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Surviving the Winter

My bees have survived winter – at least so far.

Kyle opens the hive.

Kyle opens the hive.

A few days ago the temperature rose into the low fifties. Between rain showers, I hurried out to inspect both of my hives. I didn’t have to open them to know the most important news, as of that day in late January both colonies had survived the winter. Individual bees were flying out and returning to both structures.

Before opening the hives, I cleared a few dead bees from near the entrance. This is normal. Worker bees remove the dead from the hive, but on cold days they don’t take the bodies far. Then I removed the top of the hive. Immediately below the roof is a box with a wire mesh bottom. On top of that is a cloth and resting on that are cedar chips. This collects excess moisture during our damp rainy winters. I was pleased to see that it was dry. 

Deep in the hive below, I heard the buzz of a healthy colony. I quickly returned the moisture box and roof to the hive.

In a few weeks, I’ll open the hive again and add food to tide the bees over until spring.


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Oh, Deer!

The days are getting longer now, but it seems to me that this is the coldest time of the year in the northwest. While it doesn’t always snow in western Washington State it has this year and that brings more wildlife to the house and barnyard area.

Click to Enlarge

My wife feeds the chickens daily, but they hate the snow and usually stay in their house. However, squirrels and an assortment of birds come to feast in both the chicken area and the barnyard. My wife makes sure they are well fed.

Meadows and pastures have little edible grass this time of year so deer are another common visitor to the barnyard. If they arrive early enough they eat bird food with the squirrels and birds. Whenever they arrive, the deer will often linger around the house. We grow some really nice apples, but I prefer my wife not feed those to the deer, so she started buying cooking apples to toss to them.

On this farm, she cares for all creatures, great and small.


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Massive Book Giveaway

Three FREE Giveaways of over 120 books!

I’ve teamed up with a multitude of other authors to promote our books and gain exposure to new readers. So, in conjunction with these authors, we’ve created three book giveaways of over 120 books going on right now. Download any or all of the books you like. However, these are all limited time offers, so act now!

Fantastic Voyages

This giveaway goes from now through January 15th and includes an incredible selection of over 100 stories. These novels and novellas are all in the science fiction and fantasy genre and are available for free download right now. In this group, I’m offering Final Duty, my science fiction novella. To check out these fantastic sci-fi and fantasy voyages click the image or this link, https://books.bookfunnel.com/freefantastic

New Year Thriller

The New Year giveaway goes until the end of January and includes fifteen thriller novels available for FREE download. These stories range from military to sci-fi, but they are all thrillers and free, including my own Through Many Fires. To check out these New Year thriller books click the image or this link,  https://books.bookfunnel.com/newyearthrillers   

Military Thriller

Looking for a military thriller novel to read? Look no farther!  These bestselling authors have teamed up to offer a FREE action-packed selection of books. All are available for free download until the end of January. This group also includes my novel Through Many Fires. To check out these New Year thriller stories click the image or this link, https://books.bookfunnel.com/militarypromojanuary2018


 
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New Year Resolutions

At this time of year, it’s natural to set goals.

Last year I called this blogpost A Janus Look. Janus was the Roman god of beginnings and endings. He looked both into the future and to the past and that’s what I do at this time of year, look back over the past year, evaluate what I’ve done, and set goals for the year ahead. So, here is my 2018 look back into the past and into the future.

Kyle with proof of Through the Storm.JPG

1. Complete a novella and novel in the Solar Storms Saga. I had planned to release the first book in this series, Through the Storm, in May of 2017. The release ended up being in September. However, as 2018 begins Through the Storm is doing very well and I’m working on a sidequel novella. In Through the Storm Neal Evans encounters Major Franklin in Lebanon, Oregon. Much of what I knew about why Major Franklin was there couldn’t be explained in Through the Storm so, after some urging from readers, I decided to write a Novella going into more depth about why Franklin was there and what he was doing. The working title of this book is Into the Storm.  

