"English & Scottish Ballads" by Francis James Child

Over this past autumn I read the multi-volume collection English & Scottish Ballads, edited by Francis James Child. The collection is sometimes referred to as the "Child Ballads."

I decided to read through all of them because coming across the vague outlines of a couple of the Child Ballads gave me some story ideas. I felt it would be good to go through all of them in the hope of finding other story ideas, which I did. I also wanted to keep adding to the list of classic works that I've read over the past several years.

Francis James Child assembled his collection during the latter half of the 19th Century. He seems to have gone back as far as he could with his sources. Some of the ballads in his collection have two or more variations. In the text Child hints at reasons, such as trying to get to the oldest possible version, or comparing versions published by earlier compliers to find out what was original in the ballad and what might have been added by the compiler or the first printer.

While some ballads Child printed in his collection date back to the Middle Ages, most appear to come from the Renaissance. One volume of the collection is devoted to the stories of Robin Hood. There's also several ballads about King Arthur. Among some of the more well-known ballads in the collections are "The Twa Sisters," "Tam Lin," "Sir Patrick Spens," and "The Unquiet Grave."

Reading through these volumes was worth my time and effort. Not that I could get through everything. Child printed quite a few ballads in their earliest forms, with eccentric spelling and grammar that made reading them difficult to impossible. The variations printed weren't always that different from each other, so some variations I chose to skip. Still, I feel happy to have read them, and they did give me story ideas.

The ebook editions I read came from Project Gutenberg; find them here.


Writing Stats for November 2016

Here's the latest update on how much I'm writing this year.

November was an odd month for me. I had two local cons that took me away from writing. After the first con, I came down with con crud, and lost a week. That said, when I was writing, I was writing quite a lot.

All that means I wrote 145 pages in November. Without all the lost days, if I'd kept to my goals, I would have written 184 pages, so I'm pleased with how the month turned out. And for those of you who did NaNo this past month, I wrote roughly 36,000 words, about 10K off what I could have completed.

I'm almost done with the story I've been working on this month. I have an idea of what to write next, but I need to tweak it to make sure it's substantial enough. The holidays might also get in the way, so I'll just have to see how I close out the year.


A Lighter Schedule

Air Capital Comic Con, 2016

Last weekend I did my second convention this month. If you've been following my blog for a while, you'll know I had a page where I listed my upcoming events. That page has now been removed.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that the events I've been appearing at tend to have Facebook Event pages. I can share those on my Facebook Author Page, which makes promotion of said events easier. (By the way, if you haven't liked my FB Author Page, please do so. To keep up with it, consider adding it to an interest list, say, with other author pages.) Posting links on my Author Page and on my personal page is easier that updating the blog.

The other reason is that I won't be going to that many cons going forward. I'd already decided not to do out-of-town cons at the end of last year. The reason was that I wasn't selling enough books to pay my expenses. It's not quite as hard to reach that goal at a local con, but it can happen if the table is expensive enough.

Just as important is the effort (and expense) that goes into doing local cons. Much of that is keeping stock of my print books. Books have to be ordered, which takes time and money. I have to devote space here to storing them between events; not ideal for someone living minimally as I'm trying to do. I have to think about what titles to keep around and how many to have, which takes some thought and the effort of keeping track of stock.

Not that I'll be staying home forever. I am hoping to have an event or two in 2017. I might do one local con every year. But I do plan to refocus my efforts. Not doing cons ought to free up money to do online promotional efforts. I have my eye on a couple of possibilities, and I'd like to explore others. That, I think, should be a better way to reach potential readers than doing lots of in-person events.

So that's where matters stand. Again, check my FB Author Page to see where I'll be. Otherwise, I will see you when I see you!


Writing Stats for October 2016

Here's the next update on how much I've written this year.

Well, I really was interested in that new story I talked about a month ago. I wrote the whole thing in October. It turned out to be a short novel of about 48,000 words. That means that I wrote 148 pages over that month. That's about 30 pages under what I could have written if I'd made my goals every day. But I'm not unhappy about that number.

