Origins, Part VII

So, where do I go from here?

Let me do a little teaser. In the last six posts, I’ve told the story of how my books and short stories came about. I mentioned that, back in ’09, Echelon accepted two of my books and some shorts. Beta was an eBook until 2014. There was another book I mentioned that was also only an eBook until the press closed. Night Shadows.

I touched upon Night Shadows a bit, but let me expound some more about it and the second book in the series, because I want to fuel the flame of interest in another series. I also made a brief mention of a stand-alone book and with giving the back stories on these three might eke out at least another couple blogs. Lol.

I wrote Night Shadows during the years after I joined the B&N group, switching back and forth between it and Beta. There was a house just outside Illinois City, which is a dot in the road town about nine miles across the river from Muscatine. The house sat at the bottom of the bluff near the river and decades ago, was a stop for passengers on the riverboats. There was a stagecoach trail hat led back into town and docks for mooring boats. The house had been in my family for a while and it was a nice place to meet for family gatherings and Memorial Day or Labor Day picnics. The road that led to the house started on top of the bluff, dropped sharply, and followed the contours of the hill. It crossed a creek twice. Not over a bridge…through the creek. We had to be careful of the weather in case the creek flooded, trapping us. I have several memories of the house and every now and then the family will show slides of times out there.

I don’t know when I wrote a short scene of a guy tortured by a combination of internal, physical and mental pleasure and pain, but I set it at this house. I thought it was so perfect a setting for a haunted house story. I didn’t know where I was going with the story and after I wrote it, I soon left it because I didn’t know what to do with it.

I used to listen to Coast to Coast AM when I worked nights at the motel. The show features stories about UFOs, Bigfoot, aliens, ghosts, and every now and then, some actual science and metaphysics. One night, the guest speaker discussed shadow creatures people see lurking out their second story bedroom windows, or hovering at the foot of their beds. I thought it so interesting a topic, my thoughts went to, “What if those shadows started killing people? And Night Shadows was conceived. It was one of the easiest stories to outline and write because it flowed so well. I set the story in Des Moines and used the cop in Alpha, Harry Reznik, as one of the main characters. He’s paired with Lori Campisi, an FBI agent tasked to investigate supernatural incidents. Yes, kind of a rip-off of X-files. However, Campisi is a unique character because she can’t remember anything that happened in her life before the age of twelve and that amnesia has affected her life. Reznik is the cynical homicide investigator and his latest case concerns two young lovers who were murdered at a local park. As the case develops, they find other victims and when Campisi reveals that the killers are shadows… The story involves Reznik’s wife and, like Alpha and Beta, uses actual places in Des Moines.

I had to take time to do some research, including driving to Iowa City and checking out one of the buildings where classes are held. I visited various spots around the Des Moines metro to get descriptions of neighborhoods and houses and businesses, including, yes, a strip club. I had the entire story written except for the climactic big battle scene near the end. I wanted Reznik and Campisi to find the dimensional portal the shadows were using to enter our world. It was opened by a bad guy seeking power by using an ancient spell book.

I scoured the city for the right spot. I don’t know how long I drove around looking at places. A stairwell in Capital Square. I considered the large umbrella exhibit on Cowles Common. I looked at a fountain near the Botanical Center. Under bridges, in some woods. No places struck my interest. I give credit to one of the women in my five member writers group who suggested an art exhibit in the Principle Insurance company. She scheduled a tour and we were taken on a walk around to the different exhibits in various buildings. May I digress a bit here and mentioned I’m not an art fan. I use the old adage, “I know what I like.” I can tell good art from schlock despite what anybody says. Most of what I saw on that tour was not good art, including the exhibit chosen for the story.

One of the exhibits was a painting or drawing or something similar that was on one wall and resembled a long crack in a foundation. Jagged and dark and a bit eerie. I considered using that and with a bit of creative license, I could have rearranged the room to make the scene work.

Then we entered what the woman had told me about. It was a ‘sensory room.’ If I remember correctly, it was about a 30’x20’ room, give or take, all dark except for a rectangle of purple neon, not to bright, upon one wall. A speaker issued a soft white noise and the air was enhanced by odors of clean, not antiseptic, just clean and fresh. The idea was that one would spend X amount of time in the room and experience…I don’t know, meditation? A revelation? Visions? Relaxation? I don’t know. I thought it huge waste of space by some fruit-loop who’d been smoking too much ditch weed.

