Some 2011 pictures

To close out the year, I'd like to post some of the pictures I took while on the road. These aren't event pictures, but shots of the places I was able to get to in 2011.

This is a former school building in Brookville in Saline County.

An old-fashioned Coke sign painted on one of the buildings in Wilson in Ellsworth County.

The Opera House in Grainfield in Gove County.

Lost Springs, a site along the Santa Fe Trail in Marion County (a late October shot).

The blockhouse at the reconstructed Fort Blair site in Baxter Springs, in Cherokee County.

The old windmill at the Morton County Historical Museum in Elkhart.

I hope I'll be able to take many more pictures while on the road in 2012. Best wishes for a safe and prosperous New Year!


LISA'S WAY giveaways

There are two giveaways in progress for the new edition of Lisa's Way. One is for copies of the paperback at Goodreads, while the other is for a Smashwords coupon to get the ebook at Library Thing. Here are the links to both:


Library Thing

I'm going to update the progress of them here:

Lisa's Way Facebook Page

If you enter, I wish you good luck! If you don't win a copy, I hope you'll still be interested in Lisa's Way to purchase one.

Talk to you later!


LISA'S WAY is back!


Lisa's Way, my second novel, is available once again. It has a great new cover by Matt Orsman. I'm pleased to report that I've been able to lower the prices for the print and ebooks versions. If you don't know what the book is about, here's the back-cover blurb:

Teenager Lisa Herbert lives in the small town of Mountain View on the planet Fairfield. The “Savage Rain” decades earlier shut down the hyperspace gate and isolated her world. A casual remark from her sister gets Lisa to ask a simple question: “If life was better before the ‘Savage Rain,’ why couldn’t it be better again?”

That question starts Lisa on a journey. She reactivates Fairfield’s H-gate and travels to three worlds. Each planet offers her a chance to improve life by hard work, by trade, or by making friends. She relies on her brains, her compassion, and a little sneakiness to solve the problems she faces.

Lisa’s Way presents a heroine more interested in reasoning than fighting, and more concerned with doing good than looking good.

The print version is at Amazon; ebook versions are at Amazon and Smashwords. Thanks to SW, ebook versions should also go on sale at the iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, the Sony bookstore, and the Kobo bookstore.

I hope to have news on signings and reviews in the coming months.

Thanks for your support!


Event Report - Colby Author Roundup

On Friday, November 18, left for a three-day trip. The goal of the trip was to do the Author Roundup at the Prairie Museum of Art and History in Colby, Kansas, on Saturday the 19th.

I hit a few museums and libraries on the drive up and sold some copies of Kansas, 1874. At the Roundup I sold seven books, plus placed several copies of three titles at the museum gift shop. I also took several pictures along the way. I didn't take as many as I wanted, though, mainly because Saturday morning was windy and cold.

The only problem with the trip was that I managed to crack my windshield. It looks like replacing it won't be too expensive or take too much time. So aside from that mistake on my part, this trip paid off nicely.

That was my last event of 2011. Overall I have to say that I had a good time this year. I did pretty well in terms of book sales. I went to some places that I had never been to before, or hadn't visited in a long time. I met plenty of people and on some occasions took pictures of the sights along the way.

I have a handful of conventions that I want to get to next year. I don't know how many book talks I'll be doing; I have some places to contact, while others I'll just wait and see.

So, what's next here at the blog? Well, there will be more short story posts because I have more of them to upload. I think I'll also post some of the pictures I took and write about what, why, and so on. And there will be some big news in the next week or so.

See you then!


Event Report - ECSE

This past weekend I attended the Emerald City Steampunk Expo in Wichita (in my neck of the woods!).

There wasn't a huge turnout, but I did okay. I sold 8 books. For the Expo I created a brochure listing my ebooks, with prices, titles, and a few covers. I handed out about a couple dozen of the brochures. I don't know if that will result in any ebook sales, but the feedback was positive. I'm going start carrying them with me to events.

I saw several familiar faces, including someone I hadn't seen in over 20 years. Sadly I had to miss the two Doctor Who panels the local group put on. The first went on while the dealers room was open; the other started at 9 PM Saturday night, and I was too tired to stay. I was able to do a bit of networking at the con. I also was able to talk to a couple of the other authors there about ebooks and Amazon's Create Space Print-on-Demand service. I hope I was helpful.

Overall it was a good weekend for me.

The weekend after next is my last book event of the year. I'm pondering some post ideas until new works are published. See you soon!


Event Report - Abilene Author Roundup

I was on the road again this past weekend, mainly for a new "Author Roundup" (a book fair) in Abilene, Kansas Saturday afternoon.

