Monday, August 4, 2014

Research, Reagent Protocol, and The Future

Hello, everyone.  This is going to be a quickie, but I felt like I owed you all something to prove I was still alive.

First off, I want to touch on what I do for research.  I frequently do hours of research (though to be fair, it's done online and some of it comes from Wikipedia, so you can give me as much credit for accuracy as you wish) for small details, just to make sure they're right.  For example, the Sanskrit I used for Skorpion's gloves in Reagent Protocol and the mythology associated with the word I chose for poison took me over two hours.  That doesn't seem like much, when you consider the years some people spend researching certain subjects, but most of these people are doing research for entire books, or series, etc, not just a small aspect of one.  I could have picked almost anything, but I wanted something different, perhaps unique, to make the book stand out.  Besides, I do pride myself a little bit on accuracy, even if it is fictional.

Let me give you another, specific, example of the research I do.  When attempting to find some way for Shawn to forge the one ring (couldn't resist) he made in Reagent Protocol, I watched a demonstration of something called crucible steel.  When I say demonstration of it, I mean a demonstration of everything from the forging of a sword from the steel to the actual refining of the ore.  That's where I got the idea for the oven he melted the ore in, actually.  Okay, that's where I ripped the idea from.  I just added a little magical pizzazz to make it fit better.  If you have any interest in seeing this demonstration, I can highly recommend an episode of Nova where they make a Viking sword roughly a millennium ahead of its time.  For those of you with Amazon Prime video streaming, you can watch it through that service in high definition.  You'll want Nova Season 8, episode 11.  If you're anything like me, just watching the sword getting forged is very entertaining, but in the finest traditions of the Nova show, it's also very informative and moves along at an excellent pace.  If you're not a Prime subscriber but you are a Netflix subscriber, you can watch it there, too, if you'd like.  Just do a search for "Secrets of the Viking Sword" and it'll come up fine.  If you don't subscribe to either, you can watch on PBS's website for free (assuming you're a resident of the USA or have a proxy set up properly to view content).  I found it fascinating.

So, if you've ever wondered why I'm so specific about certain details in my writing, it's because I have reason to be.

Anyway, speaking of Reagent Protocol, I have plans to eventually add another short story to it.  After all, I've only showed what, arguably, are success stories for those seeking redemption.  Not every story has such a happy ending.

Moving on to the future (don't want to disappoint people by not coming through on that), my plans seem to fluctuate with whatever I can create at the time.  At the moment I'm working on a (hopefully much more successful and, outlined, much longer) followup to The Grand Granger.  I'm in very early stages of the rough draft, but we'll see where the tides take us.  That's not to say I'm not also pecking away at Guild Files: Rogue, but it's definitely taken a back seat.  Why?  Sociopaths are easy to create but hard to write.

Take from that what you will.

On that note I'm going to wrap things up.  Yes, I'm still alive.  Yes, I have reasons, and reasons aplenty, why I haven't been more talkative or creative lately.  No, I'm not going to share them.  They're personal and this isn't a blog about my personal life.

Thanks for reading and be sure to tell all your friends about how awesome at least some of my writing is!

S.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Number Five, Still Alive!

Other than the clever-ish title, I don't have too much to say other than I'm still alive and I'm currently doing the early-stage work on a new Confederation universe story.  Everyone likes pirates, right?

And some more information about the Tal'Red will be revealed.  Maybe.  After all, a little mystery is a good thing, right?

Thanks for reading!

(Oh, and if you haven't checked out Reagent Protocol or Triggerbreak yet, now would be a good time.  If you have, thanks!  Also, please tell your friends!)

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Writer's Curse

I did laundry tonight.  For various reasons I'm not going to go into I'm not working on Rogue at the moment, but the urge to write is still strong.  How strong?

I wrote this tonight.  It's rough, but it's what I wrote.  This is what my brain does to me frequently.

The first thing I noticed about him was his hat.  I supposed this was intentional.  Everything else about his clothing was hard-wearing, worn, and possibly even a little shabby.  From his almost-olive-drab t-shirt, blue jeans that had holes in one leg, shoes that looked like they'd seen better months, unzipped jacket that looked tough enough to stand by itself when taken off, three-day stubble, and single ring gracing the middle finger of his right hand, I'd have been forced to say he was halfway to vagrancy.
But there was more.  His beard was growing out from a neat trim but was still well-maintained.  It was a fussy style, too.  His sideburns grew down his jawline, along his jaw, and into a goatee.  His neck, which looked like his razor needed replacing, was shaven – aside from the stubble.  His hair was long, but he'd pulled it back in a loose tail so it wasn't in the way, and just starting to gray a little at the temples.
His middle was thick, like he was used to eating big, or at least heavy, meals, but not so thick as to make someone think he was fat.  His legs were well-hidden by the jeans, but the thighs looked ever-so-slightly strained over the muscle moving when he walked.  Actually, when he paced.
He kept his hands in his pockets, but he hooked his thumbs into the belt loops just above them, like he was used to resting his hands on something hanging off his belt.  His eyes darted from door to door and looked out each window.  He never looked over his shoulder when he changed direction, but you could tell his awareness was keyed up.
He didn't pace like a caged animal as he waited for his clothing to finish getting mauled by the industrial washing machine.  No, he moved too slowly and deliberately for that.  His pace was measured and cautious, like he'd grown used to watching where every footfall went.  He never moved in one direction too long, either.  He didn't turn his head, he turned his whole body to check behind him.  And there was more.  Whenever he didn't have his hands in his pockets, his thumbs locked in his belt loops, he moved his arms in a curious way.  They swung like coiled springs, ready to loose their tension in less than a heartbeat on anyone incautious enough to come too closely.
I felt the corner of my mouth curl ever-so-slightly in a half-smile.
The hat, though.  His jacket was faded and starting to fray around the cuffs, his shirt had bleach spots from a hurried hand putting the cap back on the bottle, his jeans were torn in several places on his left thigh, and his shoes sported soles that were obviously more than half worn and the bodies were starting to deteriorate, but he had that damn hat.  Everything else he was wearing was obviously hard-used and designed to take it, but the hat was new and, aside from a few stray cat hairs, well-cared for.
It looked good on him, don't get me wrong.  It just stood out like a sore thumb, and nobody could say it was laundry day and that's why he was dressed down.  He was far too comfortable wearing the shabby clothes to be that image-conscious.
The hat was a fedora.  Not a damn trilby, a fedora.  There's a big difference, just so you know.  Anyway, it was black, with a smaller brim than I would have expected, but nothing too obvious.  It rode his head comfortably, and he was patently used to wearing it because he didn't hit it on anything he could have.
It just seemed, well, odd.
His right leg was minutely stiff and he had a barely-discernible limp from it, but nothing that would disqualify him from a ten-kay march.
No, the more I watched him the more I came to the conclusion that the deliberate movement was to conserve energy, that the thickening middle was from eating habits from long periods of privation and heavy exercise rather than laziness, his hat was a peacock tail, and that this man had spent some serious time first in the suck and then in the shit.  And, like so many other veterans, still spent part of his time there.  At least he did in his own head.
He didn't engage anyone.  The only time I caught his eye I could see a stare that went beyond the horizon.  I didn't try to hold it.  He wanted to be left alone and it was the least I could do for someone who still hadn't come home.  I left him alone to continue his solitary march through hell.

