Thursday, January 27, 2011

Peru, 1987...I'll make it a book

I'm going to release a book about my adventures in Peru. It will be available for sale at by February 10. I promise you a fun ride...a story told by a young man who didn't know or care what kind of trouble he could get in while in a foreign country and cloaked in complete ignorance of the local languages.

I spent 9 weeks in Peru in 1987, when I was 20 years old. Peru was not stable back then and I was a college kid who spoke no Spanish when he got on the plane and went to participate in an archaeology dig about 50 miles east of Machu Picchu. I had a blast. There were mountains to climb, towns to visit...a man to pull out of a river flowing white with freshly melted glacial run-off, machine gun nests in the airport, and riding on the roof of the local trains.

I published my journal--a brief thing of 23 pages--in my book Just for Fun: A Little Sexton and Some Other stuff. I read it again this morning and was struck by how much I left out.

There's more, a lot more than what's contained in that journal. I'm open to suggestions for a title. At the moment I'm thinking something along the lines of Steele's Peru.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Buy Sexton books from these places

If you're looking for paperback books, you'll find the best deals at Authors Den or Lulu. I like the covers I use on Authors Den a little better than the ones for the paperback as Lulu. Prices are about the same from either place.

If you're looking for hardcover, Lulu is the only place that has them. I have 2 different hardcovers of each book. "Casewrap" means the cover is printed, and "Dust Jacket" means there is a cover over the cover.

If you have a Nook, you'll need epub format. Your best bet is to buy directly from Barnes and Noble. They converted the files to epub, so I know they look nice. Search for Sexton Chronicles in the Nook Book section. Epub files are also available from Lulu, and from Smashwords...but I trust the conversion from Barnes and Noble more than I trust the conversion Smashwords did.

Sexton Chronicles books, ebooks, are available in the Apple iStore, as well as wherever you buy books for the Sony Reader.

If you have a Kindle, the Kindle Store at is your best bet. Smashwords sells files for Kindle, but I trust Amazon's conversion for Amazon's Kindle more than I trust Smashwords to do the job.

Here's the part I can control, the part I can promise you: I promise to give you the best adventure I can.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Excerpt from Sexton Sand (Sexton Chronicles IV)

   Andy would never be able to hear the term royal bearing again without thinking of carrying King Rajahd'een's unconscious body--and the smelly feet that went with it--down the street in the middle of the night while being hunted by a bunch of guys who wanted to chop him and his friends into tiny little pieces. He was sure they looked ridiculous. He was equally sure no one would laugh at them until they chopped them into little tiny pieces. I have to stop thinking about tiny pieces.
  "What's the plan?" John asked. His voice sounded strained. No one answered him. Seconds later he asked again.
   "We're going to stop carrying him as soon as I think of something else to do."
   Tom's voice sounded smooth. Too smooth. Andy shot a look over his shoulder and tried not to grin. Tom's face was cracked in a smile in the light from a window they passed. Andy was glad to see the grin.
   "What're you thinking?"
   "On your right, up ahead, there's a store. We're going to take him in there and lie low for a couple of hours."
   "What happens when the store owner wants to open in the morning?" Andy asked.
   "And what happens when the king wakes up?" John asked.
   "We knock him out."
   "The store owner, or Raj?" Andy was pulling no the guy's leg in a rush to get to the doorway on his right. He forced himself to slow down.
   "I knew you were going to say that."
   "Then why the hell did you ask?"
From Chapter Sixty-six, Sexton Sand

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Chapter Sixty-six

   I'm working on Chapter Sixty-six of Sexton Sand, the fourth book in the series Sexton Chronicles. About two thirds through the book, Chapter Sixty-six isn't a pivotal chapter. It's important pretty much only because people have a reasonable expectation to go from chapter sixty-five to sixty-six to sixty-seven. That means I pretty much have to write chapter sixty-six.

Does it seem like I'm stalling? I suppose it does.

I'm just waiting for an idea. It'll come, it always does. Just a little whap upside the head from Ralph the Muse...


Gotta go. I'm ready.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I love this big old house...and the little adventures that come with it

We live in a big old house (circa 1880) in a small town. When we moved here I said I wanted to live in an old farm house, but one right in the middle of town. We found one. I love it. It's just my wife and I, and we have a lot of space. Really a lot of space. Six bedrooms, big dining room, a cavernous living room...and one bathroom. This place was built when "flush" was something your face did when you exerted yourself, and not a means of waste disposal.

One of the adventures I have in this house with some frequency is a little game I never play on purpose. I like to call the game "Where the hell is my coffee cup?" Anyone can play, but I usually play it alone. When I say the name of the game out loud, my wife becomes deaf. The only indication that she's alive at all is the grin on her face and the little twinkle in her eye.

Realizing I'm left to play the game by myself, I start trying to trace my footsteps. My writing office is upstairs...and I usually start the game at my desk. The coffee isn't on my desk or I would have found something more productive to do than play a quick round of  "Where the hell is my coffee cup?"

