Reflections at the end of an era

I’m almost certainly going to shed some tears while writing this, but I also know I’ll feel better after, so here goes.

My son Dylan is nearly 20 and just started his second year at the university. Daniel will be 18 soon, and is in his first year of college. They’re leaving home this weekend, moving into a tiny house they’re renting together. I feel terribly sad about it. No, that’s not right. What I feel is more akin to grief.

I know, I know. This is what’s supposed to happen. We’re supposed to raise our children to be strong and independent, so they can move on with their own lives. I should be proud to have had some small hand in raising such amazing young men.

I should also be grateful that they’re going to be living in the same city. I’ll still see them regularly. Heck, they might even move back home at some point. I did.

But I’m not. I know I will remember all those things in time, but right now I just feel grief. Nearly two decades we’ve been together, the four of us (I have been married to their mother, Claudia, for nearly 23 years). I can’t remember what it’s like to not have them here.

I don’t want to remember what it’s like.

But I’m here trying to make myself feel better, so I’m going to share some more. I want you all to know how really unlikely it is that I would ever arrive at this point in my life.

Some background. I grew up on a ranch out in the middle of the Arizona nowhere. My father was an angry, unhappy man, who took a lot of his suffering out on his family. I’m the older son. I’m sure he was hoping for a tall, strong, healthy son, but instead he got a kid who was tiny, skinny and constantly sick. Nothing I did ever pleased him, no matter how I tried. All that mattered in his world was the ranch. He drove my mother away. We kids grew up afraid a lot. It wasn’t an easy time.

But I survived. I went away to college, and I made a vow to myself. I was going to do things differently. I wasn’t going to make the same mistakes he did. I wasn’t going to be married four times. I wasn’t going to miss every activity my children were ever involved in. I wasn’t going to make my children fear me.

Easier said than done. My early relationships were basically train wrecks. The longest one lasted only a little over a year.

But I kept trying, determined to do better. I worked on forgiving my father and came to see him, not as a monster, but as a man who did the best he could with what he had.

When I was 28 and traveling in Australia, I met Claudia. Somehow, I’d come far enough in my journey that she was willing to take a chance on me. It wasn’t easy for her, I know. I still had a great deal of rage and self-loathing. I had a lot of baggage.

The boys came along a few years later. I was happy to have kids, but also terrified by the prospect. It was one thing to say I’d do better than the old man, but now I was going to have to prove it. I started it out by telling them that I loved them, something I never heard from Dad until I was in my 20’s. When each boy was born, I made sure not to speak until it was my turn to hold him. Then I told him I loved him. I wanted those to be the first words they ever heard from me.

By then Claudia and I had started a custom electronics business. Home theater, security systems, networks, audio—you name it, we installed it. It was challenging and very stressful. It was also very lucrative. We started making money out of the gate, and it took off from there.

The stress ate me up. I’d grown the business too fast. I couldn’t keep up with the work and my employees. I lost weight. I drank. I had insomnia. I thought I was losing my mind.

I’d come home from work and here was my loving wife and two little kids. All they wanted was to see me and all I wanted was to be left alone. They were burdens. I didn’t have the time for them. The business was swallowing me whole.

I won’t go into more details except to say that one day I got a wake-up call. I looked around and realized I was doing the same thing my dad had done. I was putting my business ahead of my family. My children were showing the signs. My older son awakened over and over every night, crying. My marriage was falling apart.

I was going to lose everything.

I realized right then I had to change. It was difficult and caused other problems in our marriage, but I shut the business down. We left Colorado and moved back to Tucson. I took a teaching job at a K-12 charter school that my boys attended, taking about a 75% pay cut to do so.

But it gave me time with the kids and that was what mattered. The school was close, and we biked there together every day. I had all the same holidays as they did. Once a week I took each of them to lunch with me, someplace cheap like Subway because that was all we could afford, but I wanted that extra time with them. When Daniel played Little League, I was at every practice and game. Usually I was grading papers, but I was there, and it was fun.

