Saturday, December 29, 2012

Martinus Publishing on the Web

Well, it's not much to look at, but the official website for Martinus Publishing is now online.  Give it a quick look.

This is a prime example of "anyone can do it."  My web design is limited to a basic understanding of html code, though it serves me well enough.  Maybe someday I'll be able to afford a webmaster, but right now I'm pouring enough money into the company setup that I'll be lucky if I ever break even on this venture.

I'm not feeling so good right now, but I don't want to depress anyone at this joyous time of year with my petty emotional issues.  Just keep me in your thoughts and prayers, and think well of me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas Bonus

I'd like to wish all of my readers a very Merry Christmas.  We all have our own definition of what that entails, so I leave it up to the eye of the beholder.  Hopefully, you will all find some happiness this December 25th.

In the spirit of giving, I'd like to offer you the best offer I can (without bankrupting myself).  For Christmas, I'll let anyone who wants to order print copies of my books a super discount: my actual cost.  Not a cent of mark-up!  If you want one book or multiple books, I will let you have them for nothing more than what I paid for them.  It's not much, but it's what I've got.  This offer is good through the end of the week, December 29, 2012.  Go to my AuthorStore page, and submit the form, telling me which books you want to buy.

Every person who accepts this offer will not only receive a gift, but be giving me one in return.  I'll have the pleasure of sharing my fantastic stories with more readers, while you get quality books for the minimum expense.  I know, a lot of people are hard-strapped these days, but most folks can afford a few bucks for the chance to enjoy the adventures I have laid out in my many novels.  Let's celebrate the season together in this minor way.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Mystery of Eliza Jane Dillon

As winter begins to sink in again, I've resumed research into my ancestry, picking away at the many threads of my bloodline.  Although I have mapped out a fairly extensive list in many regards, there is still much to do, and lingering lines that will forever remain lost in the fog of time.  I was looking at one dead-end in particular not so long ago, that of my great-great-great grandmother, Eliza Jane Dillon (or Denny).

Her maiden name, itself, is sometimes disputed. Depending on which descendant researcher you run across, some say her last name was Dillon, and others list it as Denny.  She was born 17 April 1836 in Zanesville, Ohio.  On 1 January 1852, she married Frederick Stark, a German immigrant almost 10 years her senior.  They moved out to Indiana, then later to Illinois, and together they had 3 children, Henry Irving Stark, James Franklin Stark, and my great-great grandmother, Mary-Etta Stark, the future wife of Charles W. Bailey.  Fred Stark died in 1867, and Eliza remarried twice (Sampson Cantrell in 1868, and Josiah S. Fletcher in 1893).

Eliza died on 19 August 1914 in Fort Scott, Kansas.

Mary-Etta Stark, daughter of
Eliza Jane Dillon/Denny
Trying to find Eliza's parents has been an arduous process, and I have made little progress.  To my knowledge, nobody alive currently knows who her parents were, and census data isn't that helpful, either.  Their alleged birthplace varies with each census Eliza took.  In 1880, they were from Virginia and Ohio.  In 1900, they were from France, and in 1910 they were from Maine.  I've confirmed beyond a doubt that all of these census reports are for the same woman, yet she clearly didn't feed the census takers the same information each time they came around (or whoever was answering for her didn't know and/or made stuff up).  This has led me to wonder if the truth about her parents might even be different than any of these claims.

In my continuing quest to unlock the secret of Eliza's origins, I came across an interesting 1850 census form for Zanesville, Ohio (actually two, since the household started at the bottom of one page and continued on another).  This census report was for the household of Moses & Mary Dillon.  They had 4 children listed, and two other individuals living with them:  Mary A. McCormack and Elizabeth Denny.  I find this to be a very compelling coincidence, indeed.  Since Eliza is known by both names, Dillon and Denny, it could be that she was born Denny, and was "adopted" by the Dillons.  The 1850 census didn't ask for all that much information, and didn't even list a person's relation to the head of household, so it is unclear if this Elizabeth Denny was an adopted daughter or not.

Another curiosity with this record is Elizabeth Denny's birthplace.  On this form, it's listed as Germany, and this gives us more circumstantial evidence to consider.  We know that Frederick Stark was from Germany, and it is possible that his wife had her origins there, as well.  She may have come over very young, or perhaps she truly was born in Zanesville, Ohio, as is consistently reported.  She may have been born to German parents shortly after their arrival, giving some people the impression that she was also "from" Germany.  Either way, it seems logical that Eliza may have had a similar origin/background as that of the man she wed at the tender young age of 15.