The turn-out was modest, but those that came bought books. I sold four, and I was pleased to see that several authors there sold copies of their books. I talked to some authors I hadn't seen in quite a while.

I drove up on Friday and did some business. Looks like there's potential for a few events next year. Saturday morning I drove around the area and took some pictures. All in all it was a fun weekend. I hope the folks who put on the book fair will keep at it.

This coming weekend is the Steampunk Expo in Wichita. I hope to see some of you there!


It's been awhile since I last posted what short story ebooks I've put up, so here's what's new-

Dark Futures -

Always Have, Always Will: Two groups come into conflict on a vacation planet, and people die; why?
First published in “Golden Visions,” Issue Number 4, Oct./Nov./Dec. 2008.

Frozen Rock: A group is heading west after an economic collapse has brought down civilization. They encounter a band of Native Americans and a mysterious white man, Frozen Rock. Why is he with them? Does he have something to hide?
First published in “Conzine,” December, 1993.

Also available are a pair of new Frigate Victory stories-

Legal Escalation: The Terran Federal Republic frigate Victory finds a civilian ship where it shouldn’t be. The resulting investigation uncovers drug traffickers. Is Captain Ayers and his crew facing a new danger?
First published in “Star Anthology,” Volume 1, Number 2, December 1997.

Frontier Justice: “Sounds like something out of an ancient movie.” That’s what Captain Ayers says when he learns that ranchers are fighting settlers on the colony planet of Cimarron. Can he keep the conflict from turning violent?
First published in “The Fifth Di...,” Edition 4, Number 4, August 2002.

I hope you're interested in them. See you next week!


Event Report - Two in One Weekend

The weekend of October 15-16 saw me doing two events around the area.

On Saturday the 15th I had a signing for my SF books at Blue Dragon Books in Derby. I was joined by Matt Orsman, who created the cover for Expert Assistance. Members of Matt's family stopped by and were kind enough to buy books. The store also picked up some of my nonfiction books to sell. I had a good time, and it was nice to see Matt in person for the first time in several years.

On Sunday the 16th I gave a talk at the Harvey County Historical Museum (above) about Kansas, 1874. I think at least 30 people came out; there could have been more. I spoke about the book, answered questions about it, and mentioned the next nonfiction project, the book on county seat conflicts in Kansas. I sold several copies of the 1874 book.

This upcoming weekend I don't have any book events, but I do plan on attending the Whovians meeting. After that is the book fair in Abilene. I'll think of something to post for next week.

Yes, the 18th is my birthday. No, I'm not going to tell you how old I'll be.

See you next week!


Another EA Giveaway!

Since there wasn't an author tent at the Ren Fest, no event post this week. Instead, this little reminder:

You have a week left to enter the Red Tash Halloween book giveaway. You might win a Kindle! And a copy of Expert Assistance is one of the prizes. Okay, the Kindle is better, but still, free ebooks...

This is where you can find the rules and a list of all the books up for grabs. Good luck!


Me & My iPad

Back in May I acquired an iPad. I'd like to share with you my impressions of this new device in my life.

In short, I love it. I've done so much with it that I don't want to go back to the days when I didn't have one. Let me tell you all the uses I'm getting out of it.

Take the three cons I've been to. I was able to record my books sales and sync them when I got home; before I wrote them in a little notebook then had to enter the sales by hand onto my Mac. I could show people the book trailer for Expert Assistance. I was able to check my email and surf the web without using one of the hotel computers. I listened to podcasts in the morning before the cons started. I could show off my book catalog. I could show people the Smashwords website to encourage them to find more ebooks. I edited a few of the stories I'll be posting over the next several months.

In addition, I have some good photo editing tools on the iPad. I used one of them to create the cover of True Friends. I have plenty of games to occupy my time. I do most of my home web surfing on my iPad. I've read several books (mainly classics, and mainly free). I can even put my ebooks on the iPad for show or to see how the files look before final approval.

Surfing the web on my iPad has been very interesting. For one thing, it's faster than on my desktop iMac! I've noticed that seeing web pages slightly smaller isn't a problem. I can enlarge the page, but often pages are crowded with junk. The only thing I'm not getting is Flash, and I've found Flash to be buggy. I can watch YouTube videos, as there's a YouTube app. Overall I miss very little while surfing on my iPad.

One criticism is the lack of features that Pages (my word processor) for iPad has. Namely the program lacks smart quotes. This means I can't really write in it. I would have to change the quotation marks in my desktop version of Pages if I wrote anything with dialogue.

