Monday, December 23, 2013

Free Kindle Edition of Dragon Guard

Happy Holidays, everyone! To celebrate the season, I'm going to play Santa Claus to one lucky person with my book, Dragon Guard. I'm going to gift, though Amazon, a Kindle copy of the book, a Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy Adventure with plenty of zombies and other undead creatures, and even a bit o' romance! You can decide if you want to keep it for yourself or gift it to a friend or family member. I even have a preview hub set up where you can read the first four chapters (and, of course, on the above Amazon link, you can preview it, as well).

How do you win? Simple! All you have to do is post a comment in this post or retweet it on Twitter. I'll be tweeting official entry tweets over the next couple of days, so keep an eye out. Follow me here if you don't already! I'll keep the contest open until about midway Christmas Day (Pacific Standard Time). You'll need to provide me with your email address (or, if you plan on gifting it to someone else, their email address) so I can give you the link to the book, and, of course, you'll need to have a Kindle or a Kindle app to read it. You can download it here for your smartphone, iPad, PC, or whatever. I use it on my phone, and it works great!

So that's the contest. I'm only running it for a short time (2 days), so get in early. One entry per person, but if you'd like to retweet it a number of times to spread the news, I'd be grateful! Good luck, Merry Christmas, and happy reading!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Beta Readers Wanted

I've come to a point in my latest creation where I need some new eyes on it. I used to do this on Facebook, but as I am no longer playing Facebook, that won't happen. So I'm making a general call-out here to see if anyone would like to beta read for me on my newest novel. This one's a bit different in that it's an adult horror story rather than my normal YA. This one has some violence and gore, and plenty of sex (though most of it is not shown - you see the lead up and the aftermath).

The tentative title is Bound Souls, and, at the moment, it clocks in at just over 82k words. This one would be best classified as a horror story with plenty of love thrown in. Aaron Welch, a 36 year old horror novelist, falls madly in love with 18 year old college student Hannah Bailey, who more than returns the feelings. Those feelings, for both of them, seem too powerful to be real, especially since Aaron is still dealing with the death of his wife and infant son five years prior. Things intensify when Jenna, the ghost of his wife, is suddenly back in the house. And if that's not enough, there is an evil presence that not only wants to destroy Jenna's soul from even existing, but then wants to do the same to Aaron and Hannah. Find out how all their souls are bound together.

So there's the lowdown on what it's all about. Interested in giving it a beta read? I don't ask much of my beta readers. Basically, I'll send you a MS Word .doc (or .rtf if you prefer, another format, or I can even make it a .pdf if you really want), and then I'll send you a half dozen questions or so to answer. Nothing hard - basically stuff like "Did you view the characters as realistic?" "Were there any major bumps that drew you out of the story?" "Did you enjoy the story overall?" Things like that. If, instead of my questions, you'd like to send me your beta review your own way, I'm thrilled with that, too. Anything to make sure I'm on the right track here with this story. I'm also not looking for line edits - I haven't yet done that, so there are probably typos and such I haven't yet caught. If you'd like to point them out, I'd be happy for it, but it's not necessary. At this point in the process I'm mostly worried about plot, characters, and such. I'll spend plenty of time line editing later. 

I likely won't be ready to send this out until at least the beginning of January, and more likely closer to the middle of the month. I'm asking early so I can get some takers. My hope is you'll be ready to send it back to me in 4 to 6 weeks. And if you do beta read for me and complete my questionnaire (or your own version of it), I'll send you a copy of the book when it's published, be it a paperback, e-book, or whatnot (still too early in the process to promise anything concrete).

If you have any questions, or want to offer your services, please email me at You can also, of course, comment here on this post, or hit me up on Twitter at @ericjkrause. It would be nice to set up a beta reading group to help each other out, but for now, this is the route I'm going. Any takers?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #159

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

The Christmas Tree farm has more to offer than simply Christmas Trees; there's magic there.
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #158

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Your advent calendar doesn't contain chocolate each day, but something magical.
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, December 2, 2013

NaNoWriMo Winner!

I completed my first ever NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) as a winner! (Click here if you have no idea what NaNoWriMo is.) That's right, I wrote 50,000 words in the month of November. However, I feel my victory comes with an asterisk next to it. Not that I feel that diminishes my accomplishment, or even matters, but to some purists, it might. You see, I abandoned the novel I was working on after three weeks. It wasn't working, and continued writing wouldn't fix it. Everything needed reworking - not only was it spinning in circles, but it was also boring the pants off of me, which is unacceptable. Since replotting wasn't going to happen while I worked towards my 50K word goal, I decided to take the last week and 10K or so words and focus on writing a few short stories, something I've neglected to do for far too long.

That decision was the best thing for me. I finished three short stories that I think, with some editing, will have a pretty good chance of selling, something I can't say with the novel I was working on. Maybe someday I'll revisit the idea and give the plot a complete makeover, but I don't think that'll happen for awhile. I'll let the stink of it's current form flush from my mind first. Anyway, even if 10K or so words actually went towards short stories instead of a novel, at least they're still words of fiction that I can put to market. I feel that overrides everything else.

I'm not sure what my previous month-best output for words is, but I know it's never been over 45K words. For this reason, NaNoWriMo was a complete success. I now know I can pound out 50K words in a month. I just proved it. And, if I had an outline I was in love with, I could have done it much quicker than I did (I crossed the finish line on the absolute last day - November 30). Also, I learned again (someday I'll learn for good) that I can't write without a complete outline. I had the beginning and some of the middle done by November 1st, and I figured once I hit that spot, I'd be able to continue with no problem. Nope. I had no idea where I was going, and I didn't like it one bit. So not only did I "win" with word count, I also won with more information on myself, which is helpful. Besides, you never know; maybe some day those three short stories I penned to help me cross the finish line will end up in a novel compilation of short stories. When or if that happens, I can take the asterisk away for good. Not that it bothers me now ...

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #157

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Fairies and Genies run a website that is offering Cyber Monday deals.
As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Quick NaNoWriMo Update #1

I'm in full swing on NaNoWriMo (you know, the November event where writers type or pen 50,000 words between the 1st and the 30th), and though it's only four days in (it's the morning of the 5th, so I'm not counting today yet), I'm on track to "win." I currently have 6968 words, which is just a few hundred or so above the required daily amount. If one were to write 1667 words a day, they'd get the required 50K by the end of November, and that's what I'm shooting for. I'm not one who can knock out 3 or 4 thousand words a day - a big day for me is 2000, and when I write without the challenge, I probably average closer to 12 or 13 hundred words a day. But this month I will get the 1667 each day. After all, I've already purchased my NaNoWriMo Winner shirt. What better way to make sure I stay on track, right? I'd look awful silly with one of those shirts and no 50,000 words.

