Sunday, June 26, 2016

Dealing with Apathy

Hey. I'm still here, believe it or not.
If you've read my previous posts, you probably noticed they're laced with apathy. Also, the frequency with which I post is horrible. I'd be surprised if anyone still visits this blog (not that there was much traffic before). However, I like to convince myself that someone visits even if once in a blue moon. Am I actually reaching anyone?

Lately, I've been dealing with these thoughts in addition to the number of books I want to write. I've got about 8 or 9 book ideas that I've started and left in various stages throughout the writing/editing process. I feel the weight of that work and the doubt resting on my mind and shoulders. I feel buried in my art. Mired down in it. And it's not a very good feeling. It's daunting.

Throw my regular day job on the heap and it'd break the back of a pachyderm.

Expectations.

I think this might be the root cause of my malaise.

I've been wrestling with this dilemma for quite a while. Wondering what to do, how to overcome it so I could get back to my usual writing routine and book output. But I can't seem to break out of its gravitational pull. I'm hurdling toward that singularity of despair and it worries me. Until now.

Like I said, I think it stems from expectations and some of those expectations are false, self-imposed expectations. Recently, I've become fascinated with financial independence. As with anything I become fascinated with, the more I researched it, a passion arose from facing a challenge.

I doubt this is a unique to just me. I believe that people who are passionate about something will immerse themselves in whatever they're passionate about to succeed. And there are some people who do this over and over, seeking out new challenges to overcome. I've come to realize I'm in the latter group.

Looking back at my life, I can see time and time again where I developed a passion for something. I become obsessed with it. Dive into it, become a sponge so I can soak up as much knowledge as I can in order to succeed.

Very early, I wanted to become a fireman. There are long waiting lists for candidates who want to be firemen. Those with experience are picked first. Then there are those who already have some qualifications that help them, such as hold medical certifications. I didn't have any of these. In order to get experience, I would need to at least volunteer, but there were no volunteer stations where I lived. So, I decided I'd go to school and get my EMT (emergency medical technician) certification. It was a tough class with an extremely high drop rate. Yet, I studied my ass off and ended up being one of seven to become state certified. Next, I moved to an area where there was a volunteer station and volunteered. A paid position became available, but there were several volunteers vying for the spot. The captain pulled me aside and let me know they were considering me. I busted my hump to show them I could do it and I did. I beat out the other candidates and became a fireman.

Another example was when I decided to change careers. I realized I couldn't handle the stress and physical rigor the job demanded until I retired (if I ever did). Not to mention the danger. There was a very good chance the next call could always be my last. I could leave my family without a husband and dad. I wrote down what I wanted from a career. Things like: more pay (it's criminal how little public safety workers are paid); low stress; not working weekends and holidays; working in a climate-controlled environment; and on and on. I opened the classified ads section of the newspaper and went through the As, Bs, etc., comparing what I knew about each profession to the list I'd made. Then I came to Computer Programmer. I really didn't know much about what they did (this was the mid-90s), but I knew they worked in offices. They didn't get their hands dirty, lift heavy objects, and...THE PAY! The salaries listed in the job postings caused my head to spin. I made up my mind. I knew what I wanted to do.

But, where to start? I didn't know the first thing about computers and I didn't even own one. I didn't let that stop me though. People with a burning passion don't give up when they meet obstacles such as this. Instead, I went to the bookstore and bought a book to learn programming. My father-in-law was a tech-hound and gave me one of his old 286 computers. For Christmas, my brother gave me the software to write programs. I spent every spare minute during the course of the next year with my nose in that book or in front of my little computer, inputting the lines of code from the book's examples, compiling, executing, and/or debugging the small programs I was writing. After a year of this, I began to circulate my resume. AND I GOT RESPONSES! I landed my first job about a month later and it has turned into a 20 year career.

I approached writing novels the same way. I read Stephen King's On Writing and came away feeling empowered. I knew I could write a book, so I sat down every day after work (well, a lot of days anyway) and wrote, trying to log a thousand words each time. After three months, I finished the first draft. That book still hasn't seen the light of day, but I have written several published novels since that time. I've got so many ideas, I could stay busy writing into my golden years, if not for this current rut.

My latest passion is financial independence, like I mentioned earlier. I pinched my nose and plunged in, learning everything I can, taking the steps to build the discipline to live on less and save more. It's taken time away from writing and so I'm torn. Like the obstacle that presented itself when I set out to learn programming but didn't have the tools, I'm not going to let this discourage me. I have written and I have several books available. So I haven't failed.

