Category Archives: Short Stories

“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.

Book Sales: 1st Quarter 2017

My best 1st quarter so far, one sale better than in 2012
My best 1st quarter so far, one sale better than in 2012

Well, I had my best first quarter ever in terms of book sales. I sold 17, which is one more than the first quarter of 2012. Of course, then I had four items for sale, now I have twenty-four. So it’s a lot fewer sales per title.

Thirteen books came in two batches. An internet friend bought six of my short stories in one shot, and a woman in my office bought seven short stories in one shot. The other four were on-line purchases by people I don’t know. Actually, that’s not true. I’m sure the one person who purchased the newly released Preserve The Revelation is an online writer-friend.

The table below shows how they are distributed among my publications. Note also that this shows a sale in April. So I know the second quarter won’t be a goose egg. You’ll have to click on the chart below to enlarge it enough to read it.

DAT Book Sales 2017 Table on 2017-04-07


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.


Finally, I have a minute, with no other posts pressing on me, to write about what I’m working on in my writing career. I’ve been trying to get to this for several weeks, and another thought for a post keeps popping up and pushing this aside. Not today.

My main work-in-progress is a short story. Titled “Hotel Whiskey Papa”, it’s the fourth in my series about Sharon Williams Fonseca, an unconventional CIA agent. The Agency has another, junior agent who shows great promise, dogging her, for they are concerned that she steps over the line from time to time, doing Agency work in an illegal, or at least unethical, way. In a twist, I’m writing this on manuscript, not on computer in The Dungeon. I sit in my reading chair, with only an end table between me and Lynda, and write on the back of already used papers. I typed what I had last weekend, and some on one other day. On my computer the document stands at about 3,800 words. Since then I’ve written another thousand in manuscript, and am approaching the end of the story. I had in mind that these stories should be 4,000 to 6,000 words, so I’m on track. As soon as it’s finished, proofed, edited, and proofed again, I’ll publish it. I’ll make my own cover for this one.

Then, yesterday I actually wrote a poem, something more than a haiku that is. And I’m not denigrating the haiku form or saying it’s easy, but something longer? I haven’t written one in a couple of years, or maybe even five years. I’ve written some song verses in that time, but no stand-alone poems. This one is for an anthology being put together by the present poet laureate at the on-line writers group  Absolute Write. It will be a themed anthology of contributions by AW members, the theme being a traveling carnival. I told her I would contribute anything I had already written, but that I had no inspiration or energy to write something new. When the theme was announced, I had my poem “Magic”, which sort of fit, so I submitted it. But sometime on Tuesday or Wednesday a phrase and plot came to me that would fit the theme. I quickly forgot the phrase, but it came back yesterday morning. As the morning went on I saw a way to write the poem. During the noon hour I started it, and finished it off and on by mid-afternoon. I quickly posted it to the anthology critique forum before I lost my nerve. I’m not saying it’s good, but it’s done, subject to improvement, of course.

What else? I’m trying to get In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People published in print form. I have the book formatted, and am waiting on the cover. Two different people have given me photos of Wrigley Field to use, and two others have said they would do the cover. Alas, when you’re having people work for free, other things get in the way. Hopefully I can get this done next week some time. I may cobble a cover together myself this weekend.

I’m also improving some e-book covers. Recently I received a notice from Smashwords saying that four of my e-book covers did not meet their minimum standards. These are my older covers, made and posted before they had minimum standards. I guess they are just now getting around to enforcing. that. I completed one of them last weekend, or maybe last week some time, and uploaded it. Yesterday I got the word that it was acceptable, and the book—actually a short story—is back in the premium catalog. Only three to go. I’ll hopefully get one done this weekend.

That’s it as far as writing work. I’ll post something here and elsewhere when HWP is published. And, once things change, I’ll write again. Actually, I just thought of one other thing. I’m working on a Bible study to teach in our adult Life Group. But it deserves a post by itself. Maybe that will be next.

Unfinished Writing Projects

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy intention for today was to write a lengthy post on the status of several writing projects. However, two things intervene. First, I’m in New Orleans on a business trip. I’m not sure I feel like taking time to do a detailed analysis of my writing-in-progress. Second, since around Sunday my gumption for writing has tanked. At present I don’t know that I care much if I write any more or not. The reasons for that are complicated and I won’t go into them here. Suffice to say these are not the days for me to be making bold plans for adding to my published titles.

I will say a few words about my projects. The easiest one should be to publish my last short story, “Sierra Kilo Bravo“, at Smashwords, making it available to Nook, Apple, etc. That means pulling up the file for the Kindle publication, making a few simple changes, and hitting Publish. Along with that I want to republish the other stories in the series to add a link to this one to it. Also fairly simple. But I haven’t felt like doing it, now a month since it went live for Kindle.

