Cursed Planet


Who knew ghosts could exist in heavy gravity?

Hope Delgado, the galaxy’s only alien ghost expert, confronts her toughest challenge on S.C. Kangjun’s latest mission.

The local aliens, 49ers, blame the humans for a ghost. And they hide a deadly secret. A secret they will kill to protect.

Hope must make a desperate last stand against the aliens and the ghosts—if she fails, her friends will die. A science fiction novel of deep space thrills and adventures.

Pick up Book 3 in the GALCOM Universe series on Amazon!

Available on RabbitBundle!


Help a Veteran!

An Army “hoo-ah” for all the readers who take the time to leave a review.  I’m grateful for all of you!

Dean Wesley Smith on writing without an outline

This is a video of Dean Wesley Smith talking about writing without outlining or “writing into the dark.”  He details the process of cycling, which allows for clean copy and cuts revision.

My cycling process is  little different. I can bounce around in the story like a ping ball.  It’s sometimes the previous scene, and sometimes I might jump back to a connecting scene earlier in the book.  I’m somewhat messy when I write.  My creative likes to take all the toys out of the toy chest and toss them on the floor (sometimes in no particular order), then it wanders off and plays with a few and forgets about the others.  So stubs of things get into the story, and never get used.

At the point when I’m doing the climax, I can usually tell because my creative brain gets the sudden urge to cycle through the entire story from the beginning.  Then it’s pulling together everything…taking out those stubs that I completely forgot about and never used anywhere.  The stubs are kind of like flash in the pan ideas.  You know, things that sound exciting when I put them and then later, it has me scratching my head wondering what I expected to do with it.

In a way, cycling is a lot of fun because it keeps me reconnecting with the story!



What’s Your Christmas Naughty?

Reindeer tangled up in Christmas lights

This week, someone put up a Christmas display where you could write on butcher paper your “nice” or your “naughty.”  Everyone’s had fun writing up silly entries like “I was naughty all year so Santa doesn’t have to visit” (on the nice side).  Someone had posted dog misbehavior on the naughty side, so I made sure cats were represented with “I knock stuff off.” (Cats are really good for naughty, since they don’t care.)

What’s your Christmas naughty?  Have fun making stuff up!

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Guest Panelist at ChessieCon

Over Thanksgiving, I was a guest panelist at ChessieCon–first time as a panelist for me.

This is a picture from my first panel.  I’m in the teal on the end.  My book Cursed Planet is standing up by my name plate.

Me and the other four panelists

The con hotel had changed hands again.  The hotel is located near the Maryland State Fair site, so it gets a lot of interest from the bigger brands.  But the hotel is old and the cost to bring it up to brand standards is expensive, so it changes hands about once a year.

So the result was that when I checked in, the hotel was being remodeled.  The heat was completely out in the part of the building where the panels were.

It was thirty outside.

My panels included Military Life Vs. Real Life; What not to do when trying to get published; book covers; and time management for writers.  I had eight panels altogether.

I was thinking that I would be able to attend some other panels, but I was surprised at how draining it was.  I only managed two.  I’m an introvert, and I had to be on for the duration of the panel.  So I vanished up to the hotel room between panels to recharge (staying in the hotel when you’re a panelist is a must).  I did a little writing towards the tail end, but I was pretty fried.


Know your genre – from the What Not to Do panel.  In the Gold Rush days of indie publishing, I ran across a writer who had 8,000 Twitter followers. I was jealous!  I naively thought that translated into a lot of sales of books.  How could I get in on that?  One day, he asked me to review is book, calling it an action-adventure thriller.  I looked at the book.  It was a fantasy detective book, and definitely nothing thrillery like I would see in a James Rollins book.  He got upset when I turned down the review and said it had lots of action, because there was a big action scene at the end.  Sorry, that’s not a thriller.

Time Management: Hands down, health.  Do too much sitting and not enough exercising, or eating right, and the writing itself will suffer.  In terms of my priorities, it’s above writing.