My other criticism is one shared by many: the iPad's less-than-stellar still camera. I haven't tried to take still pictures because I know how weak the camera is. That weakness means I still have to take a digital camera with me on the road to take pictures. I'm probably not alone in hoping that Apple with include a much better camera in a future version of the iPad.

In short, my iPad has become my computer of choice for most of what I do. I'm not going to give up my desktop iMac anytime soon, but I won't be using it as much as my iPad.


Another EA Giveaway!

Quick post: one of the many authors I've met since really getting into self-publishing my fiction is having a Halloween book giveaway to celebrate a new release. A copy of Expert Assistance is one of the prizes!

This is where you can find the rules and a list of all the books up for grabs. Good luck!


Event Report - 2011 Frisco Convention

On Saturday, Sept. 17, I attended the convention put on by members of the Frisco Railroad Forum. The convention has moved in the three years it's been put on. This year it was held in Springfield, MO, the city that for years was where the Frisco was headquartered.

The convention itself was held at Frisco Crossing. This used to be a Frisco administrative building. It how houses offices, a restaurant, and a meeting room. The main events at the convention were presentations, door prize drawings, and a few vendors. I was able to sell several books, and some extra stuff I had brought with me. I was too tired to take part in either of the afternoon tours, however.

There's been no decision on where to hold next year's convention. Wichita is in the running. If Wichita gets it I might go back, but when is just as big a factor for me as where.

My event schedule will be quiet for a couple of weeks, so I'll have to think up some new topics to post about. I should have another post later this week, on a new book giveaway.


Event Reports - Glitch Con & Whitewater Book Talk

Over the weekend of September 9-11, I attended Glitch Con in Bentonville, Arkansas. I didn't sell very many books there, but it seemed as though attendance was good. I did meet plenty of people, and saw some I hadn't seen in a while. In fact I was meeting people right up to the start of closing ceremonies! Overall I had a good time, and I'd like to go back if they do it again next year.

Then, on Tuesday the 13th, I spoke about Kansas 1874 at the Whitewater library (which is just up the road from where I am, Andover). There were about a dozen in attendance. I answered questions about the book and about self publishing. I also sold some books.

The most interesting aspect of my visit was that I learned that the library has a Nook that they're lending out. This means their patrons can read ebooks without having a reader of their own. This is an interesting idea. I hope that other libraries will consider it as one way to keep open in this new digital age.

Next week, I should have a report on the 2011 Frisco convention.


New Novel - True Friends

I'm pleased to announce that I have a new short novel for sale, True Friends. It's not science fiction or fantasy, tho' it does feature SF/F fans. It was inspired by some experiences and lessons from high school and just after. Here's what it's about:

It’s the fall of 1983. David Chalmers is a high school senior who hangs around with a group of fellow science-fiction fans, but feels few attachments to them. Alison Hughes runs with the popular crowd, but she’s as smart as she is pretty, and wonders if they’re becoming predictable.

Over the course of a few weeks events will cause David and Alison to think about what it means to be friends. Are friends just people you spend time with? What does it mean when you’re someone’s friend? Why should any of that be important?

It's in ebook form only; here's where you can get it:

Amazon Kindle Store


B&N Nook Store

I hope you'll get a copy, and that you enjoy it.

I've got a busy schedule for the fall, so there will be lots of posts about my events. I'll insert an extra item or two when there's a quiet week. See you on the road!


Event Report - Rose Hill book talk

On Saturday August 27 I spoke about Kansas 1874 at the Rose Hill Public Library.

This was the second time I appeared at the library. At the previous talk I spoke at the south end of the library. Since then the library had finished the north end into an area slightly separate from where the books are. I like the arrangement; it kept my talk from distracting and being distracted by ordinary library patrons.

About a dozen people came out to hear me speak. There were some interesting questions. One of the points that arose was how so many of Kansas' early writers were newspaper editors, rather than fiction or nonfiction authors. While these newspapermen were very talented wordsmiths, they aren't as remembered today as they might be if they had written books.

Someone asked how much books cost back then. I recalled that even in the one notice in the Wichita Eagle for Joseph McCoy's book on the cattle trade, no price was given. I wonder how questions like that, about ordinary life today, will get answered in the future. Will future historians know, or will they like we just have to guess?

I plan to have a new short novel out this week. I'll post the information next time.


Short Stories for Sale!

Back in May I began uploading some of my published short stories to the Kindle Store and to Smashwords and putting them on sale for 99¢. You can find them by clicking the links to my Amazon Author Page or my Smashwords page. Here are the titles of what's available:

What To Change
A Stop at Stanford
The Camlan Gift

Plus these Frigate Victory stories:
Dramatic Solution & The Allergy Factor
Who You Trust

I'm putting up two stories (or groups of stories) each month. I should have several stand-alone science fiction stories up by the end of the year, along with a batch of Victory stories. I expect that next year I'll be uploading my Gwen Conner fantasy/mysteries and some general fantasy stories. I'll try to blog when new stories are up, though there might be a handful mentioned in a single post.