The truth of Eliza's parents may never come to light, though I continue my pursuit.  New possibilities continue to emerge, leaving renewed hope that the answers are out there to be found, eventually.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Maybe a Bad Idea

I made a questionable decision yesterday morning.  My wife and second daughter Kathryn both had dentist appointments in Eastport, a 15 mile drive approximately.  The previous day had seen a very wet and nasty snowstorm, which had knocked out power for hours, and left things a slushy mess.  The driving conditions on the main road were decent, but the application of salt is a nasty thing for cars.  So, it might give some people a heart attack to hear that I took my 1956 Ford Fairlane out into such a mess.

Yes, it was a questionable decision, and there are reasons to question it.  To bathe such a nice old car in an evil salt bath is something you wouldn't want to have happen to your flashy show car, though as I've said before, this Fairlane is hardly a prize-winner.  It is a nice, old driver with numerous cosmetic flaws, though it's mechanically solid.  Still, driving in winter weather in Maine isn't something to do often with any real car.  The modern mechanical boxes they call cars these days are not "real" by my definition.

The decision before me was multi-faceted.  I had 4 people to transport (Jenna, Kathryn, Lois, and myself).  The Ford Ranger pickup I have will hold that many, though it is a tight fit, and the thing has poor traction on snow and ice.  Rather than risk hitting something slick with the modern piece of junk truck, I decided to venture out in the rugged Fairlane, which has very good traction.  On the way down to the dentist, I ran into a few places where ice lurked on the road, but the car hardly noticed.  It doesn't even have snow tires, and it handles better than your average half ton pickup on snow and ice.  I can only imagine what a '56 Fairlane with 4-wheel drive could do—alas, they never made them in 4WD.  But, as I said, the two wheel drive version works nicely.

The Fairlane made its masterful voyage through the evil road sludge without incident, and assured that everyone got home alive.  The temperature was above freezing when I got back, so a quick hosing helped to eliminate the wicked salt.  Special attention must be paid to the underside whenever washing the car, and it would be nice to have a proper car steam-cleaning unit.  That must go onto the "if the West of the Warlock tv series is ever made and I make a million bucks, I'll buy it" list.

I don't believe the short term exposure will cause too much damage to the Fairlane.  I've said it before and I'll say it again: It isn't a show car!  Yes, if I wanted to pour $10,000 into it, then it could very well be such a vehicle, but then I'd never be able to drive it, for fear of damaging perfection.  The Fairlane is the best thing I've ever driven, and I'd much rather be able to get around in style, rather than hoard a trophy-catcher in an air-conditioned garage.  I'm sure even Jerry Seinfeld has a few "imperfect" models to beat around in for fun.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Curse of Selwood –Early Release

Yes, it's true.  After much work and waiting, the Curse of Selwood is finally ready for store shelves.  The final formatting has been completed, and the book is now available to order from, in both print and kindle formats!  Those who have a kindle can begin reading it immediately, though the print copies will take a few weeks to produce.

Print Edition
Kindle Version
For those of you who put in a pre-order, please be patient.  While the book is now "released," it will be several weeks before the print copies are available.  Also, for various reasons, I won't be ordering stock until January 1st, so it may be a couple of weeks after that before I can sign and send these special editions.

There are still a few signed and numbered editions available, and I'm still offering the Pre-order for The Curse of Selwood.  If you're interested in buying a signed and numbered copy, go to my AuthorStore and click on the submission form.  For $11.00, you can't beat the value!

In other news, formatting has been completed on the 2nd print of West of the Warlock, and it will be coming out sometime next.  At present, Amazon still has the first edition available for sale, so if you're still eager to get a copy of the first printing, you'd best do it soon.  I can't say how much longer the book will be available.  You may want to hold out for the Martinus edition, though there will be obvious collector value to the original release.

The Temporal Element still needs submissions, though I expect to see quite a few stories after the Holiday season.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Slowdown Season

Things are progressing well for Martinus Publishing.  The formatting for The Curse of Selwood is almost complete, and we might just see the book release at the end of the year, ahead of schedule.  Preparations have also begun on the 2nd edition of West of the Warlock, which will include a new foreword as well as the original Dwarf at High Noon short story.  Now readers will be able to read the complete origins of this Fantasy Western series in one convenient volume.

