Spring Vacation & The Aurora Fossil Festival FTW!

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About six months ago, we began planning what seemed at the time an unlikely vacation.  It was to begin the very night of my son Zachary’s high school graduation.  The plan?  We would hop in the van, drive to New Bern, NC to a hotel, and on Saturday, we would attend the Aurora Fossil Festival.  None of us really knew anything about this place except that they HAD a museum, there were giant Megaladon jaws you could get your picture taken in, and there was a pile of dirt – somewhere – you could dig through and find your own fossils.

None of us (at that particular time) was obsessed with fossils.  We wanted a break, a getaway, and something different.  We found all of that and more.

The trip up was an adventure in itself, as there are a lot of new bypasses and roads in place that were NOT in place when our Tom Tom was last updated.  Several times in the middle of long stretches of bridge it suggested we go 80 yards and turn left.  We declined.  Also, there was a tiny place named Chocowinity along the way…but it passed so quickly I thought maybe I’d hallucinated it.  It turns out it’s from a Native American word for “Fish From Many Waters,” but that’s for another story.

We spent a good first night in the Holiday In Express, rose early, ate our continental breakfast, and piled into the van. Along the way we passed interestingly named places, and as we pulled into town, we cut in around to the left and ended up parking two spaces off the main street.  Quite by accident.

After hitting the one ATM machine in town, we started back across a big field into the festival.  Before we really got in, we were handed a sheet to identify fossils, and a very friendly girl told us that the secret was that the gravel and dirt in the parking lot was fresher than what had been dumped for the festival.  She showed us a very nice prehistoric Great White shark’s tooth she’d found.  We went back to the parking lot.

We gathered four or five baggies of fossils, and the pride of the lot was Katie’s Great White tooth, about twice the size of a quarter.  When we’d finished in the parking lot, we crossed into the field and dug with the rest of the festival guests in a big pile of “reject” from the Phosphate mine, which is the source of all the fossils.

While there we saw some odd species of duck, played with a corn snake, had funnel cake, bought fossils – and hats – and other things – and attended an amazing lecture on how the biggest specimen ever pulled from the mine was preserved, cleaned, and displayed.  It’s the skeleton of a juvenile whale, and the care and ingenuity involved in that project was well worth the our we sat listening to the lecture and learning.  After that we went out and saw the skeleton itself, as well as the rest of the museum, and took the obligatory photos of people in giant jaws.  We also bought raffle tickets for the giant Megaladon tooth, over 6″ – did not win – and enjoyed the parade, including a passably good Jack Sparrow impersonator.  Below are some more pictures from the trip.

 

American Pies comes to Digital

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AMERICAN PIES

By David Niall Wilson

Those of you who follow my antics will be aware that – among the publishing, fictioneering, and other activities that fill my waking hours and dreams, I’ve been working on a book titled American Pies.  The book is available in eBook formats now from Crossroad Press, and will be at all eBook sites by tomorrow.  The trade paperback is in “production”.  This is – sort of – a book about how to bake fruit-filed pies.  It is also a commentary on the cookie-cutter, dumbed-down versions of our culture we have come to take for granted – like cardboard-boxed pies at the grocery store, or pre-baked desserts from the freezer you just heat up.  What’s up with that?  Where did they come from – and where did the fresh fruit, hot ovens, and integrity go?

I don’t know where it went, but I spent my winter gathering up all of it I could find, and baking it into thirteen pies.  Twelve of them are just fruit-filled standards, though some with oddball filling choices, like persimmon and nectarine.  The thirteenth – the lucky pie?  The American pie.  Red white and blue with stars…I made it, and I ate it, and it rocked.  Now you can make it too.

Along the way you’ll meet my grandmothers, you’ll learn of a tiny town named Flora, Illinois – and hopefully, you’ll catch some of my love of the freshly baked fruit pie.  Included are metric and Imperial measurements and oven settings, provided by “The Pie Bloke,” Darren Pulsford from across the big pond.

I hope some of you will check the book out…and if you do, share your photos and stories with me.  That’s another thing Americans do, you see.  We eat pie, drink coffee (or beer) and tell stories.