But…I stood in the middle of that room, looked around, had the ‘sensory experience’ and knew this was the place where the shadows came from. I had the story complete, Campisi’s amnesia solved, a friendship started, and soon the book would be picked up by Echelon.

Oh, where does the Illinois City house come in? Next time…

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Origins, Part VI

Continuing on how some of my short stories were published…

51liUmtariL._AC_US218_The Light Won’t Go Out was an idea developed by Cassie of NeoLeaf and includes stories regarding Christmas. They’re inspirational and set at the holiday season.

I took Mallory and had her experience a supernatural encounter with a gentleman who was looking into the window of his family’s home. The book is currently out of print, but will soon be available…if Cassie will stop messing around and make it so. Lol.

Death of the Demon Machine (https://amzn.to/2Bbk8ch) is an anthology with the profits going to charity. The origin story is one I enjoy telling. I was attending a large authors’ fair in the Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids a couple of Augusts ago. Most of us were in Center Court and we had arrived early to set up. About ten or eleven o’clock somebody turned on the Coke machine nearby. It proceeded to irritate anybody in the vicinity for hours with a nonsensical repetitive tune. We were wondering if we could get someone to unplug the blasted thing. Sometimes I could tune out the noise, but not often, since I was about twenty feet from the thing.

The fair went fine otherwise and early the next year the authors receive an offering to submit a story to an anthology with that infernal machine as a theme. I had about three weeks to write a story, edit and polish it, and submit it.

Iowa WesleyanSometimes, I’m amazed at how creative my mind can be. I did a quick outline of a story which involved Mallory in her senior year at Iowa Wesleyan College (my alma mater, and yes, I know it’s now a university, but it wasn’t back then). A soda machine is installed in the lobby of her dorm and part of the irritation is that it has a motion detector and plays that nonsensical tune whenever anybody passes. In addition, it won’t give Mallory her desired Dr Pepper. It eats her money, spits out the wrong soda, or the can bursts when it pops out of the tube. The story also highlights some amusing adventures she has throughout the year, including working a case given to her surreptitiously by the college’s President. It also includes a couple of practical jokes she and a friend pull at the end of the year, one of them I stole from a real incident.

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For this story, I had to do some research, including calling the college, er, university, to speak to someone regarding the library. (Read the story and you’ll find out why.) I had fun writing it and reading it to critique groups. I wish more authors would have contributed, but mine is the longest and, in my opinion, makes the anthology.

If you Amazon my name, you’ll find all but one of my books/anthologies associated with it. There is one, however, that because of the number of contributors, is not linked to me. Chills Down Your Spine (https://amzn.to/2PwAyEY) is another anthology from NeoLeaf. It features four scary stories of mine. None of them feature Mallory.

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The Butter Knife was written a long time ago and tweaked every so often. It’s pretty short, but has a twist at the end. I’ve read it to several people and everybody has enjoyed it. It’s simple, a bit humorous, but turns at the end. I’m glad, after all these years, it was able to see the publishing light.

The Hinks and The Guest were two shorts picked up by Echelon way back when but never edited or published. The Hinks I had fun writing and deals with a delivery man’s encounter with strange desert creatures. The Guest was written while I was still a motel night auditor and remembering all of the unique people who came in late at night. What’s a clerk to do when certain individuals check in?

No Matter The Distance was written many years ago and though one of the critiques was that it was too predictable, I felt the story still had merit. It came at a standard plot from a different angle, and everybody else who’s listened to it has enjoyed it.

The last three stories were also winning entries in the Marion County Writers Workshop’s annual Camp Write scary story contest. Camp Write is an annual event held by the Knoxville group. In previous years we’ve met at a campground and conducted a mini conference, with members giving seminars on various bits of writing craft. We bring food, cook out over the fire, socialize, and read selections, including short scary stories. We all vote for the top three and the winner receives a prize. I’ve won four times. Three year in a row, and I am enjoying my free subscription to Writers Digest magazine. I was also promoted to meeting facilitator, which is another issue in and of itself. Lol. Just this previous October, I won with a little bit longer story, not yet published, but maybe one day…

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Origins, Part V

I’ve written a lot of short stories throughout the years. As mentioned in a previous post, I wrote a series of animal stories and my parents still remind me from time to time that I should do something with them. Maybe…Writing this, I had an idea that I might consider.

