COVID 19 and Troy Lambert Books

COVID 19 and Troy Lambert Books

There is a lot of panic out there, and you’ve probably heard from just about everyone about how they are responding to COVID 19. So I won’t repeat all of their advice: 

  • Wash your hands
  • If you’re sick, stay home
  • Use common sense and keep living, with reasonable precautions if you are immunocompromised.

Oops. I did share some of that advice. Sorry. Force of habit by now. 

First, all in-person events that are scheduled are still happening, but audiences may be limited, and that may change at any time. Stay tuned to this page or follow me on social media to keep posted. 

Here is what I will say. Probably the most devastating effects of this situation will be to small businesses in your area who don’t operate with the margins that big stores and companies do. This probably includes your local writer friends, who often work other day jobs for a living so they can continue to create and your local independent bookstore. 

If you love those businesses, here is some advice for you to help them if you can. 

  • Buy gift cards now that you or others can use later.
  • Order through Grub Hub for other services from your favorite local restaurants. May have waived commission fees, so even if you can’t get out, you can support them.
  • Order physical books from your local, independent bookstore. Ours is Rediscovered Books, and you can visit their website and order our books there. Amazon will weather this outbreak just fine. Your local bookstore might not without your support.
  • Buy books or art from your local authors or artists. This is how they survive, and normal events they depend on for their living are being canceled or postponed right and left. Whether you buy their books in digital or physical format, they’ll benefit.
  • If they offer any ordering options online, use them. Small businesses need your revenue now if you can afford it.

That being said, I know better than most what it is like to be broke, and unable to afford basic needs let alone books and entertainment or supporting local businesses. Maybe you own one of those businesses or you are a creator who works a day job and struggles to make ends meet.

I’ve been there. I still am from time to time. So I have something for you. 

In support of anyone who is suffering either financially, physically, or both from COVID 19, click on one of the links below to get any of the books listed there for FREE in digital format. I only ask one thing in return: that you subscribe to my newsletter. You can unsubscribe at any time, even right away. 

But as I do all the time, but especially over the next month, I will be sharing about free or sale priced eBooks to help you fill your time without breaking the bank. 

I always appreciate book reviews too, so if you read my work and enjoy it, feel free to leave a review or even email me with what you think.

Of course, I also have one FREE story a week, every week, on my blog for the next year. Check out the Solitaire Series, and keep up without spending a dime.  

If you are one of those who are doing just fine through this crisis, please purchase books from the author of your choice. 

Remember, we’re all in this together, and we don’t want the crisis to pass only to find it swallowed some of our favorite businesses and people in the meantime. Stay safe, care for yourself, and care for others whenever you get a chance.  

The Solitaire Series: The Nine of Spades

The Solitaire Series: The Nine of Spades

The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear here, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.

Throughout the series, there will be collections of stories, and we will even be producing some really cool swag along the way. Watch for contests, prizes, and even some fun “in-person” events. Let’s get started.

Nine of Spades

Three Months Ago

To say the decor was ornate would be an understatement. The room was open save four giant pillars strategically placed to hold up a vaulted ceiling. There were eight windows, four on each side, but no light came through them, not just because it was midnight on a moonless Saturday. Shutters held fast by iron latches held the light at bay.

The only light came from several torches set in holders affixed to the walls. The floor was wooden, clearly hardwood with a faded path going down the center, and paths with the same wear leading to either side. Viewed from above, they would have formed a cross, the center one leading to the altar up front.

Once a church, Stephan thought. But there are no pews now, and no one is here tonight for a holy purpose.

The figure came at him, dressed all in black. It moved with grace and smoothness that didn’t match its large form. Stephan prepared himself, dropping into a defensive stance and focusing.

His opponent’s face wasn’t visible. It was hidden behind one of those ridiculous black masks, like the ones you see in ninja movies. His feet were clad in those silly black booties.

Stephan wore a loose-fitting shirt, jeans, but stretchy ones that weren’t overly tight or restrictive, and Chuck Taylor’s basketball shoes. They were light, had just enough traction, and were so common even if he did leave a footprint at the scene of some unfortunate and perhaps questionably legal events, no one could trace them back to him.

He focused on his breathing and watching his opponent’s core as he moved. You could fake a punch or a kick, but there were things that always gave away your movements first. Stephan was trained to see those things.

He blocked a kick aimed for his head and blocked the striking foot as its owner tried to kick him in the kidneys, then the knee. Each blow fell short, but with every block, he felt the power in that leg.

This was no amateur. If he got past his defenses, Stephan would be down, hurt at least.

And so the dance began.

Punch, blocked.