Check out a sample, and please consider a purchase (or two, or three...)


Book Review - Whedonistas

At OSFest I picked up a copy of Whedonistas, a book of essay on the various TV series created by Joss Whedon. I read the book while at the con.

It's from the same press that published Chicks Dig Time Lords, and follows a similar format. There are essays by women about Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Doctor Horrible's Sing-Aong Blog. The pieces come from fans, authors, and two interviews are included: one with writer/producer Jane Espenson, the other with Juliet Landau (Drusilla).

One of my favorite pieces in the book is an appreciation of Firefly's Kaylee. It points out that though Kaylee is smart and a good engineer, she's also a young woman who likes to feel attractive and is deeply in love. This is an important point: female characters are often forced to be either smart or girly, rarely both. It's something I'm going to keep in mind as I write more about Lisa Herbert and her adventures.

The downside of this book is that it's not so much "warts and all" as CDTL. There wasn't that much criticism of the series or of fandom. I think both of these are due to the fact that Whedon's works only go back to the mid-to-late 1990s. Standards are higher for genre TV, and fandom has become more diverse. I would be curious to revisit this subject in another ten years.

That said, this is a good book to buy if you have any interest in Whedon's work. I give it 3 out of 5 stars at Goodreads.


Event Report - Country Threshing Day

Saturday, August 6 was a hot day to be out. I was up in Goessel at the Mennonite Heritage Museum to do a book signing with Cheryl Unruh (that's her above, reading from her great book Flyover People). We were in the bank building on the museum grounds, which had air conditioning. It wasn't cold, but it was much cooler than being outside.

We started the signing before noon. Cheryl read from her book at 1 PM. I've read the book, and it's a great read, full of essays on life in Kansas. It was good to hear her read from the book. Authors can sound one way in conversation, and a different way "on stage." Hearing how the author interprets their writing out loud can be enlightening. I recommend you go to her site and learn more about her books and her appearance schedule.

I was supposed to give a talk later in the afternoon. By then the crowd had thinned, so I chose not to. I'd already met several people, talked about my books, and had sold a few, so it was no big deal not to speak this time. Overall it was fun day.


So Long And Thanks For All The Film

On Monday, June 20, I went to the Augusta library to look at microfilm ordered through interlibrary loan. I've been doing this for about the last 12 to 15 years. That Monday was the last time I'll make such a trip.

There was an increase in the price of copies, but this only moved up the day when this was going to happen. The main reason for this has to do with the nonfiction side of my writing career.

As you know, right now the nonfiction book I'm promoting is Kansas, 1874. I had planned on promoting it just through next year. But I haven't reached all the places I wanted to so far. I'm wondering if I might still be doing events for it through 2013. That would push back the release of the next big nonfiction book about county-seat fights in Kansas. I plan on giving myself three years to promote that, since it covers so much of the state. Any delay in the release pushes back when my new Kansas Pacific railroad history comes out (and my book on the struggle over slavery in Kansas, which I wanted to have out at the same time).

Obviously, I'll be promoting my nonfiction books through the rest of this decade.

And after that? Well, I have some ideas, but that's all they are right now. They're interesting ideas, but I'm not as passionate about those projects as I have been about what I've been working on. If I'm going to spend time and money on them I should really care about them.

I've also wondered about researching and writing any project if it will several years before I can publish it. Does that make the effort more of "something to keep me busy" rather than "a book I want to write?" Does it make sense to work on a book now that I'm not passionate about, and that won't come out for a decade or so?

Something else I've thought about is how technology is changing research. I had to look at microfilm because that was the only way to get information out of old newspapers. For several years efforts have been underway to digitize newspapers and put them on the web. I took advantage of those resources for the Kansas Territory book, and more recently for the KP book. There aren't many newspapers online right now, but what about several years from now? I think I'll wait and see what more is done before starting on any new projects.

Then there's my fiction writing. The split between fiction and nonfiction hasn't bothered me because the nonfiction work gives me ideas, and it makes me money. But I have ideas in fiction that I do care about. What if the fiction end takes off (however modestly)? I already spend a lot of time and money promoting my nonfiction. Would my fiction do better if I put more resources into that instead?

So, that's where things stand right now. I'm going to promote what's coming out. I'm going to finish up the research and writing of the Kansas Pacific history. I'll spend more time on fiction. Then, in several years, I'll see where I am and what I want to do.