I don't know how well I'll do in November. I do have a follow-up to the new short novel ready to go. However, I have two local conventions back-to-back over the first and second weekends of the month. I know that will cost me some writing days.

Here's hoping for another month of good progress!


Eighty House

I have a new book out, my second steampunk mystery, Eighty House. Here's what it's about:

Andrew Manson is back in New York City, working on an invention that might ease traffic in the city: a steam-powered omnibus.

He’s visited by his college friend John Simmons and John’s sister Josephine. John’s working for the United States Navy on a project, and wants to talk to Andrew about his research.

The day after John and Josephine arrive, John disappears from the boarding house they’re staying at, and the owner insists Josephine was staying alone. How did John leave Eighty House without Josephine hearing him go? Is he safe? Who are the men following Andrew and Josephine around New York City while they search for her missing brother?

Eighty House is available as a print book and as an ebook. Click here to find store links.


Writing Stats for September 2016

Here's the latest post on how much I'm writing.

Well, I put together a plot, and the Monday after my first event in months, I started writing. However, that same Monday I came down with a cold, so I lost a week of writing. I also lost a few days to getting the next book ready to be published. Finally, I found myself not excited about the story I was working on, so I took some time to think up another story, and started writing that.

So, I only wrote 45 pages in September. I seem to have more interest in the new story, so I'm hoping that will mean good numbers in October.

Not that I'll be writing every day. I have a convention coming up in the middle of the month. Still, I hope that I'll get close to normal in my birthday month.


The Legend of the Black Fox

I have a new collection in the Defender universe out, The Legend of the Black Fox. Here's what it's about:

Tulla breaks the rule his town leader set down, and visits the men in strange boats from the east. They come with a message: magic has returned to the world.

Tulla learns magic from the strangers, Allan and Prince George. He also learns that Allan has used magic, as “The Defender” to fight for justice. Tulla decides to do the same, starting with the arrogant and corrupt leader of his town. From then on, Tulla will travel the Mountain Kingdom as “The Black Fox,” trying to better his homeland.

This collection contains five novellas, telling the tales of The Black Fox. If you’re already a fan of the Defender series, you shouldn’t miss this collection of related tales!

The collection is in print and ebook editions. Check the Defender page for store links.


Writing Stats for August 2016

Here's the next update on how much I'm writing.

August started well, then I completed the novel I'd been working on towards the end of the second week. I had a few non-writing errands to accomplish after that, and I had to figure out the story of my next project.

That means I wrote 70 pages that month. That's about 15-20 pages under the ideal for two weeks of writing sessions, but I'm okay with that. The novel turned out to be 72,000 words. That means that this year I've written one novel that came to 85,000 words (the longest work I've ever written), and this second one at 72k. Since I haven't written novels that long in, well, years, I'm pleased with my output so far.

I have a new story idea plotted, so I'll start on that this month. Here's hoping for another month of productivity!


Writing Stats for July 2016

Here is the latest update on how much I'm writing this year.

After the Fourth, I started work on a new project. I've been writing pretty much every day. That means I wrote 169 pages in July. That's only 20 pages shy of what I could have written had I worked at every writing session since July 1. That is not bad!

The project is moving along nicely. It's already past 50,000 words, and seems to be between half and two-thirds done. That tells me I should have some good numbers for the first part of August, but then I'll need to take time to figure out what to write next.

Here's hoping for more solid progress!


Writing Stats for June 2016

Here's an update on how much I'm writing this year.

The first part of June was a good month for writing, then I came to the end of the novel I was working on. After that I spent a week formatting book projects that will be published over the next few years. After that I started plotting the next story.

What that means is that I wrote 98 pages in June. While that's not great for a month, that's just over par for that particular 15-day period. That makes me happy.

As I have another book plotted, I'm going to start writing. Here's hoping for a strong July!


Three Questions with Makayla Yokley

As I don't have any new books coming out over the summer, I thought I'd do some special posts. Here's the first one, featuring my friend and fellow author Makayla Yokley. I asked her three questions, and here are her answers:

What is your current book about?