Kick, blocked.

Each blow was audible with its force.

Stephan stepped forward to give the elusive figure a test.

Sweeping kick, low. His opponent jumped. Stephan stepped in, threw a blow intended for the sternum. It was blocked, but the figure staggered for a second.

There it was. Weakness. Not a big one, but—

A counterpunch came toward his head, and he ducked and covered, a good thing. Another strike aimed for his ribs stung his bicep instead.

Bruise number one.

Adrenaline meant he didn’t stop. Instead, he countered himself. Faked a kick, turned it into a knee that landed on a thigh muscle. Not the intended target, but it elicited an “Oof.”

Both fighters were panting now, but neither said a word. There were no strange grunts other than those of pain as they traded blows.

A kick to the ribs got through, and Stephan gasped, but covered and countered with a powerful punch of his own. His opponent hissed, drawing breath between clenched teeth.

He followed that punch with another and another, body shots intended to tire as much as wound. Fast tiny punches landed one after the other, and his opponent went purely defensive, darting free of his range and grasp, staying at a reasonable distance, trying to recover.

“Come on,” Stephan said once he had enough breath to speak. “Let’s finish this.”

The figure in black stopped moving, standing perfectly still, silent. Steel gray eyes stared through him, around him, anywhere but at him.

Stephan approached, cautious. He stared.

He could do anything. The black-clad menace was just standing there.

The figure was taller than Stephan, with wider shoulders and a long reach. But there was something—

A kick, fast and smooth, struck the side of his head. He spun, letting himself absorb the momentum he could, but the dark figure moved faster, following him. Another blow landed, this time on his shoulder, pushing him off balance again. Then a foot struck the back of his knee, sending him pitching forward. The floor rushed up to meet his face.

Stephan tried to perform a shoulder roll but missed horribly. His head struck the hardwood under their feet, and the maneuver turned into an odd flop.

He rolled to his back, ready to defend, and saw the figure standing over him, motionless.

“Jesus, that’s creepy,” he said.

A foot moved, but he was fast enough to grab the slipper clad heel, spinning it with all his strength. His opponent staggered and struck the opposite wall with a thud.

Stephan rolled to his feet in an effective but not a graceful manner and pursued the fight. He was on the figure in three quick strides.

Thud went the blow to the ribs.

Thud went the blow to the back.

Thud went the blow directed at the head as it struck an arm.

Now the figure lay, rather than stood, still.

Stephan waited.

No single blow had knocked this person out or done enough damage that they could not move. No. This was intentional, designed to draw him in.

“Who are you, anyway? I’m supposed to meet—“

You can now find the rest of this story, the second in the Solitaire Series on Amazon. Check out the next in the series, The King of Hearts on my blog, and you can now find the first story on Amazon here. Be sure to follow this blog for regular updates!

The Solitaire Series: The Nine of Spades

The Solitaire Series: Six of Diamonds

The Solitaire Series Reminder: Each week, a story will appear here, and be free to read for one week only. The next story will take its place, and the first story will be available on Amazon and other e-retailers. But if you follow this blog, you can read the stories for free every single week! Read more about the Short Story Deal here.

Throughout the series, there will be collections of stories, and we will even be producing some really cool swag along the way. Watch for contests, prizes, and even some fun “in-person” events. Let’s get started.

Six of Diamonds

“Are you kidding me? Six of diamonds?”

The card sat face up on the green felt with two still upside-down underneath it.

“No, sir. Six of diamonds it is.” The dealer’s vest stretched over his belly, and the buttons strained to keep it closed. It had probably been two sizes too small two years ago. On top of his shoulders and a neck replaced by a gigantic second chin, sat a round face with a neatly trimmed beard. The top of his head was shaved clean, male pattern baldness revealed in the stubble.

“I don’t have time for a six of anything. I have a flight to catch. Re-deal.”

“That’s against the rules, sir.”

“Screw the rules. You know what I do for this organization?”

“I’m fully aware, sir.”

Beady eyes looked at him coldly, and Stephan knew he as screwed. He could do this job or be censured.

That wasn’t an option.

“Fine,” he said and scooped up the card. It’s not like I wanted to start the year on a good note anyway.”

“Have a fine day, sir. See you again soon.”

Stephan didn’t reply. Instead, he strode with purpose across the casino. As he did, he pulled his phone from his pocket.

“Yes,” he said when a mechanical voice answered. “I need to reschedule a flight.”

The rest of the story is now available for purchase on Amazon here, or you can read with Kindle Unlimited for FREE! The Solitaire Series: The Six of Diamonds. If you loved it, feel free to leave a review!