Well, there you have it.  By the way, if you're not following me over on Google + you're missing out on a few things.

If you want updates on Rogue or Reagent Protocol then follow me there or on Twitter, because I post there more than I do here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Reagent Protocol and a Pricing Change

Reagent Protocol is live in the Kindle store and for sale at the very-reasonable price of $2.99 US.  For those of you not in the know, Reagent Protocol is the followup to the successful Subject 12, or Volume 2 in the Guild Files series (for those of you who keep track).  Sales are off to a modest start, so why don't we see if we can't boost those?

With the release of Reagent Protocol, I'm lowering the price of Subject 12 to $2.99 to match.  Sorry for the one person who bought it at $3.99 earlier in the month, but I'm keeping those extra few cents.  The price change should be reflected in the Amazon store shortly.

So, pick up a copy of Reagent Protocol for yourself.  It's DRM-free, for those of you who pay attention to such things.  Actually, why not buy a copy for your friends as well as one for yourself?

Thanks for reading and thank you for your continued support!

P.S.  I will get back to work on Rogue after I get some things in my life settled and myself back on a good track.  My physical health has to be a priority for a while.  I'll update people on what's going on if anyone's interested, otherwise I'll just go back to blogging about my books.

P.P.S.  Did I forget to mention Triggerbreak?  It's not a bad book, in my opinion, and it's a great way to support your favorite, starving author.

S. W. Douglas

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Reagent Protocol is LIVE

I don't know if you can buy it yet, but the link is live.  Have fun, boys and girls!  So, without further ado, a link.


And by the way, it's DRM-free, for those that care about that kind of thing.

Reagent Protocol Countdown

Reagent Protocol has been pushed to the Kindle store.  I'll post linkage as soon as I have one that works.

Thank you for your patience and support!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Guild Files: Reagent Protocol coming soon

Since I'm mobile I'll keep this as brief as possible. Reagent Protocol, the second book in the Guild Files universe, will be done in a few days. The cover is holding me up at the moment. While I'm sure many of you reading this wouldn't care what I used for a cover, it's still important for overall sales.

On another note, to all those who find this blog via Google, looking for my second Guild Files book, stop by and drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Triggerbreak is live!

Triggerbreak is live over on Amazon.  Go get yourself a copy if you feel it's worth it!  The page is still a little rough -- I'm working on it as best I can within the system.

Don't forget to read the preview if you want.  Make sure the book is something you want before you buy!  Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!

Triggerbreak

Hi, everybody!  (Hi, Doctor Nick!)

Since I'm sure at least one person reading this is interested, my personal life is still a shambles.  I'm doing the best I can and trying to continue getting my life back in order (a very long-term project), but my emotional state can only be described as "in turmoil".  It's impossible to keep this from affecting my professional life, but I'm doing what I can to minimize the impact.  While I'd like to go into detail, I won't.  It's not really important and it's personal.  I won't go dumping personal details on you because this isn't Facebook or Myspace.

Now, with that out of the way, down to business.  Several years ago I wrote a book about a PI.  I never named this character, nor did I even have a title for the book.  Sound familiar?  It should.  I already admitted that I suck at titles.

I wrote this book back in 2006 or so.  That was well before I started working on Subject 12.  As such, any resemblance between the two can be attributed to good ideas, bad ideas, or just plain cussedness on my part.

I needed a break from Reagent Protocol because of my emotional state and the association I was developing between the story and the problems going on in my life at the time.  So I took one in editing Triggerbreak (not the original title) for publication.  Why I did this after such a long lapse between when I last touched finger to key to edit the book is a question that has many answers.  I've touched on my money problems.  I've touched on my need to get my life in order.  I've already said I needed a break from what I'd been doing.  I've also always felt that the story, while a little rough, was worth publication.  I've even started work on a sequel to it, though I haven't worked on it in months if not over a year or more.  But it's definitely a secondary piece;  the Guild Files universe is where I'll be doing most of my work because the story I've been writing is far from over, and it won't end even after Rogue is finished, though much will be made clearer about Hammer and the, let's face it, strange title of Subject 12.

So, the question on everyone's lips at the moment has to be "What is Triggerbreak about?"  Well, it might not be, but work with me here.

Let me post the jacket blurb I already posted on Google+.  Which, for the record, you should be following me at because I really do post more there than here.  And Twitter.  Probably should be following me on all three, actually.

I hadn’t liked my brother-in-law from the moment I met him – I liked him even less when I found out how he spent his Saturday nights. I’d never even heard of Turk before he cracked one of my ribs and the local Mafia boss put him in his place for it. I’d never met Betty before the night I saved her life.

Tracer was the best fixer and information broker in the city. She was the go-to girl and everyone knew it, even if they couldn’t afford it. She was probably the best ally I had. Nick ran the Gentle Arms Hotel; he was the high priest of the only Holy Ground in this godforsaken town and my best friend. Jared was crazy, an ex-spook, and the most trustworthy man I knew.

When I got up that morning all I’d wanted to do was get drunk, smoke a few cigarettes, and forget about everything in my life that had gone wrong. Seems somebody had other plans, though. That’s why they left me in a pool of blood with a head wound that sent me to the hospital.