Anyway, I still have folders of short stories in manila folders I haven’t done anything with because I’m not sure where to go with them. They were written mostly to learn the craft of writing.

In 2012, I contacted a martial arts magazine thinking they might like to do an article about me along with some book promotion. You know, martial artist/author who write martial arts action mysteries. They wrote back saying they were interested. There was a follow up call from some business manager who also wanted to discuss a deal where, in exchange for free advertising, I would write short stories that would be published in serial form. I thought it was a wonderful idea and quickly developed some story lines. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the sense to demand a contract.

I was called in November and the article came out in January. I had the first part of the first story to them for their March issue. They published every other month and they had the other two parts ready to go. I wrote the second story and sent that to them-two parts-so they would have material ready and wouldn’t be waiting for me.

2013 was when I moved to the campground to work in Keokuk. I waited for the second part to be published and when it did, I received my first (and only so far) piece of fan email from a guy who was enjoying the stories.

I waited for the third part but when I bought the magazine…the third part wasn’t printed. I called the magazine to discover that all of the writers were freelance and the company’s revolving door of employees on regular staff changed more than I change my shirt. The person to whom I spoke said that a decision was made that the magazine wasn’t going down that serial story path any longer and the third part wasn’t going to be published. On top of that, they couldn’t find that I had sent in the second story. Nobody bothered to contact me to inform me of any of this. I was upset not only with to not being informed, but that they decided to not finish out the first story. Wouldn’t it have made sense to publish the third part, then stop the serial angle? With no contract the stories and the promotions ended. I learned a valuable lesson and I feel even more disappointed because it was a martial arts magazine and with my being involved in the sport, it seemed a pretty dishonorable deal.

Anyway, jump ahead a couple years. I fell in with a group of writers who met monthly to support and encourage and help each other. Most of them were self-published, which meant many of the things they were wanting to do didn’t pertain to me. However, we decided to put together an anthology of short stories, the idea being that the stories would be from different genres and if people liked a particular story, they could seek out the author and read a full length book.

Since the magazine hadn’t published the entire story, I felt free enough to submit my short story featuring Mallory Petersen. Titled Whit Belt Weapons, I even made a little ‘cover’ for the story. The story-all three parts-were published in the Iowa’s Original Writers Anthology. https://amzn.to/2BbTUX6

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We had talked about doing an annual anthology, then talked about a greater challenge of putting one out every quarter, each one being in a different genre. Unfortunately, neither happened and the group all but dissolved although I occasionally see Facebook posts.

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Origins, Part IV

Echelon Press was a small publishing house who brought out new authors’ stories in eBook format first, then to print if sales were good.

Night Shadows was released in February of 2011 and Beta came out later in October.

Beta cover

The problem I had was pretty frustrating. The eBook explosion was going strong and everybody I talked to encouraged me to get something they could read on their Kindles or Nooks or tablets. I thought the eBook format was great…until I went back to some of those people and many of them, and others, wondered when I was going to have an actual printed book. What? I thought you wanted the eBook. I didn’t mind either format. I have an entire bookcase full of printed books I have yet to read and a computer full of eBooks yet to read.

Another problem was it was hard to market and sell eBooks with personal appearances at libraries or authors’ fairs, because I had nothing tangible to show people. “Here’s my Amazon page…”

After the first two books were published, I waited to see how the short stories would fare. Actually, those never made it through the editing phase and in 2014, Karen developed health issues and the press closed. Beta and Night Shadows were mine again, but nobody wanted them. Many didn’t want books that had already been published even though they weren’t in print any longer.

Backing up a few years, I think it was at the second Killer Nashville where I met Sunny, who was an acquisition editor for Oak Tree Press. After Night Shadows and Beta were accepted, I resurrected Alpha, looked it over, took out the crap, added some characters and a subplot, and considered how to write a story that takes place a month before the action in Beta? Yeah, the second book in the series was published first and I wasn’t sure how to write the first in the series. I started from Chapter One, word one, and did a THEN and NOW type, where Mallory is telling her new boyfriend about her investigating the murder of her previous. It also included the first murder of one of her classmates (the second occurring in Beta). This was side plot that didn’t get resolved in either book (It will, dear fans, don’t fret.) After I edited to the point I was satisfied, I approached Sunny and asked if Oak Tree would be interested in the book. I emailed her Friday, didn’t follow the guidelines because we had become friends and had emailed back and forth a lot, and I waited until Tuesday for the response.

