Tag Archives: romance

DOES KINDLE SCOUT SUCK???

It is Sunday and I’ve got the day off and I intend to do some writing.

But first, let’s talk about Kindle Scout. A lot of people ask me – IS KINDLE SCOUT WORTH IT?

Well, mileage can vary, like they say in the commercials.

My book, KELPIE DREAMS, (available in audiobook later this month), won Kindle Scout back in May 2016. I got a big fat $1500 US advance, which translated to about $2000.00 up here in Canada. That’s a lot of money for this old boy. I paid some bills and even a few frills for my wife. As a direct result my local publisher matched that Kindle Scout advance on my latest regional book.

So that’s definitely worth it.

The only problem is I haven’t managed to sell off that advance yet. I have sold about a 1000 copies of KELPIE DREAMS and am still about $275.00 worth of sales away from turning this into a paying proposition.

So – Kindle Scout sucks, right?

Wrong.

I suck. Not in an oh-heck-I-might-as-well-jump-off-an-asteroid sort of suck. No, no I am talking about a whole different level of suckitude. I have had a rough couple of years losing family and dealing with other personal crisis and my fighting instincts have been dulled down a bit. So I suck. Some of you folk will want to tell me not be so hard on myself, but I don’t blame myself for this level of suckitude that I have unexpectedly acquired. I own it, I accept it and I am taking steps to rise above it. Sitting around and grumbling about the ineptitude of the folks at Kindle Scout would not serve me one little bit – so I will take on that suckitude and conquer it.

Kindle Scout works for some folks.

Let’s take Tom Swyers for example. His book, THE KILDEER CONNECTION, was released in August of 2017 and has sold over 5000 freaking copies.

Is KILDEER a BETTER book than KELPIE? Heck no, but what is true is that Tom Swyers has promoted his release in a heck of a lot more ways than I had ever thought of. Better than that, his KILDEER is #2 in a series, so a significant portion of those 5000 readers who bought a copy of KILDEER have read it and enjoyed it and have gone on to buy a copy of Tom’s first book, SAVING BABE RUTH.

Tom Swyers took what Kindle Scout gave him and made it work.

So – is Kindle Scout worth it?

You bet your sweet patootie it is worth it – but you ought to give some serious thought about what comes next. Be ready for that next move. Have your paperback version ready to hit print in a week or two after the e-book release. Have your promotional material all ready to roll. Have your guest blogs pre-written. Have your Twitter feed all HootSuited up – (or whatever freaking gadget/app/thing-a-ma-bob that you use). Get busy thinking about the next book and your next campaign.

Be ready to work at it.

As for me, I know what I need to do. I am working on that new local book for my traditional publisher. I aim to have it submitted in the next couple of weeks. I have a deadline and I am cooking.

Then I need to get busy working on my next book. I need to get back on my writing machine and start boogying. Enough of wallowing in my own personal funk.

I am NEVER going to blame the folks at Kindle Scout for my own personal suckitude. The fact is, I have worked with at least TWO of the suckiest small press publishers on the planet, over my forty years of pounding keyboards into money and BOTH of those sucky small press so-called-publishers have gone the way of the do-do, meaning that they are done-done!

So I am NOT even going to mention their names, because they are dead and gone – but the point is – I HAVE SEEN THE BEAST OF SUCKITUDE – and Kindle Scout (or Kindle Press) does NOT look a ding-dong-thing like either of them.

So YES – Kindle Scout can work, just so long as you are ready to work too. Be prepared to promote your release and be prepared to follow up your new release with a brand-freaking-new release and don’t just sit there in the funk of your office chair moaning and wondering when Kindle Scout is going to send you some brand new money.

Speaking of money – I still owe about $275.00 on my KELPIE DREAMS advance.

The good news is that KELPIE DREAMS is currently on sale from this Sunday to next Sunday (February 4 to February 11) for 99 cents.

SO – if I can only manage to sell 300 copies of KELPIE DREAMS over the next week I will burn that last bit of advance down to the ground and my book will become a paying proposition!

So please, if you can find the time, pick up a copy of my book for 99 measly cents. If you already have bought a copy, thank you very much, and could you PLEASE shout it out somewhere. On Facebook, on Twitter, even write it on the walls of your washroom at work.

As for me, I’m going to keep on writing.

I am getting down off of the soapbox now.

End of sermon.

 

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 

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“Quirky, strange, weird, bizarre and filled with humor” – BookDragon Nin

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Kelpie Dreams – an excerpt

I’m very proud of KELPIE DREAMS. I wrote this novel with the intention of aiming it directly at Kindle Press – and, thanks to a arduous thirty day Kindle Scout campaign I actually managed to have KELPIE DREAMS selected as a new release for Kindle Press.

That meant a $1500 advance – which came in awfully handy, even though I have already burned it up on paying the bills. It also meant a professional editing of the manuscript – and how was I supposed to know that there was such a thing as a m-dash?

🙂

Well, KELPIE DREAMS has been up for pre-order for the last week or so and on May 10, 2016 the e-book will go live on Kindle and folks will be able to pick it up whenever they want to. If you happen to be a member of Kindle Unlimited you can even read the book for free. In fact, you can read most of my books for free that way these days, as I have put almost all of my e-books into Kindle Select.

Well – enough jibber-jabber. I’d like to take a moment here to share the first chapter with you folks. I hope that you enjoy KELPIE DREAMS.

kelpie


Chapter One—The Color of Mourning

I only wanted to say good-bye. Do you know what I mean by that? I sure don’t. A woman’s last thoughts on this earth really ought to mean something deep and profound, but for some mysterious and inexplicable reason, at this moment all I could really think of was the memory of my mother.

I know what you are thinking. You are saying to yourself that it is only natural to think about the woman who brought you into this world at the moment when you are getting prepared to step out of this world. Well, listen—you have to understand that my mother is one of the strangest human beings whom I have ever had the pleasure—as well as the undeniable displeasure—of knowing and sometimes not knowing. My mother always told me that my middle name should have been Hemorrhoid—partly because that was the only true gift that she ever remembers me giving her during my nine months of slowly getting around to being born—but mostly because, as she put it, I was the world’s greatest pain in the butt.