Now, with two psychopaths and a hired gun trying to kill me, the question is simple. Can my friends and I pull my fat out of the fire before someone does more than just cave in the back of my skull?

I finished editing the book the night before last.  I have a cover, I have it formatted, now all I have to do is file the copyright and publish it to Amazon.  Yes, this will be a Kindle exclusive unless I get requests to the contrary.  With luck you guys can get copies of it within the week, unless Amazon refuses it for some reason.  After I get all that done I'll be going back to Reagent Protocol and getting back to work on it.  As soon as the book is available for sale (and I'm aware of it), I'll post notice here, on G+, and on Twitter, so you'll know ASAP.

Also, and finally, has anyone ever looked at Patreon?  I know people have told me about Kickstarter, but Patreon sounds more like something I'd be able to work with.  Unfortunately, it also sounds like it's geared FAR more towards webcomic authors and recording artists than novelists.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your support!  I look forward to entertaining you all for quite some time to come!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Reagent Protocol

Good insert-time-of-day-here to all who see this.  Hopefully you're a human being rather than a bot of some kind, but just in case, 11001010 10011001 01010110 01010101 01010100 00111010 10010001 11101010.  I have no idea what that means, but it seemed good.

Back to the flesh and blood readers.  As I've been telling you, for the last few months I've been hacking away at the main story in my upcoming release, Guild Files Volume 2: Reagent Protocol.  While I haven't fielded any questions, I'm sure there are some, so I'm going to try and answer a few.

First off, is Reagent Protocol a sequel to Subject 12?  No.  I already answered this, but I'll go into a little more depth here.  While it's not a direct sequel (in fact, it takes place during the events of Subject 12), it sets up characters that make appearances in Rogue, and it expands the overall universe in ways that I plan on taking advantage of.

Second, is Reagent Protocol an anthology like I had discussed before?  Yes and no.  It will bundle Banshee, which you should be familiar with (if you're not, click that link), and the story I just finished the rough draft to, which is about Shawn Doolish, a 200 year-old shadow mage who has left the Villain's Confederation and joined the Heroes' Guild. Current word count on the Doolish story is over 67,000 words.  Banshee clocked in around 10,000 words, so we're looking at probably around 80-82.5K words total when I get some reader feedback and do my editing.  And no, I haven't done the Guild Intelligence file(s) for the main story yet.

Third, what does Reagent Protocol mean for the publication of Rogue?  Well, obviously I haven't worked too intensely on Rogue while I've been working on Reagent Protocol.  While I need to keep many irons in the fire so I don't get too burnt out on any one project, the lion's share of my attention does go to the project that I feel is of the highest priority, and that usually is the one that I feel the most inspiration for.  In this case, Rogue just didn't make the cut that often.  I'm still working on it, I swear, it's slow going.  I do, however, plan on making it my next Guild Files release.

Fourth, do I still have plans for an anthology of short stories set in the Guild Files universe?  Not as such, no, and certainly not immediately.  I do, however, plan on possibly tacking another short story or two into Reagent Protocol, provided they fit the criteria for a Reagent Protocol story.  I'll explain what I mean about that in the actual publication.

Fifth, is there any way you can read the rough draft and give me reader feedback?  To be honest, possibly.  I've had a couple of offers and, even if I haven't responded to them, I've heard them and remember them.  The issue at hand is twofold.  Of highest priority would be the fact that I need feedback both on the story as I've presented it.  Is it good enough? Are the characters believable?  Are they exciting?  Is the story plausible within the constraints of the universe?  Are there any gaping plot holes...  That's a lot to ask of anyone, especially someone I don't know, and that doesn't even cover the other part.  If you think you can handle all that and get back to me in a timely fashion (by Monday the 27th), I'll consider the first three people who contact me with a valid e-mail address.  Drop me a line on Google+, Twitter, or in the comments here.  Thanks!

Those were the only questions I could really think of, so I'll wrap it up here.  I'd planned for a character map of the main characters, but this is getting long already and will only get longer from here.

Now, on to why many of you might be interested in reading this blog post at all, the excerpt.  Keep in mind three things.  This is a rough draft.  That means what you see here may not bear any resemblance to the opening of the published story.  Secondly, this won't be the same excerpt as you'd get from Amazon when I get the book published.  That will, if memory serves, be substantially longer than what I'm posting here, and cover at least in part a different section of the story.  Third, I will not change this when I publish. Consider it a glimpse into the creative process if you so wish.  If it stays the same, then you'll know I did good.  If it changes dramatically, you'll be able to see the difference. Also, though this goes without saying to anyone who has read Subject 12, there's a content warning for language.  You have been warned.  So, with those things in mind, enjoy!

Reagent Protocol

The day was hot, as hot as Alaska ever got this far inland and north. The dust kicked up by the landing plane drifted away on the gentle breeze, the perfect touch to finish off the lovely day, but both Guild members were thirsty and a little irritated from both the long walk and the total lack of cloud cover. The air might not have been particularly warm compared to where Ergone had been born and raised, but the sun felt hot. She could feel it prickling her skin wherever it was exposed.

“This berk better be worth it,” she said to herself.

“Don’t fancy the walk back, love?”

Ergone shot him a dirty look. He smiled and raised his hands in submission. “It’s just the way I talk. I don’t mean anything by it.”

“Two years we’ve known each other and I’ve told you to knock it off what feels like every damn day, Skorp. Don’t make me chastise you in front of the newbie until we have a chance to feel him out, alright?”

“I’ll try. Can’t promise more than to do my best, now can I?”

Ergone stared at the plane as it taxied back from the other end of the landing strip. Something about it gave her an odd feeling. The noise from the twin engines was enough to drown out any casual conversation anyway.

“I hope he doesn’t expect anyone to carry his luggage,” Skorpion shouted over the engine roar. “He can hire one of the Narboski brothers to haul it back to the hall on his own damn time!”

She didn’t bother to reply. The wind had shifted and the smell of the engine exhaust hit her like a heavy pillow. Suddenly the air felt thick and hot and like the breeze had evaporated. Her vision focused on the tiny aircraft’s door as adrenaline pumped into her system, the sound of the engines coughing as they died ringing in her ears like twin gunshots. She felt like running away and she didn’t know why.

“Hey, Skorp? Do me a favor and don’t go anywhere.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. What’s up? One of your hunches?”

“Yeah. Be on guard but don’t do anything too obvious.”

