Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Gullywasher & Merritt Island (Part Four)


Here at the Sullivan household, we are still embroiled in the fallout from my mom's passing last month, but this is a blog post I wrote many moons ago, and I just haven't had the time to post. It's the final installment in the trip Robin and I took to Florida in February -- oh how the time flies!! I hope you enjoy it.  If you missed any of the prior posts, you can find them here.


  • The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part Three (The Everglades Adventure)
  • The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part Two (The Old Man and the Sea)
  • The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part One (Yes, this is another birding post)

  • Yellow-Breasted Birder

    That night I dreamed Robin had purchased a stroller for Josh and it rolled with a squeak, squeak! “I’m just not comfortable leaving him in the car, and those big trees, well, they intimidate him. He’s just a little tree.” I heard her saying.

    When I awoke, the blue sky had turned dark and clouds blanketed the world. It started raining before I got my first cup of coffee, and when it came, it came hard. All hopes of a day spent like Clint Howard and Dennis Weaver flying through the grass of the Everglades on a fan boat were drowned in an all-day rainstorm. Consulting a weather app’s satellite map, we spotted a short break in the cloud pattern.

    “We should go for it,” Robin declared. She took out a pen and grabbed a napkin to diagram the approach. “We'll make a surgical strike. Here, here, and here. If we time this right and nail the window, we can be in and out with photos of Wood Storks and Spoonbills.”

    “How?” I asked.

    She held up a park map. “I know where they nest!”

    We plowed through the cats and dogs (yes, that's a rain reference - there were no actual pets falling from the sky), and arrived at the park gate early in the morning. Interesting side note, Everglades is open 24/7, and if you get there before the gate guard, there’s no one to pay the entry fee to. And they’re okay with that. We’d bought a three-day pass on the prior day, so it didn’t matter, but still.

    At that time in the morning, in the middle of February, and in a driving downpour forecast to last all day, you’d be surprised how few tourists you’ll find on the back roads in a 1.5 million acre wetland wilderness—or maybe not. I think there were four cars in the whole park.

    Then it happened. The rain stopped. The window had arrived, the only problem was we still weren’t at the nesting site. I did manage to shoot a red-shouldered hawk on the side of the road, but I already had one of those. By the time we arrived, sprinkles began to hit the windshield once more.

    “We’re running out of time!”

    We reached the little pond with signs that warned: Nesting site, do not disturb birds!

    Pulling out a plastic bag from the backseat (that we received when purchasing Starburst and Reeses' Peanut Butter Cups for the road), I covered my camera and we crept up on the pond. Sure enough. Wood Storks and Spoonbills! They were far away, and the sky was so cloudy I hardly had any light, but I ripped off the plastic (thankfully I have a big hood to protect the lens) took aim, focused, held my breath and…click.

    Normally, if this were a western, or a thriller, pulling the trigger and hearing a click would be a bad thing, but with a camera the sound was perfect. I actually had the camera on Sport/Action mode making it into an automatic rapid fire: click, click, click.

    Spoonbills and Wood Storks
    “Work it, baby, work it,” I whispered to the spoonbill. I suppose, standing in the rain taking pictures of oblivious birds across a swampy pond in an empty park pull-off while my wife, and quest side-kick, babysat our insecure lime tree just brings out the Annie Leibovitz in me.  Although now that I think of it, I doubt Annie ever uttered those words in her life!

    But I digress, the bottom line is I got them, and none too soon. The rain came back angry as ever, perhaps displeased that it hadn't foiled us.  The great eye of Sauron had found us.

    We tried to escape, but that’s when the Prowler went lame.  The car began to scream. Honestly, that’s the best way to describe the shrieking sound—okay shrieking is also a pretty good way. A horrible metal on metal noise emitted from the rear driver-side tire that made our skins crawl. Imagine a child raking their teeth across a microphone hooked to a stadium-size band-amplified speaker system, and you’d—okay so now there are at least three ways to describe this.

    We pulled over, into another pull-off where—believe it or not—two other cars of tourists were parked and trying to quietly coax a look at a bird. Dirty looks greeted us as we shrieked our way in.

    What the hell was making that racket? Their scowls asked.

    To help describe why this was so odd, you have to understand how ridiculously simple the Tesla is. There is no engine, drive train, timing belt, pistons, camshafts, radiator, exhaust system, axles, or transmission. Like a health snob, it doesn’t drink oil or needs transmission fluid. Heck for all I know,  the only liquid the Prowler has is windshield wiper wash. When we first visited the Tesla showroom we saw a stripped-down display of the car. It consisted of four wheels, four little electric motors attached to them and the bed of the car. I assumed this was done so potential buyers could see the wheels or something. What it actually showed was the whole working car minus the irrelevant interior and exterior body—you know, the seats,  doors, roof and such. In other words, the whole car is just four little electric motors, four wheels, and a battery that looks like the bed of the car. With so few parts to the thing, what could possibly go wrong?

    “Back up,” I told Robin, who was at the wheel.

    Slipping it into reverse we rolled silently backward. And I do mean silently—electric cars make no sound except the tires on the road.

    Pleased to hear nothing, I said. “Forward?”

    Robin went ahead and once more the screaming resumed, and plastic hooded heads standing in the rain near the water turned and scowled once more.

    “What now?” Robin asked. “This sounds serious.”

    We were, at that moment, deep in the Everglades. So far in the wilderness, in fact, that I couldn’t recall the last time I had spotted a Starbucks. And it was raining. At the moment it was just a pleasant sprinkle, but we knew from the satellite recon images that the vicious gullywasher was going to be returning at any moment.

    Complicating all this, it’s not like a Tesla can simply be towed. You can’t even jack it to change a tire because the bottom of the car is one huge battery. For that reason, there’s no spare tire. If you get a flat you’re supposed to call Tesla, and they will come out and take care of you…no matter where you are.

    Okay. Let's try that.

    I called Tesla.  I described the situation, then held the phone to the wheel as Robin rolled forward, once more testing the patience of the tourists near us.

    “Yes, yes!” the voice on the phone yelled. “I can hear it. That sounds really horrible.”

    I explained where we were and how hopeless it all seemed.

    It was obvious we were screwed.

    “So, what do we do?”

    “Is it raining, or has it recently rained where you are?” the voice from my phone asked cryptically. 

    “Ahh, yeah.”

    “Okay. This is going to sound…well…odd.”

    “At the moment I’m open to odd.” We really didn’t have a lot of options besides waiting all day for a flatbed tow truck to be sent from Miami.

    “Right. If you are in a safe place and feel comfortable doing it…floor your car, then slam on the breaks.”

