Category Archives: Danny Tompkins Short Stories

Time for a Pity Party

I was introduced to the concept of a Pamper Party some years ago, when our daughter was a teenager, and decided to throw herself one. It was interesting to watch her

I was introduced to the concept of a Pamper Party some years ago, when our daughter was a teenager, and decided to throw herself one. it was interesting to watch her going through the activities. She felt good about herself afterwards.

I don’t expect that a Pity Party will produce the same results, but I’m ready to throw one for myself. What’s so bad that I’m ready to hold a pity party? Perhaps nothing, at least nothing of monumental significance. But it seems that too many things are not going right right now. Major projects aren’t getting done. Minor projects aren’t even getting started. And I have no desire to write right now. Haven’t written anything except this blog for over a month.

My latest publication, When Death Changes Life, doesn’t count as writing. That was just boxing up short stories that were already written and re-publishing them as a short book. Since it didn’t include any new writing, it wasn’t writing.

So, what’s so terrible that I need a pity party? I’ll just use the dishwasher as an example. That’s clearly a first world problem, but it’s a problem nevertheless. It started going out some months ago. I didn’t catch it before it started doing damage to the ceiling in the basement. Finally I had our plumber come to verify where the damage was, and he confirmed it was the dishwasher. That was in late August or early September. Back in 2012 we put in a new refrigerator that we got at Lowe’s. I looked, and saw they had a matching dishwasher. But it’s noise level is higher than what’s currently available. I could live with that, but I need buy-in from my wife. So far I don’t have it. So we need to go to Lowe’s to see what’s available. Or, any other place that sells dishwashers.

I told Lynda I wanted to get this done this weekend, that I wanted us to go together to Lowe’s either Saturday or Sunday to decide on what to get: the matching one or a quieter one. She said fine. Saturday morning was full of work inside and outside the house. Then came the Wal-Mart run, which I made alone. That brought us to sometime after 4, maybe closer to 5 p.m. I still had to study my lesson for Life Group, and I was dead tired, so I didn’t ask to go to Lowe’s. Sunday was Life Group and church (I went alone), followed by lunch and a quick nap. At lunch we learned that Lynda’s mom was totally out of her insulin. She took the last pen from the box in the fridge and didn’t tell us. Since we don’t normally go looking for her insulin, we didn’t know until she had to take it for her meal and found the problem.

So, I called the pharmacy. It turned out the prescription wasn’t refillable without a doctor’s consent, which of course we wouldn’t get on a Sunday. So I spoke to someone at the pharmacy about an emergency fill, and they said they would. It would be ready by 2:00. I decided to wait until 3:00 to go, after my nap. When I got there it wasn’t ready, them saying they were waiting on the doctor’s authorization. So, I went through the whole emergency thing again, and finally got the prescription. I looked for a new jar-opener pad (ours being close to disintegrated, and me not remembering to get one on my normal Wal-Mart trips) but couldn’t find one. So I bought a package of Reese’s cups and went home.

By then it was 4:00 p.m. I still had supper to fix, and had planned a meal with a lot of fixing. I started that at 4:45 p.m. and was on my feet till 6:45. During that time I washed a boatload of dishes (because, of course, we don’t have a working dishwasher), cleaned some dead stuff out of the fridge, and threw the garbage into the woods. We ate dinner. My new main dish turned out very nice.

By that time, I was more tired than I had been on Saturday. I decided not to bring up a visit to Lowe’s, and my wife didn’t bring it up. So we didn’t go. One of my main goals for the weekend was unfulfilled, and was no closer to fulfillment. The wife has headaches all the time. I’m not sure she will ever want to go, nor will she want to leave the decision up to me.

Well, the pity party should be over, except much more has happened of late.

  • Despite having 26 items for sale, with a new item added, I have zero book sales in October. Zero. Obviously I’m not writing the kind of things people want to buy. I can’t see my way clear to spend the time needed to learn the tasks necessary to place advertisements, so my writing sales seem to be at a standstill.
  • I can’t write with all these things hanging over me.
  • We are no closer to replacing either of our ancient vehicles than we were two months ago when we decided to do so.
  • Once the dishwasher is repaired, I’ll have to see about getting the ceiling in The Dungeon fixed.
  • I found it very difficult to prepare for the Life Group lesson I taught yesterday; hence I don’t believe I taught a good one. I don’t think I teach next week (though who knows, since I never hear from my co-teacher before Friday evening, sometimes not till Saturday evening, when I receive a text “whose week is it to teach).
  • For the last two weekends/weeks I guess I’ve way over eaten. My weight have ballooned, and six months (or more) of weight loss is wiped out. I don’t know if I have the strength to do it again.

