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.

Where’d My Horror Go?


So, I’m currently working on a short novel (maybe novella) called A Light Beyond. I left a Western novel called Badger’s Bend to work on this one. Before that I wrote another Western novel called Orphan. And before that was a realistic — or mainstream — novel called The Teacher.

What do all these (so far unpublished) works have in common? Not a whiff of the supernatural.

For 30 years I was all about the horror genre. The movies I watched, the books I read, and almost everything I wrote had werewolves, ghosts, demons, or some trope of otherworldly origin. But I’m not feeling the need for those kinds of monsters anymore.

It’s kind of annoying. I know a lot about werewolves and demons and such. What am I supposed to do with that knowledge if I’m not writing about them? I don’t know. But instead I find myself looking more and more at the pain we cause ourselves psychologically, emotionally, and physically, and what we do to each other. A Light Beyond is really an examination of the events that led Robert, the main character, to where we find him when the story opens, beaten nearly to death in an abandoned subway.

My theory is that the tropes of horror appeal to younger people. Young people haven’t experienced enough life to see the beauty and pain in everyday things. They need to add zombies and vampires and other things that go bump in the night to make up for the lack of wisdom that comes with age and experience. It’s just a theory.

If I was to write a new horror novel today, I’m sure it would be a ghost story. Old people understand ghosts, because ghosts are often some representation of regret or past decisions. We get that. We’ve had time to really screw up our lives and have the wisdom to be able to look back and say, “Yep, right there, that’s where I went wrong. I should have done X.”

The irony here is that the last agent I had tried to get me to abandon the supernatural and write mainstream, especially mainstream young adult, and I refused, so we parted company.

Anyway, I don’t think I’ve completely left the supernatural behind. I want to continue The Werewolf Saga. I wrote the first book of a YA series with ghosts and I’d like to finish that. I also want to finish a sword-and-sorcery fantasy series that features a lot of monsters. It’s all about prioritizing and finding the time for everything these days.

Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review


Tips for Writing an Effective Book Review

Book reviews are more than just an ego boost for authors. Your review – whether it’s a full-on critique or simply a rating – helps future readers determine whether or not to give that author’s work a chance. Also, on sites like Amazon.com, the number of reviews helps to determine if the site will put that book in front of shoppers looking at similar items; the more reviews, the more likely the book will be suggested to more shoppers (it’s all about the site’s algorithms). Here are some things to consider after you’ve read a book.

  1. Be honest! Even if the author is a friend, your credibility as a reviewer is at stake.
  2. Stars are important, but words add credibility. If you want to give the book you just finished 5 out of 5 stars, fantastic! Adding even one or two sentences about why you gave the book that rating will help readers know what to expect from the book. And yes, authors do like to know what worked and didn’t work for you.
  3. Post your review in multiple places. So you bought your book at a local independent bookstore. Good for you! You can still post a review at Amazon, BN.com, GoodReads, Shelfari, etc. Don’t forget your blog and social media outlets! Cutting and pasting your review to several places will really help the author.
  4. Don’t mention in your review that the author is your best friend, your neighbor, your ex, or your teacher. Some sites, like Amazon, will remove your review if it appears you have a personal relationship with the author. If you were given a free copy it is perfectly fine to say you received the book for free in exchange for an honest review.
  5. Be honest! Yeah, I said this already. A reader who buys a book with undeserved glowing reviews is more likely to become disgruntled and over compensate with more negative reviews than the book may deserve.

(c) 2016 Steven E. Wedel

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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Fate and Legacy


Tonight I said a final farewell to the Western Heights High School Class of 2016.There has really only been one other time I was so reluctant to let go of a group of kids, and even then there weren’t as many that had come to be like family. The idea that I’m going to work tomorrow and won’t see these kids is really hard to accept.

20160520_143859I’m tempted to name all my AP Lit students here and tell a story about them, but that wasn’t my intent with this post. There are some good stories. I’ll only tell one, and it’s one from Friday, the last day of class. The seniors were dismissed after their assembly that day, which ended around 10:30 a.m. A couple of my girls, Sarah and Casidee, had been working for a couple of days to surprise me by getting most of my 6th hour AP Lit class to come back during their regular class time; they’d even arranged with another teacher to get me out of the room so they could get in undetected. That’s them in the photo, along with a few of my 2nd hour AP Lit kids. They also gave me a photo album with pictures going back to the beginning of the school year. There were flowers, food, some letters, and a couple of other gifts. It was an overwhelming display of affection and I doubt they’ll ever know how much it really meant to me.