    One more thing about Teslas. They are ridiculously quick. There’s even something called the Ludicrous Feature that helps the car accelerate at, well, ludicrous speed. Anyway, a Tesla doesn't pull on a mechanical linkage, pump gas into a carburetor, and create explosions under pressure to push pistons that crank a shaft to get it moving. When you press the accelerator on a Tesla, the car goes that speed, period. If you "punch it," you’d better have your head against the headrest. And this will happen even at high speeds. Flooring a Tesla isn’t something you do lightly—although it is something you do quite often for fun.

    “What has happened,” the voice in my hand told me, “is that debris has gotten caught in the wheel case. I know the sound it creates is monstrous and scary, but it isn’t at all harmful. Nothing bad will happen to you or the car as a result. To stop the sound all you need do it jar it loose. If you were near a car wash or a hose, you could spray it out. Given your situation, just a good slam of the brakes should do.”

    I looked at Robin. We both looked at the tourists. We both smiled.

    “Hang on, Josh, we going for a ride.” (Okay not the best quote from the worst Indiana Jones movie ever, but it was fitting).

    I can’t tell you if our roadside neighbors were shocked or upset because the moment Robin pressed the pedal to the floor we were gone. I regretted not having a car safety-seat for Josh as she then hammered the brake. At this point, I was certain the other park visitors figured we were insane or screwing with them. We never looked back because the Screaming Eagle was back to the Silent Prowler once more.

    With my stork and spoonbill adequately bagged, I was up to 72 birds. Time to head north.  We still had a few more days before we needed to catch the return train, and we had two options.

    On my very first birding expedition to Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge on the Potomac, I met a genuine birder. Birders are without exception very nice and friendly people. The man’s name was Scott and he took me under his…um…wing.

    Besides explaining all sorts of things, (and upon hearing we would soon be going to Florida) he told me I should go to a place called Merritt Island, which was halfway down the Florida Peninsula on the Atlantic side. This birding Mecca was only an hour away from the train station, which made it appealing. Also, close to the train station: Disney World.

    Having had three children, Robin and I have visited the Magic Kingdom many times. First as teenagers, then as parents, but we haven’t seen Mickey and Minnie in years. The real draw was the new Harry Potter World at Universal. We’d been birding for six straight days. Tomorrow was Valentine’s Day. Robin deserved to have some fun on this trip, too.

    “Nope,” she replied when the idea alternative location was raised. “Let’s go to Merritt.”

    “You sure?”

    She nodded, then got quiet.

    “What?”

    She shrugged. “I used to love Disney and Universal. The fact that I don’t want to go makes me feel old.”

    I wanted to say something poetic like, “You're not old, you're like a fine wine and get better with age.” Instead, I nodded sympathetically and replied. “Me too, but that's not such a big deal.”

    That night in the hotel room, we worked on a few minor changes to Age of Legend so Robin could send out the ARC. We ended up working until nine-thirty and at that hour were forced to grab an awful dinner at the hotel restaurant. We were the last seated table. We might be too old to jump at the chance to visit Disney World/Universal Studios, but Florida was used to serving an even older crowd who were asleep after Jeopardy.

    The next morning we were up at dawn. We checked out of the hotel and hit the local Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee and a half-dozen pastries, and drove past the Kennedy Space Center and on up onto Merritt Island.

    Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge shares the Atlantic coast of Florida's largest barrier island with NASA's Kennedy Space Center and visitor complex. The refuge consists of 140,000 acres containing over 1,000 species of plants, 117 fish, 68 amphibians and reptiles, 330 birds, and 31 mammals. Merritt Island provides hiking and driving trails for the public, and it's a 'gateway site' for the Great Florida Birding Trail. Birders, we were told, travel from all over the world to visit the refuge, and in particular one specific road.

    “Black Point Wildlife Drive,” a wonderful, elderly lady and volunteer behind the counter at the Refuge’s headquarters said. “They come for all over—all over the world to go on this road. You should take the bus. Our guide is the best! He’s just the very best!”

    Robin and I stood in the little building that was part wildlife museum, part admissions center, part souvenir store (which hadn’t opened for business yet). The bus tour guide was waiting for his customers to arrive. The tour was full up, but if we wanted to stick around we were assured there were always empty seats.

    “Folks wake up at dawn,” the wildlife guide explained. “and they look out the window. After remembering they’re on vacation, they reconsider going out so early.”

    Robin and I aren't one for "group tours," so we thanked them, paid our admission fee, and started what would be the closest thing to an African Safari we're likely to go on.

    Black Point Wildlife Drive is a seven-mile, one-way gravel road that winds through the coastal refuge. Cars roll at a crawl and stop frequently with people climbing out to peer with binoculars or take photos. If the cars were khaki-colored land cruisers instead of Hondas and Ford SUVs, we could have been in Kenya.

    We spotted ducks on the water and stopped. I don’t have many ducks yet, so these were likely to be new birds. We stopped and I got out to shoot every time we saw a bird, which in hindsight reminded me of the opening scene in Ghostbusters where Ray Stantz describes with rapture his excitement of witnessing the undersea mass sponge migration to Peter Venkman, then the three professors walk into the stacks of the New York Public library and are blown away by the full-torso apparition.

    Robin and I were about to enter the stacks.  Merritt Island is full of birds.  Around every curve were ibis, herons, teals, terns, osprey, willets, shovelers, pelicans, egrets and more—not one or two, but flocks of them. Groups of cars would converge, and occupants stepped out to talk in hushed tones, identifying the various groups.

    One person we met was a science writer who happened to come to the island and turned on that road with no idea what she was getting into. “This is great, but I don’t know anything about birding. I should have brought binoculars!”

    Others were longtime birders who helped me I.D. several of the harder to recognize waders.

    The bus eventually came through and deposited its brood. The guide pointed out the roseate spoonbill. “Yes, yes everyone look at the brilliant pink spoonbill. Go head, get it out of your system. When you’re done I’ll tell you about the Blue-wing Teals and Northern Shovelers.”

    I shot coots and tons of glossy Ibis, and another gallinule, this one a commoner.



    Afterward, we went to town, had a wonderful lunch, then returned and took another jungle-like trail followed by a Savannah-like path searching for the infamous Florida Scrub Jay. We failed to see it on either path. Neither did anyone else we ran across, and it became a running joke, especially since the trail we were on was called the Scrub Jay Trail!

    At the end of the day, as we were passing out through a gate, and there it was! I spotted a Scrub Jay. We pulled over and caught the bird on a branch to the applause of our fellow hunters. At the end of the day, I had a full camera and we packed up for the return trip.

