Thursday, March 16, 2017

Birthday Surprises at Cleveland ConCoction 2017


Last weekend I had a great time at Cleveland ConCoction 2017. It was the first year where I stepped down from the department head position and Melissa took over. I must say, she did phenomenal. Wey, who was co-seconding the department this year with me, and a buddy I've known since college by the name of Tavis helped out in Authors Alley over the entire weekend, making a tremendous difference for me and the other 25 authors in attendance.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Skelly
The weekend started off Friday with a chance meeting in the Vendors Hall with Glen Cook, the Literary Track's guest of honor best known for his Black Company series. He and his wife were wonderful to chat with, a down to earth guy whose fantastic writing career has spanned more than 40 years.

A reading showcase with three other authors followed. I chose chapter 4 of To Kill a Priest from my Priors series. You may be wondering why. I chose it because chapter 4 is when Jedd, Madelin's godfather, astrally projects into the hospital room where she's been restrained. Once there, he helps Madelin escape the clutches of the government black-ops agency that killed her parents and abducted her, known as PASTOR. The people who attended seemed to receive it well along with the other authors' books, and the discussion that commenced afterward was quite good. The rest of the night was spent in Authors Alley, followed by dinner at the Sheraton hotel's restaurant with S. Andrew Swann, a phenomenal fantasy and sci-fi writer with 20+ books out. We discussed everything from writing to publishing, gaming, and even programming. Then Tavis, Melissa, a fellow volunteer, and I made a quick pit stop at some of the convention parties. They were entertaining and a bit loud. Afterward we settled down to chat over a drink in the upstairs lobby where it was a bit more quiet.

Saturday began slowly, after a late night, with a variety of birthday wishes interspersed from friends and strangers alike. At first it caught me off guard until I was informed that not only did I share my birthday with famed writer Douglas Adams, but an announcement had been posted on Facebook by con staff. It was quite touching that they cared so much.

Later on, the birthday surprises continued when I was called down to the con suite immediately. I showed up to more than 80 con-goers singing happy birthday and two enormous birthday cakes for everyone to partake, all during a Geek Watch One podcast. After cake was cut and handed out, I was pulled into a great interview with the Geek Watch One hosts and had a lot of fun discussing books, writing, gaming, and Cleveland ConCoction's Authors Alley. It was tons of fun. Listen for yourself. The interview itself starts 23 minutes in, but the entire event occurs throughout and it's a lot of fun to listen to. Even Aberon, head of Operations for Cleveland ConCoction, got in on the action.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Skelly
The evening continued with a 9:00 pm panel on Why Villains Matter that was well attended. All of us authors had great fun discussing Darth Vader, Voldemort, and tons of other villains you often see in books and movies, and the attendees really got in on the discussion too. Following it, Tavis, Swann, and I got a bite to eat before Swann had to attend his next late night panel, then visited the Game Hall with Melissa. It was the first time I'd actually made it down to the Game Hall in my 4 years of attending/working Cleveland ConCoction. As a gamer, it was a pleasant reprieve to finally get the chance. We tried out High Noon Saloon, one of Slug Fest Games's products, in the Play to Win opportunities ConCoction's Game Hall offers. Slug Fest Games is best known for the game Red Dragon Inn, which I can attest is great fun. High Noon Saloon didn't disappoint. My character was thrown out a window, shot from a guy hanging off a chandelier, and ultimately killed at the same time as one of our new gaming friends Rob. High Noon is good and certainly a game I would recommend.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Skelly
Sunday turned out to be one of my busiest. It started off with two back to back panels, Favorite Characters: Why Did They Have to Die? where I was moderating and Post Apocalypse-How will it End? Both were earlier in the morning but they were pretty well attended. Attendees had tons of questions and the discussions were quite good, especially since those were two of my favorite panel topics from the weekend. Afterward I returned to Authors Alley, signed quite a few books, talked with readers, and said farewell to the authors as they headed home.

Over the weekend I also got to sit down with gaming guest of honor Lee Garvin, who you might know from his work writing the Pathfinder and D&D 3.5 manual The Noble Wild and his latest incarnation, Tales From the Floating Vagabond. He is a wonderful guy, a fan of animals and sitcoms. It was great having him at ConCoction 2017 and wonderful to sit down and talk over a drink.

Until next year, everyone. I look forward to it.

See also:

Author J. L. Gribble's take on Cleveland ConCoction 2017

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death trilogy, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The A Life of Death Trilogy and Cover Art

Welcome back! To all newcomers, it's great to have you. This is a wonderful time to visit here with all the changes that have been happening. I have a few things I wanted to mention, so onward!



