Tuesday, December 2, 2014

My New Release

I happy to announce that I have a new short story out.

Back in October, I received an e-mail, asking if I wanted to participate in a Kindle Worlds’ launch for Stephanie Bond’s Body Movers series. It left me confused.

Body Movers 1Body Movers? I’m familiar with that. Stephanie Bond is one of my favorite authors and every book of hers that I’ve ever read is ROTF funny. Her Body Movers series may be the best of them all. Body Movers is the story of Carlotta Wren, a young woman who had the best of everything growing up, until her father, under indictment for financial crimes, skipped town with Carlotta’s mother, leaving then 17-year old Carlotta to raise her nine-year old brother.

The Body Movers series begins ten years after Carlotta’s parents left town. The parents are still missing, the police are still looking, and Carlotta’s life is still upside down.
(Click here to see all the books, but please come back.)

So, what is Kindle Worlds?

Kindle Worlds is fan fiction. Authors license their creations, allowing fans to create their own works based on the characters. Today is the launch date for the Body Movers world. However, no launch is done with nothing to offer. To coincide with the launch, several authors are asked in advance to write something to be published on the launch date or soon afterwards.

So, as of today, I have a short story coming out for the launch.

The story is titled Revenge Is A Body Best Served Cold and is told primarily from the point-of-view of Wesley Wren, Carlotta’s younger brother. It also includes the cop trying to find the fugitive parents. Please check it out. (Click here to be taken to the link on Amazon.) I hope you enjoy it. There should also be works from a number of other authors who have written stories for the launch, offering any number of genres.

I’m also trying to finish a second Body Movers work, a novella that imagines a prequel to the contemporary Body Movers series and then drops that prequel in the Yokohama Foreign Settlement of 19th century Japan. The projected story title is Even Bodies Fall From Trees. I'm nervous about it as my Japanese historical writing has focused on the 16th century, not the 19th century (i.e. the world of Shogun vs. the world of The Last Samurai). I've done what research I can to make it believable. I hope you’ll check that one out, too. The target date is December 19th.

Thanks for stopping by. Please click here to taken to my group blog, Petit Fours & Hot Tamales. Leave a comment there for a chance to win a free copy. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Posting Today at Petit Four and Hot Tamales

I'm posting today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), talking about the death of Saturday morning cartoons. I hope you'll join me. Click here to taken to PF&HT website.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Stealing One More Year

My older son turned 17 recently.

It was a family celebration. We took him to a restaurant where he could enjoy a rack of ribs and got him his favorite cake. He also saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2. He’s now deciding how to spend his birthday money. Apparently, there’s an X-box game or two in his future.

He’s currently a sophomore, so he has two years of high school left. It’s going to go by quickly. I don’t know if I’m ready for it.

But it hit me recently that it could have easily been one year left.

When we moved here from Oregon, my older son was in the third grade. However, we moved during the school year. At the time, schools where we lived in Oregon began the school year about a month later than schools where we currently live in Georgia. It was more than a month between the time the kids left Oregon and the time we moved into a house in Georgia.

We enrolled our older son the day after we moved in. The schools were already focused on CRCT prep, tests he really had no hope of passing. After thinking about it, we figured he’d lost at least three months of school.

So we held him back a year.

It was an easy decision. Our son was young for his grade level anyway. Plus he had a learning disability. Re-taking third grade provided him time to mature.

For the longest time, my son complained about it. He often told people he should be one grade higher. We finally got it through to him that it was for the best and that he should move on. He has responded by excelling in school.

When his final two years of high school are over, I know he’ll attend college. I don’t know where he’ll go.

However, when my wife and I made the decision to hold him back, I know that neither of us was thinking about keeping him around one more year.

But it’s good to have him.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Prayer Breakfast

It was around 5:30 a.m. on a school day. My son placed his oatmeal on the kitchen table and sat down, placing a spoon next to breakfast as he did. He then bowed his head, said a quiet prayer, and began eating.