    I spent most of the train ride home going through photos that I downloaded to my iPad, identifying them with the use of my books and the Merlin App, and adding each to my journal. When the numbers were finally tallied, Robin said, "You might want to lie when you get home. You don't want to crush Sarah's spirit."

    Of course, the first thing Sarah said when we returned was, “How many?” No inquiries about how our trip was, did we have fun, or why was there a small potted tree in the living room. She was only interested in one thing.

    My wife cringed.“How many would be too many, do you think?” Robin asked.

     “Did you get over a hundred? A hundred and forty would be a lot.”

    Robin and I relaxed.  “Didn’t break a hundred,” I admitted. 

    “How many then?”

    “I more than doubled my list. Total is now 92.”

    Sarah nodded. “I expected well over a hundred. That’s doable. But now I have to get serious and go to High Island for the spring migration.”

    “Why don’t you both go to High Island?” Robin suggested.

    “You know a father-daughter thing.”

    “Don’t you mean a Gamora-Thanos thing?”

    “Okay, I’ll come too,” Robin said.

    “If I go to High Island,” I said. “I might as well go ahead and get the big lens. So many of the birds were just out of range for a clear shot.”

    “Then it’s settled,” Robin flipped open her computer. “I’ll book it.”

    “On one condition,” I said. “ Josh stays here.”

    Robin nodded. “I’ll get a sitter.”

    Blue-winged Teal

    Common Gallinule

    Glossy Ibis

    Great Egret

    Roseate Spoonbill

    Sanderling

    Non-Breeding Tri-colored Heron

    White Pelicans

    Friday, May 3, 2019

    TIL: I'm a USA Today Bestselling Author

    Today I got up like any other day and had myself a cup of coffee. Upstairs in the cabin's loft, Robin was entering some sales data form Del Rey in her spreadsheet and she said. "Huh, there's a new button in the author portal which indicates bestseller status. Guess what. You're a USA Today Bestselling Author -- twice!"

    Yep, apparently, Age of Swords hit the 8/3/2017 list, coming in at 102, and Age of War hit the 7/12/2018 list. They came in 102 and 68 respectively. A little digging also shows Age of Myth hit the Amazon ebook bestseller list for 3/19/2017--a nice little surprise!

    In other news...both Age of Myth and Age of War popped up on the Washington Post's Hardcover bestseller list (for the week ending April 7th).  That's the 3rd time for Myth and 5th time for War.  Age of Swords has been on the list at least once, maybe twice.


    All that is some pretty nice surprises to wake up to.  Thanks all for your continued support!


    Thursday, May 2, 2019

    The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part Three (The Everglades Adventure)


    Everglades

















    I remember when I first got my driver’s license. Back then, I would drive just for the fun of it. But when I was sent to the store to get milk, I discovered the experience was so much more fulfilling. Having a reason to do something made a difference. Manhattan is built for business, and when I first visited it as a tourist it was nice, but when I go there now, as I do for audio recordings or to meet with publishers, the visits feel more satisfying. It’s the difference between going to Aspen just to visit, or going to ski.

    Walking in the wild is nice. It is pleasant, calming, stress relieving, but without a purpose beyond getting your steps in, it can also feel a tad pointless. People like points. We like purpose and a sense of accomplishing something. Hunting birds give reason to the journey, making a quest out of a mere walk. Using a camera rather than a rifle means I fail to bring home a freezer full of meat, but I also don’t need a license. I do, however, get a souvenir I can hang on my wall. I get pictures. Stalking with a camera provides most of the same joys. I get exercise, see beautiful places, and of course, there is that heart-pounding moment when you actually see something—something great. For a deer hunter, that might be a rack of antlers; for me, it’s a new bird for my list.

    By the time we left the Florida Keys, I had shot 23 new birds for a total of 67. I was feeling pretty good, and we still weren’t done. Turns out, Everglades National Park is right at the tip of Florida. I set the Prowler’s GPS to the main gate of the park and settled back into Eames’s Kings of the Wyld, when all of a sudden—

    “Stop!” Robin shouted, her eyes fixed on the side of the road.

    Assuming a small child was in hot pursuit of a bouncy ball rolling into my lane, or more importantly, she had spotted a new bird, I politely asked the Prowler to come to a stop.

    “Look! Look! The sign!”

    On the side of the road, there was a propped up, hand-painted wooden board marked with the words: Key Lime Trees 4 Sale!

    “Really?” I asked.

    “I could make Key lime pies at home!”

    “It’s snowing at home.”

    “Josh can stay inside until spring.”

    “Josh?”

    She nodded. “That’s his name.”

    “Whose name?”

    “My Key lime tree. Josh Lyman.”

    Seven minutes later I had a two-foot lime tree in the back seat. We were also on our way to a birding hot spot. What I didn’t know was that up north a huge winter storm was pushing down and the weather was about to change.

    The Seminole call it Pahokee, meaning "Grassy Water,” and the Everglades essentially means River of Grass, as noted by famed journalist and writer, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who concluded that cartographers substituted the word “ever” for “river” with glade being an old-fashioned English word for grassy open space. Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. established in 1947 and is comprised of 1.5 million acres. So, of course, Sancho and I figured a day and a half would do it.

    The half-day started as soon as we returned to Florida proper. We drove up to this very indistinct, out of the way gate that seemed more like the service entrance to the Magic Kingdom. Then we drove to the Anhinga Trail. I already had shot one of these snake birds on Key West, but rumor held I could get a better one here.  We parked in the sun, so Robin took Josh out and placed him in the shady eaves of the nearby jungle where he wouldn’t feel so hot or isolated and perhaps might make a few new friends. For a tree, Josh was already quite the world-traveler.

    Anhinga Trail

    The Anhinga Trail is mostly a raised boardwalk through wetlands, and it is filled with Anhingas, who are as friendly as seagulls in a coastal MacDonald’s parking lot. There are also alligators. These often thousand-pound lizards napped in the sun on the side of the trail. In August of 2018, the news was awash with a story about a woman in South Carolina who was killed by an alligator while walking her dog. This left me less than comfortable when at one point a pair of “napping” gators lay on opposite sides of the path. Fellow tourists, mindlessly snapping photos, often spotted one, then began to back into the other. I wondered how long before the trail was renamed: “Gator Lunch Path.” The safari was getting a bit real at this point, and Don Quixote forgot about the birds for a moment to keep a better eye on Sancho Panza. 

