Saturday, February 26, 2011

One way to fix squeaky breaks

A little part of me died the day we bought our first minivan. It was one of those moments in my life when I realized that I had crossed over into full fledged parenting. No longer would the family vehicle be without a sliding door. It was odd to be able to walk around inside. For my kids? It was like a play land.

A few years came and went and it was time for a new minivan. The dealer we went to was, well, persistent. They made an offer on the van we owned, and really low balled us on it. After talking back and forth a bit, my wife and I got up and left. It was obvious that we were not going to get what we were looking for.

A few days went by and we got a call from the salesman. He said they had found a buyer for our old van--and were able to offer us a much higher trade-in. In addition, they included an 8 year, 80,000 mile bumper to bumper warranty as part of the deal. Though we were a bit put off that it took us walking out on them to get a good deal, we accepted.

Over the years, the van would have issues now and again. So, we'd take it into the dealer, warranty in hand, and tell them what was wrong. Without going into a lot of details on the various issues, it seemed like every time we took it in, they found something else wrong with it as well. On at least a couple occasions, we had to take the van back more than once to get them to fix it right.

This last summer, the breaks started acting up. They weren't part if the bumper to bumper warranty, but we took it to the dealership none-the-less, sure that they would find something wrong in addition (which they did). So, we got new brakes.

It was at that point that they started squeaking. It wasn't too bad at first, but it continued to get worse. Finally, we took van back to the dealership in December to have them check it out. The answer we got? That the brake shoes had "glazed" over and had ruined the rotors. How do brake shoes get glazed over? According to the tech, because we had been riding them too hard and/or breaking too quickly. Again, we had had this van for 7 years, and now we were having this problem? If that is truly the was the case, wouldn't it have happened earlier?

The solution? All new brakes, including new rotors. Ug.

And that solved the issue, right? No--not so much. The brakes were now squeaking as badly as ever. So, in January we took the van back--again. What was this issue? The shoes were glazed over again. The tech insisted it was operator error. The only way for shoes to glaze over was from them overheating caused by riding them too hard and/or breaking too quickly. But, they agreed to fix the issue for free since we just had them done a month previous.

They put on new shoes and pads and resurfaced the rotors--rotors that were new just a month ago. And yes, they found something else wrong with the car as well at the same time--but it was unrelated to the breaks.

The dilemma we faced was that our warranty was about to expire. We had lost total confidence in this dealership. I went as far as to call the head service guy to nicely express my concern. When we talked about the squeaky breaks, his answer was this: "They have changed the material the pads are made from, so yeah, they squeak. The way to get them to stop is to break a bit harder now and again."

When I pointed out that breaking hard is what the tech said was causing the glazing issue, the head service guy said, "Well, don't overdo it."

For a moment there, I was reminded of the advice Ralphie from The Simpsons was given by his father, "Remember son, if your nose starts to bleed, it's because you are picking it too much--or not enough."

My wife was especially upset with this whole ordeal. What would they find next with the car? How much was it going to cost us once the warranty ended? For those that don't know my wife, she is amazingly patient (she has to be, to be married to me).

How were we going to fix these squeaky breaks? Then the answer came to us: simple--we are going to trade in our old van for a new one--from a different dealership.

And that we did. On the way home, I turned off the radio and asked my wife as we were slowing down, "Do you hear that?"

Knowing the way I think, she smiled and said, "Yes. That's the sound of breaks not squeaking."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Drumroll please. . .

In a recent blog, I noted that my novel, The Hidden Sun, will no longer be available for sale in any format--and that this news was a good thing.

I can now explain why that's a good thing.

There were a few technical issues with The Hidden Sun when it was released. Most people glazed over them, so it wasn't that big of a deal. However, while I was writing the follow up, The Waxing Moon, I referred back to my first book often and more and more the issues started bothering me.

So, I took time away from The Waxing Moon, and with the help of bestselling author Tristi Pinkston as editor, cleaned up the book. I officially dubbed it the "second edition" and started looking at different options.

My original publishing contract didn't really allow for changes like this, but I did have a clause where I could back out of the deal if certain conditions were met. I had met those, so I severed ties with them.

I really wanted this version to be out there, so I looked at doing a self publishing deal. I had started down that road, but hadn't fully committed to it yet.