“Hemorrhoid isn’t really any kind of a name,” the delivery doctor had argued with my mother, after she had quietly confided her choice of a name for her firstborn child to approximately half of the hospital’s five and a half floors’ worth of patients and staff in one long lungful of a screaming shout: “Jesus dying nail-palmed Christ almighty, Margaret Hemorrhoid Sally Anne Macbeth—will you just hurry the Hell up and get born!”

“Hemorrhoid really isn’t a name at all,” the delivery doctor told her. “It is more along the lines of a somewhat irritating medical manifestation.”

“I have an Aunt Hermione,” my mother tartly informed the delivery doctor. “That’s close enough to Hemorrhoid, isn’t it?”

Jazz hands, Mom, big-time jazz hands.

“I want to name the child Hemorrhoid,” my mother insisted. “I have the right to, if I want to do so.”

And yes, indeed—that was most definitely the single biggest jazz hands, hallelujah, and please-pass–the caramel-coated-popcorn moment in my entire lifetime.

Thank God and all the saints in heaven that my mother was a stubborn and staunch Catholic and that the attending priest that she had insisted upon being present for the delivery somehow managed to talk my mother out of naming me Hemorrhoid about ten minutes before the final push. I think that his argument might have involved a threat of excommunication and quite possibly her being unfriended and permanently blocked from the Vatican’s Facebook page.

All right – so I lied about that last part. Facebook hadn’t been invented back when that priest was arguing with my mother over my name – still, however he managed to convince her to change her mind, I am eternally grateful to the attending priest. I mean, just think about it. Can you actually imagine spending your entire lifetime constantly spell-checking your own first name? Go ahead—just try to close your eyes and spell h-e-m-o-r-r-h-o-i-d without having to resort to a discreet peek at a medical dictionary. I dare you.

God bless spell-check.

***

I am not quite sure just exactly why I was thinking about my mother’s peculiar choice in birth names at this particular point in time. It wasn’t like I had lost my mother. I knew exactly where I left her, even though she was certain in her mind that she wasn’t really there, where I had left her, at all.

So where was she?

Depending upon the direction of the wind, she was standing somewhere between forty and sixty years ago in her mind. Either way, she was a whole lot younger and a whole lot prettier and was waiting for my Dad to come home from the war.

Which war, you ask? Well, any war, actually. You just name it. Depending upon the day of the week my mother would tell you that she was waiting for my dad to come home from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or even that little British brew-up in the Falklands. Mind you, my father had never actually served in any of these particular wars. He hadn’t even been a member of the Canadian Armed Forces or any armed forces at all—unless you count the fact that he filled two sleeves in every dress shirt that he ever wore—but he was not a member of any actual army that I have ever heard of.

My mother made up that tiny little itty-bitty detail as well. She has always been a bit of a fabulist—which is a high-faluting, froufrou way of saying that she was a stone-cold, natural liar on any given day of the week—and her deteriorating mental situation at this point was giving way to that whole magnificent stretch-the-truth tendency of hers.

The mind is a wonderfully talented origamist that way. Whenever it wants to it can fold reality into any number of possible permutations and combinations. I do not know everything that there is to know in this life, but I do know this: dementia is God’s greatest practical joke on anyone who has ever meant to get around to sitting down someday and finally, once and for all, writing her own life story down for posterity.

Any publicity rep will tell you—never buy into your own PR.

Now I can hear you thinking that dementia is actually not something to be joked about, but I learned a very long time ago that it was better to laugh about something that you cannot do anything about, rather than breaking down and crying. In fact, when it comes right down to it, tears are nothing more than slow, wet giggles running snail tracks down your cheekbones.

So what was I really waiting for?

I stood on the side of the Lunenburg highway, close to Blue Cove and what the locals refer to as the Lonely Point Lighthouse. The wind was calm and the morning was clear and I could see the distant lighthouse that had given the area its name in the first place.

The lighthouse was actually not on a point but rather a lonely little spit of an island situated just beyond the cove. I believe that at one point the island might actually have been connected to the shore by a thin stretch of low-rising land, but the vagaries of the tidal shift had gradually erased all memories of the earthen connection.

I stood there alone, bathed in the early morning light of a Nova Scotia morning and holding a white-painted wooden picket-cross gently in my left hand, while leaning upon the handle of a slightly rusted garden spade. I know, you are wondering to yourself just what exactly a picket-cross is. Well, it is a cross made out of two wooden fence pickets that I kicked out of my garden fence.

Are you satisfied now?

I probably looked just a little bit like Bram Stoker’s old vampire-hunter, Abraham Van Helsing, in drag or possibly some sort of a strange roadside born-again penitent reverend mother in a tropical print polyester windbreaker and a pair of tangerine dress slacks. I wondered yet again if I shouldn’t have worn black. Black was the color of mourning, wasn’t it? No, not black.

Black was definitely not the color of mourning. Black was a color that was worn by international spies and by people who did not happen to suffer from the lingering embarrassment of dandruff. Black was worn by old school nuns and by Anglican ministers and by the occasional chain-smoking neo-bohemian performance poet.

As far as I was concerned, the color of mourning was neon yellow. You don’t believe me? Just give me a minute and I swear to you that I’ll convert you over from black to yellow thinking. Besides, Abraham Van Helsing was supposed to be a heroic figure, unless maybe you counted Anthony Hopkins’s rather dubious portrayal of the fearless, overeating, flatulent vampire hunter in Francis Ford Coppola’s overrated 1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula—and who in her right mind would want to count that?

Don’t listen to the critics. Critics know nothing. Let me just gather my thoughts for a moment, if I might. That might take me just a little bit of doing, kind of like the sort of doing that it would take to sit down and reorganize a yarn ball factory after a large herd of giant kittens had rambled their way through the back stockroom of yarn balls. What was I really doing? I must be freaking crazy. What on earth was I doing out here? I looked again at the wooden picket-cross that I was holding.

I was pretty proud of that picket-cross. I had managed only to bend one single, solitary, ten penny Dollar Store nail and to bang my thumb only twice hammering those fence pickets together. If you did not count the splinters in the heel of my left hand and the toe that I had stubbed when I had kicked those pickets from out of my garden fence, you would almost swear that I actually knew what I was doing.

