Thursday, January 17, 2019

Alphabet All-Stars Spooktacular Update: Story #8 (Candy Corn'd) Is Now Live!

Available at Amazon and part of Kindle Unlimited
It took a little longer than expected, but story #8 in the Alphabet All-Stars Spooktacular series is now live. If you've purchased this book in the past, delete it from your Kindle and download a fresh copy (if automatic updating doesn't appear). The new story will appear magically before your eyes...

You can tell that you have the latest version by visiting the Copyright page, which should read: First Edition (v1.12).

Here's an excerpt from Candy Corn'd:

Gabe Gratz stood still as a statue, his eyes wide and skin gooseflesh. A fiery pumpkin flashed by, chasing after Melvin Muffrow, one of the many neighborhood bullies who came out at night, especially on Halloween. His little ghost of a son cautiously stepped out from behind a tree and joined him, peeking through tiny holes cut into the bedsheet draped over him while a pumpkin bash unfolded a block over.

"So, uh... I hope you like Smarties, Ryan." He handed over the roll of candy and slowly patted his son's head. Just a moment ago, the pumpkin stood over him, eyes blazing and ready to pounce. But Gabe was able to talk his way out of it--[i]sort of[/i]--and wound up getting a roll of Smarties for his trouble.

But that wasn't all the pumpkin had left behind, to which his son merely pointed.

"What's wrong, son?" Gabe finally looked down.

"He left behind another piece of candy, dad," said Ryan.

"Really? Where?" Gabe squinted. His eyes weren't the best at night, certainly not without his glasses. And where had he put his flashlight? He had brought along a flashlight, hadn't he? He scratched his curly head and looked around.

"There!" Ryan walked right up to the treat and stopped.

For some reason, Gabe still couldn't see it. "Well, go ahead and pick it up."

"No way." Ryan shook his head and backed off.

When the pumpkin a block over screamed "Just one piece!" Gabe fully understood why his son was reluctant to touch the candy.

"That must be for you." Ryan took another step back and pointed, making sure that there was an appreciable distance between himself and the candy so that the ghoulish pumpkin wouldn't mistake his intentions.

"Don't be scared." Gabe stepped over. "Old man Gordon is just playing a trick on us, like he does every Halloween. And he certainly wouldn't hold it against you if you tried to return a piece of candy that had accidentally fallen out."

"Just to be safe, I think you should pick it up." Ryan did not budge.

"Right. Now where did you say it was?" Gabe reached down and felt around. When his fingers struck upon the plastic wrapping, he picked up the confection and held it up to the moonlight. "Well, that's odd."

"What is it, dad?" Ryan craned his head up to his father, but could only see so much through the holes in his sheet.

"It's a single piece of candy corn." Gabe looked at it more closely. "Usually these come in packages filled with several pieces. I wonder why this only has one." He glanced at his son's Smarties. "Hey, wanna trade?" He held it out to him.

"First, we need to make sure that... Oh, Mr. Pumpkin!" Ryan said to the animated pumpkin as it dragged Melvin the Mischief Maker along with him.

"Whoa!" Gabe jumped back.

"Yes, my child?" the pumpkin's voice was rough and booming. He considered the boy, then father shaking beside him.

"You forgot a piece." Ryan pointed to his father.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Introducing Alphabet All-Stars Spooktacular--IT'S ALIVE!!!

Available at Amazon and part of Kindle Unlimited
That's right! Halloween is just around the corner, and I have quite a treat for you...

Welcome to my living document project called Alphabet All-Stars Spooktacular, a Kindle Unlimited exclusive. Just what is this "living document" nonsense all about? That means you get the book and its initial five stories, plus all the stories that come afterwards in the months and years ahead. As the collection grows, so will the price, so get a copy while it's still only 99 cents.

To illustrate how this works, I've just added an all-new story (Skunked) to the October 5th release. Now you get the following stories:

1. Take One
2. Check Your Candy
3. Bring a Flashlight
4. Every Piece Counts
5. Skunked (NEW!)
6. Use Your Heads

And, of course, you also get the bonus story Scaredy Monster (an additional 2,300 words) at no additional cost.

So what's the goal of this project? To create an environment of endless Halloween, spanning over at least 100 stories. These are the first six. Exactly how far will it go? Good question, for the possibilities are endless, and as long as I'm writing, you can expect a story or two every few months, especially around Halloween.

How do you know if the book has been updated? By visiting the product page on Amazon and also following this blog. Every time there's a new story, I'll write about it here and update the product page. Promise!

And be warned! This project promises to get a lot scarier as time goes on.