Distance in stories:  Not one of I was on, but Jo Walton made an comment about the culture of distance.  We think nothing of driving somewhere if it’s about a day away.  In fact, commuting in the Washington DC area is at least a two hour drive for many people because we have such a housing shortage.  But in Great Britain, which is only about 600 miles long, twenty miles is considered a long ways to go.  They think of the distance as this giant chasm to get across.

Military Life: Know the difference between the officers and enlisted, and what the ranks are.  You’ll go along ways to “feeling right” with those two items.  Yet, I’ve seen a Lieutenant Colonel in a book who was 25 years old (in a modern setting), and in movies, they’ve mixed up officer and enlisted.  Mike McPhail was on this panel with me.

Covers: Blue and gold is trending for science fiction now.  And, of course, I told the story about an indie writer who posted up her cover for a thriller and it was clip art photo of a peaceful snowy scene.  Readers get their first impression from the cover.  Mike was also on this panel with me.

Aside from the bone-chilling cold, the con was a lot of fun!


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Me and Dogs

These are photos of my brother’s dogs at Thanksgiving.  This is me with Eggplant (the black dog) and Lily (the brown dog.

Me on the floor with Eggplant and Lily

Eggplant is giving me serious attitude: Why are taking pictures?  You should be petting me!

Eggplant giving me the eye

Lily with the propeller tail.

Lily wagging her tail

And Nugget, the butterfly dog, who was surprisingly hard to photograph.

Nugget seated on a chair

BookBaby Marketing Conference (Part III)

On Sunday, Joanna Penn wrapped up the conference with a keynote address.  Sorry the photo is a bit blurry.


Joanna Penn on the podium

She talked about how deeply unhappy she was in her day job–she’d actually written her first book as a response to how unhappy she was.  Then, she went to a vanity press, got a bunch of copies…and well, you know how that turned out.  Though a vendor is trying to make money off that old book.  I saw it online for $200!

When she jumped in on the early days of epublishing, she also came up with a lot of different ways to make money that were related to the books.  She expected that she wouldn’t make money with the books for a while.  That was a very realistic way of viewing what she was doing.  Most writers seem to think their writing is so fantastic that everyone will flock to it and turn it into a best seller.

She also noted that marketing should be able to happen all the time even when you aren’t tending to it.  That goes to making smarter choices about marketing, rather than doing as I saw a writer say, “Writing books is 90% marketing and 10% writing).

Like going to Amazon and starting to type “How to” and seeing what those results are…and doing a book using those results.  She updated her first book and released it again under the title Career Change–because that was an Amazon search term.  It helped sales because it showed up first when people typed it in.

She also brought up consistency, which was a theme during the conference.  She was doing podcasts and got frustrated with the lack of success with them.  But then buckled down and started doing them consistently each week and then they gained popularity.  I think this is the hardest thing is just sticking to the schedule.

The conference was all very positive, and I’m glad I was able to hear Joanna speak.  It has been hard sometimes to connect books and blog posts to actual actions.

One of the first things I did after I got back from the conference was to set up an email newsletter, which you can find here.  It’ll start up on December 3.


Book Baby Marketing Conference (Part II)

The conference had perfect timing being early in November.  This week we had our first snowfall—usually we don’t see any snow until January and February.  I’m glad I wasn’t taking the train in that!

This was only half a day, but the panel below had a lot of notes:

The Jeopardy Approach: How to Find Thousands of True Fans

Short summary: Email newsletters.

From last year’s conference, I picked up one piece of advice on newsletters: Just because you’re overwhelmed by email doesn’t mean everyone else thinks the same.

This workshop was stepping off into the deep end.

What is marketing?

“Marketing is getting someone who has a need to know, like, and trust you.” – and buy books.

Email builds the relationship with the reader over time while they’re waiting for the next book to come out.  Consistency, of course, is key.  If people come to expect your emails, they’re more likely to read it.  If you fall off the schedule, the rest of the world fills it in…and when you send out another email again, they’ve forgotten that you’ve signed up and get annoyed. (This part is not from the workshop, but my thinking on it).

The basics

Be human

I think that’s the biggest problem when writers try to figure out how to market.  They don’t see any sales, so they go onto Twitter and start sending out tweets for “Buy my book.”  A writer friended me on Facebook.  I should have looked at what she was posting because her first three were “Buy my book.”  Spam makes the rest of the world think you’re a robot.

