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2020: the CKFiction Year in Review

I feel confident saying that this year wasn’t the best. my day job was more than I could’ve imagined. E-learning for my kids was never part of my plan. That just contributed to my daily stress being more than I could handle for the majority of the year.

Normally, I would be disappointed that I didn’t release a novel in a calendar year. But as I wallowed in self-pity for a lack of publishing in 2020, it dawned on me that just because I didn’t release a novel doesn’t mean that I didn’t do plenty of publishing.

As I mentioned last year, I devoted a lot of time and energy into posting regular content on my website. The same goes for this year, and while I didn’t quite make my mark of a new post every single week, I was very close to that goal and still managed to publish 46 articles this year. My total number of site visits also reflected my increase in content production for the second straight year. While I didn’t quite hit my main goal for the year (so close!), I breezed past my secondary goal late last month, which was a sizeable increase (70%!) over the record numbers I had last year. So if you’re reading this, then thank you for stopping by and taking the time to read my posts!

I also (finally) set up a website dedicated solely to Circle City Publishing (CCP). With that, I also began creating original content for that website. I published some really great articles that I think can be very educational for new authors and readers alike.

Earlier this year, CCP released its first anthology of short stories. The Fun Size anthology was a great success for my first effort, and required a ton of work. I handled all the submission reviews and editing duties. I organized the stories, formatted the layout, and got everything ready for printing. On top of that, I created all of the teaser graphics for each story and the cover reveal as well, along with a few marketing images too.

As I’ve previously noted, I’ve also taken on a pet project this year. Because of its fan fiction nature, and the characters belonging to TriStar Pictures, my distribution will be quite limited. At least in a profitable nature. The e-book released earlier last week for free download, I just won’t be able to sell physical copies. Along with this novella, I made my first attempt at designing a cover. I wanted it to hark back to the source material, without being so obnoxiously ‘80’s. If I’m being honest, I think it turned out pretty bitching.

Beyond that, I wrote and submitted six new poems to two projects, one of which I was selected for, and it just released last month. I also had the honor of having two short stories included in other anthologies, unrelated to CCP. Those projects took a lot less organizational work on my end, but the writing and editing process was as thorough as anything else I put out. You can find the Ephemera Anthology here, and the Nightmare Whispers Anthology here. They’re both great collections and you should totally check them out if you’re looking for some shorter, quicker reads!

Lastly, the latest call for submissions for CCP’s second anthology closed on November 1st. I received some great stories for that, and again was responsible for all submission reviews, editing, and formatting. I’ve already worked up story teasers and author intro graphics. I also decided to take it a step further and take a crack at designing the cover for this project too. From there I made cover reveal teasers, and some marketing graphics to go with it.

Oh, one last thing; I feel I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention that I also have a solid start on the next installment in the Kings of Chaos Motorcycle Club Series. I haven’t opened that file in over six months, but I think I left it somewhere between a quarter and a third finished. Wrapping up this series will be my main priority in the coming year.

It seems like this post is simply bragging about everything I’ve done this year. While I am very proud of my output these past twelve months, it’s not intended to be braggadocios. Sometimes we just need to remember what we’re capable of and everything we’ve accomplished. As bad as 2020 has been, it’s been pretty good for my writing career. Thanks for joining me on the journey, and hopefully we can keep it going into a much better 2021!

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The CKFiction Indie Authors Reading Guide

It’s that time of year again. Holiday shopping is in full effect, and you might be racking your brain to come up with unique ideas for all of the loved ones you haven’t been able to visit much this year. #ThanksCOVID. With the current state of the world, books are an even better gift than normal. You know, to help facilitate social distancing and all.

Last year I listed out the ideal demographics for my books. (Hint: like any good salesman, I showed how pretty much all my books are perfect for pretty much everybody.) However, I’m well aware that I’m not everybody’s cup of tea. I get it. I’m weird and have a penchant for making things awkward. My books might not be for everybody. Who would want a fun series chock-full of dry sarcasm, bad dad jokes, and cheesy innuendos? No, that’s probably not appealing at all.

Anyway, I also like to plug the indie writing community every chance I get, and what better time for that than now??

The problem with trying to navigate the self published landscape of indie writers? Knowing where to start. What books are going to be well written? Which books are going to be interesting and unique? The general rule of not judging a book by its cover applies more than ever to self published titles. Let’s be serious, judging a book by its cover is normal. But indie authors may not have the budget for a polished, eye-catching cover design. In terms of lesser established writers, don’t let that sway you to discard the title and move to something else.  Instead, let me offer some suggestions and insight into several really great reads!