Right now I’m working on the second book in my Lost Angels series, which I’m going to be calling Guardian Angels. This book picks up several months after the first one ended and follows the same cast of characters.

I can’t say too much or else I’ll risk giving away too much about both this one and the first one, but “Guardian Angels” focuses around the Coven and the Alchemists, two criminal organizations of chemists who are on opposing sides of a drug war plaguing Neo-New York City. Laura and the others get dragged into the war and—well . . . I guess you’ll just have to read the book to find out!

Besides that, I just finished writing a post-apocalyptic steampunk novel that I still need to edit. Right now it’s in the “sitting and waiting before editing” phase, which means I’m working on other projects in the meantime.

What is your writing process like?

I usually try to write in the hours before I have to go to work, and again if I have enough energy/motivation after I come home. The process itself is pretty simple, and at the same time impossibly difficult: I sit down and type.

My biggest problem is, and always has been, accepting that the first draft isn’t going to be perfect. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped right in the middle of a draft because it wasn’t coming out the way I envisioned (in a vague sort of way that even I don’t understand half the time) and start over. I’m one of those writers that has to have music on while I write, and more often than not that music comes from YouTube videos. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Green Day and that’s been helping.

Also, the amount of light in my room has to be just right for me to work—something that changes from project to project. The post-apocalyptic steampunk that I wrote was done entirely in faint Christmas lights. Guardian Angels is being done in those same Christmas lights, but also with a bright white lamp on.

What have you read & enjoyed recently?

Recently I’ve gotten back into reading Lois Duncan’s books. I read her in middle school, then periodically since then. Full years have come and gone between readings sometimes, but whenever I pick one up again it always feels like the first time. I don’t know what it is exactly—maybe it’s the ease with which the story flows between one scene and another—but she’s got an incredible style. I’m confident she’s going to be one I’ll keep reading for the rest of my life.

Also I’ve re-read Snow Flower and the Secret Fan which, like Lois Duncan’s novels, is one I keep coming back to over and over again. It’s the fictional account of a girl named Lily who becomes Lao Tong (“Sworn Sisters”) with a girl named Snow Flower. They pass a fan back and forth between them, and on that fan they share pieces of their lives: the good times, the bad times, the tragedies, and the celebrations. The novel follows them as they grow up from little seven-year-old girls into grown women with husbands and families, and does so in such a way that really just grabs on and holds you throughout the whole thing. It’s a quick read but never for a second makes you feel like you missed out on anything.

Thanks, Makayla! Here's where you can find her online:
Makayla's Blog
Amazon Author Page
FB Author Page


Writing Stats for May 2016

Here's the latest update on how much I'm writing this year.

The new story idea has me working. I missed a few sessions, and a day or two, to errands, but overall I'm pleased with how the book is progressing. I wrote 172 pages in May. That's only 20 pages less that what I would have written had I not lost any sessions.

And yes, you read that right: BOOK. The work has just passed 200 pages and 55,000 words, and isn't close to being finished yet. It's the longest piece I've written in at least a few years, if not much longer. That makes me happy, as I haven't written anything close to proper novel length in ages.

Here's hoping for continued productivity in June!


The Defender Chronicles: Volume 1

The ebook collection of the first 10 Defender stories is now available:

Allan began life poor, and knowing that magic was the stuff of ancient legends. One day he discovers that the magic never went away, and that he has the gift of using magic.

He decides to fight injustice as The Defender, and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. His wife Nancy joins him as The Moon Spirit. Although she can’t cast spells, she can fight and use the enchanted equipment Allan crafts.

This volume contains Defender stories 1 to 10. They tell of Allan’s rise as the Defender, and how he and Nancy began their fight against injustice. Their struggles take them from the streets, to the halls of power, and to a distant land.

The ebook is at all the usual stores. Check the Defender page for links. BTW, the first Defender story continues to be available as a free ebook at Smashwords, Apple, B&N, and Kobo.


Writing Stats for April 2016

Here's the latest post about how much I'm writing this year.

