Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2014

It's late March once more.  In two days, my brother would have been thirty-one years old.  I think of him often, but more so around this time of the year.

TMNT always brings back fond memories of my little brother.  When he was about seven years old, he'd tie a cloth belt around his forehead and run through the house yelling, "I love being a turtle!"

His favorite was Raphael.  He watched the TMNT movie on VHS and practically wore the tape out.  At times, he wanted to wrestle and be Raphael while I, being the older brother, was the evil Shredder.  He loved that he always got to win, but that was just part of the fun.  He was so excited when he got the Raphael action figure, and he played with it all the time.

I remember when the second TMNT movie (The Secret of the Ooze) came out just days before his eighth birthday in 1991.  Each time he saw the movie preview on television, he was so excited that he raced through the house with his bandana tied around his head, shouting, "I love being a turtle!"

Sadly, he never got to watch the movie as he died on July 8th, 1991, almost three months after the movie's release.  Forever eight years old.  I have his Raphael action figure. I would never part with it.  In my brother's memory, my computer background is a picture of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  I cannot turn on my computer without being reminded of him.  I truly miss him and wonder what he would have become had his life not been cut so tragically short.

A new TMNT movie is set for release in August 2014.  Will I be there?  Yes, and I hope that my brother is too, in spirit. Cowabunga, little bro!  RIP Bubba. I miss you.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Introducing Fellow Kentucky Author: Mara A. Miller

Hi all,

I'd like to introduce you to a new prolific (daily word counts are AMAZING) author, Mara A. Miller.  I've asked her to guest blog today and tell us more about her and how she writes.  Here's Mara:

"I’m weird about blogging. I can’t format anything since I’m lame at it so I haven’t made my own blog yet, but Leonard is a friend, so here we go.

I was going to go into this big long thing about how I got bullied and that drove me to reading more, but I’ll keep it short: I started reading a ton when I was nine, got bullied because I have dyslexia and was placed in “special education” classes.  Mom handed me my first romance novel when I was 11, and I was writing my first “novel” by the time I was twelve. I also discovered and fell in love with writing it so it kept me busy until I started getting original ideas. I wrote and finished my first novel when I was 19, something I named The Ancients, but I’m not sure I’ll ever publish it. I participate in NaNoWriMo almost every year, and next month I’ll be working on my newest novel for Camp NaNoWriMo.

Having a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing helped me to start writing more original stuff. I read so much I can’t remember everything but The Solace of Open Spaces really struck me for some reason. I have an anthropology degree too but quickly learned that as much as I love archeology I didn’t want to be an archeologist.

P.N. Elrod and Nora Roberts are some of my favorite authors. I read so often I couldn’t possibly name all my favorite authors, though. Harry Potter is a favorite (J.K. Rowling is my idol), but I also adore Colleen Hoover and Jasinda Wilder. Colleen Hoover’s Slammed series is my favorite…those books made me cry. Hard. Fiction doesn’t do that to me too often. I’m not a crier (although my best friend might beg to differ). Jane Austen and Edgar Allen Poe are favorites too…oh! And I love Frankenstein. Mary Shelley also wrote my favorite short story, The Mortal Immortal.

I don’t really have a writing schedule or anything. I write when I feel like it but typically it’s early in the morning or late at night. I work at home and live with my mom, and I’m also single because I choose to be, so it frees up a lot of my time to focus on writing. I moved back home so I could save money on rent and something about living in this mountain in Estill has always driven my writing into overdrive. I schedule my work week around certain days to have off so I can write more. I never outline. Well, okay, I outline, but usually I end up not following it. I have a disorganized notebook I jot ideas down in that I never look at unless it was something really important.

Shortly before Maime, my dad’s mom, died she told me I needed to write romance (she and mom eventually started talking again). I was eighteen. Her reasoning behind it was that I was a good writer and sex always sells. I had my ups and downs with that woman, and so did my mom because of the way Maime treated her after my Dad died, but she couldn’t have given me better advice. And considering the fact I’ve read so many romance novels? Kind of a sign I should write it, don’t you think? I love writing romance since I finally decided to listen to myself and my grandmother.

