdresser. Both men and women, often together, can enjoy a massage, but that gets expensive. So what’s a dude to do when he wants pampered?

Me? I like to let a complete stranger hold a knife to my throat. No, it’s not kinky. I won’t discuss what kinky stuff I like here (other than to say the safety word is “bananas.”) What I mean is having a straight razor with lots of hot foam on your face. If the barber does it right, they use hot towels before and after. If not…

There’s nothing quite like a straight razor shave. I won’t do it myself for much the same reason I stopped trimming my own facial hair. Add to that the danger I could easily slit my own throat, and you have all the reason in the world to have a professional clean up the man mess on your face.

I used to trim my own beard. I also used to buy the $9 pack of cheap razors to shave every other day. But a funny thing happened. I noticed the Dollar Shave Club was pitching a set of four razors for $6 a month sent directly to your home. The razors weren’t those el cheapo things that come in a bag and have to tossed every time anyone with hair enters the room. I noticed my wife shaves her legs with a sturdier razor and uses a cream not specifically designed for legs or… You know. She said, “Try that on your face” last time I ran out of shaving cream.

I did. It’s the cold version of the stuff they use in barber shops and not all that different from the shave butter Dollar Shave Club pitches. Hmm…  But the razors still sucked, so the next time I went to the store, I bought a set of these Bic triple-blades with the thick handles. My face is always smooth even when I skip a day, and I haven’t bought new blades in about six weeks. Cheaper than Dollar Shave. (Yes, I’m talking about a product I don’t use at all. But it looks like a good deal, and a lot of my friends use them. So they get the props. And buy a Jetta. And a Surface Pro 3. And the new Foo Fighters album.)

So one Saturday afternoon, I thought to myself, “What would a straight razor feel like?”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it feels wonderful. If they don’t use the hot towels, it can be a little unsettling. When they do, it’s magic. And either way, my face feels awesome when I’m done. So I make it a point to go every couple of weeks to get a shave with my beard trim. I go to an old-time barber shop here in town that’s a throwback to the 1950’s almost. You can even get a beer while you wait. This is a place where they watch Fox News, talk guns and ammo (complete with a flyer for a local shooting range in the window), and complain about how spoiled kids are these days. On Facebook, this is every bit as annoying as that tree-hugging liberal you work with who won’t shut up. But, like when you go to the coffee house and meet the hippie types running it, you don’t mind having one of these folks put a sharp instrument near your jugglar. Here, it’s the atmosphere. And like that coffee shop run by the artsy types, it puts you at ease. Everyone is themselves. And if not, they’ve got sports on most of the TV screens.

If I’m lucky, I get Donna to do my shave. Donna doesn’t ask. She just goes right for the hot towels and wraps your face in them. By the time the blade hits your skin, you are so relaxed and you barely feel a thing.

So you ask, what do men do when they don’t really do the spa? They get a knife to their throats. It’s so relaxing.

But I can’t help but remember this video whenever I go…

2015 For Jim

Most people make resolutions. I make goals. I actually met a few of them ahead of time this year. So what’s in store for Jim?

  • Winter’s Quarterly, the first of which goes live as we pass into 2015. You get four of these puppies this year.
  • Nick Kepler comes to an end in February with the release of Gypsy’s Kiss.
  • Speaking of Kepler, I plan to put him together in one neat package, The Kepler Omnibus. Then that’s it for Jimmy Winter as an independent author.
  • “Dick” will release four novellas in advance of the science fiction novel I wrote last year.
  • Holland Bay will finally go to an agent. How will that turn out? Stay tuned.
  • In April, I will finish the bachelors degree I should have finished several presidents ago.
  • This summer, as part of my plan to run the 2016 Flying Pig Marathon, I plan to run my first half marathon. Originally, this was going to be the Flying Pig, but illness has thrown off my training schedule.
  • Aaaaaaand in June, I will celebrate seven years of marriage to Nita.

The Year In Jim, 2014 Edition

‘Tis that time of year when we look back on the year now ending. Unlike other year end lists, I’m going to look back on what’s truly important. Me.


You know how I’m always saying I’m going to take up running every year? Yep. Did that again.


Nita and I celebrate the sixth anniversary our first date.