What took you so long?’

In 2011, Alpha was published.

Now, I had something tangible. I could promote three books. I went to libraries, college campuses, and anyplace that would accept an author for speaking. I knew sales weren’t hot, but I kept at it.

In 2014, Echelon closed, and I was left with one book.

I had written Delta, started on Gamma, had written a stand-alone story, and joined another, closer writers’ critique group in Knoxville. The Marion County Writers Workshop. In 2013, I had to take a hiatus from the group because the job took me to extreme southeast Iowa where I worked for a summer and part of the fall in Keokuk. In October of that year, just before the campground where I was staying was about to close for the season, I found a job in the Des Moines area. A couple years later, I was hired by Gannett where I’m currently employed.

I also rejoined Knoxville group and the Tuesday night group at Barnes & Noble, Jordan Creek. A couple of the old group were still around, but I had met some others at a retreat and they were part of the group.

In 2016, Billie, the owner of Oak Tree, suffered a stroke. During the next couple years, the business went downhill, and people could see the end coming. She had not paid royalties for a while and the system she set up was not able to be figured out by others. In the fall of 2018, Oak Tree closed. Before that time, I asked for Alpha’s rights to be returned to me…

because, I had found a new publisher who wanted both Alpha and Beta. (https://amzn.to/2RSeKjM; https://amzn.to/2ONC2Fu)

NeoLeaf Press (https://www.neoleafpress.com/) was started by a member of the Knoxville group and a guy who had been working for another author services company in Des Moines. They offer two plans. The author services side is for authors who want to self-publish and will pay for editing, cover design, and formatting. The traditional side will have authors submitting work to be edited, cover designed, formatting and uploading/printing and the author and the company share royalties.

Let me be honest and do not take this as any criticism of NeoLeaf or its founding partners. I’ve known Cassie for years and Dave for only a couple. They’re nice people…okay nice isn’t the right word. Unique? Yeah, let’s go with unique. Okay, they’re fun friends. However, I was concerned about another small press, the amount of work they’re doing with not only the author services side, but how much time is spent with the authors, marketing for the books through live events and Internet events, and her full-time job. I was a bit anxious that this maybe wasn’t the right move.

However, I went with NeoLeaf, not only because of the friendship, but because of the promotion and marketing they are doing. Much more than the previous two publishers. I realize that in today’s book world, authors are supposed to pretty much fend for themselves and self-promote and I’m not saying I’m not. However, Cassie, Dave, and I discuss different promotions frequently.

Whether I’ll submit other books to them is yet to be seen. I may stick with them or branch out and query someone else.

Let’s talk short stories next week.

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Origins, Part III

I had written a bunch of short animal stories featuring two cats my sister owned at her rural house in Missouri. I thought one of those would be good to read at my first meeting at the critique group. The story garnered some praise and I don’t remember what, if any, critiques for improvements were given. I thought the next week, I’d read a couple of chapters from Alpha. After that meeting, I realized I had written a 40,000 word story that was pure crap. I didn’t know but a fraction of the writing craft.

I didn’t quit the group, but didn’t read any more Alpha. I wrote short stories to read every week. Also, the plot for the next Mallory story was bugging me. It was to be called Beta and involved the kidnapping of a young girl, child pornography, and the introduction of a future romantic partner for Mallory. The writing of the story flowed well. I took some time to conduct research in and around Des Moines, Oskaloosa, and the Quad Cities, because those were the cities where the story took place. I used actual places, with name changes, and by travelling around, found some extra bits to put in the story to make it either fun, more intense, and I met people along the way who ended up in the book because of their character and how they treated me when I told them the research I was doing.

