Baking With Swords: The Agonizing (and Maddening) Search for a Title

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Alright, so if you haven’t been paying attention, my family collaboration Baking With Swords releases soon and the question at the tip of your brain is probably, “How much bacon is too much bacon?”

Concept 3Then, after you realize you can never have too much bacon, you ask, “Where and how did they come up with a goofy title like Baking With Swords? Well, contrary to my father’s short tale about warriors returning from battle, there is a story to the process. It may not be exciting, but at times it is fascinating and maybe even a little humorous. 

Since my brother, my sister, and I all contributed stories to this collection, I thought it only fair that we came up with a name together. So, the following is most of a Facebook private conversation between the three of us over a week’s time when we each tossed names out there. To be honest, these are probably only half the names we considered as I believe I had separate conversations with Paul and Betsy where I had a couple of other names tossed in as well as a public poll on potential titles. All in all, there was a moment I was about to bash my head into a wall. 

In the end, I think Baking With Swords has an even more special meaning since we have a half-baked title and we each can have sharp personalities with each other as siblings. So without any further delay, here is that conversation (please note we didn’t care about grammar or punctuation in our Facebook chat):


Paul: Thinking title ideas . How about From Shadows Revealed ?

Paul: Or, Finalities

Will: I like second better. Or we could go off our relationship and call it “Sibling Rivalry”

Paul: Familial Finalities?

Will: hmmm…

Will: I would go with Finalities over that.

Betsy: Finalities? Is that because everything we’ve written ends badly? Wow we’re a morbid bunch.

Paul: That’s my thought.

Will: Not necessarily badly…but just final.

Betsy: well…it’s not exactly a good ending for my main character…Ms. Adams…

Paul: Ok. Seems obvious that title still needs some thought. If we want to consider the sibling theme here’s two: Sib Tales or Sibblettes.

Will: Family Ties?

Paul: Makes me think of Tootie and Mrs Garrett

Will: Thats the Facts of Life

Paul: Oops, sorry Alex!

Will: Family Tithe?

Paul: Tales from the Stream?

Will: Bards, fairies, and the end of everything

Paul: Hmmm

Will: You like it, dont you?

Paul: Is that too revealing for 2 of you?

Will: May want to tweak it. Not sure we want to give all that away about betsy’s. Mine would be fine. Wings?

Paul: Idk

Will: A Bard, a Pair of Wings, and Your Internet Connection. Lol

Paul: Why not just call the whole thing Instability?

Will: I like it. Lets wait for betsy to chime in.

Betsy: It’s not awesome, but I’m ok with it.

Will: Well smarty pants…come up with something better to tie together our totally unrelated stories.

Betsy: Transience. And yes, I looked up Instability in the thesaurus….

Will: Fine with me too. Or we could just go with “We Have No Idea What To Call This Book”

Betsy: That could work… We can’t call it “The Search For Spock” can we? No…probably not.

Will: “The Search for a Decent Title”…  Skinny Genes… Acid-washed Genes… Sarah said she liked the title “Nerd Alert”

Betsy: “The Quest for Closure”… Bad Endings

Will: Morphin’ Time!

Betsy: YES! no. The Shaky Life of Fictional People

Betsy: I bet there are people out there whose sole job is to title books.

Will: A Requiem, A Metamorphosis, and a Coda… Insert title here…

Betsy: Isolation

Will: Ok….bringing it all back to this: how about Sibling Rivalry?

Paul: Hi. Wow. How about Three Nuts in a Jar ?

Betsy: That was your working title…I suggested it when I didn’t know it was your working title…

Will: Why dont you guys keep plugging away at your stories and keep the title in the back of your mind. I put my cover guy to work with a couple working titles and we’ll see how the mock-ups look in a few days.

Betsy: works for me.

Paul: Hey! I like 3 Nuts in a Jar!

Will: K. Thanks guys. I think this will be pretty cool. Collaborating on collections are sometimes tricky so thanks for being flexible.

Paul: How about we define our personal feelings about what goes into a title. Perhaps we find a commonality somewhere. For me, I like to find some common thread in all three stories, but I don’t care nearly so much about having a clever family reference in the title.

Will: That would be fine with me as well if there are any commonalities we can draw from. I’m ok with whatever.

Paul: However, the thought has also occurred to me that if we did find a good family-related name that it could be a name we come back to if this kind of thing turned into a series – (no promises.)