Let me break down some personal favorites of mine for all readers:

(**Editor’s note: Clicking on the author’s name will take you to an author spotlight so you can learn more about them.  Clicking on the title of their work will take you to a review, and clicking on “order here” will take you to Amazon so you can add it to your cart.**)

Fantasy – As previously stated, I struggle with this genre, so for me to recommend a fantasy book, then you’ve gotta believe that it’s a great read.

Jon Degler – Princess Olive. Definitely a fun read for adults and young adults alike. Order your copy here and thank me later!

Adam Moore – Compendium Twenty-Three.  Fantasy with a Christian twist. What happens when everyone’s guardian angel becomes visible? Pandemonium.  Order book one here, then check out book two immediately after!

Cait MarieThe Lost Legends and newly release sequel, The Lost Prince.  If you like a little bit of romance to fuel your fantasy stories, these books are great choices.  Order book one here, and book two here.

Katheryn Schwarz – The Blood Dragon.  If you’re looking for ancient dragons, then you can stop searching here.  I never got into the Game of Thrones/dragon phenomenon, but The Blood Dragon drew me into the story right from the start.  Order your copy here.

Sci-fi:

Christian Scully – The Chronicles of Erika Lorenz.  This series is what all vampire stories should strive to be.  The backstory is original and unique, and the action is perfect.  (Although, I think Scully gets a little too much joy from watching his characters suffer.  But hey, that’s just my opinion.)  Order book one here, and book two here.

Mystery/thriller:

Patrick J. O’Brian – I’ve clearly documented my total fandom of O’Brian’s work, and in my opinion, there are simply too many great titles to list. But…the book that got me hooked was Reaper. Plus, it’s the first book of a series, so if you enjoy it as much as me, then you’ll be set for awhile!  Order your copy here.

Ben OnealDie Laughing.  Following FBI Agent Benjamin Kroh, while he hunts a stand-up comedian is a lot of fun.  Order book one here, and book two here.

Horror:

Donna Trovato – It’s Coming for You. This collection of short stories is bound to leave you creeped out and at least a little disturbed!  The stories are original and fun, in a totally horrific way.  Order your copy here.

Short story anthologies:

Fun Size – Are you surprised that most of these authors contributed to Circle City Publishing‘s first project, the Fun Size Anthology? You probably shouldn’t be! All of these authors are friends of mine, and I admire each of their writing styles, so it only makes sense for them to be on this list! If you still aren’t convinced, then order a copy of Fun Size today, and get a preview of several of these writers to see what all the hype is about!

Ephemera – This anthology offers stories ranging from apocalyptic to romance to mystery to steampunk.  It really covers a whole range of genres, and each story was required to incorporate a life lesson and a random word that was assigned by another writer.  Order your copy here.

Nightmare Whispers – Three volumes of horrific short stories.  The stories themselves are beautiful, but horror is the theme.  Get it?  Order your copy here.

Action/Adventure:

Maybe you’ve heard of a series called the Kings of Chaos Motorcycle Club Series?  Man, I sure hope so.  If you haven’t checked it out yet, order your copies from the store page!

Children’s Books:

My Ship Don’t Sink! Know of somebody that is in the process of reproducing?  Looking for a fun baby shower gift?  Pair up this fun children’s book with some bath toys for a perfect present.  You can find this title on the store page, too!

With the holidays fast approaching, and the importance of social distancing, there’s never been a better time to give books as gifts.  Instead of the predictable titles from the likes of James Patterson and Stephen King, why not help support the indie community, and introduce some new authors to your friends and family?  Or hell, just give them the link to this article – there are enough links included to keep somebody reading for days!

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Fan Fiction: My Unsolicited Thoughts

Not that anybody was asking (hence the unsolicited part), but previously I wrote about fantasy fiction. It’s no secret that I’m pretty lazy, and while I was writing that, I got annoyed with how long it took to type the phrase fantasy fiction. So today, out of sheer laziness, I’m going to shorten it to fan fiction. Luckily for me, that’s a whole new genre, and a completely different topic to write about. Plus it’s shorter to type, so that’s a double bonus!

