Friday, December 31, 2010

Think I Need A Compass?


I'm not much for looking back & can't recall ever making New Year's resolutions, so I won't start now, but........

Going through files & docs, I noticed that the RECKLESS draft was pretty much done in 2009 & here it is only 3 hours from 2011 & it's still "not out" (waiting for the final cover art).  Guess that's partly due to working out of town. Also, in my defense, I did chop out a big portion of the book to use as a launching point for the next book, a story that I really like, resulting in a major rewrite of the ending for RE. (Hint: The ending for RECKLESS is, hmmmm, better not say anything yet.) 

So did I miss out on any opportunities? Maybe. Does it matter? Dunno. Can't do anything about it now. I'm a little late to the ebook party, but that'll change within the next week or two.

I allowed myself 10 minutes to think about 2010 - beyond 10 minutes, it's all a blur anyway. This time last year I was working out of the company's office in Jacksonville, griping every day about being stuck inside behind a desk, putting numbers together. We had bid a job for Amtrak that the 'Powers That Be' almost bailed out on 'cause they decided the job was too complicated. In the meantime, we were looking at a really lean year for moneymaking projects so the railroad project was muy importante. Poof! January arrived. We were awarded the Amtrak job that was too complicated to take on & the 'Powers That Be' designated me as 'The Guy' to do the job, which meant a 16 month gig out of town. Funny, nowadays, working out of the office doesn't seem like such a bad option. (I haven't seen my office for 50 weeks. Wonder what it looks like.)

For the most part, the blog's been on a yearlong hiatus, with the odd post thrown in from time to time - an artificial sign of life. Writing was hit or miss. Impossible at the hotel, slightly better at the condo, much improved at the little house that we rented. Promotion? ZERO. I couldn't do any book signings, cancelled plans for a couple of book festivals, & couldn't attend the FWA Writers Conference or the RPLA Awards Banquet. Perfect batting average on marketing overall.

Wonder what'll happen in 2011. I want to get the 3rd book out. I'd like to do some promotion. Blogging regularly again would be kinda cool. Finding a coupla beta readers might be a plus & losing 15 pounds couldn't be a bad thing. Well, I'm still not makin' any resolutions - 'cept to finish this project n' go home, to my real house. 

I wonder if I just need a compass. GPS? A set direction? A game plan? Map? Would these require makin' resolutions? Hope not.

How 'bout you? Any goals or resolutions rattlin' around in your cranium that you'll try to ignore?

Happy 2011.




   


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blog "Stuff"

First of all, hope everyone had a very nice Christmas. I haven't been online much these past few weeks.

We're working through the cover art again for RECKLESS, trying to get it just right. Being pig-headed, as usual. While that's going on, I'm polishing & fine-tuning the final MS while working on the follow up Jack Rackham Adventure. I should be working to create "buzz" before RECKLESS is let loose, you know, blogging & such, but (a) I'm way too focused on the final product & (b) I'm terrible about elbowing my way around to even mention my books, especially on someone else's site. Personally, I tend to avoid blogs totally dedicated to the promotion of an author's work. Blogs, IMHO, should be give & take. It's fine to incorporate promotion into the mix, but getting to "know" folks, including their opinions, is entertaining & often educational. (The fact that the "I" word has been used 7 times in this post is uncomfortable enough.) 

So how do y'all do it (mix blog posts & promo) without becoming a self-centered bore? How do you attract followers with whom to share ideas? (There are 30 followers on JaxPop, only 5 on the newer Jack Rackham Adventures blog). I (#8) dunno, maybe it's best to just stick with storytellin', but I'd (#9) sure like to get some opinions.
 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

DEAD WITNESS

I recently finished reading a novel, DEAD WITNESS, written by my blogging friend Joylene Butler. Now I'm not one to write reviews, & I won't rave about a book if I don't honestly find it rave-worthy, but this is a really terrific story, one very much worth reading.

Valerie McCormick witnesses the murder of 2 FBI agents. She tries to do the right thing, reporting what she's seen, but the authorities botch the opportunity to capture the killer. Since only her testimony can put away the murderous drug lord, she becomes his target. The order is out, make her the DEAD WITNESS, whatever the cost. The FBI & RCMP join forces to protect Valerie, but the cartel has infiltrated all levels of law enforcement. To protect her 3 daughters, she will make choices and sacrifices that go beyond extreme, even for a loving & protective mother.

I don't want to give away too much of the story, because there are several well-done plot twists & surprises. The tension ramps up consistently throughout & the pacing is great. The characters work well, very believable - Joylene gets the reader to "lock in". I particularly liked the protagonist, Valerie, who transforms from the desperate, sometimes despondent - easily led victim, to the still conflicted, but take charge protector, willing to take any risk or pay any price to save her family.