I'm actually writing this book in a different way than I normally do. I'm outlining, but the outline isn't complete, and I'm working on it as I write. I'll talk more about my process this time when the event is over. For now, I'm going to focus on the book, which I've given the working title of Saviorville. If you'd like to follow my word count throughout the month, see my synopsis and sample of the book, and/or buddy up with me for this fun writing challenge, go ahead and click on this link for my official NaNoWriMo profile. Good luck to everyone participating!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #156

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You sit in a haunted prison cell. 

As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ghost Betweens - Free For Kindle

Today through Halloween, I'm making the Kindle version of Ghost Betweens free. If you haven't had a chance to read it, now you can. Here's the link to Amazon for it. Don't forget, if you don't have a Kindle, it's quite easy to get a Kindle app for your smart phone, iPod Touch, iPad, and even your laptop and desktop. (Easiest way is to run a search for "Kindle Reader" in your favorite app store.) Go download it for yourself and for your teen! And when you finish reading it, I'd appreciate it if you took a few minutes to give it a review on Amazon, Goodreads, and/or anywhere else you can leave book reviews. Thanks!

Don't forget I'm also running a contest to give away a free paperback copy of Ghost Betweens. You can find the info here. So you can have one copy for your Kindle (or Kindle app), and one for your bookshelf. Sweet deal! I hope you enjoy the book!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Free copy of Ghost Betweens

Since it's the month of October, or as I like to call it, the month of Halloween, I've decided I should run another contest for a free book. This time it's a paperback copy of my Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, Ghost Betweens. This contest will start up right now, and I'll hold a drawing on November 1st for a winner. 

There are two ways to enter. First, leave a comment on this blog post. Do make sure that I can get in touch with you if you win, of course; if I click on your name in the comment, I should be able to find your blog, twitter handle, email, or something. I don't have Facebook (that may change soon, but not yet - more on that at a later date), so don't rely on that. Second, follow me on Twitter (@ericjkrause) and retweet any tweets related to this contest. They'll be easy to spot, as most will have those instructions right in them. I'll only enter you in the contest once, but if you'd like to retweet more than once, I'll send you thank you tweets for getting the word out!

As soon as this posts, consider the contest open. I'll send out the first tweet very soon, and then two or three times a day until Halloween. The contest officially ends on Midnight on Halloween, though unofficially I'll still enter you on the morning of November 1st when I wake up and check Twitter and this blog post. Good luck!

Oh, and I should mention that I'll also be making the Kindle e-book free during the last five days of October (Oct. 27-31). That way, if you don't win, you can still read the book. And if you do win, you'll have both a paperback copy and an e-book copy. I'll, of course, remind everyone about the free Kindle book when the time draws nearer.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #155

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You hoist a scythe from an old tool shed, and it turns you into the Grim Reaper. 

As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, October 7, 2013

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

Every writer knows about National Novel Writing Month (usually known as NaNoWriMo or, more simply, NaNo). Even if they don't participate, they do know about it. Social media has seen to that. I'd been one of those who watched posts of writers every November telling of their NaNo experiences, but come time, I had always either been in the middle of another project, or too far away from starting a new one. So while it was a big deal in the writing community, I never joined.

Before I go any further, I probably should explain in case there are some out there who don't know what NaNoWriMo is, despite my earlier claim. The month of November is set aside for writing a novel, defined by the event as a work over 50,000 words. Okay, so it's more a novella at that length, but it's still a lofty goal. There are rules for those serious about taking up the official NaNoWriMo challenge, so if you want to know more, head over to the National Novel Writing Month website to learn more.

As I said, I've never tried before. I usually take about two months or so to get my first drafts done, so getting one out in a month is a lofty goal, indeed. I've never seen the point in rushing; I'd rather stick to my own style. But, having said that, because NaNo is such a big deal in the world of writing, I feel I should attempt it at least once. And since I have a project about ready to start, and I feel it fits in well with the format of NaNoWriMo, I'm going to give it a whirl this year.

The project I'm working on is my most ambitious yet. I have three young adult books under my belt, but this time I'm stepping out of the young adult speculative fiction genre to tackle an adult speculative fiction book. It has a number of different POV characters that will all be facing different individual challenges throughout the book that will all meet near the end to bring the story together and then to a close. I've always started on page one and continued straight through the story until I reached the end, but this time I'm going to tackle it a little bit differently. I'm going to write each of the POV characters' parts individually in the first draft, and then when I finish, in my editing phase, I'll intertwine them throughout to create the vision I have. If I do it right, I think this could be a powerful story. And if not? Well, we authors always have that question in mind before we start, don't we?

So what does that have to do with me thinking this format fits NaNo well? If I hit 50k words before the end of the month, I'll have a few fully-formed stories that I'll be happy to call complete. I will, of course, keep working hard to finish the entire thing, but as long as I finish the month with the word count over 50k, I'll consider myself a winner. Since I write with pen and paper instead of a computer, I don't believe I can officially "win" NaNoWriMo anyway (from what I can tell, an author needs to enter the manuscript into the website's official word count calculator to "win," and I won't have anything to enter), so I'm doing it all for the unofficial experience. I'm fine with that. I'm excited about this project I'm working on, so this will get my pen moving faster. That's all that matters!

I've signed up on the official National Novel Writing Month website, and, while I haven't really looked into everything too carefully yet, I understand people can follow and friend each other on it. If you'd like to do that with me, I signed up as Eric J. Krause. (Aren't I original and clever?) So feel free to add or friend or whatever me. Good luck to all involved! Hopefully many of us will get working novels out of the experience! 

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #154

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

The dead are rising, and they're hungry, but not for brains. In fact, they ignore humans altogether. 

As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #153

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You see someone standing in the window of an abandoned shack, but when you go in, there's no one there. 

