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2016 in Review: Looking Back, Moving Forward, TCoA and More!

2015 is almost in the books, and I couldn't be happier. It was a year of new adventures and new beginnings, but it was also a year of trials and tragedy. What a wild year, one that I am ready to put in the rear view mirror. Let's take a look, shall we? (If you just want to read about my writing projects, skip to the bottom).

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Sadly, our 2015 started out with a death in the family. It was a long time coming, but my wife's grandmother passed on at the end of December, meaning that we had to fly out to Maryland to be with the family and to attend the funeral. Of course there were heavy hearts, but it was a relief to everyone to know that the woman wouldn't have to struggle any longer. Unfortunately, there was more to come. Within a very short period of time we found out that a friend of ours was murdered and a that one of my wife's childhood schoolmates had died unexpectedly. It was a time or sorrow and a time of reflection, one that left us with more questions than answers.

Despite the sadness that we felt, we had a great deal of anticipation for the things to come in 2015. I worked frantically on my debut novel, Dragon's Fire, as I worked through the editing and production process. The whole process was taking far longer than promissed by the publisher, but it had to be done right, and I was uncompromising. It was a busy, but exciting time for us.

March rolled around, and my rockin' my wife hooked me up with an awesome birthday present. She booked a snowmobile excursion for us over on the border of Maine and New Hampshire. We were ecstatic to not only have a babysitter (which was ultra rare), but to get a chance to explore a little bit of the White Mountains, via trail. The day started out great and we found our way to the top of one of the local peaks, but a snowmobile accident and a trip to the Emergency Room cut our trip short. Thankfully the tree was small, and the injuries were relatively minor.

As the bumps and bruises healed, it was time for my surgery. After an 8 year wait, I was finally able to go under the knife (again) to repair my torn ACL. Other than a minor setback during rehab, the surgery and recovery was a success. Additionally, the final revisions for Dragon's Fire were also wrapped up, and the release was just a few months away. We successfully streamed a live cover reveal for Dragon's Fire (which was a blast) and we began receiving positive pre-release reviews of the book. I had published a few short stories online. The royalties on them were small, but it gave me the idea for a series of short stories that I wanted to create. As I dug into those stories, I realized that they were a perfect fit for Aurion, the world that Dragon's Fire takes place in. So I began working to craft a series of short stories, pre-dating the events of Dragon's Fire. It seemed like things were making a turn for the better.

I was wrong. The end of May greeted us with another challenge. It had been a little over a month since my surgery and I lost my job. I was disappointed, i was angry, but we knew that we would survive. God had always taken care of us in situations like this before, He wasn't about to stop now. Now I had already been looking for another job for months before I became unemployed, but the search had now become essential. I realized that it could take a while to find the right opportunity.

Some of our friends and family, with only the best of intentions, encouraged us by saying that it was the perfect timing because my book was about to be released. I appreciated their optimism and the encouragement, but I understood what the road ahead for a new author looked like, because I had done my research. It was unrealistic to count on my writing to provide for a family.

I did everything I could to promote Dragon's Fire, and the majority of the feedback that I got on the book was very good, especially considering it was a debut novel. I provided free books to book reviewers and other authors, who all promised to provide honest reviews, good or bad (it's a risk that all authors must take). We even had our first official book signing. However, book sales for unknown authors take time. Despite the many promises of the well-intentioned, lots of people didn't buy the books that they requested or asked for. In short, it was incredibly fun, but it was not paying the bills. The experience was, and has been amazing though and I am so thankful for it.

I continued to apply for jobs, literally from coast to coast, but I did my best to invest a lot of time into writing and reading. I was of course promoting Dragon's Fire at every turn, but my writing focus was on how to make my collection of short stories into a finished product. The stories had grown so much, that I had to find a way to take them all, and craft them into a single novella. It has taken a while, but that collection of short stories is being molded into a full fledged novella, titled The Chronicles of Aurion (keep reading for more details). Despite staying busy, I still didn't have a paycheck. God provided though. It came in through a variety of avenues, but it came, and our bills were all paid.

