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Friday, December 24, 2010

A shipment of brand new books!

I just thought I'd post a couple photos, as I received a shipment of my anthology, today. What a nice Christmas present!

Christmas: Do you resent giving?

Christmas. It is my favorite holiday, and merely one day away.

The economy has left so many people, including me and my family, with a leaner Christmas than normal. At times throughout the past month I've had bouts of self-pity, wishing I could lavish things on my wife and other family members. But God has been reminding me that the greatest gifts I can give are not material in nature.

Tonight at the factory job (I do that three nights a week) I wished many of my fellow employees Merry Christmas. I was horrified by the number of responses I received, like: "I can't wait for it to be over." Or, "I don't have the spirit for it this year." But mostly what it boiled down to for everyone was that they couldn't buy all the gifts they had hoped to.

We are such a materialistic society. We are such a selfish and ungrateful people. God has given us so much and, yet, what is our response? "I can't buy Johnny the Xbox this year... this Christmas isn't going to be the same."

Seriously, that is the kind of thing I heard people talking about. It is as if (and I believe it is probably true) the child's expectations are purely material. They have not been raised to believe or recognize, with any accurate and fair judgment, that the act of giving is of far greater value than the gift itself.

But on the part of the giver of the gift, there is also a lesson to be learned. And one that I am glad God has chosen to make me realize again. For if I do not buy gifts at a small sacrifice in time and money, what value do they have? What benefit is there for the giver's soul? Everything we do in life can be an act that pleases God and giving is an art that we must master. For, in order to emulate Christ, we must give joyfully and even eagerly, anticipating the reward of seeing someone else receiving that which brings them happiness (even if that happiness is but brief).

So, this Christmas, remember that Christ laid down his life with joy, seeing our salvation as a great enough reward for his sacrifice. And give to others with the same heart as His.

Have a very blessed and merry Christmas, everyone!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Now Available on Kindle!

Merry Christmas!

For those of you Kindle readers out there who enjoy short fiction, primarily in the speculative genre, my anthology is now available!

This book is great for carry-along content.

Click here to purchase By Sword By Right for a mere $2.99

Thursday, December 2, 2010


“Tell me a story Dad! Please don’t put me to bed before a story.” Little Andrew puckered his face and his father laughed. To his wife he said, “Do we have time for a story?”

“If I do the dishes,” she replied. She shook her head and clacked her tongue, though the hint of a smile was on her face. “I dare say that without us womenfolk around nothing would ever get done. Not the dishes, not the table, not dinner.”

“Ah,” Andrew’s father said. “What makes you say that? After all, don’t you remember the story of Troy?”

Andrew’s mother frowned. “Of course I remember. But I fail to see what Troy has to do with cleaning and dinner.”

Little Andrew bounced on his father’s knee. “Tell me. Tell me the story of Troy!”
“And then you will go to sleep?” his father asked. He waited until Andrew nodded and then he cleared his throat and leaned back in his reclining chair. “This will be a very short story,” he said. “But I think you will like it.”

Andrew’s mother leaned against the doorway to the dining room, holding a towel in one hand and a wet bowl in the other. As she wiped the dish dry, Andrew’s father began the story.
“A long, long, long time ago the women of the world told their husbands, ‘You would never get anything done without us.’

So a large number of men left their homes and crossed the sea near the land of Greece. And on a distant shore they built a magnificent city, which they named Troy.
But one man, a man by the name of Paris, returned across the sea and stole a beautiful woman. He brought her into the magnificent city of Troy and called her his wife.
Across the sea the Greeks got into their ships and set off to take the city of Troy. They wanted the city and they wanted the woman. ‘We’ll tear that there city down if we have to,’ they declared.

The Greeks landed on the distant shore and saw the beautiful city of Troy, the city built by men, and they waged a war against it. They burned Troy to the ground and it was destroyed forever.”
Andrew opened his mouth to say, “Wow!” But his father shook his head as if thinking to himself and said, “A great many men built the magnificent city of Troy, they finished it. But it took only one woman to quickly bring it to ruin.”

Andrew’s mother kissed his father and pinched his cheeks. “I should slap you for such a preposterous story! Tssk! Tssk! Now you’d better tell him the true story of Troy and leave out all the silliness.”

“Ah, but the only reason you react that way,” said his father. “Is because Troy is the Achilles’ heel for women!”
* * * *
Note: I wrote this out very quickly and thought I'd post it for feedback. How would you rate this as a children's story, say for age 4 to 9?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Story I Want To Read

In my writing travels I've run into a lot of aspiring authors who ask me to read a portion of their work. I often oblige because I do love getting a look into fresh material and finding that occasional diamond in the midst of the wooden cogs.

What most turned me off with most writings was the lack of originality. I could tell that so-and-so had read such-and-such-a-book and been inspired to invent something along similar lines. When I told them that honestly I thought their work lacked originality they were at first taken aback. Perhaps they didn't expect forthright critisism, even though they'd asked for it, but writers owe that to each other and so I do my best to deliver. Also, I personally prefer to hear an educated critic over a flatterer. After all, where does the flattery get me? Nowhere. It certainly doesn't push me to do better, to improve and revise, revamp, and master my craft.

Often at the base of an unoriginal work is a desire to write something that will sell; something the reading public has proved it likes. The most common example I've seen is vampire romance fantasies resulting from Twilight.

Today I was reading a bit of C.S. Lewis, a paper he wrote titled (something like) Three Ways to Write for Children. I found myself smilng as I read because Lewis ran into the same situations as I and had the same response. He told one woman that he didn't care for an element of the story she'd written. She replied that she didn't either, 'but that is what children like nowadays.'

Lewis went on to state that he didn't write his stories to what children wanted, rather he wrote the stories he would have loved to read as a child.

Ah! A kindred spirit of mine, at least in this respect.

How can a story have meaning to the reader if it has little or no soul from the writer? I have found myself of late thinking too deeply on what my readers would want in my novels. It did not used to enter my mind prior to signing the book contract, and if it did it was inconsequentially small an issue. But we all have the desire for acceptance and approval . . . and praise.

I have a novel in progress and I've been struggling to write it as best I can. Tonight I am determined to put the soul back into my writing. The story will be exactly what I want to read and, in the end, I believe I will be a happier novelist for doing so. And my writing will be own original work without trappings of commercialism.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Making a Blue Photo of myself/or a fool of myself?

You decide! I saw Brock Eastman's contest and had to do a quick photo so here it is. Should I submit it to his contest... or is this to vampirish? (-:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Visit to Mystic Seaport

We visited Mystic Seaport today (that being Me, my wife, and Jacob Parker). It was a really nice relaxing day. I've been to the Seaport before but not since I was a kid so this was a lot of fun! I'm really enjoying having Jacob stay with us. The house has been lively and we have common interests.

The Election is Coming

Tuesday is election day and I can't wait for it! Our country's leadership is pushing us down a dangerous road. We have a chance to put people in office who haven't been there before and therefore have something to prove to themselves and to the public. I urge everyone to vote conservative on Tuesday... Let's toast to the Tea Party! I hope they oust the liberals and put this country on a God-honoring path.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Joy of New England Library Book Sales!