And I discovered something beautiful and magical. My family wasn’t a burden. They were a gift. The greatest gift I could imagine. Putting myself aside and putting them first changed everything.

You hear all the time about how terrible it is raising teenagers, but I have to say I loved it. Those years were amazing.

Which is how I got to this point. My life has centered around these three people for nearly two decades, and now two of them are leaving. That’s going to leave a big hole.

But I am so, so grateful every day that I got the message way back when. That I didn’t miss this wonderful time with my sons. No amount of money or career success could ever compare to that.

So, that will be my takeaway from all this. The grief is not from regrets, but because something I loved is, not ending, but changing. New joys will arise. All because I was smart enough to realize I was making a terrible mistake.

See, I knew I’d feel better after writing this. I hope you can take something away from it.

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A road trip for the ages…and now I need a vacation!

I’m the old one on the left.

We did it. Daniel, my younger son, and I made it home Sunday night. We logged 5000 miles in 14 days and passed through a 13 states. I don’t think I’ve ever driven so much in my life. I’m pretty sure my back is now permanently the shape of the seats in my Toyota Highlander.

First we drove north to the Grand Canyon. From there it was Zion, Bryce Canyon, then on up to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

Bryce Canyon

After that we drove into Montana, then turned east. In South Dakota we went to Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands, then through Minnesota and Wisconsin to the shore of Lake Michigan.

We spent a day driving up the peninsula in Door County and then on to Green Bay, where we attended the owners’ meeting (I own a share of the Green Bay Packers) and the first two days of training camp. Then it was a long, mad dash hiome thru Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle, Texas, New Mexico and then back to Tucson.

Except for the drive home almost all of it was on little back highways. We wanted to see the heart of America up close. We avoided the chains and ate in tiny, local diners wherever possible. We got out and looked at town parks and local attractions.

We drove through Daniel, Wyoming, population 150,

and took a picture of Daniel Street, which was nothing but grass.

I had an amazing Reuben sandwich in a tiny diner in Laurel, Montana. We saw the first glockenspiel tower ever built in the US in New Ulm, Minnesota.

We watched the sun set over the Mississippi.

We ate amazing BBQ in Kansas City.

We did all that and a thousand more things. We passed through so many small towns and states that we lost track. We were always saying things like, “Remember that river/lake/town? Where was that? What day was that?” We were vagabonds, carried ceaselessly through the countryside by our steel-and-glass horse. Movement became the most important thing, so much so that each morning there was a sense of haste, an eagerness to get back on the road and see what new thing lay around the next bend.

It was surreal at times. We’d pile out of the car in some tiny village and head into some mom-and-pop store to buy snacks and feel like visitors from another planet. We were weird and disconnected, not quite at ease until we could scurry back to our little mobile cave.

It was exhausting and completely amazing. Most of what made it amazing was getting to spend all those hours with my son, enjoying these last, brief moments before he begins college and takes the last steps that will lead him out of our world and into his own. (Yes, I am going to miss both my sons very much when they leave home.)

Somehow, mostly without my noticing it, my son has grown into a pretty awesome young man. I’m not sure how it happened. Only yesterday I was playing on the slide at the park with him and now he’s done with high school and moving on. 

Came away with a few observations about this country we live in while I was at it. Here’s the first one, a real shocker to all of you, I’m sure:

The United States is a really big country. I mean, REALLY BIG. We drove until I thought I was going to become permanently affixed to my car seat and only saw the tiniest fraction of it.

Observation number two: There is a ton of farmland in this country. From Montana through to Wisconsin and then back down to Texas it was almost all cropland. Endless miles of hay, corn (So. Much. Corn.) and various other green, leafy things. We all know the Midwest grows a lot of food, but until you see it in person… Whew.

