Monday, March 30, 2015

Tragedies, Trials and Triumphs

Hi guys. So, I just turned 45 on the 28th. Thank you, thank you very much. I appreciate that. It was a Saturday and I had celebrated the previous day at my favorite pub where people who know me love to buy drinks for the birthday boy. It's just what we do. A couple of shots of Malort and some beer and good company is just what a guy celebrating another tick on the odometer needs.

I know what you're thinking and you're right. That's exactly why I left the car home and walked there. Not just a hat rack [points to cranium]. As one would expect, it was a fantastic day.

Only it wasn't.

As it turns out, my Great Aunt passed away, quite possibly whilst I was in the friendly confines of said pub. I received the call from my father the next morning telling me of this. For another reason that I shall explain in a moment, this erased any excitement I had over my birthday. My Great Uncle preceded her in death in 2010, and her health had been poor for many years. These two were great people and I miss their freakily perfect deliveries of birthday and anniversary cards already. Honest, I think the only times my birthday card didn't arrive on my birthday was when it fell on a Sunday. this day, Saturday the 28th, progresses and we went to visit the husband of my wife's cousin. His birthday is the same day as mine, only thing is, he's in a rehab center going through some pretty debilitating radiation treatments for a cancerous brain tumor. I've liked and respected this man for many years and give him credit for being one of the people who gave me push toward becoming an author. Just between you and me, he's the reason that the main character of The Dregs of Exodus is named Michael. So, my wife and I arrive there and he is in a wheelchair, virtually hairless. His voice is completely different for some reason and I was shocked to utter silence. I literally did not recognize him for many long seconds. The man tried very hard to stay strong for the visit while we all enjoyed the wonderful catered Italian feast. I could see the fight behind his eyes and it was all I needed to convince me that he will beat this thing. He announced his exhaustion after a time and actually apologized, as if he needed to, and retreated to his room to rest. His wife, my wife's cousin, is a registered nurse and their daughter works for a nursing home, so she's a caregiver, too. Their inner strength it truly something to behold and admire. The same can be said about his brother, sister and the rest of his family. His fight is theirs, too.

From there, we went on to a wedding. Another of my wife's cousins was getting married that day in a VFW hall. I wanted to be elated for them, and in fact, I really am. But, I wanted to be able to show it. I think I managed a few smiles, but I'm not sure. The images of my Great Aunt and Michael kept wandering into the view of my mind's eye.

I know what you're thinking and, again, you're right. I needed to get over my damned self and carry on just like everyone else was doing. To be fair to myself, I think I pulled it off even though all I wanted to do was walk off into the middle of a field somewhere and scream my head off in despair.

Then came Sunday.

Hosted by my Mother-In-Law in her home was my birthday party. It was cold and rainy and I decided to walk over there, as it is only seven tenths of a mile away. I wandered in and wiped the rain from my sunglasses and was relieved to see that no one had left the cake out in the rain. It's a beautiful cake, a Star Wars one at that. Yes, I may be 45 years old, but I refuse to grow up. I've got quite the collection of Star Wars and Star Trek cake decorations going back a good amount of years. Little by little, as my friends began to arrive, my world and my heart lightened. One couple, who happened to have been my friends since high school, arrived with their youngest daughter, a junior in high school. Then, their oldest arrived with her daughter who just turned three. Another high school buddy arrived with his significant other and their child, a boy of sixteen months. Then my godson stopped by with his girlfriend.

Surrounded by friends and family, the day was celebrated in triumphant fashion. While there is no way in hell that I could not think of the tragedy and the trial I had witnessed the day before, their love and support carried me through.

So, I guess what I'm trying to say, cats and kittens, is we all get by with a little help from our friends, just like the song goes. As another one goes, upon us all a little rain must fall. Insert inspirational song lyrics here as needed, but remember to be a friend. One of yours probably needs you right now.

Welcoming Penny Estelle Today!

Hello readers and welcome to today's blog with guest, author Penny Estelle. She has an exciting new story that you guys must see, entitled: The Bearded Dude in the Puzzle.