I wish I knew what I was doing. I looked down at what I had written upon the face of the picket-cross. HAMILTON ARTHUR MACBETH. The name was neatly written in a black indelible marker that I had also purchased at the Dollar Store. I sometimes think that a person can satisfy the logistic demands of her entire lifetime with one concentrated shopping spree at a good-size, well-stocked Dollar Store.

As I said, I was proud of that picket-cross. I hadn’t even misspelled my son’s name. That would have been a terrible sin, now wouldn’t it? Misspelling your own dead son’s name? Now that would have been bad form, indeed.

“Now why in the world did you want to name him after a city?” Mom had asked me repeatedly on the day that I gave birth to Hamilton in the Halifax IWK Grace Hospital. “And why on earth did you have to pick the name Hamilton? At the very least you could have chosen Halifax or New York or Toronto or somewhere decent. I mean, Hamilton isn’t really a city, is it?”

Jazz hands, Mom.

Big-time, Bob Fosse jazz hands.

A battered, primer-red Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser drove by slowly. A woman gawked through her fly-spattered windshield at me, as if she had never seen anyone standing on the side of the road with a homemade picket-fence crucifix in her hand before. I caught a glimpse of her wide country face sporting a set of snowplow jaws that looked as if she had chewed on bubble gum and beef jerky and cases of anabolic steroids for the last twenty-three years or so. I suppose that she could have been admiring the fit of my brand-new tangerine dress slacks and my carefully playful salmon-pink Hello Kitty T-shirt, or maybe she could somehow discern that I had actually lost ten whole pounds in the last three weeks—because grief beats the hell out of Weight Watchers.

She could have been thinking anything at all. Anything was possible when you stop and think about it.

Three weeks ago my life had almost made sense. Three weeks ago my eighteen-year-old son, Hamilton, had still been alive.

I looked out and down at the ocean below me, where Hamilton’s stolen/borrowed neon yellow Audi had smashed directly through the highway guard rail and plummeted over the cliff and down into the deep and cold Atlantic Ocean.

Why had he done it? I didn’t really know.

It was quick, they told me.

“He couldn’t have felt a thing,” the police officer who had come and knocked at my door the morning after my son passed away, had informed me. “That water in March is so cold it would have taken his breath away and stopped his heart, quicker than you could say gesundheit.”

The police officer had kept a straight face while he said it all to me, and I knew that he was just trying to be kind in his own way about a duty that he would rather someone else were doing. I wondered whether there was a workshop on delivering bad news in person that police officers had to take before they were allowed out of the police station and onto the city streets.

I wondered whether he carried a card with a printed response for a situation like this.

I wondered if that hypothetically printed card actually said, “quicker than you could say gesundheit.”

I mean, what else could you say at a time like that? Death often happened this way—quickly, like an unexpected sneeze.

I tried to put myself in his place and imagine just exactly what I would have said to me if I were him, aside from, “Thank God that it happened to you and not me.”

Hi, nice lady. My name is Officer Michael Wallace—and no, I was not actually named after the CBS 60 Minutes newscaster Mike Wallace. I have a pair of squinty blue eyes and a badge and a cracked tooth that almost makes my grin look charming if you did not count the coffee breath and that speck of unchewed lettuce stretched boldly across my yellowing left molar—and oh, by the way, your eighteen-year-old son Hamilton just stole a neon yellow Audi and took it out for a joyride and was hit with a sneezing fit when an unseasonable blackfly flew directly up his right nostril and made him sneeze just before he lost control and rolled that neon yellow Audi around that rusty angle iron of a highway corner—right before he ran that Audi down into the ocean, where he drowned.

But hey—it was quick. “Gesundheit,” I said. I am laughing. I am crying. You can do both of those things if you really want to—or even if you don’t want to. It is a kind of a black and yellow sort of way of doing things. You can call it a study in contrasts, if you will. Sometimes, you can laugh and cry at the very same time, and it is a good thing and it is a bad thing and it is nothing at all.

Of course, any other time the act of laughing and crying at the very same time is not so good a habit to fall into. It tends to confuse the unwary, the young, and the unlearned audience.

A gray-winged herring gull sitting upon a weathered pine stump turned and looked directly at me. He was probably wondering whether I was speaking to him. He might even have been trying to figure out whether he had somehow sneezed without knowing it, thus causing me to say “Gesundheit,” as I had said. He might even have been worried that he was possibly catching a cold and that he ought to stock up on his vitamin C and echinacea.

Or maybe I was just making the whole thing up.

I made my way slowly down the rocky hill, carefully carrying my wooden picket-cross and the spade that I had brought for digging. I felt a little bit like some sort of a one-woman protest march or possibly even a solo wildcat strike aimed directly at the Atlantic Ocean.

Way to go, Norma Rae.

Of course, if Hollywood was ever foolish enough to make a movie based upon my life, I would never have been played by Sally Fields. Sally was far too playful and too mainstream and too narrow-hipped and well-meaning to portray me accurately. Not to mention that she was too darn short. I had always been built along the lines of a tall drink of water.

No, if there were ever to be a movie made out of my life, it would most likely have turned out to be a modestly budgeted, made-for-television movie, and my part would most likely be played by Mariska Hargitay from the tenth season of Law and Order.

Yes, Mariska certainly possessed that necessary somber, thick-haired, exotic gravitas that I always felt I should have possessed in another lifetime or so. Of course, I could have also been played by a Bette Davis or possibly even a pre-Munsters Yvonne De Carlo, although both of them were too darn short.

I wasn’t really all that fussy, come to think of it.

And how did you like that choice of words, anyway?

Gravitas.

I always did like that word. Gravitas. It sounded to me like something that you would take for an upset stomach or maybe even a case of sea sickness, which was an apt thought, given that I was getting ready to walk into the ocean.

I looked about me at the rocks and the water. I could hear the sound of seagulls calling out in that screaming happy sob of a song. I could hear the waves rolling and slapping upon the rocks. I could smell the ocean waiting patiently below for my grand entrance. I am ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

And don’t you dare tell me that I am misquoting because anyone can quote something that somebody else already said. It takes style to misquote something in your very own way.