Okay, pity party over. I probably shouldn’t have written any of this. I do so knowing almost no one will see it. Or maybe it really will be no one.

“When Death Changes Life” now published

This is the e-book cover.
This is the e-book cover.

Last Saturday afternoon, finding myself with an hour to spare in the evening (or maybe it was early afternoon), I decided to do the work necessary to publish my short story boxed-set, When Death Changes Life: The Danny Tompkins Stories. I’ve blogged about this before. I wrote the six stories to explore the idea of teen-age grief at the loss of a parent.

“Mom’s Letter”, the first in the series, was also the first item I self-published. I wrote it first for a writing contest, which I failed to win a prize in. Later I expanded it to longer than the word limit of the conference. Much later, I thought of and wrote a short story to follow it up, then another, and another, and, after six years I had six stories.

I already had the book formatted for Kindle. All I had to do on Saturday was find the interior and cover files, upload them, and fill out all the details. I did this, and published it to the Amazon Kindle Store Saturday afternoon. Monday I got it up at the Smashwords store. Wednesday I finished layout of the interior for the print book. Thursday I tried to start on the cover, but didn’t have everything I needed. Today I plan on getting started on the cover. Hopefully by Monday I’ll be ready to upload everything to CreateSpace, and soon thereafter be able to publish it as a small paperback.

So, it’s now 26 items published. Not sure how many I’ll get to.

Writing This As I Go

I don’t know if I wrote in this blog before that I’ve been sick of late. Sometime around September 20 I began coming down with a cold. It never hit me hard, and was never a head cold. It was a chest cold. I suppose it could have been bronchitis, but I never seemed to run a fever. While the cold was never deep, it sure lingered. All the coughing I did wore me out. We had the trip to Oklahoma City the last weekend in September to October 1, and the cold seemed better.

The next week, however, it came back again. I lost another day of work, worked some short days, and seemed to be better. However, the weekend of Oct 6-8 I was still coughing hard, and a little too much. I rested that weekend. Didn’t work around the house, didn’t go to church. I read and slept, slept and read, watched television. I did go to Wal-Mart for a grocery and medicine run, but that was about it. I didn’t even write a blog post for last Monday (which I normally do on Sunday), and so missed a blogging day for the first time in a while.

Monday I went to work, coughing much, much less than I had been. I got even better day by day as the week progressed. This past weekend I was able to follow a normal weekend schedule. I’m working on all eight cylinders.

So what am I up to, and what’s on my mind, and what will I do next? Yesterday I finally published When Death Changes Life to Amazon Kindle. Today I’ll try to add it to Smashwords, and tomorrow or Wednesday get the print book up. I’m feeling more confident with both interior formatting (which is 98% done) and cover creation, so I don’t think there will be a big lag with the print book.

Then, I need to work on one of three writing projects: either the prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, or the second Gutter Chronicles, or the next Sharon Williams stories. I wrote about that recently. Other plans have been running through my brain, and I may be changing up what I do after these three.

I’ve also been thinking about premonitions. I’ve had a fair number of them in my life, and almost all of them have come true. I don’t want to catalogue them here, but some of them have been amazing. One was recently, something concerning our church, which turned out to be almost 100% true. I’ve come to the point of wondering why I get these. Is God alerting me in advance of things that are yet to come? Or is something else going on.

I think I wrote some not to long ago about genealogy discoveries I’ve made recently, specifically finding/confirming who my maternal grandfather was, and making contact with other, previously-unknown family members. That took quite a bit of time in late-August and early-September. It’s still on-going. I’ve made contact with almost all my new half-first cousins. I’m not trying to figure out how we can all keep in contact with each other, and get to know each other better.

And, of course, that leads me to much work to do finding out more about ancestors I previously knew nothing about.

Meanwhile, it’s almost time to begin to prepare for the holidays. The kids will be coming for Christmas this year, not Thanksgiving. So we will have much work to do to get the house in shape and decorated. We’ve actually begun some of that, dealing with piles of clutter.