So there you have it - my 2 cents. If you like suspense, I recommend DEAD WITNESS very highly, giving it 2 thumbs up & a well-deserved standing ovation. Great job Joylene - it was entertaining & captivating, (&, gee, I don't think I've ever used the word captivating in a sentence before).

BTW - Don't forget to check out the new joint - http://jackrackhamadventures.blogspot.com/ I've been busy trying to get that one off the ground.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Short, Sick & Inspired?

In an effort to remain pointless.......


Ever write from a prompt? I've done it a few times for fun. In one case, I was given a miniscule time limit (hour or 2?) & 4 words to incorporate into a very short story. The words provided were: Ingredients, mole, windowpane, & ..... sorry, the 4th excapes me. I'm gonna post it below.

So what to do for the topic. Hmmm.... I'm from suburban Philadelphia, truly an inspiring kind of place, for characters especially. It's the home of cheese steaks, throwing snowballs at Santa, cops shooting cats to get them down from trees, & South Philly mobsters with Italian names. Okay, I made that part up about the cops & cats, but, once upon a time 30 years or so ago, the Mayor ordered the police to bomb a house from a helicopter & the fire wiped out most of a neighborhood. Ah, the memories.

Anyway, I jumped back to my roots & the 'good old days' for this very short (BUT NOT YA) story.

And cut me some slack - I needed a break from the kid stuff......

                              A HANDFUL OF INGREDIENTS


The bespectacled little man with the bow tie and bad comb over crossed Callowhill Street and walked toward the converted row home with the battered sign announcing, Ciarlante’s Meats – Best Steak Sandwiches In South Philly. This was his first visit to the City of Brotherly Love and he was anxious to sample the famous specialty that the locals had so enthusiastically recommended. His saliva glands kicked into high gear with anticipation.

A bell jingled overhead as he entered the shop. Behind the meat case stood a fiftyish looking man with a prominent mole staring out from the bridge of his nose, resembling a misplaced third eye. He was thick through the middle and wore a soiled white apron, the name Carmine stitched across the pocket of his grimy shirt. Another man, sitting at a small table along the wall below a no-smoking sign, puffed away on a Lucky Strike. The ashtray overflowed with stale butts and two crumpled packets kept company with one that was newly opened. The little man timidly approached the greasy counter. ‘Three eyes’ stood silent, waiting to take his order.

“Hello. I’ve heard how t-tasty Philadelphia steak sandwiches are and decided t-to t-try one,” he stammered.

“Yeah. So?”

“Uh. Could I get one?”

“One what?”

“A steak sandwich.”

"Fried onions?”

“Uh… if that’s an ingredient that you recommend, certainly.”

“Ingredient?”

“Uh, yes, you know, like a condiment, used to enhance flavor.”

“I know what ingredient means. Do I look like some ignorant dipshit?”

Shocked by the surly reply, the man inched backwards. “No no, not at all. I’m sorry. I wasn’t trying to sound …..”

“Ah, don’t worry ‘boudit. I’m just in a shitty friggin’ mood. So you want dat steak witt?”

“Witt?”

“Yeah. Witt.”

“Uh, witt? I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that term.”

Carmine shook his head and looked over to the man at the table. “Lou, tell ‘im what’s witt.”

Lou never looked up from his racing form. “Cheese. D’ya want friggin’ cheese witt da steak?”

The man felt sweat beading up across his upper lip. “S.. sure. Cheese. I’d like Swiss cheese please. Yes, Swiss, that would be fine.”

“I knew you was an asshole the minute you walked in da place. We don’t do no Swiss. You get a steak witt American or wittout.” Carmine nodded to the chain smoker, and pointed toward the horrified customer with his thumb. “We need to do somethin’ about dis shithead.”

Shaking, the stranger moved toward the door but found his path blocked by the hulking Lou who shoved him roughly toward the register. Eyes squinting against cigarette smoke; Lou pulled the shade over the cracked window pane and twisted the door lock before flipping the closed sign to face the street.

“Bring the son of a bitch back here so’s I can show ‘im what ingredients go in a cheese steak,” barked Carmine as he moved toward a stainless steel meat slicer.

“You can’t be serious. I…. I didn’t do anything,” pleaded the terrified out-of-towner.

Lou grabbed him around the shoulders with one arm, locked onto his neck with the other, and shoved him behind the counter. Carmine clamped his hand over the man’s puny wrist, and yanked him toward the machine, holding the hand inches from the slicer while he reached for the toggle switch.

“You can’t do this! I’m begging you guys. I’ll give you whatever you want. I won’t call the cops. I swear. I’ll leave and never come back,” he wailed, struggling against the crushing grip of the two thugs.

“I toldja. I’m in a shitty mood today. I gotta do somethin’ to get myself in a better frame of mind. Ain’t nothin’ personal. What’s your name again?” asked Carmine.

“I never said.”

“Well, tell me now shit-for-brains.”