    Gauntlet of Many Teeth
    Once past the Gauntlet of Many Teeth, I spotted one of the birds I was after. The famed Purple Gallinule--noted as the most colorful bird in the Everglades. Gallinules stand on lily pads, walking from one to another like floating platforms. Using its beak, it lifts and searches underneath for food. I spotted one far across a lily-padded pond. Easy to identify as it is bright purple, blue, red, white and yellow and the size of a big quail or small duck. Problem was it stuck to the shadows and was over forty yards away. Once more my 70-200mm managed a provable, though hopelessly blurry, photo. Robin was able to see it clearly with the Nikon binocs just before the bird retreated into the undergrowth. Others came up excited, but the bird had vanished. 

    Purple Gallinule
    We found another trail that went into the jungle, and after checking on Josh to make sure he wasn’t being bullied by the other trees, we went exploring. This was where the hunt really shined. The two of us crept slowly, silently sneaking through the shadows avoiding the twigs and brittle leaves that might make noise. I held my slung camera at the ready, while Robin had both hands on the binoculars. Then she raised a hand indicating a halt. She’d heard something.

    I listened and heard it too. A very distinct, very unusual whistling song the likes of which neither of us had ever heard. We waited, held our breaths, listening. Then down the path came a couple with their child in a stroller making more noise than a herd of rattling cans. We frowned at each other and waited for the couple to move off.  They didn’t. Instead, they stopped to look at the nearby pond.

    After what seemed forever, during which we battled malaria-carrying misquotes, they finally packed up. Robin, impatient, moved around a clump of trees certain she’d heard the bird on the other side. If nothing else, she hoped to frighten it toward me. I waited, watching the little family load up their stroller and then off they went pushing their daughter and—squeak, squeak! It was the bird! Robin spun to search the leaves.

    “Robin!”

    “Shush!” She waved at me to be quiet.

    “Robin!”

    “Quiet, I hear it!”

    “I do, too, but it’s not a bird.” I pointed at the family moving down the trail. “It’s the stroller.”

    The voice of British naturalist David Attenborough returned: The baby stroller or Baby Trend Expedition Premiere Jogger Travel System, is a large gray and black monstrosity, which can easily reach 18 kilograms, and have a 30-centimeter wheel-span, and exists almost exclusively as a curse to parents, and Everglade birders.

    We’d had enough for one day. I only added three more to my list, but I was up to an even 70 birds, and tomorrow we’d come back. Our plan was to charter one of those big fan boats and go deep into the park. At the very least we’d be able to see the Wood Stork and the Rosette Spoonbill, and maybe even a flamingo.

    What I didn’t know was that the winter storm was almost to Florida.

    Anhinga

    Anhinga

    Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

    Great Blue Heron

    Green Heron

    Mockingbird

    Yellow-throated Warbler
    NEXT UP: The Gullywasher

    Sick and Tired

    As expected, the flu got me. Good news: I’m now immune to at least that strain, most likely for life. They should sell t-shirts. The flu nearly killed me and all I got was this lousy immunity. I shouldn’t complain. According to the CDC: 80,000 people died of flu last winter in the U.S., making it the highest death toll in 40 years. Robin and I are still feeling the after-effects, but everything is mostly back to normal. More importantly, we are back to work.

    Age of Legend has gone out to Kickstarter backers. The print file is in process. The audio production is moving, and I am back working on Book 2 of the Fall, which I am rather pleased with now that I am re-reading it to remember where I left off.

    Perhaps most importantly, my daughter and I are in a virtual tie in our birding contest. And as I am way behind with regard to posting about it, I must now put up the final post from my trip to Key West to complete that story.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2019

    Virgil Brigman Back On The Air



    Friday, April 19, 2019

    Six More Weeks of Winter




    Her name was Anna Mae Veronica Soules Sullivan Berels.

    Anna Mae’s mother was Delia Flanagan, who in 1894, at age 17 sailed alone from Ireland on the S.S. Lucania to America looking for a better life for herself and her children. She married William Soules who was born in 1867 just after the Civil War. Their daughter Anna Mae Soules was the youngest of eight children, born in 1921, and for 97 years she lived through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. She married a steel mill crane operator named James Sullivan who for three terrifying years fought in the war in Europe and was one of those trapped in the Battle of Bastogne. Anna Mae remembered when milk was delivered by horse cart, and everyone sat around and stared at the radio in the evenings listening to shows. She loved to sing, dance, laugh, learned to drive on a Packard, lost her first child and husband to cancer, and tried in vain to teach me math despite my lack of interest and utter absence of ability.

    Anna Mae died a few weeks ago.

    She was my mother. 

    I’m making this post to explain why House Sullivan has gone dark. Those who sent emails are likely wondering why they haven’t received a response. For the last month, we’ve been…occupied.

    Everything was dropped when my mother went into sudden decline. Afterward, to recover, my wife Robin, my daughter, my brother, and I all went to High Island, Texas as a sort of escape.

    High Island is neither high, nor an island, nor is it a resort destination. It’s an incredibly small town in the middle of nowhere. It is comprised of a high school, a gas station, a fruit market, and not much else. But, located on the gulf coast, the trees of High Island are the first that birds migrating north from South and Central America see, and they land there exhausted from the trip. Some, like the ruby-throated Hummingbird, have been flying for eighteen days straight without stopping. In High Island they wash off the salt water, and gorge themselves on hackenberries, and recover for the rest of their journey. From March until May, High Island is the birding capital of the world. I had planned the trip months before, and wasn’t sure we would go, and then we did.

    Feeling a bit like four migrating hummingbirds, we landed among the hackenberry trees and for three days went birding. Spring was full-on, and the place was filled with very nice, very happy birders. Older folks mostly in funny hats yoked with binoculars worth more than high-end iPhones. That’s the thing with birders—I never met an unfriendly, or unpleasant one. For those depressed from Annamae's passing, a flock of birders is a wonderful antidote.

    We hunted the wildlife refuges for warblers, the gulf coast for shorebirds, and the maze of oil rig roads for meadowlarks and scissortails. The highlight came on the last day when we were given a magical quest.

    After swearing to keep the location secret, (to prevent hunters from finding them) I was told of the whereabouts of a pair of Whooping Crane, the second rarest bird in North America with less than 500 left. (The rarest being the California condor.) The directions were sketched on a piece of paper and were arcane and vague. Odds of us finding these birds was unlikely, but we set out anyway. This unlikely and incredible quest that took us far afield in the massive state of Texas. We were on a feathered grail quest.

    Against all odds, we found and photographed the birds. At a later date I hope to post the photos and many others, and perhaps give more details about the adventure, but for now I feel I am writing on borrowed time.