As always, feel free to use this in any way you choose. There's no need to give me any credit for any story you come up with. Of course, I never mind if you do give me credit for the writing prompt, but it's not necessary.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crazy/Awkward Interview

Today, over on her blog, Anya Breton gave me a Crazy/Awkward Interview. Go on over and check it out: Clicky-Clicky here for the Interview.
It was a ton o' fun to answer those questions, and I hope it gives plenty of you a few chuckles. Of course, I also hope it also gets people in the mood to pick up a copy of Dragon Guard, the first book in the Prophecy of the Dragons trilogy.
Thanks to Anya for conducting the interview. Follow her on Twitter: @AnyaBreton

Monday, September 23, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #152

Here is this week's speculative fiction writing prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You discover the secret of the Bermuda Triangle, but is it too late?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Speculative Fiction Writing Prompt #151

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

The rain won't stop/won't start. What do you do to rectify this?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Writing Prompt #150

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Humanity is all set to celebrate the anniversary of an event that changed how people viewed the world.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Friday Flash: Her Beautiful Smile

by Eric J. Krause

He did it quite often, and sometimes it even worked. He'd pass a good-looking woman and say something along the lines of, "Excuse me, I'm sorry to bother you, but you have beautiful eyes. Have a nice day." And then he'd walk away and not look back. About half the time they'd call a "Thank you," behind him. He'd turn, nod, and say, "You're welcome," and keep going. About one time out of ten -- okay, to be honest, probably one time out of fifty, maybe a hundred -- she'd ask him to wait. That would usually lead to coffee or lunch or something. Sometimes more. Much more. Those made the high strike-out ratio more than worth it. He didn't think of himself as a lecher or anything. Heck, he was perfectly happy simply giving the compliment, brightening someone's day, and going about his business. No harm in that, right?

That day, he saw her sitting under a tree in the park, enjoying a paperback and a blended coffee drink. Her slight smile took his breath away, and he didn't notice until later how gorgeous the rest of her was, which wasn't like him. He knew he couldn't pass up the opportunity, so as he got close enough, he said, "Hi there. Sorry to bother you, but I just have to compliment you on your smile. It brightened my day just seeing it." She looked up at him with surprise in her eyes, but when his words sunk in, her smile grew bigger and even better than before. "That's all I wanted to say," he continued. "Have a nice day." And with that, he kept walking. He didn't expect anything to come of it, but he'd be lying if he wasn't hoping.

His heart skipped a beat when he heard footsteps coming up fast behind him. "Wait, you can't just drop that on me and walk away," she said. Her voice was as magical as her smile, and he turned to find her right behind him, that smile on full display. "It's rude to act all Prince Charming, and then wander off."

He tipped an imaginary cap her way. "Sorry. I didn't want you to think I was a creeper or anything. I just saw your content smile while you were reading your book, and it made my day. That's all."

Now her smile faltered a bit. "So that's it? You weren't hitting on me? Not even a little bit?"

"Well, yeah, sort of, but I didn't want ..."

She grabbed his hand and dragged him back to her things under the tree. "Good. Would you care to join me back at my place for lunch? I have a chicken salad I made this morning chilling in my fridge. I'd be delighted to share."

The twinkle in her eye gave him butterflies in his stomach. That look said that lunch would be delicious, but dessert would be even better. Who was he to refuse such an offer?

Her place turned out to be a few short blocks away, in a trendy apartment complex by the downtown district. She led him up to her place on the second floor, and when she opened the door and led him inside, her mouth was over his in an instant. Yes! Score! He returned the frantic kiss and even let his hands roam down over her jean-covered behind, which, he had to admit, was possibly the most perfect one he'd ever cupped. She moaned, and he guided her over to the couch and gently pushed her down onto the cushions before dropping down beside her.

"Hmm," she murmured. "I'm actually in the mood for something other than chicken salad for lunch, if you don't mind."

He shook his head and managed to get out, "No, sounds good to me."

She smiled her stunning smile and pushed her face into his neck. He groaned as her tongue painted a pattern, and then groaned again when she gave him a little nip. It didn't hurt. At first. Until she really dug her teeth in.

He tried to cry out, but couldn't. He tried to push her away, but she was stuck firm on him. A dark black ring formed around his vision and grew until he could see nothing. A loud ringing assaulted his ears, and it felt like they should pop, but wouldn't. And then it all stopped. He could see and hear again. She stared down at him, her smile smeared with his blood, and long, sharp fangs poking out.

"What are you?" he managed to push out.

"A vampire, lover. Please me and you'll be one, too. Fail, and I let you die."

"Huh? But daylight ..." That was all the energy he had for words.

She lapped up the blood on her lips and retracted her fangs, bringing that brilliant smile back. "We love that literature and Hollywood perpetuate the daylight myth. It makes hunting so much easier. Now save your strength, lover, so we can see if you're worthy."

She peeled off her shirt, taking his breath away. Yeah, that sight might be as good or better than her delightful smile. When she undid his belt, he had to wonder if this day was panning out as one of his better, or one of his worst ...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Writing Prompt #149

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You swear you catch glimpses of your long-dead childhood dog everywhere you go.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Girl on the Wall: Newest Published Story

Check out my newest short story, published in The Were-Traveler's latest issue called The Realms of Death. As you can guess from that title, the theme of the issue was death. Click to read my story, The Girl on the Wall. Let me know what you think, either in the comments here or on the story's page at The Were-Traveler. Enjoy!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Writing Prompt #148

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

It's a beautiful harvest this year for your very odd crop.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Short Overview of World Building

I'm in the beginning stages of creating a world for a new book series I have planned. I thought today I'd share a few tips I use to help you build your own fictional world to plot your stories in. (Note, this is basically for a fantasy world, as that's what I'm currently working on, but you can use many of these principles with any sort of world you're crafting.) It can be as time-consuming as you like - some people find playing a god to be quite exciting and fun, while others simply want it over so they can get to the meat of their saga. Whichever one you are, take at least some time to figure out what world your characters inhabit.

I usually find that deciding what sort of government rules the world (at least the part where your story takes place) is a great place to start. You can simply create a short description, like "It's a kingdom run exclusively by a king." That's enough to get started, and you can fill in other details later. Or, if you prefer, you can micromanage how the king gets everything done, from advisors to underlings in surrounding villages/towns, and everything in between. If government doesn't play much of a part of the story, the former is fine, but if you plan on having it be a big part of your tale, you should really know as much as you can before you get started.

Religion is also something that should be touched upon, as it often plays a big role in stories. Even if it doesn't, you should know at least what sort of god or gods the characters worship (or ignore). And if it doesn't exist at all, there needs to be a reason behind that, too. Like with government, you can fill in a bit to get you started, or you can fill in every detail you can think of. It depends, really, how important it is in your story.

You should also know what sort of economic system your world runs on. Is it trading/bartering, or a cash society? Are there pre-built shopping malls, or movable carts and stalls in a bazaar in the middle of town? Is there a huge gap in wealth in the society? What are the social/economic classes like in the big cities? How about in the smaller towns and villages?