I think somebody else said that before, but don’t quote me on it.

The rocks were slick from the morning damp and the churning waves that rolled and tossed below me. There were clumps of blue-eyed grass and thickets of alder shooting up among the scatter of coastal bric-a-brac. The supple early-spring branches of the alder bushes already bore the small, fluffy catkins that would eventually fall away and grow into buds that would mature into more branches and more leaves and more simpleminded hopefulness. There was order here, amid the apparent chaos. Nature always knew what the hell she was doing.

I wish that I knew what I was doing. What in the name of blue blazing hell was I really doing? It wasn’t as if anyone were really going to get so much as a lousy stinking chance to see this stupid little homemade, rinky-dink, white-painted Red Green picket-cross all the way down here, hidden by the rocks and the waves.

It wasn’t like anyone who actually did somehow manage to see the picket-cross would actually know what the picket-cross was supposed to symbolize in my heart of hearts—and really, how many hearts can one person have?

I wasn’t even sure what the picket-cross—built out of those two white-painted pickets that I had kicked out of my bungalow’s garden fence—was supposed to symbolize. It’s not like I was even all that Christian of a person. I don’t go to church—not even at Easter. I have always believed that Sunday mornings were better spent sipping on a tasteful ceramic bucket of hot, black coffee and gnawing tastefully upon a box of chocolates approximately the size of an economy-class aircraft carrier, nose-deep in my Kindle, most likely reading a fat, spicy romance.

That was just the kind of a person I was. I wasn’t holy. I wasn’t heroic. I was just myself. About the only remarkable thing about me was my name—Lady Cordelia Macbeth.

Yes, I actually do go by my second name, Cordelia. I prefer to be called Dee, but it actually does still say Lady Cordelia Macbeth on my birth certificate and my driver’s license and on my Dalhousie University Master of Library Science degree. With honors.

The name was given to me by my very own mother, who had really wanted to name me Margaret Hemorrhoid Sally Anne Macbeth until, as I already told you, the attending priest had talked her out of it. The name had been her idea, though. Three weeks before going into labor she had spent one entire evening reading three Coles Notes abridgements of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliette, and All’s Well That Ends Well as part of a summer self-improvement plan that she had read about in the pages of a Cosmopolitan magazine. She had actually intended to read four of Shakespeare’s plays, but apparently she had fallen asleep halfway through A Midsummer Night’s Dream—and who could really blame her?

You see, my mother had a theory.

“If I read each of these books aloud during the run of my pregnancy,” my mother had told anyone who cared to listen, “my child will grow up to have an IQ of 365, one point for every day of the year, give or take the occasional leap year. God has given me the gift of a blessed pregnancy, and he has ebbed the flow of my menstrual tide and allowed my egg to seed and flourish, and in return I am going to give the good Lord a son who will grow up to one day become the president of Mensa.”

That’s right. My mother actually wanted to have a son. That was not all that unusual, I suppose. What was truly unusual was the way she constantly reminded me of that fact throughout my first twenty years upon this earth.

The way I figured it, my Mom was born with a permanent case of penis envy, and she was determined to pass that condition down to me as some sort of what-the-freak legacy of my continuingly embarrassing existence.

“Fine,” she said to the attending priest. “If I cannot name my daughter Hemorrhoid, then I will name her Lady Macbeth. Lady is a perfectly good name, isn’t it? I had a dog named Lady once, and she was perfectly fine until a Mary-Kay-pink Winnebago motor home ran her over. And my husband’s last name is Macbeth, so how can that be wrong? That is almost positively biblical, now, isn’t it?”

Sure, Mom. Lady and Macbeth. Walt Disney and William Shakespeare. Big-time, old-school, Al Jolson jazz hands.

It was an absolutely perfect name for a child destined to be picked on and left out and teased mercilessly for the first twelve years of her education.

My father, who had grown up bearing the last name Macbeth and the first name Dane, knew all too well just how often other people would make fun of such a name, had insisted upon adding the name Cordelia to the mix.

Way to stick up for your only daughter, Dad.

“If you have to name her after your dead pet dog and that damnable play,” my father said to my mother, “at the very least, let me name her after my favorite great-aunt.”

“Do you mean that great-aunt of yours who smells vaguely of elderberry tea?” Mom apparently replied. “What kind of a name is that for a man’s daughter?”

You see what she did there, didn’t you? I wasn’t her daughter. I was his daughter. Not that it really mattered. You see, my mother never really cared to listen all that closely to anything that my father had to say.

“You are afraid of life,” Mom often told my father. “I don’t know what I did to deserve a husband like you for all of these years.”

Even on that lonely April morning when my dad had finally had enough of my mother’s constantly bullying ways and had quietly packed a red-plaid suitcase and stood there silently in front of the two of us at the breakfast table over our morning grapefruit and slightly burned whole wheat toast and had quietly told her that he was finally leaving.

Ten minutes after he had closed the door behind himself and walked away, out of my life, I remember my mother turning and looking at me and calmly wondering aloud, “Gee, I wonder just where your father is going to.”

There it is—that trick that she did. That was how she always put it. He was never “her husband.” He was always “my father,” the same way that I was “his daughter.”

Even then, Mom just did not get it at all. Her husband walked out of her life over grapefruit and burned toast, and she simply could not fathom the idea that it might actually have meant something.

Remember what I said about origami and the mind?

As for me, I remember sitting there wearing on my face what I imagine was the single stupidest look that a human being has ever worn. My father’s departure had come as such a surprise that I could not believe it was truly happening. Afterward I experienced an eerie feeling of quiet disbelief—as if my father had never really gone. On some mornings as I lay in my bedroom and listened to my mother shuffling the dishes out of the dishwasher and into the cupboard, I remember feeling as if I had never actually had a father, as if he had never even existed in the first place, like he was some kind of a weird oedipal figment of my overly active and overly educated imagination.

I felt that same way when that young police officer told me that my son, Hamilton, had been killed in that stupid neon yellow Audi. I had been shocked and stunned as if someone had thrown a bucket full of ice water squarely in my face.