Many years ago, in the land of kings and knights, Dozer, a powerful wizard, casts a spell over Scartin, and changes him into a tiny toy wizard and puts him inside the box of a puzzle.
Centuries later, Shelly Taylor, and her two kids, Bobby and Andrea, find their lives in turmoil. They are uprooted from their home and friends and moved to a small town in Idaho.  Their parents’ marriage falls apart, and to make matters worse, for some reason the kids at their schools are shunning them.
Shelly, once an advertising executive, starts cleaning houses to make ends meet.  It is in one of these old homes where the ancient puzzle is found.
As the family works on the puzzle, strange things start to happen.  An evil presence is making its way to the Taylor house, intent on making sure that puzzle never gets put together, no matter the cost, and it’s up to Bobby and Andrea to make sure that it does!
Check out this excerpt:
“Bobby,” Shelly knocked as she opened his bedroom door, “it’s raining.  I have to leave early today, so I’ll drop you off at school.”
            “Okay, Mom.”  Bobby rolled over on his side covering his head with his blankets.
            “I believe your mother wants you to arise.”  Scartin’s muffled voice came to Bobby. 
            Throwing his covers off Bobby sat up in bed, scratching his head, yawning.
            “You look weary, young Bobby.”
            The boy jumped up and locked his bedroom door.  “Ya think?” he asked trying to use his best sarcasm.  More than once, during the night, thunder had crashed, rattling the windows.  “A few times the thunder had woke me up and I find Rip Van Winkle staring down at me scaring know what out of me.”
            Scartin sat down on the chair, eyes wide with wonder.  “I think you might have been dreaming.  I didn’t see Rip here last night.”
            “Ugh,” Bobby groaned.  He pushed himself off the bed and got clothes out of his drawers.  “I was talking about you.”
            After a few minutes a smile lit up the wizard’s face and then a deep belly laugh escaped from deep inside.  “You are jesting.  Now I understand!”
            “SHHHHH!” Bobby whispered urgently waving his hands.
            Andi pounded on the bedroom door.  “Who are you talking to?”
            “Uhm…nobody.  I’m singing!”  Bobby pushed Scartin toward the closet door.  “Joey and I will be here after school to work on the puzzle.  Stay hidden.”
            Scartin was still smiling as he put up a hand to stop the closet door from shutting
            “What?” Bobby asked.
            “Rip and I don’t resemble each other very much.  He’s much shorter than I am.”
            Stunned with the realization there really was a Rip Van Winkle, Bobby stuttered, “O..okay.  Dude, just stay out of sight.”
Buy it for your Kindle here:
You have to see the rest of her works, too. Check out her Amazon Author Page:
See her website and sign up for her emailing list:
Follow her on Twitter, too:
Penny has written quite a number of stories about kids, for kids, but she has some works for us older kids, too. Have a look at her collection and give her a read. Oh, and don't forget about leaving a review once you're done. We authors truly appreciate it.
Thank you, Penny! Thank you, everyone!
Frederick H. Crook

Monday, March 23, 2015

Chi-Fi Con 2015

Hi guys! Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and spending some time with me. I've just come off a four-day convention called Chi-Fi and I met a wonderful bunch of folks that you need to know. A few of us met as strangers put together in a "Sad Room", relocated into the vendor's hall later that day, and left as friendly acquaintances, if not friends (unless of course, they truly didn't like my jokes and were just being polite, something that happens a lot more often than I'm willing to admit.).

Firstly, let me speak a bit about the convention itself. Held at the Palmer House Hilton at 17 E. Monroe St. in downtown Chicago. It's a beautiful place and the staff, both that of the hotel and the convention itself were fantastic. About the "Sad Room" as my colleague, author S. Usher Evans dubbed it: It was not necessarily a sad room, it was just that it was off the beaten path for the attendees. This lack of foot traffic was noticed almost immediately by the con staff, and we were relocated in the vendor's hall within a few hours. Our visibility was immediately increased and our spirits were lifted.