As the years passed, the B&N group moved to Borders, diminished in size and I quit the group because at the time, I was driving over about an hour and fifteen minutes each way and the group consisted of about eight people, but only two or three reading because they were more interested to go around the corner to the deli and socialize. I felt the worth of the group go down. I joined another group who also met at Borders, but it didn’t last long. People quit or moved. I joined yet another group that met monthly at the Pleasant Hill library, but with the once a month meeting, my schedule got in the way and I couldn’t make it a few times and the group eventually dissolved.

A few people from various groups were still interested in meeting so I became the token male in a group of five who met on a regular basis. All but one of us were actively writing a story, but in 2007, we decided to go to a convention in Chicago. I had been re-reading Beta and getting some critiques. I needed to soften up Mallory, make her more emotional and feminine. On the other side, I needed to change the names of two of my male characters because they weren’t manly enough. Mallory’s office manager was originally named Jamie. But, he was a strong character, enigmatic, supportive, and could scuffle with bigger opponents and hold his own. The group said Jamie was not the right name, so I changed it to Darren. Still no last name, but a stronger male name. Mallory’s would-be boyfriend was originally named Laurel Cameron, but again, it sounded too soft and not masculine enough for the 6’5” handsome guy with soap opera stud looks. How about Lawrence? That was better. Where did I come up with those names? Well, Darren just sounded right to me. It was a young man sounding name, but one who could be strong. How about Lawrence? A bunch of famous people named Lawrence, but really, not one you hear a lot. Olivier comes to mind. Lawrence of Arabia. Taylor, Csonka, and Welk are three others. It can also be used as a middle name.

Mine.

chicagoSo, we were off to Chicago to attend seminars to listen to mid-card authors and writing seminars and-the main thing:-to meet agents to whom we could pitch story ideas.

I was to discover that the agents gave acceptance to most of the authors to formally submit their stories, but few of the agents followed up with a deal. I met one named Karen with Echelon Press and she seemed to be the most interested. So, I came back, spent a couple months polishing up Beta and submitted it.

It went nowhere.

Not long after, the writing group fizzled and dissolved.

Another writer, Kim, a friend since my early days of the B&N group, and I kept meeting and discussing our stories. I’m not sure how much more writing I accomplished. During the last number of years, while polishing up Beta, I was writing a horror story featuring the cop in Alpha paired with and FBI agent. They were investigating some strange murders in the Des Moines area, looking for an ancient spell book, and fighting shadow creatures from another dimension. It was to be the start of a second series, maybe an X-Files type. I called the first book Night Shadows.

In 2009, Kim and I decided to attend Killer Nashville, a writers’ conference that featured seminars from the basic beginner writer to marketing a published novel. It is a wonderful annual conference and I recommend going. Again, they had agents for story pitching, nationally known authors and some good connections. We spent an exhausting two and half days and I met Karen from Echelon again. I don’t know if she remembered me, but after returning home, I submitted Beta, Night Shadows and a couple short stories.

All were accepted.

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Origins, Part II

Continuing the history of how my books and stories came about…

My thoughts centered on a private investigator for my main character. I thought of using the Sam P. Peterson character from years before, but I’d attended a lot of tournaments and camps and classes and saw all of these talented and beautiful women in the sport of taekwondo and I knew I had to have a woman as the protagonist. The name Mallory Petersen, again, came easily to mind. I changed the spelling of the surname to match the last name of a guy I worked with in Illinois.

Pleasant HillMallory was a Fourth Degree Black Belt who lived in Pleasant Hill, owned a martial arts school on the south side of Des Moines (I can show you the strip mall where her office is-at least until the next book), and had a private investigator’s office in downtown Des Moines along Locust Avenue. The actual building where I put her office is no more. I think it was renovated to be another business. I can still picture the outside. I put her on the second floor with an art gallery run by an elderly Jewish man on the first. The office manager/secretary/friend was an enigmatic man a few years younger than Mallory’s 29.

I created a character outline listing all of her likes and dislikes, many of them based on mine. Doesn’t drink coffee but enjoys Dr Pepper. She’s blonde, blue-eyed, 6’, gorgeous. Basically, she’s me except better looking and a better martial artist.

So, I wrote a story where she finds the body of her murdered boyfriend and discovers his secrets. I wanted the book to be the first in a series with a hook title. You know, like Grafton did with hers. A is for…, B is for…. I thought I stick with the Greek alphabet, so the first one was called Alpha. I figured I could include alpha references throughout. Ditto with the other titles.

