Signing with Hartwood Publishing


This post may ramble a bit as I explain the situation, so let me just summarize everything right up front. I’ve signed a contract with Hartwood Publishing letting them publish my novel Bold Bounty, an historical romance that has ties to my Werewolf Saga.

Okay, now for the details …

I learned of  Hartwood Publishing by reading Gordon L. Rottman‘s novels The Hardest Ride and Ride Harder. I enjoyed both of them. They’re western novels, and the first one made The USA Today bestseller list. I’m about halfway through my second western novel, so I thought I’d see if Rottman’s publisher might be a company I’d consider for Badger’s Bend when it’s finished. To my surprise, Hartwood requires that all stories have a strong romantic element, which Rottman’s books do, though I didn’t consider them romance books. Badger’s Bend has a romantic subplot, but like I said, it’s only half finished and isn’t even the project I’m working on at the moment. But I was intrigued by the company and recently finished a round of edits on Bold Bounty, so I thought I’d dangle that worm out there and see if there was any interest. There was.

So, a little about Bold Bounty. The novel was originally written at about the same time I was writing Shara. I finished it before I started college, so that was about 1997 or so. In 2001 it took third place for Historical Romance in the annual Oklahoma Writers Federation, Inc. contest. At the time, it was a straight historical romance about a Welsh noblewoman captured by Vikings and given to the son of their chief as a potential wife. The woman, Morwen, was betrothed to a cruel French marquis, and that was the conflict.

Then along came Douglas Summers. Mr. Summers was a British werewolf friend of Josef Ulrik who had a very short appearance in Ulrik. Although he died quickly, Summers stuck in my head because of his role in The Pack as an historian. I created “The Halden Cache: A History of the Foundation Stone, and Translation of the Accompanying Text” and attributed Nag Hammadi-inspired document to Summers. In this fictional document, Summers relates how Bjorn Halden came to be a member of The Pack and how Bjorn held meetings of many members of The Pack every 10 years. Bjorn is the son of the Viking chieftain in Bold Bounty. See how it all starts to tie together? For the story of Bold Bounty, Bjorn is NOT a werewolf. The series title for these romance-heavy novels tied to The Werewolf Saga (yes, there are more than one) is The Werewolf Saga Apocryphal Tales. Honestly, Murdered by Human Wolves and Call to the Hunt should both be part of this series, but whatever.

So, why Hartwood Publishing instead of MoonHowler Press? Frankly, I’m hoping for more money. Rottman making the USA Today bestseller list made me think Hartwood must know something about marketing, which is seriously my weakest point. Also, I’m not so good at cover design. I think I’ve done a few decent covers with stock images, but overall, they’re pretty basic. Sales. MoonHowler Press books just aren’t moving. Is it the self-publishing stigma? My lack of skill marketing? Are the books not very good? I don’t know. Even the free e-books don’t generate enough reviews for me to find out what people do and don’t like. I’m hoping working with what seems to be a reputable smaller press will help me gain exposure. I never thought I’d work with another small press I’m not in control of, but I look forward to seeing what Hardwood Publishing will do with Bold Bounty.

And yeah, I know … romance. Publishing a romance next, a western novel this past summer. Where’s the horror? I dunno. But here’s a shocker … the book I’m currently working on is a contemporary romance without any supernatural elements whatsoever.

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3 New Books for June


I’ve been busy since school let out less than a month ago. I’ve edited two books and published them, plus one more. All of them are outside my usual genre. Now it’s time to promote them and try to convince you to buy them.

First up is A Light Beyond. This is one I imagined several years ago, when I still had an agent who didn’t really believe in me. He shot the idea down, but it wouldn’t leave me. I wrote the book last semester, putting down a little over 50,000 words in a pretty short time for me during a school year. This is the story of Robert Prince, who meets an older woman when he’s 13 and falls in love with her. He has a friend who is a bully and a home life that is less than good.

