Category Archives: Writing

Menagerie, by Joan Hall

I’m really excited to have Joan Hall visit today. She’s branched out into short fiction and published her book of 13 short stories, and even published on Friday the 13th. That’s something I’ve done before, and I think it’s cool.

Joan is a long-time author friend and one of my collaborators over at Story Empire. I’ve read a bunch of her books and recommend them without fail. I’m sure Menagerie is wonderful and will be reading it myself.

Make Joan feel welcome everyone, and please use those sharing buttons before you leave. I can almost bet she’s done it for most of you.

***

Thanks so much, Craig, for opening up your sight to me today for the eighth stop of the Menagerie tour. The book is a mixed-genre compilation of thirteen short stories. Each stop features a different story where I tell what inspired me to write it. Today, I’ll talk about the idea behind Storm Rider.

In the early 1980s, I read a book titled A Walk Across America.It’s the true story of a young man named Peter Jenkins who became disillusioned with life and set out on a journey accompanied by his dog, Cooper. During his journey, Jenkins met and lived with several people, often taking temporary jobs to help pay for his trip.

Even though many years have passed since reading the book, it’s one of those stories that stayed with me. Fast forward to last summer when I envisioned a truck driver sitting at a roadside diner and had an “unusual” talk with another customer. I won’t say what was so mysterious about the second encounter because that would give away the story.

I changed things up a bit from that original idea. Mike Travis is a young man who, like Peter Jenkins, was a bit dejected with life. Instead of following his father’s wishes to return to college for his master’s degree, Mike decides to walk across country. One evening, he’s on a lonely stretch of a desert highway when a violent thunderstorm approaches. It so happens a truck driver, Ray Crawford stops to give Mike a ride.

During the trip, Mike tells Ray part of his story and receives some sage advice. After traveling over seventy miles together, Ray drops Mike off at a roadside diner. It’s there where Mike discovers something interesting about Ray.

Part of this story was also inspired by a journey my brother took during the summer of 1977. He traveled by ten-speed bike from San Antonio, Texas to Moab, Utah. As you can imagine, he met lots of interesting people and had a few stories of his own to share.

Storm Rider is set during the summer of 1978. A few other stories in this collection are set during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s—what I call simpler times.

Below is an excerpt.

 

 

 

 

 

Excerpt:

The fresh scent of rain hitting the ground emanated from the parched desert. Mike’s biggest concern was lightning. He considered a culvert or a drainage ditch, but with the rain falling at this rate, the probability of flash flooding was high. He prayed the lightning didn’t strike nearby.

Your wanderlust will get you into trouble someday.

His father’s voice echoed in his head. Hopefully, his words weren’t prophetic.

Times like this made Mike question his choice of walking across the country. He could have purchased a used van by dipping into his savings. The trip would have been easier, but his expenses would have been greater. He wasn’t about to accept any money from his father. Not that Robert Travis would offer any unless it was for a plane ticket home and a promise to return to college.

The clouds darkened the early evening sky, making it appear much later. As he continued toward the valley, the rumble of an approaching vehicle—likely a bus or an eighteen-wheeler—sounded from behind him. A curtain of light cascaded over the road when the semi crested the small ridge. Mike moved toward the shoulder, so the truck could pass, but it slowed to a stop just ahead of him.

Taking it as a sign the driver intended to give him a lift, Mike rushed to the passenger side, then opened the door.

“Where are you headed?” The trucker was a man of around sixty years of age with a waistline indicative of someone who spent a lot of time sitting.

“Eventually, Arizona. Tonight, the next town.”

“Climb in.”

Blurb:

King’s. The Tower of London. Glass. What do these have in common?

Each is a famous menagerie.

While this Menagerie doesn’t focus on exotic animals, it does contain a collection of stories that explore various trials people face and how their reactions shape their worlds.

Survivors of a haunted bridge. Women who wait while their husbands fight a war. Former partners reuniting to solve a cold-case murder.

These are just three of the thirteen stories in this compendium, encompassing past and present, natural and supernatural, legend and reality. The genres and timelines are varied, but there’s a little something for everyone who enjoys reading about simpler times and small-town life.