I also plan to release the second, full-length novel of the Solar Storms Saga in 2018. You can read more about this and other upcoming novels on the projects page of my website.

2. Complete the third book in the Guardian Knights series. As 2017 began I had completed the first novel in the series Seekers of Earth, a 39,000-word novella that ends in a cliffhanger. I wanted to finish the second book, Recall the Earth, and have both available near the same time. I succeeded in this goal. Seekers of Earth was released in March of 2017, and Recall the Earth was released in April.

However, I had hoped to finish the third book of the series, Return to Earth in 2017. Because the Solar Storm Saga books took up much of my time I didn’t complete Return to Earth. However, I’ve rescheduled the release of that book for late in 2018.

You can read more about this series on the projects page of my website.

3. Write 150,000 words in 2018. In order to complete Recall the Earth and Through the Storm I wrote about 110,000 words last year. As I mentioned above, I’m currently writing a sidequel to the Solar Storm Saga and plan to complete another novel in the series along with Return to Earth from the Guardian Knights series. Those plans require that I up my writing goal to 150,000 words for 2018.

4. Do more book promotions. Each year I try to do more, larger and better-coordinated book marketing. This last year I’ve also sought to find new venues where I can promote my books. Because I’ve been successful with marketers like Bookbub, NoiseTrade, and Book Funnel, readers can expect to see more of my books and at lower prices in 2018.

5. Make shorter blogposts. Two years ago my wife looked at my goals blogpost and said, “People don’t have time to read long blogposts.” In A Janus Look, my 2017 goals blogpost I resolved to make these and other posts shorter. I’m still working on that goal.


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Reflection, Faith, & Family

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For me, Christmas and the week or so before it are a time for reflection, faith, and family. I try hard to work less and spend more time reading and with family. At this time of year, I try to read the first two chapters of Luke about the birth of John the Baptist and Christ. Yes, I’ve read them many times before, and even read it with my family, but it is the reason for the season.

I also listen to a lot of Christmas music with my wife. Most of it is older, traditional or classical music like Silent Night, Joy to the World, or the Hallelujah Chorus, but some can be more modern. I recently discovered the a cappella group Pentatonix. They don’t appear to be a Christian group, but they are talented and include many great Christmas songs in their repertoire. I’ve been lately watching them on YouTube.

So, that is my plan for this year, spend more time with family, read some from the good book and listen to good music. I’m thinking that is a perfect way to enjoy Christmas.

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas. Immanuel hallelujah.


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On Christmas

I Guess I’m just old-fashioned.

In an age where saying “Merry Christmas” is considered a political act, and Christmas for many is just the holiday after Black Friday, I still enjoy this time with my family, a real Christmas tree and candlelight in church and home.

My son, Robert with his fiancee, Carol. In the middle is my son James and on the right is my wife Lorraine. I'm the old guy in the back. 

Where we live, in the Pacific Northwest, we often don’t have snow on Christmas, but it is cold. This is a time to stay inside, read a good book or the good book, and put another log on the fire, but most of all this is the to remember and reflect upon the birth of Christ.

The day after Christmas I’ll be back at my desk writing, but between now and then I’m taking as much time as possible to be with family and friends.

For all of my readers, I wish a very Merry Christmas and blessings in the New Year.


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Night of Writing Dangerously

 

I may never win NaNoWriMo, but I enjoy taking part.

During the month of November, several hundred thousand people worldwide take part in National Novel Writing Month or simply, NaNoWriMo. The annual writing event started in 1999, but I didn’t hear of it until about eight years ago. That year I joined with others and started typing away at midnight of November first. A bleary four hours later I went home. I typed at home and went to other NaNoWriMo events, but never finished the 50,000 story required to be a “winner” of the event.

Kyle Pratt receives a halo at NaNoWriMo event, November 2017

Freelance writer Chris Baty created NaNoWriMo in 1999. That first year the event was held in July, but the next year it moved to November “to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather.” Living in the Pacific Northwest I totally understand miserable November weather.