When I was growing up my mother took me to numerous library sales and we would pick through the heaps to find the cast off treasures! Mostly we searched for non-fiction. She for cookbooks and self-help books, while I for histories, biographies, and sciences. I also picked up juvenile mysteries (Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, etc.) and horse books (Walter Farley's series, and Margarite Henry). It's amazing what you can find at book sales. I once picked up Stanley and other African Explorers printed in the 1880's for $1! And at that same sale two volumes on the America Civil War printed during and at the end of the war (1862 and 1866 respecively).

Today my mother took me out for the day to a couple library sales. I didn't find anything as rare as that. But for around $15 I obtained a bag full of great books. Among them The Phantom Tollbooth, The Indianapolis, and a couple volumes by Winston Churchill. My mother found a book for me that I had never heard of and which I am looking forward to reading. It is fairy stories from all over the world. From what I saw I think it will be a fresh dose of imagination for me... but that book is at my parents' house because I forgot to take it out of her car when she brought me home. Oh well, I'll get it tomorrow (-:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Three Encouraging Events!

I've been in a rut lately. My writing has suffered because my mind was pulled in a couple unexpected directions (including my 15-year-old dog looking ill).

But God dealt me an encouraging hand these past few days.

First, two pre-orders of Swords of the Six (AMG) were received by Amazon!

Second, the first novel (other than my own) that I published through my company Flaming Pen Press, is a finalist for the Moonbeam Awards! Congratulations to Jacob Parker, author of Kestrel's Midnight Song.
And, finally, as a result of the Moonbeam Awards nomination, a Christian fantasy author contacted me . . . and he lives in Connecticut! Praise God! I have felt quite alone out here sometimes. I have many good friends and lots of family, but I need encouragment from fellow writers as well. I love to network, especially with Christian authors, and this could be just the boost to my creativity and drive that I have desperately needed.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Time to Order!

Ok everyone! The time has come to start ordering your copies of Swords of the Six.

I have placed the order information at the top of this page. All you need do is order the novel and then email a copy of your receipt to me. I will send your prizes promptly.

Notice that you can receive a Free copy of my forthcoming anthology By Sword, By Right if you order two copies of Swords of the Six.

And, finally, I would like to know your opinion of these incentives. Does this entice you to place your amazon order, or not?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

What about my blog Followers/readers?

Here we are in late September and my mind is running wild on how to make the biggest sales impact with my novel Swords of the Six. It will be released in February 2011... only four and a half months away.

I want to spring a large number of pre-orders (a few hundred would do the trick). I'm thinking if I can get half of my facebook fans to commit to buying one copy each that should do the trick. I'm also going to invite my facebook friends. Between the two of those I have somewhere around six hundred people. But getting them to actually do it . . . it always sounds easier than it is.

The fact that the book is available for pre-order on Amazon for only $10 should make my task far easier. So what about all of my blog followers? Will you place a pre-order for my AMG novel? It won't cost you much and you'll be helping a good cause (-:
I am going to unabashedly push this book into everyone's hands. I want it to be a hit with the publisher so that they will want another four novels to follow up the first three.
What kind of an incentive can I offer people to pre-order? Ideas . . . throw ideas at me, please!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Books, especially book covers

This post will be given in two parts Yesterday I set my mind on finishing the cover for By Sword, By Right and I'm very pleased with how it turned out! Now I am trying to decide between releasing this in hardcover for $13.99, or in softcover for $9.99. It is approximately 140 pages, not a large book but a fun size.

The original short stories that I wrote exclusively for this book include two science fiction pieces that I am really excited about:
Abacus One is a futuristic missionary tale of a world off-limits to Christians. One daring space captain takes the risk to bring the gospel to the isolated and unreached children from Earth.
The World Reborn is an imaginative, original take on space travel, where individuals travel from place to place inside space bubbles.
Carriage Angel ...I wrote this one for myself and those fans of mine who enjoy romance as well as jaunts a hundred years into the past.

Swords of the Six (AMG Publishers)
I know many of you are as eager as I am for my AMG novels to release. If you would like to pre-order the new expanded The Sword of the Dragon-book 1-Swords of the Six, it is available on amazon for a whopping $10.19 per copy! Pre-order by Click Here

Please ignore the fact that the wrong cover image is up there. AMG is creating a different, more snazzy cover.

Monday, September 13, 2010

From the Hand of God

Many of you will recall that last year my wife miscarried our first child. Perhaps that has made today's miracle even more special to me . . . to both of us. One child awaits me on the other side of death, and one I will likely precede to Christ.

At 4:46am September 12th, I caught my first-born son. My wife and I have named him Andrew Stephen Appleton. He was a long, painful delivery. My wife labored over 36-hours. But boy was it worth it! The feeling of fatherhood is still unreal, like living in a dream from which I'll never awake. God is so good. I pray he gives my wife and I the wisdom and will-power to bring 'Andy' up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

New, Fun Websites!

For quite a while now I've been shopping around the web, and among people I meet, for a great website design. That is, without success until now:

There is an awesome online software called Wix and I have used it to create new websites for both myself and for my company. Check them out:

And, of course, let me know what you think! I was especially pleased with the way the FPP site turned out. The greatest part about the Wix software? I can easily edit both sites, change them around, etc, and as often as I like. The former Flaming Pen Press website used a Wordpress software and I could never figure out how to do anything fancy with it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"By Sword, By Right" -my forthcoming project!

After my recent post I received 100% positive feedback on my idea to create an anthology of my short fiction (both published and not).

The idea has bounced around in my head ever since I printed out my short stories and placed them in a binder for my personal reference and enjoyment about three years ago. The idea since received needed incentive when a couple people asked me about my short stories. I mentioned my idea to publish an anthology and they immediately said they'd definitely buy it. After I posted about it on my blog I received an email from a woman in Virginia saying she'd like to get it for her grandsons.

Since most large publishing companies don't touch anthologies, and because I want this done in a timely fashion, I will publish this through Flaming Pen Press. My target release is Christmas 2010 and that shouldn't be too difficult to achieve (especially considering that most of the stories are already edited and publishable). However, I am going to throw in some unpublished pieces that I want to share . . . and I am working on ideas for a couple additional pieces to top of the pie!

Here is the initial cover design. The title I've come up with is By Sword, By Right which I believe bags the variety of stories contained therein (fantasy, science fiction, allegorical, biblical, inspirational). I'd love to hear everyone's impressions!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What to do, what to do . . .

What to be or not to be? I keep finding myself working on projects other than my novel series. Not that I've been working more on the odds and ends writings, but I have been pouring a lot of mental energy into them.

Today after church a couple of people expressed interest in seeing a collection of my short stories published in book-form. The idea has crossed my mind many times but for some reason I've never seen it through. Perhaps it is because I feel my short stories are so varied that they don't fit a common theme and I'd like to have that in an anthology. However, I'm seriously considering doing it anyway. The short stories range in genre from fairy tales, fantasy, science fiction, biblical, and allegory. I have several unpublished works that I never showed my fans, including pieces written a long time ago . . . like five years ago. In one tale there is a good dragon by the name of Valorian, which, I'm sure, many of my fans immediately recognize as the villainous creature in Swords of the Six. I like the name so much that I used it in my novel.