Work on the Temporal Element has come to a crawl, as the past week has seen no new submissions.  There were quite a few directly after the 1st of December, though most of them weren't what this anthology needed.  There are still several stories waiting on revisions, and several authors who have said they intend to submit but haven't done so yet.  I'm confident that enough stories will come through by the new deadline of January 31, 2013, though it would be nice to see more variety right now.  Time travel stories aren't that hard to write, are they?

Cold weather has stymied my non-writing projects, so work on Unforsaken is commencing again.  The 4th book in the West of the Warlock series is about half written now, and based on what else preoccupies my time, it could be several months before the finished draft is on hand.  Whether the book will go to Martinus Publishing or venture forth into the larger marketplace, I cannot say yet.  It would be nice to find a larger press to handle the release, though it is difficult to find that right editor at the right time.  I guess I've gotten to the point where I'm sick of having the door shut in my face time and time again.

Well, before I start feeling sorry for myself or say something condescending or arrogant, I'll bid you all a good day.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The 1954 Chevy Bel-Air

Yes, it's finally time to reveal my latest project.  A few months ago, I picked up a 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air from Arizona, and took on the arduous job of restoring it.  Here's a picture of what it looked like when I first bought it:

The picture gives it a slightly better look than the naked eye would reveal, but it was a solid car from the start.  Having lived its entire life in the arid Southwest, it was nearly rust-free, which is why I purchased it.  I hate rust, and Maine is the land of rusty cars.  This beauty won't need new floorboards or anything of that nature.  The desert sun did rot some of the plastic components, though.  The tail light lenses, the parking light lenses, and the hood and trunk emblems were either deteriorated or gone entirely.  It was also missing the hood ornament, but overall it was mostly complete.

The first thing I had to do was get it running.  The original 235 engine had had work done to it years ago, but someone had taken the carburetor off to rebuild it at some point and never put it back (and failed to do any rebuilding).  That, and someone snatched the master cylinder out of it, so it didn't have brakes.  These failings were divulged prior to my purchase, so I knew what I was getting into.  The carb was sitting on the front seat, so at least I had it.

To get the engine started, my father supplied an old carburetor he had kicking around, which would suffice until I got a rebuild kit.  With the temporary carburetor in place, we put a fresh 6-volt battery in it and turned the key.  It wouldn't turn at first, and after a quick check we found that the water pump was seized.  We took the belt off, and the engine turned, and started!  Of course, we didn't run it long with the cooling system disconnected (as well as the generator, which runs on the same belt), but it ran for a few minutes, long enough to determine that it really is a good engine.

After the initial run, I started the long process of restoration.  I didn't have a lot of time in September, but I poked around with a few minor things.  I cleaned the trunk, which had about half an inch of desert dust coating it.  Amazingly, there was paint under all that dirt.  A little surface rust was in the spare tire well, but hardly anything to fret about.

After moving it into the garage, the car was jacked up and put on 4 stacks of concrete blocks with 2" wooden spacers between each layer, putting this thing up in the air over 2 feet, so it would be possible to work on it.  One of these days, it would be nice to have a lift, but right now I must make do with what I've got.

Since late October, I've been doing quite a bit of work on this thing.  The carburetor was rebuilt, and a replacement water pump installed.  I replaced the passenger side windows that were busted (both front and rear door, plus the vent window).  I took the passenger side doors off, stripped them down and painted them, cleaned dirt out of the chrome moldings, and reassembled them.  I dismantled the front sheet metal (hood, fenders, grill, splash pans) stripped and repainted them.  Fortunately, we had a very mild November, so I got quite a few pieces done.  The new color I'm using is a metallic teal, which isn't original, but it looks sharp.  The rusty copper color was a repaint, as well, the original color being Turquoise with an India Ivory top.  I'll be putting a Vanilla Cream top on this when I'm done.

Rear passenger-side door with trim removed prior to stripping.

Door refinished and reassembled.

Here's another great thing about the car.  It had factory undercoating, most of which is still in good condition.  There are a few places where it has separated, and as I've been painting pieces I've scraped and sanded the undersides, and then given them a quick coat of paint, but left the solid undercoating in place.  Wherever the loose pieces have come off, I've found glossy black factory paint underneath, so there's no sense in ripping that old stuff off.  It'll protect the car, just as it has for the last 58 years.