-DNW

A Few Comments on "The Voice" RIP Shields Brothers

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I told myself I was done writing posts like this when we quit watching American Idol, but last year we got hooked in (late in the season) to “The Voice” – and it felt “different”.  It felt to me as if the coaches actually were connecting on a deeper level with their teams, and that they really cared.  I wonder if I’d have felt that way if I’d watched from the beginning.

Anyway, last night we watched the final battle round, and I have to say – connected to their final teams or not – at least in the early rounds, this isn’t a contest between singers – just coaches.  It was pretty obvious in the battle round segment that songs and pairings were being chosen where either a: The coach already knew who was going through and set it up so they couldn’t lose – or B: (even worse) The coach put through who they wanted regardless of how the actual battle went.

I guess that’s what you should expect, right?  The coaches all want to win.  I came out of last year disliking Blake, because he seemed more of a horn-dog than a coach, and don’t get me wrong, he still does stupid things like thanking girls for wearing (basically) their underwear on stage.  If I were his wife, I’d shoot him in the head.  That aside?  He was the only coach who seemed to honestly be choosing the singer who – in THAT BATTLE – did a better job.

Here’s my biggest complaint.  Cee Lo Green.  Seriously.  The Shields Brothers against Erin Martin.  The song?  Tina Turner, “What’s Love Got to do With it?” – huh?  First off this girl Erin Martin can’t sing.  She is a one-trick pony with a baby-goo-goo voice that left the world in the lounge singing days of “Santa Baby” and has been (thankfully) absent since.  She was off key, made no pretense of trying to like the song, or respecting the original, and she was rude, arrogant, and wore her underwear on stage.

The Shields Brothers – sure they aren’t polished.  Sure, they rocked it harder than she did…but they actually SANG.  They pulled back as their coach asked them to do. They harmonized.  They IMPROVED while Erin Martin served up what looked like a bad karaoke performance of Grace Slick mixed with Bjork. I’m pretty sure she did not hit a SINGLE NOTE…she has no range…

Cee Lo’s reasoning?  The boy’s sound too much like they have the “one sound” and he isn’t sure how he can work it in / work with it.  Huh?  He worked with both artists.  One listened to him and improved (Shields) the other went her own way very literally and made a fool of herself.  She was saved when Cee Lo picked her, claiming that a world class producer can’t work with the Shields Brothers?   Sad day for that show, I think.

A couple of shaky choices were made.  More than once – on a show where the battle is supposed to go to whoever did better THAT NIGHT – we learn yet again the reality of reality TV.  It’s a joke.  They do whatever they planned to do all along, they clearly don’t care what the people in the audience do, or think…and we are left with our new hero – BLAKE – to give the show a tiny ounce of respectability (which is not his forte, I might add).

We’ll continue to watch it, but my reason for loving it last year was that the coaches seemed to care, and I’m thinking right now that The Shields Brothers – after getting the shaft in the most bizarre contest ever – aren’t feeling the love…sent home to the farm because a model with a bad voice wore her underwear (that’s my take, anyway).  When the coaches say “I’ll stick with you” it only means nothing.  This is not the first ridiculous decision obviously made before the battle began, but it’s clearly the worst (maybe in the history of reality TV).

-End Rant

SHIELDS BROTHERS – KEEP ROCKING!

In Between the LInes

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Too many things going on at once.  I have a bunch of stories I need / want to write.  I have books to publish.  Heck, I have a pie to bake, and a book to write about that.  I’m virtually stuck between the lines, and almost every day a new thing I’d really like to work on comes along.

I have a novella started for The Scattered Earth, bring Euphrankes Holymnn and the crew of the Airship Tangent back for an encore.  I have even more written on a new Cletus J. Diggs Mystery.  I have “Nevermore,” the next DeChance book, which will involve an appearance by Edgar Allen Poe…and I have a novel about a zombie apocalypse and ulta-marathon running in the wings.

I need to write my way out…it’s the only way through, as I know from experience.  I suspect all of these things and more will be written in short order, but tonight…I feel stuck.  I hate that.

Tomorrow…there will be words.  I will share some with you just to prove it’s so…

-DNW

The Pie Guy #8 – Fresh Nectarine Pie

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This pie is another experiment.  I like peach pie, and I like nectarines, so I figured, what the heck.  As long as there is a recipe for a pie made out of something I like, and people seem to like the PIE, then I am in.  I also have vanilla ice cream to make sure.  It worked with the apple pie.  Everyone dug in and that one was gone almost as soon as I sliced it.

