New Ridgewood Map

Keeping abreast of my latest changes to my Ridgewood stories, I remade the territorial map to show the addition of Russell Ridge and Myers Ridge’s move.

Russell Ridge replaces Myers Ridge as the primary location of events. If you’ve read my “A Night of Hellhounds” short story, then you’ll know that Russell Ridge butts against Alice Lake, where Vree Erickson ends up when she falls from the cliffs.

“A Night of Hellhounds” is part of the Luminary Magic series of books. Have you read the book? If so, I’d love to hear what you thought of it. Was it interesting? Exciting? Not that good? Please let me know in the comments section below. Or leave a review where you purchased the book.

Anyway, I moved Myers Ridge to the west of Russell Ridge so that it’s farther from town and more “countrified” than Russell Ridge. My character Nick Corwin (name subject to change) lives there. He’s a featured character in my soon-to-be-released Green Crystal series. This series is a rewriting of my old Ridgewood Chronicles series from long ago and published for a while at Amazon and other major book markets. How many of you own a book or more from that series featuring a possessive green crystal? If so, be ready to be blown away by the new-and-improved green crystal and the problems it causes.

If interested, you can read the old green crystal series in the Books section of this site, specifically The Green Crystal Stories, featuring Vree Erickson, published 2012–2014 section. Here’s a quick link to the Books page: < https://stevenlcampbell.wordpress.com/books/ >

Happy reading. I hope to have release dates for the first two or three Green Crystal series books by the end of February, maybe the first of March.

Peace and love!

In With the New Year and a Look at the Old Ones

Two of my resolutions for 2022 are to stay strong with my book projects (writing, designing, publishing) and to blog more often (hopefully, once a week or more).

It’s interesting that I make those two resolutions often to myself and fall short. But I tread on … and peek at the past to make sure I’m advancing.

So, in a similar form that I used in my last post, here’s a look at my old January blogs and some of the items I featured.

  • January 2011, I began designing this website and blog, published my ABOUT page on the 17th, and made my first post a month later. I made no public resolutions.
  • January 2012’s blogs came with lots of humor, which included several Louie & Bruce comic strips. Again, I made no resolutions.
  • January 2013, I made my first Kindle publications and blogged about each one. The only promise I made was to keep writing stories.
  • January 2014 brought more of my free stories and poems. Still no resolutions for the new year.
  • I featured artwork and stories in my January 2015 blogs and made no resolutions.
  • I made no resolutions in January 2016 when my blog turned 5 years old. Since then, WordPress considers February as my blog’s anniversary month. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t post anything until February 20, 2011.
  • January 9, 2017 was the first time I made public my resolutions for the new year. I spent a lot of time planning the books that I finally began publishing in 2021.
  • I lamented to you, my dear readers, about my 9-to-5 job taking away from my writing schedule during January 2018. I also made tentative changes to my Ridgewood characters’ names and ages and presented more artwork and free stories.
  • I presented another free short story and a poem in January 2019.
  • In January 2020, I toyed with the idea of renaming the town Ridgewood in my books to the earlier Ravenwood from my high school days. It wasn’t a well thought out idea. Another idea that month was to make my teen character Vree into an adult and put her into a series of books for grownups. I ended up putting that idea on a back burner and letting it simmer. It’s still there and I stir it occasionally.
  • Last year, January 2021, I was days into retirement from the work force and making big plans for my future, which kept me away from my blog that month.

And now, 11 years and 483 posts after I began this project, I reiterate my promise to keep writing, posting my art and stories, and keeping you abreast of when I publish my books.

Have a Happy New Year, my friends, stay safe and healthy, and may life bring you joy beyond your dreams.

Another Year

Another December 31st, another year is ending. Here, in my cozy corner of our big planet, I’m ready with the new calendar going up on the wall to replace the old one now marked with appointments met (and some not met).

As I write this, my mind reflects on the past. It seems as if every year goes past us in such a hurry, which suggests a poem I wrote when I was a youngster at college. It’s more of a lyric than a poem because I structured it around a tune playing in my head at the time. I often wrote poetry that way and could have been a musician if I’d have pursued it. But making art was more important at the time, so…

The poem is called A Day Song.