All in all it was a hell of an adventure. I may have a hunchback until I die, but it was well worth it. A road trip in the truest sense of the word.

PS As an added bonus, I got a ton of writing done on the road, all of it the old-fashioned way, by hand in a notebook. Out there, rolling down the empty highways, the scenes and characters sprang to life with a fullness and vibrancy I haven’t seen in a while.

 

 

 

 

What the heck? Where’s the next book, Eric?

I’ve been hearing that a lot recently. People email me and say, “In the front of your book is says the next book in the Chaos and Retribution series is coming out in the spring, but I don’t see it. What’s up? You’re not pulling a George Martin on us, are you?”

It’s time to set the record straight.

Book 4 isn’t coming out this spring. (Go ahead, throw things. Get it out of your system. I can wait.)

However…

Book 4 is written. It needs editing , but it’s there. And Book 5 is well under way.

You want another reason to throw things? Neither of them is coming out until late Fall.

But why?

I could say it’s because I want to finish the whole story first. That way I can make sure it all makes sense. Dropping one book at a time, it’s easy to get to the end of the story and go, gosh, that didn’t work out quite right. If only I’d done this one thing differently back in book 4. If only I wouldn’t have killed off my main character, when I actually need him still.

I think that’s a good reason for a delay, don’t you?

I could also so it’s because I, personally, like to binge my favorites. I don’t want to read a book and then wait months (or years) for the next volume. I want it now! By doing it this way, I can release books 4-6 in rapid order, so no long wait times between books. (You see, I’m looking out for you all!)

But there’s an even bigger reason.

In early February I began re-publishing my first fantasy series, Immortality and Chaos, with new covers and a new map. Basically, I did everything wrong the first time I published that series and the re-launch was a chance to do things properly and see if I couldn’t get the books to sell.

I’m happy to say that it’s been a resounding success! Since early February when Wreckers Gate was re-launched, I’ve sold over 10,000 books and had over 8 million pages read in Kindle Unlimited. Woohoo! (Compare those numbers to last year, when I sold 7180 books and had 1.6 million page reads, and the year before, when I sold 1220 books and had 51,000 page reads.) It’s safe to say the arrow has been pointing upwards. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Anyway, that took up a lot of my time. But it was also strangely exhausting, in a way I’d never expected. Being able to make a living with my writing is a dream going back more than 30 years. During that time I’ve spent countless hours poking away at the keyboard, getting up early in the morning, endlessly rewriting blurbs and query letters.

My reward was tons of rejections from agents and editors and utterly lackluster sales in Kindle. Over and over the message from the world was, “Give it up, kid. You’re not going to make it.” (And in the late 2000’s I did actually quit writing for a couple of years, I was so discouraged.)

So when the unthinkable finally happened? It was utterly emotionally exhausting. For a month or two I was on a constant roller coaster, swinging from wild enthusiasm and hope, to crushing certainty that this was only going to be another gut punch.

And it affected my writing. During that time I did finish the rough draft of book 4, but when I went back and looked at it I could see that it lacked a spark that the others have. It would have been a disservice to those of you who are enjoying the series to release it that way.

The good news is I’ve finally got my feet back under me. I did a lot of work to Book 4 and improved it a lot already. Book 5 is chugging along. I’ve written 28k words on it in just over a week (the finished book will run around 120k words, for perspective). The ideas are flowing. The characters are perking up and coming back to life. It’s all looking quite promising.

And there you have it. Now you know what’s what. (That is, if you didn’t look at this post and go, Nope, too long. In that case, there’s a quick synopsis for you at the bottom!)

PS There is a fourth Ace Lone Wolf book, for those of you who are fans. It will come out in a few months when I re-launch that series as well. In the meantime, soon there will be a free prequel Ace story for you to munch on.

TL;DR Eric is late with the next book in the new fantasy series. This is because Eric has been very tired due to actually making a living as an author. Books 4-6 will all come out close together in late Fall.