Another fairly easy project will be to correct typos in my two baseball novels, In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People and Headshots. I re-read them some time ago on my Nook, found enough typos in each to warrant fixing them. This is a one-day project for each book. So far, I just haven’t felt like it.

SBC book front coverThen, I have some typos to fix and new data to add to my family history book, Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West. This is a little more complicated. It’s a print book, so unless I want to have the cover redone due to pages added I’ll need to add the new data without too much lengthening. The good news is I sort of planned for this, putting a couple of blank pages at the end of the book. So long as the new data doesn’t take up more than them, I should be okay. I have some of these marked, and one of my wife’s cousins also marked some. She didn’t give them to me, but will when I ask her. This should be my priority, I suppose, but so far—you guessed it—I just haven’t felt like it. A related project, some cousins have asked me to publish a color edition of this. That will require rework of the cover, since the page thickness is different when you print in color, but otherwise is a simple thing. I need to do that right after making the corrections to the black & white edition.

So what does that leave as far as w-I-p go? I have three books started:

  • Preserve The Revelation. This is a sequel to my first church history novel, Doctor Luke’s Assistant. A couple of years ago, when in a period of uncertainty as to what my next project should be, I wrote the first chapter of this. Since then ideas for the book continue to find their way into my conscious thinking.
  • Documenting America: Civil War Edition. This would be the next in my Documenting America series. I got well into this last year and early this year. I’d guess it’s 40 percent done. I have pushed this far from my current thoughts.
  • The Gutter Chronicles, Volume 2. The first volume was a reasonable success at the office. I’ve completed three chapters in that, and am well along with the fourth. It’s been over a year since I’ve worked on it, but I’d say I’m about 20 percent done. Ideas for remaining chapters of this have been bubbling up of late.

TCEEA print cover 01That leaves my two Thomas Carlyle projects, wanting to join their brother on my virtual bookshelf. These are the two I’m actively working on. At the office I use my free time to work on Thomas Carlyle Chronological Composition Bibliography. At home I use free time to work on Thomas Carlyle’s “Chartism” Through the Ages. Both are well along, though neither is close to being done. They are perhaps silly things to work on, as neither would be a commercial success. However, at least these two are holding my interest.

Well, this post ran longer than I expected. Still, it’s the short version. I write it not so much as to inform you, my loyal readers, about what’s coming, as to help me bring order to the chaos that’s happening in my head and finding it’s way to paper and pixels. May the order come soon.

The Busyness is Overwhelming

Right now, I simply can’t commit time to blog posts. I’ll still slip one in once in a while, but unfortunately I won’t maintain a regular schedule. Life has thrown many things at me right now, and just now I have to process through them. An example: the lock on our front door no longer works. We discovered this Friday evening. Rather than call a locksmith then and perhaps pay extra, I’m doing it today. I’ve looked them up, have three choices written, and will call shortly. Then I’ll have to call home and tell them whether a locksmith is coming. Such a pain.

At the same time I’m trying to maintain a little bit of a writing schedule. I published a short story last weekend, and last week I worked on my two Thomas Carlyle projects. I have that mostly worked out of my system at present, but not fully. Maybe by the end of today I will, then will put those projects back on the shelf for six months. But today I pick back up my book Seth Boynton Cheney and begin to make edits for it, and then to prepare a color edition for printing.

So, my couple of faithful readings, feel free to check in from time to time. Just don’t expect posts to be coming on a regular schedule.

A Short Story Completed

This summer, writing has taken a backseat in my life. I haven’t completely abandoned creative writing, but time to give it much focus simply hasn’t been there.

What have I been doing instead? Well, in early June we babysat our three grandchildren for almost two weeks, then their parents arrived and stayed with us a few days. They went on a ten day road trip, coming back in early July for a couple of days. That has a way of taking up a lot of your time.

Then there was my wife’s family reunion the last weekend in July/first of August. I was reunion planner. I know, that sounds strange, doesn’t it? But I was, and it took a fair amount of work. Part of that was completing a formal edition of my family history book. Seth Boynton Cheney: Mystery Man of the West, focuses on the patriarch of the family, but it’s much more than that. 292 pages of biography, photos, maps, document images, and pages and pages of data I’ve collected on a number of ancestors in the family. My goal was to have it published by June 15, to give people plenty of time to order it before the reunion. I came very close to making it. The book was done by the 15th and a proof copy ordered. It then took me to June 27th to have all the corrections made and have it published.

