Uncategorized

Pre-Order Sale!

The countdown is underway! On September 30 the Kindle version will be released, and I feel that my generous supporters need something back. I’ve just reduced the regular $3.99 price to $0.99, and Amazon assures me that anyone who pre-ordered at the regular price will be billed at the new sale price instead. (Whew! That spares me the task of having to track down early buyers and give each of them $3.00 back!) If you haven’t already purchased it, please take advantage of the sale here. If you’re a “hard copy” fan who craves the feel and smell of paper, here’s the link to the paperback. BTW—any of you who live locally, I would be more than happy to make a “house call” and come to your home to sign your copy!

On other fronts, my audiobook narrator Joel Zak has submitted the “retail sample” of D&D to ACX for evaluation. If it passes muster, he will proceed full-bore with recording the Driftwood Mystery. Here’s another BTW—for fans of that book, there is an epilogue in the new book of short stories. I couldn’t help myself!

And may I say a few words about being an indie author and trying to market your books? I don’t mean to be a whiner, but it’s freakin’ hard! Truth is, when you publish on Amazon, unless you’re already famous, you’re a needle in a humongous haystack. I’m posting on Instagram and Facebook, taking out ads on Amazon and BookBub, but have yet to create any “buzz.” If you’re a fan of my writing, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the new book. And if you’d care to share that with your friends, I would be truly grateful.

Until next time.

Paperback Published!

I am happy to announce that the paperback edition of my new book of short stories has been released today and is available for sale on Amazon. Here’s a link. The digital version is still on target for publication on September 30 and you can pre-order it here

Meanwhile, work proceeds on the audiobook production of Dungeness and Dragons, with a tentative release date around December-January. Fingers crossed!

I will begin work on my October Newsletter soon. It will feature an interview with Connie Lacy, an independent author in Georgia who can really spin a tale. You don’t want to miss it. If you haven’t yet signed up for my monthly newsletter, please do so here.

Talk to you soon!

.

Why Read Short Stories?

“A short story is the ultimate close-up magic trick—a couple thousand words to take you around the universe or break your heart.” –Neil Gaiman.

Many people have said things to me such as, “I don’t like reading short stories. I need the depth and the character development that happens in a novel.” Although I can certainly appreciate that, my response is usually something like, “Although I really enjoy a filet mignon Oscar or seared Ahi tuna entrée, that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the canapés! Munching a bit of caviar on a dollop of crème fraiche, with a bit of hard-boiled egg and green onion, is a marvelous way to sip champagne!”

So it’s more a matter of “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Each form of writing brings its own special pleasures. Who can argue against falling headlong into another world in a novel that simply transports us countries or planets or galaxies away? How can we not revel in getting to know a character so thoroughly that he or she becomes a living, breathing person who haunts our sleeping and waking moments?

But what about that fine painting or photograph hanging on your wall—the one that captures the light or the emotion or the mind-set of that special day you’ll never forget? A good short story is like that. It gives us a tantalizing glimpse into that other world, seizing a moment in time to which we may return again and again. The mysterious stranger with whom we locked eyes at a party, the extraordinary sunrise that redeemed a sleepless night, the brief but sweet kiss that lingers on the lips—such is the short story.

As a writer, the short story is a way to “cleanse my palate” between forays into novel-writing. It’s my attempt at legerdemain—not a cheap parlor trick but true sleight-of-hand. Can I convince you of the reality of these protagonists and their struggles in ten pages? Can I startle you with an ending you didn’t see coming? Can I provoke a laugh or a tear in the time it takes you to brew your morning coffee?

I found writing my new collection of short stories to be immensely rewarding. I hope reading them will be equally pleasurable for you.

You can pre-order the Kindle version here. It will be released on September 30. The paperback edition will also be published soon.

A New Book Review

Joe Kilgore of The US Review of Books has just reviewed my soon-to-be-published collection, Before Our House Fell into the Ocean: Stories of Love and Death. The review is so positive and I’m so blown away by it that I just had to post the whole thing here!

Before Our House Fell into the Ocean: Stories of Love and Death
by William J. Cook

book review by Joe Kilgore
“You never recover from grief, you make an uneasy truce with it. You find a shelf to put it on so it doesn’t bleed into every thought or conversation.”

