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Hot and Cold

I put on a new chain, filled the gas and oil tanks and went out with my chainsaw to tackle a large pile of logs and limbs in the backyard. My tendency to procrastinate had allowed the pile to grow all summer, but my son James had offered to help and this needed to be done. So, on one of the hottest days of the year, I cut wood to use on some of the coldest. We will probably burn these logs in the woodstove around January or February.

Our house has electric heat and in the Pacific Northwest electricity is affordable, but on those really cold days, the woodstove heats our home better than anything else does.

There is a natural rhythm to life in the country. In March as the days grow longer and warmer the chickens go into full summer egg production. In April we hive bees. In May the garden is tilled and planted. During the summer we cut trees (usually the dead or fallen), tend animals and care for the garden. Honey is spun from the honeycomb in September. Also during that month fruits and vegetables are canned and preserved.

Part of that natural rhythm is the cold of January and February. Some years our woodstove will burn for days on end during this time.

By late in the afternoon the chain on the saw had gone dull, but the pile had been reduced to logs and hauled into the woodshed. We were hot and tired, but ready for the cold days of winter.

As I drank a tall glass of cold water I made a pledge to myself. Next year I’m going to cut wood on a cooler day.

That Made the Difference

I’m reading Stephen King’s book, On Writing, and came across a passage that I shared with my wife.

On Writing by Stephen King 

 “If she (King’s wife Tabitha) had suggested that the time I spent writing stories … was wasted time, I think a lot of the heart would have gone out of me. Tabby never voiced a single doubt, however. Her support was a constant, one of the few good things I could take as a given. And whenever I see a first novel dedicated to a wife (or husband). I smile and think, There’s someone who knows. Writing is a lonely job. Having someone who believes in you makes a lot of difference. They don’t have to make speeches. Just believing is usually enough.”

My first book, Titan Encounter, released in 2012, has this dedication; “Many authors say that their spouse is their biggest fan. My wife Lorraine most certainly is mine. This book would not exist without her constant encouragement and editing.”

Stephen King and I don’t have much in common, but it appears we share a love for writing and both have wives that believe, support and encourage.

Thank you, Lorraine, for all of your support. That made the difference.

My New Shirt

The next day in my office wearing my new shirt.

When a friend and fellow writer, Pat, came to a recent critique meeting wearing a white shirt with “Writer” emblazoned in black letters on the chest, I admired it and was a bit envious. I asked where he got it and Pat said his wife, LeeAnn, made it for him.

About a week later he presented me with the shirt seen here. I’m told that LeeAnn contacted my wife about the size and colors and then made this shirt for me.

My wife knows I loved the television show Castle with Nathan Fillion and said she says she chose the colors based on Castle’s vest from the show.

Thank you all, I really appreciate the gift.

Return to Earth Cover Reveal!

Since the March release of Seekers of Earth, events have moved rapidly with the Guardian Knights of Terra series. As I mentioned above interest in the series has allowed for the third book to be written. Since we already had the name for the third book and wanted to continue with a design similar to Seekers of Earth and Recall the Earth we went ahead with the creation of the ebook cover.

Here, for the first time in public, is the cover of the third book in the Guardian Knights of Terra series, Return to Earth.

On the left we see Lucas with a serious look on his face. On the right is Rachel. She appears to be in a better mood, probably because she is returning to her home planet of Earth. The Space Needle, a local landmark, is behind her.  

I’ve plotted most of the book and completed the first chapter, but we don’t have a Return to Earth web page up (but I’m working on it) and we don’t have a release date, but I’m shooting for late this year.

Hopefully, it can be a Christmas gift!

Working hard, so I can rest

I decided to build a patio on a shady knoll beside my home. However, due to my writing schedule and other commitments, it took a couple of months to gather all the materials and find the time to construct it. Finally, on the evening of July 2nd, I had everything I needed.

Stiff and sore, but trying to relax (click to enlarge)

After breakfast the next morning I began construction. It occurred to me that it would be nice if the family could use the patio on Independence Day, but that would mean all the work had to be completed that day.

I worked hard, very hard, on July 3rd. 