I had felt that very same ice-water splash at the church and at the funeral and at the cemetery and over the last three weeks as I had sat on my couch staring at reruns of Judge Judy, Doctor Phil, and Sesame Street, while eating cheap dark chocolate and peanut butter sandwiches by the plateful, all washed down with several tall glasses of cold grape Kool-Aid after the box of red wine had run out.

Who said that daytime television isn’t good for your health? And how in the hell had I managed to lose ten pounds on a diet like that? And then just last night I had awoken from one final dream of splashing cold water, and I had got up from my bed, and I had walked out into the backyard, feeling as if I were sleepwalking while still wide awake.

Then I had stared up at that moon looking down at me, and I had felt something pulling at my heart’s blood. I had deliberately walked into my backyard and over to the garden fence in my pink silk nightgown, and I had kicked two wooden pickets from the fence, stubbing three of my toes and tearing one of my toenails down to the quick and ruining a perfectly good pair of fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

Don’t judge me—or my fuzzy pink bunny slippers. The fuzzy pink bunny slippers had been a gift from one of my students—one of the few honest perks of being a high school librarian. I didn’t get too many apples, and I only ever got one single “World’s Best Librarian” coffee mug, and I got way too many excuses for students not having returned certain books, not to mention the jam-stained and grape-pop-smeared pages of way too many pulpy new adult novels—but I did get a pair of fuzzy pink bunny slippers.

You have got to learn to count your blessings.

I returned to my kitchen, and I fumbled through the kitchen drawers until I found my claw hammer and a jar of ten-penny nails that I had purchased at the Dollar Store, and then I had banged this pathetic picket-fence cross together on my dining room table leaving a dent in the pine wood tabletop that would most likely never heal, and at that exact moment, standing there in the dining room beside the wooden chair that my son would never sit on again, I knew—without really knowing at all—what I was about to do. I knew exactly what I needed to do to wake myself up from out of the walking-dead stupor that I had fallen into since hearing of the death of my only son.

So I had driven out here, and now I stood here in the early morning light of a Lunenburg Lonely Lighthouse Point dawn. Just try to say that five times fast with a mouthful of dry salted popcorn.

I carefully stepped down the hillside, looking for what I believed to be the perfect spot to place my homemade wooden picket cross.

I could see the lighthouse looming in the distant morning haze looking for all the world like a giant up-yours gesture to the waves that crashed upon the beach. I could see what looked to me to be a horse standing calmly beside the lighthouse, so I guess someone actually did live in that lighthouse, which was strange, given that nowadays most of the lighthouses along the Nova Scotia coastline were either automated or simply abandoned.

I was watching the hillside and looking for the proper spot, rather than looking exactly where I was placing my feet.

Which was right before I fell.

The flattened rock that I had just placed my foot upon skidded out from beneath the sole of my sneaker, and then I slid, and I skidded some more, and the skid turned into a tumble, and I tried to catch my footing, and instead of catching my footing I wound up performing a sort of unintentional drunken triple cartwheel down into the Atlantic Ocean.

I am certain that if anyone had been watching, it would have looked as if I had deliberately flung myself down into the water.

I could see the headlines even now.

Bereaved Librarian Mother Clumsily Flings Herself Down into the Atlantic Ocean in a Fit of Stupid Sorrow, Thoughtfully Carrying Along Her Very Own Homemade Picket-Cross Although Neglecting to Leave Behind a Last Will and Testament.

Film at eleven.

Fortunately I had my mouth closed when I hit the water, but then I screamed, and as a result I spoiled that one single bit of good luck. I swallowed about a half of a bathtub full of cold ocean brine.

“Help!” I choked out.

Stupid. Who did I think was actually going to hear me? The lighthouse keeper? The sea gulls? The dirt?

I stood up out of the water. I was dripping wet. I was going to catch myself a cold if I did not quickly finish what I was doing, so I looked around until I found a good spot, safely sheltered from the reach of the tide.

I studied that spot for a few moments. I wanted it to be perfect. This was the last thing that I was going to do on this earth, and I wanted it to be right.

I smiled.

I could see a make-believe memory of Hamilton lying at peace, there in that wave-kissed dirt. I could almost visualize the roll of his shoulders hidden within the granite that poked up out of the mud. I could see the tousle of his permanently comb-resistant hair in the thickets of unruly grass that were scattered in the mud. I could hear his breathing in the rolling waves.

I pushed the picket-cross down into the mud as best I could manage. I leaned my weight on it, and then, when my weight wasn’t enough, I used the flat of the garden spade like a hammer and drove the picket-cross farther down into the mud until it was seated deeply enough that I felt certain that it could not be dislodged by a casual breeze or the scuttling of a wayward hermit crab.

I raised the shovel up over my head.

I did not think it at that time, but I am pretty sure that at that moment I looked more than a little bit like Abraham Van Helsing, driving that last stake down into Mina Harker’s heart—a perfect Bram Stoker moment.

Bang!

“Damn you!” I swore unexpectedly, knocking the picket-cross down into the mud and biting off those two words like a too-hard, molar-breaking chunk of overcooked peanut brittle.

Bang!

“Damn you!” I swore again, driving the picket-cross down a little farther into the mud.

Bang!

“Damn you!” I shouted just as loudly as I could manage.

Then I leaned upon the cross.

The cross did not budge, so I guess that last shovel bang and “damn-you” had done the trick.

I would have liked to have sung a hymn, but as my mother always told me, I could not find the proper key for any song if I were a locksmith—and she was probably right.

I wept for a while, just a little bit. I’d had a lot of practice in weeping over the last three weeks. Maybe that was how I lost those ten pounds. Maybe I had shed ten pounds of tear drops, and maybe I ought to patent this method for losing weight.

I looked around one more time. What else should I do? Should I leave a good-bye note? I didn’t have so much as a single sheet of paper to write on, which was a sad state for a librarian to find herself in, but there you go, now, don’t you? I used the blade of the garden spade like a wood gouge, and I patiently carved “Farewell” into the mud.

