Microphone Check

*TAP* *TAP*

“Hello? Is this thing on?”

So…yeah. Yes, I am still alive. No, I haven’t moved to Canada (but more on that later.) And, yes, Misdirected has lain fallow for nigh on nine months now.

So, where the heck have I been, exactly?

Funny you should ask that…

In The Beginning, Was NaNoWriMo

So, in what has become a yearly ritual, I participated in NaNoWriMo last November. This attempt to write a 50,000 word first draft of a novel in a single month has turned into a yearly nightmare of outlandish expectations and frustrating failure. Every year I fail. And, every year, my failure leaves me paralyzed with Impostor Syndrome for months afterward. (Yes, Impostor Syndrome is a thing. Google it if you are unfamiliar.)

My most recent bout left me unable to produce just about anything until March. Just sort of sitting around, whistling Dixie, waiting for the lights to turn back on in my brain. Everything I wrote was crap, and immediately disposed of. Everything I read seemed an order of magnitude above anything I could ever hope to produce. Good times.

So, this year, I have declared my liberation from NaNoWriMo. My wife and my family members have specific instructions: If I start making noises about participating in NaNo this year, they are to strike me firmly across the face multiple times and then tell me to go lie down until the feeling goes away.

I am sure that NaNo is an awesome tool in the right hands. One of the members of my writing team (BTW, I hate you, Joe) uses it to draft the entire novel he will be working on for the next year. But, alas, it is not a tool for me. Under normal circumstances, I can easily produce 50,000 words in a month. They just can’t seem to be all related to the same project.

So, if that brings me up to March of this year, what the heck have I been doing since then, you might ask? Oh, nothing much. Just supervising a literary explosion.

The Summer of Ash Falls

Since 2016, I’ve been working on a little project called “Ash Falls.” It is a setting I share with several other very talented authors, all telling tales of dark doings and grim forebodings in a fictional city in Oregon.

I kicked the whole thing off with the novel Inheritance. Then, for a year and a half – not a peep has been heard out of the city. I’ve added authors, edited books, rejected short stories, and generally made a nuisance of myself for two years now, waiting for the whole project to come to fruition.

And this Summer, it arrived. Hoo, boy, did it ever.

Somehow, it worked out that every single one of our initial novels (with the exception of my original one) was completed within a few months of one another. Instead of a measured release schedule of one or two novels a year, we suddenly were dealing with the release of FOUR novels within a four-month period.

Thus was born the “Summer of Ash Falls” event – a celebration of Ash Falls exploding from one lonely novel to a full back catalog of five novels, with two more on the way before the end of the year.

Since March of this year, I have been editing. I have been suggesting revisions. I have been hammering on release dates and looking over the shoulders of frustrated authors. In general, I have been shepherding this project along like a nervous mother dropping her “gifted child” off for their first day of Pre-K. Sure, I recognize the inherent genius in my authors. But will the rest of the world agree?

So far, the answer has been “Yes.” Pre-orders and sales have been really good, despite our having about $2.49 in Marketing funds to work with.

So, like the proud parent that I am, let me introduce you to my “kids.”

The Lineup Of Unusual Suspects

Never Bring an Axe to a Gun Fight

Surely you need a police procedural featuring werewolves, drunks, and immortal serial killers, yes? Then you need Holly, by William Aime.

What Heaven Didn’t Want, Hell Couldn’t Handle.

What is left when all you ever loved is taken from you by forces you don’t understand? Revenge. In another place and time, Rob, the protagonist of Reborn by Corinne Kunz would be a superhero. In Ash Falls…not so much.

Don’t Look For The Lost

Take one secretive coven, one morally ambiguous witch, and one BIG mistake, and you have Coven Ascending by Joe Mankowski.

And, coming this September to round out the #summerofashfalls event: the immortal bikers of J.M. Koczwara’s A Dead Sun Rises.

And we still have two more titles on the horizon: The Perpetuals and Fallen will be hitting the shelves before the end of 2019. And, if you are so inclined, you could always head back to where it all began and pick up a copy of Inheritance.

The Future’s So Bright…You Know The Rest

And that, gentle readers, brings us to today. The books are written, the editing (mostly) completed, and we are ready to look forward to 2020. Are there sequels coming? You better believe it. We won’t just leave you hanging on the fates of Brian Drake, Lydia Pike, and the rest of the residents of Ash Falls.