July 4th was a lovely warm day here in the northwest. The blue skies were welcome after a long rainy winter and spring. Also, as you can see from the picture, my family and I did enjoy the patio. My relaxation that day was tempered by many stiff and sore muscles. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the patio even more after I’ve recovered from building it.

Hate from the Stage

The Public Theater of New York City recently decided that it would be a good idea to stage Shakespeare’s play “Julius Caesar” in a modern setting. In this version of the play the dictator, Julius Caesar, looks a lot like Donald Trump and, of course, in act three he’s murdered in order to save the country.

While I firmly believe that staging pretend assassinations of a president of the United States, such as done by Kathy Griffin, is bad for the country, the Public Theater is free to stage their plays and make any tasteless political statement they desire, but not with my money.

In a tweet, President Trump asked, “I wonder how much of this 'art' is funded by taxpayers?” Forbes Magazine provided the answer, “Data at OpenTheBooks.com shows that over $4.1 million in federal, state and city grants funded the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF) – the parent company to Public Theater and its production, Shakespeare in the Park – over the past three years. The total amount since 2009?  Nearly $30 million.” The National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), the people who brought us Piss Christ at taxpayer expense, gave the New York group over $630,000.

I think this taxpayer funded swamp could use some serious draining.

My revulsion with both Kathy Griffin and this play is motivated more by love of country than admiration for Donald Trump. Hate so deep and malicious that it expresses itself in decapitation or murder of the president is bad for democracy and the institutions of this nation.

Because of the play two corporate sponsors, Delta Airlines and Bank of America have withdrawn sponsorship. As I read about that I also learned that American Express has continued to fund the group while expressing dismay at this particular production.

I use American Express as my business credit card so I called them and stated, “You can’t have it both ways; either stop fostering hate or you lose my business. Your choice.”

Water and Rain in the Northwest

There is a saying that people in the northwest don’t tan—they rust. The coastal region of Washington is well known for ample precipitation. However, most of the rain falls in late autumn and winter. By the time the crops, garden, and orchard are really growing in the late spring and summer the rains have faded to a trickle. That means we irrigate and water.

Kyle checking the hand pump (Click for a larger image)

My place is small, more of a hobby farm than a real one, but watering remains a daily chore. In the picture I’m beside the well house, checking the hand pump. Fortunately, this is just an emergency backup and the electric pump is still working. 

This time of year we water the younger fruit and nut trees in the orchard and all the plants in the garden daily. Each beehive has a water bottle and there are several for the chickens that must be routinely checked. We also have flowers and ornamental trees.

Right now, with both my wife and I working, it takes about an hour each evening to water everything. As the summer continues, and days get warmer, we’ll be doing this in both the morning and evening. But, I'm not complaining, I love the life I have here and wouldn't trade it for anything.

Three Important Announcements

Events are moving rapidly with the Guardian Knights of Terra series so, I decided to make three announcements in one blogpost.

1. The ebook edition of Seekers of Earth, the first book in the Guardian Knights of Terra series is on sale for 99 cents. This deal won’t last so, if you were thinking about getting the Seekers of Earth ebook now is the time to act.

2. We released Seekers of Earth in March and Recall the Earth in April. At that time no decision had been made on the third book. I’m pleased to announce that I’ve begun work on the third book in the series, Return to Earth. No release date has been set, but I’m hoping for late this year. Hopefully, it can be a Christmas gift!

3. Since we already had the name Return to Earth, we went ahead with designing the cover. The design work is now complete and we’ll have the cover reveal in the next newsletter which should be out in a few days. If you haven’t signed up for my FREE email newsletter, click here to do so.

Trump Hate

I’ll start this off by stating that Donald Trump was not my first choice for president. Early in the primary season I believe there were seventeen Republicans running for the office. Trump would not have been in my top ten. I’m a conservative. During most of the primary I had no idea what Donald Trump was, other than a better choice than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.

That being clear, Trump is now the president of the United States and the hate and vilification directed at him by liberals hit a new low the other day when Kathy Griffin, an alleged comedian, decided it would be funny to have a picture taken of her with the mock, bloody, decapitated head, of President Trump.

Kathy Griffin thinks this is funny.

Kathy Griffin thinks this is funny.