I want to keep writing them. I want to touch people. An evil part of me might want to make them cry, but if my love of romance (both reading and writing it) moves someone, I feel like that is incredible. I’m moving away from fanfiction—and keep getting reviews from my readers there where they’re telling me to keep writing because they don’t care what I work on—and it’s been a hard, but good, decision.

I write a crazy amount. I just finished a 93k novel that I’m now going to soon rewrite in first person. I wrote 50,000 words this past November during NaNoWrimo (I’ve been participating since 2007). I have some of my fanfiction, All This Time (about 119k words) published along with my first novel, Cheap Guitars (a good 60k). Typically I like to write 4,000 words (if not more) a day. More if I write another chapter to a different story (and usually I do). 20/25 pages between two chapters for two different stories isn’t unusual for me.

The reason I was listing off my word counts from my work? Let’s ignore the fact that I’m a word count whore-I’ve written about 322,000 words since I started All This Time with my friend in late 2012. I can’t even begin to imagine how many pages that is (although Cheap Guitars is 240 pages, and Head Over Hoof, the story I just finished, will be about 490 pages). I was in a really bad writing rut before that, part in due to a marriage ending and the other being that I was so busy with school. I only had time to work on short stories. I truly believe that after a certain point something just clicks in a writer’s brain and then it’s hard to stop writing because it just comes so naturally (anyone who begs to differ? Go write a novel during NaNoWriMo and don’t give me any bad excuses about how you’re too busy because I managed my first one in the middle of taking 15 credit hours at EKU, having a pretty solid social life, a part time job, and the new freedom of being able to drink whenever I wanted wine since I had just turned twenty-one—keep going ‘til you hit that 50k). I tend to work on two stories at a time now and sometimes I’ll pull out two chapters for two different stories. Right now I only have Petrova Blood (All This Time sequel…gotta finish that one last one then that’s it for fanfiction) to worry about and it’s making me itchy. Since I wrote through that rut and work on more than one story a day I’ve prevented myself from having a really bad writer’s block by working on more than one project. It hinders me now if I’m only working on one story at a time.

You know, if I’m not procrastinating by knitting or playing with my rabbits. Or writing guest blog posts (haha).

And hey! Knitting isn’t just for little old ladies! I’ve knitted some beautiful stuff. And it gives my characters a hobby since I understand how it works.

Self-publishing wasn’t an easy decision to make. For the longest time I was under the impression I wanted to submit to Harlequin to get a publishing deal but then I realized how much more rewarding it would be to myself if I became my own publisher (not to mention you get far more in royalties). I think it’s changing now but some of the creative writing professors at Eastern Kentucky University frowned upon it (it doesn’t matter if they don’t think it’s a good thing; they have amazing writers teaching there nonetheless) so that was another issue I had to struggle through in order to finally talk myself into publishing.

Also sort of helps I have a fairy godmother whispering in my ear to publish (she’s an old friend of my mother’s). It was nerve-wracking, but so rewarding, and I getting ready to do it all over again. Mick (brother) won’t read my stuff, but he still snarked at me that I needed to publish, too. Well, I listened, and now I might become addicted to seeing my books on my bookshelf.

I actually should get to writing and hush.

No. Really. I’ve got Scrivener up and I’ve spent enough time babbling to people who don’t know me at all. I want to work on Cheap Tricks, my next novel in the Cheap series.

If you want to read Cheap Guitars you can find me on Amazon published under “Mara A. Miller.” Here’s the link: Cheap Guitars for Kindle is $2.99 and the paperback is $8.99. I’m planning to release that novel I just finished, Head Over Hoof, sometime in September or October (I have to rewrite some of it before it’ll be ready…and maybe find an editor).