Structurally, I tried something different with this short novel (or long novella). Each chapter is from a different stage of Robert’s life. We begin in a Cincinnati subway tunnel, where he’s been severely beaten. We then move to the summer of 1978, when he’s 13 and meets Alia, the older woman down the street. The third stage stretches over a much longer period of time, beginning when he’s about 18 and concluding with the chapter that reveals why he’s in the subway at age 51. Every third chapter goes back to one of these stages of his life.

For the few who are interested, there is a lot of nostalgia in this book for me. The chapters with young Robert are set on the street where I grew up and characters visit real places like Longfellow Junior High School, Bob’s Cone Corner, Hendrie House Buffet, etc. There really was a woman living in the house described who a “frenemy” of mine insisted was a hooker. Like Robert, I spent a lot of summer afternoons working puzzles, playing board games, and reading. But pretty much all the major plot elements are fiction.

A Light Beyond is available in both paperback and for Kindle and the Kindle app.

This next book is pretty special to me. My first genre love was for the Western, though it was more for movies than books. I’d wanted to write a Western novel for many years, but frankly, was afraid to branch out. The research seemed intimidating, too. And yeah, that same agent who dissed A Light Beyond didn’t want anything to do with Orphan when I proposed it to him.

This one is also told from three perspectives, but it’s three different characters. First is Ramsay, a wanted man just trying to get west, away from his old life and all the disappointments it held. When he catches a man cheating at cards in a small east Kansas town, the man pulls a gun and Ramsay has to kill him. This leads the man’s nephew, Jack, to decide that Ramsay is now responsible for him, so he tags along. Back in Chicago, Les finds out his lover isn’t who she claimed to be, and she’s pregnant. If he wants to maintain his relationship with her, he must leave his job as a packinghouse foreman and use his old Pinkerton skills to track down a meat baron’s missing grandson. Eventually, Ramsay, Jack, Les, the grandson, and a bounty hunter all meet up. There’s some shooting.

About the only other thing I can say about this one is that it’s dedicated to the memory of Johnny Quarles, Johnny lived in my hometown when his first novel, Brack, came out in about 1988 or so. I was about 22. Surprisingly for my introverted self, I picked up the phone and called him shortly after his book came out and found him to be a warm, helpful man with a wonderful family. He gave me a lot of good advice and let me interview him for various newsletters and such. In the early days of the Internet he even paid me to create and maintain his first Web site. My character, Ramsay Quarles, takes his name from Johnny and Johnny’s character Brack Ramsay. I hope my book is a worthy tribute to a great man.

Orphan is available as both a paperback and for Kindle and the Kindle app. The audio version is in production at the moment.

The third book I released this month is a really old manuscript. I’m talking like 25 years old. Songbird was written when my wife was pregnant with our first child. We never asked to learn the gender of our kids before they were born, preferring to be surprised. I know, that’s unthinkable today with all the elaborate gender reveal parties, but … whatever. We knew if we had a boy he’d be named Alexander and if we had a girl she’d be Rebecca. So the songbird of the story is named Becca and the wandering sailor who rescues her from the Trolls is Zander.

As you may have guessed, this is a children’s fairy story. Becca trades her freedom to save her village and she’s locked up in the Troll king’s Fang Tower, where she has to sing every time a Troll rings a bell. Zander hears her one day and vows to rescue her, but the Troll king’s ransom requires that Zander find the legendary land of Farin and bring back Queen Roshell’s wedding ring. Can he do it before the Troll king forces Becca to marry him? Well, it’s a fairy tale, so you can probably guess the answer to that one. It’s a chapter book, so I guess the target audience here is probably grades 3 to 8. The font is bigger than normal, so the page count is higher than the word count would suggest.

You’ll find several homages to J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander in this one.

Songbird is available in both paperback and for Kindle and the Kindle app.

Thanks for sticking with me!

 

End of May


I haven’t blogged just to blog in quite a while. So, as I’m sort of between projects and figuring out what to do with myself at the start of summer, I thought I’d do an update on my life. Because both you readers care, right?

