Monday, September 27, 2010

An Amazing Find

Yesterday, I uncovered a piece of my family history.

A friend of mine is moving, so he asked me if I'd like to have a few boxes of old books he wanted to give away.  I'm never one to pass up the opportunity to add to my library, so I drove up to his place on Sunday afternoon and was greeted by several unexpected surprises.

It turned out, he not only had some books to give away, but a whole bunch of old mason jars for canning.  I've been meaning to increase my supply for some time, and hope to have a large garden next year, so this was really a Godsend.  I had the cab of my ranger packed full before I was ready to leave.

Before driving off, I took a look at one of the boxes of books, and one caught my eye.  It was "New Russia's Primer" by M. Ilin, and it just so happens that the man who translated the book into english was none other than my great-grandfather, George S. Counts!  What an unexpected discovery.  Mind you, the book itself is about how great the Soviet Socialist 5-Year Plan was, but it's still interesting to have some little piece of my ancestral heritage.

Counts wrote an short introduction to the book, and it's the only thing by him that I've ever had the chance to read.  Out of the dozens of books he penned during his career as an educator, I don't have any.  No doubt, some members of my father's family have copies tucked away somewhere, but I'm not sure who, or whether they'd be willing and able to send them to me.  All of his books have been out of print for years, and most are hard to find.

This was an amazing find.  It just goes to show that you never know when something interesting will be dumped in your lap.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Another Stellar Interview

This week, I had the honor of being interviewed by Noah K. Mullette-Gillman about "The Guns of Mars."  I'm pleased to say it went well, and he is doing an excellent job of aiding undiscovered writers in their quest for fame and fortune.  Check it out, and learn something new (and maybe think about buying one of my books.  I do have 3 kids to feed now).

Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Writing Credentials

It is said that you don't need to have credentials to become a successful fiction writer... but it sure helps.  In the vast quagmire of slush that circulates in this modern era of easy information, it is increasingly hard to get noticed by the commercial presses.  Being able to tout yourself as a doctor or professor no doubt helps catch the attention of certain editors, and saying you're a graduate of xyz writing workshop might help push your head above water.

Sadly, I have no such notoriety.  I never went to college, and I haven't spent hours in workshops to craft my writing talent.  But that does not mean I am ignorant and have not honed my skills.  I have simply done so by other means.

Dean Ingham (Martin's Father)

I come from a long line of writers.  My great-grandfather, George Sylvester Counts, was an accomplished writer of non-fiction.  His son-in law (my father's father) tried his hand at fiction, though had limited success.  My father tried extensively to sell fiction in his youth, and came very close to getting published.  You could say writing is in my blood, though that's only a start.

When I was six years old, I came to the realization that I wanted to be a writer.  Seeking to help along the way, my father began to cultivate my writing talent, working with me as a child to draft fantastic stories.  It was from him that I learned the basics at an early age.

Following up with that initial training, I had the assistance of my mother's brother, Doctor Stephen K. Alexander, who taught me the finer points of editing during my teen years.  We spent hours together, going over my fanciful stories, weeding out typos and rewriting paragraphs to clarify narration and dialog.  After his tutelage, I was able to craft professional manuscripts.

Last known photo of Dr. Stephen K. Alexander (left),
taken shortly before his death in September 1998.

Beyond my schooling and familial training, I grew up surrounded by books.  I had access to great knowledge in my father's private library, and I supplemented that with tomes from the Calais Free Library.  I can't recount all the books I read growing up, and it wasn't all fiction.  When I was 11, I went on a collecting spree and bought as many copies of The National Geographic Magazine as I could find, and I read virtually every issue from 1960 to 1990, and some even earlier.  I can't recall every single article off the top of my head, but all that knowledge is still in there, rolling around my subconscious, fueling my fictional creations.

In recent years, I have continued to advance my knowledge base, reading as much as time permits.  I hone my talents by bouncing ideas off of educated colleagues, assuring that my stories are as polished as humanly possible.  This is, of course, what every serious writer must do.

These are my writing credentials.  They may not elicit the kind of attention that a PhD or a workshop certificate would, but I have equivalent knowledge and skill.  Perhaps, someday, enough people will recognize the truth, and I shall gain the attention necessary to achieve commercial success with my literature.  Until that day, and beyond, I'll keep striving for the ever elusive mark.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To Preface or Not to Preface

I've received a few comments recently regarding the Preface to The Guns of Mars.  It's not a long bit of writing, by any stretch, and when I first wrote it I believe it was a clever way to summarize the first two novels that featured Morgan Asher.  However, several readers seem to have a different opinion.  They said they felt the Preface didn't mesh with the rest of the book.  One reviewer actually said he was going to pass on interviewing me about the book after reading the Preface, and it was only after he gave the book a second try, and read further into the text, that he realized my work was interesting.

The comments have been too numerous to ignore, so I must ask myself if I blundered by writing the Preface.  How many readers have checked out the free preview and gone no further than the opening couple of pages, deciding The Guns of Mars wasn't their taste, all because of a short start which isn't representative of the rest of the novel?