So, the question lies out there for my readers to consider: would you like to see an anthology of my short stories? It would include Moses and the Lamb, Splintered Sacrifice, The Woodland King, The Little Children Come, and the Trapped in Imagination stories 1 and 2.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Author Interview: Donita K. Paul & Evangeline Denmark

I recently came across an children's fantasy book by Donita K. Paul and her daughter Evangeline Denmark. Both of them agreed to be interviewed on my blog. This adorable book is illustrated by one of the illustrators that worked on the Ice Age movies. Make sure to explore The Dragon and the Turtle website after reading this interview! It is one of the best designed, most attractive I've ever seen.
Hi Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Denmark,
Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. You have recently co-authored a children's book titled The Dragon and the Turtle. What is the story and how did you come up with the idea?

Answer: The Dragon and the Turtle is about a lost turtle and the dragon who helps him find his way home. Along the way, Roger the turtle and Padraig the dragon learn that making friends with someone different from you can yield unexpected rewards.
The idea came from a bedtime story I told my boys one night when they couldn’t go to sleep.

Mrs. Paul, You are well-known as the author of the Dragon Keeper Chronicles, which seemed to target young adult readers. How did you decide to make this transition into writing for children, and how difficult was it to alter the grade level of your prose for a younger audience?

Answer: I have always wanted to be a picture book author. I love picture books. My collection of picture books fills three seven foot bookcases. As to changing grade level, younger children are actually my forte. I majored in elem. ed. with an early childhood development emphasis. My son and daughter have told me (kindly) that preschool is my peer group. And I believe good readers are hatched in families that read aloud. Picture books are what we read aloud and therefore promote literacy.

Mrs. Denmark, I understand that you are Mrs. Paul's daughter. Please tell us what it was like to create The Dragon and Turtle as a joint effort.What were the greatest advantages to doing this together?

Answer: We had a lot of fun working on The Dragon and the Turtle together. Roger the lost turtle sprang out of my brain, and Mom added his helpful friend Padraig the dragon. The two characters took off from there—just like two little boys ready for adventure.
As far as advantages, well, aside from getting to work on a fun project with my mother, I also reaped the benefits of her expertise in the writing field, and education and child development. I can’t think of anyone better suited to write a children’s book, can you?

No, I can't! It's wonderful.

Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Denmark, There are many fantasy books on the market but not so many, that I know of, specifically for children. Did you find any hurdles in getting a publisher interested in this project?

Mrs. Paul’s answer: actually most picture books are fantasy. Look at Skippy Jon Jones, Dr. Seuss books, the Gingerbread Man. When we speak of fantasy for those over 8, we enter another genre, and that type of fantasy is less prolific in children’s literature. This would be knights, dragons, wizards (although there are plenty of witches), and magic as seen in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Then you narrow the spectrum by going into Christian Fantasy Books and it is hard to find anything available. There are some heavy-handed allegories, supposedly for children. Our easy-in to the publishing of a fantasy book was the fact that I had parents, teachers, older siblings asking for a picture book about dragons for their little ones.

Mrs. Denmark, In your biography you mention sharing Roger and Padraig stories with your sons. Do you get inspiration from sharing stories with them, and how did they react when they heard your book was getting published? (-:

Answer: Absolutely, I get inspiration from them. Without my boys, Roger and Padraig wouldn’t exist. But it’s not just the fun, little boy outlook and play habits that inspire me. Their needs inspire me as well. They both need to learn how to be a good friend, and Roger and Padraig stories are a more fun way to do that than a lecture.
As for getting excited about the book being published, they thought it was cool but really didn’t grasp it until they saw Vincent’s initial sketches. That’s when they started to understand that Roger and Padraig were going to be more than just our bedtime stories. We did all squeal in the foyer the day the UPS guy delivered our first copies of the book.

Mrs. Paul, How does this project compare to your previous works? It has been my observation that younger children tend to greet new stories with greater energy and enthusiasm. Is this project equally rewarding, or more so?

Answer: You should see some of the teenagers jump and gyrate and exhibit extreme enthusiasm for another dragon book. Little people do this too, but over and over. The books are differently rewarding. I love the shine in young children’s eyes when they settle down for story time. I love the way teens and older kids can articulate what has touched them. For both, I relish the opportunity to open their hearts to Godly principles.

Mrs. Denmark, I'm sure many people are wondering: Are you going to follow in your mother's footsteps? Do you plan on writing many more books, do you have ideas that may turn into young adult fantasy novels?
Answer: Yes, I do hope to follow in Mom’s footsteps. I have several adult novels completed and an idea for a YA series. I love writing. It’s in the genes.

Mrs. Paul kibitzing: It truly is in the genes. Evangeline is the third generation writer. Her son already shows a tendency to story-making as well.

Mrs. Paul and Mrs. Denmark, Thank you for participating in this interview. I believe this project has great potential for success in the market, not only today but as a generational classic. In closing, where can readers learn more about The Dragon and the Turtle?
Answer: We’ve just launched a website for Roger and Padraig. We’re so excited about interacting with our readers there. We have games, crafts, recipes, and a “fridge” space to display our readers’ artwork.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Finally I found a site to create an attractive website for my author pages. Check it out: The Sword of the Dragon

Friday, August 6, 2010

Secular or Christian Fantasy (part 2) Author Worldview in Fantasy Novels

In a previous post I talked a bit about The Lord of the Rings and what a slew of responses I received! It was invigorating. However, upon listening to the many comments, I realized that I need to break ground at a new point if the discussion is to have any logical continuity.

Each and every one of us comes from a unique background. Whether we admit it or not the way our parents were raised, the way they raised us, and the people we grew up with made us the individuals we are today.

My father was raised in a large Catholic family but became a born-again Christian when he was in his late teens. My mother was raised in a Protestant home with, again, a large family. Not wishing to let the public school system raise their kids, my parents homeschooled me. My father worked long, hard hours to provide for his family, and my mother served as homemaker and teacher. I grew up in the kind of family many kids only dream of. My father was the most patient, kind man I know. My mother was gentle and a patient teacher, but also a consistent disciplinarian. If I were to summarize my growing-up years, I’d say I was raised in a very loving, disciplined home.

Watching my parents I strove to attain their dedication to family and God. They were the finest examples and I attribute my success as an author mostly to them. My father was such an incredibly hard worker that I always felt I could never keep up with him. I wasn’t as physically motivated as he was so I turned my energies into academic pursuits. And when I decided to write for a living, it didn’t enter my mind that I would never finish the project or fail—because by example I had learned that perseverance led to success and that the road is not easy, but it is worth it.

There have been a lot of blog posts, recently, written by publishing professionals warning authors not to set their hopes too high on success. They say that success does not always come, that only a few writers make it into the elite number of full-time career authors, and so it is better to think “realistically” . . . then they proceed to detail all the intricacies of the market, how it’s changing, and remind everyone that there are few very successful authors.

This troubles me to no end. Why? Because I was raised in a home that trained me to believe in my dreams, to KNOW that I could succeed at anything I set my mind to, and these professionals would rather focus on the business end, rather than the passion behind the art.

When in 2008 my novel was rejected by the publisher, rather than letting it bring me down (though I admitted a level of disappointment) I worked hard, studying the intricacies of creating my own publishing company. My goal was to sell a thousand copies of my books, by hand if necessary, getting it out there into the public until at some point a major publisher offered me a contract. And that is exactly what I did. But was it chance that led to my success? Was it that the right wind just happened to catch my sails and push me in the right direction? No, it was perseverance and patience. Consistency was key, consistency in my childhood trained me to achieve and never accept failure.