The sad news I have to announce is that I am officially closing the doors to WAKE Editing. However, this is for good reason. Things became busy enough that I was forced to make a decision. You may have noticed that I haven't put any new novels out in the last couple years, only short stories and one academic article in the Ohio Journal of English Language Arts last August. I simply haven't had time to write more than that considering the time I spend teaching high school English and the time I put into editing other authors' novels, not to mention the time I spend volunteering with Cleveland ConCoction's Authors Alley. While I love the relationships I built with so many up and coming authors through WAKE Editing, I had to make a choice: my own writing or editing for others. I truly appreciate my fans and love writing my own stories. It's not something I can do without, so the choice was clear. WAKE Editing is closed to new submissions as of now and the site will soon be coming down.

On a much more exciting note, I am back to doing more writing. I have a few different projects underway that I will announce later when they are closer to fruition, but right now I get to announce something many fans have been asking about. The third and final book in the A Life of Death trilogy will be released in the coming months. The exact date is still to be determined, but I'll keep you posted. 
While the series was most recently in the hands of Books of the Dead Press, the rights to the first two books in the series were released back to me as of January 1, 2017, hence why they are no longer for sale on Amazon at this moment. However, that will soon be changing. 

In preparation for this new release of the entire trilogy, I contacted a wonderful cover artist whose experience speaks for itself, Claudia McKinney at PhatPuppyArt Studios. Claudia and her team have been responsible for many great New York Times bestselling book covers. Here's a bit about Claudia from the PhatPuppyArt Amazon page:
Professional digital artist/photographer specializing in book covers for best selling authors. To date I've done 430+ covers now in the Kindle & Nook marketplace, and booksellers worldwide. Some of the publishing houses include Random House, Llewellyn, Simon & Schuster. Several of my images have been featured in Vogue Italia. A few of the authors you may recognize - Kami Garcia, Amanda Hocking, Samantha Young, Karice Bolton, Aaron Patterson, JL Bryan, and Courtney Milan. My latest project is pre-production storyboarding for the major motion picture studios here in Los Angeles. 
You can contact me for more information at phatpuppyart@me.comMy Facebook Fan Page can be found here: http://facebook.com/phatpuppyartistOfficial. Site: http://phatpuppyart.com
Claudia and her team are wonderful to work with and create phenomenal covers. For authors out there, I highly recommend PhatPuppyArt

And for the biggest news of the day, the covers have been completed and I would like to share them with you. So, without further ado, here are the new covers for the A Life of Death trilogy, including the yet to be released third book, Sacrifices:


Book 1:
Murder. Abuse. And Retribution. Ghosts are speaking to Alex, but can he bring them justice?

Alex Drummond is a troubled high school senior with a checkered past, a broken home, and a surprising ability, psychometry. When he touches items murder victims held in their final moments, Alex relives the events in gruesome detail, seeing what they saw, thinking their thoughts, and even feeling what they felt. But who will believe a troubled teen, especially when the murders are so close to home and might reveal skeletons hidden for hundreds of years?

Join Alex as he struggles to find his destiny, understand love, solve the mysterious murders within his small hometown, and speak for victims who can no longer speak for themselves.






Book 2:
Visions. Murders. A Serial Killer Strikes. Ghosts are speaking to Alex, but will it be enough to stop these ritual sacrifices?

For Homicide Detective Alex Drummond, fifteen years of ritual sacrifices is far too long! Citizens hope this year’s sacrificial lamb won’t be one of their loved ones, but Alex's hands are tied when it comes to his psychometric visions. After an anonymous tip, Detective Drummond has a lead that takes him to Washington DC. Conscripting his high school friend Jessie Arturo, they set off to prove the suspect's guilt, but nothing is as it seems. In such a large place, unsolved murders abound like cobwebs under abandoned guest beds.

September 20, the serial killer’s anointed date, is only days away. Is Alex in over his head? Can he save an innocent life with the help of the ghosts of previous victims? And what will the cost be if he succeeds?






Book 3:

Family. Fatherhood. Gang Violence and Moonshiners. Detective Alex Drummond must juggle family responsibilities, duties, and ghostly visions to stop a mysterious killer.