Nita let’s me have the house to myself for a weekend. Was it an orgy in partying or a really productive writing weekend? Actually, I drank beer and fell asleep.


Noro virus: Like ebola without the hemorrhaging.

My Dick finished a novel.


My Neon, on April Fool’s Day, blows a sensor. By Tax Day, I become the proud owner of a Volkswagen Jetta. My family is no longer embarrassed to ride in or drive my car.


I start revising Holland Bay based on edits from Brian Thornton.


New job! And a year before I’d planned to go looking for one.

The sixth anniversary of the happiest day of my life.


My annual trek along the Little Miami Bike Trail makes it all the way to Yellow Springs, near Dayton.


I begin my final year of school


Holland Bay goes to an agent. She asks for revisions.


I’m up to running 3 miles three times a week.


Aaaand we get a treadmill.


SARS comes to the Winter household. Which means I don’t run from a week before Christmas to… Well, by the time you read this, we’re still waiting.

The Annual Thank-A-Thon

roast turkey

CC 2010 M. Rehemtulla

It’s that time of year again, the time when relatives we only see at weddings and funerals cram themselves into our homes to argue about politics and religion while some of us slave over a meal that will leave the kitchen trashed, everyone angry at each other, and most of us bored during some dull NFL games in the afternoon. Let us be thankful.

Actually, I am thankful. Life is pretty good for us here at Chateau Nita, and we know that it’s not for many people. We’re relatively healthy, have decent jobs, and our debt is manageable and justifiable: Mortgage, two modest cars, not a lot of consumer debt.

But we’re also well aware that many are struggling. Some problems are of people’s own making. Some are beyond people’s control. So while AJ and I dine on a delicious turkey breast made by Nita, we’re all going to think a little bit about those not doing as well and count our blessings.

For starters…

Three Stooges GraduatedNita and I are middle aged college students. Yes, it took us both twenty years and two marriages to get around to starting our freshman years in college. But off we went. These days, many question whether college is worth it. A lot of schools are for-profit and not really worth the paper they print their degrees on. But Nita goes to the University of Cincinnati. I followed an associates degree in 2012 with a business degree from Wilmington College. We both finish up this summer. Was it wise getting a degree this late in life when we should be working towards retirement? Let’s put it this way. It’s a lot easier to be a hard-to-hire senior if you have a degree than it is if you don’t. And it’s just smart to know how business operates before you actually start a business. Yanno?

Billy Crystal typing

Source: Orion Pictures

I’m thankful I have the opportunity to write. There was a time not so long ago when I planned to hang it up. Holland Bay was an unreadable mess. My agent at the time did not seem engaged. And I’ll be honest. Being unemployed did not exactly foster creativity. So I fired my agent, posted a bunch of “I quit” messages, and planned to worry more about finding work. But a funny thing happens when you decide you don’t hafta. You start to wanna. Holland Bay kept calling my name. A science fiction idea kept calling my name. I went from the guy on the left to becoming a freak of writing nature like Dean Wesley Smith. As all this was happening, the whole indie-vs.-trad argument exploded. What I learned is it doesn’t matter. I do both. Get over it.

Jennette Marie Powell

Source: jenpowell.com

But I would not have been able to start writing again if it had not been for some supportive friends. I want to give a shout out to two of them here. The first is Jennette Marie Powell, aka Li’l Sis. Jen and I go way back, like longer than we’ll admit to. (There was no Internet worth mentioning back then outside of the movies.) Jennette was the reason Northcoast Shakedown was written. She became a writer in the late nineties, showed me her first effort, and asked, “So where’s yours?”

Jim goes home, digs out 14-page outline and proceeds to start writing. If she had not said that to me, I wouldn’t have written that novel in time to tell my mother I finished a real novel. I finished Northcoast two months before she died. The revisions took a long time, but that was all part of the process.

