Exclusive Sneak Peek of the New Green Crystal Series

I’m still reworking my young adult (YA) Green Crystal series of books, which I published in 2013 and then took off market three years later. I began the series with no clear vision of its future. It was a series with no end and each installment was a short story (or more) written in “pantster” mode. Every story was an adventure into the unknown.

But things changed in 2016 when I realized that I needed to structure a plan around those stories. It needed to reach a destination, just like my paintings did when I made sketches of the visual world I was creating.

Unlike the disciplined artist that I am, the carefree writer in me struggled to structure a straightforward process. It was more fun to unfold my wings of creativity and fly into the unknown and see where the adventure took me. But alas, plot, setting, and pacing in stories are necessary constructs between the first sentence and the last. No book ever gets written if the writer keeps soaring into the uncharted.

A well-published author told me years ago that he created his books the way a contractor builds a house. He begins with a blueprint, gets the materials needed, and builds by following the blueprint. But what is a writer’s blueprint? Many authors have theirs, which you can find on the How To/DIY shelves of every bookstore. Using my journalist skills, I made preliminary sketches of the 5 Ws: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Once I had sketched the five into a rough outline, I set about writing the How. The How is the journey of every story and where every author wrestles with how much How (detail) does one put in a story?

Again, seeking advice, I was told to throw everything and the kitchen sink into my book’s first draft. Then, after a short break—a fortnight or two, I had to return to the mess and throw unneeded things out, connect loose parts, and make the thing whole and uncluttered.

Was I building a house again? Apparently so.

So, I’ve been rebuilding the Green Crystal stories and getting closer to releasing three of the books this year. (See my January 23, 2022 post.) The first book is done and I’m excited about the achievement. So excited that I’m sharing a few lines of that story here, just to whet your appetite to things to come.

Disclaimer: My story is classed as a YA one because of the main characters’ ages but I don’t consider myself as an author of YA. I consider my stories suitable for all ages, classed as AA in my world.

* * *

It was a chilly Halloween night when I rode my bike to Myers Cemetery under the cloudless moonlight. Trick-or-treat had ended four hours ago and my gut was full of candy. But that hadn’t stopped me from smuggling some peanut butter cups in my coat pockets in case a craving hit while I looked for ghosts.

Halloween was prime time for ghost hunting, and this year I hoped to finally see some. An ancient local legend claimed ghost dogs patrolled Myers Cemetery from sunset to midnight on Halloween night to guide lost souls back to their graves, and I wanted to see them. So did my best friend Lenny Avery who arrived on his red mountain bike minutes later.

He parked his bike next to mine in front of the cemetery’s tall black iron gate, then stretched his arms over his head. He was lanky and a little clumsy at times and stood a half-foot taller than me.

Seconds later, his twin sister Gaylene rode up, followed by her friend, Vree Erickson. Vree’s real name was Verawenda but we called her Vree because of her initials: VRE.

I shot a quizzical glance at Lenny. What were they doing here? Gaylene didn’t believe in ghosts.

“I came to keep you two boneheads out of trouble,” she said when Lenny echoed my thoughts out loud. She leaned her yellow road bike against the fence connected to the gate, and Vree followed with her purple one.

They sounded a little out of breath, though they only lived a mile away on Russell Ridge.

“That was a one-time accident,” Lenny said, referring to last year when he had tripped over a headstone and broke his left collar bone when he fell onto another headstone. “It could have happened to anyone.”

“Well, Mom asked me to keep an eye on you this year.” Gaylene pulled down the white knitted cap atop her head of long brown hair. We all wore our winter coats, and hers matched her hat. She even wore white jeans, which made her look like a fashion model in her attire.

Lenny spat. “You’re not my babysitter. Nick and I can manage fine without you.”

“Mom doesn’t think so, so take it up with her. Besides, I’d rather be home where it’s warm than pull parental duty.”

“Fine. Then go.”

I turned away from their bickering. We had been friends most of our lives, but their brother-sister relationship had become strained since our entering ninth grade this year.

I drew in a breath and decided to intervene. “Did we come to look for ghost dogs or not?”

The others looked at me, surprised I suppose that I had spoken up. Then Gaylene chuckled. “You know ghosts aren’t real. If they were, you’d have seen one by now.”

I burned a little from her laughing at me. But Lenny intervened. “We found proof in one of Grandma Avery’s old diaries. If she said ghost dogs are real, then I believe her.”

Lenny had a profound curiosity of the supernatural equal to my own. Over the summer, he and I had found one of his grandmother’s teen diaries among her belongings in his parents’ basement and learned about a time when she and some of her friends had seen the ghost of a black Labrador Retriever at Myers Cemetery on a Halloween night. The ghost dog guarded the gated entrance and wouldn’t allow them to enter. Some boys threw stones at it to chase it away, but the stones passed through its body and the dog vanished. She never saw the ghost dog again.

Gaylene scoffed and Lenny told her to be quiet. I turned to enter the cemetery, then stumbled over a mound of dirt along the grassy pathway. I sidestepped to keep from falling into a freshly dug hole. I caught my balance and aimed my flashlight at a three-foot-long by two-foot-wide cavity.

“Hey, look at this,” I called out. Something had pawed the earth to make the hole. Several hoof prints marked the dirt.

Gaylene was the first to join me. She aimed her phone’s flashlight at the hole. “Why would anyone dig a hole here? Someone could break an ankle. Or their other collarbone.”

Two more flashlight beams met ours.

“It could be a grave.” Lenny knelt at the other side of the hole for a closer look. “I think it’s the empty grave of one of the cemetery’s protector dogs.”

Vree knelt at his side. “What’s a protector dog?”

Lenny turned to her and shared the legend that had started our search three years ago. He and I had found an online news story about the cemetery’s two

guardian dogs: a pair of black Labrador Retrievers buried alive at the cemetery’s entrance two hundred years ago.

“It’s so their spirits can guard and protect the cemetery grounds from evil forces trying to enter,” I added.

“That’s so cruel,” Gaylene said. “I can’t believe someone did such a horrible thing to those defenseless dogs.”

Lenny agreed. “Superstition can make people do all sorts of stupid things. But it adds credence to ghost dogs protecting the cemetery.”

When Gaylene didn’t poke fun at that, I aimed my flashlight away from the hole. “Speaking of superstition, I remember reading that if anyone ever removes their bones, the dogs’ spirits will turn into hell hounds.” My flashlight lit up another empty grave fifteen yards away.

Gaylene laughed. “That’s even dumber than believing in ghosts.”

I burned again but didn’t disagree.

She said, “We should fill in these holes so someone doesn’t blame us for digging them.”

“Uh-uh, no way.” Lenny stood. “We came to see ghosts. Whoever dug up the graves and took the bones, then that’s on them.” He started toward the gate. “Come on.”

* * *

Thanks for reading.

Until next time, peace and love.

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, 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.