Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gratitude


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   Ugh. As you can see from the above number, my diet is not progressing well. I managed to gain the weight I dropped last week, plus some. I’ve got a number of excuses. My schedule got re-routed several times this week and I had no indoor contingency plans set up when my outdoor exercise got rained out almost every day.
   But I’m not giving up. Even I can learn from my mistakes, right?

   The hiccups in the diet plans are only a few of the frustrations I’ve been facing this week. Among those are the amount of time it is taking to get my second novel, The Dragon of Doughton Park, published and the paucity of time I’m finding to do any writing (including this blog). I promised readers that Dragon would be available around the end of June, and here it is, months later, and still not ready. The characters in Red Wolf Rising, the third Red Wolf novel, are anxious to see some action, a great number of writing ideas are festering in my brain, and my efforts to work writing time into my new job schedule are failing miserably.

  What to do?

  Well, things could be worse… much worse. This is what we in the recovery community call life on life’s terms. And I was taught many years ago by some very wise people that the solution to these frustrations lies in the practice of the spiritual principle of gratitude. Having been desperate enough in the past to try it myself, I know that it works.
   Being grateful doesn’t mean I have to passively stand by and let the world tromp over me, but if I take the time to look at the blessings I have in my life it takes the focus off the negative and changes my attitude. And it’s my negative attitude about life’s frustrations, not the frustrating things themselves, that cause me so much grief.

   So here goes…

   I have been blessed with some talent for putting words together and I’m living in a miraculous period of history when it is relatively easy to develop that talent and share it with a world-wide audience. Self-publishing a book nowadays is not all that expensive, and I am blessed with friends who are willing to devote their free time out of interest and support to help me in the endeavor.

   I have a job that is paying most of the bills. I work with some wonderful people in a helping profession. Unlike many folks, I can go home at the end of the day feeling that I did at least one thing worthwhile for my fellow man.

   I have an interesting and supportive family, including a teenage son who, as of this writing, is not doing drugs, running with some gang, or getting some girl pregnant, and whose company is both delightful and entertaining.

   I have an active imagination, which many at my age have lost, that has already provided me with enough material to keep writing the rest of my days (even if I myself turn into a werewolf and live for a thousand years). I have a safe, comfortable place to live, more food than I ought to eat, a small group of wonderful friends, and relatively good health.

   And I did write some this week. I wrote the first scene of a short story I hope to share with y’all soon (the working title is The Alchemist’s Ledger), finished the prologue to Red Wolf Rising, and wrote a very fun scene in the back story of Clifford and Claire, the one where they meet for the first time.

   Oh, and yesterday I discovered another 5-star review of The Draculata Nest was posted on Amazon, bringing the average rating up to 4.4 out of a possible 5. That really warms my heart.

   Wow, I feel better already.

   If you want to feel better, try a little gratitude yourself. That, or click one of the links below and escape into the world of the red wolf for a while. Or, try both things at once, no telling how good you’ll feel!
 
   Draculata Nest for Kindle      Draculata Nest for Nook     Draculata Nest in paperback

   Until next time... Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Battle of the Bulge w/ Luke Saunders Profile


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   Some of you may have noticed a 4-digit number with a single decimal place posted at the top of my blog last week. I’m ashamed to admit that is my weight in pounds at the time of the post. In an effort to shame myself into reducing the number, I’ve decided to post it each week until it reaches 180.
   Yes, I am one of the millions of Americans who have been fighting a losing battle with an expanding waistline. My fight has lasted about thirty years, when in my early thirties I noted that I had to start wearing a size 32 jeans after having graduated college ten years before at a size 28. I now suck in my gut each morning to cinch my belt around a size 38.
   What the hell happened?
   I’ve always been active, always played sports, love to jog, go backpacking, ride my bike. I was kind of a gym rat in my younger days, and I even did a few-years’ stint as an aerobics instructor. Walking is one of my favorite activities and is generally what I do to relax and clear my mind. Problem is, I love to eat.
   Yeah, I guess it’s really that simple. When I was younger I could eat as much as I wanted and burn off all the calories with exercise, but as I got older I slowed down, and so did my metabolism, but my appetite has remained the same. Plus carrying more and more weight has added increased stress to muscles and joints that tend to get injured when I try to pretend I’m still twenty years old.
   I’ve known I needed to get serious about losing weight for a while now. I hate how my clothes don’t fit, and my doctor began to suggest a better diet some years ago. But what brought everything to a head was what my 13-year-old son did to me last week.
   We were returning home from Krispy Kreme with a dozen assorted donuts, and I suggested stopping at the grocery for some ice cream because… well, have you ever micro-waved a glazed Krispy Kreme and put some vanilla ice cream in the hole? Seth shook his head at me and said, “No.”
   “What? Why not,” I questioned.
   “I don’t want you to die,” he said.
   I thought that a bit dramatic, and I said so. He just reached over and patted my belly.
   I got the ice cream anyway. No kid’s gonna tell me what to do, right? And I enjoyed it while I was eating it, but the next morning when I got on the scale and had to lean forward to peer over my belly at the display, the evidence was incontrovertible. Somewhere along the way I have become obese.
   It stops now, folks. I’m taking the weight off, and I welcome you all to track my progress. Feel free to congratulate me on my success or chastise me if I don’t progress.