I have more random thoughts to write, but the workday is upon me. I’ll end this. On my to-do list this week is to develop a list of blog posts to facilitate being on-time and

4th Quarter Writing Plans

I may tweak this cover more, but I think it's close to what I'll use.
I may tweak this cover more, but I think it’s close to what I’ll use.

We are now in the ninth day of the fourth quarter. Time for me to lay out my writing plans for the next three months. Well, writing and publishing plans, that is. Without further introduction, here’s what’s definitely in my plans.

  • Publish When Death Changes Life, the boxed-set of the Danny Tompkins stories. I have the master file completed, the e-book cover completed, and just need to start the actual production. I hope that, one week from today, I can announce that it’s published.
  • Work on The Gutter Chronicles: Volume 2. As I’ve said before, I got through the fourth chapter of this (maybe two years ago), and just stopped to work on other things. This is something to do on my computer at work, in my morning me-time and on the noon hour. I believe I could complete the writing of this before 2017 comes to a close.
  • Work on Adam Of Jerusalem. The prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, I wrote the first chapter of this a month ago (or maybe more than that), but stopped. This is work to do at home, in the evenings.

These are the three things I will definitely work on during the next three months. However, a few other items are on my radar, and may—I emphasize, may—capture the time of a few of my gray cells and find themselves coming to be in tangible form.

  • The next short story in the Sharon Williams Fonseca CIA agent series. It’s tentatively titled Papa Delta Foxtrot. I have the plot somewhat roughed out. At between 3,000 and 6,000 words, I should be able to fit this in. I need to be a bit more inspired to do so.
  • Continued work on my two interrupted Thomas Carlyle projects. These are affectations for me, as they will never make any money. But, hey, none of my other writing makes any money, so why not work on these? The Chronological Composition Bibliography is something I pull out every now and then and get a little more done on. I’m actually at a point in his career where it would be easy to finish this. I should just do it. The book about his Chartism is also fairly fare along. I think a month of concentrated work would see it to completion. If I get bored or stuck working on other things, I may just spend time on these two.
  • Expand my research notes on the Stephen Cross and Elizabeth Cheney family into a small genealogy book. I actually pulled this out about two weeks ago to make a judgment on how much work this would require. I decided it’s more than I want to tackle right now, so I set it aside. However, if other things don’t pan out, maybe, just maybe, this will capture some of my time.

So that’s my plans as of right now. I have other things in the planning process, but I don’t expect to be working on them any time soon. Perhaps I’ll do a post on them in a week or so.

Hard to get Blogivated

Yes, look at the title. I created a new word: blogivated. Here’s what I propose for a dictionary definition:

blogivated (n): anxious to write a blog post; full of ideas for blog posts; willing to use valuable time to write blog posts

Today, I’m not very blogivated. Actually, I should say tonight I’m not very blogivated, because I’m writing this on Thursday evening to post Friday morning.

This is how the final print cover came out. Better than the draft, I think.
This is how the final print cover came out. Better than the draft, I think.

Why not, you ask? I could say busyness is distracting me, and it would be true. As I’ve written recently, I’m super busy at home, and a bit busier than normal at the office. In situations like those, it’s hard to concentrate on blogging.

And yet, to some extent the dam has broken. I feel a number of things have broken free, and I’m able to see through to a less-busy time. Some of these have been writing related. As I reported before, I was able to pull together the print cover for Headshots. It was accepted by CreateSpace on the first submittal; I ordered my proof copy, which hopefully will be here Friday. Assuming it’s good, I could authorize publication tomorrow. That would be great.

First cut at the e-book cover. It's better than I expected for a first cut. I think I'm learning.
First cut at the e-book cover. It’s better than I expected for a first cut. I think I’m learning.

In trying to decide what to do next, I worked some on four different works over the last month. I wrote and typed a few pages in Adam Of Jerusalem, the prequel of Doctor Luke’s Assistant. I pulled together the Danny Tompkins stories together into one volume, edited them, and on Thursday even pulled together an e-book cover. It’s not final, but it’s actually ahead of schedule. I worked a little on a genealogy book, titled Stephen Cross of Ipswich. I’m sure I’ll publish it, and after the work I did this week on it, I have an idea of how much effort it’s going to take. I also worked a little more on Thomas Carlyle: Chronological Composition Bibliography. I have no immediate plans for this one, but will hopefully, someday, publish it, perhaps next year.