Event Report - OSFest 4

The weekend of July 22-24 I was in Omaha for OSFest 4, the annual SF/F con. I spent most of my time at the author co-op table.

I didn't get to see a great deal of the con, but I met lots of nice people. I told several about Smashwords and how they could get all sorts of ebooks there (and not just mine). One man downloaded one of my free Surgard stories while I was at the table. I'm not sure I'll get any ebook sales from the con, but I hope I pointed people in the right direction towards finding ebooks.

As for my print sales, they were good. I sold 18 books at the con, including a couple railroad books. I did my best to encourage people to buy books from the other authors at the table. Since I didn't know their works, I'm not sure if I did a good job. I'm going to send an email up to the con staff in the next week or so with some suggestions. I'd like others to do as well as I did.

It was a long drive up, about six hours each way (including stops for gas and lunch). That also kept me from taking part in more stuff. Still, I had fun and sold books, so I'm looking forward to heading back up to Omaha next year.

PS--Sorry it's been so long between posts. My sinuses were acting up again. It was all I could do to work on my writing and story uploads.


Book Review - Chicks Dig Time Lords

This week's book review is Chicks Dig Time Lords. It's a collection of essays by women who are fans of Doctor Who. I picked up my copy at ConQuest 42.

There's a wide variety of essays in this collection. Some are about the contributor's life in Who fandom. Some feature critical analysis. There are pieces from women who have written Who novels. There are also interviews with India Fisher and Sophie Aldred.

I've wanted to get a copy since the book first came out. One of the contributors is a good friend of mine, Jennifer Adams Kelley. I got the book in trade from another contributor, Torchwood Babiez co-creator Tammy Garrison.

This book is a very interesting read. It does tell of Who fandom from a female perspective. It also reveals the diversity of how fans have come to the series. There are those who came during the original run in Britain; those Americans who came when the series arrived here in the 1980s; and those who joined up when the series restarted several years ago. It's important to note that fandom isn't just a "guy thing" (or a "boy thing"), but that it crosses lines of gender and generation.

Another aspect of the book I liked is the "warts and all" approach of some of the essays. There are criticisms of the series and of how fandom sometimes operates. This is in contrast to what I read about Star Trek fandom in the late 1970s-early 1980s, which portrayed fandom as one big happy family. It's good to let fans know that not everyone gets along, if for no other reason than to show how fans shouldn't behave.

If you are any sort of Who fan you need to pick up this book. I give it 4 out of 5 stars at Goodreads.


Event Report - Author Extravaganza

Saturday the 18th was the 5th Annual Author Extravaganza at the Town Crier Bookstore in Emporia. About 40 authors were there this time.

I was there to promote my Kansas, 1874 book. Two copies of that book did sell. A couple of railroad books were also sold, but it seems everywhere I go at least one moves. What was surprising was that two copies of Fun Tales of Fantasy and the Future and a copy of Expert Assistance also went out the door.

Something else interesting was that there were a couple more SF/F authors there than last year. Could it be that the number of genre authors in Kansas is growing? Overall it was a fun two hours. I wish I could have picked up some books, but I'm having to save my pennies for OSFest in Omaha in July. I also would have liked to have talked to more of the authors.

An author from Abilene is working to put on an Author Roundup there on October 29. I've put in for a table at the event. I'll let you know more as I know more about it. Right now I can say that it's October 29, at the Abilene Community Center, from 1-4 PM.

Next week I'll post another book review.


Book Review - From Ice to Ashes

I picked up this book at the Sunflower State Book Festival last October. The author, Maia Carlson, sat in front of me. At the time she was a high school senior who had self-published several SF/F novels.

From Ice to Ashes tells the story of a young woman, Glace, who seeks revenge on the warlord who had murdered her family. Fleeing from a failed assassination attempt, Glace meets up with a magic user named Ianira. Ianira creates a living weapon for Glace to use against the warlord. Things become complicated when Glace begins to see the living weapon as a living being and becomes his friend.

The ideas behind this novel are very unusual. The whole idea of a "living weapon" is fascinating. The characters are strong, not always sympathetic, but compelling.

What makes this book hard to read is that Carlson often switches the point of view from one character to another within scenes. It's jarring and takes you out of the story. Fortunately there are only a few viewpoint characters, so the problem is manageable.

I hope that this young author learns, grows, and continues to release books. I give From Ice to Ashes 3 out of 5 stars. The book is available at Lulu.com.


Book Review - Celestial Voyages: The Moon

This is another of the books I picked up at the Oklahoma Steampunk Expo. I was with the author in the Artists Alley during OSE.