April was an odd month for me. I got one story finished early in the month. I wrote the first handful of pages on a new story at the end of the month. Between that I had a con; my sinuses acted up; and I needed to work out the details of that new story I started. So, yeah, I didn't get much written.

I wrote 38 pages in April. Oh, well.

I do have a new project to work on. It's taking me some time to ramp up my writing, but I'm confident May will be a good month for me. Here's hoping!


Tales of the Defender: Volume 4

The fourth print volume of Defender stories is now out. Here's what's inside:

Allan began life poor, and knowing that magic was the stuff of ancient legends. One day he discovers that the magic never went away, and that he has the gift of using magic.

He decides to fight injustice as The Defender, and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. His wife Nancy joins him as The Moon Spirit. Although she can’t cast spells, she can fight and use the enchanted equipment Allan crafts.

This volume contains the fourth group of five Defender stories. The students of the Defender and the Moon Spirit are becoming Defenders in their own right. Theyre using magic to protect the innocent and bring down the guilty, however powerful the guilty might be.

Also out is The Defender Chronicles, Volume 2. This is the ebook edition of Tales Volumes 3 and 4. As I said a while back, Volume 1 will be out later in the summer.

You can find store links to all the Defender works on the Defender series page.


Writing Stats for March 2016

Here's the monthly post about how much I'm writing.

March was a pretty good month for me, except for the part about my allergies acting up as soon as I finished a story and keeping me away from my desk for almost a week. I concluded one story in the Defender universe and plotted and started writing a story in my steampunk universe.

All that means I wrote 171 pages in March. That's about 30 pages less than I could have done. Considering that I was sick for a week, the numbers still come pretty close to where I'd like them to have been.

In April I have my one out-of-town convention for the year. I also don't have a project waiting for me once the one I'm working on is done. I may not get much writing done this month, though I am hoping to work on a plot for the next story. I guess I'll see how the month goes...


Tales of the Defender: Volume 3

The next print volume of the Defender series is out:

Allan began life poor, and knowing that magic was the stuff of ancient legends. One day he discovers that the magic never went away, and that he has the gift of using magic.

He decides to fight injustice as The Defender, and fight for those who cannot fight for themselves. His wife Nancy joins him as The Moon Spirit. Although she can’t cast spells, she can fight and use the enchanted equipment Allan crafts.

This volume contains the third group of five Defender stories. The students of the Defender and the Moon Spirit are becoming Defenders in their own right. They’re using magic to protect the innocent and bring down the guilty, however powerful the guilty might be. They’re also expanding the knowledge of magic to rebuild what was lost when the time of the Great Mages ended.

The collection is now on sale. Volume 4 and an ebook collection should be out next month. Check the Defender page for store links.


Writing Stats for February 2016

Here's the second post on how much I'm writing this year.

February seemed to go about as well as January did, with one exception. I had to spend most of the last week of the month editing Defender stories for the fourth print volume and the upcoming ebook compilation volume. That means I wrote 160 pages in February. That's only two dozen pages off what I could have written if I'd met my session goals all month.

Nothing special is coming up for March. That said, I might pause the writing a bit to do take care of more book formatting for the future. Better now rather than later.

One last thing: I'm no longer posting daily writing updates on my social media. Instead I'm doing weekly posts every Monday. Check the links on the right to follow me.


Slowing Down the Schedule

You may have noticed that this post isn't telling you what I have out this month. That's because I don't have anything coming out this month. I've decided to ease up on the release schedule for the next couple years.

This is mainly due to the Defender series. I have so many individual works in the series now that it felt odd trying to put out each one as a separate ebook. I also wanted to put them into ebook collections, just as they are in print collections. It struck me that, rather than wait, and especially rather than put up then pull the titles to release the ebook collections, I ought to just get the collections themselves out and save the effort.

So, here's the planned schedule: next month the third Defender print volume will come out. The next month will be the fourth Defender print volume, and the ebook collection of stories 11 to 20. The month after that will be a novella that I've been wanting to get out for a couple of years now. There will be a break of a couple of months, then I'll have a few more new releases in the fall. I'm also hoping to put out the ebook collection of the first 10 Defender stories around that time.