Brian ThorntonAnother writer who kept me from throwing it all away is my fellow Sleuthsayer Brian Thornton. I met Brian in my early days online in the Short Mystery Fiction Society, a group we’ve both since left. My first in-person meeting with him was in the lobby of the Bouchercon hotel in Toronto in 2004. I was coming up the escalator when a voice said, “Jim?” I was then treated to a Cuban cigar because, this being Canada, they were legal. (Barry, Raul, you need to fix that problem in the US. Come on, guys. Cuba is America’s fourth largest trading partner. Who are you trying to kid anymore?) In the dozen or so years I’ve known him, we’ve both gotten married, both had novels that took years to write, and both kicked each other’s asses when we wanted to stop and throw it all away. I’m currently one of two people red inking his historical novel Handmaiden of Fate. (The other is actually the lady editing Gypsy’s Kiss.) Brian helped me pound Holland Bay into shape and made introductions to an agent whom I hope will be my agent. It’s been a fruitful friendship.

Will code for food

CC 2006 Patrick de Laive

I am thankful I work. Not only that, but as of this summer, I work strictly in development. The bad ol’ days of desktop support are over. What’s the next step? I don’t know yet. I just found a parking spot I like, and I have yet to attend my first company Christmas party. But now I’m doing more than just helping the little old lady in customer service find her Start button. We have other people who do that. I spend my days writing queries and hieroglyphics that have curly braces and make things happen. It’s e-commerce, which means that, as soon as I finish writing this, I’m going to have to log into work to clear off some of the production errors from overnight. Well, someone has to.


The reason I get up in the morning

Finally, I am thankful for the little miracle to the left here.I met and married Nita in a whirlwind romance in 2008. We’ve been through a lot together since then. It’ll be seven years this coming June. She is my partner and my best friend and the great love of my life.

Because of Nita, I got to experience fatherhood as AJ was 13 when I married his mother. AJ spoils us as parents. We have nieces and nephews whom we love like our own children, but they would also challenge us as parents. AJ is equal parts man-child and very mature and in all the right ways. It’s been wonderful to watch him become an adult. He’s now 20, and we get a little jealous when he goes out and does all the things our parents warned us about, mainly because we don’t have the stamina to stay out that late anymore.

Yes, I’m thankful I have a family. Or rather, they have me. I could list a lot of regrets I have about the first two thirds of my life but why? That last act is shaping up to be pretty awesome.

Take This Job And Shove It…

Isn’t that a great title for a Monday morning? Unfortunately, I can’t play that song. Not yet. But I can on Friday.

After three years at a company I dubbed Medishack, I am moving on to a new company that does online order fulfillment. I literally will be telling robots what to do. However, I’m not literally telling Medishack to take this job and shove it. But it is time to move on.

I came to Medishack about 3 1/2 years ago after being laid off for six months. Prior to that, I did contract work to keep the lights on. I actually only had about 10 weeks of actual unemployment. The first four were funded by severance pay. The last…

Yeah, that was scary.

Medishack was a perfect opportunity. It combined my old skills (Desktop support, and no I will not fix your computer. Go see Geek Squad.) with my new (Web programming.) It also restored my old salary.

Coming to Medishack, however, was culture shock. I went from BigHugeCo the previous year to a company with only 120 employees working in a converted warehouse on the far side of town. BigHugeCo is a Fortune 500 company that owns a sizeable chunk of Cincinnati. (No, not P&G. P&G is one of those rare companies where people spend most of their working lives.) At BigHugeCo, we had a real estate department that would move your furniture for you, teams on IT to move your computer, plug in your network, and change your security, all while you sat at your breakfast table eating your Wheaties. At Medishack, we moved half the company around with the company president showing up in shorts, a T shirt, and ratty sneakers to move file cabinets.

The new company, which still needs a bogus name to mask its identity in my online presence, is closer to Nita’s company: Smallish, but behaving like a larger company. There are more formalized benefit packages. Someone else moves your desk if you move. But there’s still only about 100 employees. For now.

One thing that will take some getting used to is the fish bowl environment. The new company works on an open office plan where everyone can see everyone else. No cubes. On the upside, this makes getting distracted by shiny stuff on the Internet less of a problem because everyone will want to be seen working on code. On the downside, no privacy. I have a tablet and an iPhone. I can do my car payment online with those.

I’ve had more than one interviewer ask why I would ever want to go into development after working so long in desktop support? Simple. I realized years ago that desktop is a dead end. When I came to BigHugeCo in 1999, the desktop, network, and server guys all ruled the world. We were kings, and the business units gave us kingly raises. My first raise was 13%. Yeah, you try getting that, especially in a jobless recovery.