All of that is progress. I still have many things to do. Such as purchasing a newer van. Such as selling my pick-up. Such as replacing our dishwasher. Such as making trips to OKC and KC in the next month. Such as preparing to teach Life Group this week. Such as filing financial papers, on which I’m a bit behind (though checkbook and budget is up-to-date). Such as arranging for repairs in The Dungeon from the faulty dishwasher before we quit using it. Yes, plenty to do, still.

But the real answer as to why I can’t get blogivated right now is I feel like my blogging has been fragmented lately. I have had, or perhaps I should say I haven’t taken time, to plan out some posts. I try to stay three to four posts ahead in planning what to blog about. Right now, and for the last month or even longer, I’ve had no plan. The day before Monday and Friday comes, and I have to think about a blog post and write it. As you know, some days I’ve not done a real post, just a “sorry for not posting today.” I should have said, “Sorry for not being blogivated today.”

Tonight, when leave The Dungeon (remember, I’m writing this Thursday evening), I believe I’ll work on a blog schedule. Just knowing what I’ll be posting and when should help me to be blogivated more than I am now. Yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Thinking Of My Next Writing

What to write next?

Sales haven't been "robust". Not even steady. But it's already at #10 on my list of books as to total sales.
Sales haven’t been “robust”. Not even steady. But it’s already at #10 on my list of books as to total sales.

I finished writing Documenting America: Civil War Edition in June, published it as an e-book in July, and as a print book in August. Sales haven’t been great, but better than lots of what I’ve published. Then, in August, I began work on another novel. It’s a prequel to Doctor Luke’s Assistant, tentatively titled Adam Of Jerusalem. I wrote two nights in manuscript. Later, when I typed it, I was surprised I had over 1,300 words.

Meanwhile, I have several other books that I’ve started. Here’s the full list and approximate degree of completion, without explanation of what each one is. It includes one I’ve not mentioned previously on this blog

  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2: about 20% done
  • Thomas Carlyle’s Chartism Through The Ages: about 50% done
  • Thomas Carlyle: A Chronological Composition Bibliography: about 60% done
  • Stephen Cross of Ipswich (a family history): about 75% done
  • Adam Of Jerusalem: <5% done

Any of these will make a fine place to direct my efforts. At the same time, two as of yet unstarted items are on my radar, and are consuming brain power, coming into focus.

  • the next short story in the “Sharon Williams Fonseca: Unconventional CIA agent” series
  • the next book in the Documenting America series, most likely on the Constitution

Either of those would be good also.

The cover theme has been black and white. A graveyard featured in this one, and will on the combined volume.
The cover theme has been black and white. A graveyard featured in this one, and will on the combined volume.

However, I believe, instead of any of these, that my next writing/publishing project will be to collect the six Danny Tompkins short stories into one volume and publish it, both as an e-book and print book. The stories aren’t selling on their own (the six having had 39, 9, 10, 4, 4, and 1 sale respectively from first to last). Perhaps they’ll sell better as a volume. This has been on my radar for a while. A problem was what to call it. The Danny Tompkins Stories was not a good title. I’ve been thinking about this, and finally came up with what I think is a good one:

When Death Changes Life

That matches the theme of the stories, which is teenage grief at the loss of a parent, and adult dealing with the old grief. I’ve even thought about a cover for it, a cover that will fit the theme of the individual covers but will be different, no just re-using one of the others. On Wednesday I did a quick check of how large a print book of these will be. With title, copyright page, and author’s works, if should run around 70 pages. True, that’s small, but large enough for a print book. I suppose the e-book will sell for $2.99 and the print book for $5 or $6. Maybe, at those prices, I’ll be able to get a little traction with it.

A Jumbled Weekend

Perhaps I should have spent time cleaning my work area, which is en-route to non-functional.
Perhaps I should have spent time cleaning my work area, which is en-route to non-functional.

Weekends are almost busier for me than weekdays. Sure, on weekdays I have to drive 15.5 miles to the office, work a 40 hour week (plus some), fight evening traffic, and come home mentally exhausted. But somehow that seems more organized, more manageable, than do my weekends.

It started with ducking out of the office a little early Friday afternoon. I thought we needed milk, so I stopped by Braum’s on the way. When I pulled into their parking lot my phone rang. It was the wife, saying she was ordering pizza for supper from Papa John’s, and hoping I hadn’t left the office yet. I had, but Braum’s was less than a mile past Papa John’s, so I said I could easily backtrack a little. She placed the order on-line, something she’s tried a number of times before without success, as her computer always locked up at the last step. This time it worked, so I drove back south, and waited the 25 minutes for the pizza. Thus, I arrived home at my usual time.

