Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Of mountains and molehills

I'm bad at math. Very bad. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I can make 2 plus 2 equal 5. Thus the reason I went into music. My senior year in high school I took business math. I had failed algebra 2 the year before and had no desire to repeat it. The business math teacher, whom shall remain nameless, was to put it politely, mad as an outhouse rat. I could go on about her for hours, but I'll refrain. However, one thing that she told us is relevant. She informed us that our music was about nothing but sex and drugs. Remember this was 1999, hits on the radio station included songs about dead rappers, the sorrow of abortions, suicide, and hiding from drunken fathers under the kitchen table. Still, anyone who has heard the Red Hot Chili Peppers couldn't argue with her too much. Still, I was young and liked to argue. My rejoinder? Purple Haze. Clearly about the effects of acid. This brings us to today's topic. The ingrained need of people to rail against current cultural phenomena.

Lets start with music. People hate Stefani Germanotta. If you aren't aware, that is Lady Gaga's real name. Now, I'm going to be honest. I hate pop music. Passionately. I also am aware that her music is blatantly about sex. She doesn't make much of an effort to hide it. I mean come on, "I wanna take a ride on your disco stick"? Still, lets be honest, people have sung about sex since Adam and Eve first took a trip down lovers lane. There is a famous Irish folk song called Seven Drunken Nights. It's about a husband who comes home drunk every night of the week to find his wife sleeping around on him. He's just too drunk to see through her excuses. Anyone heard the song Yummy Yummy Yummy I Got love in my Tummy? Yeah, it's about oral sex. never gonna be able to listen to it again the same way are you? Oh, did you know that the syllable aah is the most common syllable found at the beginning of alphabets the world over? Yes there is more than one alphabet. Wanna know why it is first so often? It's the sound most people make after having sex or eating a seven course meal. Food and sex. They are ingrained in the human psyche. Deeply ingrained.

Lets move on to books. That damn Harry Potter and Twilight! Okay, I hate Stephanie Meyer as much as the next guy and I agree with Stephen King. He referred to her as the worst writer in America. I couldn't agree more. Still, this is not the first book about vampires. Hell, Dracula wasn't the first book about vampires. Oh, and it was about sex too, you just couldn't talk about sex in Victorian England. Before that was Carmilla which was about, gasp, a lesbian vampire. For 200 years people have used vampires as a way to talk about sex. Again, as humans, we're fascinated with sex. Go figure.

Lets go back to Mr. Potter. Lets set the plot. A young man, raised by his aunt and uncle, learns that he has immense magical powers and must learn to use them to bring down an equally powerful tyrant. Wait, did you think I was talking about Harry Potter? Nope, I was talking about Star Wars. The force isn't the same as magic Stewart! To which I reply, sure. But ok, lets talk about stories that involve magic. Lord of the Rings. Chronicles of Narnia. The Dark is Rising. The Prydain Chronicles. A thousand folk tales the world over. But, C.S. Lewis was a christian. Yep. Guess what, J.K. Rowling is Presbyterian. Yeah, those pesky Potter stories have to be of the devil. A decade ago it was Goosebumps. Is anyone still campaigning against that. When my wife was young she loved the Goosebumps series. Her parents were told by other parents that she would go to hell for reading them. Luckily they ignored the zealous advice and encouraged her to read them. Today she is an avid reader because of it. Any educator will tell you that the love of reading is one of the foundations of learning. The same love that Harry Potter and twilight encourage in students who otherwise wouldn't crack a book.

TV is full of nothing but sex and violence! There is that S word again. I'm gonna leave that alone.I'm actually going to agree that tv is very violent. But if we took the NFL off the air it might get less violent. That's another soapbox though. Wanna know why violence is so prevalent? Because we are a violent species. Ever since Cain hit Able with a rock we have been perfecting violence to an art form.In all of recorded history there have only been 286 years of peace. That doesn't mean 286 consecutive years, that means a month here, a year there, and so on. We like hurting each other, civilization and religion just curb our enthusiasm as best they can. Again, this is the topic of another soap box. Let's step back and look at the things our parents and grandparents opposed. Playing cards. Yep, poker cards are anti christian. If you listen to the right preacher. Did you know tarot cards didn't start out as occult objects? Nope. They were just a different type of playing card at first. Gin Rummy anybody? The Smurfs were an insidious plot to encourage communism. Sure. So were the Beatles. Although, to be fair they did spend time in communist Germany with German art students. Obviously they were communists. The founders of the ACLU were though. each and everyone. One of them is even buried in red square. yeah, wrap your head around that.

