Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Surviving The Beast Known as Irma

I will be the first to admit I haven't experienced a lot of natural disasters in my life. Yes, I've endured the ice storm that befell Southern Ontario in December 2013, and that was quite an adventure unto itself, but nothing as compared to what I have experienced over the past week.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard the news about Hurricane Irma: a storm which achieved monstrous Category 5 status when it first hit the outer Caribbean island of Barbuda last week. The storm brewed a few days after Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 cyclone, laid waste to Southern Texas, leaving the streets of Houston flooded for days, and Irma had her sights set on the Florida peninsula: the area where I currently reside.

As Irma churned through the northern Caribbean Sea, people in my neck of the woods feared the absolute worst. My workplace closed on Thursday to help people prepare, and if necessary, evacuate, in advance of Irma's arrival. The only problem was, no one truly knew where in Florida it would make its' initial landfall. Some early models had forecast the storm to hit Miami, and the southeastern part of the state. However, it was not a true guarantee it would strike there first. Irma continued to churn west along the barrier islands on the northern coast of Cuba, weakening the storm a bit to a Category 4. But Florida was still in Irma's cross hairs. Instead of going up the Atlantic coast, as initially expected, it made a beeline for the Gulf coast, and in turn, the part of the state where I live.

Irma made first American landfall in the Florida Keys at 9:10 this past Sunday morning, and continued to bore a path up Florida's west coast. My wife and I made all the necessary preparations in the days before, and feared the worst. Shelters were at the ready to accept people in the area, and it was something we had contemplated. Alas, not many accepted pets, and we did not want to abandon our two fur kids. Instead the four of us decided to hunker down, and tough the beast out. The worst of Irma's fury began to strike my neighborhood just after 11:00 Sunday night. Rain pelted the pavement of our apartment complex, and hurricane force winds rattled the windows. Our electricity went out at approximately a half-hour later, and would not return until a good twelve hours later.

The next morning, after the curfew had been lifted for our community, I took a short stroll to survey the damage. Some of the neighboring trees had broken branches and the storm sewer grates we're littered with debris; however, for the most part, our area had gotten off relatively easy compared to some areas to the south. There were reports of broken streetlights and flooding in other communities. Businesses were closed up, so the struggle to find a hot meal or gas was a challenge. But the clean-up has begun, and things have started to return to normal.

At the time of writing this, it's almost thirty-six hours since Irma's apex struck my neighborhood. While I'm thankful for all of the well wishes and requests to "stay safe" during her fury, the storm has definitely changed me. A friend jovially told me, "You'll never forget your first." in the days leading up to Irma's impact. While I will begrudgingly agree with her, it's not something I would wish upon anyone. But I'm pleased to say that I've survived my first ever hurricane without no physical damages, the psychological effect will last me for a while.

Then again, any natural disaster would have that effect on anyone.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Labor Day Thoughts 2017

With it being the first Monday in September, I'm enjoying the day off from work, as the majority of those within my former home of Canada, and my current home of the U.S., celebrate the Labo(u)r Day holiday, and the unofficial end of summer. In some of the recent years' past, I would spend the day at the corner of Cannon and Balsam in Hamilton, watching the annual 'Labour Day Classic' between the hometown Tiger-Cats, and their arch-rivals from up the Queen Elizabeth Way. Toronto Argonauts. Unfortunately, my Cats have returned to the form of their 2000's to the point where they are win-less halfway through the season. Needless to say, I'm not impressed with some of their front-office decisions lately, either, so I'm willing to write this season off as an epic fail.

Canadian football aside, I've been rather occupied as of late with my day job. I'm in the last few weeks of a temporary increase in hours from my previous part-time status to full-time. To say the job has been sapping my creative energy would be an understatement. Yet, I am looking at the upcoming autumn months with anticipation. I intend to make another attempt at National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, and as a creative warm-up, I have signed up for a new challenge to me: October Poetry Writing Month (OctPoWriMo). While NaNo focuses on writing a 50,000-word novel within the 30 days of November, OctPo challenges aspiring poets to pen a poem a day, every day, for the 31 days of October. In doing so, I have linked my blog to the challenge, so this October, my blog will be filled with daily postings of my poetic attempts. While I'm no stranger to prose (four poetry collections under my C. D. Melley persona to show for it), this will be a slightly new avenue to me. So, I hope those followers to my blog will enjoy my postings in a mere *checks calender* 27 days' time.