“Chuck. My name’s Chuck. I swear. I’ll leave town right now and keep my mouth shut.”

“Okay Chuck. Hey Louie, maybe we oughtta let ‘im go. I’m feelin’ much better now.”

“Aw c’mon, Carmine, I wanna watch dis guy bleed,” said Lou.

Carmine sighed. “Sorry Chuck. Lou’s been bored lately. I don’t like when he’s bored. Now pay attention ‘cause dis is how we get the first of our four ingreeeeedients.”

Chuck’s screams were stifled by Lou’s forearm as the toggle was flipped. Carmine grinned as he shoved the hand against the spinning blade, working the mechanism in a rhythmic back and forth motion. Paper-thin pieces of the hand filtered through the machine, dropping neatly onto a sheet of bloody wrapping paper. For Chuck, the pain and sight of four-fingered lunchmeat proved unbearable and, as his bladder emptied, he lost consciousness.

“Let’s fry it up n’ make ‘im eat it,” said Lou. “And don’t forget da cheese.”

“Nah. See if he’s carryin’ any cash, then dump his wimpy ass behind the Island Avenue scrap yard. Tell ‘im he keeps his mouth shut, or he’s dead,” Carmine ordered.

Lou knelt beside the maimed customer, extracted a billfold and stared at the man’s ID. “Dis ain’t good Carmine. Da son of a bitch works for the IRS.”

The butcher ripped the blood-soaked apron from around his neck and threw it across the counter. “Holy shit!” He leaned against the refrigerated meat case, staring at the floor, thinking of a solution.

The minutes passed and Carmine scratched absently at the repulsive mole. After collecting his thoughts, he looked up and smiled. “Drag him into da back room, Lou. We're gonna run a special tomorrow … on ground Chuck.”


Mmmmmmmmm..........

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Intro To My New Blog

Hey y'all. Just lettin' everyone know that I've started another blog Jack Rackham Adventures which will be geared more toward writing, promotion, reviews & storytellin' in general.

JaxPop will stay up & running & remain utterly pointless.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Publishing Options? Clear As Mud



Skip this post 'cause it's gonna be about (yawn) publishing, a topic that I tend to avoid.

I'm taking the entire week off, sort of, & managed to squeeze in a couple of hours at a writers group meeting yesterday where the focus was on publishing trends & options. There were 6 panelists, each given about 10 minutes to describe their particular experience / areas of expertise.

Cooperative Publishing - I didn't quite understand the concept of a "co-investment" - the presenter was enthusiastic enough, but it sure sounded like the author would need to part with some big bucks. To be fair, 10 minutes doesn't provide much time for explaining things in detail, but I was surprised that the phrase "breaking even financally" was repeated so often. The website offered no worthwhile info.  

Traditional Publishing (small press) - The speaker regaled us with how he was signed by a small royalty paying traditional publisher .... & then explained that his publisher recently changed direction, to focus on eco-topics for their catalog. So now that (talented) author is out in the cold?

E Publishing - Pubit, Smashwords, Kindle, iBooks. The new next best thing. It can be done for free on B&N's Pubit. Wow! Wonder what kind of "stuff" will show up on e-readers now? Free! Great! Right? ("You can upload everything yourself - but it may lack certain formatting qualities.") Huh?

Print On Demand - The author/speaker used a POD company that I KNOW is outrageously expensive.

Self Publishing by way of setting up an LLC & entering agreements with Ingram & Lightning Source. Okay, but it's either a POD or someone's got a huge garage stocked with books. This author/publisher also works with other authors, a handful of titles per year.

Sidebar - One suggestion was made & repeated - Use scattershot email marketing blitzes to publicize books. Fellas, THAT'S CALLED SPAM! Totally disagreed with that bit of advice. Sorry, had to vent. I don't open email from unknowns. Ever.

Hmmmm........

Cooperative Method? Well, I broke even within the first 30 days of getting my 1st book on the street, & that was without much promotion. (As usual - I was out of town, Chicago, when BAD LATITUDE came out.) I should point out that I have niche market which helps.

Traditional / Small Press? Assuming the query is great & the work is accepted (big assumptions - but play along here) .... It takes so looooong. You have to sign over rights, have no control over cover art, advances are low, if offered at all. What happens when a small press changes course or closes up shop? And then there's the royalty thing. If the author is doing 80 to 90% of the work, why settle for a 7 or 10% cut? Forget the 'validaton' argument - that's never been in play for me. Is there really a distribution advantage? A marketing budget? Shelf life? Shelf space? I dunno.