Will: Sibling Rivalry 3: Revenge of the Sis

Will: Wait for it…. Baking with Swords

Paul: Makes a good cover picture

Will: It could at that

 

Baking With Swords: My Dad’s Take

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As we finish putting the final touches on my family collaborative short story collection Baking With Swords, my father, Paul D. Swardstrom, finally read the stories involved. Afterwards, he took to writing up his own rationale for the title (which has nothing to do with baking or swords – honest!). Following is his own very short story that explains the title with veiled references to me and my three siblings. My other brother, Matthew, is referenced, but isn’t included in this collection. Perhaps we can con him into a future sequel (Baking With More Swords?), but either way, you may see a guest blog post from him in the future since I lent this space to Paul and Betsy recently. 

My writing does have a lot to do with my family as my parents both got me interested in reading and my father’s taste in books certainly rubbed off on me. My mom (Eileene) has helped proof and edit some of my books and is a huge inspiration. This little collection really means a lot to me — the words of the stories are just a small part of that to me.

Without further ado…Baking With Swords by Paul D. Swardsrom


 

Concept 3Forward: As my children would tell you, I love making puns and generating short backgrounds for a pun. When I read the preface to Baking with Swords I could not help but think up a reason why one would bake something with swords. Thus this story. The names used in this story are “changed to protect me from my wife” (just joking??). Of course they are somewhat based on people related to me.

The battle is won and the war is over. Prince Pedeus has met the evil Warlord/King of the invading army during the battle and killed him. With the death of the Warlord, the invading army disintegrated, and many of them were killed as they attempted to flee. Prince Pedeus and most of his staff, support, and protection left with him soon after the battle for the capital. He left his trusted tactical advisor Wilhelm in charge of the rest of the army to clean up the battle area and release the army.

Several days were spent burning the bodies of the dead enemy soldiers, burying the dead not being returned to their home for burial, and cleaning up the battle site. This has been completed; wagons that had brought food and other supplies to the battle are returning home carrying bodies and/or weapons and other useful equipment and materials from the battle site. It is finally complete and Wilhelm meets with his three cousins so that they may begin their journey back to the capital city.

Wilhelm is a tactical genius partially because he teaches general history and tactical history at the collage in the capital city.

Pawel is a master with stringed devices, both archery and musical instruments. He teaches archery because his country needs good bowmen, but his passion is as a minstrel. He was attached to the prince’s entourage as part of Wilhelm’s protection detail, but also as a minstrel for the prince.

Lizzy is an herbiest knowing herbs for healing as well as for cooking. She is very serious about helping the wounded, but her passion is cooking.

Hew sometimes thinks his name is a pun because he often hews wood, metal, and, when necessary, hews people. His favorite weapon is a large axe, but he is also very proficient with a hammer. He is a Master Carpenter and does some blacksmithing on the side. He is normally assigned to the large weapons group as an engineer/technician to support the catapults, ballistas, and other siege weapons.

The four cousins make one last pass over the battlefield finding a few broken swords and other metal that had not been picked up previously. They had two wagons: Lizzy’s herb wagon which had additional supplies for the trip, and Hew’s equipment wagon which now included several broken swords and other discarded equipment.

They traveled some distance and when it was getting late they arrived at a village that had been deserted as the enemy army approached. They did some scrounging and found only a couple of eggs and a vegetable garden. Lizzy was about to prepare a meal when she discovered that in the rush to pack everything up, she only had a small pot that she used to heat water to make tea. The men looked again and did not find anything else to cook with.

Then Hew got a bright idea when he was looking in the blacksmith shop. He asked Pawel and Wilhem to help him and then got the fire started and the forge hot. He then took some of the metal that they had scrounged from the battlefield and made some cooking utensils. He used a couple of plain hilts as handles on a couple of the larger items.

Lizzy was quite happy to see them and cooked a good meal. At the end she brought out a chocolate zucchini cake that she had made in of the larger utensils which included a hilt from a sword and whose base could plainly see was formally several pieces from swords.

And that is where the term “Baking with Swords” comes from.

Afterwards: Eileene and I are proud of my four children and their accomplishments. I also need to acknowledge some other authors for some of the ideas in this short story. Mercedes Lackey in Exile’s Honor provided this inspiration to require the army to clean up the battlefield. Most of the “battle” related stories seem to just leave everything there, in fact Lord of the Rings has a least one section where fields of bones is discussed. Patricia C. Wrede wrote a short story about a skillet as a magic weapon. The main characters in this short story are the main characters from The Enchanted Forest Chronicles. The chocolate zucchini cake that was mentioned is one of our family’s favorite recipes and I plan to provide two recipes for this cake. One of them is a barbarian shield version and the other one being a normal recipe that you would see in a cook boot.