So I hope you enjoy my latest release, and for the next three readers who subscribe to my Patreon page, you may find a character named after you in the adventures ahead.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sneak Peek - Secret Agent Disco Dancer: You Don't Know Jack


Note: The following is an excerpt from my upcoming children's book Secret Agent Disco Dancer: You Don't Know Jack. This is an early preview and may contain typographical or grammatical errors that haven't been corrected yet.

Chapter 1: Monster

“Today is a special, special day,” Miranda reminded herself and nodded ever so slightly. She looked down at her Spiderman lunchbox, a gift from her father who had purchased something he liked rather than what was appropriate for a young frogling her age on her first day of Bay Lake Elementary. “Oh, daddy...” She shook her head and set the lunchbox on the seat beside her. He was always doing crazy things like that, and where the heck was he? He promised that he’d escort her to the bus, this morning of all mornings, but as usual, he called in and told momma that he had to work late again, and cried into the phone before hanging up.

“Really, again? That’s like the third time this week.” Her smile turned into a frown. Silly grown ups and their silly jobs. “If I had my way...” She looked around the bus. “I’d get rid of jobs once and for all!” A smile returned to her frog face.

“Eek!” A girl screamed as she got onto the bus.

“What is it, dear?” The large bus driver who had introduced herself as Beatris several minutes before looked at the frightened girl.

“There’s a monster on the bus!” She pointed to Miranda.

“Hey, I’m not a monster! I’m just a wee frogling.” Miranda nodded, agreeing with something her father had said the last time he joined the family for bedtime stories.

“It’s Swamp Thing!” said another girl as the children ran off the bus.

“Swamp Thing? What does that even mean?” Miranda tilted her head to one side and stared out the window. What was wrong with those crazy kids? Hadn’t they ever seen a frog before? Surely she was larger than they’d seen before—about the size of a toddler and a good foot shorter than the smallest six-year-old human.

But clearly she wasn’t a monster in any sense of the word. That belonged to the creature hiding in the back that she’d noticed while stepping on the bus. Though he managed to conceal himself well that morning, he certainly couldn’t sneak one past her. (Besides, Miranda had older brothers who looked just as scary...)

Still, he wasn’t much of a monster.

“Right, Jack?” Miranda peered over her shoulder.

Secret Agent Disco Dancer: You Don't Know Jack is now available >>

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sneak Peek - Secret Agent Disco Dancer: Santa's Super Helpers


Note: The following is an excerpt from my upcoming children's book Secret Agent Disco Dancer: Santa's Super Helpers. This early preview may contain typographical or grammatical errors that haven't been corrected yet.

Chapter 1: Extra Crispy

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the top secret government black ops field office, not a creature was stirring except for a diabolical pig with devious designs on taking over the world and other self-serving plans, a crazy disco dancing frog, and, well, the entire I.T. staff...

"I can't believe they're having us work on Christmas Eve." Secret Agent Disco Dancer propped up his feet on the desk and leaned back in his chair.

"Yeah, tell me about it," said Gruber, a twelve-year old genius and youngest agent ever to work for Black Eagle. His glasses looked like the bottoms of Coke bottles, his hair short, straight and spiky. Although it was cold out, he wore shorts. Even Secret Agent Disco Dancer couldn't believe his boss, the brown Andalusian Special Agent Halfwitz, let him get away with it.

Gruber rolled up his diagrams, which detailed where to add additional firewalls and other security measures to make the network impervious to outside hackers, and slid them in a long cardboard tube.

"Don't you know? Evil never rests. And, well...it's not like you numbskulls were doing anything, anyways." Earnest T. Bacon, the T undoubtedly for Trouble, stepped into the frog's office with a present in hand--a black bow over black wrapping paper.

"If I had my Firetoad clearance, I'd be more useful." Secret Agent Disco Dancer sat up straight. "It's crazy, really. Even though I have a direct line to the president, I can't read my own memos--even from missions that I took part in!"

"Need-to-know, froggy woggy, need-to-know. And it's better that you don't know anything. Not that you do, of course." Earnest coughed, surprised at the venom coming out of his mouth that eve. "Although it pains me to say this: Merry Christmas, Secret Agent Disco Dancer. You survived the first year, which is longer than I ever thought you'd last. For that, you deserve a reward." The pig set the gift down carefully on the desk.

"Really? I don't know what to say..."

"Well, if I were in the Christmas spirit, I'd say don't open it," Earnest thought to himself and grinned.

"That's not fair. I didn't get anything for you," said the frog.

"There's always next Christmas," Earnest smirked as he said it. He walked away as fast as he could, hoping Secret Agent Disco Dancer did not hear the ticking coming from inside the package.