E-Pub scares me. Yeah, I know, there are some authors raking in the dough, but is the quality going to suffer so badly as to scare readers off? All I know is, read excerpts before hitting the "buy" button. I have a Kindle & an iPad & only buy 1 e-book for every 10 (maybe 15) excerpts that I read. The big news at the gathering was 'start to finish - you can have your book on Nook within 48 hours'. From a reader's standpoint - is this really a good thing? As a writer, I'm no Steinbeck or Twain, but I TRY to get it right. The 'gatekeeper' debate may have some merit, based on some e-samples that I've gagged over. Currently, Amazon & others offer the 70% "royalty" - will that be the case next year or 5 years from now? Is it going to drop to say, 10% once e-devices are better established? Am I going to put my stuff on e-readers? That's a definitive maybe - Still on that fence.

POD? I like that, as an author, you don't have to buy a bazillion books. The practice of shipping & returning books always seemed stupid to me as a business model so that bit of idiocy is eliminated via the POD method. The downside? The selling price is annoyingly high. Cost is based on page count. If, like me, you have retailers selling your books, the product has to be heavily discounted (from the author's share of course) since you're adding a 4th "profit margin" (following POD company, printer, & author - hey, have I missed anyone?). Creative control, & retaining all rights - huge plus. Now there are several POD companies out there & the range in prices & services offered is mind boggling. Generally speaking, I'd stay away from the ones with tiered packages & upcharges. Most use the same printer/distributor anyway.  

Self Publishing - as a company?  I can't even imagine the time investment required - not with my life. Branching out to handle other authors? No way. Might work if the day job thing wasn't a factor.   

So what did I take away from all of this? Well, the bulk of the work, regardless of publishing method, still falls on the author. Five examples offered on "the way to do it" &, in all cases, it's still the author's responsibility (beyond just the writing) to create an online presence, market the books, attend conferences & workshops, network like crazy, (oh yeah, & hire an independent editor in most of these scenarios).

Clear as mud, but at least there are options. Guess that's a good thing. RECKLESS ENDEAVOR is being polished up & soon I'm gonna hafta decide which direction to take.

Suggestions?




 



Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our Brush With The Law

It's tough when you're workin' out of town tryin' to keep track of "stuff" while splittin' time between 2 places. There's passwords, codes, PIN numbers, & account access - all multiplied by 2.

So we get 'home' after some running around here in Ft Lauderdale. Walk in the house & I punch in the alarm code to shut the system down. Problem was, I either used the alarm code from our house in St Augustine or the electronic combination lock number from the front door. Hurried up & plugged in the right code number, but it was too late, the alarm screeched - a short burst, then stopped.

Deb retrieved her phone from her camera bag, waiting for the security company to call (which is what they're suppposed to do) so she could give them the code & 'super secret word' (which I don't even know - Deb set the thing up) so they'll clear the system. No call. (This is supposed to come within a minute or two.)

Okay, no big deal. Figured the blip was probably missed & all is well. Go about our business.

10 minutes later, there's someone pounding on the door. Deb says "It's the cops!"

I laugh - "Yeah, right."

Answered the door. It IS the cops. 2 of 'em! And they're huge! One's on the front porch, the other is standing at an angle next to the walkway, hand on holster. Our escape is blocked!

I invite them in. Calm, cool, collected. Cop #2 looks itchy. Eyes dartin' around.

Big Cop #1 - "We got an alarm."

Me - "I hit the wrong code number when we came in. Thought I'd corrected it."

Big Cop #1 - "Can I see some ID?"

Me - "Sure. I'll get my wallet."

Big Cop #2 to Deb - "Do you live here?"

Deb - "No."

Cop #2 - "Uh, say that again." Hand goes to the butt of his gun.

Deb - "We live in St Augustine."

Me - (interrupting) "We're just renting this house. She means that our real home is in St Augustine."

Now we both have to show ID & I proceed with providing a more detailed 'explanation' as to why we do but don't live here. (A Desi & Lucy moment.)

Big Cop #1 to Big Cop #2 after matching our IDs - "They're okay. To me he says - "You should call the alarm company - get them to clear it." Very serious. No smiles. All business. Good cops.

Me - "Sure." (Yeah right - I don't even know the name of the security company!)

Deb invites the cops for dinner.

They politely decline the invitation & leave. (The neighbors have now abandoned their hiding spots behind the shades. Probably sayin' 'Lookit them new people - stirrin' up trouble in our neighborhood. )

Deb tries calling the alarm company - GETS AN ANSWERING MACHINE after pressing 37 numbers!

Me - "Figures. It'll probaby cost $50 for a false alarm charge 'cause no one's working the weekend."

Deb - "From now on, I'll take care of the codes."

Me - "From now on, I ain't settin' the damn alarm."

So now I can't get this song outta my head.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iISyPz5XRyI

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Close Call

It was a close call. Almost made it to my first ever writers conference.

As usual, my plans were wiped out by job-related stuff that pretty much shot my weekend to you know where. So I missed out on the experience & the opportunity to see what kind of shenanigans take place at these writerly shindigs. Oh well. Networking? Self-promotion? Speakin' up in a workshop??? YIKES!!!