Don’t make fun of the odd formatting if you get the physical copy of Cheap Guitars. I screwed up the page numbers on the physical copy (SO learned my lesson!)."

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Welcome to V.J. Chambers, Author of Rough Edges!

Hi, I’m V. J. Chambers, and I’d like to share with you a little about my new release Rough Edges. Inspired by a real murder case in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Rough Edges is a tale in the vein of Basic Instinct but set against small town America. Here’s what it’s all about.
Was a twelve-year-old girl victimized when her parents were murdered? Or was she the co-conspirator and illicit lover of the murderer?

When true crime writer Samson Black gets a call from Lola Ward saying she wants him to write a book about her, he seizes the opportunity. This is his chance to resurrect his career and discover what really happened eleven years ago, when Nicholas Todd kicked off his tri-state rampage by stabbing twelve-year-old Lola’s parents to death.

At the time, Lola claimed Todd was a stranger who’d broken into her house and kidnapped her. Todd, however, insisted that he and Lola had a forbidden love affair, and that Lola begged him to murder her parents so they could be together.

Now, Lola’s all grown up—brash, sure of herself, and unsettlingly alluring. Though she says she wants to open up about her past, she makes Sam work for every piece of information he gets. Nothing makes sense. He doesn't know if she helped kill her parents. He doesn't even understand why she wants him to write this book.

But then Nicholas Todd escapes from jail and wants revenge against Lola. Still unsure about her involvement in her parents' murders, Sam must determine whether he faces a bigger threat from the killer outside or the woman standing next to him.

Buy it, $3.99">Amazon">Barnes and Noble">Smashwords">Google Play

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Guest Post by Nikolas Baron (SEO at Grammarly)

Welcome Nikolas Baron and his insight to proofreading!

Nikolas Baron:

My Proofreading Love Affair
I’ve been in a long-term affair with proofreading. It teases relentlessly, beckoning me to spend quality time with my text, reading and re-reading. Like any lover, it has subtly pushed me in the right direction when my writing was sprawled out, like a mad man being forced to meditate.  I must admit, this affair I have really has been a love-hate relationship. There are some days I look into the mirror and attribute my newfound balding patch to the atrocities of mundane editing.
 Proofreading can be quite a monster when approached the wrong way. If correcting your manuscript is causing you to morph into a miserable, declawed cat, then in the words of Steve Jobs, “there must be a better way.”
 Manual Proofreading Techniques
Take a break. If you’ve already been saturated with words all day, there’s no use cramming in an entire chapter just to get the work done. Proofreading is a lot like a running a marathon: you have to pace yourself well, remembering to take breaks to rest your eyes frequently. The more tired you are, the easier it is to miss out on minor little details.
 Some authors suggest slowing down your reading pace, reading out loud, or reading it backwards. All these eccentricities reduce the speed at which you skim past your work and it forces your brain to recognize each sentence, word for word. Think of this technique like dating. You want to take it slow and embrace the moment. My personal favorite method to make your brain decelerate is to print out your manuscript, turn it around so that the print faces the other way, and read from right to left.
 Creating a checklist is also fundamental to ensure that you are aware of every possible mistake that could have been made in the language. Punctuation, spelling, sentence structure, contractions, passive voice; if it helps you to focus, do the points individually, looking out for a different mistake each time you run through your text.
 Of course, before committing whether in love or writing, it’s always best to get a second opinion. Send your manuscript to a trusted friend or better yet, get a writing buddy to keep tabs on your progress, act as a soundboard for your ideas, and also to get that invaluable second opinion from a fellow writer.