As far as Misdirected is concerned – yes, I should be getting back to a semi-regular writing schedule now. I will talk about what I am writing, what I am thinking, and what I am observing as usual. And I will NOT participate in NaNo this year. Nope. No sir. Not me.

As far as fitness-related info is concerned…there is not much to report. The results of the bariatric surgery are still holding up pretty well. I am all the way up to 189 (from 175), mainly due to the lack of dedicated physical activity that results from sitting in front of a monitor 24/7. But, my waistline is down to 34 inches and I can still hike 10 miles without collapsing afterward, so I am not terrifically worried. I just need to buckle back down and put in some time at the gym instead of just walking around the neighborhood to clear my head.

Thanks for all the concerned inquiries about where I’ve been and what has been up. I look forward to re-engaging with all of you in the weeks and months to come.

Sharpening My Pencil And Putting On My Sunglasses,

  • Jeremy

NaBlogWriMo 12: Turning “Now” Into A Place Worth Being (Overcoming Perfectionism and Getting Published)

(One of the coolest things about running a shared universe like Ash Falls is that you are forced to interact with other authors. You know…” sharing.” And what is especially exciting is when you discover a new author hiding in plain sight.

Our compatriot, K. Edwin Fritz, did just that in a coffee shop in New Jersey when he struck up a conversation with Jeanette Koczwara. That conversation led, eventually, to the creation of Ash Falls’ immortal biker gang from ancient Persia.

When I needed someone to put together some thoughts on moving from thinking about writing to becoming a published writer, she seemed like a pretty obvious choice. 

Take it away, Jeanette!)

Notebooks, Gremlins, and Tea

Now that we got past the overly inspiring title, a little introduction is in order.

Some of you may know me as the author of A Dead Sun Rises, one of the latest series to be added to the Ash Falls Storyverse. Some of you might not know me at all (but now you do, and it’s too late to change that). And some of you actually know the truth; that I am actually five (5) gremlins loosely held together by knitwear, empty notebooks, and cheese wrappers, and kept running with unhealthy quantities of tea.

You might be wondering how five gremlins were able to pull together something remotely publishable. Here’s the secret: I said “good enough” and hit send.

(It may have been more colorful than that)

Until a year ago I had always envisioned publishing as something far off in my future. That it wouldn’t happen until I finished one of the many stories I’ve started. And even if I found the time to finish something I would need to edit it and write a second draft and edit that and write a third draft and…

You get the picture.

Declaring something “done” couldn’t happen unless it was perfect. And it couldn’t be perfect unless I had the time to perfect it. And I didn’t have that time right now.

I didn’t have that time because there were other things I needed to do first. I needed to find a “real” job. I needed to have my own place. I needed to put on all the trappings of a fully functional adult before I could stop feeling guilty about the time I spent on my unimportant hobbies.

So I never finished anything, because that was for future me. I never took up an instrument like I always wanted, because that was for future me. I neglected reading, because, you guessed it, only future self-sufficient me deserved to spend her time like that.

And I was miserable.

Arriving At The Future

I was pushing myself through jobs I hated. I wasted my free time never quite doing what I enjoyed. I became an anxious mess about everything I did.

Then, I came to a self-discovery. If I keep putting aside all of the things I loved about life, waiting for everything to be perfect, I would never get around to doing them. Future Me didn’t exist yet and Now Me needed to be happy.

I started by finding a local writers’ group. I dedicated myself to writing that one book I always wanted to finish (it’s not finished yet but we have 70k+ words in act 1). I picked up the doorstop I wanted to read and took it everywhere I went. Even if none of it was going to advance my status as a “productive unit in the economy” it made me happy.

During one writers’ meetup, I met K. Edwin Fritz (author of The Perpetuals) and he introduced Fiction Vortex to me. The concept immediately struck me as new, creative, and above all fun. But I still wasn’t considering it as an opportunity for myself (see above).

Then Khurshid came roaring through one of my dreams, a sword of star iron blazing, and I had a story to tell. Then I wrote it. And prepared the email. And proceeded to sit on it for nearly two months.

Because it wasn’t perfect.