School’s Out for summer. It was an interesting year. Not always a good time, but come the end of the year all is forgiven and transgressions (mostly) forgotten. I’m going to really miss having those seniors in my life on an almost daily basis. They’re good young folks with very bright futures ahead of them.

It would seem I have broken a tradition the Advanced Placement English students of the Class of 2017 had going. I’m apparently the first English teacher of their high school career to not quit the school after having this group. For some of them, the trend goes back to eighth grade. For what it’s worth, I did apply for a couple of jobs at other schools, but nobody called for an interview.

No surprise here, but the Oklahoma Legislature has failed to find a way to raise teachers’ salaries. Many teachers are leaving the state, which is just as well since a lot of schools are having to reduce the number of teachers they can afford (and increase class sizes). This includes my school, where class sizes for English are expected to be 35 students per section … although that math doesn’t really add up when all things are considered and we’re looking at 40+ kids in some classes.

But hey, in other news I finished a new book. It’s called A Light Beyond. I’ll be posting the cover and blurb here in a few days. This is a book I proposed to my previous agent several years ago and he shot it down (like he did everything else I proposed). Now it’s written and is being edited. It’s currently at about 50,000 words, which is an odd length, pretty long for a novella but not long enough to be a novel. I’m not looking for a publisher for it. It’s going straight to my own MoonHowler Press and will hopefully be available at SoonerCon 26, which starts June 23 and really should include your presence.

Students asked me a while back how many books I have published. I couldn’t answer at first. The answer is 16. They asked how many I’ve written. That answer is 30. Eight of those unpublished books will hopefully be released in the next year as I find time to polish and do the layout and design for them.

Busy in June


June has already started off to be a busy month. The biggest thing so far (besides buying a new car) was the release of Love Curse, my first solo young adult novel. I wrote this one soon after Carrie and I finished the book that became After Obsession. Her agent at the time had me do a couple of rewrites on it, then decided he didn’t want to send it out for me. By that time I’d moved on to other things, and this one, once called The Girls Nobody Wanted to Date, was pushed aside.

love curse frontBut now it’s out there, available. I think it’s a good book. A fun, easy book. I know I enjoyed writing it. I even enjoyed rereading and fixing it up for release by MoonHowler Press. It was five years ago I finished it. I’d only been teaching for five years at the time. The book incorporates a lot of “refined” material I’d picked up on the job at the time. I don’t think any of those kids will recognize themselves. haha

Love Curse is available now in paperback and most forms of e-book. There was a problem with a couple of formats of e-book, but I’m hoping those are fixed now. Here’s the Amazon.com link to paperback and Kindle versions. SmashWords has other formats. Unsure if you’ll like it? There’s still a free sample available for you to try out.

On the same day, the audio of the new expanded edition of Call to the Hunt went live. Theo ctth audioHolland did a fantastic job narrating each story (my favorite is “Okie Werewolf Seeks Love”). You can buy it at Amazon or Audible. There’s a sample for you to listen to at either place.

I have a huge list of promotional codes for free audio books. If you’re willing to use them on any of my titles and write a review, let me know, give me an e-mail address, and I’ll send you a code.

And if that isn’t enough, the campaign to put all my short fiction out as individual e-books continues. I got four more uploaded today to Kindle and SmashWords and its partners. The stories so far are “Elijah”, “Nocturnal Caress”, “Grandpa Frost”, “A Drink from the Springs”, Phaethon Alive”, and “Reunion.”

shorts bar

With the Fine Tooth Press version of Darkscapes finally out of print, I plan to upload all the individual short stories (no werewolves) from that book, plus those published in magazines and anthologies after the FTP Darkscapes. The stories are going for 99 cents each. I’ll continue to do some little collections like I did with Unholy Womb and a couple of others. In the end I may do a new omnibus edition of Darkscapes.

orphan2Other than that I’m working on edits for Orphan, my first Western novel. Here’s a first look at the cover for it. I’m not completely in love with it yet, as it seems kind of plain. What do you think?