One of my favorite movies is Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and my favorite line is when Captain Kirk says, “I don’t believe in no-win scenarios.”

Well, neither do I. And whenever an aspiring author asks me what they need to do to get published and make their book a success, I tell them it is a lot of hard work but that if they persevere they can succeed (and they mustn’t seek shortcuts).

I say all this to point out that I believe every author has a message in his/or her stories, whether apparent or not, their world-view plays an inevitable role in their writing. Tolkien came from a Roman Catholic background and so his Lord of the Rings and other such works do have an all-powerful god, of sorts. But the Roman Catholic church is strong on form; their worship is full of rites and rituals to which they strongly adhere. So, in The Lord of the Rings, wizards such as Gandalf utter spells that are keyed to certain form, certain ordering.

Donita K. Paul in her Dragon Keeper Chronicles has wizards. But her background is, I believe, Protestant Christianity. Her characters don’t, to my recollection, utter spells. Instead they have abilities to interact with their environment within the confines of Wulder’s will.

J.K. Rowling is, by all accounts I’ve read and from every interview I’ve seen, a secular Humanist. In keeping with her world-view, Harry Potter knows no God, and determines right from wrong based on how the situation affects him and those he loves. He uses the same magic as the dark wizards, just for a better cause.

Bryan Davis author of Dragons in Our Midst also falls under Protestant Christianity (though he would be careful to distinguish his beliefs from the majority). But his protagonists gain special abilities through their dragon ancestry, though at times Merlin seems to wield almost magical powers.

Phillip Pullman is an interesting one. He is an atheist and he once stated in an interview I read that he was using his book The Golden Compass to ‘…kill God in the eyes of children.’

In my own novels I am seeking to be as faithful as possible to my world view. My protagonists have difficult sacrifices to make to reach their goals, and all powers are either from Creator God, or demonic worship.

I have seen many Christian fantasy writers whose work makes me cringe; not because of the writing, but because of their use of magic in the story. I’m sure that the Egyptians looked upon Moses as a magician for all the signs he wrought, but he always attributed credit to God. I find very few fantasy novels have an accurate, pure worldview. And for those of you who think otherwise, yes, I think Tolkien’s work falls into that category. Don’t be offended: he wrote it, you didn’t. I can still enjoy these other works, but I must evaluate them based on a consistent, God-honoring worldview.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Outline and Me

Well, I've done it; in writing my third novel I've found that (due to time-constraints imposed by my hourly job) I need to organize The Key of Living Fire in order to get it done and keep the plot-line amazing. So far the novel is around 53,000-words. I'm hoping for between 115 and 130k in the final manuscript.

The problem I ran into was the plot twists multiplied and I couldn't keep track of them all, or, rather, I was close to forgetting key elements as I wrote new material. The outline I'm forming is almost 2,000-words, which seems rather lengthy to me. The story is growing into something I will be proud of and I think the outlining is proving to be an indispensible tool.

Perhaps I'm turning into an Outliner? (-:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

If I Was A Bachelor

My wife has just started selling her handmade items online via an Etsy Shop (which you can find here She is working on baby blankets and tonight I admired the red and gray colors of the new blanket she's crocheting. "Honey," she said, "that is pink and purple."

Well, I am color deficient, not color blind... an important distinction (-: but my color senitivity is better some days than others. I guess today is a worse color day. I don't get bad hair days, just bad color days!

So I told my wife. "Wow. It's a good thing I'm not a bachelor. If I were I could be buying pink and purple bedsheets!" Oh my, and could that extend into towels and curtains? Thank God I'm married and she is just fine with colors!
By the way, guys, before you go off saying "he's color blind" with big googly eyes, remember that around 70% of us are--most just don't know it. So when you singles get married, let her choose the colors (you'll be better off that way)!

P.S. I got a good deal of writing done today. Just check out my wife's picture here for proof and look for the word count at the top right on this blog. The big dictionary is an original 1878 (great dictionary).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Writer's Block syndrom

Working a full-time job plus overtime hours and operating my own publishing company is a big task. One of my readers recently requested I write a post about writer's block and, because that subject has been heavy on my mind, I think now is the propper time to address it.

Sometimes I believe that writer's block exists and sometimes I think it is all in my head. When I go to schools I frequently receive questions relating to how I create characters, how I invent the story ideas, and how I overcome writer's block. I like to say that writer's block does not exist and I sincerely believe it does not. Recently with all the work I've been doing outside of my writing I have not made the time to sit down and write. In some ways it feels like my creativity is cut off for a period of time and I'm just waiting for it to come back. But experience has taught me that I can always work out of writer's block. If I sit down to write and my mind simply blanks on the topic or manuscript I am working on, then I switch tracks to another subject.

In the past I have sat at my computer, mind blank. It may sound too simple, or even funny, but I wrote a letter to myself from my computer.

Computer: Hi Scott, how are you today?

Me: Well, I have some time to write, but my mind is blank.

Computer: What story do you want to work on today?

Me: Well, I was thinking about working on my second Sword of the Dragon novel. But I'm not sure what to write next.

Computer: Hold it! Slow down. Tell me what happened recently in the manuscript. What have you written so far?

This is one of the most effective ways I have found of working out of writer's block. It is my belief that the brain simply wears thin on frequently visited works, so you have to freshen it with something along a different story-vein, line of thought, or genre, etc.

I remember a particular day when I couldn't think of anything to write in my novel. So I started typing a story about a writer who had a deadline and couldn't get his imagination rolling. Before I realized it I had over a thousand words in a long short story titled Trapped In Imagination ...and that story is one of my fans' favorites.

So if your mind is burned out along one track, try refreshing it by thinking along another vein. The brain simply gets tired. Give it a rest, but make sure to exercise your writing skills at the same time. And remember to prioritize your writing. Other things (jobs in particular) pull me out of my creative vein and I have to work extra hard to get my writing done.

Hope this is helpful everyone!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Contract Signed!

It came in the mail a couple days ago--the contract for my first three novels from AMG Publishers! Now that it is signed I will send it off to them. This is a big moment for me. I've been working toward a contract with a publisher for several years now.

For those of you who've been asking "What can I do to help promote Swords of the Six" I have some news for you. AMG's director of marketing is going to focus on viral internet promotion. What does that mean for you? Well, AMG is going to produce banner ads and other goodies that you can plaster on your blog, your website, or anywhere else you please on the web. When the time comes to put those banners out there, invite your friends to become fans of my facebook fanpage, invite them to use the banner ad for Swords of the Six, and invite them to invite their friends to do the same. By this means we have the potential to reach millions of readers--but I'll need your help to do it.

There will be a new website for my series soon. AMG is creating it and they already bought the website domain.

All of this means that Swords of the Six is now going out-of-print from Flaming Pen Press--until its re-release through AMG. For those of you who are among the 3,000 people who own the 'original' version of my novel, keep that copy safe... it's going to be valuable someday!

I'll be sure to keep all of you updated!

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Lord of the Rings: Secular or Christian Fantasy?

My recent post received several comments regarding my classification of The Lord of the Rings as a secular fantasy and I think it's time to address the issue. What makes a story Christian? Is it honorable characters, clean story, or an accurate representation of the Christian/biblical worldview? I believe a story is Christian if it attempts to stay within the Christian worldview, which I will attempt to demonstrate The Lord of the Rings does not.
  1. The Bible condemns sorcery; there is no such thing as a 'good' wizard.
  2. The world Tolkien created is polytheistic; one mighty god and various lesser gods created the Earth and one of them warred against the rest. This brings Tolkien's world closer in illustration to the Greek mythology rather than biblical teaching where God alone created all.

