Writer’s Rant: Judging A Book By Its Cover

So does anyone remember that old sci-fi movie “Ice Pirates”? One of those ‘so bad it’s good’ space comedies?

I’m kinda toying with a ‘pulp’ idea along those lines. Maybe a series of short novellas written in the pulp style but with modern science fiction ideas. Heck, maybe even some horror stuff too. Street gangs.

I can call it “Dollar Fiction” and then give it a subtitle like “Dollar Fiction: Ice Pirates #1” or something. “Dollar Fiction: Some Other Crap Here #3”. Better yet, I’ll deliberately make them all have plain covers that cost me nothing, and in the blurb, it will say something like “Dollar Fiction’s goal is to give you modern pulp at affordable prices. Our secondary goal is to prove that a book should never be judged by its cover.”

Because I’m never going to stop being annoyed that people still judge the contents of a book by what’s on the cover. It’s ridiculous. How the hell did anyone read some boring shit like “A Tale of Two Cities” when the covers were made of stretched leather or whatever DIDN’T have 4-color, hand-drawn, original artwork (or stock photos pasted together with some lettering on them)?

Have you ever seen what a book looked like before some dude (probably a dude in NYC) decided that paperbacks were easy to make and easy to put all kinds of crazy drawings on the cover? Yeah. Books covers were as artistic as a painted wall.
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Amtrak & The NHL: The Great American Hockey Road Trip

So, crazy idea time… (and yes, Carly is coming with me, I simply couldn’t do this without her!)

I saw an article the other day where Amtrak has some kind of pilot program where they offer a “Writer’s Residency” which sort of translates to “you get to ride Amtrak anywhere they go and use the time to write a book.”

Awesome idea, right? I mean, who of you have actually ridden in a train? And if you have, was it just a commuter train, or did you take the long way around?

This got me thinking… I might be able to combine this into two most excellent, as my friends Bill & Ted would say,  lifelong dreams:

1. To travel the country via Amtrak and then write a non-fiction book about the history of trains in America and how they opened up the west, the boom and bust towns along the Amtrak lines, businesses that still rely on Amtrak passengers to survive, and the people who still ride the train (both vacation and commuter).

2. Specifically, to ride the Amtrak to all 30 cities that have an NHL hockey team (keep in mind, Canada will require riding VIA Rail, their version of Amtrak) and write a book about our experiences including: A short history of each city and their NHL team. Photos and interviews with fans, business owners affected by the team, and members of each team, including players, coaches, and executives.

Some of the things (besides money, we’ll get to that in a minute) that would make this trip-job a lot easier:

A. To coordinate with Amtrak (and VIA Rail in Canada) so they can help us plan out our trip, maximizing time at each location while also taking the most scenic routes, stopping at historical or otherwise interesting cities along the way. To help us connect with interesting or influential persons and businesses that have history with the train companies. I want to make this a story about how trains built America, how they’ve become ghosts to almost everyone outside of the Northeast, and how they still affect the lives of Americans (and Canadians!) around them.

Discounted or free (promo) tickets of course would free up a huge expense, but not necessary. The money saved would allow us to stay longer in each location, visit more locations along the way, and spend more time digging up history and interviewing persons of interest.

Bonus: I want to encourage EVERYONE to take a train trip once in their lives.

B. To coordinate with the NHL so we can purchase game tickets in each city (have them waiting for us at will-call to make things simple), help me get access to players/coaches/executives for interviews, and to point out some of the more interesting persons/businesses in each NHL city (such as lifelong fans, a hot dog vendor who has been there 25 years, things like that). I want to make this a human story, but a human story about our love of hockey.

As with Amtrak/VIA Rail, discounted or free tickets to the NHL games would also free up a huge expense, allowing us to visit more locations, spend more time in each city before moving on, interviewing more persons of interest.

So, I’ve decided to begin a Kickstarter project. To make all of this happen, I’ll need some kind of funding/backing. Since I don’t know anyone rich enough to fund such a book writing excursion, I’m going to attempt to get a Kickstarter fund of $50,000 to make this happen.