This collection, as the subtitle states, is constructed around love and death. Hemingway reminds us that “all stories, if continued far enough, eventually end in death, and he is no true-story teller who would keep that from you.” Author Cook is a “true-story teller,” even though his tales are fiction, and death is not necessarily the end of his stories but the fulcrum on which they often turn. Cook’s stories also remind us that while death can certainly wound love, it can never truly erase it.

The differences in the collection’s stories are many. A house does fall into the sea, but the memories inside it are not lost. A boy with a tragically disfigured face is empowered by a girl who sees more than his scars. A romance blooms in a carnival midway, where the tawdry glitter hides unimaginable pain. A man suffering a horribly debilitating disease discovers he’s not as alone as he thinks he is. A priest grapples with questions not only of loss, grief, and death but perhaps with the hardest questions of all, those about life.

Cook is a writer who is able to convey pathos without wallowing in sentimentality. He wields his pen like a scalpel, intricately cutting to the heart of remorse without opening veins of self-pity. There is a sturdy sense of acceptance in the way his characters look sorrow in the eye and deal with it. Humor is never completely absent, even in tales where one doesn’t necessarily expect it. There are a dozen stories within the covers of this book, all imminently readable. What stands out the most, however, is the author’s commitment to understanding and compassion. They are the foundational pillars on which this literate and life-affirming collection stands.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

OK, gang. With an endorsement like that, I think you should pre-order a copy! Just click on the image above and it will be delivered to your Kindle bright and early on the morning of September 30.

The New Book Cover

Here’s the new book cover, designed and created by Roslyn McFarland. Each image in the broken panes of glass is an icon from one of the stories. The pawn is from The Chess Player; the steaming mug from Coffee; the shooting star from Starfall; the falling house from Widowmaker; the oak tree from The Arborist; and the young lovers from Gargoyle. I’m still aiming for a late September or early October release. If you haven’t done so already, please subscribe to my newsletter to stay current with the latest updates and to learn about other indie authors whose books should be in your queue! Subscribe here.

An Interview with James M. McCracken, President of the Northwest Independent Writers Association

—How did you get started writing?

I guess you could say I was intimidated into writing. I’ll explain.

During a high school basketball game, I sat in the bleachers drawing a picture. The older sister of a schoolmate sat down beside me and asked me what I was drawing. I showed her and she wanted to know the story behind the picture. I told her there wasn’t a story. It’s just a picture. She said there had to be a story otherwise I couldn’t draw it. So, to get her to leave me alone, I made up a story and told her. She said, write it down. The next time I come to visit my brother, I want to read it. I said I would but had no intention of actually doing it.

A month later, I heard she was back and looking for me! I stayed in the dorm and didn’t leave until I heard she was gone. As I walked out of the building a van stopped in front of me. It was HER. She motioned me over and asked to see the story. I told her I hadn’t finished it yet. She said I had a month and she’d be back. She was bigger and stronger than me and a bit intimidating.

Once she left, I bought a ream of typing paper and 450 pages later, I still wasn’t finished with the story. I had figured out the ending and couldn’t finish it. My schoolmate’s sister never did read the story, but I was hooked.

I continued to write shorter stories but never let anyone read them because I was afraid they would think the story was dumb.

I love disaster movies and in 1975 I wrote a story about a 747 that crashed into the ocean and managed to stay intact, but sank. The story followed the typical disaster storyline – survivors trying to escape. I tucked it away with the rest of my stories and forgot about it.

Two years later, in 1977, I was walking past the bulletin board and noticed the movie ads. My jaw dropped when I saw the ad for Airport ’77. I thought if someone else could come up with the same premise as me, maybe my stories aren’t so dumb after all.

So, I began to take my writing more seriously. But I still wouldn’t let anyone read any.

—Tell us a bit about your craft. How do you begin a new book? 

I am what some people have described as a pantster, I don’t use an outline.

Most of my stories start out as a dream. When I wake up, I begin writing down the dream. Depending on the story, in order to keep the characters straight, I search the internet for pictures of people and use the pictures to keep my descriptions consistent.

I research the details in the story as they come up.

I try not to think too far in advance because I know myself and once I figure out the ending, it becomes more difficult if not impossible for me to finish. So, I am sometimes as surprised by the ending as you, the reader, are.  

—What would you most like your readers to take away from your writing?

Many of my stories deal with family and life, I would want people to take away that in life there is no such thing as “happily ever after.”  Life is a complex timeline filled with moments, some good, some not-so-great, some we cause by the choices we make and some that are unexpected. It’s those moments that collectively shape us into the people we are.     