    The day we left, Robin became very sick exhibiting flu-like symptoms. Pumping her with Advil and NyQuil, we got her home. She’s so bad, we will be making a rare visit to the doctor. Also this morning, my brother reported he, too, has what is, very likely now, the flu. This means it is probable that I too will suffer the same very soon. I'm already feeling a bit weak.

    So while I would like to report that our trip to witness the spring migration, the rebirth of spring, and the success of our Hooping Quest was spiritually rejuvenating, (which it was) and that House Sullivan is up and running again, we are not. We remained in an illness inflicted limbo.

    I hope you will bear with us and be patient.

    Some winters take longer to shed than others.

    Monday, March 18, 2019

    30 hours and $3,376 to go


    Hey all, we are in the final hours (29.75 to be exact)  of the Age of Legend Kickstarter, and to say things have gone well would be a gross understatement. We are just a few thousand away from joining the other 4 fiction Kickstarters that have surpassed $100,000 in pre-order sales. How nuts is that?

    Seriously, the support has been nothing short of amazing. Not only have you covered the costs for the print run, but also the cover design, copy editing, the production of soundtrack music by Will Musser, plus I'll end up getting an advance...something that usually only happens when you sign a traditional deal. And since traditional publishing isn't something I can't do for this project (because the audio rights were previously sold and no traditional big-five publisher will take on a project without those rights), that's a tremendous gift you've given me.


    In return for the amazing support, I'm able to give back to the backers who pre-order by offering things you just can't get when buying through the store. Here is the current list.

    • ebook delivered April 9th rather than July 9th
    • you'll see your name in print - all backers are listed in the acknowledgments
    • hardcovers delivered as soon as they come off the presses
    • ebooks are DRM free and come in .mobi, .epub, and .pdf
    • signed hardcovers
    • 4 custom-designed bookmarks (one signed)
    • Screensavers for phones, tablets, and computers that features artwork by Marc Simonetti.
    • Soundtracks created by Will Musser (4 songs for Age of Myth, and one song each for Age of Swords, Age of War, and Age of Legend)
    • Save $3 off the hardcover list price for Age of Legend only
    • Save $22 off the hardcovers list price when purchasing all 4 books
    • Short Story featuring Suri and Minna
    • Short Story: Burning Alexandria
    • Short Story: The Game
    • Access to two video calls (one for readers the other for writers)
    And if we can reach that $100,000 level all backers will get a free copy of one of my self-published standalone novels. You can choose from The Death of Dulgath, The Disapperance of Winter's Daughter, or Hollow World. Those run from $8 - $10, so that's an exceptional freebie, especially for those that back at the $5 or $10 level ;-)

    We have just 30 hours left for the Kickstarter. So, if you've already backed the project, thanks so much for the support. If you haven't backed it yet, check it out and see if it is something you'd like to join. Oh, and if you know other fans of my writing, please tell them about the Kickstarter.  After all, if we reach that final goal, all the backers will benefit.

    And as always, I and Robin thank you for your support.

    Friday, March 15, 2019

    Featured Publishing Kickstarter Project


    What a nice thing to wake up to. The Age of Legend Kickstarter is the featured publishing project out of the 417 projects that are currently live.


     We have just 4 days left and here's where we stand:

    • If we get another 82 backers we'll become the 3rd most-backed fiction Kickstarter of all time. (and that will trigger the next stretch goal that will provide another short story to all the backers).
    • We're already the 5th most-funded fiction Kickstarter of all time (and I doubt we'll climb higher than that as we'd have to raise more than $118,000).
    • We need just $1,056 to hit $90,000 - that's pretty crazy!
    • So far the Kickstarter has sold 2,216 hardcovers and 1,781 ebooks. That's nearly 4,000 copies! and it's still 3 1/2 months before release.
    • We've scheduled a live stream during the final minutes of the Kickstarter. You can join us and even ask questions. It'll start on Tuesday at 6:30 PM EST.
    • A few days we finished the audiobook recording, narrated once more by the incomparable Tim Gerard Reynolds.
    • We've scheduled Tim to record book #5 (Age of Death) and #6 (Age of Empyre) in October, so there won't be a long wait between the three remaining titles.
    • Robin is working on the Glossary and an Afterword (because so many people liked the one she did for Age of War) and then all we'll need is the names of the backers. After we get those we'll be done and ready to roll the presses!
    Robin and I want to once again thank you all for the amazing support. We'll definitely be doing Kickstarters for the next two books. It's so exciting to see how much people are getting into the Kickstarter and looking forward to an early copy of the book and all the bonus perks.

    Friday, March 8, 2019

    Top 5 US Fiction Kickstarters Of All Time


    So, the Age of Legend Kickstarter, continues to go well. Our thanks go out to all the people joining the fun. We have 11 days left, and so far it has made the Top 5 of all time when looking at the number of backers for  US-based fiction projects.


    It's currently sitting snuggly at #4, right between two of my other Kickstarters. Likewise, when we look at most-funded. It's doing well, too. It's currently #6, and the likelihood that it'll push out #5 (my project The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter. Is pretty good. Whether it can get more backers, is another story. We're still 324 backers behind that, and that's a lot of people to make up in the remaining time. Still, even if it doesn't we have absolutely nothing to complain about.  Just a reminder. Those who back the Kickstarter get:

    • The ability to read the book 3 months early.
    • Having their name in print as a backer of the project
    • A Minna and Suri short story
    • Screensavers of Marc Simonetti's artwork for their phone, tablet and computer
    • Custom-designed bookmarks
    • Many other bonus perks.
    Oh, and the contest to guess the final funding amount will end when March 12th does. The one who guesses closest will win a 1,000-piece puzzle of Magda.


    It's one of a kind! (Or I should say 2 of a kind, as we're getting one of the puzzles for ourselves.

    Thursday, March 7, 2019

    The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part Two (The Old Man and the Sea)




    Traveling southwest along Route 1 (hopping islands and transversing open water like Jamie Lee Curtis hanging out an open sunroof), I had tried to shoot birds—with a camera, not a gun. And yes, Robin was driving. There were many along the wires and railings. Mostly cormorants (which I already had), but a few others looked new. It didn’t work. Even at max shutter speed the shots came out as blurs. The sun was going down. And while everyone else was stopping at roadside pull-offs to take pictures of the orange sun setting over the gulf behind perfectly black silhouettes of palm trees (something I'm sure they were doing to create a screen-saver version of a classic Florida postcard) I was lamenting the lack of light which prevented me from shooting birds.