All right, so I had intended to carve “Farewell” when I started out, but gouging the letters in the mud wasn’t nearly as easy as it sounds like it would be. So I settled for gouging out the word “Bye,” but I could not for the life of me remember if it should be spelled “By” or “Buy.”

Where the hell was spell-check when you really needed it the most?

I laid the shovel down for the next grieving mother to use. And then I turned and walked calmly out into the deep Atlantic water. This was the very last thing on earth that I was ever going to do, and I was determined to get it right.

“Goodbye,” I said, only there was no one there to hear me—or at least that was what I thought.


Well – that’s Chapter One. If you want to read more of it you’ll just have to order it over at Amazon.com.

I will eventually be putting it into paperback format and I will be selling it wherever I am signing my own books – but right now, if you want to read ANYTHING by Steve Vernon I would be most intensely grateful if you would pick up a e-book copy of KELPIE DREAMS. If you read it and like it, PLEASE leave an Amazon review. And tell your friends.

I don’t usually lay it on this thick when it comes to asking folks to buy my books – but this one really counts for a whole lot for me. I really want to work further with the folks at Kindle Press. I believe that they can do a heck of a lot for my career as an indie writer – but first off I need to sell a whole whack of copies of KELPIE DREAMS.

Help me out, would you? I don’t think that you will regret it.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

KELPIE DREAMS – Now Available For Kindle Preorder

I got home from work last night only to find a few tweets, e-mails and a couple of Facebook messages letting me know that my Kindle Scout winning novel, KELPIE DREAMS, was now available for preorder on Kindle.

I can’t tell you just how happy and excited this one makes me feel. It has been a while since I have broken such new ground as this and I am just a little flushed with excitement over the whole notion.

Folks who have been following this blog know that I have already kept a thirty day diary of my Kindle Scout Campaign – from Day 1 to Day 30 which you can read about right here!

I do intend to write a big old blog talking about my experiences between my acceptance and the release of KELPIE DREAMS – but it is not this day!

Today I have got some writing to do. I am about a week or two away from completing a manuscript for my regional publisher – one that will hopefully hit a lot of bookstores here in Nova Scotia.

Then I have already begun roughing out a Kelpie novella to follow up on KELPIE DREAMS.

I want to thank everyone here who nominated KELPIE DREAMS for Kindle Scout and I hope that you enjoy reading that novel – because, for nominating my book you have probably already received your free copy. I have already heard from one of my readers who has read and enjoyed the novel and will release her review in her blog, at Amazon and at Goodreads shortly before the book goes live.

The book will go live on May 10, 2016.

I am so darned pleased and excited.

I would be intensely grateful to anyone who sees fit to preorder KELPIE DREAMS.

kelpie

That link above is for Amazon.com.

My UK readers can preorder it through this link.

My Canadian readers can preorder it through THIS link.

And, lastly – if you happen to be a subscribing member of Kindle Unlimited you can grab this book for free.

I want to thank you folks one more time. I wouldn’t be here at all if it wasn’t for your support.

 

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

 

Messy, Yet Necessary – A Review of Sandra Hutchison’s THE RIBS AND THIGHBONES OF DESIRE

Click this photo if you want a copy - it is ONLY available through Amazon Kindle.

Click this photo if you want a copy – it is ONLY available through Amazon Kindle.

Do you remember when you were growing up and you lived in constant blithering terror that your Mom or your Dad – or worse yet both of them tag-teaming up together – were going to catch hold of your ear and have that long old talk with you.

You know the talk that I am talking about.

THE talk.

Face it.

You would rather stuff your ears full of flaming worm boogers than to hear your Mom and Dad talk to you about all of that stuff that you had already figured out – but what you did not figure out is that sort of a talk is both uncomfortable, somewhat painful – but absolutely necessary.

That is the kind of book that Sandra Hutchison has created in THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE.

It is uncomfortable, painful – yet absolutely necessary.

The novel deals with the uncomfortable subject matter of an odd yet undeniable attraction that slowly grows between a thirty-odd physics professor who has recently lost his family in a plane wreck and the teenage girl who used to babysit his young daughter.

KAHOOGA! KAHOOGA! KAHOOGA!

Can’t you hear those alarm bells going off? Oh my god, some soft-headed folks are shouting out – this is a novel of pornographic pedophilia.

Holy shades of Nabakov, Batman.

THE RIBS AND THIGH BONES OF DESIRE is a slow yet painstakingly crafted study of lust, love and the part that the human desire plays in personal healing. Sandra Hutchinson’s prose reminds us that life is never simple or neat. Life is sticky and messy like elephant boogers flung upon a wall of flypaper and fish glue.

If you are looking for a John-loves-Marsha romance you had better call up Harlequin.

If you are looking for a thoughtful organic dissection of the mechanics of human want than you really had better stop farting around with this review of mine and just get over yourself and go ahead and pick up a copy of Sandra Hutchison’s THE RIBS AND THIGHBONES OF DESIRE.

Go ahead.

You know you want to.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Bloody Valentine’s Day Blog Hop 2014 – Part 3 – dealing with that “Block” word

There’s always comes a time when the celebrating is over and it is time to clean up all of the wrapping paper and the empty beer bottles and the cheese rinds and that funny-colored stain that looks a little bit like pre-World-War-1 Manchuria that Uncle Walter left upon the fabric of the ottoman that he was hunkered down upon.

If any of you want to make some kind of witticism about the “Ottoman Empire” well go right on ahead. I won’t stop you. However, I refuse to stoop to such low-brow pun-ridden humor.

Too bad Uncle Walter refused to stoop.

In some provinces they refer to this state – (I know, I know, make up your mind Vernon – is it a state or a province) – as the hangover.

It can be the worst or the best part of any sort of situation – depending on how you look at it.

We writers know this feeling. There is nothing worse that getting to that “wrapping-up” part of the manuscript.

For example – I’ve been attempting to “wrap up” a Bigfoot novel for about six months now and I keep beating my head against a stone wall.

I’m not going to use the “block” word.

Let’s just say that I am a little momentumously-challenged right about now.

So what does a writer do when they find themselves in the realm of negative-momentum?

Well, for starters I like to puddle about. Then I fart around for a brief spell. When farting around gets too much to handle I put off and procrastinate and occasionally redudanticize a phrase or two.