—Can you give us a sneak peek at your latest work-in-progress?

I’m currently working on a new series tentatively titled, In My Mother’s House. It’s a soap opera inspired by a true-life family. The series covers eight years in the lives of the Holts beginning with an unexpected death and ending when the last of the Holt children moves out of her parents’ house.

The synopsis:

Life is finally starting to turn around for
Robert and Abigail Holt and their seven children.
Robert is working a steady job.
Abigail’s business is thriving.
The family is settling into their new home.
The future is looking bright.
Then one phone call sends them on a roller coaster ride
no one could have predicted. . .
or did he?

MURDER – HEARTBREAK – HOPE – JOY – LOVE – DREAMS

—Thank you so much for you time, Jamie. And for my readers, here’s the link to his website, where you can check out all of his books and more! James M. McCracken

Book Review: Raven’s Heart by Shawna Reppert

It is such a delight to be back in alternative Portland with the third book of the Ravensblood series. I find it compelling to get drawn into an urban fantasy set along streets I’ve walked down and places I’ve been. It’s that added layer of realism that lends such believability to a story of incantations, artifacts and magic.

The players are back: Raven, still working on his redemption by consulting for the Guardians, the police force combatting magical crime; his lover Cassandra, still cautious in light of his previous betrayal; the dark mage William, now wielding only a shadow of his former strength after the cataclysmic battle in the last book. But William has scoured the ancient archives and libraries and has discovered the whereabouts of long-forgotten artifacts of death magic which will restore his power and lay the city and the world at his feet.

As always in this series, the characterization is rich and textured, the emotional tone, complex and engaging, the action sequences, stunning and cinematic. I especially liked the ending, which is as wholly satisfying as the narrative that builds up to it. Ms. Reppert weaves her story like casting a spell, capturing the reader in her own brand of magic. And I will never be able to look at Vista House in the Columbia Gorge the same way again. For me, it will remain forever the setting for the climax of a novel which will haunt me for a long time to come. Here’s a link: Raven’s Heart

An Update and Some Teasers

I am happy to report that Dungeness and Dragons has just been awarded an indieBRAG Medallion, a special recognition by the indie Book Readers Appreciation Group. Here’s the cover with the medallion on it:

I’m hoping that every little bit helps with marketing!

Meanwhile, I continue to work on my next volume of short stories. Here are a few beginnings:

Gargoyle

Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me,” couldn’t tell his ass from a hole in the ground. At 13-years-of-age, Gary already knew this. A veteran of six different schools across Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, he knew names could be exquisite torture. The heir of a severe cleft lip and palate, and victim of a botched surgery, he had a face that bullies said could stop a clock. Gary Gargoyle they called him behind his back, always just loud enough for him to overhear.

A Better Mousetrap

You know you’re old when having a successful bowel movement after your first cup of coffee is reason to clap your hands and call up a 60s rock playlist on your sound system. So, I sat there, hands wrapped around my second mug, a stupid grin on my face, listening to Grace Slick’s defiant “Somebody to Love.”

Coffee

No, zombies don’t eat brains, but we’re particularly fond of coffee. Doctors say that something in the coffee slows down the demyelination of the nerve bundles responsible for the symptoms. I don’t understand anything about that. I only know that I crave the stuff.

Rain

“God’s tears,” Jeremy thought, as he sat at his desk watching the gray rain sweep across the empty lot behind the old white house and finally tap against the window in front of him. He looked at the Roman collar he had plucked from his black shirt and laid on the desk next to the letter he had just penned. What he was about to do could not be undone once set it in motion.

Widowmaker               

Before our house fell into the ocean, I used to enjoy watching my mother dance in the kitchen with her sisters every Friday evening. Because her sisters didn’t want her to backslide and get sick again, Aunts May and June would come over after work, each bringing a bottle of wine, “to start the weekend right.”

The Arborist

“Tree is telling stories again,” he said, his open palm resting on the gnarled bark of the enormous white oak in our front yard. He spoke in his characteristic monotone, his short blonde hair framing his ever-serious face. Upset that the tree would have to come down, my 11-year-old son Dax was spending most of his free time sitting under its branches, “listening” to what it had to say. It made me regret once again that I had made the comment aloud a month ago when we learned of the tree’s sickness. “Boy, if this old tree could talk, imagine the stories it would tell.”

I hope the Muse keeps moving! Target time for publishing is mid- to late summer. I’ll give you plenty of advance notice.