"Wow, that's nice of him. Is that the same pig?" Gruber peeked down the hallway at the fleeing swine, then back at the gift. "So what do you think it is?"

"Oh, it's a bomb, of course. Say, can you hand me that jar?" Secret Agent Disco Dancer pointed to a glass jar filled to the brim with popcorn kernels.

"Sure." Gruber fetched it for him and readjusted his glasses.

"As they always say, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade, or in this case, when covert assassins in the highest places of government hand you bombs..." He reached inside his desk, grabbed a blast bag, unzipped it, tossed in Earnest's gift, sprinkled popcorn kernels on top, and zipped it back up. "Make popcorn!" He shook the contents around until the bomb detonated.

The bag jumped out of Secret Agent Disco Dancer's hand, expanding ten times its normal size before finally deflating. He put his head up against it and heard the faint sound of popping. "Ooh...I think it's almost ready... You wouldn't happen to have any butter handy, would you?"

Gruber checked his pockets then shook his head, mortified one of his coworkers had tried to take out the outrageous frog.

Secret Agent Disco Dancer unzipped the bag and gaped at the charred remains inside. "Oh Orville, what have they done to you? Well, so much for smoked brisket popcorn." He dumped the blast bag in the trashcan, which caught fire.

"You're not going to report this?" Gruber asked.

"Report what? It's Christmas!" Secret Agent Disco Dancer grabbed a fire extinguisher from around the corner and put out the fire.

"But he gave you a bomb."

"That's not the worst he's given me."

"Right. So, uh...what did you get your children for Christmas?"

"Great Scott!" The frog nearly jumped out of his skin. "Tomorrow's Christmas! How did it sneak up on me?" He looked around. "Oh, the horror! I didn't get my children anything. Quick, there isn't any time to lose." He hopped out of his chair.

"What is it, Secret Agent Disco Dancer? You want to go to the mall? I hear Pentagon City is open till midnight."

"That won't help at all, especially since the post office shut down for the holidays."

"Huh? What are you talking about?"

"I need to speak to main man himself if my children have any hope of getting presents. I must find...Santa Claus!" Secret Agent Disco Dancer held one finger high, the fire reigniting in the waste basket behind him.

Secret Agent Disco Dancer: Santa's Super Helpers is now available >>

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Yet Another Russian Translation Published

Available in the iBooks Store
After writing yesterday's blog post, I sat around and wondered, "Why haven't I published that other Russian translation?" 'Twas a good question--jolly good, I must say--for I had no reason not to finish the partially completed work and get it out the door.

So that's what I was up to yesterday afternoon--doing all the things I'd neglected to do for the Russian version of My Little Pet Dragon and finding a way to finish. And that's what a lot of writing/publishing is about: finishing. Though the journey may be long, there's something about that last mile when the end is in sight that makes one want to work that much harder. I call it "the eye of the tiger," for in many ways you're going for the kill; sleighing a beast of a problem that you've been wrangling with for far too long.

And once it's over and you take a breath after submitting your newest work of fiction, there's a sense of euphoria that is second to none. You did it! No longer is it just an idea floating around your head. You materialized it with sheer will alone. You can share it, profit from it, and hopefully affect others in some positive way.

Though this was just a translation that I didn't transcribe myself, there was still quite a bit of work involved. There's nothing glamorous about mocking up a book that you've already translated a dozen times. Yet, there is something mysterious about it. What does the Russian language look like when paired with the images? The new version with the odd cyrillic script gives it a personality all its own. What might it sound like if read aloud? Such thoughts provoke my mind to wander.

And wander I have...

Anyhow, Мой Маленький Домашний Дракон is done and I've sent My Crazy Pet Frog to my native Russian translator, Anna Marine. She also took another look at this book and gave me the thumbs up. (It's been a few weeks since she provided me with the translation, so I knew she'd be able to view it with a fresh eye if I sent it to her.)

Although it's still early in the publication process, you can find it here:

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1278689701
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=q70zDwAAQBAJ Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/745993

And my apologies in advance. Amazon doesn't allow books written in Russian on their site. It's a crummy thing, and I find that more and more of my books aren't making it into Amazon. Like my other Russian children's books, I do have a MOBI version for Kindle devices, so if you're interested just contact me.