What is the weather/climate and physical description of the land where the story takes place? Often this can create story points and complications all on its own. Cold and snowy mountainous regions are going to be quite different from hot and sandy desert regions. Make sure to think about if the story takes place in different locations. For example, a person from that mountainous region is going to have quite the shock when he or she hits the desert region for the first time. Or sees the vast ocean after being landlocked for his or her entire life. You'll need to know these things for descriptions, of course, but also for story and character moments.

This will get you a great start on building your world. As you go and discover the answers to the things above, other things will fall into place. What is the language like? What are people, places, and things named? How is time calculated? And plenty of other details. But get a good solid foundation, and you're well on your way to having a believable world, even if that world is inhabited by all-powerful wizards, dragons, and monsters. And, of course, have fun with it! Good luck!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Writing Prompt #147

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

The word puzzle in your newspaper is giving you a secret message.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Writing Prompt #146

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Zombies rise from the grave to put on a play.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Next Contest

Okay, folks, I'm here to announce my next book giveaway. I'll be gifting a Kindle copy of my young adult contemporary fantasy novel, Dragon Guard, to one lucky person on Friday, August 2nd. That's my birthday, so I figured I'd be the one giving a gift this year. All you have to do to enter the drawing is comment in this blog post or follow me on Twitter: @ericjkrause and retweet the appropriate tweets. (You won't be able to miss them - I'll post the entry tweets two or three times a day until Friday the 2nd.)

That's all there is to it! I'll close the entries when I when I wake up on Friday morning, and I'll conduct the drawing. I've never given a gift on Amazon, but I figure it can't be too hard, right? I believe all I need is your email address, so I'll contact the winner on Friday to get which email address you want me to send it to. Then all the winner has to do is download and enjoy the book!

If you don't have a Kindle, you can still enter. Simply use the free Kindle app. You can get it on your smartphone, tablet, and even your desktop, laptop, or whatever! (Find it on Google Play, the iPhone app store, on Amazon, or Google it if you still can't find it.) So enter this contest so you can win and read my book! Of course, I'm hoping you read it and write a review for me on Amazon. I'm hoping you also tell your friends (real life ones and social media ones) if you enjoy it! If you win, it's not necessary, but I'd sure appreciate it!

So, that's it. Simply comment on this blog post or retweet the appropriate tweets, and you're entered in the drawing. Good luck!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Story Excerpt from Dragon Magic

I'm deep into my first draft for Dragon Magic, my young adult contemporary fantasy, which is the third and final book in the Prophecy of the Dragons series/trilogy, so I thought I'd share a few paragraphs from the ol' work in progress. No context here, just going to dive right in. This has not been edited in any way, so I apologize if it seems rough. Well, because it is rough. It's a rough draft, after all! I hope you enjoy!

They approached the closed door, and Ben tried to lift the iron bar, but it didn't budge. He then tried to push. Maybe the bar was an illusion, a trick, but that didn't prove right, either. "You could go dragon and see if you can open it," he suggested to Andi.

"Or you could try the magic word."

He frowned, but nodded. Which word would that be? Certainly nothing Felix had taught him. Every magic word he learned from his master went with a specific spell. They were magic words, of course, but not the magic word. "Abracadabra," he tried. Nothing. "Open sesame." Nope. "Open says me?"

Andi snorted out laughter but smacked him in the shoulder. "I know your mother raised you better than that. Well, maybe not during the dark, fighting years, but before and after that. I saw the after first-hand."

Then it dawned on him. No, it couldn't be that simple. Could it? But Andi was so sure -- there was no mistaking that in her emotions. So there was only one thing to do. In a meek voice, he said, "Please?"

The iron bar disappeared, and the door swung open. Andi gave him a smirk, and said, "There, was that so hard?"

I hope you enjoyed this brief peek into my story! Remember, you can purchase book 1, Dragon Guard, right now on either you Kindle, Kindle app, or in paperback. Simply click on the picture of the cover in the upper right corner of this page.

Writing Prompt #145

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as science fiction this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Your new grandfather clock turns out to be a time machine.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sample Sunday Hub

On Twitter, the hashtag #SampleSunday has been around for quite awhile. You post a link to a sample of your work and add that hashtag. It's a great way to let people get in a sample before they buy, and to get word out about said work. I've been doing it for quite some time, and I figured it was time to make a hub for it so readers can go to one place to find the samples. Take a look and enjoy!

Here's the hub for Dragon Guard, my Young Adult Contemporary Fantasy. You'll find links to the first four chapters, as well as a description, the cover image, and where to buy it.

Here's the hub for Ghost Betweens, my Young Adult Paranormal Adventure. You'll find links to the first ten chapters, as well as a description, the cover image, where to buy it, and an interview with me about the book and writing in general.

Here's the hub for Way Over the Line, my Young Adult Science Fiction Baseball story. You'll find links to the first fifteen chapters, as well as where to buy it. You can find the description and cover image when you click the link to the sample chapters.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Upcoming Giveaway: Which Book Would You Like?

Next Wednesday (July 24) I'll announce my next book giveaway. I'm going to give one lucky winner of a random drawing either a paperback copy of my YA Paranormal Adventure, Ghost Betweens, or I'll gift someone a Kindle copy of my newest book, Dragon Guard. 

My question to you, my fine online friends, is which would you prefer this time around? Basically, I'm taking requests. You can vote here on the blog in the comment section or by telling me on Twitter: @ericjkrause (throw me a mention with which one you'd like).

Again, your choices are: A paperback copy of Ghost Betweens or a Kindle e-book of Dragon Guard (which I will send to you using the gift option on Amazon). If your choice doesn't win, don't despair; I'll give the other one away at a later date. So get voting, either in the comments below or on Twitter (you can throw me a mention or send a direct message, whichever you prefer). Next Wednesday, I'll open up the contest with which one I'm giving away. See you then!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Writing Prompt #144

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

A toy wand bought from a novelty shop actually contains magic.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Book Giveaways

After a week of buildup, I had a giveaway last week for my Young Adult Science Fiction Baseball Adventure novel (there's a mouthful!), Way Over the Line. You can see the original write-up here. On Thursday I conducted a drawing and came up with a winner. That winner was Jeff Beesler. Congrats, Jeff! That book will be in the mail soon, I promise (tomorrow morning if all goes well). 

I wasn't sure what to expect when I announced the contest. I figured I might get two or three people, or I could get dozens. It ended up being somewhere in the middle, which I was pleased with. I'll have more contests in the future, and I'm hoping to build on the success of this one. And I am calling it a success. It wasn't just two or three people who retweeted the contest link, but a bit more than that. Maybe some people who saw those links didn't try it this time, but might be more interested next time. Anytime I get a retweet, I view it as a win.