I wanted Mallory to be quirky, with the main case being serious, but having her take on goofy cases. Following cheating spouses and boyfriends/girlfriends with those being unique in their crazy situations.

In the original Alpha, I had her well-known by many of the nation’s other fictional investigators and they all meet at the end for her birthday.

With the story complete, I didn’t know what to do with it. I was going along well with my martial arts, gained my second and third degrees. By the end of the century the club in Grinnell was about to begin its downhill slide to closing because the landlord neglected to inform me he had rented out the spacious third floor to a bunch of college kids…as a residence. I was able to have the second floor, about half the size, but still functional…until the landlord neglected to tell me that he had rented most of the floor to a plumbing and heating company. I didn’t know anything was going on until I walked in and saw doors installed in the walls. I was reduced again to a space where five people would have been cramped, let alone previous numbers. By then, too, many students had quit, and I closed the club sometime in 2003 or ‘04. By then I was already running the Osky club.

Anyway, let me back up. In 2000, or ’01 a Des Moines author visited the Oskaloosa library promoting his recently published book. After the event, I introduced myself and after we talked for a bit he mentioned a writers’ critique group at the Barnes and Noble in West Des Moines that met every Tuesday.

I was about to begin the next phase of my writing journey.

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Origins, Part I

In the beginningI’ve thought about where I want to go with this blog and I’m still arranging things. However, I enjoyed the idea of delving into the characters in my stories because I think doing that might give a little insight to my thinking. It probably will also give me a chance to share some personal experiences.

Before I go into the individual characters, I thought I’d give a history of how the two books, Alpha and Beta came about. I also want to give a history of how my short stories came to be included in the Iowa Original Writers Anthology, Death of the Demon Machine, The Light Won’t Go Out, and Chills Down Your Spine anthologies Except for the last anthology, each of the others have short stories featuring Mallory Petersen, the protagonist in both Alpha and Beta. Also, upcoming books

I’d like to start at the beginning, appropriately, with Alpha. Actually, this story begins long before I started writing it in the mid 90s. It goes back to before I was in martial arts. It starts with my love of reading mysteries. Hardy Boys, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, etc. I have been an avid reader since I was a child. I loved going to the bookstore and seeing if anything new from favorite authors or series was on the shelves. Somewhere along the line, I thought I could write some of these stories. I could create a character, provide some clues, and write a short story mystery.

The name of the character was Sam P. Peterson. I’ve always liked the name Sam and the name seemed to flow. He was a cop in the East Moline Police Department and worked out of the Blue Building. The actual building is along 23rd Avenue, but it’s gray and it’s not the East Moline PD, but creative licensing, right?

I wrote off and on for a while, a few short stories, even a poem or two (I know, so don’t gasp. I don’t write poetry and I’ll keep saying it). I started what I planned to be a series of fantasy or paranormal stories using my high school classmates. I completed the first and had started on the second and then it petered out.

I wrote comic book stories but a friend of mine never was able to complete the illustrations. I thought about putting those comics stories into book form, but it never came about.

When I moved to Oskaloosa, in 1990, I worked as a radio salesman for a couple years but didn’t like the job. I moved onto motel work, graphic design, and back to motel work.

One summer in 1991, I was walking on one side of the square and I saw a sign advertising two weeks free martial arts classes. I’d been a bit interested in martial arts, so I checked it out. Two weeks later, after the free period was over, I joined. I earned my next belt, Orange, in September of that year. I went on to earn my black belt, help open a club in New Sharon and later Grinnell and since 2003 have owned the Oskaloosa club.

I think it was about 1995 when the writing bug hit me hard. The story idea I conceived is the next chapter and can be read next week.

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Directions

directions1At the end of another month and almost to the end of another year.

I’ve had a blog for many years. I started it because my first publisher recommended I start one. I didn’t know what to do with it. What topics do I discuss? I thought about posting writing related tips, but realized there was a plethora of those, and as one of my critique group’s moderator has said, there’s nothing new in that field, only different ways of presenting it. I could discuss characters, outlines, editing, etc., but look over the blogs out there and you’ll find almost endless writing craft posts.

I thought of having fun and writing restaurant reviews using some of my characters and that lasted a while but became tedious and I ran into more eateries I didn’t care for than those I’d patronize. In addition, the creating of a ‘fictional’ story with an actual place became difficult.