Read the next story for free here, The Nine of Spades!

The Solitaire Series: The Nine of Spades

Riding a Bicycle: The Solitaire Series Starts This Week

There are several aspects to launching something like the Solitaire Series, even since it is just a series of short stories for my blog that will later translate to being available on Amazon. One of them is that even if you are just posting short stories on Amazon, you need to have covers, keywords, and other items in place.

And I had a brilliant idea: I would use playing cards for each cover since that is where the name of each story comes from, but instead of just using regular playing cards, I would use special ones.

Copyrighted Images and Book Covers

What a simple concept. You buy a deck of cards you like. My wife has a wonderful camera, so taking hi-res photos was no problem at all. We’d just get a piece of black felt or even construction paper, take the photos, and send them to my cover designer. Simple, right?

However, just because you own a deck of cards does not mean you own the copyright to the images on them. So I ordered a few decks of cards that I really liked and contacted Bicycle Card Company.

The thing is, they actually have a portal for this kind of thing. If you want to use images of their cards in various creative endeavors, you can, as long as you get permission. You have to pick a specific product to query about, so I did that, following all of their instructions.

And I was encouraged. I got an email back asking me for details about the project, which I promptly provided. And then…

Nothing. I waited, and waited, and waited.

I sent a follow-up email.

And waited. And waited some more.

Purchasing Rights

Regardless, you can’t violate copyrights, not with a book cover, and not with anything really. And as a creator, I’m actually happy about that. I want photographers to get paid for their images, musicians to get paid for their music, writers to get paid for their writing, and even playing card designers to get paid for their designs.

There are even websites with tools where you can create your own deck of cards. Cool, huh?

Except I’m not a designer, and frankly my time is better spent writing. So on to the next step.

I began a search for royalty-free card images, preferably vector images that could be resized without losing any resolution. I tapped my cover designer, Elle Rossi of Evernight Designs, once I found one, she bought the rights to the “deck” and we were off.

The covers are amazing, of course. She always does a great job. Would I have liked to have some cool Bicycle card designs on the cover? Sure. But timing is everything, and theirs was nothing but bad. If they get back to me later, would I consider making changes? Maybe. But it might not be cost-effective then.

A Reminder of How the Solitaire Series Works

I wrote a blog post about this series in an article explaining the Solitaire series, but here’s a reminder about the deal with this series, although you can read details about the Solitaire code and the organization portrayed in the books in the original post.

Essentially, I am doing a short story challenge this year, writing a story a week.

Each one will be based on a playing card, drawn from a shuffled deck.

  • The only thing I have rigged is the final card, the Ace of Spades. Until them, whatever card I draw that week is what I must title my story and therefore include as a primary element of it.
  • All the stories take place in the same world, and there are recurring characters and themes.
  • Every week, a new story will appear on my blog here. It will stay there for only one week. Immediately after that, it will appear on Amazon (and later other places) for sale, and a new story will take its place.
  • There will be links to where you can purchase the stories, and throughout the next year, there will be eBook collections of each and even a couple of print editions of those collections.
  • There will be audiobooks of the series, coming soon after the print series.
  • We’ll have some podcasts from time to time with guests, interviews with readers, and other great stuff.
  • There may even be contests, prizes, and merchandise to go with it all.

Remember, if you keep up with this blog, you can always read stories for free. If you love them or want to take your time reading them later, you can do that too, and they will always be cheap. For the first 90 days, they will be available in Kindle Unlimited, so if you have that service, you can still read them for free until they expand to broader distribution.

If you’re not a Kindle user, you can always email me, and I’ll get you a link to the stories in another format.

The easiest way to keep up is to subscribe to this blog and to subscribe to my newsletter (see the form below). There will be once a month updates and all kinds of other information about various projects throughout the month.

Let’s have some fun! Who’s ready for the first Solitaire story, “Six of Diamonds”? Raise your hands! Share your photo of you raising your hand with me on social media with the hashtag #SolitaireSeries, and you could win a great prize!

The Short Story Deal: One Deck of Cards and a Short Story Every Week

The Short Story Deal: One Deck of Cards and a Short Story Every Week

“The short story challenge, “I heard from somewhere beside me. Two fellow writers were talking.

“Short story challenge?” I said. I’m always up for a challenge, and this sounded new, different.

“Yeah. You write a short story, at least two thousand words long, every week, for an entire year.”

The wheels in my head started to turn.

“You can totally do it. You write really fast,” one friend said (If you are reading this, you know who you are).

“I could,” I said. I drew that last word out like I was hesitating, but I really wasn’t. I was thinking about how I could do it, what set of prompts I would use that would last an entire year, and just as important to me, how I would share it with my readers.