And speaking of book giveaways, I'm planning on having my next contest on August 2nd, my birthday. Why not give away a free book that day, eh? I'm trying to decide if I want to give away a paperback copy of my Young Adult Paranormal Adventure, Ghost Betweens (click here to see the Ghost Betweens hub right here on my blog for more info on that book), or if I want to gift someone a Kindle copy of my newest book, Dragon Guard (click here to see the Dragon Guard hub right here on my blog for more info on that book). I'll likely start the contest on Wednesday, July 24, giving a little over a week for everyone to enter. I'll write another post kicking it off, and I'll, of course, tell you what book is up for grabs then. In fact, if you have an opinion on which one you'd like to see me give away, feel free to say so in the comments. 

Looking at my bookshelf, I have two copies of Way Over the Line left, and two copies of Ghost Betweens. I plan on buying a couple of copies of Dragon Guard soon (my freebie copies from my publisher have long since gone) to give away, too. I'm also up for gifting Kindle copies of all three books. So I have plenty of giveaway opportunities for the future. I don't know if I'll do it every month, but I will hold regular-ish giveaways. I've sent the follow up to Dragon Guard to my publisher, and I guarantee I'll have a giveaway or two with that one when it comes out (haven't even started first edits, so a release date is not even on the horizon yet - I'll keep you posted). That will be book two of the trilogy, and I'm currently hard at work on the first draft of book 3. So, what I'm saying is, if you didn't win this time, keep trying! You'll have plenty of opportunity!  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Writing Prompt #143

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Everyone in the world goes blind, mute, and deaf except you.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Writing Prompt #142

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

You awake to find a beanstalk rising to the heavens in your backyard.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Upcoming Book Giveaway

I recently realized I have a few paperback copies of two of my books, Way Over the Line and Ghost Betweens, sitting on my bookshelf. They're not doing any good there, so I've decided I'm going to have some giveaways in the coming months. The first one is going to happen next Thursday, July 4th. It's a big holiday here in the United States, but this giveaway is open to everyone around the globe. Obviously I hope the winner (and winners of future giveaways) will read the book and put a review up on Amazon, but that's not mandatory. I simply want to get my books out to new people.

Let's get to the meat of this first giveaway, shall we? Since, as I said, it's the Fourth of July (or Independence Day, if you prefer), and baseball is still considered America's pastime, I decided I'll give away a copy of Way Over the Line, a young adult (specifically targeted at 'tweens, though it's good for all ages) science fiction story about aliens and baseball. To enter to win your very own paperback copy, simply leave a comment below on this blog post (saying whatever you want - even if you just say "Enter me in the drawing," that's good enough for me), one on this Facebook post, or follow me on Twitter and retweet the appropriate tweet when I call for it (I'll specifically say to RT to win in that tweet).

I'll conduct my random drawing next Thursday, July 4, and alert the lucky winner soon after. I can sign it for you, too, if you'd like; we can discuss that when I get the address of wherever you'd like me to send it. Good luck, and tell your friends! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Writing Prompt #141

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

The moon looks big in the sky. A little too big.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tumblr Posts

This isn't really any kind of post other than one to hold me accountable. A month or two back, I said I'd be using my Tumblr account to post reviews of short stories in free webzines. I did three such posts but have since slacked off a bit. I'll be honest, lately I've become a bit disappointed in social media. I've posted various things I thought would at least start a conversation or two, but instead received no feedback at all. It bothered me, made me feel like I was completely invisible, but I've since gotten over it. I enjoy posting things, and even if no one is paying attention, I'll keep doing so.

(The funny thing is that in the last week or two, I've seen almost a dozen people tweeting in one form or another that they feel ignored, too. Twitter can certainly be a hive-mind at times. Personally, I'd like to see a "like" function or button on Twitter so people can easily acknowledge posts they, well, like. I know some use the "favorite" function for that, but I don't like to do that because I use that to keep posts I want to read later handy. Retweeting also works the same way, but sometimes it's too out of context to retweet something, or not something you want to retweet anyway, but it made you laugh in the moment. A quick like would acknowledge that the post made you smile, was helpful, or something else. Just a thought. Now back to the post about Tumblr!)

So what's my point in this post? Like I said, basically it's just to make myself accountable. I'm going to get back to posting reviews of free short stories once or twice a week. And beyond that, I'm making it a goal to post at least one miscellaneous thing a day on Tumblr, be it the short story review, a movie or book review, a link I found amusing, or simply a joke or humorous story that is too long for Twitter. Maybe no one will see these or care, but maybe I'm wrong, and a few people will get a bit of enjoyment from them. Right now all I care about is that I'm having fun with it. Hopefully my passion will radiate out.

I've already started, so if you want to go check out my Tumblr page, it's here. If you decide to visit, I hope you enjoy your stay! (And, by the way, if you follow me, I'll follow you back.)

Monday, June 17, 2013

Writing Prompt #140

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

A minor cut won't stop bleeding.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fun with Vine

I recently downloaded the app, Vine, to my phone, and I must say, it's a lot of fun. For those of you who don't know what it is (though if you're reading this blog, I kind of doubt that fits anyone's description), it's an app that uses your phone's camera to take six second long looping videos. When the app is ready to shoot, you simply touch the screen and it records. You can lift your finger off to stop recording, and then put it back on to record more. Stop and start as often as you'd like, as long as it's six seconds.

So why am I writing a post about it? It's fun! I've created four videos so far, and each depicted a part of my writing life. And, as writers, don't we always want to see an inside view of other writers? I've not done anything profound with it (though, if I put my mind to it, I'm sure I could come up with some great little videos that would help my writing life), but the short, looping clips give a little insight. Why does it need to be anything bigger than that? I don't think it does. However you use it is great!

My first video was simply me sitting in a Carl's Jr. fast food restaurant after breakfast showing a filled notebook page that I'd written while eating. Just a little, "Hey, look, I was productive this morning!" Check it out.

I then took three videos that showed the decorations in my writing room. Sure, in various places, I have photos of my writing room, but I know my fellow authors. As I said above, we want to see the inner workings, the inner lives, of our fellow writers. So I took three videos for people to see.

Writing Room Decorations 1
Writing Room Decorations 2
Writing Room Decorations 3

Hope you enjoy these short glimpses into my writing life. I can almost guarantee you'll see plenty more. Probably not here on my blog, but on Twitter for sure. If you don't follow me on Twitter, here's my page in case I've peaked your interest/curiosity.