Purchase Link: https://books2read.com/jh-menagerie

About the Author

Social Media Links

Website | Blog | BookBub | Goodreads

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Done… kind of

It took most of the day, but I finished this editing pass on all three books. I got kind of excited when I finished Mari’s swamp adventure around noon.

Percy the Space Chip took a little longer, but here we are at 4:00 and it’s finished, too.

There will be another pass of all three, but this is worthy of celebration. The next pass will be to read them all like a regular person would.

I need to be thinking about cover art, and figure one at a time is the best here. Once Upon a Time in the Swamp will be first. Hopefully, Lizzie and the hat will be around Halloween. I’ll hold the SF trilogy until they’re all finished and edited.

I’ve mentioned before this is my least favorite part, but it’s necessary. I’m chipping away at it and it will all get done eventually. With luck, I might start drafting the next volume of the SF trilogy by next month.

Somewhere in there, a couple of friends have published new books and I really want to read those. I’m not hurting for drafts right now, so slowing down for a bit of reading is a worthy break.

Back to the paycheck job tomorrow. I hope all of you enjoyed your weekends.

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Back on the editing effort

I spent several hours this morning going over a chapter of one book before switching to another. I wound up with one chapter that required some serious rewording here and there. I’ll need to give this process another good shift, but I’m making some real progress.

The best sign involves Lizzie and the hat. These are short novels by design. I feel like their brand of humor works best in small doses. I completely finished this pass on their story. That leaves me to bounce back and forth between the other two books.

I still have additional passes I want to make, but this version is the hardest one and I’ll be happy to get it finished.

I really need to be thinking about cover art, but we’re constantly broke in this era. I’ll have to earmark funds to get that done. I’d like to publish “Once Upon a Time in the Swamp” sometime before summer. There have been a ton of releases lately and I know of more coming soon. Just have to jump in when I’m ready and let the fates decide.

I want to keep sharing some of my Pinterest boards with you. These are great references for me when looking for something for specific stories. This board is mostly just a bit of whimsy. I shared one of the big ones last time.

While there was a wagon like this waaaaay back in my book, Panama, I haven’t written anything like it since. This board makes me want to take a slow vacation somewhere, and maybe drag Stevie Nicks along for the ride. https://pin.it/1xzBVZw

Maybe you’ll find something to inspire one of your stories.

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A bit more work

I’m still editing. It’s mostly boring work, but I am seeing things that need repair. I find editing tedious, and that means it doesn’t make good blog fodder either. I’ll suffice to say all three manuscripts are up to chapter 11, then leave it there.

Today, I used my headphone with some YouTube playlists. I really like this option, but the advertisements are a nightmare. There are probably some without ads, but I haven’t been lucky enough to find them. I have one that’s instrumental blues, one that’s called samurai warrior music, and one I’ve been saving. It’s all the spaghetti western music by Ennio Morricone. I’m open to hints as to where I can find ad-free versions of long playlists. I don’t mind one up front, or even the occasional peppering. One (in the middle) of every song is too much.

One thing I never mention is that I research constantly. Some things make it to my storyboards, others are simply notes to tuck away.

I learned something about LIDAR. This is kind of like radar, but it’s been used to discover lost civilizations in the rain forest and other places. I have a story way in the future that will need this information.

I need a name for a group of celebrity ghost hunters. They’re going to be obstacles for Lizzie and the hat sometime this Spring. I’m having no luck, but the best I came up with is The Four Clairs. (Meaning Clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, and claircognizance.) I’m not thrilled with it, but might run with it.

Technetium is another discovery. It’s a radioactive, rare earth, material. I doubt it’s truly dangerous, but I can still write it that way. My idea involves aliens, and it’s way in the future. This one only has a sheet of notes. There isn’t even a storyboard yet, but I think there will be. I like the ideas I’m getting for this one.

I’ve also been looking up images of Alfred E. Neuman. It’s for a gag in one of the upcoming hat stories. Even some of the humor needs a bit of research.

Maybe this is one of my secrets. I have things developing all the time. Some of them will never get there. When I’m ready for a project, I usually have something pretty close to jump on.