The story is about a Civil War vet who went to prison for robbing a bank after the War. When he gets out he finds that his parents are dead and his sister is working as a prostitute in Little Rock. He has a deadly confrontation with one of her customers, who happens to be the son of a state congressman, and takes off. The story picks up in Kansas, where he has to gun down a man cheating at cards. The man’s nephew, Jack, decides Ramsey will be his new traveling companion. Meanwhile, Les is a line foreman at a Chicago meatpacking plant and he’s gotten himself into a sticky situation with a senator’s daughter. His boss sends him West to use his old Pinkerton training to find his grandson who ran off from his aunt’s house because he is in love with the stories from dime novels. Of course, the three all come together and … You’ll see. There are several references in the book placed as tributes to my old friend and mentor Johnny Quarles.

Barring other issues, Orphan will be released later this summer.

And finally, there’s Shim and Shay’s Wish, a children’s picture book I wrote over 23 years ago when Kim was pregnant with Alex, our first kid. I never really made much of an attempt to get it published, but read it to all four kids when they were very young. Now that I’m about to triple my number of grandsons, I thought it would be a good time to have it in print. And one of my 2016 graduates is an incredible artist who was perfect for this project. Here’s a sample page with the art from S.E. Wiles.

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My Indie Publishing Rebirth


Sometime back Facebook’s Timehop feature showed me I’d posted about how many words I’d written that day on a young adult novel called Afterlife. The original post was four years old. I reposted it with a caption about how the book still wasn’t sold.

Inheritance front low resHarvey Stanbrough, the man who once accepted my novella Inheritance for his StoneThread Publishing company (then returned it because he stopped publishing other authors), commented about how that’s four years Afterlife could have been making money for me.

“But … but …,” I stammered back, “The editor at Tor who accepted the second collaboration between me and Carrie Jones said she’d look at it when the collaboration is in the editing process.”

This led to more comments, e-mails, research, and soul searching. Harvey sent me to explore the vast and deep Web site of self-publishing mastermind Dean Wesley Smith, and it truly opened my eyes. I’ve read a few of Dean’s books on self-publishing and running a business now, and all this has caused me to completely re-evaluate my career.

(Turning 50 last week probably added a little prod to the backside, too.)

Activity at my own MoonHowler Press has ramped up. I’m nowhere near Dean’s WMG Publishing, or even Harvey’s StoneThread Publishing, but I think I’m on the right track. Here’s what I’ve done in the last week or so:

  • Restarted my use of Smashwords to accommodate non-Kindle e-readers
  • Cancelled KDP Select options on my already-published Kindle e-books
  • Finally published the new edition of Call to the Hunt (paperback and e-book; audio is Call to the Huntin production)
  • Formatted the interior, made several sample covers that were test marked to my high school students, and set up Love Curse for paperback and e-book publication, with a June 7 release date
  • Created an Amazon Advantage account to offer pre-orders of Love Curse (coming soon!)
  • Changed the prices on my electronic novels to put them more in line with major publishers
  • Created a template for individual short stories to be released electronically
  • Published the first of the above short stories (Nocturnal Caress) for Kindle (other formats and titles coming soon)nocturnal caress2
  • Began working with a very talented student who has agreed to create art for a children’s book I wrote way back when Kim was pregnant with our first baby (he’s 23 years old now)
  • Began laying plans to independently publish several other novels I’ve been submitting to agents over the past few years (usually getting no response at all); in other words, a business plan

love curse full coverSo, why? It’s true the collaborations with Carrie both earned us nice 5-figure advances, and I do like receiving large sums of money. But I’m not naive enough to believe I had anything to do with that. She’s a New York Times best-selling author who brings name recognition to our collaborative work. Would I get a similar advance for a solo novel? Doubtful. Also, that editor at Tor who agreed to look at Afterlife made that promise over three years ago. What if I’ve waited all this time for a rejection? Yeah, maybe it means the book isn’t good. But maybe it means that one person simply didn’t like it and I’ve wasted however many years waiting. Afterlife is in my business plan, but it isn’t immediate; I’m still hoping for a big chunk of money and the major label marketing that comes with it.