CV: Moon is an alternate history tale in the spirit of the science fiction of 100 years ago. A young man from Ohio, Curtis Matricks, is enlisted by the wealthy British businessman Mason Star to join the crew of his new spaceship. On New Year's Day 1901, the "Star's Comet" embarks on its maiden voyage to the Moon. Matricks narrates the tale of his adventure, which includes meeting a sentience race of insects living deep below the Moon's surface.

Taking the whole novel as alternate history allows for some interesting reading, not the least of which are the aliens on the Moon. Star's teenage daughter Mary is a bit of a feminist (and fairly smart). The technology includes solar power, cars, and a massive tower through the atmosphere. Star's crew is multicultural rather than just British, Anglo-American, or European.

It's a pleasant read and the first in a series. I'll need some time to consider whether or not I want to invest in the other books, but I'm leaning towards doing so. I give the novel 3 out of 5 stars at Goodreads.


Goodreads Giveaway Mini-post

Over May I held a giveaway at Goodreads for Expert Assistance. I wanted to let you know how it went. Almost 650 people entered the giveaway, and over 50 marked the novel as "to read."

I mailed out the two winners' copies yesterday morning. I don't know if I can announce them; if you're on Goodreads, see this, and want to announce yourself, go right ahead. Thanks to everyone who took part. To those of you that didn't win a copy, if you still think you might like the book please consider a purchase. I plan to do this again when the new edition of Lisa's Way comes out.

Happy reading!


Event Report - ConQuest 42

Memorial Day weekend I returned to ConQuest in Kansas City for the first time in a few years. This time around I wasn't a guest but a vendor, selling my books.

Over the first two days of the con I only sold 3 books. Then on Sunday sales jumped; I sold 10 that day for a total of 13. Just as strange is that most of the books I sold were my nonfiction books rather than my SF/F.

Attendance seemed low. I don't know if that was just the case in the dealers room or if it was low overall. I had a good time all the same. I saw people I hadn't seen in a long time and met some new people. I was able to visit the Dawn Patrol room party for a bit, and hang out at Room-Con for about an hour. I got to show quite a few people the book trailer for Expert Assistance; it earned grins and giggles, so that felt good.

My main regret was that I didn't have much extra spending cash. What I brought just covered parking and food. There were some authors whose books I would have liked to have bought. Next year, assuming ConQuest 43 is in the same hotel, I'll try to save up more so I can spend more.

I'll conclude with an event addition: I'll be going to OSFest July 22-24 in Omaha. I plan to be at the author co-op table in the dealers room; I might also take part in some panels. I'll try to update things as information gets to me.

Next week will be another book review. See you then!


Book Review - Rowan of the Wood

This week's review is of Rowan of the Wood by Christine and Ethan Rose. This was another of the books I picked up at the Oklahoma Steampunk Expo.

The story starts off with Cullen, a put-upon 12-year-old who's an avid fantasy reader living in present-day northern California. Things shift to post-Roman Britain and Rowan, a druid who escapes an attack by raiders by disappearing into a wooden wand. Also along is Rowan's bride-to-be Fiana, two girls who are Cullen's only friends, and a teacher he has a crush on.

The plot takes off when Cullen finds the wand and begins to communicate with Rowan. At times Rowan even takes over Cullen's body. Rowan wants to find Fiana. She has been searching for him, but she becomes more desperate and dark as time passes. The ending makes this book the first in a series.

I found the characters pretty well-drawn. What was very interesting was Fiana; she doesn't start out bad, but we see her fall as time and frustration take its toll.

On the other hand, there's some switching of viewpoints within scenes. This can be confusing and undermines the narrative flow. To some degree events are set in motion in the present due to coincidence. I suppose this can be attributed to magic, but it's still a bit odd.

I am curious to see how the series progresses. I'm giving this book 3 stars out of 5 at Goodreads.


Event Report & New Event (May/June)

On Saturday the 14th I had a signing at The Bookshelf in McPherson with Marci Penner. As you can see from the picture, I had a few more books to plug. We met some nice people and had a good time, despite her sniffles and my klutziness. I was there to promote my Kansas 1874 book; oddly enough, I sold only one copy of that at the signing, but sold three copies of Ghost Railroads of Kansas.

My next event will be ConQuest 42 over Memorial Day weekend in Kansas City. After that I'll be part of the 5th Annual Author Extravaganza at Town Crier Bookstore in Emporia on June 18; the event runs from 11 AM to 1 PM. This year they're limiting the number of authors to 50 (!). There's already a pretty good list of confirmed authors. Keep checking their website as more choose to come.

Next week I'll be posting another review of a book I picked up at OSE in April.