Be consistent

This is like a TV show…same time, same day.

Schedule it all in advance

Just plain time management 101. It’s hard to be consistent if you’re in constant reaction mode (not to mention stressful!).

Use monthly themes

This helps with coming up with ideas for the newsletter.  Themes can be focused around releases.  I’m going to do a digital organization in February and do a release of a book called Digital Minimalism: Reduce Clutter on Your Computer Now (there’s a specific reason for this month, but more about that when I go into Joanna Penn’s keynote speech in Part III).

Provide positive value

I think this one is really important.  When I have subscribed to writer newsletters, I end up just getting an announcement of the next book coming out.  Contrasting that to FundsForWriters, which has two short articles about writing and a list of markets, plus any new books coming out by the writer.

No rants!

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  I personally would add no politics to that.  You can turn off a reader really fast with politics.

Recommended newsletter schedules

Five days a week

Which isn’t as scary as it sounds.  The proposal was about 100 words, or 3-4 sentences, just like a Facebook post.  Follow a topics schedule:

  • Monday – Inspiration
    Tuesday – How to
    Wednesday – Links (two, with a sentence about them)
    Thursday – longer question
    Friday – Podcast or video


Explore this world—drama, humor, self-help, education.  I think it is tough for fiction writers though because it doesn’t have the same neat fit that a non-fiction book does.

Create a buzz

This newsletter is like a TV season, for example: Game of Thrones.  Do a story in email over three months and spend the rest of the year creating a buzz.

It’s interesting that nowhere on this list are the two most common mailings…once a month and when there’s a release.  In this fast moving world, those may be too little.

Based on this panel, I’m going to start an email newsletter December 1.  I’ll be doing the five days a week option.

Part III of this will be next Tuesday.


Thanksgiving in Space

No matter how far away from home, Thanksgiving brings everyone together.  Check out what the astronauts in the space station are having for the holiday.

BookBaby Marketing Conference (Part I)

Last weekend, I attended the BookBaby Conference in Philadelphia.  BookBaby (yeah, I know.  That name…) is a company that does all the stuff that happens after you create the manuscript.  The conference was entirely focused on marketing books.

I went last year, too.  That was their first one. It was a little rough around their edges.  Most of the panels were from vendors and framed marketing from the perspective of non-fiction.  It’s a lot easier talking marketing for non-fiction than it is for fiction.  Almost all the advice I see on marketing assumes non-fiction, and fiction is a completely different animal.

But I still got enough out of it that I came back…especially when I saw the keynote speaker: Joanna Penn.

Philly is two hours out of DC, so I hopped a train out of Union Station.  The hotel was by the Delaware River.

View of the Delaware River from the waterfront.
The Delaware River

I don’t like the city much because it’s hard for me to eat.  I’m gluten free and dairy free, and the majority of the meals have some form of bread in everything.  If it’s not breaded and fried, it’s in a sauce.  I like travel and don’t like travel.  Food is always hard.

This conference had a more diverse group of speakers (still some who were vendors), but this time I felt more like it was speaking to the fiction writer.

Self-Publishing is Not a Backup Plan

Eva  Lesko Natiello gave this panel.  Highlights:

  1. The #1 thing is to get reviews.This came across over and over during all the sessions.  Amazon gives all new books a bump in the rankings for about 30 days to give it a chance to be noticed.  Reviews show activity and interest.She also said to put a request in for reviews at the back of the book.  I’ve seen traffic on this before.  Some say to do it, some say it makes you look desperate.  But I’m trying it anyway.  At this point, it’s not going to hurt.
  2. Use subtitles.
    This was an interesting one. The subtitles don’t go on the cover itself, but in the field on Amazon.  It might provide additional keywords and the genre.  She noted that a traditionally published writer got stuck with a cover that totally misrepresented the book and put it in a different genre than it was (it was women’s fiction; cover was young adult male).  The publisher refused to change the cover because of cost, so she suggested they add a subtitle to Amazon to clarify the genre.
  3. The Amazon Link
    When you copy and paste the link to your book from Amazon, they know it comes from you. All the sign-in info is in that link.  So you have delete everything after the ISBN number so that the link is clean.