Our eyes are fixing on the time
On moving hands and sacred signs
And chimes that ring the end of day.

Our minds are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate the day that stays.

Our time comes ’round in furrowed lines
In yellowed books and cellar wines
And bells that ring the end of day.

Our hearts are wanting time to slow
To have it stop and never go
To celebrate an endless day.

Old lips are thirsting springtime rain
To feel alive and young again
To taste the times we loved so well.

Our eyes are sad to see time go
To watch it run and always flow
To watch it pass and never dwell.

The end of every year stirs memories of accomplishments and failures. It’s what we do, then make resolutions to do better, accomplish more. While I write this, my mind reflects on my accomplishments and failures of 2021. My biggest failure was not blogging regularly.

I continued writing and stayed serious with my writing goals this year, though I did not post anything here during January. Thus, the month is a big goose egg in my blogging score.

In February, I posted two old Louie & Bruce comic strips from 1982 and received an achievement award from WordPress for blogging with them for ten years. I posted the news and earned a 3 for my score of posts for the year.

I scored a 2 in March for posting two more old Louie & Bruce strip from 1982, and a 1 in April for posting an apple orchard painting and the poem it inspired from 2006.

A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard
A Brief Pause in an Apple Orchard, Oil Painting

I had nothing in May, which was a busy month of writing my books, designing book covers, replacing my old laptop with a new one, and learning some new writing and art apps that I put on it.

July was a busy blogging month, which I scored a 5 for posting more writing news, as well as reposting a poem about U.S. government’s calamities and a reflection of my stomach surgery in 2020.

I scored deuces in August and again in September. The four posts were about my writing and publishing endeavors. You can see several samples of my book cover art in the September posts.

If you’re still with me, October brought 1 post on Halloween (I love Halloween and frankly, the whole month of October) and another art post in November that features both wildlife and book cover art.

Day of the Fairies e-book cover

And now—ta dah! Today’s post scores me a 4 for the month. Three of them were shameless promotions of my e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon. During those posts, I got in a serious quandary here at home over why my spellcheckers hyphenate e-book but not email. No one I’ve talked to knows why. If you do, please leave me a comment telling me why.

So, here we are at the end of this post—number 20 and the last one of 2021. Obviously, my goal for 2022 is to post more than twenty times before December 31st comes again. Another goal is to finish more books and to stay healthy. And it’s good health I wish upon you.

Have a wonderful day and (drumroll—the old end-of-year joke is coming) I’ll see you next year.

Free Book, Final Day

Today ends the free book offer of “A Night of Hellhounds” at Amazon (unless you’re a member of its Kindle Unlimited service). The book will return to its 99-cent price after midnight (Pacific time) until it becomes eligible again for a free offer in a month or two.

Go to https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to get yours.

I would like “A Night of Hellhounds” to be permanently free (or perma-free as I’ve seen it called), but I lack the wisdom and ability to get the folks at Amazon to cooperate. Therefore, I offer perma-free books at Smashwords, in case you’re interested in sampling more of my writing. Of course, there are plenty of free books here at my blog in the aptly titled and often ignored Books section at https://stevenlcampbell.com/books/.

My Smashwords page is https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CampbellAuthor.

Happy reading.

Free Book, Day 3 of 5

Welcome to my post today about trying to interest people in reading my books.

I’m always excited to write a book that stayed with me and kept me excited from start to finish, through the many drafts, text formatting, cover art, and sleepless nights to finally share a good story with the world.

“A Night of Hellhounds” is such a book. I hope you’ll give it a read.

It’s a 3,000-word story featuring my favorite character, teenager Verawenda “Vree” Erickson, in which she is a descendant of witches known as Luminaries. Follow this safe link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to go to Amazon and get a copy.

Did I mention it’s free?

Happy reading, my friends, have a great Christmas Eve, and stay safe.

Free Book, Day 1 of 5

Hi friends. My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon today to December 26. It’s a 3,000-word story featuring my favorite character, teenager Vree Erickson. During the tale, it’s Halloween night on Russell Ridge outside the small town of Ridgewood when lightning strikes her. She survives and soon encounters magic and hellhounds. When the hellhounds chase her to the cliffs of Russell Ridge, she finds her life is in peril and she needs magic to save her. It’s quite exciting and gives me goosebumps telling you about it.