Finally, in a caffeine-deprived haze, I mentioned I had this email sitting there and considered aloud whether I should just send it. Myself responded, with outside support, that I should just say “good enough” and hit send.

And now here we are. Episodes 1-4 are available on the StoryShop app!

In a proverbial nutshell, don’t feel guilty for doing what makes Now You happy because Future You doesn’t exist and Now You will only be happier if Past You was happy too.

P.S. I did buy that instrument, too. It’s a GuQin (Chinese zither), and, boy, does it make me happy to bumble along teaching myself with no outside or inside expectations.  

(Follow Jeanette and the continuing adventures of Khurshid in “A Dead Sun Rises” on the Storyshop app.)

NaNoBlogMo 11: National Epilepsy Awareness Month

https://endepilepsy.org/

It seems like you can hardly turn around on the internet these days without bumping into a “Month of” of some kind.

We have months for Obesity Awareness (September), Pet Adoption (October), and Home Ownership (June.) Cancer is especially popular in the “month” category, with Cancer Prevention (February), Brain Cancer (May), and Cancer Survivors (June) all getting months of their own. These, of course, are all dwarfed by the 800-pound gorilla in the “cancer month” room, Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, where you can’t open your eyes without seeing a pink ribbon.

But I normally sort of keep myself out of the whole “month of” thing. There are just too many causes to keep track of, too many things I could be paying attention to, to feel like any one of them deserves more attention than the others. Pick a cause you care about, I tend to think. Work diligently on behalf of that cause all the time. Pay no attention to what month it is.

Then November rolls around, and all my logic flies out the window. There are two BIG barn-burners of causes that I care about that take place during the month of Turkey Day. And I would be remiss if I didn’t chat a bit about them.

The Epilepsy Imbalance

So, how many people do you think will suffer from breast cancer in the upcoming year? (Stick with me, there is a point coming.)

In the United States, over a quarter of a million women suffer from breast cancer annually. Of that 250,000+, more than 40,000 will die from the condition. Over 3.1 million women total have a history of breast cancer in the United States. (All statistics courtesy of www.breastcancer.org)

Now, off the top of your head, how many people do you think suffer from Epilepsy in the U.S.?

About 3.4 million.

It is tough to track deaths from epilepsy since it so easy to have a seizure that then results in death from a secondary cause. But about 50,000 people will die from status epilepticus alone this year. (Status epilepticus is the medical term for “prolonged seizures” – seizures that last longer than 5 minutes.)

The federal government spends roughly five times as much money on the fight against breast cancer than on epilepsy research.

Now, don’t think for a minute that I am upset about the amount of money spent on breast cancer research. God bless the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the millions of women (and men as well) who worked tirelessly to get breast cancer awareness to where it is today.

Breast Cancer used to be a “hidden disease”, see – something that those suffering from it were ashamed to talk about. Over the decades its advocacy groups have dragged it from a hidden disease all the way to pink ribbons and “Save The Ta-Tas” t-shirts.

No, what I am saying is Epilepsy needs its own Susan Komen Foundation. Specifically, we need our own Nancy Brinker. (Susan Komen’s younger sister, who created the Foundation.)

November is National Epilepsy Awareness Month

So, this month is Epilepsy Awareness Month and, as usual, the epilepsy community is trying hard to get the word out about our condition. But, somehow, it just doesn’t seem to resonate outside of those immediately affected by epilepsy.

Part of that is straight-up bad press. Our country still believes, after all these centuries, that epilepsy and conditions like it need to be kept in the shadows. We still live in a world where one of the most popular sportswriters in our country feels comfortable saying that a college coach shouldn’t be allowed to coach due to his seizure disorder. (This represents the final time I ever read anything by Peter King or gave a penny in revenue to Sports Illustrated, btw.) And Peter King is not alone.

Also, the disability is, frankly, unattractive and disconcerting to those who have to watch it in action. Nothing sexy here, folks. For most of human history, seizures were mischaracterized as demonic possession, and for good reason: it really looks (and feels) like the controls to the body have been handed off to an extra-dimensional entity. Honestly, it is scary as hell. Scary to watch, scary to live through.