I did all the above while still teaching both high school and one section of college Comp 1. I’m looking forward to the summer, when I have time to really buckle down on this. Look for some updates to this Web site and a serious effort to make MoonHowlerPress.net look legitimate. It’s a lot of work. I do have a young friend who is interested in publishing and teaching English who wants to help me with MHP. We’ll see how that works out this summer.

In the meantime, how about a poll? I haven’t done one in a long time.

Therapy in 88,404 words


So, yesterday was a good day. I finished the first draft of a novel tentatively titled The Teacher.  This is the first new novel I’ve completed in three years. Needless to say, finally getting over some issues that kept me from writing and actually finishing a new book felt really, really good.

Back when After Obsession was published in 2011 I thought I was finally going to get the break I’d been working toward for so many years. Yeah, Carrie had already made the NY Times bestseller list and was a name, but I wrote half the book, so surely a publisher would be interested in a solo book from me, right? Who knows? The agent we shared for a while seemed dead set against me writing anything with paranormal elements. I wrote two young adult novels, both of which he had me revise more than once, only to tell me he didn’t think there was a market for them. He never sent them anywhere. This led to a lot of self-doubt that really just crippled my creativity. I started a novel last year, but gave it up halfway through because I figured nobody would be interested in it, either. That was my only writing project until I started writing The Teacher in jerks and fits this past spring.

Sometime during the writing, though, the old fire came back and, if you followed my Twitter or Facebook you know that I was hitting pretty respectable word counts for the last couple of weeks of the project. I’m sure it annoyed my wife and kids that my head was always in the story, even when I wasn’t sitting at the computer. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and really only wanted to be unspooling the tale until it was all told.

It was also therapeutic in that it was an opportunity for me to deal with things, through characters, that have bothered me lately. Things like having a daughter become a woman and not needing her daddy so much, spending so much time on the job that you neglect your family, and losing friends due to various circumstances. This isn’t a horror novel. There are no werewolves or ghosts or anything paranormal, and the only person to die is someone we never actually see “on stage.” It was definitely a new experience for me.

I have a couple of weeks before school starts again. In that time I’m going to try to hold on to the rekindled fire I have and finish that Western novel I began last year. There are syllabi to create or update and lesson plans to begin, but … I have to write!

Two Book Updates


god of discord and othersI’ve made a couple of updates to two of my books that have been available for a while. The first is God of Discord and Other Weird Tales, which until very recently was only available as a Kindle e-book. It has a slightly revamped cover and is available in print for the first time. Also, the typos that were present in the original Kindle version have been fixed. Some of the stories in this collection have been previously available in my bigger collection, Darkscapes, but several are appearing in one of my own collections for the first time here.

Here’s a link to buy it from Amazon in print, electronic, or audio formats.

Next up is Two Oklahoma Ghost Stories, which was actually the first book published until my MoonHowler Press imprint. At that time I used one of CreateSpace’s stock covers, which did not represent the two stories at all but was the closest I could come to anything relevant among the choices offered. The current cover places images related to the original publications of the two novellas onto a background texture.

2 okiesThe stories themselves are Little Graveyard on the Prairie and Seven Days in Benevolence. The former was originally only available in a very limited hardcover from Bad Moon Books (BMB still controls the e-book rights to it), while the latter was a paperback from doomed Scrybe Press, with the e-book available from Double Dragon Publishing; I reclaimed both print and e-book rights to those.

Here’s a link to buy it at Amazon. (As of the writing of this blog the Amazon listing is still showing the old cover.)

Now, here’s my question to you: Should I go ahead and re-release Seven Days in Benevolence and Little Graveyard on the Prairie as separate novellas under the MoonHowler Press imprint, or is this double book priced at $9.99 enough? Separately I’d price them at about $5 each.

I thought about killing off the Two Oklahoma Ghost Stories collection to re-release the solo novellas, but the collection has it’s own ISBN and it’d never really go away from my CreateSpace dashboard, so I kept it and just updated the cover.