I find comfort in the fact that I've succeeded as a writer, a novelist. I know I am capable of producing interesting worlds and characters to inhabit them. It's not something someone can take away from me. I think I will push my writing aside for now and focus on this new goal. Writing occasionally when I find the time, but not getting wrapped around the axle and beating myself up because I haven't published something this year or the next. My production will slow down and I've told myself that's okay.

The self-imposed expectations (engaging with my readers, blogging, meeting deadlines) are the hardest things to let go of when you've honed your discipline (or hard-headedness?) to strive for success. But this is something I've got to deal with now. Something's got to give.

I'm not saying I'm quitting writing. Absolutely not! Instead, I'm just going to let off the throttle to focus on something else for a while. For what it's worth, I am working on a new novel right now that's based on an actual event. The working title is Hinterland. More on this in a future post. I promise.

Anyway, this post was therapeutic in that it let me put down my thoughts on the matter. Thanks for reading.

Friday, February 5, 2016

[Insert Title Here] AKA Blowing Off Some Steam

*** WARNING: What follows is a rant. This is just some raw emotion I'm letting out. I'm not usually this cynical, so please bear with me. ***

Oh, look at that...I didn't write any blog posts during January. Tsk tsk. Truth is, I'm getting burned out on writing these posts. It almost feels like an obligation I don't want to see through any longer. It's become a chore to think up something I think the world will be interested to read. I'm not sure if that makes me sound pretentious or what. For the record, I know "the world" isn't reading this little blog of mine. Hell, I'm delusional enough to even think readers out there are eagerly awaiting anything I've got to say. You know what? That's fine with me. Really. It is. Which is precisely why I find it hard to scrounge the motivation to yell into the void that is the internet. Why waste my effort?

Here's another truth: I do this for myself, mostly. For posterity's sake. I started out using this as a space to market my writing, to build a "platform" for when I became a professional novelist. Well, that was a few years ago and things definitely change. I mean, I can look back and see the optimism I had in the beginning. Of course, during the following years, my mindset changed. Reality set in. I no longer have those daydreams of becoming a full-time writer sitting at home working on my next book that hoards of adoring fans are clamoring for. Please! While I don't have those visions of grandeur any more, I do still spend time working on the next book. As a matter of fact, I received proofs today of my second anthology, Negative Spaces. More on that a little later (as well as a glimpse of the cover).

After learning the success rate of writers who go on to have lucrative careers as full-time novelists, I realized it ranked up there with becoming a rock star or winning the lottery. I know someone reading this might say, "Wait a minute; That's not true! I'm a writer who supports myself with just my writing. What've you got to say about that?" Here's what I say to that: How many books are you on the hook to write each year? How much are each of the advances you get? I'd be willing to wager money you've got to complete at least four novels a year, not including all the social media you've got to keep up with almost daily, such as blogging and tweeting to stay relevant to your fans. In other words, you're writing ALL THE DAMN TIME! What I envisioned when I started out writing was becoming the next King, Grisham, or [insert best-selling author here]. Writing one novel a year that would go on to sell thousands of copies that my publisher would market extensively. I learned that's not the case. Up-and-coming writers have to work their asses off to get those kinds of breaks. Also, since the digital revolution/self-publishing paradigm, things have changed even more. I know there're self-published authors out there who are making a living (some making fat cash, even) from their writing and I think that's awesome. However, there's still a lot of work involved in churning out content for voracious readers and blogging/tweeting/whatever-other-ways-to-stay-relevant that those authors must do. To be honest, I'm not good at marketing and networking. So, for me at least, I prefer to just keep writing at my own pace and publishing the stuff I like.

Since having the revelation that I'll never be some best-selling author and living the life I daydreamed about, I discovered the blogosphere of personal finances. I've stumbled upon people who've lived below their means, saved the excess, and (most of them) retired at an extremely early age. This opened my eyes to the fact that my daydream hadn't vanished like smoke in the wind. Sure, I'm 43 and squandered much of my income up to now. I was never very good with money, usually earning a dollar but spending two. That's the best way in the world to stay broke. However, I've since been getting my financial house in order. This has become my top priority. Writing, mask-making, blogging, etc has all taken a backseat to getting my finances in order so that I can increase my savings rate so I can invest as much money as possible.