Tolkien dismissed claims that his books were an allegory. He wrote fantastic fairytales and meant for them to be enjoyed as such. An important fact is that Tolkien stated in his introduction to The Lord of the Rings that he did not mean it to be an allegory. Why then do people turn around and say that Tolkien did write it as allegory? Yes, his Roman Catholic background played into the story, but to present an allegory was neither his intention, nor his result--and on another note, Roman Catholisism teaches salvation by works (contrary to Christ's message). There has been a trend in the CBA of publishing books on "Finding God in..." These titles (the ones that stand out in my mind) include The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and The Matrix. I believe it is because we want to justify supporting or promoting secular inventions that we find appealing. But if we have to justify them shouldn't we rethink what we are doing? And if we have to write a book on how to find God in decidedly not Christian stories, shouldn't we ask what motivates us to do so? The Lord of the Rings falls into the same pot as Harry Potter; we have a dark villain practicing sorcery, and a valiant hero who also practices sorcery. That is not to say that Tolkien's story lacks merit (I believe it has much) but it doesn't attempt to deliver an allegory and should, therefore, be accepted as a fairytale.

In contrast to this, consider the Narnia series. No one that I have met denies the strong allegory in those stories. Christ and His sacrifice were presented in a powerful way and any 'magic' wielded by heroes/heroines seems to be accredited to Creator God. In fact, some secular readers are uncomfortable with the allegorical elements. And I know some have been uncomfortable with elements in my novel. Why? Because if an author writes the gospel truth with conviction, delivering the truth to the best of their ability in their fictional stories, it will convict the unbeliever.

In my writings I have attempted to attribute strength to the Giver of might. My inspiration for the 'magical' elements where the heroes and heroines are concerned, are the biblical accounts of Moses and Aaron, and others. God gives power to those who serve him.

Now I know many people will disagree with me on my perspective on LOTR, but I am only basing my conclusions on the author's stated intent. If you wanted Tolkien to call it an allegory, sorry but he didn't; he did the opposite.

P.S. I am a fan of Tolkien's work. He was a master storyteller.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Can't help but wonder...

Can't help but wondering...

A couple weeks ago contract negotiations with AMG Publishers closed with pleasing results. In a short while I will be ending production of "Swords of the Six" and transfering that privilidge to AMG. The publisher expects to release "Swords of the Six" this November and I find myself wondering, with great anticipation, what the new cover will look like and the new interior design. The publisher agreed to use the same artwork, so I can expect to see the dragon image on the new book.
I am eager to begin promoting the new book--and the forthcoming two sequels. The success of my self-published book gives me great hope that, once released, I can continue to give it into the hands of fantasy readers everywhere. I've noticed that most of my readers are fans of secular series such as Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, and The Lord of the Rings. But, now, with AMG backing my series I expect to grow my audience with readers of Christian Fantasy (Dragons in Our Midst, The Door Within, and Narnia).
AMG Publishers asked me to provide material for sales, marketing, and book cover copy, and catalogue information. They had some pretty challenging requests, namely succinct sales lines/pitches. Here is a glimpse of what I worked out:
  1. Described my book in 25 words
    A dragon prophet seeks justice and hatches human daughters from eggs, paving with holy sacrifice the path to conquering an ancient evil.

  2. Described by book in 50 words
    Betrayed in ancient times by his choice warriors, the dragon prophet sets a plan in motion to bring the traitors to justice. One thousand years later he hatches human daughters from eggs and arms them with the traitors’ swords. Either the traitors will repent, or justice will be served.

This has been a great year. I'm looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in the coming months!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Switching Cars

Life has a way of throwing things in my path when I least want it to. Well, it would be more accurate to say that I believe God orchestrates things to happen in order to help me mature.

This week I started an hourly night job, full-time. My friend's wedding is today. I planned to take Friday off for his wedding rehearsal and work the days leading up to it. But on Thursday my wife and I drove to a nearby dealership, intending to look over future car buying options. As I parked our '92 Oldsmobil it died! To make a long story short I ended up buying a 2005 Toyota Camry. It was hard to spend the money on it, but worth it. Every time I've made a trip somewhere in the past few months the possibility that the old car would break down was at the back of my mind. But now I have something reliable and pristine! It makes me feel good about myself.

In a way, my writing career is a bit like my car troubles. Every so often I've had to shift vehicles in order to keep my career on track. First it was AMG's rejection after two years and my subsequent founding of Flaming Pen Press. Then I quit my hourly job, took a five month book tour, and AMG offered a contract. Now I have the contract and have nothing to sell over the summer so I've taken an hourly job again (something I really do not enjoy because it pulls at my creative process). But God is in it all and the publisher says they should be able to release my first title in November--originally they said February, so this is better.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Book Party: KMS

Today is the day! Follow this link to win free books at the exciting party for Kestrel's Midnight Song by J.R. Parker

Monday, May 17, 2010

Progress & Plans

Writing, writing, writing... ah how I love it! But unfortunately my schudule will likely slow things down on my third novel "The Key of Living Fire". I managed to reach the 50,000-word mark today, which is very satisfying.

Now I have a couple other things on my agenda. 1) I was invited to write a guest blog post for Sue at My plan is to get on that Tuesday. 2) Bryan Davis asked me to endorse his upcoming book "Masters and Slayers" (AMG Publishers) I want to start reading that tomorrow 3) I need to get cracking on my website; currently I have a couple pages I'm happy with and other that need lots of work. I'm also considering the possibility of going with a 'brighter' color scheme.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The New Camera! Gotta love it!

This summer I'll be shooting a wedding. For the occasion I purchased the Nikon D200... and I'm loving it! The pictures below I shot at the beach in Harkness Park (here in Connecticut). These don't represent the best I can do with this equipment. But I'm just starting to get used to it. So far the transition to this (from my D70s) has been simple. The controls are similar and the vertical battery hand grip works like a charm, allowing easy portrait-style photography. The photos below were shot using a manual focus 300mm Nikon lens. When I can afford to purchase an autofocus (with sufficient speed and accuracy) it will facilitate crisper photos.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Word count in a novel: Can't find the words?

Brevity was never my strength, not when it came to writing. I remember formulating stories when I was a child and telling them in the tent to my siblings. I drew on historical events and anything else I found fascinating in books I'd read or that our mother had read to us. The tales I made up grew as I told them, idea built upon idea and I felt the need to share those ideas, follow them through to their logical or illogical conclusions!

Have you ever noticed how lengthy most old books are? By old I'm speaking of volumes from early 1900's and, of course, the 1800's. I have a number of old books and I, unlike some people, read them. They are wordy, detailed and often delivered powerfully. They were written with great care, often taking years to complete. I say all this to try and make the point that those writers were used to spending the time to compile their stories and placed as much information as they desired in their novels.
On my recent post one commenter stated they are having difficulty writing longer pieces. I often say that it takes a lot of material to make a novel. And it does. When I write I sit down and meditate on the story, the characters, and the setting. As each bit of that story formulates in my mind I write it down and I slow my thinking process in order to put down all the details that create the scene I picture in my mind.
To avoid brevity: fill your mind with all the details of the scene you are writing and then put it down as it comes to you. Don't worry about the end of the story, don't force it, let the story flow with vivid detail that will bring it to life for your readers. Only when you settle your mind into the river of imagination, soaking in it, encouraging all ideas to blossom . . . Build it with care, with artful design, and then it will not suffer from brevity.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Word count in a novel: How much should it matter to a writer?