“Right.” His stance shifted into one far more alert than the playfully-insolent one he’d been in a moment before. “If we have to dance I’ll wait for your lead.”

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that,” she said, watching the door pop open.

The pilot stepped out first, yawning and stretching as he normally did. He waved at the pair of supers watching him and cracked open the cargo compartment, levering one of the sides back and fishing inside for the luggage. Two black suitcases appeared and were placed gingerly on the packed soil. Only when they were on the ground did the sole passenger disembark.

Ergone gasped as a wave of discomfort washed over her.

The newcomer was of slender build with hair long enough to brush his shoulders, though it was graying at the temples. On his fingers were several rings with various stone settings glinting in the light. His clothing was black and resembled military-issue battle-dress, though the blouse wasn’t buttoned and his undershirt was a green so dark it would have appeared black except in contrast to the ebon fabric covering most of it. He squinted at the sun and waved his hand over his head. The area around him dimmed instantly and followed with him as he moved to pick up his luggage.

“Shadow mage,” Ergone breathed, her stomach slowly twisting into a knot. “Oh, fuck me, a shadow mage.”

Skorpion was about as magically-inclined as a chimpanzee with a twig and a termite mound, but even he shuddered at the sensation of Ergone drawing deep-earth energies to herself and slamming down a magic shield thick enough it actually warped the light traveling through its insubstantial form. She muttered half-heard phrases as she summoned the power of the stones and trees around them.

The newcomer straightened and, spying the two supers, waved cheerfully at them. He said something to the pilot and pulled an envelope from the breast pocket of his battle-dress blouse, handing it over with body language from both parties involved that indicated refusal wasn’t acceptable and that what was being given was a gift. When that was completed the stranger picked up his two bags and started walking toward the pair of supers waiting for him.

“On my mark,” Ergone growled through gritted teeth. “Take him from behind. Don’t give him a second to prepare or react...”

“Hi,” the man said, smiling brightly. “I’m... surprised there isn’t a car. No problem, though, right? After all, walking is good for the constitution.” He dropped the bags and extended his hand toward Skorpion. “You would be The Scorpion, correct?”

Giving Ergone a quick glance he relaxed his stance slightly and shook his head. “Just Skorpion, mate. With a K.”

“Ah, right. Right. I’ll remember that. And you,” he said, recognizing that his offered handshake wasn’t going accepted and turned to Ergone, “would be Ergone.” His smile faded slowly. “You’re a witch, aren’t you?  Well, they said there would be surprises.” If he noticed the shield – a certainty, she reminded herself – he gave no indication.

He bent over and opened one of the bags, rummaging around for ten seconds before saying “Aha!” and straightening. He didn't call attention to how tense Ergone had gone at the sudden movement. “My file.” A large crypto-pouch, sealed with an official Guild biometric lock, dangled from its carrying handle in his left hand. “It’s keyed to open only for you, madam.”

Ergone stared at the pouch for a second longer than even she was comfortable with. Then she looked up at the earnest face and affable smile, back to the pouch, and realized that she had to make a decision right then as to whether she was going to give up her only chance to defend herself if he was anything other than he appeared. She chose not to.

“This is going to be difficult, isn’t it?” The smile faded from his face. Sighing, he replaced the crypto-pouch in his bag and zipped it shut. Straightening again, he flashed Skorpion an embarrassed grin by way of apology and then nodded to himself before removing a ring from his right hand. He brought the stone to his lips and kissed it, causing Ergone to snap her hand back; energy crackled and hissing around the ring so strongly even Skorpion could see and hear it. Ignoring this reaction, he slipped the ring back on and brought his hands behind his head with exaggerated slowness in an attempt to keep Ergone from releasing the pent up magic in her hand.

His fingers worked for three and a half seconds before he got the catch released. A black chain appeared between trembling fingers and a small pendant emerged from under his shirt. He wrapped the chain around his right hand and brought the pendant up to his lips. He whispered “Behave” before extending his arm, slowly, toward Ergone. The smile reappeared but with a brittle edge.

“I didn’t take it from anyone or use anyone to make it, madam. It is entirely mine. It will behave for you as long as you are careful to handle it lightly and don’t tease it.”

Ergone’s mind went blank except for a phrase burned into her memory from sheer repetition. Every treatise, every scroll, every lesson she’s uncovered, heard, read, or translated had said, in one form or another, the same thing.

A shadow mage never surrenders the Beast he wears around his throat, for to do so the mage would surrenders whatever is left of a blackened soul.

“Maybe this will help make up your mind,” the mage said quietly but with a very resigned note to it. He flicked his fingers and the shield exploded, but all of the energy dissipated away from them instead of violently grounding itself in each of the people standing there. “I’m a level five.”

Ergone, gasping with shock, released the pent-up energy in her hand into the ground with a purple spark that was momentarily brighter than the sun. Skorpion, fed up with knowing he was missing about three quarters of what was actually going on, snapped. “Would someone please tell me what the fuck is going on here?”

“This gentleman has just proven to me that he is on the level,” Ergone breathed, her eyes locked on the small cage hanging from the black chain. Something inside its midnight-black interior moved. “Because if he wasn’t he could have killed both of us and there wouldn’t have been a thing we could have done.”

“Don’t say that. I had plenty of time on the walk over to feel out your shield and find its weak points. You’re actually very good.” Sincerity oozed out of every pore as his smile returned. “Go on, take it. It won’t bite if you don’t provoke it, I promise.”

The books had warned her against ever touching a shadow mage’s caged... Actually, they’d never gone into detail about what it was, simply that she should never touch it. Come to think of it, they’d never told her why she shouldn’t touch it, just that “badde thinges have happened to thofe unwary enough” to have done so.

The mage sighed. “Ma’am, I promise you, as long as you treat it with respect it won’t harm you. Regardless of what you may have heard, it’s really quite tame.”

“Oh, for the love of,” Skorpion said, his irritation finally getting the better of him. “If you won’t take it, I will!”

“Don’t!” Ergone and the mage shouted in unison as Skorpion reached for the necklace.

“Do not touch it,” the mage continued, pulling his hand away. “While it might behave for myself and for the lady here it would not hesitate to devour one who is not... aware of what it is they hold.”