That’s how the idea was born. Here are some more facts about the stories, and how you’ll be able to read them soon.

The Idea

Fifty-two weeks. That made me think of a deck of cards. I followed the idea further. Each card could be its own prompt. I could shuffle them—no, I could plan ahead maybe. No scratch that. Shuffle. That makes it more of a challenge, right?

Because I don’t know which card is coming next week. So I started to research things like bridge, pinochle, poker, and even go fish. What game would I use? I was going to write fifty-two short stories in a row, all the same universe, the same genre.

Then I would bundle them as I went along, into novella sized things, then a giant book at the end of the year. This fits in well with my Million Word Challenge that I’m undertaking this year. The first idea was to write fifty-two locked room type mysteries, similar to a game we played as kids. Then I read an article while doing research for something else (you never know where your next idea will come from) and I came across this:

The Solitaire Cipher

Spies use codes all the time, but there is one that is nearly unbreakable. It’s called the solitaire cipher, and you can read about it in detail here, and even create your own code if you want to. It’s a complex, six-deck shuffle algorithm that isn’t dependent on a computer or another device, just a deck of cards. Once you have gone through the complex code setting process, you take another deck of cards, manually arrange them just like the first deck, and hand it to the person you’re going to send the message to.

You never use the same shuffle to send two messages, so the code changes constantly. There are millions of possible code combinations, and although a complex computer program can break the code if you use it twice, the simple use of cards, done properly, will defeat NSA level decryption efforts.

So now if you and your friends really want to pass uncrackable notes in class, you have the tools to do so that even your smartest teacher can’t crack, unless they know the code and get their hands on one of your decks of cards. Of course, to decode it, they will need a couple of hours.

The Solitaire Organization

Take it one step further and imagine if you will (said in Rod Sterling’s voice) that there is a secret organization of some sort. Say that has to do with gambling. This organization uses the Solitaire code to communicate, but they also use playing cards as a part of their identity.

If you mess up as perhaps a customer of one of their establishments or as a member of the organization, another member of the organization might come to chat with you, collect the money you may owe, or administer some kind of sinister punishment.

That’s exactly the premise of this series of short stories. They have been fun to create so far, and I hope they’ll be fun for you to read. Here’s how it’s going to work.

You Can Read Each Short Story for Free (For a Limited Time)

Starting in February, stories will be posted on my blog here once a week and will stay there for a week. After that?

Well, after that they’ll be available for sale on Amazon and other eBook retailers. That’s just in case reading them once was not enough, or if you just want your own copy to read anytime you want. They’ll be .99 each.

Bundles and More Fun Stuff

Every once in awhile, I’ll be bundling stories in a novella format. When I have a few of those, probably around June, I’ll release them in print. There will be unique ways to win those print editions or to purchase them.

And the end of the year, there will be a HUGE print edition including all of the stories, including the exciting conclusion story, the one that ties all the other short stories together.

Once a month, I’ll send out a newsletter recapping all the different books from that month. Want to review them as they are published? You can get them for FREE in your chosen format by joining our review team, which gives you access to free copies of my backlist to review, along with things like the Capital City Murders series and more. All we ask is that if you get free books, you leave reviews whenever and wherever possible. While we can’t make you do that, we do appreciate everything you do to support authors.

Cutting the Deck and Picking a Card

Every now and then I will have a contest where the winner gets to tell me to “cut the deck” or shuffle what cards I have left. Or I will let the lucky reader pick a card from the hand I have in front of me at the moment.

The one who wins that chance will also win a cool prize, to be determined at that time. Are you ready to read and play along? Want to engage in a short story challenge of your own? Let me know by shooting me an email info [at]

I look forward to what this year of stories will bring.

Prepping to Write a Million Words in a Year

Prepping to Write a Million Words in a Year

So, if you are reading this, you probably have or are considering joining the million-word challenge this year. That’s fantastic. You have only a few days to get ready. So what steps should you be taking now? Here are some simple tips and tricks.

Set Your Other Writing Goals Accordingly

So if your goal is to write a million words this year, and you break it down into daily chunks of 2,800 words or 4-5K per day with weekends off, you need to have some idea of what you will be writing every single day. In other words, you can’t really start your day without a plan for that many words.

You could do that if you’re going to write a page a day, but this challenge is much harder. You’ll have to plan what you will write and when. You’ll probably need to plan more than one project a day unless you are really dedicated to only one, and super disciplined. Your mind will need variety, and that can only come through planning.