I punched the button on the coffee maker, smiling as I did so. Where did he learn that? Part of me knew. We try to have at least one meal together every day as a family. It’s not always easy. Sometimes, due to team practices in the evening, the boys and I are eating while my wife is still cooking. Still, for that evening meal, we say the blessing as a family before chowing down.

Still, kids behave differently when they’re alone, as opposed to when a family is together. You hope they ingest the lessons you’ve taught them. Pride swells within you when you see that they have.

Granted, my teenager could have been thinking Dad’s here, so I need to pray. At the same time, he didn’t glance at me before he did it. It looked natural, as if he did it even on those mornings when I’m pushing to get myself ready for work and I only see him off to the bus but don’t see him eat. I can never be sure.

I can only pray myself.

And trust to God.

Clip art from www.watton.org



Friday, March 28, 2014

Dragging Dad Into the Modern Age

My family has a problem with my choice in music.

I have satellite radio in my car. When I’m alone, I listen to stations that offer 70s, 80s, and things that were on vinyl or cassette at one time (or that spindle looking thing that Edison used). I also listen to the news. However, when we’re driving somewhere as family, my wife and kids prefer modern stations with current hits. If I try to play my music, they gag. They beg for at least music from the 90s and then press for music produced within the last year or so.

The one who pushes it the most is my 12-y.o. He seems to know every song played on either the current music stations or on Disney radio. I wonder where he hears these things. Apparently, he has a number of these tunes downloaded to his iPod. (I’ve got to check that thing more often.) He particularly likes Imagine Dragons but enjoys all of the modern singers. When I drive him to baseball practice, he wants to listen to the current hits station, just to get himself prepped. Because I really believe it helps him, I oblige.

I really believed I would get sick of these songs at one point. However, after taking him to numerous events in the last few months, I have to admit that some of them are starting to grow on me, if only because I can’t get them out of my head, or have heard them ad nauseum. My 12-y.o. even sensed this, asking me a week ago if there were any of these songs that I liked.

I finally admitted to liking one. Dark Horse by Katy Perry.

My 12-y.o. found reason to barf. Of all the songs on the current hits station, this was the one song he wished was banned. His problem with it? It’s a stupid love song. He then thought about it a little longer, admitting the song would be good entrance music for a baseball player, if not for the stupid lyrics.

However, he’s now starting to notice girls.

I doubt he’ll think the lyrics stupid for long.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Posting Today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales

I'm posting today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), talking about the things one saves when cleaning out a basement. Would like to hear from you. A $10 Amazon gift card is up for grabs on that post. Click here to be taken to the PF&HT blog.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Wing And A Prayer

My 12-y.o. son has his right arm in a sling.

My wife and I think he hurt it a couple of weeks ago. His baseball team scrimmaged another team and he pitched straight through an entire line-up without a break. My son throws pretty hard. It was a cold night. We iced his arm afterwards like we always do. My son said he felt fine.

The truth was, he didn’t.

He would occasionally admit to soreness. We would use ice and rest. Then he would say he felt fine.

The truth was, he just wanted to play baseball.

He had a tournament last week, playing four games in two days. He did great at the plate but couldn’t get anything on his fastball. By Sunday evening, after the tournament was over, he finally admitted his arm had been hurting all this time. He mentioned it as it hurt to swing a bat, too.

I took him the doctor the next day. He was diagnosed with acute inflammation of his shoulder and elbow. Thankfully, nothing was broken or torn. Still, we shut him down to give him time to heal. The doctor suggested about a week.

I’m mad at myself about it. There’s part of me that should have realized he was taxing himself during the scrimmage. Though I wasn’t keeping a tally, I knew his pitch count was high. And the coach from the other team that was calling balls and strikes stopped any pretense of fairness halfway through the line-up, meaning my son was giving it everything he had and having non-swings called a ball. However, I said nothing. For the weeks that followed, neither did my son.