“Bollocks this,” Skorpion replied, shaking his head. “I’m going to grab some bitters at the store. Come along if you like or stand here pulling your pud. Either way, sod this shit.”

They watched him walk away until he was out of earshot. “That could have gone better,” the mage hazard, glancing down at his necklace and the caged darkness that twisted within. “I’m sorry, I’m not used to dealing with people who don’t know the risks.”

“Skorp’s a good man in a pinch, but his patience can wear thin quickly. Wait until you meet Ookami. He’s a frigging werewolf, if you can believe that.” She coughed. “Not that I have anything against werewolves, of course.”

“So I was told. Look, I’m making a mess of this. Are you going to take this or not? I’d feel better if you did, honestly, because you know what I’m giving up. If the others don’t trust me it’s not a big deal. If you don’t trust me this whole situation will go down the toilet faster than an unwanted pregnancy on prom night.”

Fin

Well, folks, that's the excerpt.  I hope it whet your appetite for more!  As you can see, I have been working.  Is it of the same caliber as Subject 12?  I can't say for sure.  I just know I enjoyed the characters and I'm looking forward to sharing the rest with you when it's ready.

On a final note, I will say that I'm planning on having the cover for this book professionally done.  While I'm proud of the jobs I did on Subject 12 and The Grand Granger, I just don't have the mental or emotional resources to spare to dig around for an inexpensive stock photo to doctor up, and the last time I looked I couldn't find anything that fit my mental image of what I wanted anyway.  I found a place where I can get it done inexpensively and of high quality, so I'm planning on farming it out to save myself the hassle.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Google+ Anyone?

While I wish this was a post saying "Look over here, it's a new book!", that's a little further away.  The good news with that, however, is that I'm very nearly done with the rough draft and I have a few commitments to read the draft when I'm done so I get some feedback.

Stay tuned.

No, this post is me pointing to my Google+ account.  I'm trying to increase my direct interaction with my readers (that would be you), and Google+ seems like the most direct way I can.  I know some of you would suggest Facebook, but I have numerous problems with that.  Suffice it to say, Facebook is a non-issue, so we'll drop it now.

So, if you want to interact, you can head on over to G+ and drop me a line.  If you have a gmail address you have a G+ account, as far as I'm aware, so the cost for admission is pretty low.  I don't know much about G+, not being a Facebook user, but I'll try to keep things either on-topic or at least light.  I'm learning, and all this is pretty new to me, but I'm going to give it a shot.  I'm not giving up my blog or my twitter, so you'll still be able to reach me either place, but G+ might get updated a little more frequently.  I'm going to try.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Apologies, More Delays, and a Little News

First let me apologize.  I seem to do that a lot, but it's always sincere.  My current project was put aside due to relationship issues taking up all of my mental resources.  Those issues are appearing to improve, but as those have begun to clear others have come to light.

I won't go into too many details since this is supposed to be about my writing and not about my personal life, but when my personal life intrudes into my writing and I let you guys down I feel I have to explain.  As such, I'll give you the top two non-relationship issues I'm facing.

First, money.  I don't have a regular job or regular source of income other than book sales, and those have sunk like the Bismarck, leaving me with little in the way of resources.  Money worries, in short, are stressing me out.  This makes me want to write more, obviously, but just because I want to write doesn't mean things come out easier or faster.  To help remedy this situation I looked for some freelance writing jobs online and found that I was in so far over my head I couldn't see daylight.  The systems for doing the work were confusing, the escrow fees were incredibly high, and the bid averages for anything that I'd be comfortable doing were so low that I'd be essentially working for free, especially with the escrow fees.  I may revisit the idea in the near future, but what I saw was very disheartening.

Second, my place of residence is falling apart.  I'm not really exaggerating, either.  Half the electricity in the house is wired through the same breaker and simply flipping it on throws sparks in my face as it slams back off.  Every time it drops below zero (like it does every winter for days at a stretch up here) I lose water.  I've already had a pipe burst requiring the services of a plumber (more money gone) and spent days without power in the last couple of weeks.  I'm currently without hot water except at one faucet, and that sink needs the drain replaced because water doesn't just leak, it runs in a steady stream out the bottom.  While I'm moderately handy, I don't have the tools to perform the repair myself.

I have many other minor reasons that keep getting in the way, too.  It's hard to think about being creative when all you can think about is how you are losing a person you love, how you can't afford to pay for things you need to have done, and how every other minor thing in your life seems to be coming up at once.  My car's trunk stopped shutting and seems to pop open at the smallest bump.  Just what you need when you're in the middle of an ice storm, right?  I've lost almost 20lbs due to stress because I just couldn't eat, which I needed to do, but the reasons for it are very unhealthy.  I just caught a cold that triggered another sinus infection flareup and if it hadn't been for some penicillin I could inject myself with, I'd be having extreme difficulty breathing right now with another case of bronchitis if not outright pneumonia, and I'm 17 days away from being able to see my doctor.

I need to relax and I need to write.  I've managed a few thousand words lately that I'm actually happy with, so maybe I can have something ready for publication by the end of the month.  I'd like to do that, both for all of you and for myself, and I need the revenue stream boost, but I can't make any promises.  I've broken too many to you guys already.

Having said that, I will make a promise.  I will answer any questions you guys ask.  I'm actually hoping to hear pretty much anything from you guys, so I'm going to ask you guys for two things.  First, if you have any questions, ask.  The worst I can do is not answer you.  Second, spread the word.  Tell people about the book(s).  You know Subject 12 and/or The Grand Granger is/are good.  I'm sure you know some people who would enjoy reading about Hammer or Reg and Xii.  Encourage them to take a look.  You'd be doing me a huge favor, and I appreciate that.

And, I have some news about that inquiry I received back in 2012 regarding the movie rights to Subject 12,  From the looks of things, the woman who contacted me left ICM Partners shortly, if not immediately, after contacting me.  This not only means that I have a good reason for not hearing back, it also means I have no way to contact anyone within the company to possibly expand upon that inquiry.  I do feel somewhat better knowing why I never heard back, but I just want to put the word out there that I am interested in representation, a movie deal, whatever.  Just contact me with whatever you have to say and I'll get back to you ASAP.  Thank you.

So, thanks for reading and for all of your support over the years.  As I get this piece closer to publication I'll update you again!  Take care and here's to both a prosperous and happy new year to you and yours!