On the Book Front, I have put the long-awaited second book in my Prairie Fire Trilogy, The Prairie Fire Rekindled, up for pre-order on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iBooks. The book will officially release on Saturday, November 4, 2017, so about a week or so before, I will hit the publish button for the paperback version, which means the paperback version will pop up on Amazon a few days before, depending on how quick Amazon builds the listing pages. Until then, you can pre-order the e-Book versions for the aforementioned devices and apps at the links below:

Kindle: http://amzn.to/2vGzS2t
Kobo: http://bit.ly/2w6ZeZY
Nook: http://bit.ly/2fRZkys
iBooks: http://apple.co/2fTkY5u

Finally, two of my detective/mystery books have been nominated for the 2017 Summer Indie Book Awards by Metamorph Publishing. Voting is ongoing until midnight, North American Central Time on Monday, September 11th, and you can vote once per day, per category. So, if you'd like to support this independent author, here are the links of where to vote for the books in question:

To vote for Kawartha Christmas Caper in the Crime category:  https://goo.gl/lwjy3G
To vote for Signed, Stolen, Delivered in the Mystery category:  https://goo.gl/iVL3uI

That's all from me now. I hope everyone has enjoyed a happy and safe Labo(u)r Day weekend, and like me, are dreading the return to work on Tuesday. 

Until next time,

Monday, 7 August 2017

Reflections of Another Year Gone

Recently, I celebrated my birthday -- Number 46, for those who have a desire to keep score -- and like I should every year, it's made me reflective on the previous twelve months.

Real life-wise, I've become deeply entrenched in my day job as an Administrative Clerk at the nearby university. At this time last year, I was a month into this new part-time gig. Since then, my hours and work responsibilities have drastically increased. While my full-time hours is currently a temporary increase (until the end of September, for now), it makes me wonder if this is the first step to a permanent upgrade. However, as someone who has had his hopes raised in the past by frivolous personal expectations, I'm having a difficult time trying to hold my breath with the dream of this coming to fruition.

At the same time, living the married life in Florida has continued to be a wonderful ride. My wife has been by my side every step in this journey, and I'm extremely thankful for that, even if I do still have my moments where I tend to be a bit "on edge." But I'll be the first to admit that after 46 years, I am still a work-in-progress. Our Pomeranian is still a constant in our lives (and is also a bit of a 'pain in the patootie' during certain moments, but we still love her.), but our Yorkie has changed since then. The previous one being put down in late May (We'll never forget you, Monty), but replaced with a new one a month later. (George is quite adorable, and I fell in love with him the first time he came home.) Live as a 'Doggie Daddy' has been an adjustment, but one I'm starting to finally gel into the role of.

Writing-wise, my life has been quite an adventure. I was able to release two novellas this year: Kawartha Christmas Caper -- the fourth book in the Gary Celdom series, and Signed, Stolen, Delivered -- the first book in a spin-off series, starring Gary's best friend, Phil Bennett. I was amazed when both of them were nominated for the 2017 Summer Indie Book Awards, sponsored by Metamorph Publishing. (FYI, the voting for the awards starts September 1st, so make sure to vote for my two nominees in the Crime and Mystery categories, respectively.) Also, during the past year, I participated in two signings here in Florida: Beach Babes' Book Blast last November (which, I made the mistake of appearing under my lesser known 'C. D. Melley' persona, and my non-existent sales figures from the event showed), and the inaugural Tampa Indie Author Book Convention last month. The latter event I enjoyed so much, I have since signed on to participate again in next July.

So, what's on the horizon in my 47th year of existence? That depends on my crazy schedule. I am currently putting the final touches on the long-awaited second book in the Prairie Fire Trilogy: The Prairie Fire Rekindled, which I was hoping for a September release, but might be pushed back until October. (Because having to format it for its release on paperback will be a bit of a time-suck, which I have little of after coming home from work.) Aside from that, I have planted the seed for the fifth Gary Celdom book. I won't go into too many details, but it will involve a return to the Northern Winds fan convention, and bit of a continuation of the timeline after SSD.

Save for that, I'm also slowly working through my To Be Read pile. Currently, I'm reading the final book in the Avery Fowler 2.0 Trilogy, written by my very dear friend, Jennifer Ammoscato. If you liked the Bridget Jones' Diary books and movies, make sure to check these books out. They are an absolute delight, and this is coming from a guy who you wouldn't think about reading 'chick-lit.'

Anyway, enough about this update. Time to post this before my supervisor pops in and gives me heck for lollygagging. (Such a funny word that is?)


Monday, 12 June 2017

Writing Life vs. Real Life

One of the struggles I've experienced during my life in recent days is trying to find the time and energy to write. It's not that my muse hasn't been co-operating; it has been nattering in my head on and off for the past few weeks. However, things have been crazy in my personal life during that time.