One front fender, stripped and polished.
Both fenders refinished.
Getting the brakes working was a slow process.  Getting a new, rebuilt master cylinder was the easy part.  Finding the parts to hook it up was another thing.  Whoever snatched the master cylinder out of the car also took the lever that connects the pedal to the cylinder.  Also, the rebuilt MC I bought lacked any of the attaching hardware.  Eventually, I found everything I needed, and got it together.  I bled the brakes, and got 3 wheels to work, but one was stubborn.  I dismantled the wheel cylinder and cleaned it out, but found the real problem to be the brake hose going to that wheel. It was clogged with crud, so I had to blow it out with air.  After that, the brakes worked fine in all 4 wheels.

On Monday, I spent 10 hours putting the front metal back together, hooked up the lights, and got it ready to run.  On Tuesday, I filled the radiator and hooked up a temporary tank for gas (before using the regular tank, I need to drain the old, stale gas out of it).  With the car still on blocks, I cranked it over and the engine fired right up.  It runs like a car should, without any unforeseen trouble.  I'll need to take it out for a short drive to see how everything behaves, but there's not much that can go wrong with this kind of vehicle.  It's all straightforward and reliable.

Front of car with sheet metal removed.

After painting and some reassembly

Mostly reassembled with new accessory headlight visors.
Today, I completed work on the trunk compartment.  As I said, I cleaned it out a while ago and added a coat of paint.  It was warm enough today to glue the carpet and padding down, so I spent a few hours using spray adhesive to stick things into place.  The carpet kit I purchased claimed to be "cut to fit, no trimming required," but of course it wasn't (nothing is ever perfect when you are dealing with these old cars, I've found).  So, I had to do a little trimming around the edges here and there, and figure out how to fit it all together.  In the end, it came out pretty nice, I think.  You be the judge.
Trunk at time of sale

After cleaning and painting

A quality, carpeted trunk
I still have a lot of work to do on this car, but I have most of the parts either on hand or on order (no cheap feat, I'll tell you).  This winter and next spring, I'll be putting some serious time into the vehicle.  It still needs the driver's side doors painted, as well as the roof and rear fenders.  The car needs a complete interior installed (headliner, carpet, door panels, the works).  As I said, the materials are on order.  Installing the headliner will be an interesting experience, though the factory shop manual shows you how to do it.  I'll just have to be careful.

Once this car is completed, I might just put it on the market.  It won't be a $50,000 show car, but if someone wants to put a little more work into it after me, it could be.  I'd want to get $15k for it.  That way, I'd get my money back and be able to buy another project car.  If that's too much, then I'll keep it and have a really nice Bel-Air of my own to drive around.  Either way, it'll be a good investment.

Almost road-ready!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Curse of Selwood Cover Reveal & Pre-Order

Things are already coming together for Martinus Publishing, and I'm pleased to announce that The Curse of Selwood will be released in January 2013.  The specific date is not yet decided, though it will undoubtedly be before that month is over.  I have the manuscript already formatted for the printers, and thanks to Hall Brothers Entertainment, I have the cover!

Without further delay, here is the fantastic front cover to The Curse of Selwood:

As you can see, we settled on a format that remains similar to the first book in the series, and I'm hoping to carry this theme on to the third book in the series when it's time for that to be released.  In addition to the exceptional story, the book will also contain a bonus extra; a rare look into the creative process and how we (the Hall Brothers and myself) decided upon this design over other possibilities.

With everything set into motion, it's time to give everyone the chance to reserve their copies.  Yes, I'm offering a pre-order special for my loyal readers.  For the discounted price of $11.00, you can reserve yourself a signed copy of this book, but that's not all.  The first 13 pre-orders will receive one of the famed Lucky Thirteen numbered editions.

Also, anyone who pre-orders (not just the first 13) will receive an extra bonus while supplies last.  When I was writing The Curse of Selwood, there were times where I let the keyboard remain silent and took to pen and paper.  I have dozens of pages of hand-written notes and story, and each person who is kind enough to order their print copy early will also receive one of these pages, penned by yours truly!  You never know; it may be worth something someday.  At the very least, you'll get a fascinating look into my rough draft, assuming you can decipher my handwriting.