Monday, December 2, 2013

State of the Universe Address (Including Spoiler!)

So, as promised, and only a day late, the next blog post/installment in the never-ending (but rarely updated) look into my exploration of the Guild Files and Grand Granger universes.

For the record, as soon as I come up with a better title for the Grand Granger universe I'll stop calling it that.  But in the meantime...  Meh.

So, where do things stand?  I'm almost done with the rough draft of the next Guild Files story.  While this one isn't a sequel to Subject 12, it does tie directly into the Subject 12 story and introduces a character or two that will have roles in Rogue.  I've had some feedback on the story and I think the majority if you will enjoy it, especially if you enjoyed Banshee.

**Spoiler Alert**

No, Banshee doesn't make an appearance.

**End Spoiler Alert**

Now then, how is Rogue coming along?  Slowly.  Writing for the Hammer character is difficult, especially with the bar I felt I set with Subject 12.  This does not mean progress is stalled, just that it's taking a lot longer than even I'm comfortable with.

Where have I been?  Busy.  Summer is a very busy time for me lately.  I have commitments, relationships, and a yard full of poultry that I have to take care of before I can write.  Chickens, geese, and ducks can look after themselves pretty well for the most part, needing little in the way of care other than feeding and watering, but I had problems this year.  When I say problems, I probably should spell it with a capital P.  I had predators that killed half my new birds all in one night, disease issues that claimed the lives of almost twenty ducks and geese, and a sharp learning curve in why I will never do business with a particular hatchery again when it comes to geese.

For those of you that don't know, geese are incredibly expensive if you don't buy random assortments on special.  Losing two birds can easily cost over $100 US.  I lost six, though one of them strangled herself in the powered-down electro-netting I use to keep the predators at bay during the summer.

Just of late, I've had major relationship issues basically non-stop for the last month, and more minor ones (but still issues) for months before that.  Unfortunately, it's very hard for me to be creative when all my free time is taken up dealing with people problems.  Even more so when I'm feeling incredibly depressed.

This blog isn't about my personal problems, so I won't go into too much detail.  I will, however, share that I was diagnosed many years ago with both low-grade manic-depressive and major depressive disorders.  I've been lucky in one sense:  I found a medication a few years ago that has prevented me from having a major depressive episode for several years now.  But between depression's cyclic nature and the unbelievable amount of personal stress I've been under for the last few weeks, I've spent the last month in a hole.  Needless to say, that's slowed progress on everything even further.

So, what progress have I made?  With any luck you'll be able to see shortly after the new year.  That begs another question, however.  Even rolling Banshee into the new piece I've almost finished, it won't be exceptionally long.  With that in mind, I have a few options.  I could delay release a while longer and write at least one more short story to include in the release, or I could publish as-is and then release an updated version of it with more content in (hopefully) a few weeks time.  I've kept you guys and gals waiting for so long with nothing more than typo corrections, Banshee, and for some of you The Grand Granger to satisfy your cravings, so the choice for me is a tough one.  I'm leaning more in the early release direction, to be honest, but things may change.  I don't want people to feel cheated, and I don't want to spend another $35 to copyright the piece twice.  I will update you before I make a final decision.

Finally, in my last post I offered to answer any question posed to me (within reason), but I didn't get any questions asked.  As such, I can't tender any answers.  Instead, I'll offer up a tidbit that I think you've already figured out.  I have a hard time coming up with titles for anything I write, be it a book, story, or blog post.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stay Tuned Sounds So Derivative, Doesn't It?

So, instead of saying "stay tuned" for some news, I'll just say that I'll be answering reader questions (of which I've received none) and addressing the long silence since my last post.

I promise this post will be soon, my intention being within the next 72 hours, though the impending holiday and seriously crummy weather may force a delay of up to another 72 hours.  With that in mind I can't make any guarantees.

So why post this saying I'm going to post soon with some news?  I haven't posted anything since my bout with and recovery from pneumonia earlier this year, that's why.  I'm still alive, and yes, I have been working when I've had time.  So, if you have any questions you want answered, drop me a line here or on Twitter and I'll do my best to answer without spoilers.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Pneumonia Sucks.

Alright, so, I'm at week 4 of recovery from pneumonia.  So far, so good, but it took me a week of getting sick and three weeks of recovery to get to where I'm able to function mostly normally.

Still get out of breath easily, though, so it's going to be a while before I'm approaching 100% again.  How sick was I?

Last Monday was the first day I could sit at a computer for more than 5 minutes without needing to go lay down or passing out.  Yeah, I was bad.  I was on bed rest for a week and shotgunned almost the entire run of Burn Notice on my Roku.  Even if it does seem a little long in the tooth, plot-wise, at the 81st episode mark, (and perhaps a little repetitive at times) I recommend it.  For the record, Roku or Netflix needs to fix the applet on the Roku HD, but that's neither here nor there.

I'm picking up my laptop again and trying to get back to work, but it's been so long I've lost momentum as well as time -- but I refuse to give up even if I have been coughing up blood.

Thanks for reading!  I really hope to have something for you guys soon.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Status Update

I'm alive, healthy enough, and actually getting a little work done.  I've managed to advance Rogue past some of the sticking points I was stymied on for almost two years (yeah, that's a long time) and I've had some nice ideas to fill in some of the gaps that I'd been struggling with during that time.

To give an idea of the situation, I'm almost done with the first draft of the first chapter.  I refuse to give even a ballpark guess of when I'll be done because life seems to get in the way whenever I do.

Guild Files: Reagent Protocol is on hold for the moment.  I wrote myself into a corner and I don't see a way out of it without losing about 20% of the story.  I'm currently weighing options.  The good news, as it were, is that the pause in GF:RP is what allowed me to return to Rogue, and I know that's what nearly all of you reading this are most interested in.  However, I haven't given up and will probably be back to it soon.  Probably.  I do have another short story to write after the novella I've been banging away on for months is done.

The followup to The Grand Granger has been started and I'll peck away at it as I feel the need, unless I feel the project is too ambitious in which case I'll trash it and start on something else.  The Confederation, Empire, and Church aren't done with each other yet, I assure you.