When the world outside Tranquil Heights not only knocks at the door, but steps inside and sticks its head in the refrigerator for a nibble, the town will be forever changed… as well as the Drummond family. Chaos erupts when a gang takes over drug distribution throughout the region, forcing moonshiners out. Cremated remains of numerous victims are turning up in small piles. To make matters worse, Jamie’s own ghostly powers now rival his father’s, as does his stubborn nature.

One mysterious person seems to be behind it all, but can Alex teach his headstrong son to control his psychometric powers and find the murderer before the gang and moonshiners resort to all-out war.





In addition, there will be added bonus material in each book from some of the greatest writers in modern fiction. Even fans of the earlier versions of books 1 and 2 will have more to look forward to than just the final release of book 3, Sacrifices, if that isn't enough! 

If you are as excited about this as I am, feel free to share the joy! Enjoy and happy reading until next we speak! 

Look for the new A Life of Death trilogy in coming months. The release is tentatively planned for May, but check back for exact dates.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dragged into a Drug-Induced Haze with All Smoke Rises

I received Mark Matthews' All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux when it was recently nominated for a Bram Stoker award in Long Fiction. Just finished the book and thought I'd share, so here's my review:

Get ready to be dragged into a world where all smoke rises, but down is up, and up is down. This is the second of Mark Matthews' novels I've read, and it is quite good. While it needs a little polishing, his story telling is at its best, drawing you into a world you never knew existed. It stretches the boundaries of what we know, adding a little heroine with a syringe and words on a page. You'll be sucked into the book before you know it and turn the final page, wondering how he doesn't... although you probably don't want to know. Mark's understanding of the addict and self-justification is scary, but like a car wreck, you won't be able to look away.

For a mysterious ride into a drug-filled haze of a story, mystery and addiction pulling you to turn the next page, pick up your copy of All Smoke Rises: Milk-Blood Redux. It's worth it.

4/5 Stars.

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Hallelujah Moment in Teaching

I had an interesting Hallelujah moment in school today. It lasted 40 minutes... an entire class.
For those of you who don't know, in addition to writing novels like A Life of Death and The Priors, I'm a high school English teacher in Akron, Ohio at a hybrid online/traditional charter school called Akron Digital Academy. I've taught in a variety of public schools over the years--inner city, suburban, rural, etc.--but I currently teach in a school where the majority of students need far more guidance and help than just an education, as if that in and of itself is something small and inconsequential. My students are often from foster homes, broken families, families living from couch to couch and far worse, many who have children of their own and are struggling to get out of the rut they've found themselves in. The hurdles they have to overcome are tremendous.
My hat goes off to those who step into the classroom to be teacher/mentor/father/mother and so much more to our students. Teachers as a whole provide something noble and unforgettable, a successful future for our children, but sometimes our students need far more or will respond in ways even they can't predict... for better or worse. While teaching in schools where students have so many hurdles to overcome is often frustrating, there are also times a bright light will stream down from the heavens, engulfing one moment in the day that creates an unforgettable memory. Today, I had one of those moments.
There is a group of students in one class who are often loud, rude, and generally take half the period up just trying to get them back on task or attempting to get them to stop distracting other students. However, today one of the "leaders of the pack" jokingly started class by saying, "Why don't you let me teach today?" We'll call him Daquan for the purposes of this post.