Book Review - The Pirate Bride

This week's review is of The Pirate Bride by father-and-daughter authors Ryan and Anna McKinley. This was one of the books I picked up at the Oklahoma Steampunk Expo.

This short novel features 13-year-old Rachel. She gets a brief respite from her wild younger brothers while on a vacation in the Caribbean by taking surfing lessons. Towards the end of the day she gets to surf by herself. A mysterious school of fish swim by, and strange wave comes up.

Rachel finds herself in the middle of the ocean. She's picked up by a pirate ship. The crew isn't sure if she's a mermaid (a "pirate bride") come to save them, or a witch who will keep them forever lost. Rachel has to get on the pirates' good side and figure out how to escape her odd predicament.

The Pirate Bride is aimed at middle-school and early teen readers, yet I found it fairly enjoyable. Rachel is a character who is sympathetic but not at all perfect. You see her learn and grow as the story zips along. The book also has some good illustrations. Parents could buy this for their children, and still have a good read themselves. I'm giving 4 out of 5 stars at Goodreads.


Book Review - Con & Conjure

This series of book reviews starts with the latest in Lisa Shearin's "Raine Benares" books, Con & Conjure. The heroine, Raine, is still bonded to the soul-stealing rock known as the Saghred. She's trying to run an elaborate con to prevent the elves and goblins from going to war. In the novel we meet a new member of her family of pirates and the assassin who was Raine's ex-fiance'.

The story moves along at a pretty good clip. There's intrigue and action, and the love between Raine and the elf paladin Michael develops nicely. Raine is still a fun character to follow.

However. There are two coincidences that come late in the novel. One involves a murder, the other is a bar fight. Both are used to get Raine to the next place she needs to be. The problem is that both events so rely on coincidence that they undermine the plot.

It would have been far better for Raine to get to where she needed to be of her own volition. This would have made her stronger and more decisive. This is especially true regarding the bar fight. The reveal is so coincidental that I was stunned it was there. It was simply not believable.

For me those two incidents removed some of the enjoyment I had reading Con & Conjure. Since the story is supposed to conclude with the sixth novel, I will pick up that and see how it all turns out. Unfortunately I have to say that this is the weakest book in the series. I give it 3 stars out of 5 at Goodreads.


Event Report & New Event

Monday night, April 25, I spoke about Kansas 1874 to the annual meeting of the Butler County Historical Society. The meeting was held at the Butler County History Center in El Dorado. I used to go to these meetings every year for a while, when I was entering the Jesse Perry Stratford essay contests and placing in the top three.

I read a few excerpts from the book and took a few questions. No copies were sold after my talk, but I did get two possible leads on future book talks. The museum gift shop was down to 1 copy of Kansas 1874, so they took 6 more. Overall it was an good night.

My next event is on Saturday, May 14.  I'll be doing a book signing for Kansas 1874 at The Bookshelf in McPherson, KS (206 N. Main). I won't be the only author there.  I'll be there with Marci Penner, who will be promoting her new book, 8 Wonders of Kansas Guidebook. I imagine she's going to draw a lot of people! I'm hoping some of them will want a copy of my book too.

I'll let you know how that goes, and I hope to have a pic when I post about it. Until then, I'm going to post some reviews of the books I've picked up recently. I'll probably do one a week, with the signing post in between.

And don't forget, I'll be selling my SF/F books in the dealers room at ConQuest 42 Memorial Day Weekend!

See you next week...


Event Report - Oklahoma Steampunk Expo

This past weekend I went to the first OSE, as an artist/vendor selling my books.

The hotel was decent enough, but for some reason management only opened the restaurant for breakfast and dinner. Most of the activities were on the ground floor, but the panel and reading rooms were on the second floor.

I know there were some hiccups with the con. For one thing, the panel and reading schedules got set back one hour on Saturday and Sunday. Overall I had a good time. I sold 10 books over the con. I'm not sure how much of a "reading crowd" the attendees were, and this was my first appearance in Oklahoma City. I can't say if I did well or not, but I think I'll try again next year.

I did meet quite a few people at the con. Almost all were new faces, though I did run across a few familiar folks. There were a handful of authors, and since I didn't spend much on meals, I bought some of their books. Stay tuned for possible book reviews in the future.

Meeting all those others fans reminded me of what I liked about going to cons back in the "old days." Now that I have books that need to be promoted and sold, I'm looking forward to getting back out on the area con circuit. It's nice to have personal interaction with people you have common interests with.

It's also nice to think that perhaps I've made some fans of my own; that I can see them in person every so often; and hear what they think about my books.