I started a story a couple years ago I tentatively called Hellhounds.  I've been feeling the need to get back to it, though perhaps with a slightly different take on it.  Originally I'd intended it to have some serious religious and spiritual overtones that were central to the story, but that would have made it too heavy a read, so I'm going to tone those down and go in a slightly different direction.  More on that as it develops, but I will say it's about the ghost of a dead guy, will involve supernatural artifacts, angels, demons, zombie taxi drivers, and some really nasty bad guys.

I was intending this blog post to be done a month ago, but I'd also intended it to involve me answering questions from you guys and gals.  Since I received none, I couldn't answer any, so I'll save that for next time (which will be sooner than 3 months) if I get any by then.

Just to prime the pump -- pick one character from the book and tell me who you think would be best to act the role in a movie and why.  Leave a comment to that effect or hit me up on Twitter.  All suggestions, no matter the source, will be posted here.  I have my own ideas, of course, but the one I'll share is this:

Hypnotico, as portrayed by David Hyde Pierce, would be fantastic.  He's a talented actor whose native intelligence would be a boon to the role.  His build fits my description of the character very well, and his experience playing a psychiatrist on Frasier would be very helpful.

Oh, and if any of you are wondering, no, I haven't heard any more from the agency that contacted me back in November, and yes, I have given up almost all hope that I ever will.  Maybe if I can get more in the Guild Files series written I can get more attention.  A guy can dream, can't he?

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to tell your friends and family to pick up a copy!

Monday, December 31, 2012

Short, Sweet, and To the Point.

[For some reason the original contact me link didn't save.  This has been rectified.]

So, as promised, the "big" news.

On November 2 I received an email that had me stunned.  Someone working for ICM Partners asked me who holds the film and TV rights for Subject 12 and all following works in the series.  I was also asked if I had an agent.

Just to be absolutely clear on the matter for anyone reading this, the answers were then and are now "myself" and "no".

I replied (after doing some due diligence by vetting the individual as best I could with internet searches) within 24 hours.  My e-mail was brief but I passed along the requested information.  I had some time constraints preventing me from being more thorough in my reply.

A week later I sent another e-mail because I hadn't heard back yet.  This e-mail was a little more informative and friendly as I was far less occupied (I was watching the merchandise at a psychic fair during the night because the hotel had no way of locking the rooms to prevent intruders when I sent the first one) when I replied.  I felt it was better to reply promptly than take the time to butter the buns before serving, as it were, the first time.

So, now it's December 31, 9:40PM and I have heard bupkis from her, ICM Partners, or anyone else.  I don't know if this is because my e-mail replies bounced, were eaten by spam filters for some reason, I haven't been patient enough (almost 60 days so far), I didn't meet criteria for continued discussion (the lack of an agent), whoever thought of it lost interest in the idea, or whatever.  Suffice it to say, the fact that I haven't heard back from one of the largest entertainment firms in the world (look at any top-ten list of talent agencies in Hollywood and you'll see them in the top five or even the top two on virtually every one, and check out their website for both information and a telling lack of flourish) for an unknown reason after they approached me has been a bit disheartening.  Still, it hasn't stopped me from doing what I can to get more ready for you guys to read.

I'm not holding my breath to hear back from them.  I haven't yet and I won't.

So, as there has been interest in the past...  I am the exclusive copyright and rights holder to Subject 12, The Grand Granger, and all future works unless otherwise noted.  I currently have no agent.  I'm not looking for one but I'm also not against the idea of having one -- I just don't feel like jumping through a bunch of hoops again only to be ignored like I was the last several times I've tried.  As such, if anyone has any questions or whatever, feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading and have a fantastic new year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Well, I Survived

I survived the horrible storm that just passed. It dumped in excess of 10 inches in my driveway, which I had to shovel out over the course of 2 days. My back, my knees, and my left arm all hurt and don't want to work very well, but I did survive and I did get myself dug out so I at least I won't starve.

Despite the fact that it seems the snow plow driver on my road has a vendetta against me, I have to say that, all things considered, things could have been a lot worse and I am in okay shape.

It looks like I will be sharing thr information that I have been keeping secret since early November with you, but not until New Year's Eve. Unfortunately, at this point it is entirely too anticlimactic to be really worth mentioning. I'm just going to do it because I'm stubborn like that.

Work continues on  my projects, so with any luck I will have something good to announce shortly. Thank you for your patience!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Subject 12 is now a KDP Selects Exclusive.

Post title says it all, really.  Now that all the holdouts have finally released Subject 12 from their catalogs, Amazon is the exclusive place to buy a copy.  The good news is that if a Prime member wishes to borrow it I can now get paid for said borrow.  As this impacts ~.1% of my readers, I'm not going to make a big deal out of this.  Mostly just making a note of it.  Also, as said before, if you purchased a copy through any other outlet then you should still be able to get a copy if you change devices or experience some other hardware hiccup.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cliffhangers, Novellas, and Google Plus.

It's come to my attention that the endings of both Subject 12 and The Grand Granger have left some readers, shall we say, unsatisfied.  I assure you that this was not intentional, and I'll attempt to explain why in this blog post.  I'll address The Grand Granger first as that one is easier to explain.  I apologize if I speak of issues I've spoken of regularly.  I don't want to sound like I'm complaining or repeating myself, but I also don't want a new reader to come across this blog and feel left out or obligated to dig through everything I've said so far just to be in the loop.

The Grand Granger is a novella.  Novellas are currently out of favor with the American public for some reason I cannot fathom as they fill a useful niche in the storyteller's ecosystem; longer than a short story yet shorter than a novel they allow more character and plot development while allowing for a faster pace than a traditional novel as well as the quick satisfaction and brevity of a short story.  Many of our greatest classics are novellas, especially in the realm of science fiction: War of the Worlds comes to mind, not that I'm trying to put my work in the same league as Verne's.  If you look at the Hammer's Slammers novels by David Drake (and I recommend you do as they're great reads if you like military sci-fi), they are collections of short stories and novellas.  Stephen King writes a lot of novellas.  I give you the following link for the list: http://www.stephenking.com/library/novella/

Novellas, like short stories, don't have much fluff.  As a result they pack a lot of punch in a small spaces.  Also like short stories, when they end, they end.  There isn't much more to say, so they don't usually say any more than they have to.  This is why The Grand Granger ends the way it does.  Some might find it abrupt, but that's where the story ended.  While I don't currently plan on giving Xii and Reg any more "screen time", that's not to say they won't appear again.  Their story, for the moment, is over.  That doesn't mean I won't be writing more in the Tal'Red universe, just that the characters you've seen so far may not be making another appearance.