So, lets sum this up. Ask yourself this. When is the last time you complained about poker cards, Smurfs, Barney, Telly Tubbies, Goosebumps, The Hobbit, Star Wars, or any of the things we've discussed in this blog? Never? Me too. Because they aren't worth it. Time has mostly forgotten them. Just like in time we'll forget that we thought Potter and Twilight were of the devil. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

May Sales Report

I've been meaning to post this blog for several days. Ladies and Gentleman I present the sales from my first month as a published author. I have a confession, I actually have two titles available. The other one is entitled Drift. Drift is two short stories I put together and put up as an experiment. I wanted to see how the sales of Offerings would affect it. Both are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Drift is also available on Diesel thanks to Smashword. I'm still waiting for Offerings to be included in Smashwords premium channel which will allow it to be shipped to iTunes, Kobo, Diesel, Sony, and hopefully soon be made into an app. Below I have broken down the sales by title and site.

On Smashwords I sold all of three books. Two copies of Offerings and one of Drift.
On Barnes and Noble I sold a whopping four books. Three of Offerings and one of Drift.

 On Amazon I sold twenty nine books. Twenty three copies of Offerings and six of Drift.

All totaled we sold thirty six books. Twenty eight copies of Offerings and eight copies of Drift.

Along the way we've garnered six reviews. One four star review on Smashwords and five on Amazon. The ones on Amazon break down to three 5 stars, one 4 star, and one 1 star. That one hurt my feelings, but oh well. Maybe they'll like the next one better. The highest rating we got to was 12,399. That's not to shabby for a novella by a brand new author. So far in June sales have been disappointing. As in none. Oh well, hopefully they'll pick up soon. I've sent it to several book reviewers and I'm waiting to hear back from them. Also, one nice young english teacher asked if she could use it with her freshman English class next year. I of course said yes.

So, what are my next plans? I have a new story that I'm about 4,000 words into and a piece of flash fiction that needs some editing. I'm considering releasing it as a freebie as a sample to see if i can lure new readers in. Who is interested in a free story? I'd like to put them all together later this year as a compilation both as an eBook and in print. I know several people have asked when and where they can get Offerings in print. I looked into it, but to not lose money on it I would have to price it at 7.99 or up and I can't justify charging that for a novella.

I have an idea and a partial outline for a novel that's sitting on the back burner for now. After I've finished the short stories that are floating around in my head I intend to work hard on it. I've got a few thousand words down already and I'm ready to get back to it.

That's all for now. Thank you to everyone who has bought the book. I also really appreciate everyone who has reviewed it. If any of my nook readers want to review it on B and N I would greatly appreciate it. Some reviews on Goodreads would go along way as well. A huge thanks goes to Hannah, my beautiful fiance. Your support, ideasm and ability to tell me when things have gotten off track mean the world to me. In fifteen days I get to call her my wife.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Today I'm going to try my hand at writing a book review. Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you "The Curse of Kali" by Guido Henkel.

Curse of Kali is the latest in an ongoing series by Mr. Henkel concerning a ghosthunter named Jason Dark and his assistant Siu Lin. Each can be read in order or as a stand alone adventure. They are what used to be know as penny dreadfuls. Don't let the name deceive you, dreadful is not the adjective I would use at all.

Each of the Jason Dark tales are novellas that run about 24,000 words or roughly 40 pages. I enjoy short stories and novellas as much, and sometimes more, than I enjoy novel length works. You can read them in one sitting oftentimes. The short length might be a turn off for some, but really at the price this book is set at, $.99, it's a steal.

Lets get to the good stuff. The Jason Dark series is set in Victorian England in Whitechapel, a la Sherlock Holmes, and Mr. Henkel really captures the feel of the Holmes era books nicely. You can see the fog rolling in off the river and the gas lights casting a yellow glow over rain slicked streets. In this particular case a wealthy man is murdered by what appears to be a statue of Kali that has come to life. Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard calls in both Mr. Holmes himself and Jason Dark to aid in the investigation.

I absolutely loved the buddy cop relationship that Dark and Siu Lin have. Siu Lin seems to be an homage to the penny dreadful, pulp fiction stories of yesterday. An asian sidekick with extordinary matial arts prowess. She is also fun to read about. Jason Dark himself is a ghosthunter who deals with supernatural mysteries similar to how Mr. Holmes handles more earthly ones. Speaking of Holmes, I would have liked to see him more in this story. He makes a brief cameo, but more use of him could have been made.

Curse of Kali made me want to go collect the rest of the series beginning with Demon's Night. If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, supernatural mysteries, and Supernatural the show, you owe it to yourself to at least check this series out.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Life as it is right now.