Browsing the writing blogosphere it is impossible to miss the number of aspiring authors who are posting information on their current works, including their word-count goal for the manuscript. But when I come to a manuscript I do not limit the word-count. So far I have completed three manuscripts and with each of them I approached it for the story and tried to focus as little as possible on the word-count. I think aspiring authors are hoping to fit their works into various publishers' guidelines. They know the average word-count of their novel's genre and they work hard to fit it into that mold.

Focus on word-count distracts me as the author. If you ask me "What should matter most when writing?" I'd probably answer "Tell the story for yourself; write what matters to you." My first novel (Swords of the Six) was approximately 80,000-words. Last week I sent it to AMG Publishers and included a new segment that brings it to about 85,000. My second novel was a monster to work with, by comparison. It is 120,000-words.

With my current project "The Key of Living Fire" I'm estimating it will finish around 120,000-words. But I won't hold myself to that goal. My focus is relaxing into my story, not forcing it but letting it flow onto the page. Currently I have almost 50,000-words... but I'm not even into the meat of the novel yet! The story is pretty evenly split between Ilfedo, Oganna, and Specter. But the first 40,000-words is only Specter's story-arc.

When writing it is important to remember that it is an art. I do it because I love putting the words on paper and on my laptop, seeing them flow and manipulating them to deliver a memorable tale that people can treasure for generations. My advice to aspiring authors is just write. Don't force the story into a box too small (or too large, depending on the story).

Make a piece of art that you can treasure. If it matters to you, if you treasure it, you'll be passionate about it. And if you are passionate about it then others will catch your enthusiasm and you'll meet with success.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Plainfield Central School in Connecticut

It seems like forever since last I spoke at a school. Today my wife and I went to Plainfield Central School. Literally five minutes down the road from where we are currently living. I don't know how many students I spoke to. I estimate in the vicinity of five hundred. They brought through the sixth through eighth grades.
Next week I am returning to this school to do a creative writing class. I've instructed the students who desire to participate to bring a 250-word fiction piece with them. I will be critiquing their writing and offering advice for improvment. This I greatly look forward to!
Tomorrow I will be working on my third novel. The word-count has passed 46,000 and I am extremely pleased with how "The Key of Living Fire" is turning out! I am expecting to hear from AMG Publishers this week, in particular regarding the particular release dates of my novels.
. . . more coming on that later!

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Offspring" cover design!

The manuscript is written, the cover art is finished, and now the cover design has been completed. Kirk DouPonce, designer extraordinaire!

I've been discussing the details with AMG Publishers. Within the next few weeks I'll be posting more definite news related to that! ...In the mean time I'll continue working on "The Key of Living Fire" and some other projects.

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Offspring" cover art completed!

Here it is, finished at last! Today artist Kerem Beyit finished this piece for the cover of my second novel The Sword of the Dragon: Offspring. I gotta say I love it! He did a fabulous job in a few weeks' time. So I sent this off to Kirk DouPonce, the same designer who put together the cover for Swords of the Six. He'll have the cover design to me in the next week and then I'll plaster that everywhere I can to get people hyped!

Because AMG Publishers will be releasing my books, rather than Flaming Pen Press, I'm not sure if they'll use the cover design. But I want to spread it around anyway. The contract is taking a while and, because I make my living at this, I cannot afford to wait. I have always strived to be prepared and so I am proceeding as if I don't have their offer on the table. That way I can focus on one task at a time... and try to ignore the exciting reality of the contract.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Desensitizing the Public to Sin: it is a constant work-in-progress

There is no shortage of TV shows nowadays. But what is in short supply are wholesome, artful, well-written shows. Since Star Wars: The Clone Wars hit the big screen I have followed it avidly. The characters are believable, the animation is awesome (and a welcome departure from anime) and the episodes are packed with thoughtful stories that add greatly to the depth of the Star Wars universe. It is meant as a kids' show, but I'm not the only adult who thoroughly enjoys it. I've met a lot of people as a travel to various book signings and most of them agree: this show is terrific.
Most recently I watched two episodes involving the Zillo beast. Wow. I loved it! How do they manage to pack so much into twenty minute episodes?
When I think of awesome sci-fi shows I think Star Trek, Stargate SG-1, Stargate Atlantis. But Clone Wars continues to deepen both in characterization and in plot. It is definitely one of the best shows out there.
TV producers cram a lot of junk into most of the shows available today. Between sexual scenes and numerous foul language they desensitize us, the viewers, so that they can throw increasing lewdness and vulgarity into our minds. I'm ashamed to admit that I overlook a lot of elements in shows, including both of the formerly mentioned. I just want to relax and enjoy myself. I don't want to be fighting all the time to purify my mind. But that is the problem, isn't it? We want to be entertained and we empty our minds of everything else to focus on the show or the film. We sit back with a bowl of popcorn (or in my case chocolate chip cookies) and sponge in everything: the sex, the vulgarity, the lewdness, and other sins.
That is a great part of my reason for enthusiastically endorsing this tv series Clone Wars. I can sit back and truly enjoy it without worrying what will be subconsiously seeded in my mind. If I could shake the hands of this show's producers, I would. And I'd encourage them to keep it wholesome. Here is a show I can enjoy with my coming kids and isn't dumbed down--and that is a rarity.

Friday, April 16, 2010

"One Night With The King" -a movie review

Last night my wife and I watched a movie she has been curious about for some time. It is "One Night with the King".

I really enjoyed it. There were some big-name actors such as Peter O'Toole. And the story began not in Babylon but in Israel during the reign of King Saul. Some of the historical facts were mixed up, some altered. But overall it was an insightful look into the captivity of Israel.

I especially appreciated the side story involving the eunichs. Though I don't know what source material, if any, the author of the book this was based on used for the scene of pressing men into eunich-hood.

Much of the movie felt over-dramatic, but in an entertaining way.
If you watch this movie you might, however, be bothered by one blatent contradiction of the biblical story: in the movie King Xerxes never sleeps with any of the women. In fact he doesn't even sleep with Esther until their wedding night. But we know from history in the Bible that each and every one of those young women went to the king on their appointed night. After he slept with each of them, including Esther, he made his choice...based chiefly on her physical attributes. When I read the Biblical story I see a tale of love that grew after he took her.
Overall I really did enjoy this movie. I will watch it again. It has a unique mood, likeable characters, and a fairly intrigueing plot.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


I am very pleased to announce that today (one year and seven days after I first published my novel Swords of the Six) it has passed 3,000-copies sold!
Wow! When I consider that 6 out of 10 novels ever published never sell over a thousand copies, and when very few self-published books sell more than a hundred copies, I feel like leaping through the ceiling! This is an acheivment of which I am very proud.
There are several people who helped make this possible through their encouragment and positive outlook. I want to thank my parents, my brother Brian, my sister Laura, my in-laws, my friend James... But most of all my lovely wife. She stood by me while I quit my hourly job and took us on the road to promote and sell my book in over a dozen states from the east coast to Missouri!
I also want to take this opportunity to thank God for giving me hands to write, a brain to imagine, and the will to do things for a higher purpose.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

artist Kerem Beyit Cover art for "The Sword of the Dragon: OFFSPRING"

It has been an up and down year in regard to searching for the right artist to illustrate the cover for my second novel, the sequel to Swords of the Six. For personal reasons the artist I had given the job decided to opt out. So I started looking around for someone who could achieve a fantastic job in a professional way and short period of time.