And that is when something amazing happened.

On the same day I got the proof of the self published book, I got an email from my previous publisher officially stating that I was free of my contract.

Now, this is the trippy part: the very next email was from the publisher Walnut Springs Press, saying that they were interested in publishing the second edition of The Hidden Sun. Wow!

What makes this story even more freaky is that Walnut Springs Press had sent me an email the week before, but I had been having trouble with spam emails, so I cranked up the security, basically stopping anyone from sending me an email I didn't know. I realized later I could tone it down a notch, which I did, and that is when they sent a follow up email asking if I had gotten the first one.

At the time the first email was sent, I didn't have the official word that I was out of my contract, so I would have had to tell them it wasn't available at that moment, but hopefully soon. It probably wouldn't have been a deal breaker, but still, it was so nice to respond to them and say , "Yes! It's available!"

There isn't an official time set for the release of the second edition. It looks like it will be summer of this year. It is my hope that I can build an excellent relationship with these folks so that I can get The Waxing Moon out soon as well. I'm super excited to have people read that one.

Lastly, there is one more tease I can't quite share. I mentioned earlier I was given the green light to work on a dream project of mine, and I've started working on it. As I've started to develop it, I believe it is turning into something quite special, and a little more than I first envisioned. As soon as I get all the legal stuff in order, I'll share what it is about.

Until then, stay tuned for the release of the second edition of The Hidden Sun with what I hope to be some fun extras.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Have you ever been micromanaged? Meaning, that your boss tells you every little thing you have to do. They may often challenge or second guess you anytime you try to show your own initiative. How did this make you feel? Did you feel productive? Stifled? Appreciative that you didn't have to think for yourself? Something else I didn't note here?

Aside from writing, (which I wish I could do full time, but alas, with four daughters entering their teenage years, that's not an option) I work in the business world. I've been a manager for various companies over the last numerous years, and have taken my fair share of management classes.

One of the classes I really enjoyed explained how managers need to adjust their management style based on the person and the situation. And it makes total sense. Someone who is new to a job needs a lot of hand holding until they are up to speed. Someone who has been in the role a long time and is productive basically needs support and trust, with little if no interference from their boss. And there are areas in-between. Again, I didn't make this up--it is from a highly acclaimed management seminar (which I won't mention for legal reasons).

I recently changed companies because I was being micromanaged to death. But it wasn't just me--it was everyone. In fact, when I left the company, several of my peers did the same. Why would you leave a job in such a harsh economic climate as this? Well, everyone has the point where they say, "enough is enough."

While I was debating on whether or not to leave, I would think of those sayings or songs that talked about not giving up, keep on fighting the good fight and all that. So, how do you answer when people tell you, "Ah, you couldn't handle it. You needed to hang in there and tough it out."

Here is the answer I came up with: I actually was the "noble warrior" by standing up and saying, "This environment is unproductive and unhealthy. Instead of surrendering who I am to become a pawn, or 'yes' man, I, as in me and myself, have decided to bravely leave this behind and venture into the unknown where I can better serve and be productive."

And so far so good. I've found a company that shares my values. They "get it" for lack of a better term.

As for the company I left behind where everyone was being micromanaged? Well, what I found ironic was they are the ones that paid me to attend the seminar about how everyone shouldn't be micromanaged. In other words, they paid me to realize that I was working for a company that didn't practice what it preached.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Stop the presses!

OK, it seems that the saying "when it rains, it pours" would fit right about now.

I can't go into details, but the previous post about the re-release of The Hidden Sun is outdated.

Also, the Kindle version is no longer available for sale. Very soon, The Hidden Sun will no longer be available for sale anywhere in any format.

Believe it or not, this is a good thing--as will become clear when I can say more.

As for now, just hang in there.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


I've not been as good in posting my twice-weekly blog recently due to some updates and changes going on. These have been good changes. Really! I promise.

First, some exciting news. My short story called The Reluctant Wanderer has been picked up by Pill Hill Press for an anthology they are putting together called How The West Was Wicked. What makes this really cool was that I wrote this story for another anthology but was turned down because it wasn't violent enough. I elected not to change the story just to make it more violent--I thought the story was strong enough on its own, and it looks like I was right. *smiles* It's another title I can add to my "published" credits. I'll be sure to announce when it is released.