Subject 12 ended on a cliffhanger of sorts.  This was, at the time, a matter of necessity.  While I find some people are capable of writing upwards of 10,000 words in a day, my output is much lower.  Part of that is physical, some of it psychological.

My arthritis causes my hands to hurt when I type too much, my back hurts because of my crappy office chair (there was $200 well spent, not), and I get chest pains from the bad angle I have to sit at in order to type on my PC for any length of time (again, office chair) -- and none of this can be helped with even OTC pain medication because I can't even take acetaminophen without experiencing gastric issues that can last for 24 hours.  I'm a rather large man and require a plus-rated office chair to sit in, so I can't just run to Office Max or Walmart and pick up the $69 special and expect it to last more than a few days.  I also spend upwards of eight hours a day in a chair, so it has to be durable.  As such, my research has lead me to the inexorable conclusion that I need a 24-hour chair rated at more than 300lbs as the one I currently have is rated at 300lbs (though I thought it was supposed to be 350 when I bought it, which I got to make sure I'd have a lot of reserve) and was showing signs of fatigue after two weeks of use.  As for the psychological reasons, I find writing to be a very intense and often emotional experience.  I agonize over things, and I'll spend hours researching minor points just to make sure I'm not making a mistake.  While this may lead to a superior product, it really cuts into my output some days.

I try to output at least 1,000 words per day when I'm writing regularly, but that's hard for me to do most days because of everything else I have going on, arthritis issues (some days I can't even hold a pen to write with, let alone type much), or just plain writer's block.  However, unlike these writers who slam out 10,000 words a day during NaNoWriMo (or as I call it, November), I find that I prune very little of what I write unless it's utter trash.  I sculpt and massage and shape and hammer on what I write until it's in the proper shape, or temper it until it's the right hardness, but I don't cut 30% of my writing from first draft to final.  Actually, I find I'm adding anywhere from 5-10% of the first draft's word count per revision (or the equivalent if not more in rewrites).  If I do find something that needs to be cut, be it a sentence or a few thousand words, I cut it because sometimes things just don't work, or the story's gone in a new direction.

What I'm trying (and failing) to say is that I just ran out of steam by the end of Subject 12, and I think it really showed in some of the errors that crept in despite a substantive and at times exhausting editing cycle.  At the time I simply couldn't write any more.  The story wasn't finished -- isn't finished, unless I die before I can get Rogue up for you guys -- but I couldn't write any more of it.  I had a choice; delay publication and try to get the story wrapped up in another chapter, which would be doing you, me, and the story itself a huge disservice, or finish it on a cliffhanger and write a whole novel as a sequel.  I chose the latter for two reasons.  First off, comic books (which Subject 12 is both an homage to and send-up of) are the epitome of cliffhangers.  Denying that would be pointless and flat out wrong.  I felt justified for this very reason.  Secondly, rather than trying to condense everything to ~20,000 words, by giving myself an entire novel to stretch in, I'm allowing myself to do justice to the story as it could, nay, should be.  I owe it to my readers as much as to myself to do it justice, so I will do my best to do so.

Speaking of Subject 12, I've finally gotten the feel I needed for the characters in the story I'm working on in Reagent Protocol, which will be an anthology of three stories (See, that pesky novella crops up again.) as I've mentioned.  They will tie into Subject 12 quite nicelyBanshee you're already familiar with, and I've given you the outline for the story I'm working on now.  The third one is in preliminary planning stages.  I can't say as the whole thing will be worth the wait, but I hope it will be well-received.  I will keep you posted.

As the title of this post indicates, and as I've alluded to a few times, I've been giving thought to the concept of opening up a Google Plus page.  I've received a single piece of feedback on the matter, and it indicates that I might get more feedback if I open said page.  Well, I don't want people to think I'm hard to reach, or difficult to speak with once I've been reached, so I'm thinking it'll be a project for the new year.  I look forward to hearing from you, even if you just want to say "hi" or "you suck".  I actually already have a G+ account activated; I just haven't done anything with it yet.  I'll have some free time coming up soon, so hopefully I can look into it a bit more.  Everything I post here will be cross-posted there, so this blog may even become a bit pointless -- but I'm not giving up on it.

Anyway, it's time to wrap this up.  My traffic from Belgium is back so Bonjour, mes amis!  Comment allez-vous?

Thanks, everyone, for reading and Happy Holidays!


(Bonus paragraph!)

I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I hoped to share some really big news with everyone.  Unfortunately, the whole idea seems to have died.  If I don't hear more by the end of the year I'll probably tell everyone about it in the new year, with details, just not e-mail addresses or names.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

That was interesting...

I mentioned Belgium in my last post and suddenly I stop getting hits from Belgium.  That makes me curious.

I took Subject 12 off Smashwords yesterday afternoon and most retailers have removed the book from their catalog.  I do hope that I can get it back up soon, but only when I've cleaned up the typos and have final say over the output.  We'll see.

I've received zero feedback on the Google Plus idea, which is what I've basically expected.  For those in the know, I don't need to explain what the advantages of setting one up would be, but for those that don't...

Google Plus is similar to Facebook, but not as invasive, and with a few nice features Facebook just doesn't have.  It'd allow easier interaction, among other things.  Just an idea, but nothing I'll lose sleep over if nobody thinks it's a good idea.

Well, back to the grind!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Good Morning Belgium!

Since I'm no Robin Williams I can't make it sound like Good Morning Vietnam -- all I can do is type it.

I've noticed a major upswing in traffic from Belgium over the last month.  As in, something like 5-1 traffic from Belgium compared to the USA.  I have no idea what this means, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's a good thing and not just a bot.

So, HELLO BELGIUM!

On another note, I'm seriously considering moving the majority  of my posts to my Google+ (Google Plus) account.  I'm considering this move to encourage, streamline, and ease participation and feedback from you guys.  Considering how much life's been getting in the way lately (including my 24 year-old pump dying this weekend and it taking until yesterday to get a replacement pump installed and wired into my old system), I'd like to do something for my readers that won't take a few months to finish up.  So, with that in mind, what do you think?  Would G+ be better for you to contact me?  Let me know!  Thanks!