In November 2007, NaNoWriMo organization hosted a fundraising Writing event they titled, “The Night of Writing Dangerously” in San Francisco. Like NaNoWriMo, this event has grown and today hundreds of writers attend, drink lots of coffee, socialize and write.

Friends around the table at the NaNoWriMo event, November 2017

The pictures you see here are from a NaNoWriMo event held earlier this month by the Lewis County Writers Guild. The guild usually hosts at least one event during November and there are often more.

Over these last few years I’ve realized I’m not a fast writer, but I enjoy writing and being with fellow writers. So I continue to take part, even if I never win.


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The Farm Pecking Order

 

I confirmed my position on the farm pecking order one morning a couple years ago.

For my city readers, pecking order refers to birds, often chickens. They establish their rank in the flock by pecking on another bird, lower in the social order without fear of retaliation. The pecking order rank establishes who is boss and who gets what food and when.

On this particular morning I rose from bed a few minutes late and stumbled out to the dining room. My breakfast of cereal waited for me on the table, but I couldn’t find my wife Lorraine. Finally, I sat and started eating. Then, the back door opened and she entered.

“Where have you been?” I asked after another bite of cold cereal.

“It’s cold this morning, so I brought warm oatmeal to the chickens.”

That confirmed what I already suspected. When it comes to being pampered with food, my position in the pecking order is below every chicken.

Okay, I admit that isn’t really true, Lorraine has cooked some fantastic meals for me, but she does take very good care of the chickens. They have a large area to roam and forage for food but, as you can tell from the picture (which my wife didn’t like, but after some pleading allowed me to use) she still gives “her girls” watermelon rinds and leftover grapes. If any bread or cake gets dry it doesn’t go into the trash or even the compost, they go straight to the chickens.

They are a pampered bunch of birds.


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Through the Storm Audiobook

 

The audiobook of Through the Storms is now in production.

Sean Patrick Hopkins

A few days ago I signed Sean Patrick Hopkins to narrate and produce the Through the Storm audiobook. Sean is a New York-based actor and Audible approved producer. He is a member of the Screen Actors Guild and his resume includes movies, television, off-Broadway and regional theatre credits.

The normal routine when making an audiobook is for the narrator to provide the first fifteen minutes for approval. This allows the author a chance to ensure the narrator has the voices, accents, and pronunciation correct. Sean did this perfectly and I’m thrilled to provide that clip from the book here. This will be my ninth story available as an audiobook and you can sample all of them on this special audiobook page of the website.

If all the production and post-production edits and checks go smoothly (as I expect they will) listeners can expect to see the Through the Storm audiobook available on Audible in early December. About a week later it will be released on iTunes.

I’m excited to hear the complete audiobook and hope you are also!


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My Busy Friend Debby

 

Debby Lee, my friend, fellow author and Inklings critique partner, announced today that she’s starting work on her fifth anthology with Barbour Publishing!

The Mountain Christmas Brides, Courageous Brides and Pony Express Romance Collection have all been released and are available on her Amazon Page, https://www.amazon.com/Debby-Lee/e/B006AY0USW

Author Debby Lee

Author Debby Lee

The Underground Railroad Brides is scheduled for release in June 2018 and The MissAdventurous Brides should be out in December of next year. She also mentioned to me that she wants to release a couple of short stories in the coming months.

I think Debby is going to be very busy for the next year.

However, there is still one more project she has agreed to do. Debby will be one of the writers on an as yet unnamed historical Christmas themed anthology with fellow Inkling writers, including Kristie Kandoll, Carolyn Bickel, Barbara Blakey and me. This as yet unnamed project is scheduled for October of 2018.

I look forward to working with Debby on that project in the months ahead. 


 
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My NFL Protest

 

I do try to stay out of politics on this site.

I really do. However, with each passing week, I have become more displeased with the NFL players.