Can you tell I'm stallin'?

Well, I got some good news, but it'll sound kinda braggy. How 'bout a picture of my granddaughter Isabel holdin' up some loser's book instead? She's only smilin' 'cause she can't read the dang thing.


Yeah, she's cute. Gets 'er looks from Deb. Has me wrapped around her finger. Also like Deb. (Still stallin'.)

Anyway - The Florida Writers Association (FWA) held their conference without me. The good news (almost done stalling), BAD LATITUDE A Jack Rackham Adventure managed to make the cut as a finalist for the Royal Palm Literary Award for Published Young Adult fiction. The winning entry, SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS was submitted by Debbie Reed Fischer (also won book of the year - Sheesh!) It looks like a pretty cool YA read. (Congratulations Debbie, but I'll be workin'  harder than ever on this writin' thing so I can catch up.) 

Well, it wasn't a total loss. I received an email with stuff about the entries and categories & saw the brief little blurb about my book included. It looked like this:

Bad Lattitude—A Jack Rackham Adventure by David Ebright.
Fifteen-year-old surfers discover an ancient and dangerous secret,
one that will force them to choose between fortune and friendship
and change their lives forever.


By the way - BAD LATITUDE took the 2nd place award.







Monday, October 4, 2010

The New Hideout

Haven't had much to say lately but since I haven't posted in a month thought I'd better write something before y'all thought I died. At my age - well, don't want people to be askin' - "Did JaxPop up n' die?" So here's what I've been up to .... & there's even some writing related nonsense included:

I did something really weird Saturday night - a ton of writing. Okay, I usually write on Saturdays but this time, I did it in long-hand. Other than adding my signature to whatever paper is shoved under my nose, I rarely use a pen. Well, I didn't exactly use a pen either - I used black, red, blue & green Flairs - & almost filled a composition notebook. (The old fashioned black & white things that you can't remove pages from without destroying the entire book.) The best part? I wasn't working on RECKLESS - it's a new screwball adventure & I'm really likin' it. Of course, since I rarely write with a pen, I can't read anything that I've written, but there's got to be a forensics expert out there that can decipher it all. I hope. RECKLESS is being edited, & I rewrote the ending. Now I'm gonna try to be cool & work on polishing it while sitting in a Starbucks going into caffeine overload while Deb gets her hair done at the obscenely high priced hair salon & try to avoid run-on sentences like this one (breathe) - so I bought an iPad, with a separate keyboard, which is really great but can't figure out how to work it beyond FaceBook & Google. And maps. Which I don't need because I have GPS. But I was thinkin' I'll look like a scholarly geek for once & after I'm famous they'll have the chair bronzed in my honor.

During my drive to work, which currently takes between 4 & 5 hours one way (twice a week), depending on the number of stops made at Starbucks along the way, I was thinkin' about why my brain went postal the other night with all those words n' crisp witty dialogue & generally crazy plotlines. I'm easily entertained - it probably really sucks. And it finally hit me. Mickey is finally happy. The MUSE (that's Mickey) is loose because we found a new place to hang out where I can pretend to be Hemingway (see post about Hemingway's house in Key West last November) & he (Mickey) can pretend to be good at what he does.

We're bouncing between home (St Auggie) & the land of Oz - otherwise known as Miami, stuck in a nice, spacious condo in a really b-o-r-i-n-g suburb (that has a Starbucks but fewer drive-by shootings). Fortunately, we did a 7 month lease on the condo in the boring town, at great company expense (thanks guys), & (trumpets in background) our sentence, I mean our lease is fullfilled in a coupla weeks. So I did what any malcontent would do - found another place to write, er, I mean live. Part time. A tiny, 2BR cottage in Ft Lauderdale, near things to do, like THE BEACH. So now Mickey's happy & has promised to jump into this writing gig with some sorely needed enthusiasm &, better yet, Deb's happy 'cause she'll be out of jail. I'm gonna go buy a bunch of dead animal heads to put on the wall (like Ernie did), grow my beard out& dye it white, hide the shotgun (don't want to take the Hemingway thing too far) & write.

Here are a few pics of the new temporary place (with the funky ceilings). It ain't home, but it'll work & the bananas are free.








And a PS - Deb created her very own blog where she's gonna post her pictures of flowers, nature, seascapes & animals with big teeth. She thinks she'll get more followers than me. We'll see, her page can be found at http://belznan.blogspot.com/ 
 St Augustine Fauxtography, so check it out but don't follow.








Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sitting On The E-Book Fence

                           


So many authors are putting their work on readers & blogging about the positive sales results. The company that I use for my books, BookLocker (they're fantastic), doesn't work with Kindle (they recently sued Amazon & won) or Smashwords, but they are aligned with Apple's iBooks.  

