Saturday, May 29, 2021

World's Oldest Blink

Hi, Pack Mates!

If you’re close to my age, or you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, you might not know what I’m talking about. A “Blink” is what they call fans of the wildly popular K-pop girl group, BlackPink.

I stumbled on the Netflix documentary last year and fell in love with Jisoo, Jennie, Rose and Lisa (especially Lisa). I went to YouTube, right away. Now I’m hooked. I have to watch some version of Kill This Love, Du Du Du, or Lovesick Girls at least one a day. Usually more.

I like to share my musical discoveries with my son, Seth. Sure, there’s a generation gap, but I respect his tastes. After all, he’s the one who turned me on to Cake and Vampire Weekend. So, I queued up my favorite version of Kill This Love and sat him down in front of my laptop.

He watched, cutting sideways glances at me, for about a minute. Then he hit <pause>. “Sexy teenage girls,” he said.

It wasn’t a compliment directed at the group; it was a judgment of my character.

They’re not, by the way. Teenagers, I mean. They’re well into their twenties, by now. All of them.


“So, that’s why you like them,” he elaborated.

I didn’t like the direction this was going. “They’re all very talented,” I defended. “The choreographies are amazing. Their songs make me happy.”

He shook his head. “You’re not obsessed with Taylor Swift, anymore?” (He’s never forgiven me for subjecting him to several hours of selected cuts during a road trip after he claimed that she sang nothing but break-up songs. He’d turn to me after each one was finished to say, “See?”)

 “Not so much,” I said. “Not since she switched to pop. I liked her country sound a lot better.”

 “This is K-pop. What’s the difference?”

Pop is short for ‘popular.’ It covers all kinds of stuff.”

“Taylor Swift is over thirty, now, isn’t she?” he mused.

“And going strong,” I agreed. “Pretty soon she’ll do a ‘back to her roots’ album, and I’ll be all over that.”

He frowned. “How many times did you binge-watch that mermaid show?” [He was referring to the Australian series, H2O: Just Add Water (2006-2008). I did kind of have a crush on Phoebe Tonkin long before she made it to The Vampire Diaries and The Originals.]

Come to think of it, I was really taken with Jessica Alba in her Dark Angel days, and before that, Katherine Heigl and Shiri Appleby in Roswell. I was beginning to wish I hadn’t shared my dirty little secret about BlackPink. But then, I really hadn’t considered it “dirty”…until now.

“You gonna watch the damn video, or not?” I asked.

He shrugged.

“Fine,” I said, closing the laptop and tucking it under my arm. “I’ll keep my musical preferences to myself from now on.” (Sometimes I forget I’m supposed to be the mature one.) “You should try to be more open-minded,” I added.

He snorted.

It took me a while before I could watch any BlackPink videos without feeling like a sleazeball. But, eventually, I got over it.

Here’s the thing: Those kids are busting their butts to follow their dreams. And the hard work is paying off. At a very young age.

I never did that. I spent most of my life just dreaming. I only started working for those dreams when it looked like I might be running out of time, which was a major impetus for me to start writing about ten years ago.

I think that’s really what attracts me so much to kids like Taylor Swift and BlackPink. I see them working hard to achieve their goals and getting the rewards for their efforts.

It’s admirable.

And - I don’t care - male or female, if you don’t think Lalisa Manoban is hot, my condolences. She's the tall brunette with the ponytail in the video: <Watch "Kill This Love"> 

[Readers: If you want to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and download a free copy of The Alchemist's Ledger, click on the Newsletter tab on this blog.]

Newsletter Volume 2 - May, 2021

 Hi, Pack Mates!

 I can’t believe it’s already time for another newsletter. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? I wonder about that saying, sometimes. I mean, it’s true, I suppose. But sometimes time just flies because…it’s time.

There’s another old saying I’m sure you’ve heard - you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. That’s complete bull. Old dogs can learn plenty of new tricks.

 They’re just not interested.

 The truth is, old dogs - I’ve qualified as one for a while, now - already know enough tricks to get by. They’ve filtered out the ones that aren’t useful and have stored away in their trick bags all the good ones. So, it’s not that they can’t learn. They just don’t want to.

 Unless they’re motivated.

 Case in point:

When I decided to become a full-time writer, I had to learn a lot of new stuff. I had to learn about marketing, cover design, composing product descriptions and ad copy, how to negotiate the Amazon advertising platform (whew, is that complicated!), and…mass emails. These were all things I had previously no interest in. Suddenly, I was very interested - because I had to be.

 I’ve learned all those tricks.

I’m not saying it’s been easy. But being an old dog has not held me back at all. Now, I’m adding audiobook recording to my skill set. Check out the pic below. It’s my home recording studio. The blanket thrown over the patio umbrella is a sound-proofing recommendation from recording guru, Derek Doepker. I know it looks funky, but it works.

News for the Pack:

I’ve been putting the above studio to work. I’ve recorded Chapter One of The Cargo (only ten more to go!) so far. It took a while to get through it, but I’m getting better and faster with the process as I gain experience.

The Half Human Saga (series sequel to The Cargo) is progressing slowly but surely. I have about six chapters left to write in the series starter before I send a draft out to beta readers. ARC Team, get ready!