The nice thing about self-publishing is that writers can experiment. I'm going to experiment with my release schedule for the next couple of years. Here's hoping the experiment leads to more sales!


Writing Stats for January 2016

It's a month into the new year, so time for a new series of reports on how much I've been writing.

I've started 2016 on a roll. Every day I've been writing I've been productive. I've had some good sessions and some really good days.

All that means I wrote 195 pages in January. That's a few pages over the goal, and is the most I've written in a month since April. I'm proud of that number. What also pleases me is that the work I wrapped up towards the end of the month came in at a couple thousand words under 30K. That and the previous work were among the longest pieces I've written in several months.

I don't if the work I've just started will be quite so long. February is also a short month. Still, I'm hopeful I can keep up a good writing pace that I started in the new year.


Lessons in calendars

As I noted in this post, I recently digitized my writing calendars. I used to print them out and save them, so I'd know how much I wrote the previous year. These hard copies were the only means I had to preserve the record of what I'd done.

That's changed with cloud data services. I was able to go into my calendar app on my MacBook Air and enter in data for previous years. I chose to enter in everything since 2003. That was the first year in a few that I had enough of an event schedule to see how it, as well as other things, impacted how much I wrote month by month. That said, my goal of writing 4 pages per writing session goes back to 2001. I didn't have any new books out between 1999 and 2003, so I chose not to bother entering in the stats for 2001 and 2002.

(As an aside, I'm not entirely trusting everything to the cloud. What I also do is use my printer app to create a PDF file of each year, so I have files on my hard drive in addition to the cloud data.)

I was a bit bummed, coming to the end of 2015, that I hadn't written as much as I could have. Digitizing the calendars reminded men that I'd had worse years that 2015. It also reminded me that I didn't always write as much as I could have because I was researching nonfiction books. Another reminder was that, due to the nature of writing such books (like transcribing quotes, or cutting and pasting newspaper stories so that I only had research material, and not lots of excess paper), there were days when I only wrote a single page.

Something else that I had to notice was how recently I adopted the current schedule. For those who forgot (or are new), my schedule is: two sessions a day, Monday-Friday, and one session Saturday. The goal for each session is to write 4 pages. I remembered that, for a long time, my goal was 4 pages a day, not a session. There was a great deal of writing I could have done had I adopted the present schedule sooner.

So the exercise was helpful, in that it allowed me to see that I am creating more than I used to.

There's one other aspect to this effort that I want to pass along. It's the power of a schedule. If you make the effort to work at your day, day after day, you will see progress. Projects will get started, be worked on, and completed. Old ideas will turn into works. New ideas will pop into your head. Those new ideas will become works, and the process starts over again.

Sometimes it's terribly helpful to look back at where you were.


A Story From Richland

I have a new novella out, A Story From Richland; here's what it's about:

One day a stranger appears in the village of Richland on the planet of Ogallah. The stranger wants to make Richland his home.

The stranger is willing to integrate into his new community, but unwilling to talk about his past. The Mayor of the village, Bert Zimmer, would like to know more about this stranger.

Will he learn anything about this new resident of Richland? Could that information be harmful to the stranger, the town, or anyone at all?

The novella is available in print and ebook editions. Check the shorter SF&F works page for store links.


Writing Stats for December 2015

Here's the last post regarding my writing output for 2015.

December felt productive. There were some interruptions, such as errands, and an author fair in Topeka. But when I was writing I was hitting my goals. That means I wrote 152 pages that month.

Overall this wasn't as productive a year as others. I spent too much time at events than I probably should have, considering that my book sales at some of these were less than I'd hoped. I'm not going to do near as many events in 2016 as I did in 2015. We'll see if that helps my writing output.

One last thing: I digitized my old writing calendars as one of the ways to cut down on the amount of stuff I have. It was interesting to see how much, and how little, I wrote over the past decade or so. I'll put up a separate blog post about that later, so stay tuned.

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