With a wry grin, I told Daquan, "Take it away. You teach. The warm-up is already on the board." The warm-up question was "Why is it important to understand people's motives?" It was a lead-in to an activity about author's intent and motivation where students work in groups to create their own commercials and analyze motivation--to be linked to literary analysis in a follow-up class, a fundamental in-depth concept. I've used this ploy before, seeming to give in only for the student to find seconds later that they have no idea what to do.
Daquan sauntered up to the whiteboard with a grin, dreadlocks hanging around his face, a bag of fiery Cheetos in hand, while I stood to the side, ready to step in. However, instead of acting the comedian and just wasting time like others have done in past years, Daquan repeated the warm-up question and instructed the students that they had the normal two minutes to answer it. He then went around checking answers, even grinning up at me a few times and saying, "I really like this answer."
Daquan did such a good job that I couldn't stop him and chose to encourage him further. Of course, he didn't know where the lesson was leading, the proper questions to ask to guide the follow-up discussion, or what the next activity would be, so I guided him like I've done for actual student teachers in past years, feeding him recommendations and questions to ask, stepping in to teach and provide instructions, then challenging him to keep an eye on time while also managing the groups and making sure they stay on task. While this slowed the progress we could have made theoretically, the class actually progressed much faster than it would have knowing the antics Daquan's group would have put on, and Daquan wound up learning more at the same time. This went on for the entire class.
By the end of that period, Daquan came up and said, "Mr. K, this is gonna take Monday too, right?"
I nodded with a smile.
He tentatively asked, "Since it's gonna take Monday, can I student teach then, too?"
While I wanted him to participate in one of the groups, I knew Daquan would become even more familiar with the material having to teach it, and the additional assistance of a student leader the other students look up to--although not normally under these circumstances--was something that had benefited the entire class in multiple ways. Plus, he'd done a great job! (I'm reminded of the moment Emilio and his teacher, played by Michelle Pfeifer, finally see eye to eye in the classroom in Dangerous Minds). I couldn't help but tell Daquan how well he'd done and agreed that he needed to student teach Monday.
It isn't often that Hallelujah moments like this happen and some of your worst classes all of a sudden become a microcosm of learning and participation through the assistance of students who previously anchored it down. It's an incredible feeling and I am very proud of Daquan, a student who was floundering for what to do when he graduates. While this could turn out to be just one day filled with a solitary ray of blessed light that struck Daquan, it could also potentially lead to long-term goals and the discovery of his own motivation to reach them. Daquan mentioned that he really enjoyed teaching and is now considering it as a profession. The synchronicity of today's topic and the motivation Daquan may have found also strikes me as quite coincidental. My motives are always clear, but maybe Daquan has found some motivations of his own. If teaching is his calling, all the more power to him. If it leads him to something else where he can unlock his potential, even better. I just hope he finds success.
Only time will tell...

Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown Official Screening Review

"Traficant was the only congressman whose wages were being garnished by the IRS for undeclared mob bribes."
~Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown

              Eric Murphy, Writer and Director

Last night my wife and I had the pleasure of attending the Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown official release in Youngstown, Ohio, the exact location Congressman Traficant hailed from and represented. The movie has won film awards and been selected to show at film festivals across the country, from Cleveland to Austin and Beverly Hills. In a special showing at the Youngstown Playhouse I got to meet the writer and director, Eric Murphy, with Steel Valley Films. You may have seen some of his other work on the History Channel, Ancient Aliens. He seemed like a down-to-earth guy who had a very long day. The feedback from viewers was great and massively overwhelming, so I can understand the exhaustion, even from success.

If you weren't into politics before 2002 and don't know Traficant, here's the trailer:

 


For Eric's first full-length film, this was one heck of a debut. It probably helped that Ed O'Niell (Married with Children and Modern Family), a Youngstowner himself, produced the film and starred in a few interviews along with fellow local celebrity Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini and college football coaching legend Jim Tressel, who is now the president of Youngstown State University. However, the bulk of the work certainly fell on Eric Murphy, and he did a fantastic job.

Congressman Tim Ryan
I must say that I was probably one of the few visitors to the region. Being Youngstown where everyone seemed to know Traficant, for better or worse, the seats were certainly filled with fans and people who had worked with the man prior to his life as a congressman. However, Eric did a wonderful job highlighting the history, both the good and bad, and explaining exactly how and why even today Youngstowners say Traficant was "our corrupt congressman" with pride. My wife Marsha has told me about the infamous Traficant for years and his Sunday morning shows, but I never fully understood how someone who could so succinctly put politicians into place with to-the-point buffoonery could be both corrupt and so well loved. Now I do. It's an intriguing tale and gave me much more insight into the region and its difficulties. The film even highlighted Congressman Tim Ryan's efforts to pick up where Traficant left off, bringing revitalization to Youngstown, a depressed city whose downfall was caused by the abrupt closing of the steel manufacturing industry after record breaking sales.

I certainly enjoyed the showing and meeting Eric. He also has great taste in hats! In fact, while there were many great lines and scenes from the movie, my favorite is still, "Traficant was the only congressman whose wages were being garnished by the IRS for undeclared mob bribes." It's a factual statement, and so absurd even I, a dark fantasy and horror novelist, couldn't make it up. So, 5 stars all the way for Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown. By all means, give it a view. You won't regret it.

Traficant: The Congressman of Crimetown is currently available on VimeoiTunes, and Amazon.

Side Note: After the movie and speaking with Eric Murphy, Marsha and I stopped at a historic Italian restaurant called Cassese's MVR for dinner. It was quite good and is a favorite when we make it into the Youngstown neck of the woods. I highly recommend it. But as an entertaining end to the evening, Jim Tressel was there filling his belly, too. What a small world.


Weston Kincade ~ Author of the A Life of Death collection, The Priors, and Strange Circumstances