Deadline Hollywood reported that before the most recent Seattle Seahawks game, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, Cliff Avril, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, Quinton Jefferson, Marcus Smith, Branden Jackson, Nazair Jones, Justin Britt, Oday Aboushi, and Michael Wilhoite knelt during the anthem. CBS didn’t cover this news story and instead continued coverage of a golf tournament.

The players say their protest is about racial inequality, or due to insensitive comments from team owners, or a host of other things. This message confusion leads me to believe they don’t have a real reason for protesting. However, standing for the anthem or flag is a gesture of respect and should never be forced upon anyone. If you don’t want to stand, put your hand over your heart or salute that should be your choice. Peaceful protest is part of the freedom we have in the United States and should not be interfered with.

So, they have the right to kneel.

However, for me, the anthem, written during the dark hours of the War of 1812, is an expression of hope and freedom.

“Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave,

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

Like the flag and the Declaration of Independence, the anthem is the ideal we strive to obtain. They are the goal, not the problem.

I am a United States Navy combat veteran. I stood in the gap and protected my family and country. I did my part. I’ve also been a Seahawks fan since the early Jim Zorn and Steve Largent days. However, now when the current Seattle players kneel during the anthem, they do it on the soil of a free country that it has been my honor to protect.

Kneeling is the protected protest action the players have chosen to do. I have also decided to take action. My protest actions won’t gain any media attention or threaten the profits of the league or players, but these acts are my choice and my right.

I will not buy any NFL or team branded items. I will not buy tickets to Seattle games or in any other way contribute to NFL or Seahawk profits. My wife is also a fan and wants to continue to watch the games on TV. I hope we can continue to do that together, but that will be up to the Seahawks and the NFL.


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A Sunday Surprise

 

Sundays I strive to take time for family.

Okay, that can include watching the Seattle Seahawks game, but my wife is also a fan. However, today I had a few story ideas I needed to write down before kickoff. In my home office, I turned on the computer and soon discovered that Through the Storm has risen to #42 on the Amazon post-apocalyptic bestseller list.

Through the Storm reaches the #42 spot on the Amazon post-apocalyptic bestseller list.

Since the release of the novel, the story has risen from the 750 spot into the top one hundred, and then moved up and down in the double digits. But, before today it had never risen above the fifty spot.

Eight places may seem small, but it sure made me happy.  

About those story ideas

At the start of this post, I writing down some story ideas. The success of Through the Storm has prompted me to dive into other stories in the series. This includes one that is called a sidequel. Wiktionary defines it best as, “A type of sequel which portrays events that occur at the same time as the original work, but with different characters in a different setting.”

In this sidequel, I’m focusing on the Major Franklin character that Neal Evans meets on day three of Through the Storm. Readers will see the events that brought them together, but this time through the eyes of the major. I’ll also reveal more about the militia group that raided the park where Neal had spent the night.

I hope to release this as yet unnamed sidequel early in 2018. 


 
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Climbing Higher

 

I’d like to be on top, but I’ll settle for the slow climb.

There is a saying in the writing world that an author is only as good as their latest book. Now with computers and the internet many authors can check their sales and rank in near real time. This can be both a good thing and bad.

On September 25th, the release day for Through the Storm, the novel stood at 750 on the Amazon post-apocalyptic bestseller list. I’ll admit that I felt a bit down. Sometimes the first day or two is the peak of sales and then the book starts a slow slide down to obscurity.

When I checked the next morning the book had reached the 303 spot on the list. A few hours later it stood at 320. I stopped checking.

This morning I needed to view the page for another reason and learned Through the Storm had reached the top 100.

At the moment, I’m thrilled and hope the novel continues its slow climb.


 
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Live on the Air

 

Today at 4:00 pm (Pacific Time) I’ll be live on The Write Stuff radio program with Parker J. Cole of PJC Media and WLUV Detroit to discuss my latest novel Through the Storm.