The problem becomes that if you don’t have enough writing planned for the day, you will run out of words long before you reach your word count. Then you’ll be struggling to come up with what to write next. That will produce immediate issues, and it will only take a few days of low output to discourage you.

This means you need to plan to do more writing than you might have originally thought you would do this year, but even each day, week, and month. Remember, eating the elephant is one bite at a time, and you need to plan those bites out daily.

process testing

Test Your Process

No, technically you can’t count any words you write before the first of January, but you can use the last couple days of the year to test your process. Is the time and place you have selected to write going to work for you? How much can you actually write in an hour sprint? Two hours? Split sessions? What works for you?

The more you know about your process and how things work for you, the less likely it will be that you will get behind at the beginning of the challenge trying to figure those things out.

On the other hand, hopefully, you know yourself well enough by this point that you know how and where you work best, and your prime writing time each day. If at all possible, set aside that time for your writing and stick with it.

See how your family will react to your new process and potentially your clients as well if you have freelance work to do. If you still work a day job, be sure your writing schedule works around that schedule as well. You may need to write at lunch or on breaks or both, and that may mean making changes to your routines. Try them out if you are working the last couple days of the year and see how your mind and your body react.

Don’t Neglect Self Care

Get up, stand, and walk around often. Don’t sacrifice sleep or exercise for your writing time. Remember, this is a marathon that lasts an entire year. You can sacrifice sleep for a few days, but after even a few weeks, that will take its toll. So will skipping walking, running, or working out.

Watch your diet too. Writers tend to munch as they write, so make sure if you do you are eating healthy snacks. Drink lots of water too. Hydration may seem like an afterthought when writing, but you will be surprised how much exercising your brain will exhaust your body too. Eat foods that feed your brain, and if you need to take vitamins and supplements to stay sharp.

That means planning to have water wherever you write, having the snacks you may want or need, and to plan for restroom breaks and walking around. If you take the right kind of breaks, you will actually be more creative, refreshed, and efficient when you come back to the keyboard.


Practice Being Distraction Free

Close your email programs and social media, or better yet turn off your Wi-Fi as you write. Put your phone on “do not disturb” and let your significant other, if you have one, and others know that you will be unavailable.

Shut your office or bedroom door if you have to. If music helps you concentrate, use it. If it is a distraction and you need silence to write, shut it off.

Remember, if you are going to meet your goals, you don’t have time to wait for your muse to show up. You must sit down and write without hesitation. This means you must start writing. You can always delete words (you don’t have to subtract them) but you can’t count the words you thought about but did not type.

This means when you sit down, you must be laser-focused. No distractions at all. Use the full-screen mode in word, the distraction-free mode in Scrivener, or another program to keep you from looking at other programs. There are even apps like Write or Die that punish you if you don’t write fast enough either with annoying pop-ups or worse, by eating the words you have written.

The point is that whatever helps you focus the best is what you must do. Practice it for a few days before you start and starting will be even easier.

Prep Your Brain to Write a Million Words

Yes, you need to eat brain food, as we talked about above. However, there are other ways you need to prep your brain as well. You will be working it in entirely new ways. Here are some tips to keep the creative edge.

  • Read: I know, you are spending a lot of time writing. Read too, things in your genre and professional improvement books. Don’t have time? Stop reading as much on Facebook and social media or binge streaming shows less.
  • Take a walk: This can be part of self-care too. Exercise is great for you, but a simple walk will often spark your creativity for your next writing session, or for a transition to your day job. Walking has been proven to improve your brain function. Do it.
  • Limit screen time: If you are writing on a computer, take screen time breaks and cut off your television use at least an hour before bed. Use that time to read or exercise, whatever works best for you. You will sleep better, your eyes will be more rested, and you’ll be more creative.
  • Do meditation: You’ll want to be in the right frame of mind to write. Before you get started, take a few minutes to meditate and clear your mind of whatever you have been doing up to that point. If you can, do the same thing after you finish.

Your brain is the most important tool you have, so use it to its utmost advantage by keeping it sharp and clear. This will take work, but if you don’t care for your brain, this challenge will be even harder for you.

Final Thoughts

As you get ready for your kickoff on the first, think about these things:

  • When writing fiction, leave yourself on a cliffhanger, so that the next day or session, you will want to start writing again to find out what happens.
  • Do the same with non-fiction if possible. If you finish one thing, start another, even if you just put the title and headings of whatever you’re doing next in a document. It will be easier for your brain to drop back into that writing mode when you are ready to get started.
  • Think about ergonomics. People get taken out of this and other writing challenges all the time because their workspace or desk is not set up properly, or the space they have chosen is not conducive to the physical demands and challenges of long writing sessions. If possible, have places in your workspace where you can stand, sit, and recline, and alternate between them when possible. You don’t want to end up with carpal tunnel or other physical ailments that keep you from writing.
  • Try dictation. It doesn’t work for everyone, but you can master it with practice. You can generally talk faster than you can type, so you’ll be more productive if you find a way to make that work for you.

