I Am Still Alive

The blog has been quiet for a long time. Today is my “blogiversary”, so I’m mostly just posting to say that no, I am not dead. Not for lack of trying – more on that later.

First an update on some projects: The Father Chessman series is still in progress. Book 3, Oaths of My Fathers is written and is sort of ready for beta readers… kind of. Book 4, Crimes of My Fathers, is in progress, but it ran into problems. The final book 5 is still pending. The sequel to Hell Bent, Stone Killer, is near the end of its first draft but hasn’t been updated in a while… for reasons.

OK, so why the silence and all the delays? In short: bad health, both physical and mental.

I’ve been in the hospital a lot with an ongoing series of small-bowel obstructions, i.e. the plumbing keeps getting jammed up in the most inaccessible space. I’ve had thirteen now, I think, but I’m starting to lose count. It might be more. I’ve had two surgeries attempting to fix it, and who knows, there might be a third in my future. The mortality (aka “Will this kill me?”) goes up with age, so it’s just going to get more dangerous.

On top of that, when I went into the hospital for my most recent one, I tested positive for COVID-19. It was asymptomatic, and I have since tested negative after the recommended isolation period where I was limited to two rooms of the house, all on my lonesome. I appear to have come through unscathed, but I have a followup with my doctor soon to check for any lung/heart damage. My message to you: Wear your mask!

I should also say that somewhere in the early 2010s I sustained a back injury – more accurately several repeated back injuries – that have left me with herniated discs and chronic pain. Oh, let’s not forget the migraines that I’ve suffered since a concussion as a teenager. While they have become about half as intense, they’ve made up for it by becoming near constant, 24/7. (Yes, I’ve had an MRI, and to quote Arnold Schwarzenegger, “It’s not a toomah!”)

Despite all that, I tend to think of myself as being in moderately good health. I’m overweight, but I exercise regularly, including 3+ miles on the treadmill at least five times a week. So, most of my health problems are the hidden, pain-in-the-ass kind of stuff.

The mental health side of things… is hard to talk about, but the more of us who talk about it, the more it’s supposed to help those who are also suffering in silence. The short of it is that I’ve had chronic anxiety and depression for somewhere between fifteen and fifty years. On top of that, I ended up with a bad case of PTSD because of some stuff with my kids – that’s a whole ’nuther story – complete with persistent tremors, full-on flashbacks, and panic attacks. A real shit-show.

So, a few years back, I decided to make my mental health a top priority. (Yeah, “a” vs. “the” top priority… don’t get me started.) So, I’ve been jumping through the medication hoops and doing EMDR therapy and in general putting other stuff aside. Things have improved a lot, but it also meant I didn’t write, paint, or do much else creatively for quite a while.

I did start writing again late last year, starting into Crimes of My Fathers as my 2019 NaNoWriMo project, but that petered out as the pandemic hit. Since I’ve been working from home for 20+ years, my day-to-day routine didn’t change much, but that “world is on fire” vibe dried up the well in short order. I have just recently started writing again, but it’s on a side project that may never see the light of day. Still, it shows me that the machinery is still there and operational. I hope to return to the Father Chessman series soon.

Anyway, there’s more to say, but I’m going to cut it here, lest this slip the schedule and end up as a 2021 update instead. Hopefully it won’t be another year before I can update again.

Hell Bent is released at last!

It’s on sale over at Amazon.

Alice Koufax desperately wants to break out of the Herald’s Lifestyle section, and when a local football hero proposes to the mayor’s succubus daughter, she thinks it’s finally her ticket to the front page. But when the bride-to-be disappears with rumors of a cursed engagement ring, Alice realizes she’s grabbed a demon by the horns.

On top of all that, she has to deal with her half-elf mother’s interference in her love life, the inscrutable Fae, and the mysterious Stonemen. Can she save the day, reunite the lovers, and most importantly, get her story filed before the deadline?

Welcome to the five ‘burghs, where the Gates in Pittsburgh put power, ruins, magic, and Hell itself just a subway ride away.

See the book page for a sample.

Hell Bent nearing publication

So, while Oaths of My Fathers nears beta, I’m putting out the first in a series I started a long time ago, before Ships of My Fathers even. I’ve ordered a proof copy before I give final approval on the cover art, but I’m 98% of the way there already. I’ve been burned countless times before by giving release dates, but that’s going to stop me. So, I’m aiming for the first half of February, 2018.

(cover art by Deranged Doctor Design)

No NaNoWriMo This Year

I had hoped to be drafting book four of the Chessman series for NaNoWriMo this year, but I’m still deep in the edits for Oaths of My Fathers. However, I am making progress on that, and I may be reaching out to the mailing list for beta readers by Thanksgiving.

And by the way, I haven’t settled on the title for book four. My initial plan had been to title it Sins of My Fathers, but since I want to keep a similar look for all the covers, I’m not sure how well I can make such a short word as “Sins” fill the same space as Ships, Debts, and Oaths. My backup title is Crimes of My Fathers, which I know will fit nicely, but I still think Sins sounds better.

Also, I’m planning to draft book 4 and 5 back to back in hopes that they’ll come out close to each other. I’m not saying that book 4 is going to end in a cliffhanger, but it’s going to end in a place the reader won’t want to stay. I have several examples of other series in mind for comparison, but I don’t want to make the claim that it will be as good as those.

In the meantime, it’s back to the word refinery!

Debts of My Fathers is published at last

I finally pressed publish. Debts of My Fathers is released at last. The print version will have to wait another week or two since I found some formatting errors in the proof copy, but it’s not that far behind.

For now it’s still working through Amazon’s innards, but once I have an official page for it, I’ll update the links here.

Now I just need to figure out how to send email out to my mailing list.

Print proof is on the way

Just a quick note to say that I just now ordered the print proof of Debts of My Fathers from Createspace. I finished up all the cover work last night, and after almost 24 hours, they have blessed it, so I ordered it for Friday delivery.

I have some formatting cleanup to do on the ebook over the next couple of evenings, but things are looking good for publishing this weekend.

Cover 99% done

The cover is 99% done. I’m finalizing the back-cover blurb tonight, and that’ll be it. The print version is fully formatted, so I should be kicking all that off to Createspace tonight in hopes of getting a proof by Thursday or Friday.

The ebook is mostly formatted. I need to clean up a couple of things, but that should only take another few hours, so that will hopefully be done by the end of the week.

So, crossing my fingers, knocking on wood, turning around three times and spitting… the book should finally be out around this coming weekend.

Getting close on the cover

I’m getting pretty close on the cover. At this point, I have all the texture work done, but I’m getting some weird artifacts in the mesh when I enable bump maps. To heck with it — I can fix those in Photoshop by merging the two selectively. Anyway, here are the two versions. (The artifacts aren’t so noticeable at this scale.)

Anyway, the formatting is almost done, and I’m really trying hard to get it all out the door by this coming Friday the 12th. It’s close enough to feel it, so I’m actually giving the date. We’ll see if I actually hit it.

More texture work

I had to redo some of the UV work. The tails and boxes came out all right, but the main hull was split right-left which was causing a problem and the wings were all skewed, so I switched which kind of UV default to use for those parts. I’ve left the grid lines on for now to show what I’m working with, but they’ll of course be gone in the final. I should be able to make more progress tomorrow, but for now I’m calling it a night.