Then I'm forced to go for a hike. I wander down the stairs, sometimes passing the coffee cup on the landing (where I put it so I could get down on the floor and pet a cat), sometimes finding the coffee cup on the dining room table. Don't know why I would put a coffee mug on the dining room table. Obviously that thing is there to put other stuff on.... What kind of stuff, I don't know. It's almost never food. I mentioned there's only two of us, didn't I?

Then I pass through the kitchen, usually with a glance at the coffee maker. Sometimes the mug is there. If it's there it's because I got distracted when I meant to refill it...usually by something in the fridge. The fridge! Yes, I have found my coffee mug--cold--in the fridge. You need to set something down to grab a snack, and there are handy-dandy shelves in the fridge.

Most of the time I give the mug o' coffee up for dead. Then I go to the cupboard (sometimes finding the mug full of cold coffee in there next to the other mugs) and get a fresh mug. I pour another cup of coffee hoping that someday, maybe someday, the old one will surface.

Then I remember that I had to go to the bathroom and didn't want coffee at all. It's the start of another round!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of endings, and plots, and getting there

I'm coming up on the end of Sexton Sand. At this point, I know how it will end. Here's a look at how I plot my novels. I can give it to you in one phrase:

I don't.

I'm writing a series, but I don't think that makes much difference in this example. I plotted Sexton this way, and the others that follow it. No, I don't use an outline.

I start with an idea. With books 2, 3, and 4 of the series the idea is usually around the time the previous one ended. It doesn't have to be that way. There are some series out there that have gaps of time between the end of one book and the beginning of the next.

I start with the idea, and then I write. I start looking at the word count when I get to the second hundred pages or so of my double-spaced manuscript. By then I have a vague idea of where I'm going with the thing. It's like driving toward mountains. You can see them in the distance, purple and hazy. Maybe there's a storm on top of one of them, maybe it's crystal clear...and maybe there's a curve in the road ahead that looks more interesting than the big rocks in the windshield.

So I pick one and aim for it. Around the time I hit 85,000 words (I like the word count feature of my word processor. It's like the odometer on the car), I have a pretty good idea of how I'm going to end the book.

Then I start driving that direction. Sometimes, once anyway, I change my mind. Then I backtrack and destroy the false turn, put the car in gear and move forward again.

I'm at 85,000 words in Sexton Sand. I know how the book will end. I've already designed the cover. It's going to take another 25,000 words or so to reach that stopping point, that little pause between books we'll call the end of Sexton Sand.

Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a helluva ride.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

My recovery from Korsakoffs...a progress update

I wrote a little book I chose to call Green Goblin. As far as I know, it's the only depiction from the patient's point of view, of the acute phase of Wernicke's Encephalopathy. (This isn't a commercial, but if you're interested in buying the book, there's a link on this blog.)

This is the rest of the story in a nutshell.

If you read much at all about Korsakoff's, you'll find that memory problems are listed as the biggest problem of the disease. That's true. It's not a matter of forgetting things; it's more a matter of having things vanish from the brain. Vanish. As if they were never there in the first place. When that happened to me, I wouldn't even have the memory of having the memory. Reminders were useless.

After seeing a neuropsychologist, we decided it would be helpful for me to carry a small digital recorder to record things I might forget. I did. Over time, I needed it less and less. I still have it with me and I still make little notes to myself, but it's very rare that I won't remember making the note.

The other problem I have from the disease is neuropathy. It's not neuropathy that involves's a painful neuropathy. Sometimes the pain is in my legs, and sometimes it's in the shoulder, and sometimes it's in the hands. It used to be difficult for me to walk.

No... I'm not hawking a miracle cure. There isn't one. I will tell you that Thiamin (Vitamin B1) and complete sobriety are the 2 controllable keys to my recovery. (The uncontrollable is faith, by the way, and love from loved ones.)

I saw a few neurologists after I was released from the hospital for Wernickes. Each was a little helpful, but interestingly, all said I didn't need to take vitamin b1 supplements. They all said it wouldn't improve my condition. The good people at Dukeries Health Care in the United Kingdom (Google it. They know their stuff) treat the disease with vitamin supplements. I met someone online (and I really appreciate it Karen) who told me to take thiamin and keep taking thiamin.

Know what? The pain stopped...most of the time. When the pain comes back, I take some thiamin and I feel better in about 20 minutes.

I think I still forget things from time to time, but nothing like I did early on. Some will say that the damaged brain doesn't heal, some will read this and think that maybe I didn't have the disease. I think both assumptions are incorrect. I don't know much about the healing powers of the brain, but I know this--I don't forget like I used to forget. Some, maybe. More than others, probably...but I don't have those magic blanks anymore. As for whether I had the disease: I have the medical records. I had it; no question.

To those with a loved one who suffers from the disease, I offer this: there is hope. Help the patient by reminding them constantly that there is hope.

I won't kid you... I think healing is unlikely. Sobriety and thiamin are keys, but there's one more. The last is simply this: the patient has to be a stubborn S.O.B who believes in himself/herself and is shockingly unwilling to give up.