Up here in the snowy regions of Canada we refer to this stage as “spinning one’s tires”.

Suffice it to say that it doesn’t accomplish all that much.

But sometimes a fellow just needs to buy himself a little time.

And other times he just needs to spend a little time doing sweet diddly-squat.

I wanted to write about this today because sometimes some folks might think me glib while others think of me as some sort of a “writing god”.

“Well, Steve,” they’ll say. “You’ve got about thirty self-published e-books and seven regionally released trade paperbacks and a about a hundred or so published short stories and maybe another hundred published poems – some of which EVEN made money. You’ve written umpteen thousand reviews and a large handful of interviews and over four hundred blog entries – not counting your old blog. Surely you MUST know what you are doing by now.”

Well – bullshit.

The truth is we writers are in a constant state of perpetual adlib.

(or would that be a province?)

We are ALWAYS making things up as we go along.

This last month or so I have found solace and shelter in the more practical aspects of farting around. I’ve released a couple of new e-books and have just recently commissioned a brand new cover for my e-novella HAMMURABI ROAD.

I’ll show you that cover in a week or two – suffice it to say it is awesome.

I have also written over 7000 words in a brand-new Biblically-oriented piece of literature that I have been REALLY excited about.

In short – I keep busy.

Sometimes that is ALL a fella can do to keep the fire burning.

So – the next time you find yourself faced with that big old “block” word – pause for just a little while to fart around.

That’s step one.

Go fishing or fix that leaky faucet or replace every light bulb in your house whether it needs or not.

Then – proceed to step 2 and pause again and begin to futz about creatively. Find a new market for your old work. Repackage it or re-promote it. Write a blog entry or two.

Then if you are still stuck – find something NEW to get excited about and go forth and write the hell out of it. Main thing is to finish this second thing through – which I anticipate I will do with this new Biblical project.

The main thing to remember is to NEVER give up.

I will get back to Bigfoot – just shortly after I finish up with this Biblical project – which ought to take another two or three weeks.

Meanwhile – I am giving that Bigfoot project time to percolate without all of that static electricity of needless worry and fret.

The fact is there are TWO Bigfoot e-book projects on my plate – and one of them is ALREADY written – so I just have to finish the other one – and then I’ll release them both.

So take heart if you are faced by that big bad old “block” word. Don’t panic and don’t flounder around. Regroup and find your footing – even if you are waist-deep in the mud.

♥  ♥  ♥

Meanwhile, let me tell you about Valentine’s Day.

The morning was given over to work for both Belinda and I.

She had to go to her classes at Community College. They were having a fund-raising cake sale to raise money for QEII BONE MARROW COMFORT FUND. This is a fund set up by Halifax’s QEII Hospital to raise money for folks who have to face a bone marrow transplant. The Nova Scotia Community College has been supporting this particular fund for several years now. On Valentine’s Day this year the culinary department – (that’s chefs in training) – get together and bake some magnificent cakes which are then sold to the students to raise funds for the program.

Now I am supposed to be watching my weight – so Belinda did not bring home a whole cake. Instead, she brought along some plates and forks and a cake cutter and bought a whole cake herself and gave each of her classmates a slice of cake. She did bring some home herself and it was a chocolate raspberry cream cake that tasted like plated-up temptation.

Meanwhile I was visiting a local school – telling my stories and talking about how to write and tell a good story to several classes of Grade 8 and Grade 9 students at the Dartmouth Bicentennial School. I had a great time and met a lot of great kids and luckily happened to show up in time for a big Chinese dinner Valentine’s lunch party that the teachers were having. I had a couple of egg rolls and some chicken balls and some broccoli and beef and fried rice and Soo Guy and what was that I was saying about watching my weight???

So I got home and Belinda had set up an amazing buffet assortment of Valentine’s Day treats.

Valentine's Day 2014 003

Let me see if I can get all this right.

We’ve got – moving from left to right – pickled onions, olives, gherkins and Branston Pickle. Above that is a bottle of Toasted Head Cabernet Sauvignon and a tower of pear slices, blood oranges in brandy, grapes and apple. There is a tray full of  fancy black pepper crackers and sweet and savory jellies hidden behind the candles – apricot reisling, cabernet fig, and spicy peach chutney. Then a tray full of cheese – toffee cheese which tastes like dessert, mango cheese, Stilton and a Borsin and a dark black Guinness-infused Stilton which I love to eat but makes my tailpipe exhaust smell a little like an arthritic nine hundred year old dying moose.

Not to mention that bottle of locally brewed Martello Stout which likewise contributes to that whole dying moose effect.

Then in front we had a modest cheese fondue with freshly baked white bread and some somewhat over-proofed olive bread – which I adore.

My contribution to the feast was the wine, the beer and the appetite.

I also contributed the evening entertainment as we sat down and watched our new DVD set of VIKINGS season one. We are eagerly awaiting the second season and I thought it was high-time we sat down and rewatched the first season without any of those irritating History channel commercials – HAVE YOU WATCHED PAWN STARS MEETS AMERICAN RESTORATION WHILE AMERICAN PICKERS AND CANADIAN PICKERS DUKE IT OUT IN A STORAGE GARAGE SPECIAL?

(note – I actually really enjoy watching Canadian Pickers and Pawn Stars occasionally – but I get tired of the commercials)

Today we are going to carry on watching the rest of the season – after I get done a bit more writing, the dishes, my laundry and maybe some groceries and cooking. While Belinda is in college I pick up as much of the housework duties as I can manage to.

Today we are also going to make time to go through our Bag of Hearts.

This was Belinda’s idea originally. Many years ago on a February when we were REALLY tight on extra money – she decided to sit down and cut out three hundred and sixty-five reasons why we’re in love with each other.

Just yesterday I pulled the bag down off of my keepsake shelf and she could not believe that I had actually hung onto the homemade gift – but the way I see it, homemade gifts are the best kind – unless you count beer.

(grin)

In fact I’ve ALSO got every Christmas, Valentine’s and Birthday card she ever got me wedged into a shelf here on my writing desk. I take them out every now and then and look through a few of them.

It always makes me smile.