  Now, on to the good stuff.

  You would not believe the adversity I and my team of editors, cover artists and designers, and beta readers are fighting through to get The Dragon of Doughton Park out to the public. Members of my team have undergone surgery, chemo-therapy, dialysis and vacations (what?) over the last few weeks but they persevere. My original target date for publication of late June is long past, but this book will be available soon and it will be worth it! Keep the faith.

   Now, I want to share with you a brief profile of one of my favorite Red Wolf Novels characters. So far, through the first two books, Luke Saunders, the reluctant private investigator Roland Trudeau has employed to keep tabs on Clifford Crane, has played a minor role, but the scenes I’ve written with his character have been among my favorites. Here’s some background on the guy, some stuff you won’t find in the books…

   Legends about werewolves abound around Troy, N.C. Nearly every resident has or knows someone who has a story of a personal encounter with one of the supernatural creatures, and some will go so far as to claim the Lycan gene runs in their family. Luke Saunders, Jr. grew up in one of those families, and although Luke’s father would often rail about how he “felt the wolf coming on” when he was on one of his drunken binges, there is no documented evidence of werewolves in his lineage. Still, the fear of werewolves was instilled in Luke at a young age and particularly reinforced during the period of his life from age thirteen, when his father crossed that invisible line from a social drinker to a raging alcoholic, and age seventeen, when the senior Luke Saunders started attending AA meetings and turned his life around.
   In those teenage years, young Luke learned a few things from his relationship with his Dad that greatly influenced the course of his life. One was that some folks carried a raging, uncontrollable beast inside them that could be unleashed suddenly and inexplicably to hurt the ones they claimed to love. It was always best to tread lightly around these folks and to always have an escape route planned in case the beast came out.
   The other thing he learned was that if you kept quiet, didn’t make waves, were patient and kept your ears and eyes opened, you could learn things about people, recognize patterns of behavior, and sometimes predict what they would say, where they would go, and what they would do. Young Luke developed and honed such skills. He used them to avoid the beatings that his Mom and older sister managed not to. He used them to navigate the stormy relationships of his dysfunctional household. When Luke Senior would disappear for days, it was Luke Junior who was eventually dispatched to track his Dad down, deal with whatever trouble he’d gotten himself into, and bring him home.
   Nine times out of ten, he got the job done. He bailed his old man out of jail numerous times, extricated him mostly unscathed from a number of barroom brawls, and once even talked some very dangerous men into forgiving Luke Senior a rather large gambling debt. He learned to walk unobtrusively through the neighborhoods on both sides of the tracks. He became familiar with the world of the bail bondsman and bounty hunter.
   By the age of sixteen, Luke was earning extra cash using his information-gathering skills for a local bounty hunter. He used most of what he earned in support of his family, but when his Dad got sober and started working again, he was able to put some money aside. When he graduated high school, he used the money to pay his tuition and board at NC State University.
   But college, which was mainly an excuse to get away from home in the first place, soon lost its purpose for Luke. He went to work for a private investigator in the Raleigh area, quickly became a partner in the business, and eventually went out on his own.
    Although he maintained an amicable, long-distance relationship with his Dad, who remained sober, he had no desire to return to the community in which he’d grown up. Then, when he was in his mid-thirties, he came to the attention of Roland Trudeau, who was looking for someone who had ties with Troy and could spy on the wolves based there. Trudeau lured him with easy money, enough money that Luke, who was beginning to tire of the PI game, began to dream of an early retirement.
   But Luke was a little too good at his job. Trudeau began to rely on him and was reluctant to let him out of his open-ended contract, and the vampire eventually revealed his true nature and the nature of the “people” Saunders was investigating, choosing to retain Luke’s services through fear and intimidation rather than making a pet of him, which would surely make him less effective in his work.
   Now, Luke fights the nightmares from his past and his present. He walks a thin line, constantly aware that his life is in danger from both his employer and those he’s employed to spy on.
   How does he deal with the situation? Find out by clicking one of the links below.