The book is the first of the Luminary Magic series and does not end at a cliffhanger. I’m a bit put off with books that end that way. Books in serials end with cliffhangers; series do not. Authors need to specify that distinction to the buying public at their product pages. (I’ll get off my soapbox now.)

In the Luminary Magic series, Vree discovers that she is a descendant of witches known as Luminaries. That’s all I’m going to say about that until I publish the rest of the books in the series.

Follow this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 to get a copy of “A Night of Hellhounds” … or two … or more!

By the way, I have free books at Smashwords too. A favorite is Old Bones: A Collection of Short Stories. Lots of magic and fantasy there. Follow the link https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/624675 to get yours.

Happy reading, my friends, and stay safe.

Getting It Right

I’m a perfectionist, whether I’m writing, creating art, learning how to consistently bat over .300 when playing softball, or being an all-around descent person. I’ve been this way all my adult life, and it was the force behind my determination to be an excellent wildlife artist waaaaaaaaay back in the 1980s. I began painting whitetail deer in the hopes of becoming a magazine and book illustrator, but my deer looked cartoonish (I was a cartoonist at the time!), so I painted hundreds of deer from 1983 to 1987 just to get it right.

Gouache on paper, 1985
Watercolor and acrylic on board, 1987

I’m a perfectionist with my books too, which is why I pulled my Green Crystal series from their Amazon home in 2015. Sometimes an author (and artist) has to say “Good enough” and get on with the next project. But sometimes that decision isn’t “Good enough” after all.

I’ve spent plenty time posting why the Green Crystal books weren’t good enough to stay in circulation, so I won’t repeat all that here. Let me summarize, however, that I’m pleased with what going back to the drawing board with them two years ago and starting anew has brought to light.

Although the first five books of the 8-book series are short stories, I spent a lot of time and TLC on character development that elevated their personalities and made me an acting child psychologist of sorts since my characters are 14 years old. And since they’re part of the overpopulated YA book department, they need to stand up well against their contemporaries.

If all goes as planned, I’ll have the first three books of my Green Crystal series available at the end of the year. I tweaked their covers again, so I’m sharing the art of the first two books—number three is still in progress.

Night of the Hell Hounds ebook cover
Day of the Fairies ebook cover

If I miss the mark on the release date, it’s only because the perfectionist in me found a good reason to hold up the publication. And that reason will be: to get it right.

Halloween

It’s Halloween and it’s still one of my favorite times of year. When I wake up on that day, a myriad of words and images fill my mind and take me to recalling my childhood and the childhoods of my children and grandchildren. This evening, my grandchildren and their friends will take to the streets in costumes and go home with candy and other treats, just as their parents and grandparents did when they were young.

Halloween has been an event for families and communities all my life. When I was a country boy, hayrides, corn mazes, carving pumpkins, and bobbing for apples happened days before Halloween, leading up to the event that took us to town with excitement in our hearts. I don’t remember a time when kids in costumes didn’t fill the streets of my hometown for tricks and treats.

For me, Halloween is the closing of autumn. The season came with the usual sights, sounds, smells, and feelings of summer’s end, when the days shortened and whispered to me the approach of winter. Yet, I bathed in sunlight and the gold, brown, and red when the first leaf of autumn turned color (here in the north) and grew to a crescendo when Halloween finally arrived.

So, I arose this morning and peeked out my window, because Halloween comes with surprises. Will it be sunny, rainy, or snowing when the carved pumpkins are alit with candles one last time and the little trick-or-treaters ring our doorbells tonight?

We shall see. Meanwhile, have a safe and happy Halloween everyone.

Image courtesy scholastic.com.

ASIN: B00B1UOE7S Cover Reveal

I’m putting the finishing touches on the second e-book of the Green Crystal fantasy series, which stars Nick Andrews, a 12-year-old boy whom I featured in my previous post. The book, “Day of the Fairies,” is another short story, and it replaces the following books that I published at Amazon from 2013 to 2016:

Trespassing: The Ridgewood Chronicles, Book 2

and Trespassing: A Vree Erickson Novel

The novel moved to another series of books. (More about that in a future post.) As for the new book, I’m aiming for a Halloween release, so stay tuned for more info.