Wolfpack Feedback:

I got this great response to last email’s “inhale or exhale” question from Chris R:

“I really can’t separate them. Breathing is my connection with everything around me. I draw in deep, down to my belly. I hold for a moment, mixing what I drew in with what is in me, letting it marinate, then I exhale, sharing what is in me with my surroundings. Everyone and everything is connected, the breath is one of the means of that connection...”

 Kind of spiritual, don’t you think? I love it.

This Month’s Feedback Question:

Is there some “new trick” you’ve learned that you didn’t think you could? What made you overcome your reservations? Reply to this email with any thoughts you’d like to share.

This Month’s Giveaway!

First of all, congratulations to Gary F, who won the signed copy of Rivers of Red from last month’s giveaway. It should be on your ‘doorstep’ soon, Gary!

This month, I’m giving away something I’m sure anyone can use: a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Click the link to enter. <Link Expired>

Happy Reading!

[Readers: click on the Newsletter tab on this blog site to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and get a free download of The Alchemist's Ledger.]

Dumb Question: Inhale or Exhale?


From mid-April, 2021:

Hey, pack mates. Here’s the question:

Would you rather inhale or exhale? It’s kind of a dumb one, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not like you have a choice to do one or the other.

 But my son asked the question a while back, and I’ve trained myself over the last twenty-two years to give all his questions careful consideration and to answer them the best I can. People think you’re a good parent when you do stuff like that.

 It wasn’t hard to answer, either. “Exhale,” I said. “It’s easier.”

 “Hah!” he gloated. “I knew it!”

It seems some psychological research suggests the answer to that question says a lot about your attitude toward life. “I like to inhale,” he elaborated. “All that fresh air coming in with a deep breath, the energy, the life. It’s wonderful.”

 Seth has an enthusiasm for life that can be infectious…if you’re into that sort of thing. He did NOT get it from me.

 I don’t think he got it from his Mom, either. Which supports the hypothesis I put forth long ago that he is a changeling, switched at birth by some demon who considered my spawn to be of greater use to the pantheon of Hell than the benign creature it left behind.

 I find inhaling to be a necessary evil. The air is mostly nitrogen, anyway, along with any number of carcinogens expelled into it by a plethora of industries.

I don’t know about you, but I have no use for those. All I want is the oxygen, of which there is less and less every year. Meaning I have to take even more breaths to get what I need.

It’s hard. Life is hard. Exhaling is a relief.

 I guess it’s obvious what that says about me. I’m definitely a glass-half-empty kind of guy. And I’ve since noticed that the characters in my books are always sighing and “blowing long breaths through pursed lips,” a phrase for which I was berated for overusing in a review of The Cargo.

 The reviewer still gave me five stars, but he was right. And now I’ve had to come up with at least five different ways of saying the same thing, because - I promise you this - my characters are not going to stop exhaling.

They need to be able to relieve the stress I keep putting them through - and take a break from all that stuff they have to inhale.

 So, what do you think? Would you rather inhale or exhale? Shoot me an email if you have an opinion. I’ll reprint some of the better responses in a future update.

 This Month’s Giveaway!

Click the link for a chance to win a signed copy of the final book in the Red Wolf Saga, Rivers of Red. (In my opinion, the one with the coolest cover.) <Link Expired> 

[Readers: visit the Newsletter Tab on this blog to receive monthly updates by email, chances to win free stuff, and download a free copy of The Alchemist's Ledger]

Newsletter Volume 1 - April, 2021


Hi, pack mates. It’s my first newsletter and giveaway!

 Not only that, but I’ve received my second dose of the COVID19 vaccine. Whew. I am so ready for this pandemic to be over.

 I admit being in lockdown at home has been great for getting some writing done, but I have developed a chronic case of cabin fever. To keep myself from going completely bonkers, I tried to find at least one day each week for a hike in the nearby Uwharrie National Forest.

 If you’re familiar with the Red Wolf Saga, you know the Uwharries are the setting for a number of scenes in the books. Here are some pics I’ve taken over the winter.

Not only does a five-to-ten-mile hike every week keep me from murdering those close to me, it gives me time to work out some of the plot corners I’ve written myself into while working on Half Human, the paranormal sci-fi series starter I’m releasing later this year. I’ll give y’all more info on that, including a cover reveal, in the coming months.

 Insider Fun Fact:

The skinny little tree and surrounding clear cut in the bottom, middle frame of the picture above was the inspiration for the final scene in The Cargo. Yep, when I’m alone in the woods, my imagination can run wild.

 News for the Pack:

You might see an audiobook version of The Cargo before too long. I’m currently setting up a mini recording studio. (Uh oh. That means I’ll be doing the narration?)

 This Month’s Feedback Question:

What have you been doing to keep yourself sane during the pandemic? I’d love to hear from you and post some of the better suggestions in a future newsletter.

 This Month’s Giveaway!

Click the link for a chance to win a signed copy of the final book in the Red Wolf Saga, Rivers of Red. (In my opinion, the one with the coolest cover.) <Link Expired>

 [Readers: visit the Newsletter Tab on this blog to receive updates by email and chances to win free stuff.]