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!



Catching Up

It’s been a long time since I posted anything here. Not much has happened that is newsworthy, really. The biggest thing is that Amara’s Prayer has finally been released. I got my contributor copies a few days ago. It looks amazing. I’m pretty nervous about the reception it’ll receive, it being my first full-length novel without werewolves. You can get your copy from Bad Moon Books.

I’d started a new Web site specifically for Amara, and for about five weeks on Sunday’s I posted under the persona of Milton Agnew. But the last few posts generated almost no interest, so I’ve stopped. If you care to see what was going on, it’s at www.whoisamara.com.

Last week Carrie Jones and I finished our fourth collaborative novel, the third in a series. The first book of the series will be published by Tor in 2014. Hopefully Tor will pick up the sequels, too.

I’m currently working on a Western novel. No, not a weird Western. There are no supernatural or cryptozoological creatures in this book. I’ve always been a fan of the Western novel and movie and wanted to try writing one. It’s going pretty well.

Graveside Tales has notified me the company is going on hiatus. Murdered by Human Wolves will be returned to me. I’m a little bummed by this, but then GST has yet to pay me anything in royalties, so … I’ll re-re-release the book under my own MoonHowler Press imprint. I’m tempted to combine the novella with the short stories of Call to the Hunt and renumber The Werewolf Saga with Shara being the first book, as originally planned, and MbHW and the stories of CttH being apocryphal. What are your thoughts on that?

I’ll be doing a signing at Full Circle Books on Nov. 16 with J. Kathleen Cheney and Tara Hudson. More info to come as we get closer to the date.

School started up again and that’s keeping me very busy. My group of AP seniors this year is, for the most part, amazing. Based on their scores last year and our interaction so far, they may be the best overall group I’ve had yet. My regular seniors and juniors … They’re having trouble passing open-book quizzes despite me reading the questions and providing the answers the day before.

The only other thing going on is some behind-the-scenes agent stuff. I’ll post about that when it is appropriate to do so.

Old Friends: A post mostly about books

I drove 21 miles for a used book today. The book cost $3.50. I’m sure the gas it took me to get to Second Chance Books and back cost me more than the book. I could have bought the book for a penny, plus $3.99 shipping, from Amazon. But I wanted it NOW! No, I needed it.

You see, I began reading Terry C. Johnston’s Carry the Wind waaaaay back in February. Along the way, I read a few other books, going back and forth, and finally finished this one last weekend. After 694 pages, it just ended. Yeah, yeah, the guy Bass and Paddock set out to kill was dead, but both of them were wounded and they were down to one pony and were about eight days away from the Crow village where they were wintering. It couldn’t just end like that. I had way too big an emotional investment in these characters. Fortunately, there are nine books about Titus Bass and the fur trapping era, an historical period I just can’t get enough of. I missed Bass and Paddock and really needed to know what happened to them next.

Sadly, Mr. Johnston is no longer with us, and while his books are not out of print, it’s hit or miss whether a bookstore will have many of them on the shelves. Naturally, the next book, Borderlords, was one I had a bit of trouble finding. Thus the 21-mile drive to what turned out to be a heaven of books. My wife has no idea how lucky our bank account is that Second Chance Books is so far away! They had John Steinbeck books I’d only read about and never actually seen. Amazing!

A few minutes ago I sat down with Borderlords and read the first couple of pages. It was like getting back together with old friends and picking up a rich, fascinating conversation right where we left off. Whew! Was I glad to get it, too. Bass and Paddock are still struggling through the snow toward the Indian village.

Speaking of meeting up with old friends, I had lunch with Gayleen and Paul today. They are critiquing the total revision of the book formerly called The Girls Nobody Wanted to Date (new title pending). Since earning her MFA from Vermont College, Gayleen has become a brutal editor! haha I mean that in a good way, of course.

I saw the book trailer for After Obsession today. It is incredible! Very, very creepy. I was wishing they’d done a whole movie. I can’t post it yet, but I’ll put it here when I can.

RIP Johnny Quarles

My mom called the other day to give me a piece of bad news. Johnny Quarles died early Sunday morning.

You likely haven’t heard of Johnny. He published his first novel, Brack, in the late 1980s. I went to his first booksigning and was wowed by the line of people snaking around inside Enid’s Oakwood Mall, waiting to get his signature. I was in my early 20s at the time and that made a big impression. A few weeks later, depressed and needing some advice, I looked in the phone book and found that Johnny’s number was listed, so I called him.

He had no idea who I was, but that didn’t matter. I was another writer in a place he’d been not long before, and that was enough. We had a good, long conversation on the phone, then he invited me to his house. I recall pulling into the driveway and seeing his truck with the personalized license plate that said BRACK. His wife, Wendy, was very gracious about having a strange kid in her house and left us to talk that time. On later visits she’d sometimes join us.

I once got to sit down with Johnny, in his house, and do a very long interview for the newsletter of a writers’ club I belonged to after moving to Oklahoma City.

He gave me a recommendation to his agent, and the phone number of his publisher at Berkley Books. Neither panned out for me; I wasn’t ready for that. But Johnny belived in me. That first time I called him and told him I’d written a book, he interrupted me and asked, “Have you started another one?” I told him I had, and he told me that made me a real writer.

Johnny published seven novels in the traditional manner. Brack, Varro, Fool’s Gold, No Man’s Land, The Spirit Trail, Shadow of the Gun, and Treachery. He became pretty disillusioned with the publication of Shadow of the Gun because the publisher changed his preferred title — The Gunny — and used a cover he didn’t like. Treachery felt like he was just going through the motions of fulfilling a contract, and after that he quit writing for print publication. He published some other titles as audio book and, as the above article says, wrote for TV. Most of what he wrote was in the Western genre, but it’s good writing. Too often books written for the “men’s market” suffer from poor writing, but that was never the case with Johnny. I’d read  his novels over Louis L’Amour any day.

Sadly, most of Johnny’s novels are out of print. If, however, you happen to run across one in a yard sale or used bookstore, you’d be doing yourself a favor to pick it up and give it a read. He was a fine man and a damn good writer. I’m really sorry I fell out of touch with him over the past decade or so.