Now the successes are the result of hard work - networking, blog tours, & guest posts, and a whole lotta good writing. Scott Nicholson is in the middle of a 90 day tour (& he's givin' away a Kindle or 2 or 3). He's the author of DRUMMER BOY (which I'm reading now - It's very good), THE RED CHURCH & a half dozen others.

Mike Jastrzebski author of KEY LIME BLUES & STORM KILLER just posted about his experience. Mike's got it tough, living on a boat in the tropics. He blogs with some other cool folks at Write On The Water.

Then there's the current Big Dog Daddy of Kindle sales - Joe Konrath. Might have heard of his Jack Daniels series, & A NEWBIES GUIDE TO PUBLISHING. Joe flashes the stats, but does so in an effort to encourage. He's hosting Scott Nicholson today.

Back to what to do. I don't have the time to invest creating an online presence & have no writerly expertise to share. I write YA, rather than Thrillers, Mysteries or Horror, so there's no great audience pull there. And besides, how many kids will be buying e-readers?

Guess I'll resume polishing RECKLESS ENDEAVOR & return to my perch on that fence.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jack Rackham & The Black Raven Mutiny

(Photo from brochure - the rest are Deb's)

Aye 'tis no secret to ye landlubbers followin' this blog that me grandson Jack is the descendant o' that notorious scallywag Calico Jack Rackham. Alas, we celebrated the good fortune of 'is seventh birthday makin' due course through the Matanzas beyon' the Castillo de San Marcos amongst a hearty band of thieves and cutthroats aboard the galleon known as The Black Raven. 'Twas a seagoin' 
adventure worth every dubloon in me pocket, make no doubt o' that.


                              

As man o' the hour young Jack's first duty was to hoist the colors, assisted by that rogue William Mayhem

                              

Alas, underway were we on the high seas when Captain Scary Larry donned 'is swimmies n' snorkel an' threatened to abandon ship.



                            

All were in mortal danger with such o' madman at the helm so Jack an' Mayhem conspired and rallied the crew to mutiny an' save the ship from certain peril.


                             

Aye, as the battle raged Jack took the wheel and guided the seventy-two foot ship through the murky swells.

                            

The grateful crew, Mayhem, Kathy McCarthy & Magpie Maggie elected Jack as their new captain and lowered the treasure stowed upon yonder yardarm.

                             
Singing "Here's to ourselves, and hold yer luff, plenty o' prizes an' plenty o' duff" they presented the gifts.


                               

The voyage and the pillaging ended an' Captain Jack made haste to the tavern for a wee dram o' rum..... (Okay, no rum, it was a pineapple and coconut concoction. Just play along here.)


                            
And told stories of pirates and treasure to 'is old matey JaxPop......






Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hi 5

HI



Ignore the picture stolen from the internet (& that man behind the curtain) - this is not really my hand. First clue would be the long sleeve. South Florida is one hot, steamy place. Blech! Didn't miss it.  

Drowning after a week's vacation & playing catch up on everything. While "off" they had tons of rain in Miami (see last post) so job progress went down the drain, so to speak, which makes me even more nuts.

Planned to post some pics from last week - but they're not downloaded to this computer &, since Deb stayed in St Augustine (*sniff*) this week with all 1800 photos will have wait 'til SHE returns to the dreaded condo in Ft Lauderdale. Deb hates it here. Have managed some editing & resumed work on cover art for RECKLESS, so I'm stoked about that.  

Bought a Kindle a few weeks ago. Was iffy about it, but I got a good deal. Turns out to be a pretty cool toy. It's (too) easy to buy books & it's comfortable to use - even at red lights. First book I read on the thing was NO MERCY by John Gilstrap. He's an author that blogs on "The Kill Zone" (link on my page) & he's really good. Here's the deal - No Mercy was a freebie offered when his new book HOSTAGE ZERO was launched last week. I suppose lots of folks took the free book & moved on with their lives but I figured, I'll give the guy a shot & buy the new release. Hard to go wrong on a 2 for 1 deal. Well, he's got a new fan & I gotta quit clickin' "buy" buttons. 

So whaddya think about ebooks? Good for authors? Bad for publishers? Here today - gone tomorrow?

Wonder if they'll ever make a waterproof Kindle. I'd buy that.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Railroaded Writer




Deb says I need to post more frequently. She's right, but spare time comes at a premium & stress levels are off the chart. My day job (as you will see below) tends to keep me buried, & mentally exhausted. Being away from home doesn't do much to help the creative flow either. Writing is sporadic at best. Mickey Muse stayed home in St. Augustine for this latest excursion, far away from the South Florida sauna. We're living in a condo in Ft Lauderdale - working in Miami. Here are some pictures of what's got me bogged down - a ridiculously paced $30M railroad construction project that has to be finished in about six months, before liquidated damages (fancy words for fine) of $7000 per day kick in. No pressure. A walk in the park.