But in 1999, desktops still had novelty. I loved ripping them apart or changing the Windows version. It is like a teen’s obsession with cars leading to a job as a mechanic. My brother tried that. Now he seldom mentions he works on his own cars lest someone ask him to fix theirs. It’s the same with desktop. I don’t tell my neighbors that. And since Medishack, I never mention the desktop side of the job. I call myself an IT administrator and talk about the system I wrote. Forget the desktop half of the equation. I’ve got enough yardwork to spend my Saturdays finishing.

But a small company that’s been small for 25 years is no place to stay unless you’re just maintaining your income. I went to school in my forties to reinvent myself, mainly to get better income. The new company is growing. There are jobs they don’t need yet that I can grow into. There are jobs elsewhere I’d like to come looking for me in three to four years.

There are student loans to pay that won’t get paid on Medishack’s pay.

Still, it’s kind of scary. Now I have to do programming for real. And I did get comfortable at Medishack. But no one achieves anything outside of their comfort zone.

Overly Ambitious Writer Is Overly Ambitious

wired man

Photo: Mike Licht, used under Creative Commons

Ever feel like you’re pulled in too many directions?

I get that a lot. Today’s post was supposed to be the final Space Stuff! post. Well, not only is Dick’s SF novel still in progress, but the characters decided to throw in a plot twist I did not plan.

I hate when they start feeling their oats and writing their own stories. Well, no I don’t. I just don’t like it when I can’t turn over my fingers to them. Why?

I’m multitasking. Big time. What am I up to?

  • Fitness – The plan is to do the Pig at 50, literally running the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. At the moment, that means devoting three nights/afternoons a week to running. So far, a mile and a half is a challenge and will continue to be for the next week or so. Even tonight’s later winter snow will not stop my run to the local park. This only looks to take up more time as I go to two miles, then three, then five. Next year’s goal is a half marathon (13 miles). That will require almost daily running, with at least three days of 15 miles.
  • Education – I am working on the bachelor’s degree I should have had when the first George Bush took office after finishing the associates I originally abandoned in the 1990’s. This semester is a math-intensive one. I’m taking the summer off, but I plan to graduate next spring. And then…?
  • Freelance development – Which means I need to learn how to program in more than just C# over ASPX. (Say what?) I want to write mobile apps. I want to do interactive web sites for businesses who don’t want to pay people in-house to build them. I want build them for authors. (They will be cheaper sites, but there will be more clients. Win-win!) So I need to block out time after homework to study… Well, right now, it’s MVC, Photoshop, and WordPress. Speaking of which…
  • Freelance covers – I don’t post much here on that because I’m mostly grabbing images off the Internet and importing them into GIMP. But I’ve hit GIMP’s limitations, so, thanks to AJ’s student discount, I have a Photoshop install. Now I’m going back to the beginning and learning that app from scratch. At least now, I understand why so many Photoshopped images look so bad. When this is done, I’ve already found one or two clients who are willing to trade editing for cover art.
  • The blog – Notice I’ve cut back to three days a week? Even that’s a challenge when you don’t know what the next day’s topic is. Plus Dick (The Dick Bachman to my Stephen King) will have his own blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, and even a page on Pinterest. Blogs are necessary, except when they aren’t. Then you shouldn’t have one.
  • The day job – 8 hours plus commute. ‘Nuff said.
  • Family – All this is pointless without Nita and AJ. I’ve moved most of the work down to my office so Nita doesn’t have to listen to me chatter endlessly about whatever’s on the Internet while I’m boning up on Java or creating JimWintersDick.com (Watch the price of that domain skyrocket now.)  But I need to spend time with them. Otherwise, I burn out. I mean I married Nita for a reason.

I know that looks like a lot, and right now, it is. But at the same time, once I start doing more, I can start earning more. Somewhere in there, I always find time to write, even if it’s a scene I’ll write in about fifteen minutes (This is Tuesday night.) that I have no clue about.

And at some point, I’m going to have to learn a new skill: How to do nothing.

Not as easy as you think.