There is a saying in the media that all publicity is good publicity. Well, I’ll say that I’d never heard of Kathy Griffin before and her name is now fixed in my mind, but in what universe is a severed head funny? President Trump called it “sick,” and I agree with him.

I really didn’t like the policies of President Barack Obama, but it never occurred to me that pretending to kill the man would be useful or funny. Such actions are bad for the United States and they make me sympathetic toward Trump. That can’t be what liberals want.

The continued maliciousness toward Donald Trump the person has also led to my increased appreciation of the conservative actions he has taken.

So, to my friends on the left, disagree with President Trump’s policies, tell your senators and representatives what you think, and try to convince other Republicans and conservatives, like me with logic and reason, but restrain your murderous hatred.  

Two Books Released

And a third one is coming!

This last month has been very busy with the March 17th release of Seekers of Earth, the first book in the Guardian Knights of Terra series. This was followed on April 7th by the release of book two, Recall the Earth. At this time both books are available exclusively on Amazon.com.

I planned the Guardian Knights of Terra series as a five book series. Just like movie sequels and television series, money determines the length of a book series. However, I pleased to report that I’m writing Return to Earth, the third book in the series. No release date has yet been set.  

About Seekers of Earth

Lucas Baldwin, the young son of a powerful lord, is on his first deep space training mission. Advancing through a captured facility he encounters a lunatic girl about his age. Only later does he realize that the girl, Rachel, is speaking English, a long dead language. Rachel talks of an Earth still in existence and more advanced than the horse-and-buggy world that had supposedly been destroyed. Seekers of Earth is a 38,000-word introductory novella to the Guardian Knights of Terra series. Click here to buy Seekers of Earth on Amazon.com.

About Recall the Earth

Lucas’s sister, Katherine, smuggles Rachel to their home planet in the Devon system, but when they arrive, Prince Draven and the soldiers of Nightwatch are waiting to kill them.  

Seriously wounded in battle on another world, Lucas has no idea of the danger facing his sister and Rachel, or that the Valac are fighting to surround his home world. His entire family may die before he can do anything to save them.

But stories of Rachel and Earth are spreading, even as Nightwatch strives to arrest or kill all those who learn the truth. Click here to buy Recall the Earth on Amazon.com.

Hiving the Bees

Spring is bee time on the farm

Yes, those are bees on the box.

Yes, those are bees on the box.

The bees didn’t arrive yesterday, a warm and sunny day. No, they arrived today when it was cool and wet. We prefer driving to the delivery site in the farm truck. We can put the bee boxes on the truck bed and drive home, but because today was so inclement we took the car for the forty-minute drive. Have you ever driven with ten thousand bees in your car? Our bees were inside two boxes, but it’s still an experience. Some always find a way out.  

On our small farm, we keep bees both for pollination and for honey production, but we lost our last hive during the winter. This video, filmed on April 22, 2017, starts with me retrieving one of our two new colonies of Carniolan honeybees from the greenhouse where we left them while making final hiving preparations.

Lorraine, my wife, went ahead and waited to assist me in the apiary. My son, James, is the cameraman and isn’t wearing a protective suit while he films.

Hopefully, these bees will store up lots of pollen and honey during the summer and survive the upcoming winter.

Contest Unboxing

Hurry and enter my FREE book giveaway contests!

 In celebration of the release of my next two novels, Seekers of Earth on March 17th and Recall the Earth on April 7th, I’m running three book giveaway contests.

Why I said hurry is because the contest to win five signed copies of Seekers of Earth closes in just five days. Go to my website contest page and enter. While you are there, enter the other two contests for copies of Through Many Fires and Strengthen What Remains stories. Those contests close in just under a month.

In preparation for all the winners, I ordered copies of all the books mentioned above and a couple more. One of those books could be yours. All you have to do is visit the contest page on my website and enter. It’s all FREE!

Simple Pleasures

In most ways yesterday didn’t stand out from the normal. Dreary and wet are what you get in the northwest this time of year. But living on a farm with forest all around means that you’re going to interact with animals and they often make the day interesting.

Six deer in the backyard

Recent construction required removing part of our backyard fence and I haven’t felt the need to repair it in the cold and rain. One reason we put up the fence was to keep the deer from eating apples from our orchard, but this time of year there’s nothing on the trees.