My apologies to my friends who actually read this blog, I'm way overdue to post a new blog. Part of the reason I haven't updated has been laziness, part of it is that I just haven't had much to say. Let's see, where to start? I'm more or less settled in to the new house and in 48 days the missus will be here to share it with me. Speaking of missus, we had our second wedding shower yesterday. We've been really blessed by great friends and family. A huge thanks go out to everyone who has been so kind as to give us a gift. They are all truly appreciated.

In other news I've just self published my first original work Offerings. It's a 12,000 word novella available as an ebook on most formats for only $.99. If you are a kindle user you can find it here http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B004YQOVII/ref=mp_s_a_2?qid=1304259316&sr=1-2. If you are a nook user you can find it here http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Offerings/Stewart-Felkel/e/2940012487308/?itm=1&USRI=stewart+felkel. If you don't have an ereader you can download a kindle or nook app for free to your smartphone or computer. Or, you can go here http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/56683 to purchase it in a format readable on your computer or mobile device. I recommend ePub for phones and PDF for computers. Buy it, read it, love it, and if you would be so kind please review it. Feel free to be honest. Criticism can only help me get better.

Did I mention that I'm getting married in 48 days. I know I'm supposed to be nervous, but I'm really just excited. I'm also excited about the 5 days 4 nights that we're spending in Sandals, otherwise known as paradise. Anyway, that's all for now. I'll try to post more later.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

I have a new addiction.

I have a new addiction. Well, to be fair I have a new way to feed an old addiction. It's sad really. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I had to actively go out and search for just the right hit. Now, the right hit comes to me. Hello, my name is Stewart and I'm the proud owner of a Barnes and Noble Nook.
After music, reading is my greatest passion and pastime. If I hadn't studied music in school I most likely would have gotten an English degree. For Christmas my sweetie bought me a Nook. She was planning ahead for the honeymoon this summer. She knows that I have to read daily. It truly is an addiction. I get restless and fidgety if I don't have anything to read, but it just isn't feasible to take a large quantity of books to the caribean. Thus, the Nook. Truthfully I didn't think I'd enjoy it so much. I really enjoy the feel of a book in my hands, but I'm loving it more daily. It's so easy! You find the hit, er, book that you are looking for, hit download, and presto, it's in your hands!
I know me rambling about an ereader isn't why you tune in to my little blog, but hey, it's my blog! There is something else incredible about the Nook. Both Barnes and Noble and Amazon offer a self publishing function for authors looking to publish an eBook. Crazy right? Well, I've decided to put together several short stories, and one novella, that I've been working on and offer them online. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't nervous. I mean, what if no one likes them? That could be devastating. But, it seems like something that I need to try. So, wish me luck and expect to see a post in the near future telling you where you can go buy it.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Check 1 2 3, is this thing on?

Its a new year and I've got some big plans for 2011. We'll talk a little more about them later, but they include and neccesitate a larger web presence. Thus the shiny new blog! Here is my own personal little forum to babble about the joys and pains of being a teacher, dog owner, fiancee, and aspiring writer. My goal is to update weekly. So, lets get on with this thing.

The first item on our docket is wedding plans. We are almost done hammering out the final details after months of planning and the occasional expressed desire to just elope. If anyone is considering eloping I can tell you a few places to check out. I know I did. But, all is well now. The dresses our measured, the tuxes are picked, and the cakes have been tasted. Just a few small details left to go.

Next up is work. Work is starting to turn around and the sounds coming out of my classroom are starting to have more than a vague resemblance to music. I still have one or two classes who are less than enthusiastic about having to take band, but the vast majority are at least participating. I'm planning to  put on an end of the year concert with my high school and upper jr. high classes, which will be the first one at my school in close to 5 years. I haven't made any decisions yet, but I'm considering doing some smaller performances with my elementary and 6th grade classes during the day.

Finally we come to our writing aspirations. I finally finished New Damascus and it clocks in at a little over 12,000 words. It's a little long for a short story, but not quite long enough for a novella so after I let it sit a little while I might add some material. I have a few more things in the works. Several shorter pieces and one longer work in progress entitled Walk With Me. The first chapter is roughed out and I have started on the second. I hope to finish it this weekend and I'm setting myself the goal of one chapter a week. That seems modest, but really that might be too much for my current schedule. I shall keep you updated however and when I finish one of my shorter pieces I might post it for a little critique. Hannah claims that she can already recognize my writing style, which is encouraging.

Well, thats it for now. I'll try to have something more entertaining to write next time. Keep checking back.