Early this year I worked with Halil Ural to get a cover image for J.R. Parker's novel. Halil was apprenticed to established fantasy artist Kerem Beyit. So I approached Kerem and he agreed to do the piece. It is turning out fantastic. Kerem Beyit is from Turkey and you can see a host of his work at

Here is his preliminary sketch for my book cover (I think it is the best version yet!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

SoTS book review

Here is a wonderful review of my novel Swords of the Six

"How to Train Your Dragon" -Movie Review

What a great movie! Really I was surprised by the clever story, great characters, and funny dragon designs. The title made me wary of it; it sounded simplistic. But from the opening scene as the dragons capture the vikings' sheep and the character Hiccup narrated the whole mess, I was hooked!

I highly recommend this. Great film!

Monday, March 29, 2010

National Book Tour--the End

At last I am back in Connecticut. It has been a busy but profitable five months. I drove through NY, NJ, PA, IN, IL, MO, TN, MI, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, DC, and of course up the rest of the east coast to CT. I spoke to thousands of students at both middle and high schools. I met Suzanne Collins aunt, Michael Jordan's high school librarian, artist Dion Williams, author L.B. Graham, singers Shane & Shane... and made some great new friends in writing circles.

It has been one year since the release of Swords of the Six and we have sold 2,972-copies! In January, while in Indiana, I completed writing my second novel Offspring. And in February I met with AMG Publishers and soon after they offered me a three-book-contract, which I intend to accept.

I'd like to extend a special thank you to the host families and couples who housed my wife and I so that I could avoid hotel costs.

So what is next: First is my least favorite thing Taxes are Due. Then I have to decide what to do for work this summer. God has blessed and I am hoping to find venues to sell my book during the summer. Most schools are going to be out and they are my chief source of income. Also on my agenda, I am continuing work on my third novel The Key of Living Fire and plan to have it finished sometime this summer.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Brogden Middle School--Dudley, NC

My final event for this tour is a middle school here in eastern North Carolina. Today I spoke to around 140-students. So far sales have been very light. But I had a fun time and the Librarian for the school took a lot of pictures and some video. Click HERE to see the photos and article.

Monday, March 22, 2010

National Tour & "This's a Messed Up Country!"

I know, the title sounds somewhat fatalistic, but actually I meant it in a positive way. I had a booksigning at Borders-Stonecrest in Charlotte, NC this Saturday and sold another 13 books. Thanks to Lisa for giving me a very warm welcome to her store. That was the last event in the western half of the state. Now I am on the eastern side of North Carolina. Tomorrow I'll be addressing students at Brogden Middle School and I'm really looking forward to it. Not only will this be the last school on this tour, but the media director emailed to say she read the book and really enjoyed it. It's always great to have feedback from my readers. So far out of around (I'm estimating) 1,000-readers, only two have said they didn't care for my novel. Check out this recent email I received from a new fan:
Mr. Appleton,
...I'd like to ask you about your book. More specifically, when will the next one come out? I read the first in one day (unfortunately typical for me), and I'm REALLY READY to read the next. I can't wait!It was very good, a little suspensful, dramatic, etc, etc (i could go on for quite a few emails, but you wrote it, so of course you know). I even cried when
*SPOILER DELETED* I haven't done that since I read Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix. There is no notice in the first book (or at least in my copy) that says if you have any idea when the next will come out, so I was just curious...Thank you, -Emily C.

On another note: I was appauled by the passage of the Health Care bill by the house yesterday. I spent hours watching both sides present their arguments. The result? I learned that much of the hype concerning Obama's administration is based in fact. Between sixteen and eighteen thousand new IRS agents will ensure mandated, government-approved healthcare to citizens of the US. But the illegals don't have to pay and they get the same benefits. Wow! I seriously wonder if it is worth while to have US citizenship anymore. If I became an illegal I'd have the right to choose what I pay for, at the very least.Let me quote from the first "Mummy" movie from the Americans, only I'll say this about America "This's a messed up country!"

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Most Successful Book Event!

Brown Middle School in Thomasville, NC gave me a wonderful reception. The media center director, Mrs. Murphy, arranged for just about every class to hear my talk. I spent the last two days giving eight separate presentations and then followed up with a two-hour signing today.

My wife and I have never sold as many books as we did at this school: A grand total of 139-books!

In other news: I have over 250 fans on Facebook

Sunday, March 14, 2010

North Carolina tour

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. I've landed in North Carolina and am staying with relatives in Lexington. This week I visited Central Davidson High School. Sales weren't that great (I think I sold around 25-books) but there was a small group of very enthusiastic aspiring authors and writing enthusiasts. They sat around my table and we had a great time. I answered their questions on writing, reading, and publishing, and marketing as well.

Today I visited Waldenbooks in Southern Pines, NC. As it turned out Sundays are usually a slow day for that store. I was only able to sell 7-books. But I was very impressed with the positive atmosphere and knowledgeable staff. I plan to return when I tour this way again... on a Saturday, though, not a Sunday.

My tour is almost over. Seems like only a month ago I left Connecticut. In reality that was in November. Only a couple more weeks and my wife and I will be home. Both of us are looking forward to that.

Well, I'll sign out for now. I'm reading The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (which is very entertaining so far) and I picked up a Star Wars novel that intrigued me titled CROSSCURRENT

Friday, March 5, 2010

Ebooks, Kindle & the Prophets of the Publishing World

Those who know me personally will attest that I enjoy reading Star Wars novels. A couple months ago made the Kindle reader available as a free application for PC. I installed it on my laptop and recently downloaded "Ylesia" a novella available exclusively on ebook. The story continues a thread not quite wrapped up in a paperback Star Wars novel that I quite enjoyed.

The book was super cheap and I am quite enjoying, but I'm finding pros and few cons to reading on the Kindle. On the book's very first page a glaring grammatical error drove me a bit crazy. Editorial oversights is the largest concern I have with digital books. Why? Well, publishers are able to 'skip' several phases of production that, currently, give time for the author and editors to spot and correct mistakes that were overlooked in the first edits. Electronic books eliminate the galley copies that always need approval prior to the final printing.

On the other hand I like the layout of the text, both comfortable to read and easy on the eyes. When I close the Kindle it automatically saves my place. When I open the Kindle book again it opens to the last page I was on, thus eliminating the need to mark my place.

But would I buy a Kindle? Uh, I don't think so. I'd love to have one, but I cannot justify spending $300 on that gadget.

Someone asked me, recently. "Aren't you concerned that digital books will destroy authors' careers?" I answered "No." I'm actually very excited about the digital age of books. If properly marketed a digital book has the potential to reach far more readers than a physical book and in far less time. Let's say an author published a novel digitally. Let's say they had a million orders for their books. Maybe they only make twenty cents off each copy, but that is $200,000 in one shot. Granted, that is a lot of copies, even for a digital sale. But I don't think it is unrealistic, especially for an author who has established their audience.