    Draculata Nest for Kindle      Draculata Nest for Nook     Draculata Nest in Paperback

   Until next time.... Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Am I a Writing Junkie?

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  Ahhhh. I’m writing again. I know it’s only a blog post, but I haven’t written anything but a quick email in the last week. My ex-wife injured herself in a freak dog walking accident (I know, right?), so I’ve been spending nights over at her place to help her and the boys, days at my new job, and in between running errands. Right now, my ex is in the hospital recovering from surgery. I actually have a few minutes to myself, so here I am at the keyboard.
   It feels good. It’s nice to watch the words crawl across the page, bringing coherence to the random and often uncontrollable thoughts rattling around in my brain. The light touch of my fingers on the keys is soothing, not like the harsh banging I tend to do when I’m entering data into the computer at work. I’ve missed this. In fact, I’ve come to need it. Without out it I find myself nervous and anxious, irritable and testy with my friends and loved ones. I’ve become a writing junkie.
   How did it happen? I’ve written off-and-on most of my life without experiencing these withdrawal symptoms. But a few years ago, when I started the Red Wolf Novels project, I began writing at least a couple of hours almost every day. I developed a tolerance. I needed more writing - more often. I had to visit with my characters, see what they were up to, what they would do next. I started to neglect my other responsibilities and other relationships. I told myself they weren’t as important as my characters. The story had to be written. It wouldn’t let me go.
   When I published the first novel, I made new friends, readers who liked the book and wanted to know more about the story of the Red Wolf. I had new responsibilities, readers and reviewers to correspond with, books to read and review myself, a blog to keep up, more writing to do. My old friends and family, my old dreams, all fell by the wayside. Writing became my raison d’ĂȘtre. Nothing else mattered.
   I carried my laptop with me wherever I went. I began to frequent coffee shops, where I could find an isolated corner to sip and write for hours on end. Sleeping and eating (okay – maybe I’m going a little far with that one) became inconveniences. As my other interests fell by the wayside, I went through the motions in the real world. I was only truly alive when I was writing.
   Then, a few weeks ago, my life became truly unmanageable. My laptop started shutting down on me at random times. I started a full-time day job, leaving me less time at the coffee shops. I got frustrated and irritable. I began losing sleep. Finally, my son called me last week with, “They took Mama away in an ambulance. Can you come stay with me?” I almost said no. There was no way I could stay at my ex-wife’s house and write. It would be the end of me.
   But it was my son.
   I guess there was a spark of humanity left in me after all. I rose to the occasion. I put the writing aside. I resolved to do whatever it took. I haven’t written for over a week… until now.
   Has this crisis been a wake-up call? Has it taken a freak accident and a pitiful plea from my little boy to save me from my addiction?
   Naaaaah. I’m okay. I just needed a little break. I’m back now. The beta readers will soon send in their results and Ray and Rich will soon have the covers for The Dragon of Doughton Park ready. And the outline for the third Red Wolf novel, Red Wolf Rising, is nearly fleshed out. I’m not yet ready to quit.

   If you want to take the plunge and join me in my addiction, check out one of the links below.

  Until next time... Happy Reading!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Character Profile: Heather Felton

   Hi, everyone. It’s a hot, muggy Friday morning in Charlotte, NC, and I’m grabbing a coffee at the local Caribou and getting to ready to go work an afternoon/evening shift at my day job. I made it through my first 40-hour work week since September of 2009; I got a small but much-needed paycheck; and I’m looking forward to a weekend all to myself. But, best of all, I managed to find a small amount of time to write this week, and the third Red Wolf novel, Red Wolf Rising, is beginning to take shape!