I don't like to discuss my day job, since it has been irrelevant to my writing life, but recently it has begun to encroach on the time I have dedicated to writing. Allow me to elucidate ("No, not since the late 60's.") on this. For the past year, I have been working at a local university as an Administrative Clerk part-time. My afternoon shifts are only four hours-long, which allows me the opportunity to spend my mornings to run errands, make appointments, and when I can, spend time at my laptop writing away on my various projects. The job has allowed me to become a productive member of the workforce, while allowing me the freedom to work on my writing in my free time. In the end, it has been quite a harmonious marriage between the two; at least, when my muse is willing to co-operate. But, things can often change at the drop of a hat, and this is soon to be the case for me.

My supervisors have been impressed with my work ethic during the past year; doing my duties to the best of my abilities, and filling in for extra hours on the rare occasion when needed. One would be led to believe this would eventually lead to a bonus and/or a raise in the next few weeks when I reach my 1-year anniversary in early July. However, what they're hinting at could be more than I could ever imagine: the upgrade from part-time status to full-time.

While I would love the opportunity to get more hours and have my first-ever full-time job in the process (All of my previous positions when I've been a member of the Canadian workforce have been part-time.), this proves to be a bit of a dilemma for my "hobby" as an independent author. My morning hours which I previously had for optional "writing time" would be usurped by said day job. One could argue I could use the evenings after work to write, and that would be the most logical course to take should this come to reality. However, it would depend on my energy levels once I get home from what would transform from a 4-hour shift to one that would nearly double. (I'm still attempting to see if it would be a 7.5-hour shift, or an 8-hour one.) In my younger years, I could possibly fathom staying up late to write, get a short amount of sleep, then get up for work. But, at my age (I'll be turning 46 in August), and the fact I'm a married man, I don't think my wife would appreciate me spending a few hours alone in bed (our fur baby, notwithstanding) while I type away on my latest manuscript. That being said, I'm about to test this theory in a few weeks.

On July 1st, I will do another attempt at Camp NaNoWriMo, with the intent to write a 15,000-word mystery novelette within 31 days. That seems relatively easy enough; however, this is also during that period where it is rumored the full-time contract is slated to commence. Will I be able to juggle a full-time day job and successfully complete said novelette? Only time will tell, but I hope in the process, my hobby won't dry up completely.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Reflections on Another Failed Camp

Quite a few things have been happening in my life as of late.  The majority of them have been related to my workplace. As the end of the Spring semester is nigh, I have been swamped with requests at my job. As a result, my attempt to successfully complete the April 2017 session of Camp NaNoWriMo has fallen short once again. That's the funny thing about real life when you're a writer: it always tends to throw a curve ball when you're trying your best to work on a project. That being said, it hasn't been a complete wash.

While my originally intended project for April's Camp was a collection of random ramblings and musings with no real intent on publishing, I quickly lost interest in it after writing 6,000 words on it. I think the fact I wasn't going to release it dampened my muse. Instead, I decided to commence work on the fifth adventure in my Gary Celdom Case Journals series. At the present, I have written 3,600 words on the project. I know I have quite a way to go on it, but at least it's a drop in the bucket. At the same time, I decided to dust off the cobwebs on the (extremely) long-awaited second book of my Prairie Fire Trilogy, and started piecing parts of a prior manuscript together. The reconstructed version is currently sitting at 33,300 words, and I know I have quite a way to go on that, as well.

Otherwise, I'm looking forward to my upcoming signings I have on tap: a local one here on the Gulf Coast of Florida in July, and then my trip to Kansas City, Missouri for a signing taking place in September 2018. As for my latest release, Signed, Stolen, Delivered, I recently held a promotion over Easter weekend where readers could download a copy for free for their Kindle devices and apps. The promotion was a success as 130 copies were downloaded over the 5-day sale. So, I would like to thank the frequenters to the Amazon sites in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and Italy (yes, the last one on that list was a surprise to me, too) who picked up their copy of the first Phil Bennett Mystery. Now, I have to cross my fingers that at least one of them will be generous to leave a review of the book.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

'Cause I'm ready to Camp NaNo-oh-oh...

A quick look at the calendar shows that Spring is in the air. I know my readers in northern climes have experienced a harsh, cold winter (and, at times, it's been downright chilly in Florida, too), so the warmer weather is a welcome sight. The Major League Baseball season starts this weekend, and I'm hoping the Blue Jays have another stellar season; hoping to improve on their losses in the American League Championship Series the past couple of seasons. But, for the writer in me, it's nearing time for the first of two sessions of Camp NaNoWriMo.

For those familiar with the traditional concept of National Novel Writing Month in November, the "Camp" sessions offer more flexibility; allowing participants to set their own word count instead of the rigid 50,000 words in 30 days. Also, the Camp sessions allow participants to work on any type of writing their heart desires instead of a traditional novel. If there is a script you want to write, you can do that. Poetry? Perfectly fine. Heck, I confess Before I Leave Canada started as a Camp NaNo project. Wherever your muse takes you is fine in either April or July.

My project for April is a little something personal I intend to write. I don't want to give too many details, as I've been known to jinx myself when I announce specifics about a project early. All I will say is I will attempt to write 25,000 words in April. I also have a separate project in the works for the July session, where the goal for that will be between 15,000 and 20,000 words.  If Camp NaNo is something up your alley, there is still time to sign up (for FREE) for the April session over at: www.campnanowrimo.org

Also, I have been a little busy the past while with a different project that I've recently released. While I failed in my attempt to write 50,000 words last November, I was able to cobble together almost 37,000 in the end to formulate the first book in what will be a spin-off series from my Gary Celdom books, featuring his best friend and writer, Phil Bennett. Phil's first "solo" adventure, entitled Signed, Stolen, Delivered continues the exploits of Phil and Maggie post-Kawartha Christmas Caper, and takes a look at Phil's attempt to find a part-time job to help supplement his government-assistance income since his book sales are slow to take off. He ends up getting a job as a transit courier where he meets an interesting cast of characters. Things appear to be going smoothly until he finds out there is a string of petty thefts within the company. It is up to Phil to help find out who's behind the crimes, all the while managing a long-distance relationship, and his bossy roommate. However, Phil is not alone, as we get a more in-depth look at the spirit from Phil's past that continues to haunt him: one of his ex-girlfriends, Amber.

The book is available on Amazon as a paperback, or for your Kindle. Like all of my other titles, the book is enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program (sorry, folks with Kobo and Nooks). And, can be found right here.

Until next time, happy reading.

Monday, 13 February 2017

The Absent-Minded Signing Author

In all of the craziness of the past couple of weeks, I forgot to make mention of an announcement here on my blog. (Although, if you're a frequent visitor of my author page on Facebook, you already know about this.)

As many of you know, I have signed on to be part of the Sow Me Your Books author event happening in Kansas City, Missouri, September 7th and 8th, 2018. However, I was on the search to find an event to partake in sometime this year. At the request of my wife, I was hoping to find one close to my home base here on the West Coast of Florida. This was a challenge for me, as those who know me personally know I don't drive. (I never bothered to get a driver's licence in my 45 years of existence. Mind you, when you spent most of your life in a city with an 'adequate' public transit system, the need is somewhat moot. Alas, that's not the case in my new home, but I digress.)

So, the search was on. There are a few events here in Florida, but the closest one I had originally found was about 65 miles away. I figured my 2017 was going to be 'signing-less,' until I stumbled upon a new event occurring this summer. After some investigating (and a delay until my budget allowed it), I am please to announce that on July 16th, 2017, I will be part of the inaugural Tampa Indie Author Book Convention.

At the present, myself and 40+ other independent authors have signed on to appear at this event. For more information, it can be found on their website: https://tampaindieauthorbookconvention.wordpress.com or their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TampaIndieAuthorBookConvention/

The only question I have to ask myself is, does only one of my triad show up, or all three faces of moi?

Friday, 10 February 2017

It's Not Easy Being An Indie

As many of you know, I've considered myself an independent author for close to 6 years now. While one would think I should know all of the ropes by now, the truth of the matter is there are quite a few things I need to learn.

One thing an independent author needs to learn is patience, and I admit, it's one thing I have struggled with throughout my life, let alone one as a writer. I see other authors churn out books ad nauseum, and I want to have that same capability. Unfortunately, most of these authors have a huge support system in place, whether it be personal assistants (PAs), editors, and beta-readers. These are things I am slowly attempting to obtain, but it's not easy. The thing I'm concerned about is the probability where these cost money, and when one is not really the master of his own budget (which I admit, is due to some bad life choices caused by personal demons), it's tough to "keep up with the Jones's," per se.

It's funny; I liken myself in this industry to a pro wrestler on the independent circuit. A worker who toils away at their craft, waiting for their big break. I know it's all a matter of exposure, and creating a fan base. However, I can't help but feel envious of those who have a decent following. I figure it's because they have been able to have their support system for a while. That being said, I like to believe I have a support system, but not a devout one. My sales have lagged in recent months, save for last November when I had a new release. I get the reading audience can be fickle in the aspect of "what have you put out lately?" But, when you're a person (with a multiple-author personality disorder) who has released a dozen titles over three genres, it's difficult to tap into that "sweet spot" niche.