Then the opportunity finally came. A company decided to fly my out for an interview. The interview went great and the job offer came. The job was going bring us back to the state of North Carolina, but we knew that it was the right opportunity, so we accepted. Crazyness ensued. So much that I don't even have the time or energy to detail, but let's say October and November were insane.

A quick list of things that happened:

House was under contract, buyer backed out the day before closing.

Moving company told us we packed wrong, made us repack about 70% of our house, on moving day.

We move to NC, to find the rental property unsafe and unihabitable. Rental company refuses to cooperate.

Forced to find temporary lodging for 2 weeks (with 3 small children).

Started my new job.

Forced to put our furniture in storage, then be redelivered to new address (This only cost another $2k).

Forced to find new rental property, which means another 2 months rent.

Sold our house, ironically to the orginal buyers.

Original rental company refuses to refund us, plans to take us to court.

The whole family gets sick. I get pneumonia. My son breaks my wife's nose. Two visits to the ER room.

Forced to take a personal leave of absence for a few days from my new job.

Oh, and both of our debit cards were frozen due to fraud alerts, three times!

Other than that, the move has been great. No really, all sarcasm aside, it has. It has been an incredible challenge, physically, mentally, emotionally, but it has been good. So many little prayers that we have waited for years for, have only just now been answered. We have met some incredibly kind and generous people, and we know that we survived. Now we are ready to roll up our sleaves and get to work in our new territory.

So enough about your problems, what about the writing?

Ah yes, the real reason you're here. All hurdles aside, progress is being made and 2016 is going to be an exciting year. The first order of business is The Chronicles of Aurion, which serves as a prequel of sorts to Dragon's Fire, will be self-published in 2016.

Why self publish? Easy. Control. Self publishing this novella means that I can not only get it to market that much faster, but I can also control the pricing. As some of you know, I never want pricing to get in the way of the readers. I feel that all my writing should be completely accessible, so that means keeping the price down! Self publishing TCoA makes that possible.

More good news, The Chronicles of Aurion has been in beta, and I am now in the revision process. Now that I have more time, the revisions should be done very soon. I expect to have the revised version back to my trusty beta readers in January. That all points to an early 2016 release!

Why did you focus on TCoA, instead of working on book 2?

Great question. I know a lot of people are really excited about The Halls of the Fallen King, and they should be. That book is going to rock, and it is going to take them to places that book 1 couldn't. It is going to be intense, powerful, dark, and painful—and full of promise. It is also a very complex book to write, for some of those very reasons, and I need to make sure I get it right. Failure to deliver on THotFK, would undermine the foundational integrity of the entire Beating Back the Darkness series.

That is why it was essential for me to finish TCoA first. Some fans won't necessarily understand it at first, but TCoA is as much of an bridge into Dragon's Fire as it is into The Halls of the Fallen King. There are certain aspects of Aurion's history and the magic that is woven into the very fabric of the world, which you get to experience first hand through the novella. The Chronicles of Aurion gives an added depth and authenticity to the world, that will really enrich the readers experience through the rest of the series.

Dude, what about book 2?

Fear not! In the time that I have been away from The Halls of the Fallen King, I have been given great perspective. Working on not only TCoA, but really establishing the vision for the rest of the Beating Back the Darkness series, has allowed me to really hone in on the THofFK story. While I have not actively written on the book in a while, I have been able to build detailed outlines, not only for book 2, but for books 3 and 4! As soon as I have the final draft of TCoA, I can dive back in the story with Theros & Co.. :)

Uh, did I hear a rumor about Crowdfunding?

I hope so, because a lot is happening in 2016! While I can't give out all the details yet, I will be taking one of my projects to the people. That's right, in 2016, you the fans will have an opportunity to get involved with some of my projects. I have a lot to get done in a short amount of time, and crowdfunding is the only way that I can get them done in that time frame. The great thing about crowdfunding is that it allows everyone to participate, and I get to reward them for it! So please stay tuned for more details about this effort in the coming months.

What are your thoughts on crowdfunding? Are you willing to support artists you like? Would you consider supporting one or my projects? I would love to hear your thoughts either way!

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