I haven’t shared a Pinterest Board for a while, and some of you seem to enjoy them. I create these things for inspiration. Sometimes I return to them for ideas about creatures, settings, characters, and more. Not usually for main characters, but supporting things. Let’s go for one of the big ones today. This is my Fantasy Board https://pin.it/1JYU7Vm

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A different angle on editing

I’m down to the final reading of each manuscript. This is something I always do, but since I have three, there might be an option.

Today, I started out reading one chapter, then switching stories to do the same thing. Right now, I’m up to about seven on each story.

I did this, because when I get into the tale, I start enjoying it, then I miss things. I have no illusions about missing something. There’s always some stupid thing that gets published.

It honestly feels like it’s working better to do it this way. Doubt I’ll ever have three finished stories at the same time again, but this one time it feels right.

I’ve also decided I still have to do a final final reading only concentrate on one entire book. Maybe I made more work for myself, but if the product is some small degree better, it will be worth it.

I started watching The Last of Us on HBO last night. Pedro still has to impress me after that dismal Wonder Woman movie. Honestly, it doesn’t look like much goes into being The Mandalorian. That’s about my favorite thing of the last few years, but he’s a guy in a suit 99.9% of the time.

The girl from Game of Thrones is fun, but the one who died early on was, too. I am enjoying the settings. I can recognize some of the fungi that went into making them, like shelf mushrooms and slime molds.

I actually wrote slime molds into the SF book I’m editing right now. These things are cool, because they move, have a certain amount of memory, and a few other amazing things. I’m not creating zombies out of them, but modifying their genes to have them perform useful tasks, like identifying minefields.

The show makers seem to have done their research into fungi. They shouldn’t be completely bound by facts, and they aren’t, but it’s nice to see some of the small inclusions. Things like “root” systems that can cover miles. Some fungi could be the largest things on Earth if you consider acreage over weight.

Things otherwise are kind of boring. Work has been extreme and home feels like a food and sleep station around the office. Things seem to cycle like that, and I’m looking forward to a week where things dial back a little.

I might get another lap of editing this evening. Right now, I need the break, and might not return to it until Sunday.

Hope all of you are having a great weekend.

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I’m so tired…

I’m not afraid of work, never have been. I’m trying to remind myself this author gig is what I do for relaxation. Somehow, I failed today.

I had to deal with dicey WiFi all morning and a couple of router reboots. Then AutoCrit refused to load, so I had to paste my MS in there multiple times before it decided to work. I still blame the weak-assed signal. Eventually, I caught a strong section of signal and everything loaded.

I spent about 12 hours correcting grammar and punctuation in my SF novel. It always amazes me how many words are one letter different, and I found and corrected several of those. There were a lot of doubled words that needed killing, along with all the commas and question marks I had to fix.

Spelling and grammar apps don’t particularly appreciate science fiction either. Place and character names kind of make it cry.

Where did my fun and relaxation go?

On the other hand, I am overjoyed at getting this leg finished. All three books have passed this waypoint. I still have some specific word searches I want to do next, but hope the technology might have eliminated that phase for me. I’ll still test it out.

The last lap will be to read them all to see if things make sense.

It looks like I won’t be drafting anything for another few weeks, but this part has to get done. Before I start back up, there are a few books I want to read, too. I decided to stay in this phase for a while longer. I’m not hurting for drafts and will dedicate as much time as I must here.

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Ugh! Editing

I got to the writing cabin kind of late today. Old What’s Her Face and I usually have Sunday breakfast at home, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the week. Nothing too fancy, just really nice.

It’s also the day I call my Mother and I dedicated an hour to that.

Drafting new material is my favorite part of the job. I love the process of coming up with new characters and having them interact. Today, I had to grit my teeth and start editing.

I walked into the cabin’s living room which serves as the public-facing office.

A talking yak debated something with a talking hat. A retired leg-man was discussing the breakdown of modern society with a Chinese monk woman who carried a huge guandao.

Lisa Burton, the robot girl was in a dither trying to get root monsters down from the antler chandelier.

Percy, the Space Chimp pointed a hairy finger from across the room. “I got a bone to pick with you.”

I slammed the door, and returned to my vehicle. “Nope.”