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In this latest novel, Neal Evans is in Nevada when he hears that an immense coronal mass ejection will soon slam into the Earth’s magnetosphere. Will it cause only beautiful auroras to dance across the night sky or will it throw technology back a hundred years? Politicians and scientists are still debating when Neal decides to act. As night falls, he has ten hours to reach home before the first CME strikes.   

Drake Evans is a happy high school freshman. Conner, his older brother, has gone hunting, instead of watching over him while their father is away at the conference. So now it’s party time!

As the world sinks into darkness, Neal and Conner must confront a dangerous new world on their long journeys home. Drake, alone on the farm, must become a man even before he figures out his teen years.

No matter where you are you can listen to the program live via the internet at http://tobtr.com/10165105  


 
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Through the Storms Released

 

The worldwide release of my latest novel, Through the Storm, occurred this morning—while I slept actually.

Despite my sleeping through the moment, I am excited about this new book. The ebook released today, because of a few logistical problems the paperback will come out later this week and audiobook next month.

Below is the back cover blurb,

An immense storm on the sun has flung four coronal mass ejections at the Earth.

That’s the news Neal Evans hears while hundreds of miles from home at a conference in Nevada. Will it cause only beautiful auroras to dance across the night sky or plunge technology back a hundred years? As politicians and scientists debate, Neal drives north toward home.

On the family farm, Drake Evans is a happy high school freshman. Instead of staying home with his younger brother, Conner Evans has gone hunting. So, it’s party time for Drake!

As the world descends into darkness, Neal and Conner must confront panic, hunger, and fear on their long journeys home. Drake, alone on the farm, must become a man even before he unravels his teen years.

For the first ninety days the novel is available exclusively on Amazon. The paperback will be available in a few days, the audiobook will be released in late October or early November. The book will appear on Nook, Kobo and other platforms with the start of 2018.


 
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Publicity is Good

 

It usually surprises me when my local paper, The Chronicle, has a story that mentions me. I’m not complaining, they have written some really nice things about me. It’s just I rarely know when these articles will appear. I’ve sent them story ideas and even press releases and seen nothing in the paper and then suddenly something large and really nice like this full-page spread in the Life section will appear.

Admittedly, this article, titled Southwest Washington Writers Conference Bringing the Region’s Writers Together, is not all about me, not even most of it, but my picture is there, above the fold. That kind of publicity is a good thing.

The article is actually about the fourth annual Southwest Washington Writers Conference this Saturday, September 9th at the Walton Science Center on the campus of Centralia College.

With the rise of Amazon, the advent of ebooks, the growth of audiobooks, and the steep decline of traditional bookstores, the role of authors has changed dramatically. I’ll conduct two workshops at the conference on how authors can exploit those changes through indie publishing.

If you’re in the area I hope to see you there.


 
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Dorky Glasses and the Eclipse

 

What is it about an eclipse that brings out the child in us?

I know it was a rare event, the last one like it occurred in 1918, but several of my friends traveled hundreds of miles and camped out in farm fields just to experience the eclipse totality.

As the eclipse begins.

We read in the local paper that the recent solar eclipse would reach ninety-six percent of totality in this area so; I purchased dorky glasses and invited our sons over to watch from the backyard.

If I made a habit of sitting in the backyard, wearing paper sunglasses and staring up into the sky I think my wife might have my head examined, but on this day she joined me, along with the boys, and we looked like a rather eccentric family having a backyard picnic.

The backyard at ninety-six percent of totality

At first, as the moon moved across the sun, we didn’t notice any change. Even when half of the sun had been blocked we couldn’t tell any difference in the day. Only when the moon blocked the vast majority of the sun did the sky take on the deep blue of evening. As we continued to watch a cool breeze blew.

Still, it amazed me that with ninety-six percent of the sun blocked, it wasn’t even close to dark.

Then the moon moved out of the way, and the hot and bright summer sun shone once again and we returned to the house. What am I going to do with the dorky glasses?


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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.


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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.


 
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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.


 
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