Success Leaves Traces

This one sounded better than it actually was.  Highlights:

  1. Rise to the challenge
  2. Understand and practice the pain of discipline
  3. Combine persistence with perseverance
  4. Willing to learn from every possible source
  5. Embrace the partnership with editors and other publishing professionals.
  6. Know the power of information
  7. Know the importance of relationships
  8. Constantly search for the next opportunity to practice their craft

Typing it out from my notes, it’s a good list, and yet the session was somewhat unmemorable.  But a particular highlight is item #4.  There was a writer I absolutely loved when I first discovered her series.  Every time I visited B. Dalton, I looked on the shelf to see if she had anything new.  Every book she wrote got better.

Then she turned into a best seller and decided she didn’t need to learn anything new.  Her writing went downhill.  She still sold books, but I went from buying them in hardback to getting them at the library.  Then, eventually, only occasionally at the library because the books weren’t worth my time.  A few books ago, it looked like she was trying to recapture those early days (maybe sales have gone down?)—and she can’t.  The skills she had then are completely gone.

Book Marketing Masterclass

This was one of Joanna Penn’s sessions.  It stated right after lunch, so I came back half an hour early to make sure I got a seat.  I figured it would be full, and I was right!  We had people sitting on the floor.  She just did a post about the conference.

Joanna Penn on the podium
It’s hard to believe this is so far away. I was in the front row!



  1. Strategy is choosing what you want to do and more importantly, what you don’t want to do.
    Pretty much, if you hate doing something, you’re probably not going to be very successful at it.  This, of course, includes writing in a genre you don’t like.
  2. Long term marketing has to be autopilot
    Because we need to write!
  3. Put links everywhere.
    In the front of the book, in the back of the book, in your email signatures. I came back and uploaded the eBook for Cursed Planet with a updated bio to add more links.
    An email responder can also be used to add more value, providing a link to a podcast or an interview.
  4. Consistency
    This is another tip that came from multiple sessions. For blogs, post on a schedule and stick to it (which I haven’t always done).  She recommended doing content planning because otherwise it can really be hard to keep up (something else I’m going to think about).  I remember one writer from my old WANA group who waited until the last minute—when she needed to post—to come up with an idea for the post, write it, revise it a bunch of times, and then post.  She was complaining about how much time the posts took.
  5. Pinterest
    She mentioned that she was on Pinterest, because she loves pictures. She uses pictures to show some of her research for her books (it’s under the J.F. Penn name if you go looking for it).  I’m visual spatial and like pictures, but I’ve been so overwhelmed by my day job, something like Pinterest was too much.  Things have improved there, so I’ve created a folder for my current project, Last Stand.  https://www.pinterest.com/garridon/

That’s  just the first day.   Part II of this will be posted next Tuesday.

The Lost Hour

What if a murder occurred in the lost hour from daylight savings?  From Kristen Lamb.

Philadelphia Korean War Memorial

I was in Philadelphia this weekend for the BookBaby Conference (more on that next week).  Just a block or so from the hotel was the Korean War Memorial.

This is a view of the entire memorial.  The inside pillars have the lists of names.  Most of those who were killed in action were privates.

Pillars of the Korean War Memorial, showing the ribbons from the war, and the list of names.

I did a shot of the medals wall because of the top image, the one with the Korean flag.  That’s a unit citation that was given to military units that served during the war.  The soldiers who served with the unit during the war would have worn that as a permanent part of their uniform.

Why am I bringing this up?  Because it comes with the unit.  My company at Fort Lewis was awarded this citation for being in the Korean War, so all soldiers currently assigned wore it on our class A uniforms (that’s the fancy uniform).  Once they transfer out, they cannot no longer wear it.

Up angle of the medals wall, with the Korean unit citation

A statue at the entrance to the memorial.

Statue of kneeling soldier. Plaque reads "The Final Farewell"

And a plaque for the nurses who served.

Plaque reads "Dedicated to the nurses of the Korean War" and shows three women