How about you? Do you have any interest in using Vine (or similar apps/programs) to give glimpses into your writing life? Or do you maybe have grand plans with said apps/programs that will push your writing career into high gear? Let me know!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Writing Prompt #139

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Something is scratching the inside of your closet door.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Friday Flash - The Duel

The Duel
by Eric J. Krause

The two master mages stared at each other, neither willing to give an inch. Their kings' armies clashed below in the valley, but the battle would be won and lost here on the mountaintops.

Power flowed from both. Each controlled a unique discipline, one not shared even with their most prized apprentices, and neither would tip their hand too soon. Both wove classic webs of magic with precise perfection, and that's how the majority of the war was waged.

Without a proper cue to commence, energy rained down on both combatants, enough to raze a small village. Neither so much as flinched. Kept to a strictly generic set of rules, this would prove to be a war of attrition rather than one with a knock-out punch. Once they realized this, that they were as evenly matched as could be, both fell back to their secrets.

The Master of Sunlight tore a hole through the smoke and haze, clearing a straight path for his magical life force to reach him. Once the power of the sun burst through, he readied a spell which would obliterate his opponent off the face of this world and any others he might hope to land on. Success, for him, his army, and his king would have followed if he hadn't hesitated that split second. The flash of crimson on the other mage froze his thoughts. A jab of pain deep in his skull drew forth a staggering fog, and then he felt nothing ever again.

The Blood Mage laughed, which was more of a wheezing sputter. His army took control in the valley below, and his king would enjoy the spoils of war that very night. He hoped his favorite apprentice could decipher the first clue to the quest to discover the discipline of Blood Magic and its almost limitless power.

As his life force bled out, he realized how limiting the magic really was. The most powerful, unstoppable spells could only be accessed by slitting ones own throat. It was a total victory, but with the cost of the Blood Mage's life.

The SFWA Controversy and the Disgusting Internet Culture

So this whole SFWA thing is a mess. Yes, I know I'm a week or so late on this, but hang with me; my points about what this has stirred up are and will continue to be valid. (If you're not sure what I'm talking about, simply Google "SFWA" and scroll down a bit. Depending on when you're reading this, you probably won't have to even leave the first page.) To be honest, I've basically just skimmed the situation, so I'm likely missing some points, but, again, hang with me; I'm more worried about the Internet Culture than the SFWA. First, though, I'll give my view on the inciting incident.

Truth be told, the controversy that sparked the outrage didn't land much on my radar. Yes, the conversation and subsequent bikini chain mail cover were both in poor taste. I'm not a member of the SFWA, so I don't have much insight into the group, but from what I've seen online (twitter, blog posts, etc.), it was a bad choice by an editor (or editors) who should have known better than to print these. The two dinosaurs who made the comments, from what I heard, didn't really know they were in the wrong - too many years of yes men and women parroting their points of view. Does it make it right? No, of course not. But my hope is that the current leadership, which looks to be rightfully offended by what has happened in their own organization, will clean this up and make not only a stronger SFWA (which, since I'm not a member, doesn't really matter to me one way or another other than it's always good to have people treated with respect), and, more importantly, a stronger, friendlier, and more respectful writing community as a whole.

So why am I writing this? As I said, my anger didn't come from the inciting incident at the SFWA (that was more of an eye roll and a mutter under my breath of "That was dumb"), but from what happened afterwards. It came from the Internet Culture (this time comprised of mostly, I'm assuming, immature males of any age) saying such hurtful things because of their anonymity behind their keyboard. I'm hearing (or, more appropriately, reading) too many cases of women (authors or not) saying they are being harrassed simply because they are making their feelings known about this controversy. Sure, a good discussion filled with facts and other constructive comments and opinions would be fine, healthy even. But from what I'm seeing, that's not the case. Too common feedback women are getting for simply stating their opinions are sexual harassment, threats of sexual violence, being called vulgar names, and plenty of other horrible things. This is not okay. It's sick, quite frankly. I know it isn't limited to this particular argument, but happens all too often on any type of argument and controversy on the Internet, but that doesn't make it right. It's as far from right as we can get. And that's my point. The culture of hate on the Internet needs to stop.

I dream of a world where Internet posters don't rely on hateful comments on anything they disagree with. It seems that is the first, second, and third option many anonymous keyboard-sitters have when faced with controversy. The cyberworld (and the world in general) would be a much nicer place if people would use intelligence and tact instead. Everyone deserves respect until they prove, without a doubt, differently. As Wil Wheaton says, "Don't be a dick." I wish everyone would live by those four simple words. Or, if you want a sanitized version, "Treat others like you want to be treated."

Whether you're online or unplugged, treat women with respect. Heck, treat everyone with respect! Until some of those science fiction tales members of the SFWA pen come true, we only have this one planet to share. Why not make it a nice place to coexist? That's what I'd like to see.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

First Drafts

Writers tend to write differently. Some come up with an idea and immediately start writing their story. This is their first draft. Others, like me, tend to plot it out first. But is this considered a first draft? Does it matter how much is plotted? For example, one writer might sketch out the chapters of a novel on 3x5 cards - a few sentences, maybe a paragraph, on each card - simply to get the writing flowing. Others like to write out a page (or sometimes much more) on each chapter before starting the actual writing process. I tend to write this way - a notebook or more is filled before I begin putting pen to paper on the traditional first draft. But is it a first draft? Or is that big outline actually considered the first draft? After all, when I'm done writing, the story is basically in place, meaning I don't change much of the structure in the editing process. Thanks to the outline I spent so much time on, the story is intact. (It still needs major editing, but that's basically for word and phrase choices and things like that, not the structure of the story itself.)

So what do you think? Is a big outline considered a first draft, or do you wait until the story is written before calling it a first draft? Chime in!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Writing Prompt #138

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Your life is on your phone, but you just dropped it into a pit of deadly vipers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Writing Prompt #137

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as fantasy this week, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun!

Your mouthwash is actually a magic potion.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Lowering Word Count Goals

Like many writers, when I'm working on a first draft, I give myself word count goals. It's a great way to feel like something has been accomplished that day in the draft. Personally, since I outline quite heavily before I ever start with the first draft (which sometimes makes me wonder if I'm right in calling it a first draft, but that's a topic for another post), I don't throw big chunks of words away, so the final word count of my draft is almost always in the same ballpark as my finished product. This makes the word count goal that much more important to me (in my mind, anyway, and at this stage in the game, that's what's important, right?).