    Around nine at night we arrived at the place Robin had booked for us: a “boutique hotel” called Eden House. Right in the thick of Key West, the tiny hotel with the walled-in oasis was a lovely setting but not much of a room. It had a bed next to a sink, three hooks on the wall, a tiny fold-down desk, a shower in the corner of the room and a toilet in a closet. No dresser, tv, phone, or much of anything else. Robin, who made the reservation and likes television, wondered if she’d made a mistake. I, who hardly ever watches tv, called it authentic.

    I wasn’t far off.

    Typical home along the many residential streets in Key West
    Key West is a different world. The clapboard houses behind white picket fences are wreathed in lush palms and orchids, and they sell for millions. Down on Duval Street, we spotted lavish restaurants with terraces and more gardens. But as we discovered when we lived in Vermont, there is the trendy and then there is the genuine. Nearly all the fancy looking restaurants had average food and terrible service, while the worst appearing eateries, the ones that must have paid off the health department to keep in business, were fantastic. This became our system for finding the best food. If it looked about to be condemned, if the walls were partially built out of old car doors, if birds flew through the dining area and chickens strutted under tables, we knew we’d found a culinary delight.

    B.O.'s Fish Wagon (Great Lunch spot)
    One of the best is Pepe’s. Established in 1909, it looks like a shack but has great food and served the most wondrous Key Lime pie—the best we found on the island. Traditionally, I have always been more of a banana cream or chocolate cream guy, but what I didn’t know was that real key lime pie is different from the knock-offs up north. Real key lime is made with actual Key limes which are quite different in that they are the shape and size of golf balls and have a thin skin and, of course, a different flavor. Pepe’s key lime pie was so shockingly good, so light, flavorful and simple that we went back the next day just to have it again.

    On that first morning, I got up before dawn and armed with my rifle-like telephoto slung over one shoulder, I wandered the streets. I picked up a new gull and a brown pelican at the marina, and a palm warbler in the historic cemetery. I was excited to shoot my first exotic bird—an ibis. This was the snow white wading bird with the downward curved beak so often seen in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. Clicking the shutter, capturing this grand find, I felt like a genuine birder, a master of the hunt. Turned out, in the Keys, Ibis are as common as pigeons in Central Park. I later found packs of them poking through garbage containers in the back of Walmarts.

    Walking around the island was nice, but I needed to get out in the wild and really hunt. Key West is where Papa Hemingway used to spend time sports fishing. I needed a boat.


    The brochure said that unless I had skippered a boat on the open ocean at least ten times, I should charter a captain along with a vessel. I never liked the idea of being led around when horseback riding, and I didn’t think I’d like having someone else steer my ship as I hunted birds. After all, that’s one of the reasons I had Sancho. And really, how much trouble could I get into in the open ocean? Okay, maybe there was some risk. So before we took command of the 14’ skiff and headed off into the Gulf of Mexico and the unknown, I bought a bottle of sunscreen. I figured that would do it.

    Right now you’re thinking…what an idiot. You’re expecting to hear a tale of a fateful trip that ends up with Robin and I stranded on a desert isle with a professor, a starlet, and millionaires who inexplicably brought multiple steamer trunks of luggage on a three-hour cruise. Turns out the Gulf of Mexico (at least the part we explored) isn’t terribly scary. We powered out away from land for over an hour at a pretty good clip toward Snip and Mud keys, and at any point, if we had run out of gas or something awful happened, we could have gotten out and pushed. The Gulf of Mexico, we discovered, is ridiculously shallow. Even at high tide, much of it is little more than three feet deep.


    Using a nifty nautical app, (that the fella who rented us the boat helped set up on my phone), we navigated out to a sandy beach on Mud Key and had lunch--sandwiches that we picked up at a little bakery near the hotel.

    Then faithful Sancho took the helm and I perched myself on the bow, camera in hand and we went hunting through the mangrove channels trying our best not to run aground or spook birds. Imagine just about any wildlife documentary where David Attenborough narrates over the muffled sound of a boat motor and there’s this awkward fellow laying across the bow with a massive camera lens in hand, and you’ve seen this part. We tried to reach the Great White Heron Refuge, but the water was simply too shallow and we did run aground in our attempt.

    “Aye, don’t get your britches in a bunch, Hooper!” Robin growled her best imitation of Robert Shaw’s Quint from the movie Jaws, as she shut the motor to the skiff off and gave me an almost sinisterly mischievous look. “Give it a sec and the wind’ll drift us right off.”  Between us, Robin is the real salt. She had a Sunfish sailboat as a girl.

    My reply: “I think we’re gonna need a smaller boat.”

    Just as Robin prophesied we drifted off, restarted the motor, and headed back. Spray breached the bow as we slammed the crests that came sideways so that I had to hide my camera inside my fleece. The day was fading and while I had blasted away a bunch of birds that I still needed to identify, there was one I wanted and hadn’t seen: osprey.

    Spotting a big nest in a tree on a distant island, I asked Robin to “bring her 'round and go in slow.”

    The osprey or Pandion haliaetus is a large brown and white raptor, which can easily reach more than 60 centimeters in length and 180 centimeters in wingspan, and exists almost exclusively on a diet of fish, the voice of British naturalist David Attenborough whispered in my head as we approached the isle. Nothing moved. The nest was empty. Perched on the bow I scanned the tops of the mangroves looking for any—

    Then I saw it.

    There it was. The outline of a big bird on the far end of the island perched on the top of a tree. With a wave and a point, I urged Robin to ease over. The sun was against us—behind the bird, meaning all I would get was an outline and that wasn’t good enough. Color and details help to accurately identify.

    Closer and closer we came. Binoculars confirmed it was indeed an Osprey, a big one, but I needed a photo and my 70-200mm zoom wasn’t good enough at that range. “Get closer, and swing around. Put the sun at our backs!” Excitedly, I slipped in C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower-speak. “Tacks and lines! Man the sheets! Hard over—hard over, damn you!”

    Closer and closer we neared, then we got too close and the bird launched.

    “Get in there!” I shouted as I opened fire using my auto shoot setting and fastest shutter speed.
    Robin brought us in as I stayed on target adjusting focus and blasting away in a long pan. I was certain I had at least one clean photo when the bird finally disappeared over the tops of the mangroves and I lowered my camera. Robin had a nervous grin that said something happened that I didn’t know about. “It’s really shallow here.”

    I didn’t care, and slowly, very slowly, we navigated away from Osprey Isle. By the time we docked, I had bagged 13 total new birds including a Magnificent Frigatebird. My count was now 57. I was ahead of Sarah by eleven, and we still had three days of hunting left!