So, before I run off to put on my editor’s cap, here’s the new cover:

Day of the Fairies: A Ridgewood Chronicles Short Story

Okay, time for me to run. Peace, love, and good health, everyone!

ASIN: B00AY2K1H6

In January of 2013, I published an e-book short story at Amazon about a teenage boy who joins up with his friends and sits around a campfire and tells ghost stories. All goes well until hell hounds break up their party and chase the boy off the edge of a cliff. Spoiler: He lives.

The e-book was based on a short story I wrote in my ninth grade Creative Writing class about a teenage girl who camps on a ridge with her friends overnight and sees ghost dogs prowling the countryside.

The story went through several drafts because my English teacher wanted me to consider different points of view and gender relationships. We also studied various dramatic elements, which resulted in the girl dying and returning as a ghost in one version. In another version, a witch saves her from falling off a cliff and they become friends. I finished the course with a dozen drafts of a story that had begun with a girl and some ghost dogs and ended with a boy and some hell hounds.

”Hell hounds” became condensed to “hellhounds” during a rewrite for the 2013 Amazon book and I was happy with the plot and character results. I published more short stories that year and made them a series called “The Ridgewood Chronicles.” Then I took a long sabbatical during 2014 to plan and write a novel.

Self-publishing wasn’t new to me — I’d published several of my stories via desktop publishing, and I’d been making them available in PDF format at my website since the early 1990s. Whenever I made changes to my stories, I republished them as a new edition. But I went a step further with Amazon’s Kindle publishing program: I replaced my short story with the novel with the same title.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I learned that I should have published the novel as a separate book with a different title. But there was no manual at Amazon telling me about the ensuing difficulties of my readers getting the old book replaced by the new one on their Kindle readers. The same applied to when I changed the cover art in 2015. Past purchases stayed unchanged.

So, old readers had my short story and new readers had my novel. When people talked about Night of the Hellhounds, I didn’t know which story they referred to — the short or the long. It was confusing. So, in 2016, I changed the novel’s title to end the confusion. Or so I though, haha. I was wrong.

The book almost became Cursed. Hindsight: I wished I’d not changed my mind. Instead, I titled it Margga’s Curse — a name difficult to pronounce correctly. Margga is pronounced marj-GAH.

Margga’s Curse ran for a year before I took all my books off Amazon’s market. (It’s still available for free at Smashwords, ISBN: 9781311627582, but I plan to take it off that market next year.)

Some people who have the old Kindle versions of this book may hate me when I say this, but I’m publishing a new version of ASIN: B00AY2K1H6 — all brand-new, though it will have its old and original title: “Night of the Hell Hounds” — later this year. It’s a 3,800-word Halloween short story about 12-year-old Nick Andrews who loses his big brother to war. After the funeral, he discovers that his brother had access to magic via a computer program and a green crystal pendant that can send the wearer of the pendant to another dimension of reality. He ends up at a cemetery in Ridgewood where someone has stolen the sacred bones of its protector dogs and turned them into vicious hell hounds. He meets three others trapped with him inside the cemetery. One of those people is Vree Erickson, but she’s a minor character. This is Nick’s story and it’s the first book of the Green Crystal series, even though it’s listed as a Ridgewood Chronicles short story in the subtitle.

Because of Nick’s age and the story’s subject matter, Amazon will likely shove this in its Young Adult Fantasy section. I don’t write to an audience, so I didn’t write this to be a kid’s book. Though I don’t use profanity or explore sexual matter (a reflection of my childhood), I do explore dealing with death and the pain of loss that comes with it, the good and bad of escapism, and the desires of wanting to belong to friendships, wanting to be loved, and wanting to be happy in life.

I’m planning a Halloween release. Stay tuned for more info.

Peace and love!

Judging Books By Covers

I am trying to understand the reasoning behind the popular talk nowadays among indie authors about how to best present our book covers. Most of the how-to info is very complicated, and most of the advice ends with “Let a professional do it.” The idea is to hook the potential reader before they look inside the book.