I'm reading a not-so-good book, and it's my fault

The not-so-good book I'm reading is called Return to Sexton and at the moment there is only 1 copy in the world. It's my first novel, and it's not going to be published. It's a noisy book with a tangled, hard to follow plot...some cartoonish characterization, and a bit of purple prose. I'm glad I wrote it. It was the genesis for what twenty years later became pretty good stuff.

I took advantage of the "private access' feature Lulu offers, which means I can have a book printed and opt for it to be available only to me. It was a fun thing to do, and not very expensive. I got my own personal hardcover copy of it, with dust jacket, for under thirty bucks.

You can't buy it. But you can (and I would love it if you would) buy the first three books in the series...which I now whisper, are available at

In any case, it's late now. I'm going to take a seat in my old brown wing chair and read a bit of it before I retire for the night.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I lost my copy of Microsoft Office, but I love the free alternative

If you're looking for a free office suite (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, and database manager), I highly recommend Open Office. You can find and download (It's freeware) Open Office at

Don't worry... You can save your files as Microsoft Office files. I have the programs set up to save as Word, or Excel, or PowerPoint, files automatically and have taken them to computers with those Microsoft programs with no problem whatsoever.

It doesn't take long to learn to use the programs if you're familiar with their commercial counterparts. Some things are in slightly different places on different menus, but the help portion of the programs is good and you'll find what you want with no problem.

I have yet to find a downside with Open Office. In some ways I like it better than the Microsoft programs, and in other ways I like it less.

And now you know. That's my unbiased, free, and carefully considered opinion.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Another place to buy Sexton books

Authors Den (there's a banner you can click, at the bottom of this blog) now has Sexton books in paperback. Don't tell A##zon, but the books are less expensive from Author's Den.

You can find links to my books at:

Both places will ask you to register...but NEITHER place does spam emails or bothers you in any way.

Save 10% on my books, in addition to the discount

Here's your chance to get 10% off the discounted prices of my books (and it won't cost me a thing.) Go to and select the purchase price of one book. At checkout, enter READ2011 when asked for the coupon code.

Here's Lulu's disclaimer:

* Disclaimer: Enter coupon code "READ2011" during checkout and save10% off the purchase price. Discount cannot be used to pay for,nor shall be applied to, applicable taxes or shipping and handlingcharges. Maximum amount that may be applied to discount is $10.00per account. Promotional codes cannot be applied to any previousorders. No exchanges or substitutions allowed. Only one validpromotional code may be used per order. Offer expires January31, 2011 at 11:59 PM EDT. reserves the right to changeor revoke this offer at any time. Void where prohibited.
Copyright (C) 2002-2011 Lulu, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A great read...

It's a great story whether you're a veteran, or aren't a veteran and have wondered what it's like to be in a war. War Remains, by Jeffrey Miller is a five-star book. I've read it twice and find more depth each time I have read it.

  We see Bobby grow and mature with the rigors of war, and feel his unwavering love for the wife and son he left behind. At the same time, we see the family he left behind, more than one generation, seek to find out what happened to him.

   Miller weaves the tale masterfully, with vivid imagery and crisp dialogue. I heartily recommend War Remains.

You can find it here:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Time to play with my spines (book spines)

I stopped at a bookstore today, admittedly to see if I could program the Nooks on display to show my books...which is probably not the most noble (You wondered if I could sneek that word in, didn't you?) way to get potential buyers. I couldn't do it. I mean I literally couldn't do it. Couldn't get it to work.
   Then I browsed my way over to the sci-fi/fantasy section. It's been a long time since I browsed a bookstore. This time I wasn't looking to see who was writing what. This time I looked to see what the books look like on the shelves and compared those to mine.
   Lulu and Authors Den have wizards for the covers and I use them. I create my own front cover and upload it and I'm happy with those results. What struck me this time was the way the spines of the books look. In a bookstore, the spine of the book is usually the first thing the customer sees. They only put the big sellers or potential big sellers so the covers face out.
  The first three Sexton books are going to be my last books with a plain spine that has only the title and my name on it. I'm going to make my own cover from now on instead of letting the cover wizards pick my spine. It won't cost more to have a 4-color wrap-around cover. It will take me a little time to figure out the graphics, the margins, etc. but I can do it.
   On the other hand...unless something changes, it's most unlikely you'll see my books on a shelf. Thus far, they're only available online...where the only graphic potential customers see is the front cover. But I want the books to look good on your shelves at home.
  If you haven't already...go ahead. Buy my books. They're good. I promise. You can get them at:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Stream of consciousness implies consciousness...

I have a head cold. I find it difficult to write well when I have a head cold. I'm allergic to cold medicines, so I can't blame the writing difficulty on drugs... It's just a loopy feeling that translates through the keyboard. Haven't written much in the last few days.

Then it occurred to me...or Ralph the Muse...that this head cold on this day could serve me well. In Sexton Sand, the three Americans are carting Rajhad'een down the street. Good old Raj is possessed, knocked silly, and out of it...which is exactly how I feel now.

I think I will write this next chapter from Raj's point of view. It will be a mish-mashed hodge podge of emotion, swirling vision, pain, and humor. Perfect for my present state of brain activity.

I'll get started. Right after. Shower. Nap. Yeah....those things.