As a 16 year-old I remember telling my teacher that geometry was a useless subject. It was the first of many assumptions that turned out to be wrong. Above is a sampling of track geometry. (Click on it & do the math for me.) Track work ain't my favorite. Can you guess what happens to a train if the track layout is wrong? Again, no pressure.



A typical boring day.....


Working in the middle of an active train yard - forming foundation walls - very close to live tracks.
I get to deal with the best of 2 hardcore worlds Railroaders mixed with Construction Workers, all trying to out badass each other.

Pumping concrete beneath the water inside coffer dams




Sometimes we use divers, like this poor shlub. (Should be me, hiding from the Amtrak Reps.)


These guys get to go into the pit (there are 4) after we've pumped 500,000 gallons of ground water - per day. The equipment is being lowered with a crane. It's not a hovercraft with a bucket.



And while all of the concrete & pit work progresses - we're 'flying' steel.

So writing & blogging have taken a back seat for a while. Cut me some slack! I've been railroaded! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Eye Was Just Thinkin'...


Eye get annoyed reading some blogs or listening to someone speak when every sentence starts with the word eye. (Disclaimer: This excludes my favorites - you know who you are!) Eye mean, there are times, when sharing something about your personal life, when it is absolutely necessary to use THAT word. No problem as long as the topic isn't ALWAYS focused on self. It's also okay if you're discussing an opinion & in reply say "eye agree" or "eye disagree". The worst IMHO is the self appointed expert who pompously beats everyone over the head with "eye recommend" - over & over (unless it's an informational / teaching / mentoring blog). Maybe pose the recommendation(s) as a question - "Have you ever tried ____?" Hellooooooo engage the reader / listener. One-sided dialogue sucks!

How 'bout that person determined to make an impression with - eye bought, eye own, eye have, eye like, eye am so popular eye can't get enough of myself. Eye get so many wonderful emails from my throng of fans. Eye get so many checks in the mail. Eye had such a tough day with the Bentley being in the shop & the maid calling in sick. (Hint: This is what's known as bragging. It's boring - not impressive, enlightening or entertaining.) Want to mention a cool review or terrific news - GREAT - but don't take it to nauseating lengths. Just kinda makes everyone's EYES glaze over anyway.

Eye also despise when folks jump into a discussion on a specific blog / chat / conversation topic & try hijacking it to shamelessly promote themselves & their work, without at least a disguised attempt at providing topic-related input. Eye think that's rude. It's okay to say "eye tried it this way" or "eye had some success with _____ "  or "eye had something similar happen to me" if it pertains to the subject .... but then ... zip it.

Eye don't know. Eye guess eye have little tolerance for the self absorbed.

"See" y'all. Eye gotta go now.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I Got Nothin'

I'm in the middle of a very intense out of town project for a huge railroad client & my writing life currently  resembles a train wreck. Seriously - I got nothin'.... & it's frustrating as ______ . Can't even edit.



RECKLESS hasn't been touched since February, though we're going through cover art drafts (now up to version number 6). The blog has been nearly abandoned. A few straggling comments here & there on FaceBook is about all I've managed. Another oddity - I usually read a couple of books per week, but I've been slogging through the same book for about a month. Finally reached the Epilogue today.



Well, no sense wasting time whining. Hopefully, my brain will re-engage soon. Maybe this post will be the first step in igniting the spark, the light at the end of the tunnel. Hmmmm.... On 2nd thought, that light's probably another train headed my way. 




Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Storyteller (An Old Re-Run)


This is a slightly modified version of an old post. If you read this one already - you can click to another blog.

My youngest son was born a few weeks before my grandfather passed away. My grandson Jack was born a few weeks before my dad died. Strange how history repeats. I hope my grandson waits a loooonnnnggg time to have kids. So here I am - JaxPop posting something about 'Dave's Pop'. (Dave would be me. What... you thought JaxPop was my real name???)

The picture at the top of this post truly represents the beginning of my love for stories. It's an old watercolor from 1898 in a battered frame. Yeah, I was just a wee lad when this was painted. This picture hangs in a large closet in the master bedroom sitting room - where many of my books are shelved. As much as I love this old painting, it ain't makin' it to the hallowed walls to mix with Debs 'tropicasual' decor. It was given to me in 1980, just after 'Pop' was buried.

When I was a kid, I stayed at my grandparent's house at least one weekend every month & this picture hung in his room (next to a cut out Santa that I 'colored' when I was about 3 - Sentimental old codger he was).

'Pop' was from a large family - 15 kids altogether & I think he was number 10 out of the brood. School wasn't a big priority in those days so, at the tender age of 9, he went to work, in the coal mines, to help pay the bills &, I guess, to make it easier for great grandpa & grandma to continue adding to the population of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. The point is, even without the education, he was a magnificent storyteller.