This is a long and hard challenge, but you can do it. There will be some days when it will be easier than others, but the key is to keep going. Evaluate your goals each quarter of the year, and adjust your goal accordingly. There is no shame in lowering your word count goal to one that is more realistic once you find your rhythm and what you can really accomplish. Do that before you quit.

This is a life-changing challenge that will do more for you than just enhance your writing life. Get ready, get set, and when the new year hits, GO!

A Million Words in 2020: How Does This Even Work?

A Million Words in 2020: How Does This Even Work?

So from a late-night Facebook post after doing some goal setting and planning for next year to a group on Discord and Facebook, here we are. I thought when I posted the idea of writing a million words in 2020, a bunch of writers would say things like”

“No way, dude. You’re nuts.” (Better than your nuts, if you know what I am saying grammatically)

“I’m behind you. A long way behind you.”

million words

“I hate you right now. How can you possibly write that much? Oh yeah. You work at home and have all the spare time in the world.”

So here’s the story. First, the first time I tried this, I was still working a day job. And if it had not been for some unfortunate events, I would have made it, too. You can do this no matter what your circumstances.

Second, freelance writing is a job with a lot of non-writing things to do. I wish I had all the time in the world, but I don’t. I know you don’t either. That’s why they call this a challenge.

It won’t be easy. Here are some answers to common questions and an explanation of how this all works.

What Words Can I Count?

The answer I have been giving is simply this: you can count anything you want. This is a very personal challenge, but I would encourage you not to include Facebook posts, personal emails, and similar items. You want to count words that are productive.

The reason is the challenge is not all about getting one million words written in a year, although that is the name of the challenge. The idea is to develop a regular and productive writing habit. There is no waiting on your muse to show up—you have an appointment or time set, and you sit down, and words come out of your fingertips or dictation, or whatever method you choose.

I am counting the following projects:

  • Capital City Murders Novellas (I hope to write 8 this year)
  • Monster Marshals Novellas (I hope for 2 this year)
  • Teaching Moments (Novel)
  • The Good Shepherd (Novel)
  • Short Story Challenge (one short story a week, minimum 2K word count)
  • Freelance and Ghostwriting
  • Writing as a Business for Freelancers (non-fiction)
  • Blog Posts and Web Content

This multitude of projects is one of the reasons I think this is doable for me this year. You can count the things you want, just be sure they are work-related and productive, they further your overall writing goals (you have those, right?), and that what you have planned fills the word count.

How Does This Break Down?

The word count breaks down to just under 2,800 words a day if you write 365 days with no days off. That’s just north of 19,000 words a week. Almost a novel.

As Jim Lambert (not related, but also a writer) put it on our original post, intending to be encouraging: “It’s twice as much a day as NaNo, and twelve times as long.” Okay. Maybe as encouragement that needs a little work. But let’s break it down to what you really can do.

If you write 4-5K words a day, five days a week, you will more than make your word count, and you can still take two days off a week. This also lets you “bank” some words for those inevitable days and weeks when you won’t be able to write at all, or at least not as much. However, you do what works for you.

How Do I Do This?

Promotional plug here: in my book Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing, I break down how to write more, faster in the production section. However, what is breaks down to is this:

  • Set a time and place to write.
  • Keep the appointment with yourself.
  • Trick your brain. Use certain programs to write certain things. Train your muse to show up—you don’t have time to wait for her.
  • Write every day. Make it a habit. That habit will also chemically change your brain, and you won’t be able to not
  • Set your calendar as busy. This means for your kids, dogs, spouse, and anyone else who might interfere with your writing. The key is to be distraction-free.

There are also various methods of writing, from timed sprints to multiple writing sessions a day. If you work a day job, this may mean your breaks and lunch hour will also be spent writing. The key is to do what it takes.

In our Facebook group and on Discord, we will have time for sprints and other writing prompts designed to get you moving. Just be sure to have a method, a time, and a place for your writing. The more structured your writing time, the more successful you will be.

You are also welcome to, and encouraged to, set up write-ins and other gatherings in your area. The idea is to hold each other accountable and encourage you toward your goals.