Please also be aware that I'm in the process of pulling the last of my books out of Kindle Unlimited. There are about a dozen titles left, so if you have Kindle Unlimited and would like to check out my work, please do so soon. Afterwards, the only subscription service my books will be available in is Scribd, though Kobo does have Kobo Plus that is being tested in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Russian Translation Published

Available in the iBooks Store
It's a good thing to have a native speaker look over a book that you've recently translated. In this case, my Facebook friend Anna Marine took a look at the Russian language version of I Love You, Teddy and spotted a number of errors. Chief among them was one that I'd made on the cover: one of the words had been cut off. Oops!
As for the rest, I can only say that I'm surprised. The Russian translator who worked on Alphabet All-Stars: Be Safe This Halloween did a perfect job; so much so that Anna didn't find a single thing she'd change. I'm not going to speculate as to why this happened, but without Anna I wouldn't have known that there was anything wrong with the original translation.

Get your work independently reviewed, folks. I can't stress this enough!

In the end, I have what I set out for--a solid translation of a solid children's picture book. I also gained a translator in the process. From now on, Anna Marine will be handling all of my Russian translations and has already finished up My Little Pet Dragon, which contains Russian and English text, side-by-side.

Is there a Russian market for children's picture books? That I do not know. I went out on a limb when I had my books translated into Italian, French, Dutch and Norwegian--all with good results. Now I find myself doing it again, and if nothing comes of it, at least I tried. Certainly a few kids can benefit from the effort, particularly those in bilingual households.

Why did I have my children's books translated into Russian in the first place? Good question. When I was translating Alphabet All-Stars: Be Safe This Halloween into multiple languages, I identified all the countries that celebrate Halloween in one form or another. I was surprised to read that Vladimir Putin wants to get rid of the holiday, and since many Russian families already live in the United States, I was determined to do it.

As it turns out, I was lucky the first time around with getting the book translated. And the second book has led me to an even better translator.

And that's the thing--it isn't always easy finding good translators, and when you do, you've got to keep them busy. Even if it's a book that you really don't need translated, I feel that it's important to keep translators engaged and the line of communication open, that way when a really important job comes up, you know what their availability is.

I'll translate a few more picture books and see what happens. Translations of My Crazy Pet Frog, Pigtastic and A Little Book About You will happen. Beyond that, who knows? There's also the time factor involved. Every hour spent on a translation is an hour that could be spent writing a brand new English language book. And when it comes down to that, I'd rather be producing new content than translating old content.

If you'd like to see what I've done, you can download a free copy of Alphabet All-Stars: Be Safe This Halloween here:

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1271133575
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=6ZswDwAAQBAJ
Inktera:http://www.inktera.com/store/title/d1f2cbb7-d9d9-418d-b2ea-c8cfa9c3ebfe
Kobo:https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/9o7-gtA7uzaPeAuh-N8xYw
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/741967

You can also purchase the bilingual English/Russian version of I Love You, Teddy for a nominal fee here:

Apple: http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1269890995
Google: https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=okcwDwAAQBAJ
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/741401

(Sorry, neither Amazon nor Barnes and Noble want Russian books. I do have MOBI/Kindle versions available upon request. Just contact me.)

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Russian Translation Unearthed

So there I was--cleaning up my iMac hard drive and deleting off various junk that I'd acquired when I stumbled upon something surprising. Although I'd paid for the Russian language translation of Alphabet All-Stars: Be Safe This Halloween, I'd forgotten that I'd done the same for another widely-translated title of mine: I Love You, Teddy. At first I thought it was a mistake. I'm pretty good when it comes to these types of things, or so I thought. But after I opened the file and scanned it over, I confirmed the embarrassing discovery--that I really did have all the necessary text to publish a new work of fiction.

How do these things happen? Well, life happens. And when you stop writing for weeks or months at a time, it's easy for these things to fall through the cracks.

But a complete translation, really? I know, it's bad. What can I say? Dementia runs in the family. (And I won't even comment about the short story that I'd forgotten I'd written and had to read through to the end because I had no idea where it was going.)

So upon discovery, I swore that I wouldn't delay any longer. The title would get done, that very day if possible, but likely the following day. Now it's 99% done, and I'm just waiting for a Russian friend to look it over and give me the go ahead to publish it. It's a simple bilingual book, and if I remember correctly, the translator did a good job the last time around. (Or I'm confusing him with someone else and am in for a nasty surprise when my Russian friend gets back to me with a list of corrections. Hey, these things happen.)

Whatever the case, I'm glad I finally did something with it. Not only was there a small sum of money invested, someone invested their time to get the translation done and open the door to a whole new audience. I hate that I dragged my feet on it, but it's done. Almost. Soon...

Until then, enjoy the cover I put together--which looks exactly like the other variations of the same title, but with funky characters. (And who doesn't like funky characters, right?)