On Sunday, we’ll see if there’s still any pain. If there’s no pain, we can start doing rehab exercises. Maybe even soft tosses. He has a game on Monday. I can’t see him being ready to play, even if there’s no pain. The injury is minor and I pray he’s not hurt more seriously. Still, I want to make sure he’s okay before he goes back on the field. It’s scary to think of it getting worse.

Even scarier was when the x-ray technician told me how often kids come into the office with the same injury.

I’ve since learned there are things like little leaguer’s elbow and little leaguer’s shoulder. Recuperation can take a couple of months. We aren’t at that point yet.

I hope we don’t get to it.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Posting Today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales

I'm posting today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT), talking about the latest point in my writing life, trying to understand what it means. I hope you'll join me. Click here to taken to PF&HT blog.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Why Do Writers Write: A Blog Hop


Before I start the post...Happy Valentine’s Day to my beautiful wife. I cannot imagine life without you.



“Writer’s write, that’s what we do. Find out why and how in this new Blog Hop for 2014”


Sarah Hegger, a wonderful writer I met at the 2013 RWA conference, pinged me via a couple of forms of social media and asked if I would be interested in participating in a year-long blog hop where writers answer four questions about their writing process. Possessing all the savvy of Inspector Clouseau, I had no idea what a blog hop was. Still, I thought it was a great idea anyway.

To discover more about Sarah and her writing process, please check out the link here (but be sure to come back and finish the post).


On to the four questions:

What am I working on?
My primary focus is historicals set in medieval Japan with inspirational and romantic elements. I refer to my work as “Like Shogun, but the heroine survives.” (For those who don’t know the story but plan on reading the book, I apologize for spoiling that portion of it for you.)  I have a series of manuscripts that take place in central Japan from 1587 – 1591, around the middle of Japan’s Christian century. The first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, is the story of a romance between a swordsmith’s daughter and the estranged son of a high-level samurai. This manuscript is under consideration with several publishers.

Subsequent titles in the series are plotted and partially drafted. Both The Samurai’s Heart and one of the unfinished manuscripts have won writing contests. I’m also working on a story set in the northwestern U.S. in the 1870s. As you might expect, that manuscript has a Japanese immigrant for a heroine. 

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
In one word: Japan. Stories with historical Japan themes have done well in numerous genres. However, I know of no success in the inspirational genre. In my first manuscript, The Samurai’s Heart, the heroine, a swordsmith’s daughter, is a Christian who needs to find a husband to marry into her family and carry on the family business. She seeks a Christian husband, difficult given that Christianity is banned. (This actually happened in August 1587.)  The hero, a non-Christian and estranged from his father, seeks reconciliation with his own family. However, a relationship with the heroine makes family reconciliation difficult as samurai are tasked with enforcing the ban against Christianity.

Though different, the subsequent stories have one common thread: the relationship is always between a Christian and a non-Christian. The challenge in creating the worlds of my stories is two-fold. One challenge is bringing the reader into a world where most readers have no frame of reference possibly outside the movie, The Last Samurai. The second is the names I use for my characters. I have to make the names sound appropriate for the period, yet still make them easy for readers to recall.

Why do I write what I do?
Because part of me feels that I don’t have a choice.

My first story takes place in Himeji Castle, a place I’ve visited many times. Japanese castles have numerous talismans decorating the eaves to protect against fires, typhoons, earthquakes, and other disasters. Himeji Castle has similar types of decorations. Himeji Castle also has a talisman with a cross. The cross survived the ban and its subsequent re-iterations, a time in Japanese history that eventually saw tens of thousands of Japanese martyred. A pastor of mine once referred to these people as “the great unknown martyrs.” Someone has to tell their story.

How does my writing process work?
I start with an outline for the first few chapters and a vague idea of the ending, then I let the characters develop by writing those chapters. After that, I plot the rest of the book. Sometimes I write to the end. Sometimes, I put the plot aside to let the story germinate.

At this time, I am currently editing a finished, but extremely rough, draft of my one non-Japan related work. It’s a story I don’t discuss much as I’m constantly researching the time period. However, it’s a work of Biblical fiction so it’s still targeting the inspirational market. Once I finish the edits, I will return to my 1870’s U.S. novel with a Japanese immigrant heroine. As all scenes are plotted and the story is one-fourth drafted, I will plow through until I reach the end.