That’s what love is, folks. Love is a three hundred and sixty five day a year adventure.

Don’t waste your time aiming for one or two days out of the year.  Bring home a flower or a donut or a greeting card – just because it’s Tuesday.

Listen to the old moose, eh?

♥  ♥  ♥

Funny thing about entertainment – but sooner or later there is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this blog entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High ResolutionYou can buy it on Kindle and Kobo for only 99 cents this week.

(regularly priced $2.99)

AND REMEMBER – be sure to check out the two dozen OTHER authors taking part in the BLOODY VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 BLOG HOP!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

The Bloody Valentine’s Day 2014 Blog Hop – Part 2

fbf93-valentinelogo

I hear a lot of folks today talking about how Valentine’s Day is sadly out-of-date. Some folks claim that it’s an outmoded notion, that a fellow who gives a woman a bouquet of flowers and some candy shouldn’t expect to get his hat boxed and his kiwis cuddled. Other folks complain about how Walmart and Hallmark have damn near merchandised this holiday to death. Overpriced restuarants and wildly expensive bouquets have done old St. Valentino in.

Bullshit.

I love St. Valentines Day.

I still remember the first Valentines Day I gave to my wife Belinda.

I’m talking about 1995 – back when I wore size 34 jeans.

Way back then Belinda wasn’t my wife – she was my girlfriend, but I loved her just as much. I scuttled into her house just as we were coming home from an evening out. I hastily paid off the babysitter and threw her out the door, making a dent in the front lawn where she landed.

Then – while Belinda was upstairs getting changed I hastily filled the living room with flowers, candy, jewelry, chilled wine, stuffed toys, balloons and great big stick-on Valentines decals in the windows.

Yes sir – I set myself a bar that I could never hope to successfully vault over – yet every year I keep on trying.
Fortunately, so does she.
♥ ♥ ♥

Then there was 2006.

We’d both lost work time over November and December, and my business back then especially suffered over February.  For those who knew me back then I was a full-time palm and Tarot reader at Little Mysteries on Barrington Street – and let me tell you there just isn’t a lot of folks who brave the winter to get downtown for a palm or Tarot reading.

So we decided to keep it small. I started out by giving Belinda a bag of ginger chocolate last night. Then this morning I awoke to find that she’d snuck down to my office while I was snoozing and left a stuffed monkey valentines card and some chocolates on my writing desk. I returned the favor by handing her a card and a DVD of the movie Tom Jones.

Then Belinda made me a big batch of heart-shaped pancakes for breakfast.

Point to her.

Then we both had to head our separate ways. I needed to go to the dentist, and she needed to go to work. We walked out, happy as pigs eating pigs.

The dentist visit was uneventful. They had to bring out a jack hammer to clean my teeth, (I’ve never had that done at a dentist before, and they made a follow-up visit for March. Then, when I was finished and went to the desk to pay my bill the receptionist said, “Happy Valentine’s Day. Your dental visit is on your wife.”

Right out of the freaking ballpark.

Heh. I did my best to make up for that by picking up a bouquet of bright orange roses, (which she loves), and a heaping helping of orange chicken and won tons, (which she also loves), but the fact is my wife has definitely out-valentined me that year. I bow down to her sense of timing. All hail Belinda, the queen of Valentines Day.

♥ ♥ ♥

I was going to tell you all about LAST year’s Valentine’s Day – but I think it’d be easier if I just sent you to the blog entry – which describes in MUCH more articulate fashion than I can manage tonight.

LIVING A LIFE LONG LOVE – FIFTY SHADES OF BACON!

So – instead let me tell you about Valentine’s Day at the Vernon house THIS year.

We’re on one heck of a budget this year – on account of Belinda is going to college all year long and is consequently making a LOT less money. She is taking a college course in Medical Administration and is scoring top marks and working her butt off doing it and I am SO damn proud of all of the work she is putting into it.

So we’re doing Valentine’s Day on a budget.

But that still doesn’t mean it isn’t special.

Earlier this week I bought her a fancy Tim Horton’s heart-shaped donut – just because I knew she was having a hard week at school. The other day I picked her up some fancy chocolates. Then Thursday night I brought her home a fancy Starbucks heart-shaped cookie.

See fellas – this is how you REALLY want to do Valentines Day. Never mind farting around for one mere night of the year. Stretch it out so that it lasts all week long. Never mind trying to be expensive. Go for thoughtful. Show your lady that you are thinking about them.

Listen to Poppa.

Valentines Night we are going to do fondue. We’ve got some fancy cheese – including some dark old Guinness-infused Stilton that is absolutely wonderful if you dig funky old cheese. Belinda calls it my hockey puck cheese.

(grin)

We’ve also got some toffee cheese which tastes like supper and dessert all wrapped into one neat little package. We’ve got some olive bread and some olives and pickled onions and gherkins and some fruit and I’m bringing home a fancy dessert – in case the toffee cheese isn’t sweet enough.

Belinda has a box of wine and I have a six-pack of good dark ale – the chewy kind that lumps down a fellow’s throat.

Um-gowa, baby. That’s good living.

See – Valentines Day does NOT have to be an expensive proposition. Just take a moment to pull life over to the curb and play a little soft music and talk a little of love.

Some folks might call that corny.

Let me tell you – people live off of corn. They eat it and they survive and there are a lot worse things in this world to go believing in than pure honest-to-god down-home corn.

(which reminds me – those folks new to my blog MIGHT want to check out my recipe for corn chowder)

♥ ♥ ♥

Funny thing about entertainment – but sooner or later there is ALWAYS a commercial.

If you enjoyed this blog entry why not pick up a copy of my brand-new collection of six twisted love stories – BAD VALENTINES 2?

Bad Valentines - High ResolutionYou can buy it on Kindle and Kobo for only 99 cents this week.

(regularly priced $2.99)

AND DON’T FORGET THAT VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 IS THE VERY LAST DAY TO ENTER MY BIG GIVEAWAY AT TEAM TYNGA’S REVIEWS!!!

AND REMEMBER – be sure to check out the two dozen OTHER authors taking part in the BLOODY VALENTINE’S DAY 2014 BLOG HOP!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon