Houses of the Broken and Other Stories

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Reset.

My muse took the winter off. There’s no two ways around it. The minute I was faced with unlimited free time, my get up and go got up and went. (Cue Fell On Black Days…)

The end of the year synopsis… yeah, I avoided it. While my year was mostly dominated with awesome things, you remember most how things ended, not how great the middle was. The same holds true for basically any type of art or performance. When all else fails, finish strong and the crowd will be happy. Despite my reluctance to summarize my year in one easy nutshell, I did have a number of internal musings about the resolutions, clean slates, and starting over all over again. I came to a few conclusions…

There is no such thing as a clean slate. There will always be residue. Always. And that’s o.k. You wouldn’t be where or who you are without those traces of the past, both good and bad. While you may not like the past scribbles, they can’t be erased. But you can make them evolve into another sketch that is more beautiful. Build on the slate, don’t scour it. The depth of field will be all the more interesting when you’re done.  (Maybe some Shine On You Crazy Diamond.)

Resolution on resolutions: If you really wanted to, you already would have.

Starting over. Not a fan. Starting over is uncomfortable. But in truth, comfort zones were made to be broken, like it or not. And the thing that was scary today, is old hat tomorrow. Unless, of course, the parachute didn’t open…

Motivation. You want to get something done? Find a busy (wo)man. Having nothing to do made me listless, even as I tried to keep busy I just felt like I was trying to ride a solid lead unicycle under water. A soldier needs a war… a Katherine needs to be under insurmountable deadlines. (Which has put Blue Collar Man solidly in my head now…)

Long nights… impossible odds…

Feel free to rock out a moment, I’ll be here. *yawn* Better? I thought as much.

Into the fray, once more… and again after that, and another time or two. Maybe three for good measure. The muse, snowbird that she is, will be back. She always comes back. And the woodchipper will be waiting.

Houses of the Broken – an interview with Katherine Alton

An interview with Matthew, fresh for your review.

Third Life – Up on the Roof.

Mother Nature is a bitch. Three weeks into my 3rd retirement and where do I find myself on a unusually balmy December morning? Up on our roof. The wind, you see, had ripped a piece of the (2 year old) fasica trim off, mid early winter squall.

Exactly where I expected to be on a random Thursday morning in December. Totally.

I’m not even sure the last time I’ve been up on a roof. The lower roof was no problem, almost like a familiar friend I scaled up it and perched myself on the peak. Easy. How bad could the second part be?

Roof number two… is beyond a 45 degree angle… closer to a 60 for those protractorally inclined. My body met the immediate forces of gravity as I started up. Step.. slide… crawl.. slide… the more of my body I put in contact, the less grip I had. Still, I worked myself over to the edge. My task… my one task… sitting still and holding on to a belligerent piece of sheet metal…

Waiting for the nails to be set, I laid there… feeling my legs quiver trying to brace themselves against something that held no leverage. I couldn’t move. Couldn’t take my hand off the metal hanging over the edge. Couldn’t adjust myself to better fight the forces of nature. Breathing slowly, I concentrate on every muscle, trying not to lose what little grip I have. Ever so slightly… I slide.

Eighteen inches away from a 25 foot drop on to a concrete pad and miscellaneous patio furniture, and there’s nothing I can do but take a deep breath and try to dig my toes in so I don’t go any further.

Mind over matter.

Every part of me wants to freak out. Between bouts of careful deep breathing with my eyes closed, I try and figure out which way will be the best way to roll when the shingles finally give and I can’t catch myself. I calculate the best option is a barrel roll to the right, which would land me on the lower peak if I’m lucky, providing me with something to grab on to, as long as I don’t bounce too hard. I slide a little bit more. I can’t help my but hold my breath.

I can’t move my hand. Can’t flinch. Can’t let go. Struggling now to save myself from an assumed death, only means starting this whole process over again. I sit tight and fight every urge to indulge my high, anxious voice in a chorus of panic.

The next problem presents itself. I can’t hold and make room for the other nails all at the same time. I can’t move without letting go. And I can’t scooch enough to let the man with the hammer get to where he needs to be. My fingers at this point are already bordering on numb, the cold creeping slowly up my arm.

It’s a far less dramatic version of the dangling hero or heroine you see in the movies. And I’m no Sylvester Stallone. But I don’t complain, I just grit my teeth and hang on.

Finally, the glorious sound of nail meeting wood rings in my ears. I can let go. And I can find my way down the roof in a controlled manner, if I’m lucky. Down is actually harder than up, but once I make it to the center of the roof, my heart rate takes a little rest. Every muscle in my legs is trembling by the time I make it to the ladder, and it takes a concerted effort not to tremble right off of it.

I make it to the bottom before the ladder reaches a sonic vibration mode. It’s hard to look calm, cool and collected when you’re involuntarily shaking like a leaf. I quickly add ‘roof work’ to the list of things I never want to have to do again. Ever.

Once the quivering of my body subsided, with the help of a cool beer and the sofa, the silver lining appeared…

I didn’t want to fling myself off the roof.

At least that’s something.

A Quarter Of The 100 Best Selling Books On Amazon Are By Self Published Authors

Definitely going to be looking more in to this!

K Morris - Poet

Today’s Daily Mail has an article regarding Amazon’s statement that a quarter of the company’s 100 bestselling books are by indie authors. The figures pertain to the USA, however it is believed that similar statistics apply as regards the United Kingdom. There are, perhaps not surprisingly a lot of sour grapes in the comments following on from the article, to the effect that all indie works are of inferior quality and “real” authors are published by established publishing houses. In reality there are, of course poor quality works in the indie sector and that of traditional publishing. The article provides hope for all us self-published authors and those considering self-publishing. For the article please visit http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2518546/Amazon-reveal-quarter-100-Kindle-books-written-self-published-indie-authors.html

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Blackest Friday

Things I need to do… staring at the screen blankly doesn’t accomplish much, nor does it give me much of a story to tell. But there are things, retail things, that I must pay attention to. It’s my duty as a newly published author to shill my work when the opportunity arises. So here we are, Black Friday.

For your purchasing pleasure, there are a number of options for picking up Houses of the Broken. I hear it’s a great stalker… I mean… stocking stuffer…

Kindle and print is available at Amazon.com

Print is available at barnesandnoble.com and I hear there’s a pretty good coupon code floating out there, so give a google!

CreateSpace is a personal favorite.

And, if you’ve already read it, and can’t wait to tell others about my twisted mind, check out GoodReads!

So there we are, one click for all of your needs! Stay out of the snow and curl up with a chill thrill.

NaNope

This is National Novel Writing Month… a month that has been sacred to me for years now. It’s a special time when all of my friends and family know to bugger off and leave me alone while I WRITE STUFFS!

It’s been good, it’s been bad, it’s been ugly, but I’m proud to say that over the past few years, despite life being life, I’ve managed to at least hit 50k when it was down to the wire. I work good under pressure, and I know it. And usually, I can buckle down. Usually…

I’m fairly certain I’ve been writing about 5,000 words a day. The problem is, very little of it has been ‘fiction’. Life turned topsy turvy on me in a very short amount of time. I thought the trip west was going to be my biggest obstacle in this year’s process, and I anticipated having to ‘dig out’ once I got back home. Little did I know, that would be the least of my worries. Long distance travel, jet lag, an ill timed sickness… and that was the easy part. The month was young, I still had time. I could have pushed myself, but I didn’t want to burn myself out too early.

And then…

No job. Just like that. *poof* It’s gone. Well, shit.

I’d love to tell you that my book (Houses of the Broken) was doing well enough that I wouldn’t have to worry about being a cube monkey any more, but that’s not yet the case. Working a day job, finding time to write, blog, promote, live life, sleep, eat, bathe occasionally… it takes a toll. And I’m tired.

Now that I sit with more time on my hands, I still can’t find a moment of peace. Suddenly I’m in a scramble to take care of all the things I didn’t have the chance to fit in to a 24 hour day. Meanwhile, I have to evaluate if I’m ready for a permanent career change, if I’m stuck in a career change whether I like it or not, thanks to the lack of current jobs, or if I just want to throw caution to the wind and do something… different. Really different. Flying without a net different.

*spoilers* I’ve always been the conservative one. Even talking about this makes my heart start to tense up ever so slightly. *thumpthump* Ack.

I should be writing right now, but not writing here. That’s the other part of the problem. All this adversity just makes me want to blog, and talk about life and things, and the plight of Generation-X. And maybe wear flannel two sizes too big… I’m feeling nostalgic. I rocked the flannel.

So, this year I get to accept failure. Failure at being an adult, and failure at NaNoWriMo. I’m still chipping away at it, and the good news is, even deep in personal strife, I’m still stacking up the words… just half as fast as usual. I want to just quit, I do… it would be easier. I want to quit everything right now, take my ball, and go home. Maybe hide under the covers too, at least it’s cozy there. I could go for some winter hibernation, hiding from my problems and the difficulties of the real world. Maybe, crazy enough, I will even let myself have some ‘down time’ and not feel guilty about it. Nah. That won’t happen.

At least not until December.

Book Review: Houses of the Broken

I missed touching on this while I was out of town, but please take a moment to enjoy this review of Houses of the Broken!

Houses of the Broken – The Review

Third Life – Generation X-employee

Again. Seriously?

I almost laughed as my boss handed me my walking papers. “Not enough work,” he said. “Effective immediately,” he shoved a box at me.

Yeah, I know. I’ve heard that before. Two times before actually. This layoff was the least impressive to date. The last time I had to find a job in this market, it took me 6 months, and someone had to die for there to be an opening.

The market has not improved since then.

That same week, reports rolled in from my friends. Laid off. Laid off. Laid off. Five of us in a week. Lord have mercy. This doesn’t even account for other personal disasters. November is a hell of a month.

I can do anything and nothing all at the same time. All of the project lists I’ve been staring at and revising for the past year can now come to fruition. And I have no income. I can finally ride my horse and get back into shape! And I have no health insurance. Forgive me if I don’t want to tempt fate.

I come home to my spouse, ready with a hug. He’s home mid-day because he was already laid off earlier in the week. Second time in my life this double hit has happened. First time with this spouse. Things have a way of going in cycles. We meet up with my parents and do what any good family does: We drink.

It’s Monday morning now, and I’m watching the coffee pot bubble and brew. The coffee pot I bought during my last layoff, because I finally had time to make myself a pot in the morning. The $15 has been well worth it. There are a million things I could be, should be doing, and I have no idea where to start. I’m on borrowed time, never knowing when the next shoe is going to drop, never knowing when the next opportunity is going pop up.

At least this time I’m fairly sure I won’t end up in my parents basement. Small victories.

The Heat is in the Tools

Presently I have two very big influences in my life. One is trying to get my writing persona established and off of the ground, the other is a massive restore-o-vation of the very old farmhouse I live in. Neither are for the faint of heart. It takes a special kind of crazy to face insurmountable odds and go “Eh… what’s the worst that can happen?”

Life evolves. There’s no two ways around it. Things that were important one day, may not be so important the next. Likewise, something you never thought to be a consideration maybe become the burning desire that spurs you to action. Between renovation and writing I have found a few simple truths.

1. Each one is a lot of work.

2. If I don’t do it, no one will.

3. The heat is in the tools.

#3, obviously being the entire point of this exercise, is the important factor here. Maybe you’re wondering what exactly it could mean, in either context. The answer is fairly simple: Activity keeps you sharp (and warm).

When you’re ripping apart a 160 year old house in the dead of winter, you start to appreciate the concept of movement. To stand still is to be cold. There is no progress. There is no warmth. There is an overwhelming urge just to give up. Too hard. Too cold.  Too dark. Your mind becomes your own worst enemy. Before long you have yourself talked into a nice coffee shop and a cup of coco. But the cave remains, haunting your moments of relaxation and warmth. Only when hammer hits wall do you meet true feelings of satisfaction.

That work in progress is the same way. Be it marketing or manuscripts, sitting and staring blankly at things on results in cold frustration. I like to mull things over, but if it goes too long ambition starts to flag. Ideas fall by the wayside. And it’s just plain easier not to. To write is to work. The catch to being a writer is: you have to write. Even the best imagination imagination in the world can’t call themselves a writer if they don’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard.)

It’s hard, but the best thing to do is keep hammering away. Even when you’re tired. Even when you’re bored. Even when you think you don’t have time to spare. (And yes, I am trying to convince myself of this as well!)

It’s the only way to knock those walls down and build something great.

Catching up. Signings & Con’s, oh my!

The past calendar month has been pretty much fabulous. And insanely busy.

Mid September I had the privilege of having a signing at the Erie Book Store. I had no idea what to expect, but everything went great. It was great to get the support of my friends, family and complete strangers. I didn’t sell out but I came darn close!

Just this past weekend I was camped out at my booth at Eerie Horror Fest. The weekend went great and I got to meet and talk to people I never would have imagined. It was my first ‘con’ and I had no idea what to expect walking in. Would my set up look ok? Would I even sell a single thing? Would people just eat all of my candy and never make eye contact?…. (the answer to that one is yes.)

IMG_6065

(Note to self: I’m not sure another time I’ve used the word ‘great’ in such a high concentration.)

November isn’t much more likely to be settling down, I’ll just be navigating a different set of hoops. My yearly stint of NaNoWriMo is looming and I can’t resist the call. My friends and family know to leave me alone and/or bring me food for the month of November. It works for me. This year I’ll have the added obstacle of trying to draft my upcoming novel while being bi-coastal. Because 50,000 words in 30 days isn’t enough of a challenge, clearly.  I’m hoping I can pull it off, though I doubt the story will end there.

This is one I’ve been wanting to tell for a LONG time.

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