I have two exciting writers I want to introduce you to. The first is Dr. Philip Levin, a poet and children’s book author (among other writing talents). He is also an emergency room surgeon who donates his time and skills serving overseas. The second is Piper Huguley, a college English professor and historical writer extraordinaire with a Golden Heart final to her credit.

Dr. Philip Levin

From Dr. Levin:
I’ve always been a writer. I come by my writing skills from both sides of my ancestry. My mother, Beatrice S. Levin, has published almost 20 books and thousands of articles. As well as being the author of scores of scientific works, my father, Franklyn K. Levin, edited the magazine Geophysics for several years, and still is frequently consulted for his editorial skills. During college I edited the college newspaper and paid much of my medical school tuition from articles I sold. During my residency in Corpus Christi, Texas, I was the associate editor and a main contributor to “Coastal Bend Medicine.” Those years also saw me complete the first draft of my mystery novel.

Raising my family and tackling my career were my focus, with few publications during my thirties and forties. Once the children were off in college, I settled down to learning the craft and submitting to contests and markets. I published “Inheritance” in 2007, followed the next year by my children’s photo-book, “Consuto and the Rain God.” I published four stories in anthologies in 2009. I’m writing articles for the state medical journal and editing the writing group’s magazine “Magnolia Quarterly.” I lecture about writing, being the guest speaker in writing groups from North Carolina to Florida and throughout Mississippi.


Piper Huguley

Piper G Huguley is the author of Migrations of the Heart, a five-book series of inspirational historical romances set in the early 20th century featuring African American characters.  Book four in the series, A Champion’s Heart, was a Golden Heart finalist in 2013.  Book one in her new historical series Home to Milford College was a semi-finalist in Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest. 

She blogs about the history behind her novels at http://piperhuguley.com. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia with her husband and son.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Goodbye, Mr. Leno. Hello, Mr. Kimmel

Yes, I stayed up late last night and watched through until the end.

I’ve been watching Leno for much of the last 22 years, enjoying his monologues and the comedy bits, though falling asleep during the guests. Headlines was my favorite bit. I also liked Jaywalking. However, I remember some of his earlier skits like Mr. Brain, Iron Jay, and Beyondo. For me, Leno was a way to call it a day at the end of a day. I think everyone needs a laugh before they go to bed.

Before Leno, it was Carson. Carson was unbelievable. Jay Leno carried on that tradition, and even strengthened The Tonight Show brand.

However, I’ve decided, when the Olympics is over, that I will move on from the Tonight Show.

After the Olympics is over, I will start watching Jimmy Kimmel. Fallon’s a brilliant talent, but I’ve decided that it won’t be the same. As brilliant as Fallon is, he’s blatantly open about his politics and has no qualms using his show to promote them. The Tonight Show has always been above that fray. It’s part of what makes the brand special. Also, I know that Jimmy Kimmel is entertaining, so I’ll see how it goes.

The Tonight Show dropped in viewers after Leno took over from Carson and it took two years, and an interview with Hugh Grant, to bring people back.

I don’t know if I’ll ever be back.

Jay Leno picture from go.standard.net

Friday, January 31, 2014

Baseball 2014

I know practice hasn’t started yet for major league teams, but it has for the younger crowd.

With my 12-year old starting his first season of travel ball, baseball practice is already a reality. His team has weekly get-togethers at a batting cage for strength and agility training and batting practice. They’ve had two field practices this month, sandwiching them between the snow flurries and freezing temperatures that have dotted this January. The fact that the team has gotten any field time is good, with an early March game to start the schedule. The current schedule is 18 league games, with a league tournament and at least five non-league tournaments, for a season minimum of 35 games. It’s a time for my son to push himself.

It’s also a time for my younger son to discover how much he really likes baseball.