Lastly comes the problem of advocacy. The great majority of us with the condition are under some kind of pharmacological treatment. The drugs prescribed almost always impair our brain function in some way: seizures are, after all, hyper-active brain function. This means that it is tremendously difficult for those of us suffering from the condition to communicate intelligently about the condition. I can write about it fairly coherently, but put me up in front of a crowd of people to talk about it, and it all goes to hell: I turn into a stuttering, stammering mess who can’t remember what points I covered 30 seconds before. The wonders of life with a seizure disorder.

Add these things together and you have a soup that tastes like “no funding here, thanks.”

Extinguishing The House Fire

It all comes down to the old concept: it is very difficult to put out the house on fire while you’re inside the house.

The majority of us know so little about seizure disorders to begin with. Quick: name the one thing you remember from grade school about what to do with someone who is having a seizure.

More than half of you just said some variation of “Put something in their mouth so they won’t swallow their tongue.”

I sincerely hope that whoever came up with this wisdom never had to deal with someone having a seizure. If you ever come across a person having a seizure, do NOT, under any circumstances, try to put something in their mouth. They will merely damage the inside of their mouth even worse. My cheeks and tongue look like war zones after a seizure.

(Let me take this moment to tell you what to do: give the person some space. If you don’t know them well enough to know their seizure frequency, call 911. When their seizure ends, tell them what happened, and be prepared for them to be completely disoriented. Done.)

Down at the grade school level we need to change the narrative pertaining to seizure disorders.

We need the same thing on a local and federal level. People need to be willing to talk to politicians. We need individuals who are willing to donate to charities like the Epilepsy Foundation.

And, more than anything else, we need people who are willing to talk about epilepsy. Not to shrug and pretend it doesn’t exist.

Seriously, look at the numbers: if you know 100 people, you know someone with epilepsy. Just like if you know 100 people, you know someone who has survived or is going through breast cancer.

The great majority of women with breast cancer are now understood to be the warriors and heroines that they are. I can only hope that, someday soon, those of us with epilepsy are recognized in the same way.

Though I must admit I doubt anyone will ever come up with a slogan for epilepsy that has the punch of “Save the Tatas.” Brilliant.

But, ultimately, it is ok if we don’t get our own snappy marketing slogan and pink ribbon equivalent.

At this point, we will take whatever help we can get.

Talk To Someone About Epilepsy. Today.

  • Jeremy

 

 

NaBlogWriMo 10: The Ash Falls Update

Ha! Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water. Nope, NaBlogWriMo is still going strong. We’ve got the back half of November to get through, and lots of content still to come.

Who’da thunk it?

It seemed like as good a time as any to chat a little about my other writing project. As the Storyverse Head for the Ash Falls setting at Fiction Vortex, I am not only responsible for creating episodic fiction every month, but also for editing, reviewing, coordinating, and cat-herding eight other authors.

So, if you’ve been wondering why I never have time to do things like write blog posts, now you know.

As we near the end of 2018, we are coming up on some exciting new developments in Ash Falls. Let me bring you up to speed on where everyone is at…

Inheritance

The original story in Ash Falls, Inheritance follows Private Investigator Brian Drake as he investigates the assassination of one of the prime figures in Ash Fall’s supernatural underworld. If you have any interest in noir, an introduction to the Ash Falls setting, and seriously fragmented protagonists, this is the story for you. The first few episodes are available on the StoryShop app.

And, hey, the whole novel is already available at Amazon, in both print and ebook form. You could even email me and I can make arrangements to get you a signed copy! After all, Christmas is coming…

The Perpetuals

So, have you ever put any thought into what happens into what happens to those who have only been bitten by a vampire once or twice?

If you haven’t, no problem. K. Edwin Fritz has a whole book dedicated to exactly that concept in The Perpetuals. His colorful cast of “dhampir” characters takes you on a twisting tale from the back streets of Ash Falls through the Egyptian Underworld.

The first eight episodes of The Perpetuals are currently available on StoryShop.

Fallen

From the darkest recesses of Steve Cotterill’s mind comes Fallen – a book with so many twists and turns you may need to keep notes to keep track of plot developments. Fallen takes place mostly in the spaces outside of Ash Falls – the nether realm where those spirits that can’t move on exist, forever trapped.

Fallen episodes 1 through 9 are currently available, and we breathlessly await the series conclusion in episode 10.