Since I've become fascinated with financial independence and early retirement, my net worth has increased by $25,000. That's a rough figure. I've spent hours creating spreadsheets for a budget and to track monthly and annual net worth tracking so I can maximize my savings. Later, I plan to post more detailed accounts of my financial strategies and progress as well as any set backs. With that said, I think it's safe to say that this blog has stopped being strictly focused on my writing and thoughts on writing and the publishing industry. But, I guess I broke that rule back when I posted about making masks. Oh well, whatever. It is my blog after all. And I'm sure the four or five readers won't mind.

I feel like I've simply been rambling. I started out not knowing what to blog about and then just started saying whatever came to mind. Most of this has been me ranting aimlessly. I guess I just needed to get it out of my system. Mainly, what I felt when I started this post was uncertainly; I had no idea what I should say, yet felt compelled to say SOMETHING because I didn't want to neglect my responsibility to provide a post. In other words, I felt like not writing something would be letting myself down. After all, I made a promise to myself when I started this blog that I wouldn't be like so many others who start and soon fizzle out. I don't like to think of myself as a quitter, but I also don't want to waste my efforts doing something like this if there's no benefit to it. Then, I thought of a benefit I could be sure of: I could document my progress to financial independence so my future-self could look back on.

In a nutshell, I'm saying that if you come here to find out about my books, you'll still be able to do that. However, there are going to be more posts about finances, too. And, probably whatever else I'm excited about at the time. Also, I don't always feel encouraged to write posts at regular intervals. Of course, if you have been keeping up with this blog, then that probably comes as no surprise. If you keep coming back, then great! If this is your first time here and it's going to be your last, bye. Sorry I wasn't interesting enough for you. I'm getting older and trying to appease everyone isn't something I care about trying to do anymore.

Okay, I mentioned earlier that I am just about to release my second anthology and I would provide a glimpse of the cover. I keep my promises. So, this new collection has thirteen short stories and the book is called Negative Spaces. So far, I've got it formatted for paperback distribution only. I haven't published it yet, but I will do that soon. I have to create the digital version first so they release fairly close together. That means I also have to update my website so any visitors will know about it. The stories are either horror stories or weird tales, bordering on the bizarre. Before I show you the cover, though, let me also add that I'm running a giveaway on Goodreads to give ten lucky winners autographed copies of my mystery novel, Carniville. I'll do another post soon with more details on that along with a link to enter. Okay, enough of my aimless tirade. Here's the cover...


I hope you'll go buy a copy. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Financial Retrospective - First Steps to FI



With this post, I want to capture where I'm at financially for posterity's sake. I hope to fine tune my savings/investing strategies in 2016 to better achieve my goal of getting closer to financial independence within the next decade. I'd like to revisit this post in the following years to gauge my progress. So, let me lay out what I've done so far:

I didn't get serious about becoming FI/REd until August or September of this year. I discovered some subreddits of interest (Personal Finance & Financial Independence) and, from there, some blogs by individuals who had already reached FI and chose to write about it. Many of them tell how they did it and then there are some who tell about the psychological changes they experienced on their way to FI. This really helped to fire me up.

I already had a Roth IRA at Vanguard with a target retirement fund. I moved my money into a more aggressive fund and purchased another to better diversify my allocations. In addition, I opened an investment account with Betterment. I increased my 401k contributions at work, too. Previously, I was only contributing about 4% (without employer match--won't get that until 2016). Now, I'm contributing 10%. I exchanged the funds in my 401k to some that were more aggressive with lower expense ratios.

I attempted to make a budget and am still trying to fine tune it to maximize my savings rate. Initially, it looks like my savings rate was about 58%, but I'm not confident with the accuracy of that number. I managed to cut spending by switch car insurance to save about $1,500 annually. I reduced my budget in other areas to maximize savings. Mainly, I stopped eating out and cut my daily work commute to only 2 days a week, which helped cut costs. The biggest hurdle was my grocery budget, which was difficult to cut because I enjoy good food. I managed to slash it more by eating more left overs and buying stuff to make more sandwiches and soups.

Overall, I built an emergency fund of roughly $15-20k. I contributed to investment accounts (taxable and non-taxable) to increase my net worth, which has finally broken the $40k barrier (just barely).