I’m an old-school reader and buyer of books that began in the 1960s. Many of my purchases back then were paperbacks because they were affordable. Even in the 1970s when I entered the workforce and had a weekly income, I still bought paperbacks. So did my friends. Often, we went book hunting on Saturday afternoons, hitting the malls in search of our next read.

The covers on paperback books (and hardcovers) were simple in design. It was often the title that caught my eye. If it sounded interesting, I would flip the book over and read the back cover copy. That’s what either prompted me to buy the book or return it to the shelf.

Most online bookstores today have a feature equivalent to the old back cover copy. It’s the short blurb off to the side of the book cover on display. I call it the “What is this book about?” feature. And it’s here where an author either convinces me to buy their book or prompts me to continue browsing.

Beautiful, fancy, exotic book covers and plain, two-tone, neutral ones have never prompted me to buy a book. It has always been the “What’s this book about?” feature.

Look at this Stephen King paperback of The Shining from one of its first runs.

The book’s title attracted me because I asked, “What does the title mean?” The back cover copy gave me a clue and whetted my curiosity. Until then, I had never read a book by King. Neither had my friends. I ended up liking the story so much, I bought his two prior releases, ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie, on a gamble that I would like them too. I did. So did a million other readers.

Compared to today’s indie writing market, if King was an unknown author selling his books at Amazon, and he used the above cover, would you buy it?

Look at the replacement cover of The Shining a few years later during the movie release.

Would you still want to buy it?

I don’t think it’s wise to worry about eye-catching book cover design. I think we should continue to strive at writing as well as we can and to write a compelling “What’s this book about?” feature. If your story is captivating and entertaining, then people will notice, even if you’ve wrapped it in a brown paper bag.

Free Book Offer

My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon until midnight Pacific time. (Click this link.) It’s a fantasy tale because I enjoy writing fantasy stories. It’s at the top of my list of favorite things to do. Writing fantasy has been a passion for many years because it involves world building. I can get engaged in the creative development until the worlds appear in my dreams. The same is true about my characters. I have even dreamed new ones into my stories.

Over the years, people have asked me about my process of writing a story. I answer with: “I get an idea for a story, it festers in my mind with all sorts of situations, I dwell on my favorites and begin scheming a plot with a look on my face equal to the Grinch ready to steal Christmas from Whoville, and then start writing.” That’s it. No magic. Just an idea that I put into words that become a story.

In all its simplicity, I structure my stories no different than most other writers. I divide my stories into four parts as Act 1, Act 2 first half, Act 2 second half, and Act 3. Each story has a beginning event, an ending event, and a series of high and low events in between the two. Writing those in-between events is the adventure I enjoy the most, though staying on track to reach a good ending can add difficulty to the process. An ending should come naturally—a final piece to the story puzzle that fits nicely with the rest of the pieces, giving us an aesthetic composite. Some writers call this a “perfect ending” and stress over getting it “right.” Writing a “perfect ending” is not something I let ruin the joy I get from writing, though I do take it more seriously than the other parts of story writing.

All story writing involves getting the words written, editing them, and revising the parts until they work together as a whole. I love marrying those parts into a finished story. And I like calling the process a marriage instead of that old military standby: polishing. Polishing is some drill sergeant’s way of saying, “Write, write, write, every day, over and over ad nauseum until you can do it blindfolded, standing on your head.” I don’t do that. And I don’t “polish” my stories as if they were a pair of leather dress shoes. But I do write several drafts—sometimes as many as 10 or more—marrying my story elements into an enjoyable read.

Of course, not only am I marrying the elements to each other, I’m marrying me to the story. I do the same when I read stories by other writers and find I can’t put the stories down until I reach the end. There are others like me—we call ourselves “book lovers” and “author fans.” We love libraries and bookstores, and we collect our favorite stories and hold our favorite writers in high regard. And we dream of someday being a favorite writer to other writers, book lovers, and author fans.

If you read my stories, drop me a line. Tell me what you like and don’t like about my stories. I’d love hearing from you.