Automated Proofreading
Before I introduce two awesome programs to you, I need to highlight that proofreading software was never built to replace the human brain.  Humans still trump any proofreader out there as only manual laboring will allow you to invoke the tone to produce really stirring writing. What proofreading programs provide is a shortcut to greatly decrease the time you spend on editing.
 One program you can try is Ginger Review, which can be downloaded onto your laptop and installed into most word processors as an application. A great thing about Ginger is their text-to-speech function where a digital voice can read out your entire manuscript. This can make editing a walk in the park without having to strain your vocal cords.
 Finally, we have Grammarly, an intuitive program that can highlight more than 150 text errors, give detailed explanations of your errors, and check for plagiarism all at the same time. Your entire manuscript will take less than a minute to proofread with this genius software. The user friendly and clean interface also provides an excellent user experience. The cherry on top of the cake is Grammarly’s support community where any and every question you have regarding the complexities of the language will be answered by one of Grammarly’s language enthusiasts.
 Proofreading is hard work, but like they say, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing. Then again, if your brain feels like it’s about to explode, stop. With the technology available today, writers have a much easier time reaching the pinnacle of perfection.

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown childrens’ novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, travelling, and reading.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Darkness Series Omnibus NOW on Amazon $7.99

Now, the entire Darkness Series is available on Amazon in ONE download (estimated 1157 pages).  That's FOUR complete novels in one volume.  Suspense/Thrillers.  Science Fiction/Military Conspiracy.  Intense nail-biting ride.

The Darkness Series: Omnibus

 Predators of Darkness: Aftermath (Book One of the Darkness Series)

Fear What Lurks In The Shadows
The desolate streets of downtown Pittsburgh in 2073 are a reminder of the missile attack that forever changed the lives of the surviving scientists and students hidden in the fallout shelter of Helmsby's Genetic Research Center. Believing themselves to be the only survivors, they station themselves inside the center until food supplies near depletion. Thinking the fallout has lessened, they emerge three years later to discover strange creatures patrolling the streets in search of human flesh and blood. The creatures possess the ability to shift their genomes and alter their appearances by realigning their genetic sequences. Daniel Hutchinson, their leader, teams with Lucas Ridale and together they set out to scavenge the area for food and supplies with the hope to find other survivors. But Daniel's most recent journey uncovers mysteries more frightening than the shifters. He discovers the tip of Pittsburgh has been fenced off from the rest of the area. Low-flying helicopters observe the streets, making him ponder the question: Were the shifters released as simply part of a military experiment with humans being their prey?

Beyond the Darkness: Book Two of the Darkness Series

The Darkness Continues . . .
Three years after Daniel and the other survivors escaped the terrorizing, blood-thirsty shifters in Pittsburgh, his friends have moved forward with their lives, but Daniel cannot. He believes the conspiracies within TransGenCorp have not ended and more shifters exist.

Then Daniel receives a phone call from Lucas that bolsters his paranoia.

Lucas is being charged with murders he insists his clone committed.

Daniel soon discovers darker atrocities are emerging, which not only place his life in immense danger, but all his friends as well.

The Game of Pawns: Book Three of the Darkness Series

Pawns are Expendable . . .
Twelve execution-style murders have occurred in Newark, New Jersey, in less than a week. Each murder has a calling card - a red pawn on each corpse. Kat Gaddis and Lucian investigate the homicides and discover the last four victims were employed by GenTech, a company that recently merged with Mech Cybernetics. After FBI director Mike Carpenter shares evidence with Kat, they soon discover political ties and corruptions that place Kat's life in direct danger. New players emerge and what seems like serial murders suddenly becomes a struggle for biotech knowledge and power. Kat is thrust into their game - The Game of Pawns.

Death's Valley: Book Four of the Darkness Series


"Everyone dies . . . eventually," she said.

Mitch Niles' first investigative assignment for the Kat Gaddis Agency lands him in the dark city of Salem, Oregon. The two gruesome murders in Salem point to the grim speculation that more shifters or genetic monsters have emerged. But Niles' discoveries place his life in direct danger as he uncovers more grave secrets in the dead of the night.

The shutdown of GenTech and Mech Cybernetics had left one miscreant scientist still on the loose--Alpha. The hunt to find him continues so they can shut down his operations before his genetic soldiers mature.

After Matthews escapes from prison, Lydia goes rogue, accepting her life as the assassin General Idris created her to be.