While I enjoy seeing deer wandering around the farm, the fence downtime has allowed an increasing number to amble into the yard looking for food. They’re welcome to eat the grass and they help themselves to any birdseed or chicken feed they find. Despite my protests that it will only encourage them later in the spring, my wife Lorraine has started throwing apples to them.  

One strolls by while I'm writing

Yesterday was a record setting day with six deer in our backyard at one time. One yearling was camera shy and ran out of frame, so there are only five in the picture.

Lorraine made sure they were fed.

As I finished this blogpos I looked out the window and spotted this deer stroll by the window. I’m going to have to fix that fence before the trees start to bud.

Twelve Years with the Inklings

The Inklings have been meeting for nearly twenty years.

Recently our local paper, The Chronicle, ran a front-page story about a critique group that has been in existence for nearly two decades and that I’ve attended for about twelve years.  As my friend Julie McDonald Zander questioned me about the group for the upcoming story, I dug through old pictures and information to find answers.

Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey and Debby Lee. Kyle Pratt in lower photo.

It surprised me that I had started attending in 2005. The group then consisted of Robert Hansen, Carolyn Bickel, and Joyce Scott. All three were original members. My son James and I joined at the same time. James left several years later due to work and Joyce and her husband have retired to the southwest, but both continue to write.

Others have come and gone over the years, but currently we’ve added Kristie Kandoll, Debby Lee, and Barbara Blakey. All of these writers have become friends and I’ve had a chance to watch as several honed their craft into burgeoning careers as authors.

We critique and comment on both the good and not quite correct writing of each member. Beyond that, we educate and inform each other. The group is very informal, with no elected leader, no treasurer and actually, no name.

While I enjoy the informality, as a busy man, I have to schedule my time. More than once I’ve noted, “Group Meeting,” on my calendar, but that always made me feel like I was going to therapy or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. In July of 2015, I began writing, “Inklings,” on anything to do with the group, just to keep me organized.

Kristie Kandoll, Barbara Blakey, Debby Lee, Kyle Pratt and Robert Hanson with his back to the camera.

The original Inklings were an informal literary discussion group that met in a pub in Oxford, England during the 1930s and 1940s. Two of the original members were C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis once wrote that the original Inklings had, “no rules, officers, agendas, or formal elections.” That sounded like our local group.

So, by the power vested in me by no one, I named this group, at least for my own purposes, “The Inklings of Southwest Washington,” or simply, “The Inklings.”

I hope to be a member of The Inklings for at least another twelve years.

Now No to Meetup

I continue to get emails from politicized organizations.

I’ve tried to use a website called Meetup to find writing groups in and around my area. It never worked well. I found networking with other authors led me to far more people than the website, but I never deleted my membership with Meetup.

In a recent blogpost titled No to NaNoWriMo I spoke of my disgust with the National Novel Writing Month organization for stating they “join with the many voices standing against the presidential executive order that bans refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.” The NaNoWriMo email also stated that they were “concerned about … the President’s desire to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.”

Sports organizations like the NBA, NCAA and recently the NFL have all deemed it wise to get involved in local debates regarding the transgender bathroom bills. Now Meetup sends me an email declaring, “after the recent executive order aimed to block people on the basis of nationality and religion, a line was crossed.” They went on to state that they created more than 1,000 Resist Meetup Groups.

From athletics to bathrooms to social gatherings, liberals want everything to be political. I don’t and none of these groups speaks for me. I resist such politicization and political correctness. I’ve deleted my Meetup account and, as much as I like the Seattle Seahawks and other local sports teams, I may be spending a lot less time watching them and much more time writing.

Death in the Apiary

We had a week of cold and snow on the farm. 

The weather made for some beautiful pictures, which you can see on the Facebook page, but it got very cold. On a mild day this week my wife came in from outside and said, “There’s no activity in the apiary.”

Author Kyle Pratt checks a hive

I like to keep two colonies, but one colony had died last year. I hurried to my one remaining colony.

Bees are very clean and will not defecate in the hive. So, on mild winter days they fly out to take care of business. As I approached it was clear no bees were busy doing business. I put my ear to the hive. No buzzing.