Having said all of that, I decided this week that I am going to put all of my current projects on hold and focus on a new pet project that I will never be able to do anything with. (Yeah, I’m well aware how ridiculous that sounds.) I’ve never done any fan fiction before. I like the concept: people like something so much that they create and expand on the source material. That’s awesome! I would be so flattered if somebody ever wanted to do that with anything I wrote. I just don’t think I’ve ever been into anything enough to think that I could do something worthwhile that would contribute to what’s already there. Plus I feel weird about using somebody else’s creation to play around with.

Until now anyway. I have gone down a rabbit hole and have tunnel vision for this story that a friend gave me ideas for. We had an amazing exchange, brainstorming session, and then that was it. As far as I was concerned it was over. Just a fun concept. Or so I thought. The idea stayed in the back of my mind though. I saw that friend a couple weeks ago, and the conversation came back up. It’s too good to let it go. So I’m not. Continue reading

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Childlike Inspiration Meets Fantasy Fiction

Let me put this out there right up front: I’ve never been a fan of fantasy fiction. No offense to my friends who write fantasy, or anybody that likes reading it. There’s nothing wrong with the genre (unlike romance), it’s just not my thing. Dragons, sorcerers, mages (are those the same thing??), knights, castles, and whatever other standard fantasy elements just don’t really speak to me.

Now let me be clear. I am not bashing the fantasy genre. (And I’m not trying to inadvertently shoehorn it into medieval period pieces either…that statement above just shows my ignorance.) I’m more than willing to admit that this is a me problem. Harry Potter? Never read them. Lord of the Rings? I’m not sure I could tell you who Gollum is. The only thing I know about Game of Thrones is that there’s some dude named after a mountain and the book series will probably never be finished. Those series are beloved by millions around the world. Obviously they are quality, classic pieces of literature, which means that the stories aren’t the problem. That leaves me as the problem. (No surprise there, amiright??) I think the biggest hurdle for me is my lack of imagination. I have a hard time grasping concepts that I can’t see in real life.  Sorcery, portals to alternate planes of existence – I just struggle to get into. Continue reading

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Bookish Gaming, Part 2: Mobile Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Style

The last time I reviewed mobile games I commented about how the choose-your-own-adventure concept hasn’t successfully adapted to newer technologies outside of print books.  I did offer a great graphic novel type zombie title called Survivor Z, and disqualified probably the most well-known title, Choices, because, well…romance.  Blech.  Well, since then, I ended up going down a rabbit hole of the available apps that fit this bill.  It seems there are two primary developers (Hosted Games LLC, and Choice of Games LLC) that have built catalogs of subject matters for whoever might be looking.  I’ve already noted in the past that I’m a sucker for anything zombie related, so most of the titles I chose to review, (surprise, surprise) were zombie related – or at least zombie adjacent.  The apps from these developers are almost identical with the product being completely text based with no graphics or sound effects.

Really, my reviews should be based on the two developers, as each title would be based on each reader’s preference, and the structure would all remain the same throughout the different titles, so I’ll do a side-by-side comparison at the end.  First, I’ll review the titles that I took a shot with.  Since they all have unique writers who are independent from the software developers, the story lines and quality of writing should offer a range.  In theory, at least, right? Continue reading

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Comic Books; Real Literature or Juvenile Comic Strips?

Comic books typically come with a juvenile stigma attached. When people ask what you’re reading and you say Faulkner, you get a nod of respect. However, If you say Ghost Rider, you will likely get an eye roll. (At least, that’s how it was pre-Big Bang Theory, anyway. That show made being a nerd acceptable, and whether you enjoyed the show or not, I think we can all be thankful for it bridging the gap between the cool kids and the geeks.) Most people have no idea that the latest run of Ghost Rider follows a Hispanic teenager/young adult, working as a mechanic to support and care for his disabled younger brother who’s bound to a wheelchair. The character development in most comic books is phenomenal. Iron Man has had struggles with alcoholism, and Green Lantern & Green Arrow have had to deal with the death of a sidekick due to a drug overdose.  The story arcs are broken up into small chunks, but they’re enthralling. They must be entertaining, or they wouldn’t still exist. Just like “regular” books. Besides, they’re called comic “books”, doesn’t that automatically give them credit for being real books? What about graphic “novels”? Any difference there?  The article at this link does a nice job of touching on all of these questions, so I won’t rehash what they’ve already covered.