Some set-backs I encountered:
  • Got started late in the year
  • Had to buy a car for my son
  • Unexpected repairs on my vehicle


I'm not sure what else to document in this post. Like I said, I'm just starting out on the path to FI with the hope to reach my goal in 10 to 15 years. I plan to take what I've learned this year into 2016 and make more changes to get the greatest returns I can. I think having a full year's worth of data will better help pinpoint areas where I can make changes. However, knowing that I've finally opened my eyes to the fact that FI is definitely attainable within that time frame is like a breath of refreshing air. All I have to do is look back at the last 10 to 20 years to see how bad off I was financially. My only regret is that I didn't discover this way of life earlier, so I could be much closer to, if not already, financial independence.

As for my plans once achieving FI, I want to indulge more of my time in my hobbies: reading, writing, making masks, drawing, and piddling with my guitar and bass. I have a bunch of novels that could occupy much of my time. As a matter of fact, I have a second anthology due out in January 2016 called Negative Spaces. With more free time, I could publish more books faster. Time will tell what happens. If you're interested in following the path to FI, then I encourage you to come back and see my progress.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Return from Sabbatical

It's been a year since my last post. I won't offer any apologies because I just didn't feel the need to post anything. For me, blogging is not organic, it feels forced most of the time. I don't like to be forced to do anything. My job is something I'm forced to do, but that's different. Everyone needs money to pay bills and survive. My writing, however, is something I do out of passion. Even then, I only write when I feel the need to write. I don't force myself, which is a reason there is no book to publish this year (more on that a little later).

I've mentioned before that I have several hobbies. Mask-making, drawing, writing, etc. When I have news on any of these fronts, I like to share it. Well, I experimented with making a paper mache mask this year and it was quasi-successful. Enough so that I will take another stab at it now that I know what pitfalls to be aware of. That's not really why I'm writing this post though. During my break I found another interest. Something I was never passionate about before and, looking back, I kind of regret that. I discovered the world of Financial Independence and Early Retirement.

There's a lot of forums out there where people on the path to FI/RE discuss this subject and, as I read some of this stuff, I found myself intrigued. It's always been a dream of mine to be my own boss, not have to wake early to commute to a job where I sit in a cubicle and perform a task for someone else in exchange for money to get by on. This is one of the reasons I started writing years ago. However, I learned that supporting myself through writing was extremely competitive and a big gamble. For every one hundred writers, probably only a small group (enough to count on one--maybe two hands) will go on to make it a sustainable career. And by "sustainable career" I don't mean they're rolling in dough, living a life of luxury. They will, most likely, be writing day in, day out trying to hit multiple deadlines with several publishers in order to cobble together an annual income somewhere in the range of $30-$60k. I make way more than that now doing IT work and I have evenings and weekends free (time I use to pursue and indulge in my hobbies that bring me happiness). Not to mention, I'm fortunate enough to work for an employer who allows me to work from home three days a week, so I only commute twice a week. Win!

Still, I have to wake up early in order to join conference calls and do work I don't feel like doing. That may sound like a privileged person whining. I realize things could be worse for me. After all, I had worse jobs in my youth, so I am thankful for where I'm at. Yet I'm at a place in my life where I need to start planning for the future. Something I should've done when I was much younger. I don't want to do what I'm doing for the rest of my life. I'd like to have whole days free to indulge in activities I want to do. Not doing things dictated by others.

Enter FI/RE. I read many accounts of people who have managed to work hard for ten years or a slightly longer, socking away half or more of their net incomes in investment accounts, who were able to finally walk away from their jobs to enjoy early retirement. It was very much like reading the success stories of people who've managed to win the lottery but not fritter it away. For someone who hasn't been putting money away for retirement, this came as a revelation; a breath of refreshing air. So, I opened an investment account, started socking away money, changing my spending habits so I transition from consumer to saver. I've been watching my net worth rise and that builds momentum, much like the snowball effect, that keeps me on track to retire early.

So, that's what has consumed much of my year. And, since this blog is where I discuss things that interest me, I decided to write about it. Finances may or may not interest you. That's okay. I will warn you now, though: I will be writing more about my travels along the path to financial freedom in addition to my other interests: making masks, writing, etc.