I returned home and parked myself in a spare room we use for an office. The old Mac opened the AutoCrit website just fine, and I was able to upload my manuscript. However, it never highlighted a damned thing.

It feels great to produce a perfect draft, but I never have and something was wrong. I wanted to use my iPad to make the actual edits.

The site works perfectly on the iPad, and my dreams of a perfect MS were shot down.

I wound up using the split-screen feature and the iPad for everything. This isn’t particularly easy, because the text is so small in split screen. Clicking on AutoCrit’s suggestions is a little more touchy at this small size, too.

I admit to chickening out on the big stuff and worked on The Hat story because of its size. I managed to fix all of my typical mistakes. Mostly missing punctuation. I seem to miss a lot of question marks when I draft.

I have the free version of AutoCrit, so I don’t have all of its amazing features. Still helpful with spelling and punctuation. I had one word spelled wrong about five times. At least I was consistent.

That hat story moves into the TBR editing pile. I think I’ll take on the swamp story in the morning. I dread this stuff, but it must be done.

It’s been a while since I shared a Pinterest Board. This is a good one for all authors. Sometimes we all need location and setting. Check it out and let me know what you think https://pin.it/3ILyqyc

This one has markets, catacombs, a street of birdcages, public gardens and more.

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Am I done? Maybe.

My only goal today was to do some writing. I’ve previously mentioned that Once Upon a Time in the Swamp required a long denouement.

My intent here was to wrap things up, but also provide a potential future for Mari. I have no intention of a sequel, but I want readers to know life goes on after her traumatic events. Today, I reached that point.

Mari’s tale came in over 70,000 words, but that’s not real lengthy. I’m of the mind a story will be as long as it needs to be. I like the story, but there are always things to second guess about one. Time for that later.

At some point, I’m going to have to spend some real money on cover art for all these stories. I think they’re worth the cost of good art, and that industry also needs a few patrons. In fact that gives me an idea for a possible Story Empire post in the future.

It’s time for me to embrace the thing I hate most about these projects… editing. I have three finished books at this time. They are tentatively called:

Of Space Chimps & Asteroids

Goodbye Old Paint

Once Upon a Time in the Swamp

I think I’ll pick up Percy the Space Chimp and see if I can shove his story through AutoCrit. This is somewhat dubious, because I’m going to have to try using the ancient Mac for the website, and my iPad for the corrections. Things were so much simpler when I had two iPads, but iOS won’t let the old one update anymore.

I don’t expect this to be a single day event, and know it won’t be particularly easy. If I can make that work, my next step will be to read it from start to finish and make it suitable for the public. This one will be held back until I can write two more volumes.

After that, the other titles will follow that same path… maybe.

Already second guessing this. Old Paint is a Hat story, and therefore, the shortest of the three. Maybe I should try this experiment on that one first. Ugh!

Either way, I’m determined to start this next phase this weekend. That means no drafting of new material for at least a month. Deep breath, but it’s time to shift gears now. Fingers crossed.

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Guest Post – The Last Drive by John W. Howell #newbook

Let’s all welcome John Howell to the Entertaining Stories blog. John is a dear friend, one of my collaborators at Story Empire, and a prolific blogger. He’s also one hell of an author.

He’s here to tell us about his newest release. Please use those sharing buttons to help him out. I know he’s done it for me, and I’m pretty sure he’s shared your promos, too. The place is yours, John.

I am so pleased to be with you today, Craig`. I want to thank you for helping to spread the word about The Last Drive. I have been impressed on your ability to develop characters and storylines that are chock full of personality and excitement. I had not thought about creating a sequel to Eternal Road. One day though it struck me that the story was probably half finished. I decided that the characters deserved to at least have a story that was a definitive conclusion. I’m glad to say that I feel the story is complete now.

Here is the blurb and then we can get to a short excerpt from the book.

The Blurb

In the sequel to Eternal Road – The final stop, Sam and James are reunited to look for two souls, Ryan and Eddie. Ryan was killed in Afghanistan, trying to avoid a schoolyard with his crippled plane. Eddie Rickenbacker, Ryan’s hero, is to guide Ryan to his Eternal Home, and now both are missing.