I tend to set my word count goal at 1000 words daily, though when it's all said and done, I make it a weekly goal. Therefore, my word count goal is actually 7000 words a week. Or was.

When I'm being productive, 1000 words are usually what I'm producing, on average. But at times that number gets to be intimidating. If I fall behind one day, it takes a lot to get back to my goal the next day. And two bad days in a row? It might spell disaster for the week, and I may decide to give up for the week, which is stupid, but that's how the mind works at times.

So what can I do about it? I've cut my goal in half. Instead of writing 1000 words a day (or, more appropriately, 7000 a week), I now put my goal at 500 words a day (or 3500 a week). I'll admit that it looks like I'm much less productive, but I've actually found the opposite to be true. 500 words a day, for me, is easy. And on days where I can't get to my draft for whatever reason? Making up those 500 missed words isn't nearly as hard as making up 1000. Heck, on good days, I write 2000 or more words, which instead of making up for one missed day now makes up for 3! Sure, it's all a mind game, but I'm guessing many of you know exactly what I'm talking about. And what's more, I've discovered I continue to write about the same number of words as before with the lower word count goal - it's simply that I have much less stress now, which makes for more pleasant writing experiences (which usually means a better quality writing session).

You may find this helpful, too. You might not make 1000 your goal, but whatever number of words you choose, halve them. If you normally write 2000 words, make your goal 1000. If you choose 500 words, now make it 250. Easy! But here's the kicker. Don't just stop when you hit your word goal. Keep going! You'll do so with the knowledge that you've already conquered your words for the day. Everything else is simply gravy! Try it for a few weeks. If you find you need the pressure, the stress, of a higher deadline, no one says you can't go back to your original word count goal. The whole key is getting your draft done as quick and efficiently as you can!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Writing Prompt #136

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm labeling it as horror, but, as always, take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You awaken to find yourself locked in a casket. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Friday Flash: A Brief Encounter

A Brief Encounter
by Eric J. Krause

That moment didn't register with me until years later. Now when I tell the story, someone will invariably ask if I wish I had a time machine, and I can truthfully say I do. But it's never for the reason they think. I don't want to kill the guy, but befriend him. That statement loses almost everyone. If looks could kill, as the old adage goes, I'd be dead a hundred times over.

I ran into him 20 years ago, and nothing about our meeting stood out. We shared an elevator down and made brief small talk. That was the extent of my encounter with the evil that would one day construct a neural bomb and release it over the Internet, resulting in the death of half the world's population. Why I even remember those three minutes from all those years ago baffles me. I'm the type of guy that can barely remember what he did a few weeks ago.

So why wouldn't I want those moments back to put a bullet in the monster's head before he had even the seed of the idea to decimate the world's population? Think about it. What if I could have made him my friend? What if that's all he needed? What if I could have turned him in a direction to help humanity instead of hurt it? He obviously had the smarts; he obviously had the drive. He only needed direction. Instead of this hell, the world could have been in a much nicer place. We may have been in or on our way to a utopia. Think about it. Kindness stops violence, not more violence.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Plans to Pimp Free Short Stories

I have a Tumblr account, and I've been wondering what the best way to make use of it. I've discovered it. I plan on using it to showcase short stories I've enjoyed on free webzines. I think it's important to both short fiction authors and the webzines that publish them. This will also get me out there reading more short fiction available on the web. I have a big list of webzines (or whatever you like to call them) that I rarely read. With this plan, I'll start reading like I should. Hopefully my short reviews/publicity will get more of you reading them, too! I don't have a plan as to how often I'll publish these, but I'll aim for at least once a week, and hopefully more. If you'd like to join in, point me in the direction of a free short story you enjoyed (or wrote), or get in on the action yourself and write your own reviews/publicity, you can do like I'm doing and use Tumblr, or you can use your blog, your Facebook page, or whatever other medium you'd like. Getting more people to read short fiction is not a bad thing!

I've already done one post, and you can see it here.

If you have any comments, questions, or requests, give me a comment here or get a hold of me on Twitter or Facebook.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Writing Prompt #135

Here is this week's speculative fiction prompt. I'm not labeling it this week, so take it whatever direction you choose. Have fun with it!

You trade lives with your cat for a day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pictures of the Xtreme Mud Run

Click here to read the write up about the run

The opening few seconds of the race. I'm out in front.
 My big lead. I enjoyed it while it lasted.

 Crawling through the mud underneath barbed wire.
 Exiting a muddy pond.
 Another view of a muddy pond exit. There is no traction getting out of that!
 The log was so low I had to get my face wet.
 At least I'm having fun, right?
Approaching the final obstacle.
 Here I still think I can do it.
 I'm beginning to realize there might be a problem.
 A few seconds after I crashed to the mud and lost my shoe.
Almost done!
 You can pretty clearly see my shoe in my hand in this one ...
Just a bit muddy.
 Another view of the mud caked on me.
 My uncle had to shake my hand after that.
 My wife, on the other hand, wouldn't get any closer to me than this.
Finally time to clean off. Just have to wait in line with the other finishers.

Friday Flash: Zane's Closet

Zane's Closet
by Eric J. Krause

Roger finished clearing out Zane's closet and put a drop cloth down, though he wasn't sure quite why. They needed to replace the carpeting in this room soon anyway. Zane's slovenly ways had been murder on the walls, carpeting, and anything else unlucky enough to be stuck in here. Now that he was away at college, Roger and Lisa could make the room habitable again.

As Roger examined the inside of the closet, contemplating the best spot to start painting, an imperfection in the drywall caught his attention. He ran his hand over it and discovered a makeshift door. He pulled it open and found a crawl space that ran for a few feet and then took a hard turn to the right.

He turned and saw Lisa coming in with another drop cloth. "Check this out," he said. "There's a crawl space in here I never knew existed."

She tossed the sheet on the bed. "What do you mean? In the closet?"

"Yeah. I wonder if Zane knew about it."

She looked over his shoulder and scoffed. "He kept the closet so full of junk he couldn't see the back of it."

Roger started shimmying down the tunnel. "Yeah, and he's so lazy that he wouldn't explore it even if he knew it was there."

"Poor Zane," Lisa said as she followed. "How in the world is he surviving on his own in college?"

Roger turned the corner and found it opened up into a larger space. How in the world did this exist in his house without him knowing?

"How big is it?" she asked from behind him, but in the dark he couldn't answer at first.

They crawled out into the bigger space and stood up. This hidden room was as big as Zane's. There also seemed to be things in here, though it was still too dark for him to tell.