This brings me within four pies of the writing of the first book by The Pie Guy – wherein I will explain my contempt for crappy, thin, too small and overpriced pies as sold in stores – go on about my childhood and how much I love pie in general – and tell you all the lessons I’ve learned along the way trying to bake all these fruit pies.  I will probably talk about how much I enjoyed EATING them as well.

So without further ado – the gallery of photos from the Fresh Nectarine Pie.

Nook Exclusive – KALI'S TALE Dechance Chronicles #IV

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Today is the start of the thirty day exclusive run of KALI’S TALE on Barnes & Noble.  It’s part of a special promotion I was chosen for (I love it when that happens) called NOOK FIRST LOOK – I am hoping it can get me some more notice for not only this book, but the first three in the series, and some of my other titles as well.  Kali’s Tale crosses over to a number of my books.  If you are NOT a B&N buyer, you could read “The Not Quite Right Reverend Cletus J. Diggs & The Currently Accepted Habits of Nature,” and “The Preacher’s Marsh” for background on the setting of Kali’s Tale, as well as “Vintage Soul,” the second book in The DeChance Chronicles, where we meet the vampire Kali and first get th hint that she might have less than happy thoughts about her “sire”.

Kali’s tale includes a lot of subjects I hold near and dear.  Alchemy – some of you will have watched the indie, artsy movie GODHEAD that I wrote the screenplay for…in which two young men run their lives and minds through the alchemical process.  Others will have read Deep Blue, and will appreciate the segment of Kali’s Tale spent in the back alley of a Memphis Juke Joint.

DeChance fans will learn more about Asmodeus, the old crow that joins the crew during Vintage Soul, and will get a few more peeks into Donovan’s past.

This also marks the first direct cross-over between DeChance and the other original series, O.C.L.T. – about an agency Donovan sometimes consults for. If you are a fan of that particular series, you’ll find two old friends, Geoffrey Bullfinch and Rebecca York making appearances.

Now…hie thee to B&N and buy yon book.  Srsly.

Find my books for NOOK here.

Find my books for KINDLE here.

Find all my books here in many formats.

-DNW

The Pie Guy #7 – Honey Crisp Apple

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Okay, this one is cooling on the stove, and I have to say…it smells awesome.  There are six cored and sliced honey-crisp apples inside, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, sprinkled with lemon juice to keep the apples from discoloring prior to baking…butter (margerin, actually) melted in between the slices.

I purposely held off on apple pie because it is one that most of the family loves.  I wanted everyone to enjoy it.  As usual, I overstuffed it a bit.  There are more of them than the recipe called for, but somehow it did not pop the crust open, or spoil the amazing smell.

One thing that led me to start baking pies is the ridiculous, deflated, tiny things we’ve started bringing home from the grocery store with the label “pie” on them.  They have very little filling, they don’t seem to be a full 9″ around…they just are not what I remember, or grew up loving, and honestly – at $9-$12 apiece, I can make much better ones much cheaper – and DO. Here is the gallery for the honey-crisp apple pie.

Does Amazon's new KDP Select Program Work?

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Does Amazon’s new KDP Select Program Work?

I don’t know the answer to that.  I know it has worked for a number of others.  I know that it has – in fact – worked incredibly well for some others.  It has also – to my knowledge – worked mediocre, and not much at all for still others, so, like anything – there are  tricks to it.  Everything has secrets if you dig deeply enough for them.

One person I know has given away incredible numbers of downloads…but ended up with a ton of bad reviews for the trouble.  Make sure you have a good book.

One person I read about went from “dead in the water” to selling more than 4k copies of their book.

Several people I know have given away 500-3000 copies and it DID lead to continued sales in every case, but in those cases, not to major numbers, just numbers.

There are some places you can advertise your free promotion days:

Pixel of Ink has an author’s page.  You can submit your free book – dates – etc. here. 