I’ve gone through several series of similar posts, including Chapters, where I take actual humorous complaints and relate them to my personal writing. That was fun for a time, but again coming up with the varying topics became a chore.

I’ve done fitness posts and student essay posts. I may still do the essays from time to time because they’re easy. Recently I started listing the books I have by various authors and those are okay, but looking back on them, I guess it’s not all that fun.

My U & I posts are interesting and when more Uber experiences arise, I may write more. I enjoy those because they spark creativity and may spark a scene in one of my books.

So, the question is, what topics do I write about? With the post from 11/2, I went in another direction, only because it affected me so deeply and this blog, in part, has become an extension of my personal journal I started back in college. I have felt like exploring that area, becoming more personal. I will consider it because while, at first, it may not seem related to my writing, it does tend to affect it. My main character since the middle 90s has been a 6’, beautiful blonde named Mallory Petersen. Throughout the years, I have seen and met many real life versions of Mallory, at least they were in appearance. With the woman about whom I wrote about at the beginning of the month, while she isn’t the woman I see when I think of Mallory, she still influences how I write about Mallory. The romantic prose. So, I might consider doing a few posts in that direction, maybe how past relationships and non-relationships have influenced how I write.

I’ve thought about writing about my characters, giving an in depth look at them. A character profile, some background information, tidbits on the different people in the stories. There are many from which I could choose: Mallory, Harry Reznik, Darren, Gunther, Tamara Witmer, Lori Campisi. While many may not be familiar with Campisi, she was in the first of a series of paranormal stories. She partnered with Reznik. Night Shadows was the title and it was published as an eBook by my first publisher. It is no longer available, but I hope to release it again soon along with its sequel, Night of Wine and Ghosts. For those of you who were lucky enough to purchase Night Shadows before the publisher closed, you know Campisi an character worth exploring.

Years ago, I attended a seminar at the Killer Nashville conference on branding. I had heard about branding for years, but this seminar helped me to understand it. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve found my niche in my blogging. I sample different areas and see if they’re interesting and work, but I haven’t chosen a well-defined path.

I’ll think on it. Let me ask you, my readers, what you would like to learn about. Characters? Writing craft? More personal experiences?

I’ve gone many directions in the years with my employment: from radio to motel to graphic design. I’ve enjoyed the martial arts journey, which spurred my writing and brought me new experiences. I’ve lived most of my life in either Illinois or Iowa but have ventured out to places like South Dakota for a summer, and have travelled from Washington, D.C. to Florida, west to Colorado and south to Mexico.

So, let me know what you think. I’ll do some thinking, too, and jot down some possibilities, maybe an outline of a plan, a narrower path to, but one with expanding opportunities.

I hope it’ll be fun.

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Black Belt Journey

black-beltI’d like to take a few paragraphs to discuss my journey in martial arts because another step upward has been taken.

I started taekwondo back in ’91 on a whim after seeing the local club had two weeks of free classes. I joined and never looked back or regretted it. I’ve met so many wonderful people and it spurred a series of books either published or one day to be published.

I trained hard for almost two years to reach the rank of First Degree Black Belt. I joined the instructor program and after more time, became certified. In ’96, I took over the New Sharon club and moved it to Grinnell. In ’03, took over the Oskaloosa club and because of circumstances beyond my control, had to close the Grinnell branch. By then I was a Fourth Degree Black Belt.

I tested for 5th back in ’06. I was eligible, timewise, to test for 6th back in ’11, but other circumstances interfered, and it took me a while to pass the three required midterm testings. I had passed one, but couldn’t get the other two done. I had a chance to have an alternative midterm passed in two instances but didn’t have the funds.

A couple years ago, I passed the second midterm at a regional camp. This previous July, I decided I wanted to get that last one done. Unfortunately, I missed it by one point.

I thought, because of some changes in testing requirements, I’d have to wait until February. To get the last one done. But, a week before a tournament in Sioux Falls, which included a testing, I learned the new rules were temporarily suspended so I tested. I wasn’t completely satisfied with the testing. I thought the form went okay, sparring was mostly fine, but I hurried on the board breaking and ended up missing two of them. I broke on the second attempt. I pushed hard through the after testing fitness test and hoped for the best.