As for my writing; I'm still very much plugging away at it. As a matter of fact, I've written numerous short stories this year as well as moved the progress needle on some novels I'm working on. I don't like to let a year pass without publishing something, but as I've stated many times before, I won't publish anything not up to my standards. I was hoping to publish my novel What Goes Around. Unfortunately, it hasn't met my standards, so I will need additional time to edit/rewrite it. With that being said, I decided to gather some of my shorts to produce a second anthology. I'm getting close to finishing, but I doubt I will be done before the end of the year like I'd hoped. So, it may not get published until January 2016. I already have the cover finished. It's called Negative Spaces. It contains 13 stories ranging from the bizarre to horrific. I hope you'll enjoy it when it hits virtual shelves soon. Here's a sneak peek of the cover. Also, I hope you'll return to see how I'm doing on the road to FI/RE and, most of all, I hope you get a lot of knowledge from my progress that will help you too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Sale!

I know, I know! I've been away from the blog for a long time. I apologize. (See explanation below)

I have news of a sale, though. That didn't seem big enough. How about...


Don't miss the sale of my novel Carniville on Amazon. From today, 12/23 through 12/26, the digital version will be $0.99. It goes up to $1.99 after that until 12/30, at which time it will return to its normal price of $2.99.


Blake Stanwick has visions, not that they ever do him any good. But when he wakes up one morning after a particularly unsettling dream about the murder of a dear friend, he can't shake the feeling of doom.

Death is coming to Carniville, the small Florida apartment complex that is home to a tight-knit community of carnival workers and human oddities. Carniville has it all -- the Fat Lady, Half-Man, Thumbelina, the Human Pincushion... Despite their impairments, they've all made a life for themselves at Crystal Springs Apartments. But for one resident, that life is coming to an untimely end.

When, inevitably, Blake's vision comes true, the authorities aren't much interested in looking past the obvious suspect, the victim's husband. But Blake knows they're wrong -- he just has to prove it. With the help of his misfit friends, Blake begins conducting his own investigation.


This is a great gift for yourself or a reader in your life. Don't miss your chance to grab a copy while the price is low and spend the holidays curled up with a whodunit.

Now, to explain why I've been AWOL for so long. I started a new job. A job that's kept me pretty busy. In the meantime, I've been working on two novels I hope to release in 2015, two novels I'm very excited about. In addition to working and writing, I've been learning German on Duolingo. I've got a 315 day streak as of this posting. Das ist gut, ja? I don't want to break my streak. I'm a bit OCD in that regard, so most all of my time is eaten up and I haven't carved any out for blogging. Hopefully, that will change in 2015. I want to keep everyone updated with my writing and book releases. Hopefully, you'll forgive me. Maybe you'll buy a copy of Carniville.

Happy holidays! Happy New Year! See you in 2015! (Thanks for stopping by.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Feeling Overwhelmed

First and foremost, today is my son's birthday, so I'd like to wish him a very happy birthday and extra-special day.


As the title of this post suggests, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed, but also very relieved. I've been unemployed since July 1st and was trying to cope with my sense of worthlessness and lack of income. The job search was tedious and stressful, especially since I'd been comfortable with my previous job for four years. You might say I'd grown complacent. You'd be right. Suddenly finding yourself without gainful employment in an employer's market is not a fun place to be. I work as a computer programmer, have been doing this for nearly twenty years. I'm no stranger to formal and technical interviews, but this time around it seemed that every employer wanted to quiz me like I had just entered the market from school. The tests and questions ranged from defining certain programming terms (many of which come from first-year textbooks) all the way to writing small programs to accomplish some mundane task. I get it! You wanna make sure an applicant actually has the abilities their resume claims. But, seriously, EVERY interview?

Needless to say, I didn't concentrate much on my writing or editing while I was looking for work. However, I'm pleased to announce that I landed a job with a company that seems like a good fit, with great benefits, solid colleagues, and the commute and money are right. That's where a lot of my relief has come from.


The rest of the burdens weighing on me stem from my current novel as well as various stories I've begun or have recently been thinking about. First, I'll tell you about the current WIP, What Goes Around. This is the story of nine children who vanish from a carousel in 1958, while their parents are watching. Sixty years later, when some teenagers turn on the carousel, the nine children reappear on the ride. I think it's an interesting concept and has started to take shape, becoming something I'm eager to finish molding and polishing. I recently handed it to my wife, my first beta reader. Her reaction wasn't quite what I expected. She didn't think the scary parts were very scary, nor the ending as satisfying as I had hoped. However, she saw the potential in it. She provided her feedback, and, while it doesn't necessarily require a rewrite, it's close. She gave some fantastic suggestions that will make it a much stronger story.