It became a game. Whenever I visited, I would ask what the big guy was saying to the little chubby guy. Pop had the most twinkly blue eyes & he always started his tales with a squint. (Why do I remember that?) I was never disappointed. His stories would go on for nearly an hour, & I never budged an inch. He loved it when I would hit him with questions 'cause he could keep elaborating. In the end, I suppose, I've decided that the tall guy in the picture was & would forever be 'the boss'.

When my boys were young, I made up stories to tell them. They're all grown now and, since my grandkids live so far away, there was only one way to continue the tradition, I started writing. A key chapter in BAD LATITUDE incorporates my grandfather as a character, making him the one ultimately responsible for acquiring a certain diary & map, both integral components in my tall tale based here in St Augustine. Thanks Pop - for teaching me to tell such whoppers.



Above is a rare photo of my grandfather, without his engineer's hat. Notice the belt worn with suspenders & the missing thumb on the right hand. When I asked him how he lost that thumb he would only say it was 'cause he was just too damn slow. Not shown is his left hand - also missing a finger. Must've been REALLY slow.

Hopefully my stories will always do my Pop proud.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just A Peek

Spent this week in Miami - only 52 to go. The place is one giant tropical traffic jam. Gonna miss the haunted seaside town of St Augustine. The plan is to go home on weekends - 600 miles round trip. What's so bad about 30,000+ miles of driving?

We're trying to find a suitable place to live down there, but our definition of suitable seems to be creating some problems. Givin' up lotsa space, our beach & the quiet of our hometown. We ain't sardines & we'll never sacrifice fresh & clean. (Deb is freakin' out too!)

These are pictures of some of the things we'll be leavin' behind .....


The City Gates. See the ramparts in the background below that tie into the old fort? There's even a moat!  

The Castillo de San Marcos - built from coquina. It's where Jack meets Talia in BAD LATITUDE.

This is Treasury Street. One of the shorter ghost stories in BAD LATITUDE is told from here.

St George Street. Lots of art galleries & shops. My book can be found in the 'finer' stores. Hah! 


Matanzas Bay - (Translated means slaughter). The view from downtown through the inlet into the ocean. Calico Jack Rackham's ship appears in these waters in the middle of the night


Crescent Beach - Where Nan & Pop Rackham live. Oddly enough, it's where me n' Deb live too! See how crazy crowded the beach is? Nothing like Miami. Can't even drive on the beach down there. Sheesh.


This aerial view was NOT taken by Deb. If I can figure out a way to fly from Miami to the (tiny) St Augustine airport without spending a fortune, maybe she can get this shot in the future. Where we live is to the far right - just out of view - in the area where the intercoastal & ocean almost converge. Pop's massive boat dock is on the intercoastal. Nan calls it 'The Rackham Navy Base' now that they've added an 82 foot schooner, named RECKLESS ENDEAVOR to the collection. Rattlesnake Island is also just out of the picture - again to the right (south).

 

There's a coupla chapters in RECKLESS where this OLD JAIL provides the scene. It's a bummer when you're dead & still can't get outta the clink. A primary character for this part of the adventure is based on a friend from Indianapolis. She & her husband are real ghost hunters. Alas, poor Mary is a ghost (in the book).

  

The Bridge of Lions, taken from our boat. This bridge was taken apart piece by piece & refurbished to its original condition - including the polished marble lions & is being reassembled. A temporary draw-bridge was built before it was dismantled. The work will be finished this year & the temporary multi-million dollar bridge will be removed. I used this bridge as a focal point in a couple of chapters in both books.

 

Ah... The lighthouse. One shot from our boat Laffin' Gaff, & the one below from the grounds at dusk. The place is seriously haunted, just ask Jack & Kai. I spent hours editing at a table in the shadow of this place. It's also the backdrop for a couple of chapters in BAD LATITUDE.




This was also the location for my 1st book signing. Sold a few books as I recall.




Deb set this up. I was pretty well rattled at the start. Won't be any signings in 2010.   



No more fishin' 'til next year. I'm lousy at it anyway, just like 'Pop'. The fish laugh at me.  



So there's a peek into what kinda stuff goes into my tall tales, as well as a look at what I'll be leaving behind for the better part of a year (sniff!). Fortunately, inspiration is everywhere. RECKLESS is being tweaked (not sure when it'll come out now - under the circumstances) & the 3rd (& maybe last) book is underway. A portion of (untitled) takes place in The Everglades, 40 minutes from our temporary "home". Deb has graciously agreed to explore & take pictures from an airboat. She'll do whatever it takes to help Jack Rackham & 'Pop'. Did I mention that sometimes I pull up Deb's pictures on the computer screen & stare at them while creating a scene? Hopefully there will be plenty to pull up from our adventures in south Florida. The book thing, with us anyway, really is a collaborative effort. I mean, the poor girl has to read & listen to my drivel - even in draft stage. I feel bad 'bout that.