Reborn

What if you were given a power beyond all imagining? And what if that power took everything you ever loved from you?

Corrine Kunz’ Reborn follows a protagonist who has had supernatural power thrust upon him, against his will. He must reach inside himself for strengths he did not know he possessed, and search for allies in the darkest reaches of Ash Falls to recover that which has been taken from him.

Reborn is currently being prepared for publication and should be available in print and ebook formats before the end of 2018.

As I said, Christmas is coming…

Holly

The madman steering us into to Season 2 of the Ash Falls Storyverse, William Aime, brings us Holly. Because what Ash Falls really needed was a police procedural involving a supernatural serial killer from the depths of British history.

Holly is drawing near its conclusion, with the first 7 episodes currently available on StoryShop! Get on board now!

A Dead Sun Rises

Imagine, if you will, an immortal band of ancient cavalry, doomed to eternally pursue their divine foe across the world. Now imagine what that cavalry unit would look like today

When 10,000 motorcycle-riding warriors ride into Ash Falls, things get really interesting. With an equal focus on ancient history and modern-day action, J.M. Koczwara’s A Dead Sun Rises opens Ash Falls to the wider world.

Coven Ascending

And, our most recent addition to Ash Falls, Joe Mankowski tells the tale of a boy, a girl, and a coven bent on domination of the Underworld. The first three episodes are currently available on StoryShop.

StoryShop 2.0

So, you may be asking, what is this “StoryShop” I keep mentioning?

StoryShop is our replacement for the former “Fictionite” reader app. If you ever downloaded Fictionite, relax – you are now the proud owner of the StoryShop client. Your library is intact.

But…if you weren’t an early adopter, and you just can’t wait to get your hands on all this juicy Ash Falls fiction, all is not lost! Just open up the device of your choice (Apple or Android) and look for the StoryShop app in your App Store. Install it, and get to all that fabulous reading that awaits you!

Now…what’s the catch, you may ask? Good question. As an early adopter, you’ll have access to all our episodic fiction, not just the Ash Falls Storyverse. And, while we get the wrinkles ironed out of StoryShop, you’ll have access for free.

StoryShop will eventually (Real Soon Now) be converting over to a micro-transactional model for access to all our glorious content. But, until that day arrives…well, why not take advantage now? Check it out, kick the tires…and when we flip the switch, you’ll be ready to jump on board and buy a subscription so that you can keep on receiving high-class fiction every week.

Only the cool kids recognize the trends that are about to change the world and jump on board before everyone else.

You want to be one of the cool kids, don’tcha?

Catch You All Tomorrow,

  • Jeremy

 

NaBlogWriMo 9: The Seven Minute Solution

So, after yesterday’s kinda depressing admission that I am no longer working out, I found myself motivated. Even if I can’t talk myself into going to the gym, surely there is something I could do here, right? I began hunting around the internet and the App Store, searching for a solution.

Zen Labs To The Rescue?

I found one that looked kind of intriguing.: The “7-minute workout” by Zen Labs. You know, the company that produces the C25K program that got me prepped for my very first 5k back in May of 2017.

Now, I was going into this with a healthy amount of skepticism. Any personal trainer will tell you that you really need at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise, 5 days a week, to stay healthy.

However, I also know that ANY minutes are better than NO minutes. Accordingly, I downloaded it on my iPad from the App Store. While I waited, I put on some gym shoes and busted out the yoga mat.

The program seems to have several different varieties. Some were for core work, others were listed as “advanced”, etc. I decided to go straight to “original.” It looked like 12 exercises I was already familiar with. My skepticism returned. How the heck were you going to get any kind of benefit out of 12 exercises in 7 minutes? Doubtful but hopeful, I pressed the “Start” button.