As noted in a previous blog, The Hidden Sun is now available on Kindle and Kindle friendly devices. But that isn't where the changes end.

While I am a very proud of The Hidden Sun, and it has sold fairly well, I've always been bothered by something. The version in print has several technical flaws (spelling errors, added or missing words and the like) which have distracted a few readers. While I believe I had caught all of these before it went to print, it does appear that my publisher went with the second to last revision, hence several of the errors are still there.

The Kindle version is a completely re-edited edition of the book. In fact, I'm officially dubbing it the "second edition". Aside from a fixing the errors, I made a minor shift to the timeline at the end of the book to help things flow a bit more smoothly.

To get this second edition out there in normal book form, I did some looking around, but my current publishing agreement didn't allow for an update, and other publishers wouldn't touch a book that has already been published. What to do? What to do?

Answer? I had a clause in my contract with my publisher that I could back out if I desired under certain conditions, which I have decided to do. I am truly grateful to them for all they have done to help a new author learn the ropes. However, I decided to move on.

The second edition of The Hidden Sun will be available soon in book format through I've struck a deal with them to have them distribute the book with J Lloyd Morgan LLC (that's me) as the subsidiary publisher. It will be available originally only through them, though there are options of other outlets down the road.

As well, the second edition has completely new artwork on the front and back, as well as a note in the front to direct people to my website for a pronunciation guide to some of the odd names I invented.

Here is a view of the front and back:

One more project that has kept me busy is a new trailer to celebrate the release of the Kindle version.
It can be viewed here:

Big thanks to my friend Catrina (her last name is kept private to protect the innocent) for doing the voice over for the trailer.

Lastly, I can now focus my attention on getting my second book, The Waxing Moon, ready for publication. It's as if The Hidden Sun kept trying to tell me, "Hey! You! I'm not done with you yet!" But now that it is all updated and shiny, perhaps it will go and play nice with the other books.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Following the rules of fantasy

It may seem like having the words "rules" and "fantasy" in the same sentence appear to be somewhat of a contradiction, but believe me, they aren't. One of the best lessons I ever learned about writing for fantasy, or any fiction for that matter, is that your characters and settings needed to "play by the rules" you had established.
Imagine if you will, at the end of Lord of the Rings, Frodo pulled out a cell phone, called Gandalf and told the wizard, "beam me up!" I, for one, would stand up in the theater and yell, "Shenanigans!" There was nothing up to that point in time that would have led you to believe that Frodo had a cell phone or that Gandalf had the ability to beam anyone anywhere.
I have been sadly disappointed with story after story where the climax ends with the hero or heroine "discovering" a hidden power that they didn't know they had and saving the day. I feel cheated. How did they know to do that? Did we, as the audience, have any clue that they could?

Need an example? Here is the ending of the movie Tangled. *WARNING* This is the end of the movie, so if you haven't seen it, don't watch if you don't want to.

Let me just say, I actually enjoyed this movie until the very end. The way the heroine saved the day came out of left field to me.

Now, as an example of a good ending is the original Karate Kid. If you have not seen this movie (and why not?) I have to warn you there is a spoiler ahead. At the end, the Karate Kid wins the tournament by using a move that "cannot be stopped if done correctly". Earlier in the movie, we see him taught this and have seen him practice it. So, at the end, when he uses the move, it doesn't come out of thin air.

The end can be seen here:

For The Hidden Sun, I specifically chose not to use magic or dream sequences. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with those, but I feel too often it gives the author an easy "out" of tricky situations, or in the case of dreams, there are too many, "Ha! Fooled you! It was just a dream!" I wanted an adventure where the reader was experiencing the same situation the characters were, and hopefully I got them to think, "How would I get out of this mess?"
The real fun for me as a writer was to provide all the clues on what could happen, and then have the reader guess, but the result isn't what they thought, but neither is it something that comes out of the blue.
Did it make it harder to write? Possibly. Did it make it a better book? I think so.
Oh, and as in mentioned in an earlier blog, what makes this fairly ironic is that I was inspired to write this book from a dream I had.

*Disclaimer: I took both clips directly off of YouTube and it isn't my intention to get monitary gain from showing these clips.