Lisa's eyes adjusted first. "Zane! What in the world are you doing here?"

"Hey, Mom. Hey, Dad. I, uh, was hoping you wouldn't notice me."

Once Roger was acclimated to the dark, he saw Zane lying on a ratty couch, presumably with crumbs on the front of his shirt.

"Hard not to when you're supposed to be away at school," Roger said.

"Yeah, well, they expected me to go to my classes, like, a lot. I mean, that's not why I went to college."

Roger waited for Lisa to explode, but instead she threw up her hands and dove out through the crawl space. Roger and Zane stood quietly for a minute until Roger broke the silence. "You expelled?"

"No," Zane said. "I just left the day before yesterday. They probably don't even know I'm gone."

"Then you have two choices. Head back to school or get a job."

That got Zane's attention, and he sat up for the first time. "A job? C'mon, Dad. Jobs are for tools."

"Then you either need to be a tool at school, or a tool with a job. Make up your mind. I'm sure your mother has worked herself into a frenzy by now. I can probably keep her out of here for an hour or so."

"Come on, Dad; be cool."

"I tried to be the cool dad during high school, and look where that got you. Since she'll be back soon, I'd suggest you be halfway to school by then. I'm guessing you have another way in and out of here."

Roger fell to his hands and knees and crawled back out of the secret room, ignoring Zane's moans and complaints. It was time to paint the closet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

10 Mile Xtreme Mud Run Part 2

I took off fast, leading the small pack through the first obstacle, which was through the straight-aways of a horse stable with bales of hay to hurdle over. As we got through that, the course didn't have any obstacles for the next mile or so, unless you count the terrain. Most of it was soft sand, hard and tiring to run through. My legs ached, and though I didn't stop running, my speed dropped considerably. Of course, so did everyone else's. As we finally made it to harder-packed dirt, I found myself in third place, with a much younger competitor not far behind me (he passed me not too much farther into the race). I wasn't racing anyone but myself, but it was fun to keep track of such things.

The next part of the race had plenty of obstacles. The first one was a ten-foot wall with hand and foot holds of an indoor climbing course. I'd never done that before, but I scaled it pretty easily, which made me happy. Mud finally made its way into the course with the next obstacle. It was monkey bars over a mud pit. I'll be the first to admit my upper body strength is severely lacking, so after attempting the first few bars, I decided to simply drop down and run through the mud. Hey, gotta get dirty at some point, right? Other obstacles in this part included pushing a large wooden cable spool up a 2x4 ramp, crawling in the mud under barbed wire, running up loose piles of dirt and into watery mud pits, and, my favorite, plunging head-first down a slick tarp into a huge mud pit. That one was refreshing!

After that group, some real challenges came. There were big hills of soft dirt, probably 20 or more feet high, to run up. This was tiring! Luckily, some had ropes dangling down to help us pull our way up, but the others were there for climbing without help. I'm not used to such challenges, but I found myself going up and down these big hills easily, which made me happy. Tired, but happy. After the final big down, which luckily had a rope to help, it was time to crawl through more mud under barbed wire and other things.

By this time, I was in sixth place in my group, and I think that's where I stayed throughout the race, but it was hard to tell because I came upon fifteen milers who started at 7:30. I lost track of my place, and I've yet to see any sort of final posting online. So I'm going to go with I finished six out of thirty or so competitors.

Next I came up to a rope dangling across a big mud pit. I've never had to shimmy across something like this, but there's a first time for everything, right? I made it approximately three-fourths of the way across before I decided I'd had enough. I let go, splashed down into the mud, and took off for more fun. The next little while was simply running on hard-packed dirt, which was a nice change of pace from the muddy and dirty obstacles. At about the six-mile mark of the race, I reached a volunteer who had sandbags piled up near him. He told me to pick one up (I'm guessing it was somewhere around twenty to thirty pounds and quite awkward) and run down the path until I saw the used sandbags piled up. I picked it up, looked where he was pointing, and saw it was about a quarter of a mile - quite a distance with a sandbag in tow. It wasn't an easy jaunt, but I managed to jog most of it. Let me tell you, it was a nice feeling when I made it to the end and put down that sandbag.

Next was another mud pit with barbed wire over it, and then it was another long run to the next set of obstacles. These consisted of an eight-foot wall (which I tried, but couldn't get over - again showing off my lack of upper-body strength), a ten-foot wall made for teamwork (I didn't even try this because I was out there alone), and a ten-foot wall with a knotted rope to help traverse (which I again tried, but came up with the same result as the eight-foot wall). There was then a set of three mud ponds with a log across the middle. There was little room between the log and muddy water, so I had to dunk my head under. Yuck, but also refreshing. To get out of the mud ponds, there were large mounds of mud, and since there was no traction, this was the toughest part of the obstacle. Each of the ponds had a bigger mound than the last, but after a few false starts with each, I exited and headed for the final major obstacle of this group, another mud pit with barbed wire to crawl under. This one was the toughest of the course because, although it was muddy, it wasn't muddy enough to slide right through. I had to actually crawl the whole way though muddy but rocky ground. I'm proud to say I stayed low enough to not get nicked by the barbed wire once. After that, it was a pretty straight shot to the finish building, with only a few four-foot walls to hurdle over, which were easy enough to clear even in my tired state.

The final obstacle was housed in the start/finish building - a mud pit with rings over it to cross. I tried, but after two rings, I couldn't hold on and plummeted to the mud below. I landed awkwardly and though I didn't hurt myself, one of my shoes came off. I had to pick it up and dash to the finish line in one shoe and one muddy sock. I finally crossed with a time of 2 hours, 11 minutes and 24 seconds. I had no idea how long this would take me, so I was proud of that time.

Once finished, I picked up my race t-shirt, my finisher medal, my wristband, and a cold bottle of water, which I downed greedily. My family took many pictures of my muddy self, and I headed outside to join the line for the hoses. I tossed my shoes and socks into the trash, and then decided my shirt could join them. And then it was time to go and continue our vacation.

I thought for sure I'd be sore for days afterward, but I really didn't feel that bad. My wife and I did a lot of walking, both while we were staying in Arizona with my aunt and uncle, and when we went back to Las Vegas, and I felt good. There was one point a couple of days later when we were walking through one of the casino malls in Las Vegas that my upper body started to feel stressed, but luckily there was a five-minute shoulder and neck massage booth handy, which cured me right up for the rest of the trip. All in all, it was a great experience, and I'm looking forward to doing another mud run in the future. Maybe I'll tackle this one again next year!

Pictures of me during and after the race coming soon!