Lucian nears death, as the genetic enhancers that keep him alive are no longer working.

Hired assassins pursue Joe-Shadow-talker for the alien skull and are more than willing to kill him or anyone else that gets in their way.

"Leonard D. Hilley II writes with a dark veracity, giving real life to a world slightly askew. There's always a sense that something is lurking in the shadows, just beyond the 'normal' world."--Paul Counelis, writer for Rue Morgue

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

RIP, Cricket . . .

When you have a pet for many years, he is no longer "just an animal."  We had Cricket, our black cat, for nine years.  He remained indoors from the time he was twelve-weeks-old.

Originally, I named him Salem after the cat on the television show, "Sabrina--the Teenage Witch," but that name didn't stick for long.  One morning when I was getting him a can of cat food, he became so excited that he made a chirping sound exactly like a cricket.  It caught me by surprise.  I had never heard a cat do that.

"You're no Salem," I told him.  "Your name is Cricket."

Every morning when it was time to be fed, his chirping started again.  And in a few days, he knew his name.  When you called him by name, his ears perked and he came running.

Once he was old enough, we had him declawed since we were keeping him indoors, which has always been something I regretted.  Not that it hurt him, but the other two cats we took in never clawed the furniture.  And Cricket always looked sad when he couldn't actually snag a toy and grasp it like the other two cats.  He'd walk away and sulk.

In 2007, my wife and I had to move to Kentucky because our jobs were outsourced to Honduras due to CAFTA.  As part of the TAA, we were given paid two-year training or two more years in college.  Both my wife and I already had B.S. in biology.  She wanted to get her training as a lab technician, and I was going to complete a second bachelor's in business marketing since my first novel had been released.

In mid-June we made the trip to Shawnee State University to meet Brian Saul and discuss our college goals.  In that meeting Brian told my wife that they had just started a Masters Program in Occupational Therapy and asked if she'd be interested.  But, being accepted into the program meant that she had to start immediately.  The first week of classes had already started.  They gave her a couple hours to contemplate, and after much thought, she accepted and enrolled into the program.

Since her classes started on the following Monday, we made the trip to our house in Alabama and packed the van with as much of our belongings as possible and stored them at my in-laws until we could find a house to rent.  They wouldn't allow an indoor cat in their house, and since he had been declawed, we couldn't set him outside.  So we bought large cat food and water dispensers for Cricket and filled them up. We gave a key to my sister to check on Cricket during the week.

Each week we drove home, loaded our van with boxes, and while there, we spoiled Cricket with attention while packing.  Sadly, the little cat spent his lonely time eating and eating, packing on a couple pounds.  After several more weekly moving trips, we found a house to rent, rented a Ryder truck, and moved Cricket and our belongings to Kentucky.  Cricket rode in a cat carrier in the front seat of the Ryder with me. I'd rub his forehead with my finger from time to time, and he was happy to have the attention.

At the house in Kentucky, Cricket took to home quite well.  But, an empty food bowl stressed him because he was used to it being full all the time. He'd beg and beg until someone fed him, even though he wasn't hungry.  We got another kitten to keep him company and hoped that would prevent him from obsessing about food.  It didn't.  He'd still beg.

In October 2007, I became ill and nearly died.  I had pneumonia and didn't know that I had it.  The first symptom was a severe, sharp pain in my lower back.  Since I work out in the gym a lot, I assumed I had strained my lower back and thought nothing more of it.  A couple days later, my stomach swelled so hard and large, I didn't know what was wrong. After going to the doctor and then to the hospital for a cat scan, they told me that I had pneumonia.

My chest hurt so badly that I couldn't lie down on the bed.  I had to sleep in the recliner in the living room.  When I awakened during the night, Cricket was tucked up under my elbow and sleeping right beside me.  He never left me while I slept or when I was trying to sleep.  He wanted to be near me.