Then there’s stock trading. That took a back seat to the reunion, but since that I’ve hit it in a big way again, trying to make some money to augment the retirement funds. I’m actually not doing too badly for the year. I have losses, but almost none since April, with a string of winners since then helping to recover from other losses. Unfortunately that work isn’t going to change very soon.

Work at CEI has been about normal. I submitted abstracts for presentation of two technical papers, one of which was due Friday. I came within about two paragraphs of completing it then. I printed it out and have it at home with me. Hopefully tonight I’ll be able to read and edit it and figure out those couple of paragraphs I lack. Tomorrow I’ll be able to type the changes and upload it sometime in the morning. I advised the organization that I’d be on that schedule, and they said that was fine.

So, back to the short story. It is the last in the Danny Tompkins series that explores teenage grief at the loss of a parent. The subject for this story eluded me for half a year. Finally around May I knew what it would be, and I wrote a few paragraphs. The hindrance of the “blank page” having been overcome, I came back to it from time to time, as I could carve out a little time for it. Slowly it came to being.

On Friday I worked on it a little on my noon hour, and realized I wasn’t sure how to end it. This one ends the series of five stories, so the ending needed to be both for the story itself and for the series. This afternoon I sat down to work on it, first editing what I had. As I did that the idea for the ending came, it being a little different than I’d thought it would be. It reads more as a memoir than a story, but it’s done, and it’s as good as I can make it, so I’m going with it. I did the Kindle version formatting this afternoon. I was about to work on a simple cover for it, but realized I can’t get to the photo I was going to use. So I’ll have to take another photo, which I’ll do when I go upstairs. I know exactly what I want with it.

My goal is to have this available on both Amazon and Smashwords by Wednesday, August 19. It will be close, but I think I can do it. Smashwords doesn’t take much more formatting than does Kindle, and the same cover works for both. With luck I’ll have it all done tomorrow evening, and the books will be out in time. I also need to go back and add links to all five stories to the ones already published. That I’ll do before the week is out. Then, next weekend I’ll begin promotion of the new story and the set.

After that, I have another story started in a different series. I need to finish and publish that. Then, I’ll see.  I know which two novels I’ll work on next, and which book-length non-fiction. We’ll see which of those bubbles up to the top. The busyness doesn’t appear to abate in the months ahead. Another reunion that includes a long road trip awaits. A business trip will take me away for a couple of days in September, and another might do the same in October. But I’ll be writing. I’ll keep my few fans updated here.

Barely Writing

Yes, this week I did even less writing than last week. After making a good start on that short story I mentioned in my last post, I haven’t written at all on it this week. It stands at around 400 words, waiting on me to come back to it.

One reason I backed off was I wasn’t sure that the woman whose name I’m using for the heroine, with her permission, still wanted me to continue using it. Changing the name would be difficult on the third story in. After waiting several days I finally contacted her, and she says it’s fine to keep using her name. So, as time allows, I shall be charging onward with “Sierra, Kilo, Bravo”.

The other main task I’m doing which could be considered a writing task is editing my A Harmony of the Gospels. I’ve mentioned this work in previous posts, but not for some time. I began this in 2002 (if memory serves me correctly), and finished it in typed form 2009; I finished it in manuscript somewhere around 2006 or 2007. It was always a project to be fit in, never a priority. After that I’ve been reading through it, mainly for devotional and study purposes, but catching typos along the way.

The Harmony is in three parts: the actual harmony of the four gospels; a section of passage notes that includes overlapping gospel passages side by side, with my notes on how I harmonized them; and appendixes that include lengthier discussions on some sections, passages, and events for which I wanted to clarify my approach.

Over the years since I finished everything I’ve read the Harmony part a half-dozen times. The last time through I didn’t catch many typos. A month ago I finished reading the parallel scripture portion of the Passage Notes for the second time. I caught more typos, but not as many as I expected. Currently I’m reading through the Appendixes. Here I’m catching a few typos, but more so edits needed to clarify what I’m trying to say.

I should finish reading the Appendixes by the end of the year, maybe before. I never did finish the last appendix, and one of the earlier ones is sort of left hanging, as if I meant to come back and add something, something of which I have no idea now. I’ll get through these, then do the typing, re-print a copy for work and a copy for home. Then, what?

My text for the Harmony is the NIV version of the Bible. This is a copyrighted work, with Zondervan owning the exclusive right to publish it. My putting it into a harmony didn’t change enough words to make this something I could publish myself. It could only be published through Zondervan. Given the very low chance of that ever happening, I don’t ever plan on submitting it.

No, this is for me only. I also gave copies to my current and previous pastors, with a warning that they are not to copy and distribute it. That should keep me out of trouble with copyright laws.