Friday night I went to The Dungeon after supper. I had numerous tasks I could work on, from filing, budgeting, book research and publishing, and income taxes. I decided to use my time to fix the cover for the Smashwords edition of Preserve The Revelation. It was only 1340 pixels wide, and the minimum width is 1400 for inclusion in their premium catalog. That was graphics work I could do, so I did it. It’s now awaiting Smashwords’ manual check to see that it’s okay. I hope to get that on Monday. The premium catalog is important, because through that the book is pushed out to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and other vendors. Without that, it just sits at Smashwords, where nobody buys anything these days.

The Dungeon can be depressing, at times. I really, really, really need to spend time cleaning it.
The Dungeon can be depressing, at times. I really, really, really need to spend time cleaning it.

I was in The Dungeon only an hour. Went upstairs, and for the rest of the evening I divided my time between vegging out, a few minor tasks, and research/organization in Documenting America: Civil War Edition. I had printed the book that week, and so had a good copy of what I’ve done so far. I saw that I was farther along than I thought. I made a table of where each of the thirty chapters stand. That will help me to plan what to work on next.

Saturday, I slept in (till 8:00 a.m.). By 9 I was outside, doing yardwork; specifically, continuing to rake leaves in the back yard. It’s a gravel yard, and getting leaves off it is more difficult than off a lawn. I don’t want to rake the gravel off, so I have to be careful how I rake. I had only the lower, rear portion still to go, a strip about 20 feet wide by the width of the lot, which is 120 to 150 feet. I was able to do only a little more than half. The remainder will be an easy task for next Saturday.

Inside, my next task was helping my wife get on the road to Oklahoma City, where she’s to spend a week plus helping our daughter with the grandchildren during an especially busy time. But first I had to make the weekly Wal-Mart run, for groceries and prescriptions she needed for the trip. This included bringing some boxes of children’s clothes up from the basement and loading them into the van. We store quite a few boxes of those clothes. She got on the road around 4:00 p.m.

At that point I went to The Dungeon, and decided that the income taxes were the next thing I needed to do. I had made a good start a couple of weeks ago, so the work I had left was to fill in a few items from the tax forms we received, finish my writing business profit/loss, and hence Schedule C, and plug that into form 1040. I then moved on to our stock trading business taxes. Surprisingly, that went fast. I had those done by around 6:30 p.m. Well, not exactly done, because I’m not sure about one item. Figuring out whether what I plugged into the spreadsheet is correct or not will take a couple of hours, something I’ll probably do tonight. Then all that’s left are the State taxes, and I’m done for another year. Oh, yeah, and the mother-in-law’s taxes as well.

Saturday night I did some more reading and research for DA-CW Ed, profitable research into source documents, and went to bed at a decent time. It helped that I didn’t have to teach Life Group this Sunday.

Today was Life Group and church. I knew I needed to get some walking in, so after lunch walked about 1.5 miles. I didn’t push it. Although I walk a fair amount, I’m out of shape due to having not walked while I had a cold recently. But I got it in, and wasn’t too worn out afterwards. No more, that is, than a 45 minute nap wouldn’t cure.

So I was finally at my computer, in The Dungeon, for my prime couple of hours of writing work. I spent the time copying source documents into my Word file for DA-CW Ed. That might not sound like much, but I had to look for them on-line, to hopefully save typing them. I was able to do that, as well as find a couple of source documents for the Battle of Gettysburg, documents that had previously eluded me. I also modified the file for my most recent short story, “Growing Up Too Fast”, for Smashwords, and uploaded that. Smashwords accepted it, and it’s now awaiting the manual check for inclusion in the premium catalog.

That brings me to Sunday evening. After some light cleaning that’s been nagging at me, and leftovers for supper, I read in the source documents. The first step is deciding what to excerpt from them to keep in the book. Several of them are long, over 3,000 or even 4,000 words. I’d like the excerpt to be between 700-1200 words, but will go more words when I need to. I made good progress in that. I’m not ready to give a new estimate of how close I am to completion, but definitely got closer to that goal.

So, a busy weekend. With progress. With a fulfilling feeling. Now on to the workweek so I can rest a bit.