    Magnificent Frigatebird

    Anhinga (Snake Bird that swims like a snake

    Cat Bird (That mews like a cat

    Cormorant 

    Great Egret

    Great Egret

    Osprey
    Next up: The Everglades Adventure

    Monday, March 4, 2019

    The Great Bird Trip of 2019 - Part One

    Yes, this is another birding post.


    When I was thirteen, my brother-in-law—a Detroit police officer—bought me a 30-30 Winchester rifle and took me deer hunting on his hundred-acre farm in western Michigan. I was less than impressed with the experience, which consisted of going out early on a winter morning and sitting in the woods on a bright orange Hot Seat—a round plastic pillow filled with insulating beads that were supposed to warm your butt as you sat in the snow.

    I waited alone for hours in a dense thicket watching a power line that deer reportedly traveled. After a few minutes, my legs started to go to sleep. After an hour, my feet went numb and my fingertips decided to join them. My nose ran, and my mind wandered. I daydreamed, as was my habit, and I made up fantastical stories in my head until I was told hunting was over and I could go home. The whole enterprise was less than stellar. I was cold, wet, cramped-up from sitting still for so long, but most of all, I was bored. I never saw a deer, never fired the rifle—not even in target practice. Even after only one attempt, I realized that sitting on a Hot Seat in the snow and waiting for an animal isn’t hunting—it’s waiting. Hunting is the pursuit, or search for something, and you can’t do that sitting on your ass.

    As a recreational sport, hunting left me cold—literally. I would later learn (from more accomplished hunters) that shooting a deer wasn’t so important, but more of a bonus. Most of the enjoyment is derived from just getting away from work and family and having a reason to be out in nature—and then there was the heavy drinking with friends in camp. Being thirteen, and having a cop for a mentor, I was missing out on the best parts. As a result, I never took up hunting.

    Until now.

    For those of you who are just joining us, this last Thanksgiving, my daughter and I began a contest to see who could photograph the largest number of wild bird species in one year. Why? Because we’re strange people. Given I write fantasy for a living you should already have guessed that much.

    If you are thinking “Aww, you should let your little girl win,” be aware my daughter is twenty-nine years old and a ruthless competitor. She will stop at nothing (except cheating) to crush her father. My wife, Robin, tries to be impartial, but that’s hard when we live together and I frequently enlist her aid in my dastardly plans to achieve victory in this completely pointless contest. And in this adventure to slay windmills, she has now become my Sancho Panza in that she’s the sane one.

    As of my last posting, the score was Fabulous Fantasy Author: 44, Devious Daughter: 46. I was losing. Sarah was beating me by two birds, and neither one of us had shot a new one in over a month despite my frequent hunting among the hills, mountains, and lakes of the Shenandoah Valley while my daughter scoured the Potomac River. All that was about to change. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, were going on safari.

    It’s winter here in Virginia. While not Chicago-cold, the trees are bare, grass—when visible—is brown, and wind gusts are chilling. Those unhampered by work or family and capable of arranging flights to warmer climates usually do so. That includes birds. Most of them are gone. I imagine the lucky ones decompressing with their fellow peeps in the berry-laden bushes at golf course resorts, complaining about how the younger generation feel it’s okay to live off of feeders and no longer even know how to forage.

    Clearly, I needed to go south, and the farther the better.

    Rules for our contest mimic those of The Big Year, which restricts us to only birds found in the continental United States and Canada. A quick scan of a North American map revealed an ideal solution.

    Key West is an island and the southernmost city in the contiguous United States. The island is 4 miles long and 1 mile wide. Most of you know it as the setting for the movies True Lies, License to Kill, and The Rose Tattoo. Or perhaps you know that it's the place where Ernest Hemingway spent his winters, and it's the birthplace of the Key Lime pie. Most importantly—for our purposes—it is also the southernmost end of U.S. Route 1, the longest north-south road in the United States, meaning: you can drive there. This was particularly significant because in October our Tesla 3 arrived.

    Similar to buying a book on Amazon, Robin and I ordered the car online and the thing was delivered to our door, which was amazing because our door is in the middle of nowhere. Out here in the Shenandoah Valley, a Tesla is an alien thing. I’ve been stopped in grocery stores and questioned by cashiers asking, “Are you the fella that drives the Tesla?” One woman told me her son loves my car, and explained how he had gone to the Tesla site and after having tricked out his dream vehicle, her son was ready to input her credit card info when she caught him. Her son is eight years old.  So around the Valley, I’m not “The Science Fiction and Fantasy author, famed creator of Royce and Hadrian” but rather “the guy who drives the Tesla.”

    Now, for more than a decade, Robin and I never took vacations. Kids, work, and finances made it impossible. Now the kids are all grown, we don’t “work” anymore, and thanks to all of you, our finances have improved. Last year we went to St. John’s in the Caribbean, which took two cars, two planes, a train, a jeep, and a boat to get there. Now, armed with the Tesla, we wanted someplace we could go with it.

    Key West seemed perfect. We’d never been there, it was almost the Caribbean, and we could drive to it. So why not? Well, for one it’s 27 hours away—a shocking figure since I felt Virginia was already sort of south. When we were teenagers, Robin and I thought nothing of driving the 20 hours from Detroit to Orlando, but we aren’t teenagers anymore. The idea of pulling an all-nighter, even in a car that almost drives itself was even less appealing than sitting in the snow watching power lines sway in a cold breeze. I was ready to give up on the idea but Robin—being the genius that she is—discovered the Auto Train.



    You can have dinner at one of the white cloth-draped tables in the dining car, a drink in the lounge, then get a good night sleep in your own private room in the sleeper car. The next morning, you arrive in Orlando…with your car. There are no security lines, no luggage restrictions (people stuff their automobiles like Thanksgiving turkeys). They serve wine with dinner, have coffee bars in every car, and you are taken care of by a steward wearing a neat uniform and a friendly smile.

    This is old-world civilized travel. Sancho had saved the day!

    My daughter was not at all pleased. “You’re going to get a ton of birds,” she frowned, arms crossed, tapping her foot.

    “Maybe,” I replied, and smiled. “Three at least.”  Most birds were still in South America and wouldn’t make the harrowing flight across the Gulf of Mexico for another two months, so my expectations were that I hoped to nail ten. A dozen would really make the trip worth it—that and I suppose there might also be some nice weather, good food, and rum drinks.