   Now…
   I’m announcing the overall winner of the new cover art for The Draculata Nest. My thanks to everyone who took the time to vote and express their opinions across the various electronic venues the past few weeks. And again, my apologies for not being able to get the voting gadget to work on this blog! I’m pretty happy with the selection myself, and thrilled that Ray DeLotell’s signature will grace the next cover of DN at the bottom of this…
   Next, because I got such a good reaction when I posted a character profile of Nicole Deerfoot Black a month or so back, I’ve decided to make it a regular feature of my blog to elaborate on the background of some of the cool characters that live in my head almost 24/7. This is stuff you won’t get from reading the Red Wolf novels, although some of it appears between the lines I suppose. Occasionally, a character might reveal something of their past in conversation, but mostly they’re too busy dealing with the action of the present. Yet, I assure you, every bit player has a rich history and often a good bit of baggage to drag into their relationships with Clifford Crane. Today I’m going to share some of Heather Felton’s…

   The little town of Troy, NC, nestled in the middle of what is now the Uwharrie National Forest, was founded largely by werewolves, and the Feltons are one of the oldest and richest families in the community. Heather’s father, Chas, was one of the original settlers in the area, one of a minority of English among the mostly Scottish immigrants to settle there in the mid-1700’s. Chas was a dominant wolf and the leader of his little band, but he wasn’t quite alpha material, and the wolves of Troy were soon approached by Two Black Feathers (who later took the name Charlie Black), alpha of the Uwharrie Pack.
   Chas Felton was already well-to-do when gold was discovered nearby in 1799. He was able to profit further from the mining and related industry and continued to invest his earnings wisely, as did many of the Uwharrie wolves, over the next few hundred years. When he lost his life in a drowning accident on Badin Lake in 1982, his fourteenth human wife and their two children were left with the financial resources to do pretty much whatever they wanted. Heather Felton was only three years old at the time. Her older brother, Joseph, was twelve.  The mother, Christine, was only in her mid-twenties, and soon abandoned the children to run away with a young human she’d met in Raleigh at a charity event six months later. Charlie Black and the rest of the Uwharrie werewolves took over raising the two kids.
   Puberty, and the stress of losing both his father and mother, brought Joseph’s wolf out at an early age. He became one of the major dominant wolves in the pack by the time he was sixteen. It was unavoidable that Heather be immersed in the pack culture and surrounded by werewolves at all times. Naturally a free spirit, she found the werewolf way of life restrictive and stifling, especially for a female. She hated it, and she immersed herself in school and extra-curricular activities in an effort to spend as much time away from it as she could. In high school, she was both head cheerleader and student body president.
   When she couldn’t find something to keep her physically away from her home, she retreated into the historical past. She became an avid student of history and ultimately fell in love with anthropology and archeology. The summer before her senior year, she qualified for a special scholarship to join a group of college students and their professor from the University of North Carolina at an archeological dig in Peru that unearthed evidence of a previously unknown pre-Incan civilization. Her work there earned her a full scholarship to UNC after her senior year in high school.
   During all the manic activity in her teens, Heather lived with the constant fear that she would herself become a werewolf. The lycanthropic gene often skipped generations in a family. It had actually skipped three generations of Feltons before Joseph showed signs. But when the gene did appear, it was often shared by siblings. So most of the pack expected Heather to become one, and although she fought it tooth and nail, the other wolves prepared her for it. But when she made it through puberty and into young adulthood without changing, she was convinced she had been spared the unwanted lifestyle.
   In the Fall of 1996, Heather left for college expecting never to return home except for the occasional holiday visit. But during the summer after her sophomore year, even though she had taken great care to isolate herself from both werewolves and vampires (traditionally the triggers that activate the gene) she underwent her first transformation.
    She briefly considered staying in school, but she knew what would happen if she was a lone wolf. Without the pack bond she would eventually go insane, so she dropped out of college and returned to Troy broken and depressed. The pack welcomed her and did their best to help her transition into the culture she’d resisted all her life, but she didn’t respond. Luckily, Claire Deerfoot, the pack shaman, chose that time to return from almost a century of wandering to spend what she expected to be the final years of her life with her pack, and the two bonded.
   Claire was able to bring Heather out of her despondency and encouraged her not to give up entirely on her vision of a purposeful life. Claire believed that a new age was coming for the wolves and instilled in Heather the hope that she wouldn’t always have to be “just a female.”
   Heather held on to that hope. She began to share some of that hope and some of the ideas Claire had with her older brother, who had by then become the pack second. When Joseph ultimately fought the aging Charlie Black for the alpha position, she urged him to break with tradition and spare the old alpha’s life. She resisted the efforts of the other females to get her to choose a mate, and although genetically unable to exert dominance over the males, managed to carve out a position of respect within the pack by out-performing most of them and by providing her alpha brother with such good counsel that he began to rely on her for it.  By the time Clifford Crane appears on the scene, she is one of the unspoken leaders of the pack, unheard of for a female werewolf.
   To see what happens next, click on one of the links below.

Kindle ebook         Nook ebook       DN in paperback

   Until next time… Happy Reading!