As I told them, I didn’t want to come back to Western Heights this year. I tried very hard to find another job last summer. I won’t go into all the reasons, but one of them was because my best friend left the school. Left public education for a charter school. Now two more friends are leaving the Heights for the same charter school. I’ve applied at that charter school at least three times and can’t get an interview.

Tonight, after the graduation, two of my girls from last year, Daniela and Christine, stopped to talk to me. They told me about an event they organized at the Oklahoma Capitol a few months ago to raise awareness about the budget crisis and its effect on public education. They explained how they were telling everyone who stopped at the table they set up about me and how they were doing that for me. Someone else was telling me his brother, Class of 2008, still talks about me, wishing he’d been in my class; that was my first full year as a teacher and I didn’t even know what I was doing. Demarcus’s mom thanked me tonight for being a great teacher and said Demarcus talks about me all the time. Demarcus is an amazing young man … but I’ve never had him in class. Why would he talk about me? Why would a 2008 senior, who I didn’t have in class, talk about me?

I’m not fishing for compliments here. I don’t consider myself a great teacher. I’m no Wilda Walker, Gladys Lewis, or James McCurtain. Those are great teachers. I’m just a guy who decided to try teaching after several other careers left me unfulfilled. I love reading and writing, and have learned that I love helping kids. I am in awe of someone like James, who is all business and passion but who has the love and respect of his students without having to resort to jokes and teasing them.

Another of my girls, Lyndie, gave me a journal as a gift. She wrote a letter on the opening page and I’d like to share a small excerpt of that here:

I hope that one day I can inspire my future students in the same way you have countless others. I’m very blessed to have spent my senior year with you … One day I will look into my very own classroom and I’ll think of you, the person who has opened my eyes to the magic English has to offer, and smile. Smile not just for the good memories I have, but also for the ones I have yet to make.

I can’t read that without getting a lump in my throat. I don’t know when I inspired her, or even how. This is a kid I admired long before I realized I was having any impact on her. She’s smart, she’s got it together, she’s a good person. A virtuous person. I inspired her? Oh Lyndie, thank you, but it’s the other way around.

I wanted to be a rich and famous author. (Okay, I still do.) I thought nothing less than a literary legacy would ever make me happy in terms of a career. I was wrong. Sure, it’d be great to write something kids will study in school a hundred years from now, but is that a better legacy than the words Lyndie wrote to me? Better than having a group of incredible girls become politically active on my behalf? Lyndie will go on to inspire thousands of kids herself because she’s smart enough to know what she wants to do with her life at age 18 (unlike me, who began teaching at 40). As Tom Joad would say, when she smiles at her students, I’ll be there.

There are things I don’t like about Western Heights, but I have to wonder if it is my fate to stay there, at least a while longer, helping the kids who come through Room 42. (And apparently some who never do.) Does that sound arrogant? Or like I’m making an excuse for no other school wanting me? I don’t know. I just know I’ve come to the point that I’m okay with it. Where else could I go and find another Casidee, or Sarah, or Ben, or Jess, or Lyndie, or … You get the idea. And those are just names from this year. Shellby? Lacey? Tarryn? Chanh? So many others. So many others who have enriched my life. And so many more to come.

I’ll likely never see my name on the New York Times bestseller list. I don’t need that now. I won’t stop writing and publishing, but I do that for me now, not for a dream of wealth and celebrity. That picture up there and the things I was told tonight are better than fame and money, even if they don’t pay the bills.

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another. — Charles Dickens

Halloween Giveaway


Today through Halloween you can get the Kindle edition of my short story collection Unholy Womb and my novella Murdered by Human Wolves absolutely free at Amazon.

I would appreciate an honest review, but even that isn’t necessary. Unholy Womb has one review that is very negative. Considering how the lead story has been copied in multiple places on the Internet, always without permission and sometimes with the copier replacing my name with his/hers, I think the Amazon review is unfair, but … I am biased.

If you like Murdered by Human Wolves you can get the other three full-length novels of The Werewolf Saga for just 99 cents through Halloween.