I'd like all of you to do me a favor.  Read the free preview of The Guns of Mars, and tell me what you think of it.  Tell me your thoughts on the entire thing, the Preface and the first two chapters.  Call it morbid curiosity, or marketing analysis, but I'd like to get some feedback.  Is the Preface a dud, or a misunderstood gem?  You decide.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Letter to Kathryn

It was raining the day you were born.  Your mother and I ventured out into the dark shortly after 5AM, and drove the dozen miles through the cold gloom of pre-dawn, to reach the hospital.  We checked in, and it didn't take long for you to arrive.  At 9:05, you emerged with blue complexion, screaming the most ear-piercing scream.  It seemed you wanted the world to know you were alive.  You calmed down eventually.

It was a Friday, and I had a job to finish that day, but I put it off for you, going out on Saturday instead.  It was important that I be there for you and your mother, and the bricks could wait.  I had the luxury of flexibility with my job, which so many other people don't.  I stayed with you until noontime, and returned later that afternoon, all to keep an eye on you, and be there with you during your first hours.

Your mother was tired and sore after giving birth, for your size was larger than our previous babies.  You weighed in at an impressive seven pounds and seven ounces, with a length of twenty-one and a quarter inches.  Mom needed a few sutures after pushing you out, but that didn't bother her.  She had you in her life now, and that was worth any discomfort.

You never need to feel you were unwanted or unloved.

I often wonder what you'll become as time goes by, what great sights you'll see and what accomplishments you'll achieve.  I don't profess to know what's to come, but I know you'll make us proud.  There is greatness in you, I feel, though for what purpose I am not certain.  Whatever happens, your mother and I will always be there for you, in spirit if not in body, and your older brother and sister should be supportive of you as well.

I thank God that you are with us.  Don't forget to do the same, dear Kathryn, and you'll be fine.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When Last We Saw Our Hero...

As the waning days of summer shine their last rays, I find myself contemplating many things.  This has been an interesting year for me, on a personal level.  There have been many ups and downs, and I know things are going to keep rolling along this rollercoaster course for a good while to come.

So, want to know what I've been doing lately?  No?  Well, fine then.  I don't want to know what you've been doing, either.  No, don't tell me.  It'll only give me nightmares to hear about your amazing adventures, and personal exploits.  What?  Stop it!  Oh, no!  Hideous imagery burning into my brain.  Blood shooting out of my eyes.  Ahhhhh!

 But, seriously, life has been dragging along at its own hectic pace, and I'd like you all to know that I'm still alive, if not wealthy.  Work is tiring, but it's there, and within the next few weeks I'll have a new baby daughter to occupy my time.  I'm not complaining; children are the future.  Offspring=power!  Soon, my genetic legion shall spread across the face of the Earth, conquering all they see, and finally, when I am installed as emperor of the solar system... oops, sorry.  Please disregard the last few sentences.  You didn't hear that from me.  There must have been a crossed cell-phone signal, or something.

By now, you must be questioning my sanity, and with good cause.  Though, it's all in good fun.  Besides, all writers have to be a little crazy.  Why else would we try to make a living in a market that's so crowded and devoid of profit for 99% of participants?  Yes, all writers are nutjobs (especially the rich, successful ones).  Remember, you heard it here first!

On that note, it's time for a commercial interlude.  Over the last few weeks, I've taken the time to release both Prisoner of Time and The Rogue Investigations on Amazon Kindle, so people can buy cheaper, digital versions of these books.  The Guns of Mars was released on Kindle by Pill Hill Press months ago.  If you have a Kindle, get all of these books asap.  Print versions are of course still available.  Don't be cheap like Howie Carr.  Buy my books today!

Now, back to our program...

As I said, my daughter's birth is imminent.  She could come at any day, though her estimated time of arrival is September 20th (Doctors like to throw out dates to make you think they know what they're talking about—zing!)  After long discussion and perilous negotiations, Jenna and I have decided to name her Kathryn Zoe Ingham.  Please note the spelling: K-A-T-H-R-Y-N.  It's not Catherine, Katherine, or Cathy (and it's not Moira, either, but that's another story).  Rest assured, she will spend half her life correcting people on the proper spelling of her first name, and the other half correcting people on the spelling of her last (at least, until she gets married, and even then...)  And to think, we're trying to NOT give our kids strange names!  Common ones are enough trouble as it is.

By now, you may wonder if I've been drinking, but no.  I am 100% sober (that's 99% more sober than your average congressman!).  It's important to make light of things now and again, because everything is so darn serious these days.  It's cheaper to write like a drunk than to actually imbibe poisonous beverages, so here I am, acting like a bad stand-up comedian.  Or is that stand-up Canadian?  Bah, same difference.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must get back to work, which may or may not include killing ants, battling midget ninjas, and eating pie.  Have a bang-up week, Govnah!