Now, I do differ with many people in the publishing industry on one important thing: I believe physical books will also remain in demand. I expect to see large print runs of books all but eliminated--but there is a savior for the physical book. That is Print On Demand technology. Many large publishers already utilize POD (not POD Services, but the POD Technology). In all my travels I have found the majority of readers are in love with the physical print. Even if they own a Kindle they still buy a physical copy of the book. For a business trip they bring their Kindle, but for reading by the fire they turn the physical pages of a printed book. Retreats into far-off vacation spots where they don't want to be reminded of technology--there are so many reasons to believe the physical book will survive and thrive alongside the digital version.

Ultimately readers will decide. They created the demand for physical books. If they demand then someone will print. In the mean time I'm enjoying the battle of logic going on in the publishing world. Someway, somehow, the digital reader is going to make prophets out of some of us!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wrapping up GA tour

Well, the time is almost here. Monday my wife and I will be leaving Georgia and heading to North Carolina for the next leg of our tour. I was telling her today that I remember looking at this tour in November/December and the end felt so far off. Time has flown, partly due to the success I've met with.

The last two days I've made visits to Oconee County Middle School. So far I haven't sold as many books as I normally do, but I have met a number of new fans, including readers who raved about Swords of the Six. I've been enjoying my visits there and will make a final stop there on Friday. Tomorrow I have a follow-up visit to Peachtree Charter Middle School (where I sold 71-books in one morning). I'm curious to see how many more kids will stop in and get a book tomorrow. The reception there was quite phenomenal.
On another note, totally unrelated to my book events and writing, I wanted to include this picture of my wife. She is really starting to show now and I'm getting very excited. It'll be nice to have a little one... She doesn't think this is the best phot but I like it! (-:

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Hey, readers take note: my blog has 50 followers. I feel like saying it took long enough, but I know that's because I don't spend as much time hunting other people's blogs. I'm too busy writing and promoting my book (-:

Today I went to another middle school. I spoke with a large group of kids (somewhere between 100 and 150, I think). Then the falling snow started sticking to the ground and they cancelled school for the day! I'm beginning to really see that it is true what people say; the southern US is not used to snow. This is at least the second time that snow ruined what could have been a great signing day.

...Ah well, I am back there tomorrow and the weather looks good for it.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Submissions and Solicitation

A couple questions were put to me after my recent post. I'm going to try to answer them fully in this post.

Question 1: Someone asked if writing credits from their childhood should be included in a query letter. Here are my thoughts and how I, as editor at FPP, feel about references to items published when the writer was a child:

If I receive a letter that states "I had several short stories published when I was a child and even a small book" that may grab my eye. But if that first statement is NOT followed up by "and I have continued to publish short stories through the years. My work has appeared in Lightning Flash Fiction, Blizzard Magazine, and Seafish Digest (note: these magazines do not exist)" If I don't see particulars on where that writer has been published I cannot determine if the magazines are credible. Also, notice that I made the writer say they have 'continued to publish short stories through the years'. A six-year-old is not going to write the same way as a twenty-year-old, so I need to have proof that the writer has continued to hone their craft. Most importantly, if a writer has indeed continued to write and get published in recent years, then I know that writer is dedicated and will work hard for my company.

On the other hand if I receive childhood credits and it ends there.... Then I must act on the evidence presented, which tells me they had a phase where they wrote, but time has proved they aren't dedicated to it. I would, most likely, pass that writer up for someone who has recent credits to their name.

Question 2: What is a solicited submission in contrast to an unsolicited submission? This is the first time someone has asked me this. The answer is simple, however. An unsolicited submission to a publishing company is when the publisher did not solicit/ask/invite the author to submit their work for review and consideration for possible publication. Unsolicited submissions of query letters and/or manuscripts are automatically discarded by publishing houses, unless that publishing house has specifically invited unsolicited submissions (which never happens with manuscripts, and rarely happens with query letters). Why? Because the author either did not do his research, or is trying to slip past the necessary steps to submitting his/her work.

Any writer who sends a manuscript to a publisher without prior invitation by the publishing house demonstrates a lack of knowledge and/or courtesy. By reading books on the submissions process writers learns what not to do.

When I approached AMG Publishers back in 2006 with my manuscript, I did so at a writers conference. I scheduled a slot of 15 minutes to 'pitch' my book to their acquisitions editor. Then, when I met with him, I pitched my book and waited for his yes/no. His answer was an invitation to submit to the company (making my submission Solicited by the acquisitions department). A solicited submission carries a coveted stamp of approval. For the next two years I went back and forth with that publishing house.

The most important thing that I did as an unpublished writer was to read and study on writing, and the publishing process. Too many writers send me query letters that tell me (by what they don't understand) that they have not done the necessary research. That is an immediate turnoff and I pass on to the submissions that show the writer is taking the time to do things professionally.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Atlanta Homeschoolers & Sending Rejection Letters

Today I spoke to a number of homeschoolers. They set me up in a Church which was literally around the corner from where we're staying in Atlanta. I ended up speaking for over half-an-hour and then answering questions in-depth for another half-hour. I was hoping to put the audio on my website but it says the file is too large, so I'll have to explore other options of sharing that with everyone. (If anyone knows how to put an hour-long presentation [mp3 format] on my website, I'd appreciate your input). A guy from the church set me up with the sound equipment and even arranged a second mic for the audience to use when asking questions. And there were a lot of intelligent questions... which I thoroughly enjoyed answering.

On a side note: I sent out another rejection letter today to an aspiring author. This one was especially hard because I could sense the author's heart was in the right place and they had a passion for their subject. But the query had a few problems. So I'm going to offer a couple tips to all would-be future-submitters to Flaming Pen Press (and this can all be avoided by simply taking time to read books on crafting query letters and books on publishing).

Two Rules:
1) Don't tell the editor that your writing is excellent; that can be an immediate turnoff. If your writing is excellent then hunt down endorsments from professional writers and then include those endorsments in your query.
2) Don't include writing that you did in your childhood as credits. This does not interest a professional. Only include credits that entail a professional took note of your work, ie. magazine stories.
3) A Tip: Keep the teaser about your story and its content succinct, and give specifics on how you intend to market your book. Don't say you'll do store signings, give us a list of contacts you can use and/or methods you will employ to reach the necessary people who can put your book in readers' hands.

It feels strange to be on the other side of the submissions fence. But I remember all too well the many rejection letters (most of them generic, instead of personalized) that I received. The most important thing to remember is not to get discouraged. Learn from your first query and move on; improve. And research the market extensively. The path to publication has little to no shortcuts (and no author that I know has taken them). It takes years. But those years prove to the publishing world that you will persist and that you are determined to succeed.


"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones." -Proverbs 16:24

In a world where morality is forsaken and Christ neglected, wholesome books are uncommon. The themes of my writing are love, self-sacrifice, and honor.

I see my generation turning from God to the gods of this world. I see homes torn apart in the pursuit of pleasure and self-gratification. Children are murdered by the millions every year . . . without ever seeing the world outside their mothers' wombs. Through fiction I strive to encourage those who are willing, to stand against these things and be heroes and heroines; chivalrous, gentle, full of righteous indignation, and the fear and love of their Creator.