Guest blogger: Betsy Baker

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One thing I’ve really found over the past year as an independent author is the cooperative and collaborative nature of many writers. I guess I always imagined that most writers sequestered themselves in a dark attic and pounded away on a typewriter until they emerged with Catcher in the Rye or went crazy. (Or both!) 

I am a part of two amazing groups that encourage and push me as a writer and feel I can call a number of other indie writers friends. I can show my work to them and get feedback, positive or negative. Many of them have read at least some of my books and will promote them to other readers when the opportunity presents itself. Writers don’t live in bubbles, as much as it feels like we do at times. 

That’s what I wanted t do when I first decided to do Baking With Swords with my brother and sister. I wanted them to know the writer’s life does not have to be a lonely one. You’ve already read Paul’s guest blog (here) and today you can read Betsy’s road to writing her story Flutter. 

Baking With Swords will be available in print and on Kindle in the next couple weeks. 

(By the way, she refers to me as William, which I allow her and my parents to do. It would seem weird for her to go with Will, so I’ll allow it here. Once.)


 

I’ve started so many stories and books over the years, it shocked me when William managed to finish one first. But then again, William and I have been in competition to be first for most of our lives. I went to college first, but he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do in life before I did. He was engaged first, even though I’d been dating my prospective husband for years before he’d even met Sarah. I managed to get married before him, by one week.

 

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair's fair -- and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

Betsy sent me a picture to use, but due to unforeseen technology issues, I had to nab a picture off Facebook, just like I did for my brother. (Fair’s fair — and there are no birds in your picture, Betsy!)

I know what you’re thinking, I got married the week before him just to be first. Well, no. Not really. That date was special to David & me and that’s why we wanted to get married on that date. Getting married first was just a very, very small sibling rivalry perk. (By the way, Sarah, sorry if that really messed you up!)

William & Sarah got pregnant first. That hurt because we then tried for another five plus years before we got pregnant. The hurt and pang from our infertility and loss of a baby is some of what inspired Flutter. You can read more of that story here, if you would like. William tells me that my story also inspired a character for one of his first Wool World stories (The Veil, found here).

William got his Master’s first. Though, honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever pursue that. I wanted to at one point, but now I have other priorities.

So, we’ve been competing for our whole lives. But after having my second child I was finally able to set that rivalry aside. When William announced that he had written a short story available for sale on Amazon, and was at work on a novel, I honestly wasn’t jealous. Well, not for longer than sixty seconds, anyway. I was more annoyed at myself. Why had I not done this? I actually, at the time, had two books in the works; a cookbook and a coursebook. I have yet to finish either of these. I’ve been in the editing process for my coursebook for a year and a half now. I’ll get it done, but it’s more tedious than picking small stones out of a cubic foot of sand.

William asked if I’d like to contribute to a sibling compilation book and at first I didn’t know what to say. Really? Wow. Uh…yes…but…what about? And…when will I find time? And….What I’ve learned in my life is that if you really want to do it you just say ‘yes’ and then you get to work. If all you can type is ‘duh, duh, duh’ over and over again, then do it. Eventually you’ll type a different word. And then you’ll type a sentence. And then you’ll type a paragraph.

So I sat down and fairly quickly knocked out the first segment of Flutter, which could stand on it’s own as a very short story. I then realized I could easily write a second segment, which could also stand on it’s own as a very short story. There came a point when I knew where the story was going and how it would end. You know what’s tough? Filling in the middle bits and flushing out the details. And even harder than that is the editing.

Concept 3I’m not good at rejecting what I’ve written. I get protective of my works. Like a mother bird over her little chicks. Really, though, I need to remember that when it’s gotten to the editing phase it’s time to let the little chick fly. I need to let go and let it grow up. William was very gracious during the editing process of Flutter and very much walked me through it.

Like I said, Flutter was inspired a bit from my own life, in a way. And I found myself very emotional during the process. I hope it comes through; how much of myself is in this story. But I hope you don’t get bogged down in it, either.

Rivalry isn’t always a bad thing. When William went first in getting published it showed me I can do it, too, and prompted me to get on with it already. I’m glad I’ve had William to compete with. Though now I’m even more glad to have him to work with. Thanks, Mom, for giving me these brothers of mine!