The higher-ups believe that there has been some interference in Ryan and Eddie’s journey by Lucifer, so Sam and James have the task of finding Ryan and Eddie to get them back on the road despite the evil interference. Unfortunately, the machinations designed to prevent Ryan and Eddy from completing their journey take the pair to horrifying testing grounds. The places visited represent the best work of the Devil. They are the trenches of World War I in France, gladiators at the Roman Coliseum, the sinking Titanic in 1912, Hiroshima 45 minutes before the bomb, and the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943.

This book is for you if you like plenty of action, strong characters, time travel, and a touch of spiritual and historical fiction. So, join Sam and James as they try to find the missing souls while staying one step ahead of the Prince of Darkness, who is determined to destroy all that is good.

An Excerpt.

“First of all, God is too busy to concern Himself with the whereabouts of one soul.”

Sam holds up two fingers. “Two?”

The Archangel waves his hand. “Whatever. The point is, it is my job to run interference on these kinds of problems so God can focus on the important stuff.”

Sam shrugs. “I would think having Lucifer run wild with souls on the Eternal Road is crucial.”

“Yes, but it is still not worthy of Divine Intervention.” The Archangel flushes with frustration.

“So, you want me to go and find the two of them with no backup from the Chief?”

The Archangel frowns. “I do not know what the big deal is all of a sudden. You handled Lucifer just fine the last time.”

“I had to call back home and get someone to come down and smite him.”

The Archangel sits up straighter. “Yes, and if that is the situation this time around, we can do the same thing.”

“Promise?”

The Archangel’s eyebrows jump in surprise. “I am an Archangel, for Heaven’s sake. My word is golden.”

Sam glances down. “Sorry, Sir. I get nervous when I think of having to take on Lucifer alone.”

“So, take James with you. You two seemed to hit it off, and he proved valuable, as things turned out.”

Sam shakes her head. “I don’t know about that, Sir. James fell in love with me, and I broke his heart. He might not want to go along. Even if he did offer to go, there’s a genuine chance he’ll fall in love all over again.”

“You know we have ways to handle that eventuality. James has not thought about you once since you left him in his Eternal Home.”

Sam stares the Archangel in the eye. “You sure?”

The Archangel holds her gaze. “I guarantee it.”

Sam shrugs. “Well, then it might work. I do think James would be a great partner for this kind of mission.”

A Link to the Trailer

Buy Links

The Last Drive is available in paper and Kindle editions on Amazon. Here are the universal links. The Kindle edition is on sale for 99¢ through mid-February.

Kindle https://mybook.to/FYmkKr

Paper https://mybook.to/BCsWV

Author Bio

John is an award-winning author who after an extensive business career began writing full time in 2012. His specialty is thriller fiction novels, but John also writes poetry and short stories. He has written Six other books that are on Amazon in paperback and Kindle editions.

John lives in Lakeway, Texas with his wife and their spoiled rescue pets.

Author links

Blog Fiction Favorites, http://johnwhowell.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/john.howell.98229241

Twitter –https://www.twitter.com/HowellWave

Goodreads –https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7751796.John_W_Howell

Amazon Author’s page –https://www.amazon.com/author/johnwhowell

BookBub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/john-w-howell

Eternal Road Buy links

Kindle Universal link  mybook.to/EternalRoad

Paper universal link mybook.to/Eternalroadpaper

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Weekend Effort

I had some good intentions, but failed once again. I managed about an hour of writing on Saturday with the intent of a bit more today.

When I stopped, Old What’s Her Face was on the phone with our daughter. She was doing laundry and being bored. I mentioned that if she drove to Boise, we would buy her dinner as a joke.

It took legs from there. Our daughter brought two large baskets of laundry and ran it through our machines.

We wound up going to Olive Garden because it’s our daughter’s favorite. I have to admit being impressed with their new menu. My meal was wonderful

She stayed this morning until around 3:00, and I’m not going to dive into my MS this late in the day. It was virtually a lost weekend, but I’ll take it.

I already mentioned that in three months or so, our daughter is going to leave the state. Seeing her will become damned near impossible after that, so I’ll take all I can get.

There will be other weekends, and I will finish this project eventually. Back to work tomorrow.

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