Upon finding the "Sad Room", I was greeted by three wonderful people. At far left, we have the author, S. Usher Evans, author of the Razia Series, Double Life (Razia Book 1), Alliances (Razia Book 2), and Empath. There are also a few short stories for you to check out on her Amazon Author Page.
S. Usher, aka Whitney, runs her own publishing, marketing and editing company, Sun's Golden Ray Publishing.

Always energetic and smiling, Miss Evans was a delight to talk to and she brightened up the entire con with her pleasant and engaging presence. Please check out this fantastic young lady's works.

In the middle of the "Sad Room", I had the pleasure of meeting the second author of the day, Olive A. Cole, the author of Panther In the Hive, a novel about cybernetics gone wrong, resulting in a zombie apocalypse. The novel takes place right here in Chicago, where the author now resides. This lady is a spitfire! I don't think I've ever seen anyone so excited and energetic about their work before, except perhaps for Miss Evans. Olivia loves her fans and several came to Chi-Fi just to see her.
Delightfully witty and alarmingly positive, Olivia was a pleasure to meet and kept me laughing. Please support this wonderful Chicagoan.

To the right/center of the little room, and later to mine and Olivia's right in the vendor's room, was author Lauren Jankowski. Intelligent, independent and forthright, Lauren is a feminist author of Sere From the Green (Shape Shifter Chronicles Book1), Through Storm and Night (Shape Shifter Chronicles Book 2), From the Ashes (Shape Shifter Chronicles Book 3, and Haunted by the Keres (Shape Shifter Chronicles Book 4). Lauren is fantastically outspoken and humorous. I first ran into her at Capricon 35 last month and she was great to talk with.
See more about Lauren, including her blog and more here:
Lauren is local to the Chicago area. Please give her books a look, she's well deserving of your support.
I was also happy to see author Laura Hawks again. I first met her at Capricon 35, where she is an avid volunteer and organizer. She is the author of the paranormal romance novels, Demon's Kiss, Demon's Dream, and Shifter's Hope. This author is serious about her craft, is a Trekkie and loves to meet her fans and make new ones.
There's much more about her on her site:
Laura Hawks is involved in many writing projects as can be seen on her site. Readers of her genre should sincerely check her out. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
I was lucky enough to end up with a table next to David Jordan. IT guy and author of ZHackers Volume 1, and ZHackers Volume 2. These are the adventures of engineering students facing a zombie apocalypse. Pesky suckers, aren't they? David likes to wear his Doctor Who scarf and hat and that starts up a lot of conversations with readers and fans. This guy is SO Indie, he's not even on Amazon, but PLEASE check out his website, it's fantastic.

You'll have to check out my Instagram account to see pictures of myself, David Jordan and these other wonderful people. Come find me:
Lastly, and certainly not leastly is an author of Steampunk novels. Geoffrey Mandragora is the author of The Thunderbolt Affair, The Eidlerland Incident and more. Geoffrey was extremely patient with me in explaining Steampunk, as I know very little about the genre and is one passionate guy when he speaks of his books.
I didn't get the chance to pose for a picture with him, but if you or someone else you know is into Steampunk, give this author's works a read. He's an interesting guy and a fantastic communicator.
I love cons and meeting other authors. It's a lot of fun and I learn something new every time I attend one. Chi-Fi is a young con and is still developing a following, so I'm hoping, as I'm sure my fellow attendees are, that it will continue to grow and become even bigger next year.
Oh, funny story! I didn't realize it until the second day, but I had parked in the same parking garage that's featured in my novel, Campanelli: Sentinel! I had to laugh that I didn't recognize it right away. Until next blog, kids! Take care!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

E-book Piracy: How One Day Shot my Productivity to Hell

Hello everyone. Thank you for stopping by. Get comfy, I've got something to share with you all.

Er...well, not that comfy.
That's better. You might want to hear this.