I still do my best to improve my writing, and having someone beta-read one of works-in-process helped. I appreciated their feedback, but felt a little disheartened about having to rewrite a huge chunk of it. This is where the patience comes in. I need to learn to be patient, and not inflict self-pressure to churn out my stories at a record pace. My only concern is alienating my readers because it's taking so long to pump out new material. The long story short, I'm intimidated by the current marketplace where the line between quality and quantity is blurred. I want to please my audience with the stories I tell, but the fact it has taken longer than expected is frustrating.

I'm probably beating a dead horse here. I want to build a following and an audience by attracting them to the books I've already put out, while toiling (albeit slowly) on new material I will release in the future, but when there are more and more books out there for consumption, I can't help but feel lost in the shuffle, though.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Online Classes, and Newsletters, and Peace... Oh My!

The last time I checked in with everyone on my blog, I was in the midst of partaking in an online Creative Writing class. While, I'm still trudging through the class, the process has been slow going with real-life commitments (i.e. gainful employment) taking priority. That being said, I'm still whizzing through the class, currently sitting on Lesson 12 of 13. My current lesson tackles writing effective dialogue, but the professor prefers me to write it in a screenplay style. I must confess, I haven't written a screenplay since my Script Frenzy days four or five years ago, so I need to tap into those days of yore to complete the assignment. Regardless, it's been a fun course, so far, and I hope to apply these skills into future writing projects.

Moving on, if you've noticed, this page looks a little different. That's because I've added a sign-up form for something new I'm starting up: a newsletter. When I attended my last book signing last November, a fellow author I was sharing a table with suggested to build my readership, I should establish a newsletter. After stalling for a couple months, I looked into a hosting website, and "The Howling Nanook" was born. It's first issue was released today (January 29, 2017), and can be found here. To subscribe to future monthly issues, just fill out the form on the upper right, confirm your email address when you receive the confirmation email, and you'll be good to go.

Finally, I have recently signed on for an exciting collaboration. While details are still being hammered out, myself, and 25 other authors will be working together to write an exciting new romance series. If you follow me on social media, you might see the occasional hashtag #PeaceSeries used. This is in reference to this series we're all working on, for a gradual roll out, starting in Fall/Autumn 2017. I am excited to be a part of this project, and I hope you will join me, and my fellow authors in taking a journey to find your #Peace.

That's all for now. I have to get back to plotting, learning, and writing.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Back to Basics

I will be one of the first people to admit I'm not a perfect writer. Then again, who is? As someone who attempts this craft, I have been apt to typing the wrong word (i.e. 'as' instead of 'at'), writing prose that might not make sense, and being redundant on more than one occasion. However, I still do the best job I can do, and continue to strive to be better. Alas, my many years removed from my community college English classes have finally caught up to me.

Recently, I had completed a draft version of the first book in a spin-off series from my "Gary Celdom Case Journals" set of detective fiction stories, and after some tinkering and much urging of my proofreader, I sent it off to a beta reader. For those who don't know what that is, it's like someone who looks over a computer program and makes suggestions on what could be improved upon. The only difference is, the person is doing so for a book instead of an app under construction for your smartphone. I received the feedback from the beta reader, and she pointed out some areas I needed to further modify before the story could be sent out to the masses. Naturally, it was a bruise to my creative ego, but one thing one has to learn when being an author is to develop a thick skin. I think I'm still in the process of establishing that added layer of epidermis.

Regardless, after some discussions with (read: prodding by) my wife, I decided to enroll in an online creative writing course. Most of the ones you see charge a decent penny, but I was fortunate enough to find a free one through my local library. So far, the lessons have been based on things I already know; however, as I progress through the program, I'm picking up things I had not considered, like adapting a style of a favorite author, and working on creating dialogue for my characters that are unique to one another. (A complaint by my proofreader was the characters all sounded the same, and didn't have unique voices.) These are part of the lessons I've yet to complete, but I am looking forward to learning from them.

As a result, the first book in the Phil Bennett series is being sent to the editing desk. Also, it's making me consider rewriting the long overdue second Prairie Fire book. The start and ending of it I think are sound, but I need to clear out some of the padding, and retool some certain aspects of the story. So, I might be lucky if that comes out by 2018. (Damn my muse and inner editor clashing!)

My only hope is that my future books will be better than some of my previous works, but like they always say in the arts, "It's an ongoing process."