You can go to the Facebook page for Kindle on the Cheap and post

There is also EreaderNewsToday.com -Find them here – e-mail admin @ (fill in the rest)

You can blog about it (see this blog for a clever example).  For instance…MY first KDP Free Promotion runs from 31 January to 2 February.  It is for my brand new collection ETCHED DEEP & OTHER DARK IMPRESSIONS – if you are an Amazon.com PRIME member you can already get it for free.  If you own any Kindle reading device you can borrow it through the KDP Lending Library.  If you go to Amazon.com during the promotion – also free.  If you download it, I’d appreciate a review.

You can ask your friends – Authors – Readers – whoever – to download your free book, and to spread the word (please) to everyone ELSE who might want a free book.

HEY!  FRIENDS!  AUTHORS! Do me a solid?  My eBook is FREE!  If you could, like, download it..and tell EVERYONE about it…that would be cool.

You could make a Youtube Video about your book (I have not done that, but others have, and you could).

You could make a LOLDOG using the soulful eyes of man’s best friends to draw them in…

The Pie Guy #6 Fresh Kiwi Pie

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Of all the strange pies that have occurred to me, which is how this whole journey to make as many as possible began, Fresh Kiwi Pie seemed one of the least likely.  I have to say, now that we have made it, tried it and fallen in love with it (or I did, anyway) … the “PIE” is the limit (lol).  This is a very very good pie.  The nutmeg in the recipe makes it – at first taste – seem a bit like an apple pie.  But it is sweeter than an apple pie, and at the same time has a tiny citrus twang that gives it an extra burst of flavor.  It is also a good consistency…not too much juice, firms up well.

It’s a lot of work, but only for the peeling of the fruit.  Katie helped me, and I managed to keep her from stealing too many bits of kiwi (we both love the fruit fresh, and we peeled two dozen of them.  Another thing learned is that four cups of kiwi is right around 12 of the little buggers.  I would have put in five cups per pie, but I only bought 24, and I promised to bring a pie to work on Monday.

That is the last lesson I learned today.  It takes more planning to make two pies at the same time.  I pulled it off, but…I will make more preparations next time. For now, here is my gallery of fresh kiwi pie photographs.

-DNW

Etched Deep & Other Dark Impressions – New Collection – Free Promo

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I have put together what I think will become one of my most important collections.  The title story, “Etched Deep,” is a good example.  This is a very short story that originally was published in THIN ICE #7 decades ago.  I lost the story, but it stuck with me, and later on I rewrote it from memory, in a more modern voice, and it’s stronger.  These are stories that I believe in.  Some of them were buried in themed anthologies, or in books and magazines where I appeared alongside much more popular authors and was delegated to the “And Others” land I have spent so many years in.  A couple among these are borderline literary fiction, and at least one has been rejected more than one time for being “too literary”.  I’ll leave it to readers to figure out which one.

There are also a couple of very old stories in the book.  I’ve tried not to change them very much, but when you edit your old work, even trying just to proof read it, there is only so much you can stand.  The point is, you’ll find a couple of rougher pieces here, but I wanted to include them to give them another shot at a new group of readers.

There are fourteen stories in this book, and I added fourteen poems as well.  These are an even wider variety, spanning many, many years.  There is a poem I wrote very early in my relationship with Trish, there is the only known poem by the famous Angus Griswold (as well as one story, “One Off From Prime,” that has never been published prior to this book, and that features Angus as a character.  There are some of the poems I wrote for the three-word poetry challenges that Rain Graves invented – I’m given any three words and have to find a poem in my head that uses them all.  I love that game.

Here are the contents.  Starting on Tuesday, January 31st, this collection will be FREE ON AMAZON for three days.  It runs from Tuesday through Thursday, and I am hoping the promotion will help find me some new readers for my other books…  Also included in this collection is Chapter One of “My Soul to Keep,” the Donovan DeChance origin story.

SHORT STORIES INCLUDED:

Through an Eyeglass, Darkly
Fear of Flying
Moving On
One Off From Prime
Headlines
Waynes World
Redemption
Swarm
The Purloined Prose
SHIFT
Pretty Boys in Blue, and Long Hair Dangling
To Strike a Timeless Chord
Etched Deep
Unique

Also included are the poems: The Acropolis, Clamdigger, Cuttlefish Squeezings, Thanatology, A Poem of Adrian, Gray, The Fishmonger, Revelation, Loch Ness, Mirrored Hearts, Dark Man, Banished, End of Days, & Longhaired Puppies.

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