I've just finished the first pass through the manuscript to correct the grammatical changes and typos she identified as she read it. Now, I've got to go through it a few more times to change large swathes by altering some of the characters' roles and motivations. Before handing it off to her, I had gone through it four times. That's a heck of a lot when you're editing a manuscript nearly three hundred pages long. I hate editing. It's tedious and with each pass, I become less enthused about the story because it all starts tasting like beans. At this stage, I can foresee several more iterations through the story just to get it up to her standards. This is causing me to procrastinate and think about newer, shinier stories I could be working on.

As I've said in the past, I am always working on new stories. I usually have a couple going at the same time, hopping between them whenever I need a change of scenery. I'm wrestling with these compulsions now. I desperately need to finish the sequel to my crime novel, Majoring in Murder. I have two other horror novels that I need to work on: Into the Black Mirror and A Consuming Darkness. These are only a few of the stories scattered throughout the production pipe. My notes contain a wealth of material for me to mine. In addition, I've recently been thinking about two characters I invented years ago and still have not used them in a story. That's because I think these two characters could carry a story by themselves, much like George and Lenny from Of Mice and Men. The more I think about them, the more details from their story emerge. I don't want to rush it, because doing that will only hurt the work.

In addition to all of the above, I recently wrapped up a free 5 book giveaway on Goodreads. Overall, I think it went well. The giveaway had a higher interest than I anticipated. Now, I just have to wait and see if any of the readers will leave a review. I'd also like to see if any sales result from it. Basically, I'm anxious to see if the giveaway results in any benefits. I enjoyed the process. If for nothing else, it made more people aware of my work and maybe they will become potential fans. I already want to hold another giveaway with even more books, but I have to exercise patience. And for me, patience is a hard row to hoe. I'm always eager to jump right in.

So, as you can see from what I've laid out, I'm feeling the pressure of the stories I'm buried under. The good thing is that I'm not under any deadlines, except for the ones I set for myself. I tend to publish at least one new novel a year, more if I can do it without churning out crap. I think this is a respectable pace. Some very good traditionally-published authors work at the same pace. I just have to keep reminding myself that writing is a marathon, not a race.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Picking up the series



My first published novel was a crime story called Majoring in Murder. It was meant to be the first book in a series, about a college student turned hit man. I published it in 2011, at a time when I was really big into reading crime stories. Since then, my interests have meandered through southern literature, fantasy/sci-fi, mystery, and then back to horror, where stories within me begged to be told. I obliged, telling some of those stories and began writing several more, across various genres.

Recently, I finished my first rounds of edits on a horror novel I mentioned some time ago called What Goes Around, which I am very excited about. I'm just waiting for my first beta reader (read: wife) to go through it and provide her feedback. In the meantime, I planned to return to some stories I've started and continue to work on those. However, I've detoured from that plan. Currently, I don't feel motivated to work on those stories, for reasons I'm not fully cognizant of; it's just how my writing process works. Instead, I looked over my various notes, folders, etc. on the small external drive where all of my worlds live and found that my hit man series needed my attention. The inner workings that dictate my writing--my muse, if you will--raised the flag, signaling me to start writing the second book in the Jason Mashburn series; it was time.

Long ago, I had jotted down a high-level road map for where I wanted the series to go, what each subsequent book would tackle, and then I walked away so that it could mellow. When I came across those notes a couple of days ago, I felt that Jason had time to mature (so to speak), which is what I intended. In the first book, he was a naive, yet deadly, young man. Throughout the series, I would like the reader to watch Jason grow and mature, become more adept in his skills, and understand the motivates behind his decision to return to the business. In a sense, Jason is like me as an author. I was naive and cocky during the writing of that first book and, with the passing of those years and more writing experience to my credit, I like to think my skills have improved and I've matured as a writer.

It is my hope that, for readers who don't care for series, each of the books can stand alone to tell a cohesive story; that each book can be read out of order, able to allude to any necessary details from the previous books without breaking the plot. As for readers who progress through the series, beginning with the first book, I want them to witness Jason's metamorphosis throughout the arc; from naive student to hardened, calculating executioner. Overall, I hope to maintain the reader's sympathy and understanding for Jason, which is difficult to do when your main character is a contract killer, but I think I managed to pull it off in the first book.

So, that's what I've recently been working on, the next book in the Jason Mashburn installment. Tentatively, I've titled the story, Extracurricular Activities. I hope it turns out the way I envision it. More importantly, I hope you, the reader, enjoy it!