    I packed my 70-200mm telephoto lens, the new waterproof Nikon binoculars that my wife got me for Christmas, my giant National Geographic Birds of North America coffee table book, my Kaufman Field Guide, and my Birding Journal, along with my beloved fountain pens that I can’t ever bring on planes because of the pressure changes makes them explode. Usually, I travel extremely light. Just a little carry-on and a messenger bag so as to avoid checking luggage. Yet being that this time I could pack like Rose voyaging on the Titanic, I thought, what the heck, and tossed in some clothes and a swimsuit as well—hey, you never know.

    Boarding the Train
    Now, one of the many strange things about my wife and I is that ever since we were in our twenties, we always found ourselves on vacation with old people—not older people mind you, but truly old people. All the things that interested us: steam-boating down the Mississippi, Alaskan cruises, boat trips down the Rhine—were all filled with the walking dead.

    Arriving at the station near Washington D.C. We found nothing had changed. Granted, I recently received an AARP card in the mail, so we now blend in a lot better, but we were still two of the youngest passengers. There are several advantages to this. Older people tend to be more interesting to talk to as they have a greater repertoire of stories.

    At dinner, we met a fellow who insisted he had a system to beat roulette in Vegas, and his near-deaf friend who listed his dog as a dependent on his tax returns. The most interesting person I talked to was a little seventy-seven-year-old man who sat across from me at breakfast and whose appearance revealed no hint of his past. The man had been a navy seal who, in his youth, had trained in Key West. After leaving the service, he became a New York City fireman and was there when the twin towers fell. “They had more men than equipment, so I waited outside,” he told me over bagels and coffee. “Thing is, everyone who went in—my friends—they knew the building was coming down. We just thought we had more time.” This navy-seal-turned-retired-fireman was on his way to The Villages in Florida where everyone drives around in golf carts.

    The only issue with being on a generationally handicapped train was the momentary hassle of needing to reach the bathroom and becoming trapped in the narrow jostling corridor while tailgating a snail using a tennis-ball-equipped walker. This was a minor frustration, and given my mind was on birds rather than any exotic railroad liaison of the mysterious sultry type, I was fine. After all, I wasn’t looking for a twenty-three year old Lauren Bacall from Key Largo—I was going to Key West.

    The roomette
    For the most part, the train was like entering a good Agatha Christie novel—that one about the train, anyway. Lots of interesting characters, intriguing overheard conversations, and the world racing by a massive window that panned Americana’s finest eastern landscapes. Our roomette was upstairs, two big seats that faced each other until night when the steward magically transformed them into upper and lower bunks. Robin worked on last-minute edits for Age of Legend, while I drank a pair of Sam Adams Winter Lager and studied my bird books, brushing up on those species I was likely to see. After dinner, we went to sleep and woke up near Orlando, Florida.

    Maybe its the flowers being in bloom, or the sudden change from bare trees to full foliage, but whenever I arrive in Florida and step out into the warm air, the state always smells faintly sweet and fragrant as if perfumed by hidden sprayers. Tall coconut palm trees and massive spiky green plants filled a flat landscape where islands of shopping malls were connected by the broad gray lines of superhighways.

    The first bird I met was a loud black thing the size of a crow, very active with a vast songbook.  I shot it, only to realize it was a Common Grackle. I already had one of those, dang it!

    Common Grackle
    The trip from Orlando past Miami to the keys can be summed up in one word: Traffic. Miami has the density of a black hole and that gravity creates a nightmare of congestion. Luckily, we had the Tesla. Aside from the ridiculously painless purchasing process, the Tesla is the best car I have ever owned. It handles so well on Shenandoah’s Mountain roads that we named it the Prowler because it feels like being on the back of a panther. Some of this has to do with the sports car tight handling, but mostly it is due to the strong energy reclaim that occurs when you let up on the accelerator, which slows the car so much, you almost never need to touch the brake, even when going downhill. In stop-and-go traffic, the auto-drive feature stand out. In particular, the smart cruise control that maintains a specified distance between you and the car ahead. This made the long slog around Miami tolerable as we listened to the audio version of Nick Eames’s Kings of the Wyld. Once past the black hole, we hit Route 1 and left the tip of Florida. The world changed: traffic eased, skies cleared, the temperature rose, time slowed down, stress dissolved, and all the ickiness of the world slipped behind us.

    We had entered the Keys.

    NEXT UP: Key West

    Saturday, March 2, 2019

    Will Wight Wins!


    Yesterday I saw something amazing happen. Underlord, Will Wight's sixth book in his Cradle series was released.


    Why is that so special? Well, it skyrocketed. Here's a screen grab I took when it hit #5, but I heard it got as high as #2.


    Now fantasy books usually don't get that high in the rankings, but I've NEVER seen a self-published book do that. Not ever.

    But here's the thing that's even more amazing me to me. Will doesn't have a huge social network (I went to congratulate him on his success today on Twitter and he only has 1,032 followers. Nor is he in the "rapid release" crowd with dozens of books all produced in a few years. Don't get me wrong, he's a steady producer (Overlord is his 13th book), but he's also proof that you don't have to put out a book every few weeks to sell well.  Here are his releases:

    • 2013 - 2 books
    • 2014 - 3 books
    • 2015 - 3 books (and one bundle)
    • 2016 - 2 books
    • 2017 - 2 books (and one bundle)
    • 2018 - 1 book
    So what is Will Wight doing to win? Well, he's following the same secret to success that I have been doing.
    1. Write a good book (defined as one that people will tell others to read)
    2. Get it in front of a core group of people to get the pump primed.
    3. Rinse and repeat.
    Sounds easy, right? Well, I assure you it's not. Bullet #1 is hard, really hard. And I congratulate Will on all his success and wish him much more in the future...as if he needs my well-wishes, but hey, I'm thrilled for him, and I think he stands up as an shining example of what's possible with talent, determination, and hard work.

    Friday, March 1, 2019

    Swords of Spring Sale - All books $0.99


    Well, the calendar says March 1st, but it's snowing here in the Shenandoah Valley, so who knows if Punxsutawney Phil lied to us or not. But regardless, I'd like to tell you about a sale that I and 30 of my fellow authors are doing. It's called the Swords of Spring Sale, and all books (and even 7 box sets) are on sale for just $0.99.  Doesn't that sound like a great time to pick up something you've missed or to try out something new?  Heck if you spent the $29.70 to get all the books, you'd receive 52 novels so that's just $0.57a book! The group rounds out to 5 USA Today Bestsellers, and one New York Times Bestseller - that's me! I have The Death of Dulgath for sale at 90% off it's usual $9.99 price. 


    Here's the list of what's on sale, and as you can see there are a lot of choices. I'll be back tomorrow with some stats about each author, but please head on over to the sale and pick out your favorites. But hurry, the sale ends March 7th, so you only have a week.