Oh, and yes, this Baker does know how to cook…here’s a great slow-cooker rib recipe:  http://grkids.com/recipe-and-store-sales-matchup-may-20-to-may-26-2012/ (ignore the sales talk, that post is from two years ago).

Guest blogger: Paul K. Swardstrom

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When we create, it has an effect on us, on our friends and family, on our relationships. The impact can be positive, it can be negative, it can even be relatively neutral, but there is an impact nonetheless. I knew this when I began my writing my first novel last year and because of it, I didn’t even tell any of my family for months. When I did, the admission was made with a lot of self-doubt and humility. Not because I was guaranteed success; no — because I was simply fulfilling a dream when some of my friends and family had let their dreams run off long ago. Me as a writer reminded them of the ruts we fall into in life, but even with some, it took some time to really work itself out. 

That impact eventually turned positive. Over the past few months, I’ve really learned to treasure my relationships with my family even more. In doing so, my brother Paul, and my sister, Betsy, have collaborated with me on a short story collection we are calling Baking With Swords, to be released soon. I’m really proud of the work we’ve put together and am excited to see their names on a book for the first time. 

In anticipation of that, I opened my blog up to Paul and Betsy to share some of themselves and their motivations for writing. This is Paul’s entry: 


 

Choices. We all make them – well, not all. I suppose if you’re in a coma, you’re not making choices, but then you’re not reading this either.

Let’s start over. My name is Paul K. Swardstrom. If that name sounds familiar, then you’re right. I am the son of Paul D. Swardstrom, the son of Paul W. Swardstrom…

 

Paul told me to just take a picture from his Facebook page, so here is one with a bird on his head.  - Will

Paul told me to just take a picture from his Facebook page, so here is one with a bird on his head. – Will

What? Oh. Will. Yeah, He’s my little taller than me and eight years younger than me brother. Ok, back to the subject at hand….

Choices. They are like rubber bands. When we make them we never know when one will snap us in the katookus. What will we do today? Will we use our time wisely? When confronted with a difficult situation, how will we react? Do I brush my teeth after a meal with lots of garlic and onion?

I’ve made my share of choices – some good, a lot bad.

Excuse me, I have to go brush my teeth…. and, back.

I think that for me I think too much. I always have. I think if I were in the debate club in school I would always have been in last place, but by the next day, I would probably have 5 good zingers. That’s my deal with choices, and life, and my place in the world and well, everything. I analyze, and sort, and reanalyze and try to place meaning, and pray and pray and rail angrily, and …. shrug.

When I was seventeen-nearly eighteen and had to make choices for college, I had no idea what I wanted in life. I decided to take music classes in college and become a music major because I had taken private lessons on my instrument in high school and didn’t want to waste it (the responsible attitude of a first-born child) and since I enjoyed marching band so much as a teenager I thought the best thing I could do with my life would be to associate myself with it by becoming a band director – I suppose that’s a moderately acceptable as a reason for wanting to become a band director.

By the time I was in my early twenties, I wanted to be one of the best band directors in the state – Arizona at the time.

Well, life has a way of going sideways. I was a young man with not a very clear head on my shoulders. I’m a good thinker, but again those in-the-moment things are hard for me. Additionally, I was quite a right-brained thinker back in the early 90’s. Its taken nearly two decades for me to train my left brain to be able to do some heavy lifting.

I was never the success I wanted to be back then – partly because I wasn’t ready for it, partly because I didn’t properly prepare myself for it, and partly because life just went sideways… a couple of times.

Malcolm Gladwell has a theory in one of his books, The Tipping Point that it takes about 10,000 hours working on something before you attain expert status at something. For me, I calculated my hours teaching band a few years ago and it came out somewhere north of 9,000. You could say I was approaching my tipping point, and I knew it. I also felt it. Things I did were making sense, I had quite a few instinctual reactions to situations that I knew were simply because I had been in that role for so long. However, I read The Tipping Point and made this calculation one year after I had been shifted into a different teaching role in my school district. It would be two more years before I would be back in front of a band again. It was the most professionally frustrated as I’ve been, and it has been going on for the last four years.

I’ve had a lot of soul searching in the last few years. Do I try something else? If I do, what would it be? I had an opportunity to go into financial planning, but I know the right brain side of me is too dominant for that to work. Do I go back to school and find something else to do? Do I move to be able to find other opportunities? Whatever I’ve been faced with, it always seemed that the best option was to stay right where I was – which only continued the frustration.