Sure, it’s a pipe dream and a long shot, but if I can make this happen, this will be possibly the most memorable time in our lives. The reason I am going to try and get a minimum of $50k for funding is that Carly will have to take a sabbatical from her job, which means we’ll need not only just enough to pay the normal, minimal (we are VERY frugal already) bills, but we’ll need to also purchase everything: train tickets, NHL game tickets, hotel rooms, food, rental cars, and a myriad of other expenses that come along with taking an extended trip.

$50,000 won’t cover everything, but it will cover all of the major expenses, and we’ll scrimp and save and hope to <favorite deity here> that I sell a lot of books between now and opening night of the 2014-2015 NHL season in October. If I can somehow convince Amtrak or VIA Rail or the NHL to help out, I can lower the Kickstarter fund goal significantly.

Once the Kickstarter project is live, I’ll link it. As my friends, I sincerely hope you will do me a huge favor and spread the word about this. The more eyes that see it, the better my chances of meeting the funding goals are reached, and that means I can write two books about this incredible journey that Carly and I will have had the chance to experience.

The Minotaur

First chapter of what will probably be a long short story, or a short novella. Horror genre, though nothing disturbing like limbs being ripped off or such. Maybe like a Stephen King type of horror. There will be errors in this like missing punctuation or words or weird and incorrect grammar. This is just a rough draft. If you dig it, let me know.


May 3, 1986

Billy Jacobs arrived at the Circle-K ready to play. He had two full hours to kill, and he planned to unlock wizard mode on The Minotaur again. As he looped the braided stainless steel cable through his bike’s frame and front wheels, then around the frame of the bike block, he replayed in his mind the one and only time he’d ever achieved wizard mode. Three weeks ago today, as a matter of fact, offered his brain while another part of it helped him clip the Schlage padlock to the anti-theft cable. Borah wasn’t a hotbed of criminal activity, but if his mom ever found out he’d left his bike unlocked, she’d ground him from it for a month or more.

Billy stood up and adjusted his backpack, light for a Monday, even for him. For the last two Mondays, he’d burned through twelve dollars in quarters, The Minotaur greedily gobbling them down then laughing at him in its most insulting tone. Screw you, dude, he thought. I beat you once. I’ll beat you again. From all around him came the booming laughter of The Minotaur, making him visibly jump just as he opened the door to the convenience store. Billy stood still for a few seconds, wondering if he’d been hearing things. He decided he’d psyched himself up so much for today’s play that he was just letting his imagination get to him.

“Hey, squirt, in or out,” Jimmy Garvin called to him from behind the counter, an issue of Jellies in his hand. Continue reading

You Think You Know What Teachers Do, Right? Wrong.

Washington Post

“The problem with teaching as a profession is that every single adult citizen of this country thinks that they know what teachers do. And they don’t. So they prescribe solutions, and they develop public policy, and they editorialize, and they politicize. And they don’t listen to those who do know. Those who could teach. The teachers.”

Disclaimer: My wonderful wife is a badass high school History/Human Geography (AP) teacher. I’m properly biased.

New Release – “Ability” (Omnibus Edition)

“Ability” is finally released in an omnibus edition, available for $2.99 at Amazon and other e-tailers.

The end of the world began on YouTube…
Brian Carter wanted to create a superior recreational substance.
Garret Stewart wanted to create the next evolution in learning.
Derry Clarkson wanted her two best friends to see reason.
What happens when the perfect drug meets the perfect technology?

Ability is a dark urban tech-fantasy set in the near future.
Contains Parts I – III (complete)
Adult Language / Mature Themes
60,159 words

New Release – “Chasing Time”

“Chasing Time” is a lighthearted adventure through time, and is available at Amazon and other e-tailers for $2.99

A snarky, cynical government operative is sent back in time to 5th century France, during the reign of Clovis and the Frankish Empire.

His mission: to find and eliminate Dr. Barnard Jameson, a rogue scientist, before history can be significantly altered.

Finding Bertric, aka Dr. Jameson, was the easy part. Eliminating the smirking, pudgy little scientist proves to be a lot harder than he expected.

Adult language
60,215 words

EXTRA: One bonus short story & a preview of another upcoming time travel novel titled “Search Terms” included.