I didn’t learn the result of that effort until six days later…on my birthday. My instructor messaged me with a happy birthday wish and the fact I’d passed.

What does this mean? Well, I can now train even more to get ready to test for the rank of 6th Degree Black Belt next July in Little Rock. That’s been the goal for a while and I’m one step closer.

I remember when I started one of the questions every instructor asked was, “Who wants to be a black belt?” Everybody would answer, “I do.” I did, but that wasn’t the answer I wanted to give. From the start, I always wanted to be whatever came next. If I was a blue belt, then I wanted to be the next rank which was brown belt. Only when I earned Recommended Black Belt did I want that full First Degree.

So, when I reached 5th, I wanted to be 6th…

…and I’m one step closer.

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Authors: Doctor Who, Part IV

The last section of Doctor Who titles I have:

Transmissions, R. Salter

Frayed, T. Samms

The Suns Of Caresh, P. Saint

Destination Prague, S. Savile

Spore, A. Scarrow

Feast Of The Stone, C. Scott & M. Wright

The Ghosts Of Christmas, C. Scott

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection Doctor 02-The Nameless City, M. Scott

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Collection Doctor 03-The Spear Of Destiny, M. Sedgwick

Attack Of The Cybermen – No. 138, E. Seward

Slipback, E. Seward

The Twin Dilemma – No. 103, E. Seward

Heritage, D. Smith

The Many Hands, D. Smith

Blue Moon, O. Smith

Nuclear Time, O. Smith

The Runaway Train, O. Smith

Decalog 1, Edited by M. Stammers & S. J. Walker

Who Killed Kennedy, J. Stevens & D. Bishop

Burning Heart, D. Stone

Citadel Of Dreams, D. Stone

Death And Diplomacy, D. Stone

Heart Of Tardis, D. Stone

Ship Of Fools, D. Stone

Sky Pirates, D. Stone

The Slow Empire, D. Stone

Doctor Who And The Zarbi, B. Strutton

Peacemaker, J. Swallow

Byzantium!, K. Topping

The Devil Goblins From Neptune, K. Topping

Ghost Ship, K. Topping

The Hollow Men, K. Topping

The King Of Terror, K. Topping

The Art Of War, M. Tucker

Companion Piece, M. Tucker & R. Perry

Illegal Alien, M. Tucker & R. Perry

Loving The Alien, M. Tucker & R. Perry

The Nightmare Of Black Island, M. Tucker

Prime Time, M. Tucker

Snowglobe 7, M. Tucker

Storm Harvest, M. Tucker & R. Perry

Fear Itself, N. Wallace

Dominion, N. Walters

The Fall Of Yquatine, N. Walters

Reckless Engineering, N. Walters

Superior Beings, N. Walters
The Nightmare Fair (2), G. Williams

Space In Dimension Relative And Time, R. Williams
Paradise Towers – No. 134, S. Wyatt
The Dalek Invasion Of Earth – No. 17/The Crusaders –
No. 12

The Face Of Evil – No. 25/The Sunmakers – No. 60

The Seeds Of Doom – No. 53/The Deadly Assassin – No.
19

The Doctors – 30 Years Of Time Travel

Doctor Who The Guide 2008 Edition, Anonymous

Travel Without The Tardis, J. Airey & L. Halderman

The Early Years, J. Bentham

Journey Through Time, Crescent

The Making Of Doctor Who, T. Dicks & M. Hulke

Monster Book, T. Dicks

25 Glorious Years, P. Haining
A Celebration, P. Haining

The Doctor Who File, P. Haining

The Key To Time, P. Haining

The Time Traveller’s Guide, P. Haining

Technical Manual, M. Harris

Doctor Who Handbook 1-6, J. Howe, M. Stammers, S. J. Walker
Doctor Who The Sixties, D. J. Howe, M. Stammers, S. J. Walker
Doctor Who And Philosophy-Bigger On The Inside, Edited by C. Lewis & P. Smithka

Programme Guide Volume I The Programmes, J. Loffilier
Programme Guide Volume 2 What’s What And Who’s Who, J. Loffilier

Illustrated A-Z, L. Standring

The Companion, J. N. Turner
The Tardis Inside-Out, J. R. Turner

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