My next event is a talk on Kansas 1874 at the annual meeting of the Butler County Historical Society at the museum in El Dorado. It will be Monday, April 25; social hour begins at 6 PM, with the meeting sometime later.


Event Reports

Wow. It's been something like six weeks since my last post. Well, I've been busy, and I caught a sinus virus, and I strained some muscles in my right hand, and did I mention I've been busy? I'll try not to let so much time pass between now and the next post, but no promises.

So, I've done my first events for the Kansas 1874 book since the last post. First was a signing at The Book Grinder in El Dorado on March 26. Just a few books sold, but I had a good time. This black and white cat hung out with me for a good part of the day (the other two cats in the store slept in one of the comfy chairs.)

Next was a book talk on March 29 at the Marion City Library. Turnout was between 15 and 20 people, and I sold several books. It rained a little that night while I spoke. Oddly enough, the last time I spoke there it rained that night too. I think they now know who to call if there's a drought...

Also on that trip I placed books at the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Goessel, at the library in Hillsboro, and at the Bookshelf in McPherson. I may have some additions to the schedule to relay later due to those efforts.

Then on Sunday the 10th I was at the "Meet the Authors" event at the Kansas Originals store in Wilson. Several other authors were there including Max Yoho and Cheryl Unruh. Several of my books were sold. I also got to talk to a few people about self-publishing. I hope what I said was encouraging.

This weekend I'll be at the Oklahoma City Steampunk Expo. Hope to see you there!


Spring Events

My spring event schedule is a bit thin; I might add an event or two between now and the end of March.  So far, here's where I'll be & what I'll be doing:

March 26: The Book Grinder
2222 West Central, El Dorado, KS
12:30 to 3:30 PM; Kansas 1874 signing

March 29: Marion City Library
101 Library Street, Marion, KS
7:00 PM; Kansas 1874 book talk

April 15-17Oklahoma Steampunk Exposition
Stone Garden Hotel, 6200 N. Robinson Ave., Oklahoma City, OK
I will have a table in the dealer's room
Admission Fee; click the link for details, guests, etc.

April 25: Butler County Historical Society Annual Meeting
Location TBA, El Dorado, KS
Time TBA; Kansas 1874 book talk

May 27-29ConQuest 42
Hyatt Regency Crown Center, 2345 McGee Street, Kansas City, MO
I'll have a table in the dealers room
Admission fee; click the link for details, guests, etc.


Side Benefits to Online Book Promotion

As you know from my last post, Expert Assistance is back.  Last week I sent out several review requests; posted a book trailer at several places; created a Facebook page for the novel; and joined the Kindle Boards and the Kindle Forum.  This week I'm planning on sending out a few more review requests and joining one more author forum.

Saturday and yesterday I was doing some forum posting and contacting a couple bloggers about EA. One blogger is Karly Kirkpatrick, who I've had a link to for some time.  The other is Keryl Raist, who I've just added (To Publish or Not To Publish). Keryl's recent post about Outskirts Press is an eye opener.  Karly, when she isn't doing her "Bookaday" posts, blogs about how her adventures in self-publishing are going.

All this activity got me thinking last night about what I've been doing to promote EA, like exchanging blogs and posting in forums. Some of that has been marketing, but some has been giving and getting information. I'm hearing what other authors are doing, and letting them know what I'm up to. And it's not just promotion. One forum discussion I posted in is about book covers; another is about when to assemble a short story anthology; and another asks what fantasy books forum members are reading.

This led me to an observation: these new online marketing approaches also offer us authors the chance to talk about writing itself. We can discuss the business of writing, like covers and collections. We can discuss the art of writing, from plotting to creating interesting minor characters. Online marketing isn't just an internet version of a book signing; it also takes on aspects of critique groups and writing conferences. These aren't just chances to sell books, but opportunities to become better writers at the same time.

My friends, I think this is cool!  I hope this part of online promotion never changes.


Expert Assistance returns!

Good news! My first published SF novel, Expert Assistance, is back again after a year's absence. I have a cool new cover, thanks to Matt Orsman, an old friend who I got back in contact with through Facebook. For those of you new to this particular party, here's a short blurb:

To get out of debt, spacer Jake Bonner takes on two odd jobs. The first, chauffeur pop star Evvie Martini on her tour; the second, helping Daniel and Clarissa Rosen overthrow their planet’s tyrannical ruler. Unfortunately for Jake, Evvie finds out about his second assignment and, hoping to advance her career, invites herself to the revolution. From there the absurdity grows for Jake and his band of “freedom fighters.”  Expert Assistance pokes fun at revolutions, pop culture, and some of the cliches of sci-fi.

Click this link to go to the Facebook page to learn how to buy a copy in print or ebook formats.

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