The pre-order price includes shipping to the USA.  Foreign sales will cost more, and therefore require a postage fee, but I'll do what I can to keep it as affordable as possible, and I will ship worldwide.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

That Switch Sucks

A nuisance thing happened to me the other day.  I hopped into my 1956 Ford Fairlane and went to start it, only to find the ignition switch was inoperable.  Oh, it would turn to the "on" position, and the oil/gen light would glow, but it wouldn't engage the starter.  This was not a good thing, as I needed to get somewhere.

I have the car in perfect running condition, but it wouldn't start all of a sudden.  This would certainly be a problem with a more modern vehicle.  With all the sensors and circuits in new cars, you can't do anything outside of a professional shop.  Fortunately, my retro-technology allows for simple solutions in short order.

Here is a pictorial step by step illustration of my immediate solution, and one that could be utilized by anyone who happens to have a faulty switch.  Do try this at home, but only on your own car (jumping someone else's vehicle, especially mine, could result in you being shot; you have been warned).

1: Turning key to "on" position.

2: Fashioning the high-tech bypass tool.

3:  Jumping that relay.  It's alive!

4.  Give her a little gas to keep the ice-cold engine from stalling.  After a few seconds, it has no trouble idling on its own.

5:  Let her warm up for a couple of minutes, and you're ready to go.

There, problem solved.  But now for the more permanent solution. After going over the simple troubleshooting instructions found in the shop manual, I was able to determine that something was wrong with the wire going from the switch to the relay.  When I went to replace the wire, however, I suddenly found that the car would start with a turn of the key!  It turned out that the connection on the back of the switch had just the slightest film of corrosion.  When coupled with the cold weather, it was enough to diminish the power going through the wire and keep it from reaching the starter.  After I cracked the nut and retightened it, everything worked again.  It only took me a couple of hours to trace down the problem.  No need for new wires, no need for a new starter switch.  Aren't I lucky?

This has been a quick car minute.  I hope it has been helpful.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A New Beginning!

This has been a hard year for my writing career on many levels.  With the economy in decline, sales have been stagnant on most titles (West of the Warlock being the only major seller), and the marketing of new works has been surprisingly difficult.  It seems there are fewer and fewer markets that are interested in publishing the sort of stories I write, and even the stuff I read.

At the same time, during different writing exercises and contests, I have uncovered a lot of really good writers who aren't getting published much, even though their stuff is way better than a lot of the stuff that is being pushed by the bigger commercial markets.  I don't know if it's just my personal tastes which are out of whack with the mainstream, but there is clearly a growing niche of sci-fi and fantasy that is underrepresented in the marketplace.  It's about time I did something about that.

The closure of Hall Brothers Entertainment was just the final straw.  That tragic loss has finally given me the impetus to move forward with something I have been considering for years.  That is the formation of my own publishing company.  Without further ado, I hereby announce the birth of Martinus Publishing!

While still in the "conceptual phase," I foresee Martinus Publishing as a viable small press, seeking to publish an eclectic selection of Science Fiction & Fantasy works, both single-author novels and multi-author anthologies.  I am also considering a line of historical novels, though let's not get ahead of ourselves.  It's important to start out small, and see what happens.  No sense over-extending myself, right?

The first book that I'll be releasing will be The Curse of Selwood.  It is all ready to go (thank you, HBE), and I should have an official release date soon.  In addition, I'll be re-releasing West of the Warlock about the same time, with a fresh postscript.  In the meantime, I have put up fresh "sample" pages at my website:

Speaking of websites, that is something I will have to handle, as well.  I will have to set up a separate site for Martinus Publishing.  It's a fairly simple thing to do.  Give me a hundred bucks and I'll put something together.  It may not be big and flashy, but it'll work.

After West of the Warlock & The Curse of Selwood, the next release will have to be The Temporal Element, which is still open for submissions at this time.  This first anthology will establish Martinus Publishing as a genuine small press, and not just a shill company for publishing my own work.  The first artwork I'll have to commission is a cover for this anthology, since I'd like to have something nice and professional.

Once these outstanding projects are released, then I will move forward, and start seeking some new talent.  I expect to handle a couple of novels each year, and possibly a couple of anthologies as well.  With any luck, this will be the start of a long-lasting endeavor, which will bring fantastic fiction to life and hopefully produce enough of a profit to keep itself afloat without eating away at my limited revenues (yes, wishful thinking, I know).

So, let us begin!