 

To indie or not to indie, that is the question…

Me with my loving, patient wife, Claudia.

So December marks one full year since I decided to go all-in on becoming a true indie writer. What does this mean? It means prior to December of last year, I was still trying to go about writing in the old traditional way, meaning I wrote about a book a year and I submitted queries to agents and editors.

Oh, I’d dipped my toes into the indie world. I discovered promo sites (they send you daily emails with deals for cheap or free ebooks, based on what genres you told them you liked) and ran quite a few ads in them. The results were not awe-inspiring.

The Kboards freakouts Continue reading “To indie or not to indie, that is the question…”

Ace Lone Wolf rides again!

Drum roll please…

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present a sneak peek at the next installment of the Lone Wolf Howls series. It begins, predictably enough, with Ace getting himself into trouble yet again. (Trouble does seem to follow him, doesn’t it?)

The story picks up a few days after The Black Pearl Treasure leaves off. I’m revising the tale now and it should be out in January…

1

As Coyote and I ride down the street, I’m thinking that San Diego doesn’t look like such a bad town. I’ve only passed one saloon so far and I didn’t hear any gunshots coming from it at all. They even have a brick building, a hotel, and it’s two stories tall. The people I pass don’t reach for their guns—shoot, some of them aren’t even carrying guns—and one lady stepping out of a carriage nods when I tip my hat to her.

Unfortunately, that nod turns into a look of fear when my long black hair, which I’d tucked up under my hat before entering town—I don’t look so Apache that way—falls out. But she doesn’t scream or anything so it all works out okay.

All in all, I have a good feeling about San Diego. Once I find someone to buy these black pearls Beckwourth gave me, I’ll have money again. Maybe I’ll stick around for a few days, sleep in a bed and eat someone else’s cooking. Buy some new duds. Mine are looking a little tattered after all I’ve been through lately. Continue reading “Ace Lone Wolf rides again!”

Stone Bound comes out today!

That’s right. Stone Bound, book 1 of my new fantasy series, Chaos and Retribution, just released today. Want more good news? It’s only 99 cents for a limited time. So there’s really no reason not to go pick up a copy, is there?

And, in case you’re thinking, ‘Yeah, but how many years will it be before book 2 comes out?’ I want you to know that book 2, Sky Touched, is coming out in August. And book 3, Sea Born, is coming out in September. There’s even plans for a fourth book in December.

I did it! 350 pages in 6 weeks

It’s true. I just finished the rough draft of the second book in my epic fantasy series, Sky Touched. Which I only started six weeks ago.

Whew! That was a lot of work. Now, I still have to edit it and revise it, but the heavy lifting is done. It’s the fastest I’ve ever written a book of this length.

Now I need a break. The following picture will be me at the end of the day, once my wonderful wife gets home:

Here’s the blurb about the series:

Three children with the powers of Stone, Sea and Sky…

Are all that stands between the world and the chaotic power of the Abyss.

Fen is only a boy when his city is sacked by enemy invaders. His mother is cut down before his eyes. Yet somehow when the blade is turned on him, he survives without a scratch. But the attack seems to have awakened something inside him, something that killed his father years ago.

Aislin came from the sea, her origins a mystery. Within her is an innate power over water, as natural as breathing. But she lives in a world of her own, emotionally isolated from everyone else, including the woman who is raising her. Bullied by the other children, one day she turns her power on them.

Karliss was touched by the wind at birth, destined to be the greatest wind shaman his people have ever seen. But he is careless with his power and he ignores the warnings about the madness that afflicts those who don’t protect themselves against the spirits in the wind.

When the powerful, inhuman denizens of the Abyss reach out to take the world, only these three have a chance of stopping them, but only if they can learn to master their powers in time…

Interested? Want to make sure you don’t miss hearing about a new book? Want to get a free book from me or maybe join my review team? Just click here and sign up for my email list. You’ll be glad you did!