  1. Jumping Jacks. Well, the graphics are nice, anyway. You get a 10-second countdown, then 30 seconds to perform jumping jacks. I managed 29. I checked my Fitbit: heart rate at 76.
  2. Wall Sit. After a 10-second rest break, next up was the Wall Sit. The first challenge: finding a clear wall to use. There is exactly zero wall space available in my living room, so I was forced to head into the adjoining hallway. Once that was sorted out, I launched the counter. I knew I was paying the price for my time off when, with 20 seconds remaining on the counter, my quadriceps began quivering like Jello. Uh-oh.
  3. Push-ups. Well, shit. Literally my all-time least favorite exercise. I hated them in gym class in Junior High, and I still hate them now. I managed to wobble my way through 15, with very poor form, and arrived at the next 10 second rest period.
  4. Abdominal Crunch. Oh, good. From my least favorite to one of my favorites. What I didn’t anticipate was that this would be the point where I got some “help”. Our dachshund, Delilah, just couldn’t stand the idea that Dad was lying on the floor without licking him on the nose. Repeatedly. I struggled through 22 reps while fending off the dog without using the hands that were clasped behind my head. Heart Rate: 83.
  5. Chair steps. Somewhere in the depths of my garage, there is a full set of aerobic steps. Rather than interrupt my workout for 20 minutes to locate them, I just grabbed a handy step stool. 30 seconds of alternating steps finally got the heart moving a little, with my heart rate hitting 90.
  6. Squats. Simple body weight squats here. I focused on form and inhaling/exhaling and made it through 11. 
  7. Triceps Dip. The program recommends a kitchen chair for their triceps dip. Moving all this gear into the living room was turning into a workout in and of itself. Triceps dips are actually very tricky to keep good form through. It is so easy to start incorporating your back or your shoulders instead of the targeted muscles. I went slowly, making sure my triceps wobbled with every rep and got through 12. Unfortunately, my focus dropped my heart rate all the way back down to 60. 
  8. Plank. Yet another exercise where my form was victimized by fending off doggie kisses. I probably only held the plank position for a total of 20 seconds out of the 30 the program called for. 
  9. High knees running in place. I think I might have mentioned that I write in the morning. Usually still in my pajamas. I might have also mentioned that the “beach ball” of fat that used to sit on my abdomen is now a collection of rolls of deflated skin. To combat the movement of all this skin I normally wear compression underwear and tight exercise gear, to keep it all in place while I move. In pajamas…not so much. I wound up having to hold my abdomen in place with one hand while running to avoid injuring myself. At least my heart rate got back up to 91. 
  10. Lunges. I swear, I must be the only person on the planet who keeps falling off the floor when doing lunges. My lunge form has always been something that instructors have tried to help me with. The corrections have never helped. The heel of my back foot comes up off the floor, and I tip over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 22 reps, but at least I didn’t fall all the way over and wake Lor up.
  11. Push-up with rotation. What, more push-ups? Really? Sigh. These incorporate a lovely side plank yoga movement at the end of each rep, so at least there is some variety. Also, my aforementioned balance isn’t good enough for “perfect” form where you actually lie one foot on top of the other at the end of the movement. Baby steps, I suppose. 
  12. Side planks. Another one that many people have trouble with, but doesn’t bother me much. And, a minor quibble here: you should do side planks on both sides. The timer only runs you through one side, then pronounces your workout as “Complete.” I flipped over, counted slowly to 30, and pronounced myself done.

An Incomplete Solution

So, my final analysis?

Well…it was OK.

I mean, don’t get me wrong. Doing anything is better than doing nothing. And I’ve been doing nothing for a couple months now, so this was a vast improvement over somnolence.

But…(and it is a BIG but), is this something that I would recommend to a normally active person who was crunched for time? Probably not.

The problem, for me, lies in the heart rate. The entire premise behind the 7-minute workout is that it is supposed to be a HIIT workout – High-Intensity Interval Training. You need to get your heart pumping over a certain plateau in order to be realizing the “Intensity” part of the exercise. And even a fairly healthy beginner should have been doing better than 91 beats a minute. A male my age should be somewhere between 105 to 140 beats per minute to be getting an “Intermediate” workout.

Now, who would I recommend this for?

Me, two and a half years ago, as I was getting prepped for bariatric surgery. This would have been a godsend for me during the months immediately before and after surgery, as I was trying to learn how to move again.

Now, there are a host of other “7-minute” programs out there, including a highly recommended one produced by Johnson and Johnson, so I may give that one a whirl. It supposedly incorporates exercises and intensities for those of us who aren’t totally new to exercise but need to get some work in during a time crunch.

I am crossing my fingers in hopes of finding a solution that doesn’t force me out into the cold, cold world. Wish me luck.

Catch You All Tomorrow,

  • Jeremy