When Will began to write, I didn’t take it very well. I wanted to be supportive, but it hit pretty close to home. My brother. Doing something that he loves. While I felt unable to do the thing I felt I was made for? It was tough for me at the time. Will and I hashed it out some months back, which I think was a major step for me. Strangely enough, I think that was a block in my own head that kept me from being free to explore other ideas. That… well, let’s name it here…. petty jealousy…. kept me locked up and once I was able to let it go I was then able to make something of some ideas that have been floating in my own head for a long long time. By the way, Will was extremely gracious about the whole thing. Another thing he’s good at, hmmm.

Anyway, sometime soon after Will and I had our hashing out, he posted a blog post called I Am Inadequate, where he went and described a lot of inadequacies, hangups, choices, lazinesses (is that a word?) and such that I also struggle with (we are related after all). For some reason, the genesis of an idea popped into my head after reading that, and combined with the struggle you see noted above, a story idea was born.

Concept 3Over the next few days, I popped in on that story every time I had a break and had draft one finished pretty quickly and showed it to my author-brother. With his encouragement, the story expanded, shifted some focuses and refined. What resulted was a story that is called The Price of Greatness, which will be part of the forthcoming collection Baking with Swords.

It feels as if the story of this blog post is unfinished, but I suppose that is as life goes. Life is unfinished, and to borrow a phrase, my story is still unwritten. I found it quite interesting that Twitterverse had two things to say about this today (5/23/2014), which I in turn found inspiring enough to write a blog post about. I will leave you with them.

Oswald Chambers @myutmost ·

“Ambition means a set purpose for the attainment of our own ideal, and as such it is excluded from the Kingdom of Our Lord.” –Chambers

 

kulturhack ‏@kulturhack

The Odd Wisdom Of Brian Eno: “Craft is what enables you to be successful when you’re not inspired.”

 

A Year in this Crazy Adventure We Call Publishing

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One year ago, I hit publish on a short story, thereby earning myself the title, “Published Author.”

Perfect Game cover (1548x2400)That short story, Perfect Game, has had very impressive staying power, especially considering I don’t promote it at all. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. I want to share the ups and downs of the past year and the experiences I’ve had. This may get a bit lengthy — I’m forewarning you.

May 24, 2013 — Perfect Game is published. It was originally intended to be an experiment before I published Dead Sleep just weeks later. It was one of those stories that gets written when you are stalling other projects and was written and edited in just three days’ time. I worked up my own cover, using a picture I took, and tinkering with it in Picasa. In just a week, it sold remarkably well, but I had a bevy of family and friends who wanted to show a little support on Facebook, so that’s what I chalk those initial numbers to.

July 1, 2013 — Dead Sleep is published. As much as Perfect Game was just an experiment, this was a life-long ambition to finally write and publish my own novel. It was really a perfect storm of conditions that set this up: I finally had just one 40-hour-a-week job, I was reading and following Hugh Howey’s journey, and an idea came to me at just the right time. This first edition of Dead Sleep was riddled with problems, some of which I didn’t find out about for months. It really taught me a lot — to really be meticulous when it comes to your novel. Double, triple, quadruple check everything before you publish. I was thrilled to just have it for sale, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn from the experience.

Veil_Part1July 20, 2013 — The Veil is published. A Silo Saga story, I believe it was one of the first few Silo stories in Kindle Worlds that hadn’t already been published in the Kindle store. After drawing inspiration from Hugh Howey, I really wanted to pay homage to the author who showed me I could become a published author on my own terms. To this day, The Veil is my best-selling title on Kindle.

From there, it was a little while until I published anything else. I worked on a few things and then school started back up in early August, pushing any new titles back until I got the new semester under my belt. One of the stories I worked on was The Sheriff’s Son, which was recently published in WOOL Gathering. The charity anthology was over a half-year in the waiting from when I wrote my story to its publication, but well-worth it. More on this later…

AntApoc_EbookCover (640x1024)September 15, 2013 — Ant Apocalypse is released. Over the summer, I saw a humorous tweet from fellow author Lyn Perry where he wondered about the effectiveness of ant spray that killed them for “up to 7 days,” or something like that. On a whim, I replied “ANT APOCALYPSE,” and he told me to write it. I know he was joking, but I took it as a personal challenge. Horror isn’t really my thing, so I tried to take it on in B-movie fashion and think it paid off. Recently, AA became my first audiobook when narrator Sean Lenhart recorded the book. I’ll tell you — the book really takes the creepiness to another level when you hear it voiced.