So, Monday, that is, yesterday, March 2, started out like any normal weekday. I tweeted about my books, retweeted my author friends' works, interacted with same on Facebook and then actually got to writing on the fourth novel. I got about a paragraph when a post came through from an author in England. Now, I won't be bringing any names into this blog post, but the point of my author friend's post was that a website claiming to have a multitude of free e-books had popped up and that his were being downloaded without permission. As a result, he was not getting royalties.
Indeed. So, I dropped everything and took a look at the website. Sure enough, there was everything I had slaved to create over the last five years, for free. The site placed a statistic next to each book cover, indicating the number of times they had been downloaded. Each one was in the hundreds and hundreds, more copies than I had even sold of everything combined. I was freaked, upset and angry that this could be happening. Then I saw my latest book, Minuteman Merlin listed there. It had been downloaded 126 times and it had not even come out yet!
...Anarchy? Yes, I thought so. Simmer down now.
So, I contacted my publisher. She immediately dropped everything, just as I had, and began filling out the website's "Copyright Complain Form". That's right, it was a tab above the title, as if they were expecting it. Well, in fact, they had been. While my publisher was dealing with this site, entering info on every one of our titles that she could, I did the same for my self-published works. I shared my author friend's post to my publisher's Facebook Group and went back to this pirating site, filled out my name, email and listing the reasons why they had no right giving away my works for free...yada, yada, freakin' yada.
But, I was still annoyed. So, I thought about it and tweeted about them, giving away the link and alerting my author friend's elsewhere that their books were most likely listed there, too. I searched for a few of them and found each one. I tweeted again, this time listing my author friends by name. The message was retweeted by others. I then went to Facebook and sent direct messages to a few of them. I followed the comments on the posts I made to my publisher's Facebook Group and commented again, giving my opinion and generally trying to be of help. Just, no.
Anyway, a wonderful thing was happening. My fellow authors banded together and en masse, filled out this "Copyright Complain" dealie. People shared their opinions on what to do and what the site had actually done and the comradery that ensued created a pretty good feeling within me. If one has to suffer, do it in a group. Some of the solutions we were coming up with were quite amusing while others were downright fantastic. By far my favorite was the one proposed by the original poster, where he indicated that he sent them a bill for the royalties. He had calculated them up and damned if it wasn't a chunk. A few others proposed the same idea and one or two of them had even more money coming to them.
Now, before we get too excited or incited or outraged any further, it's important to ponder something:
 Did this site even have the files they claimed?
Answer: It is the opinion of many that they did and that the download numbers claimed were correct and that the site truly did rip us off blind.
My opinion? I'm glad you asked. I think that the download numbers were absolutely bogus, falsified by the perpetrators to make the site look more popular than it was to get more people to sign up and pay for a membership. Why do I think that? For the simple fact that my latest work, Minuteman Merlin, had not been released yet. There was no file for them to have unless they hacked my publisher's website, which, to our knowledge has not been done.
So, then what happened?
Answer: Another wonderful thing. The website's Facebook page posted in response, a poor excuse as to why our books were featured on the site. Basically it was a, "We Sowwy". are now. Anyway, during this time, the website began deleting our books from their selection. I looked for my friend-from-California's vampire comic books, they were gone. I looked for my friend-from-Australia's paranormal urban fantasy books and they were gone. I searched for myself, and I wasn't there.
Dude. Metaphor.
Anywho, I received some rather interesting responses to my warnings about this site and I must say the more seasoned of them took it well and even hit me with a new angle: "Free Advertising". That's right, kids, at the very least, that's what this was. This site, whether it truly allowed these free downloads or not, served to spread the word about our works. Talk about seeing the bright side, it doesn't get any better than that.
But, the bottom line is this. It was wrong! It's wrong to pirate written works just as it is to pirate music or films. If we authors don't get paid for our talents, then why should we even write?
This morning, I woke up to find that the site still exists. If you are an author and you have not yet checked, please do so here:
Don't get upset, don't get outraged, please. A ton of us have already done so for you. Do yourself a favor and simply fill out the "Copyright Complain Form" and move on with your day. Try not to think about it too much and get back to work on your next book.
Take care, everyone and thank you.