Let’s take a look at the cover of “Pumpkin Heads” by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks. The first thing to notice is that Rowell is clearly labeled as a #1 New York Times bestselling author. That is a massive achievement for any author, and automatically gives legitimacy without even opening the book. The second thing worth noting is the part where it labels itself as a graphic novel. It very plainly identifies as a novel, but recognizes that there is art involved, which is why they shoehorn the word “graphic” in there. This is obviously just one example of the countless graphic novel offerings, but it makes quite a compelling argument I’d say.

Consider a couple other reputable authors who have ventured over into the graphic novel side of the publishing industry.  Chuck Palahniuk, most notably of Fight Club fame, decided to use comic books to tell his story for Fight Club 2 instead of writing another novel for the sequel to the massively successful book.  While there was a lot of criticism for that series, it hasn’t stopped Dark Horse Comics from announcing plans for Fight Club 3, which Palahniuk will maintain creative control over.  Kurt Vonnegut’s timeless classic, Slaughterhouse Five, is also getting the graphic novel treatment.  How’s that for legitimacy?? Continue reading

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The CKFiction Year in Review

As I shared about a month ago, I was very intentional this year about making some improvements and advances with my writing career.  Given the stats I’ve achieved on my site for this year, I’m excited for things to come.  Let’s take a look at some raw numbers.

In the past 12 months I’ve posted 54 articles (including this one), including 6 features on other writers, 4 book reviews, 4 spotlights on resources in the writing community, 4 posts in my ongoing Behind the Scenes series, 12 Blogumentary articles, 2 CKFiction Dictionary posts, 4 Literary Listening playlists, 2 Literary Locations, 4 short stories and poems, and rounded out the total with 12 miscellaneous posts.

Once I started seeing the response I was getting from regularly posting content, I quietly set a goal for my site for the year.  Continue reading

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My Profile as a Writer

People have countless ideas of what it means to be a writer.  Usually they range anywhere from romanticizing about a cabin writing retreat in the woods, to working three jobs, but still starving and struggling to make ends meet.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  I have spent time writing at a nice lake cottage and tropical resorts, but I also do have a “real job” during the day to keep my family sustained financially, because without that, I would absolutely be starving.

As with most aspects of my life, I tend to blur the lines and complicate typical, preconceived notions. Continue reading

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My CKFiction Thanksgiving

This year I dedicated a lot of time and effort into refueling content production for this website.  I wanted to get serious about my writing and work on developing my skills in the craft.  I worked hard coming up with ideas for posts every week, and minus a couple weeks in the middle of the year, I’ve accomplished my goal.

Today I’m going to pull back the curtain just a little bit more.  There’s kind of an unspoken, but understood rule in the media world that authors don’t divulge numbers in regard to book sales, bloggers don’t talk about number of visits, and podcasters don’t speak about their number of subscribers.  Mostly, I think that rule exists because people don’t want to reveal that their audience might not be as big as other audiences, or that they barely have an audience at all.  I know that’s definitely the case for me.  Exposing myself for the fraud that I am is scary, but it doesn’t change my motivations or desire to continue writing. Continue reading

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The Best CKFiction Reading Spots

Okay, so Crossover has been out for two months now.  Hell, Crossroads has been out for over three years.  If you still haven’t checked out the Kings of Chaos Motorcycle Club series for whatever reason, then let’s discuss, because, frankly, that just seems inexcusable.  Last week, I pointed out how the series is perfect for pretty much any demographic.  Simply can’t figure out when or where to read it?  Then let’s brainstorm and come up with some ideas together, shall we?

When I wrote the books, I intentionally kept the chapters short.  It keeps the story progressing for the reader, and as the writer, it makes crafting each chapter like it is its own separate short story.  Not to mention it provides plenty of natural reading breaks.  When I consider reading a book, I like to flip through and get an idea of the chapter lengths.  Long chapters aren’t an automatic deal-breaker per se, but they are certainly a turn off.  I’m not able to devote big chunks of time to read all at once, so having good places to set a book down is helpful for me as a reader.  As a writer, I like to keep that in mind and take it into consideration.  There’s also another unintended benefit – it draws the reader into the story a little more.  With short chapters, readers tend to think, “Okay, just one more chapter.  Oh, that was fast.  I can squeeze in another one.  Okay, one more won’t hurt.”  And so on, and so on.  Before they know it, they’ve ripped through the book and are clamoring for more (if it’s written well).

Now let’s get down to business.  The whole point of this article is to offer suggestions on the when, where, and how you can finally get up to speed with Will McGee.  Here we go…

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