My older son enjoys baseball and plays rec ball every spring. He used to play in the fall as well, until marching band forced him to make a decision. Despite his love of the sport, he knows he doesn’t have the talent for it. He tends to be one of the weakest players on his team and plays rec ball for one reason: he’s able to get on the field.

However, my younger son, who loves pitching and playing third base, wants to prove himself against other kids who want to prove themselves.

We’ve told our son that if he wants to do well, he needs to practice and hustle. We’ve told him we can’t do it for him. We will be at every game. We will take him to every practice. We will take him for extra cage practice. We will support him with pitching lessons. (We will also support him by selling tickets for the team raffle.) Still, if he desires to get better, he needs to want it. It has to be his desire not ours.

That may be the hardest lesson to learn for him…and us.

His first practice game is this Saturday. We hope he’s ready.

And before the ice melts, he and his brother will play hockey in the driveway. :-)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Call Me a Name

Last December, I was asked to join a group blog called Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (PF&HT).

After thinking about it for several days, I decided to join. I’ll still be posting here, but I’ll be posting there once a month well.

There were a lot of plusses to joining with a group of writers on a blog. However, I have to admit there was a minus as well.

Please click here to learn about the one minus. It can be summed up that I need a nickname.

And I need your help to get that nickname.

One lucky commenter at PF&HT will win a $15 Amazon gift card.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Season to Remember

“Yes, I wish my Auburn Tigers would have won.”

With the go-ahead TD pass by FSU with 13 seconds to go, my heart fell. But something inside me hadn’t given up to yet. I’d seen too much this season to think it was over. After watching Auburn’s amazing comeback over Georgia and the last second win over Alabama, giving up wasn’t in my thought process.

In the end, they gave me some reason for that belief. On the last play, Auburn tried a hook-and-lateral that was then thrown across the field, finding Tre Mason wide open on the other side. I don’t remember how far he got, but it felt he ran another 20 yards. Twenty yards of hope, joy, and celebration with my kids yelling “GO! GO! GO!” in unison.

Then it was done.

My younger son took it particularly hard and went into a funk. It required a lesson on the dignity of losing with grace. He moped for a couple of days. Then it was his birthday. One big steak later, he started looking at recruiting again and who Auburn was getting next year.

There’s always tomorrow. There’s always next year.

War Eagle!

Picture from www.rivalsports.net

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Like Mother, Like Son

After graduate school, I accepted a job teaching English in Japan under a Japanese government program that hires thousands of foreign nationals each year. The Japanese government also arranges the trip over. I flew to Japan with the group that left from the Atlanta area. The night before our trip, we stayed at the same hotel. The idea of the hotel was that, since our hosts wanted to make sure that no one missed the plane, we would be bussed to the airport together.

Like all of those flying out the next day, I spent one last evening with my family. Most of those going over said their goodbyes that evening.

Like I said, most said it. A few of the parents showed up again at the hotel the next morning to have breakfast with the people leaving that day. My mother was one of them. I gave her one last hug, said goodbye, and then heard what I didn’t expect. My mother said she was driving to the airport.

I looked at her and told her she wasn’t. I knew from the limited number of family that showed up at breakfast that no one was going to the airport. I hated to hurt my mother’s feelings, but I knew I needed to move on.

I thought about this recently as my older son went to Europe on a trip with his high school marching band. (They would perform in Italy and then perform in the London New Year’s Day Parade.) We drove to the airport, made sure he got checked in, and took him to his chaperone. Then we hung out, providing him last minute advice. When it was time to head for the security checkpoint, we went with them and watched him go through.

At some point, it hit my wife and me that we were the only parents watching at the security checkpoint.

My wife, who had heard before the story of my first flight to Japan, turned to me and confirmed what I was thinking. We had done to our son what my mother had done to me.

The joys or parenthood.

Have you ever done anything to your kids and then realized your parents did the same thing to you?

The program I went to Japan with is called the JET program. The JET program brings thousands of foreign nationals to Japan each year, setting them up as language teachers in the school system. I highly recommend this program.