Falling Behind

Look, there really is not a failure here. We want you to reach a million words, no doubt, but above that, we want you to develop good, solid writing habits. This challenge is not for everyone. The idea behind goals is that they be achievable but challenging. If you can’t dedicate a few hours a day to writing, you probably won’t be able to fulfill this particular challenge.

Instead, set yourself another one you can achieve. Try a quarter or half-a-million-word challenge to start with, or even something simpler like writing a page a day. Do that, and in a year, you have a book written. This is not a place for judgment or bragging.

However, it is a place for encouragement. Need a sprint buddy? Reach out. Want to have a write in to catch up? Post here. Even if we can’t join you physically, we can virtually. Need a pep talk? Reach out to nearly anyone in the group or your own accountability partner. (Please have one. You will need them, and they will need you.)

We want you to catch up and even be ahead. We want you to succeed just like we all want to succeed.

Questions? Ask in the group page, or reach out to me at [email protected] with the subject line “One Million”. I’ll do my best to answer as I can. I may be busy.

I have a lot to write, and so do you.

What will this challenge do for you? I bet it will change your life. The only way for you to find out is to say “Yes.” Join us?

P.S. Feel free to share this post and the group with your friends. Let’s make this an epic year for every writer in our lives.

Stray Ally: My Own Writing Five Years Later

Stray Ally: My Own Writing Five Years Later

Just recently, I got the rights back to one of my books, titled Stray Ally. It did okay in sales, pretty well a few times, and came out in print from a digital publisher. People liked it. There were good reviews on Amazon, and I thought it was a pretty good book overall.

The editor I worked with was thorough and professional. The story idea itself was pretty solid. The publisher I worked with had (and has) a good reputation. The cover was pretty amazing, and professionally designed. A lot of people liked that too. Actually, I still like the old cover.

I thought it would be an easy turnaround. I thought I would simply do a quick brush re-edit and release it with the original cover under my own publisher and brand. Nope. Wrong answer.

The Story

Okay, the story was not bad. Let’s get that out of the way first off. Second, I usually don’t read my books once they are written and published. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I am my own worst critic, as I am sure you are your own. So I could spend my life re-writing those first books, or I can move on and write more and better ones.

But in this case, I had to look. And there were issues. I’ve learned things about story and story structure since then, and I left some important elements out of the story. Enough elements that I was not content to just “put it out there again.”

So I did some re-writing and editing. And the story is better now, one I can live with.

The Editing

I’ve worked as an editor, and I know for a fact that I have gotten better over time. I catch mistakes I never did before, even when it comes to plot, pacing, and story. I’m sure my editor at the time, who is still editing, has gotten better. But there are some things in the old version that I could just not let go.

So I fixed those too. Hopefully, I caught them all, and those who read the book after that caught more. I hope it’s perfect now, and I know it is not.

The Cover

Old cover: great. But new story elements, new editing, all those things told me a new cover was the answer. So I talked to my current designer, and I can tell you that Elle at Evernight Designs knocked it out of the park. The new cover is amazing, and it fits right in with the fact that I have always wanted to turn this book into a series. She also did the cover for Harvested, and many of my other books.

That—well, that is another part of the story.

My Part in All This

Okay, so for a few years I had some personal issues, ones I won’t go into here. So a part of what happened is that I stopped promoting my work in large part, and actually (gasp) took a day job for a while.

The second was that I stopped writing fiction nearly as much. That means the second book in that series—well, it languished. But not anymore. I came out of the other side of that dark passage swinging, writing like crazy. And that meant my muse went: “What about book #2 in that series?”

What about it? The Good Shepherd has had stops, starts, and restarts. But now it is back in the writing mix and ready to be finished. The Dog Complex series is revived.

On September 30, Stray Ally will be revived. You can find it at your favorite e-book seller, and hopefully in print a whole bunch of places too. In fact, you can go to your local bookstore and request that they carry it, or order it for you if you like, or you can order it directly from this website once it is out.

Your own works, five years later? If you are a writer, you might see just how far you have come. For you, the readers? This is probably the best Stray Ally will ever get. But there are more stories coming. I can promise you that.

CCM Presents: The City of Sacramento

CCM Presents: The City of Sacramento

For many of the state capitals we will write about, I have a confession to make. I haven’t spent a lot of time there. But that’s an exception when it comes to Sacramento.

Due to another writing assignment (I also work as a freelancer) I have been traveling to that area frequently since last spring. What that means is I have been able to go to the Capitol Building, take photos like what I have imagined Nick might take, and roam around the city.

I’ve eaten at a few of the places in the book, been to some of the bars, and actually intend to go back again to visit more of the museums and spend a little more “pleasure” time there rather than “work” time.