At that point I opened the hive. Thousands of bees were there in a tight cluster—all dead.

It really saddens me when a colony dies since I view them as being in my care. There is always something more I could have, or should have, done.
 
After a few days of mourning, I’ll clean out the hive boxes and order two more colonies of Carniolan honey bees through my local bee association.
 
Hopefully, next winter will be mild. 

Lost at Sea

The Lost at Sea scavenger Hunt has begun.

I’m taking part in a fun event with seventeen other authors, including Jill Williamson, Kerry Nietz, and Morgan L. Busse.

You, the reader, visit the websites of the speculative fiction authors, read a little about their books, gather clues, and enter contests along the way. My website is stop nine and I’m giving away five signed copies of Seekers of Earth, book one in my new series the Guardian Knights of Terra. Many of the other authors are giving away their books and two lucky winners with receive Kindles.

The Lost at Sea scavenger hunt has already started, but you still have a chance to join in and win the prizes so, click here to start and enjoy the hunt.

I'll be doing another giveaway for signed copies of Seekers of Earth starting on March 1st. So if you didn't win during the Lost at Sea Scavenger Hunt you'll have another chance.

No to NaNoWriMo

National Novel Writing Month (often shortened to NaNoWriMo), is an internet-based writing event that encourages people worldwide to write a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. This is a fantastic and fun event which I have participated in and promoted for the last few years.

However, yesterday NaNoWriMo.org, the organization behind the event felt, compelled to send me an email in which they stated, “Because of this core organizational value, we join the many voices standing against the presidential executive order that bans refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.”

Why is National Novel Writing Month involving itself in issues of immigration, foreign policy, and national security?

The email went on to state, “We are also concerned about upcoming issues that may affect people’s self-expression, like the President’s desire to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)….”

The National Endowment for the Arts is the government agency that used tax dollars in support of Piss Christ an art exhibit consisting of a crucifix immersed in a glass of the “artist’s” urine. I don’t know why that’s even considered art, but in the halls of our federal government, it’s worthy of $20,000 in National Endowment for the Arts funds. Imagine the outrage if it had been a Koran in urine. The NEA views Piss Christ and other anti-Christian art as acceptable uses of tax money. I do not. I support defunding the NEA and NaNoWriMo should stay out of the controversy.

In America, citizens can, and should, debate the merits of the government policy. I am very capable of speaking for myself. I do not need, nor do I want the help of NaNoWriMo in voicing political opinions.

Let me be clear, NaNoWriMo does not speak for me. The non-profit organization should confine itself to the promotion of the writing event and stay out of politics.

Mentor Day

Author Kyle Pratt in his office with Houston 

I first met Houston two years ago when I spoke about writing as a career at Centralia High School. I read some of his work and noticed a definite writing talent. Then a few weeks ago my friend Julie Zander asked if I’d like to help her mentor a writer as part of the local Rotary/TRiO program. The program pairs students with adult professions for a job shadow and mentoring day. When I saw Houston’s name on the TRiO form I agreed to take part.

Houston and Author Kyle Pratt at the TRiO lunch.

Now a junior at Centralia High School, Houston writes very descriptive fantasy and, while Julie is an excellent non-fiction writer, she wanted my fiction perspective included in the mentoring. The three of us met at Centralia College. While there we discussed writing as a career and the training and education that advanced our careers. Houston also wanted to know how a typical work day looked. As part of that answer, we took him to my home office where I spend most of the day on a keyboard staring at a computer screen.

After that, we joined the 61 adults and about 80 students from area high schools for lunch at St John’s Lutheran Church in Chehalis. It pleased me to see so many adults willing to take time out of their day to mentor the youth of our community. I was also glad to see so many young people eager to learn more about careers.

A Time to Endure Promo

This morning the ebook edition of A Time to Endure went on sale for 99 cents.

We’re planning more promotions this year with the purpose of getting more of my books into the hands of readers. In October of last year, we featured Through Many Fires. For our first promotion of 2017, we’re featuring the second book in the Strengthen What Remains series, A Time to Endure. Starting today and for the rest of the month, the ebook edition of A Time to Endure will be only 99 cents on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iTunes and Smashwords.

Happy reading!