Any time the front door was open, Cricket wanted to lay in front of the glass door and look outside.  Occasionally, he'd make a mad dash outside when someone opened the door.  He tried to hide in the bushes, but we couldn't let him stay outside without claws.

Cricket was stubborn from time to time.  On days we had to leave to go to work, and he wanted to sit and look outside, he'd get mad if we had to move him to shut the door.  He'd stamp his feet and waddle his fifteen pound body across the floor.  It was one of the funniest things one could watch.

Fast forward six years:

For the past month or so, Cricket had acted differently.  Every chance he had, he'd sit at our feet and nuzzle us so we'd pet him.  He wanted attention all the time, and we gave it to him.  Since our son was home from college, Cricket sat on the couch and slept near him.

Twice during the last week, he made a strange squalling noise.  Something he had never done before.  He'd scamper through the house and paw at things like he was mad.  Then, he'd settle down and act normally.  Night before last, at 2 a.m., Cricket made the strangest cries I've ever heard.  I got up immediately.  He sounded distressed and like he was crying for me to check on him.

Cricket was lying in the bathroom floor.  When he noticed me, he stopped crying.  I petted his head to comfort him, and then I picked him up and carried him into the living room.  After I put him down, I sat beside him and rubbed his head and back.  Our other two cats came and sat on both sides of me, watching.  He looked at me while I petted him, and after a few minutes, his eyes became distant.  I knew he was dying and that he was scared and didn't want to be alone.  He had wanted me near him at the end.  I was glad that I was there to offer comfort as he passed away, but I miss him.  The house doesn't seem the same.  The two cats and dog still look for him. I keep looking for him.

RIP, my furry friend.  We miss you.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What is Triumph?

When our favorite sports team wins the championship, we rejoice and sometimes celebrate their triumph.  And although we are enthralled to say that is our favorite team and they’re the champs, we really didn’t do anything that helped them achieve their success.

In reality, personal triumphs are much greater when we succeed in reaching a set goal.

I reached one of those goals.


While at Berea College in 1992, I met Brad Lewis at the local gym.  We became workout partners and good friends.  Our workouts at the gym were hardcore and leg day became his living nightmare.  Since my legs have always been the weakest place for me to gain size, I developed a regiment to put size on my legs as quickly as possible.  We worked legs Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.  He cursed me every day.

After the second week of this, he came into the gym on Friday and was ready to work legs hard.  He said, “I was looking in the mirror as I was dressing, and I couldn’t believe it!  My legs have never had such cuts and size before.”

I kept a workout notebook and our goal was to eventually hit squats at 295 lbs.  I know, this isn’t much compared to the heavy power-lifters out there, but for us this would be a set goal we planned to reach.

Each of us had personal things going on that stopped us short of that goal.  His marriage.  My ex-wife, daughter, and college sidetracked us.  Soon after I met the woman that would become my life partner, and I moved back to Alabama.

But that goal haunted me.  I came across that old workout journal and saw the goal scribbled at the top of the leg regiment workout sheet.  Damn.  That was nearly twenty years ago.

Today in the gym, I looked in the mirror positioned behind the squat rack.  I did my warm up set of twenty reps at 135 lbs.  I felt good.  I slapped two more 45 lb. plates on the bar and did the next set.  Adding 50 more lbs., the goal suddenly came to mind as I finished the set and placed the bar on the rack.  Today’s the day, I thought.  I’m not getting younger, and tomorrow has been put off for way too long.

Adding twenty more pounds, I did three reps.  After placing the bar on the rack, I added twenty more.  I did three more reps and realized that I probably could have done that a long time ago.  Why had I resisted?  Perhaps it was the fear of hitting the goal and shooting beyond that?  I don’t know.  But I hit the goal and even went beyond that.

Were there people cheering me on?  No.  Just two other guys in the gym doing their workouts and not paying attention, which was okay with me.  I succeeded.  I surpassed the goal and was satisfied with my triumph.

What’s next?

Washboard abs sounds good.  We’ll see.