But there are some things I can tell you (and show you) thanks to photos, about the capital itself, the park surrounding it, and the city of Sacramento.

The Capitol Building

The Capitol Building, much like others in the Unites States, has a design based on the United States Capitol building in Washington D.C. The current building was constructed between 1861-1874. Two earthquakes, pretty uncommon in the Sacramento area, struck within two days of each other in 1892, and the capital was quickly repaired.

It was listed on the National Registry of Historic places in 1973, and a renovation project started in 1974 and ended in 1982, an effort to restore the beauty of the capitol and to make it more earthquake safe.

The chamber rooms where the assembly and senate meet are located at opposite ends of the building. The Senate chamber is modeled after the British House of Lords, or the upper house. The Assembly chambers are based on the British House of Commons, or the lower house.

There are ornate statues, gorgeous floors, and an integrated museum detailing the history of both the Capitol building and the state of California.

The Park

There is a park that surrounds the Capital building, 10 undivided city blocks from 10thto 16th, and from L to N streets. There are a lot of interpretive signs, benches and other places to site, sidewalks and walkways. Walking up to the capitol building through the park gives you a great sense of the building and its history.

Like many other downtown areas, parking is at a premium, but you can find spots along the edge of the park and some surrounding streets, although that is hampered somewhat by construction at the moment.

There is an app like those used in other cities that allows you to pay for and renew parking even if you are not near your car, a good way to save yourself from having to carry change around. Just remember if you are in a rental car to get the plate right, especially if you have other vehicles in the app. Parking enforcement is strict and swift.

Old Town Sacramento

Much of the old town Sacramento historic district was built in the mid-1800’s. There are museums, shops, restaurants, and a great waterfront area along the river. There are wooden sidewalks, restored old buildings and many other attractions in this 28-acre state park that is also a part of the National Register of Historic Places.

There are horse drawn carriages and often living history characters from the Gold Rush era of California’s history.

The Homeless Issue

So you don’t have to drive long through Sacramento, along highway 99 or along the waterfront to see that the city has a homeless problem. There are tent cities and trash in many places.

This is in part due to the climate: even with the hot summers, the sunshine in California is more desirable than the winters further north. It is also in part due to the cost of housing and other factors, but the city and other organizations are looking to make changes that will help. San Diego has developed some very similar tactics, and Sacramento is trying to follow their lead.

Want to help? Here is a link to one of the primary resources for those who are homeless in Sacramento. They can also help you by letting you know the needs of many organizations, should you wish to donate money, your time, or some of both.

I’ve enjoyed getting to know Sacramento and the surrounding area. There are great people, fantastic attractions, and hopefully, no real spree of strangulations.

Want to read our mystery set in Sacramento? Click on this link to see the books in our series so far, and to order the book from our website or your favorite online retailer.

What Happened at the Oregon State Hospital and Why it Matters

What Happened at the Oregon State Hospital and Why it Matters

The Oregon State Hospital, a mental institution in Salem, Oregon and featured in our book, Slaying in Salem, has a dark history. There are stories of abuse, but not just of mentally ill adults. There are stories of children, housed there because they had no other place to go, and under terrible conditions.

One of the worst parts of the story involves the “Library of Dust” or the “Room of Forgotten Souls.” Both refer to a room discovered through an investigation of the institution by The Oregonian. The room contained over 300 copper urns containing the ashes of unclaimed residents who had passed away there. But there was more. Some of those who were buried in a nearby cemetery were moved, and their grave markers removed and discarded.

The abuse of both the living and the dead sparked outrage in the legislature, and the Oregon government began the demolition of some buildings, the renovation of others, and the creation of an entirely new hospital.

The atrocities are not forgotten though. A part of the hospital is now a museum, dedicated to showing the history of the building and the issues with the care for the mentally ill in Oregon and beyond. It highlights a problem:

  • There are more mentally ill patients in jails than in institutions nationwide.
  • The institutions are often very jail like, even maintained by the state Departments of Correction, and offer little in the way of actual treatment.
  • Funding for public mental health has been slashed again and again and again, both at Federal and state levels.

Often, a jail sentence either makes a mental illness worse, or it causes one in someone who previously was not ill. Sometimes, mental illness directly or indirectly caused the offense the prisoner is locked up for.

It isn’t right. We have two choices. Either we as people can step up to encourage our government to increase funding for public health, or we can take care of it on a private basis.

Either way, something needs to be done, and what happened at the Oregon State Hospital is just one illustration of what can be done when the public takes action.

What happens in Slaying in Salem is tragic. But what happened in real life, the back story? That is much more tragic.

Read more and see photos on the Capital City Murders blog.