Veil_Part2October 29, 2013 — Behind The Veil is published in the Kindle Worlds store. A sequel to The Veil, it is told from the perspective of the villain from The Veil. I also set another small challenge for myself in the process. I knew the story I wanted to tell wasn’t really long, so I made it a goal to tell the story of BTV in less than 10,000 words (thereby making it 99 cents in the Kindle Worlds store). As of this blog posting, I still have plans to write the third and last part of the series, Beyond The Veil. It will be on my summer writing list, I promise.

November through February — Nothing published, but that doesn’t mean nothing gained. I knew heading into November that it was also National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I planned and made it my goal to write Dead Sight during the month. I did complete over 50,000 words of the novel in November, but didn’t quite finish. December brought first semester exams, so I put off finishing until later and the final 20 percent of the novel was completed in January. Then came revising and editing, until…

Dead Sight ebookFebruary 23, 2014 — Dead Sight is published. Book 2 in my planned trilogy, it picks up a couple weeks after Dead Sleep leaves off. If Dead Sleep was a personal story for me, Dead Sight was a family story. Not sure what that means for the third book in the series, but these books will always have a lot of meaning for me. I know I’m doing something right because the sales for Dead Sight in the first month and a half equaled the sales for its predecessor in about four months’ time. The sales for the first book in the series have continued to sell better since I published the sequel as well and it has really given me incentive to complete the series. (Another summer project!)

Woolgathering_Cover-3 (1)March 13, 2014 — Finally, WOOL Gathering is published. I actually got involved with the anthology a couple months after its inception, but it took a while before we got all our ducks in a row. I wrote The Sheriff’s Son set in Hugh Howey’s Silo Universe back in August 2013, but it didn’t see the light of day for about seven months. But I am super-proud of this project, being next to stories from my fellow WOOL authors W.J. Davies, Ann Christy, Carol Davis, Lyn Perry, Fred Shernoff, Thomas Robins, Logan Thomas Snyder, and Dave Adams. A lot of great stuff in there and all the proceeds are going to the NaNoWriMo Young Author program. I guess I lied earlier — this is my best-selling work, but since so many other authors are involved, I don’t chalk it all up to me.

So what’s next? 

Concept 3Within a few days, my next project, Baking With Swords should be complete and for sale in the Kindle store. I’ll have a lot more to write about this in other blog posts, but this is a collaboration between me, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy. After everything I’ve done over the past year, they each unearthed their long-dormant writing abilities and we decided to pool our talents for this collection. The cover is terrific and I’m really looking forward to people reading all the stories, not just mine (A Whimper, which I previewed earlier this year.)

I’ve also written my next short story, tentatively titled True Confessions of a Professional Sidekick, which may go in another anthology with my WOOL friends, and may not. We’ll just have to see. I had a lot of fun writing the story, but once again, it’ll be a few months before most people get a chance to read it.

Then — Dead Search, the final installment in the adventures of Jack and Kristina. I’ve written the first chapter, approximately 3% of the book. Just 97% to go.

This past year has been a trip. Writing and putting myself out there was scary. Hitting publish and waiting for people to read it is like hitting the top of a hill on a roller coaster. The seat is gone for a moment and you aren’t sure how bad or good it’s going to be.

My sales haven’t been life-changing. I’m still going to keep my job as a high school social studies teacher, but this is pretty cool:

  • I’ve sold over 1,200 copies of my books on Kindle in the last year.
  • I’ve sold about 100 copies of my two novels in paperback form as well.
  • Just over 50 people have checked out my books through the Kindle Lending Library Program.
  • I’ve also given away just over 6,500 copies of my books during the same time period.
  • Over 1,000 copies of WOOL Gathering have been sold since its launch.

That means that by now, over 9,000 copies of books that include words I actually wrote are out there on someone’s Kindle, Kindle app, or bookshelf. For that, I’m honored. Even more incredibly, my books have a 4.5 combined average with 113 total reviews on Amazon.com.

I’ve met some great authors and readers throughout the past year and have been encouraged throughout the way. It hasn’t all been an upwards trajectory (you can’t help but think you are doing something wrong when your sales go from 250 one month to about 100 the next and you’ve released a new story.) Staying focused on the next book has helped, as well as the supportive authors I’ve encountered along the way (you know who you are!)

Along the way I also started this blog back in August and have loved entertaining you and providing reviews of my favorite books as well. Thanks for everything and stay tuned — the best is yet to come!

 

Cover Reveal – Baking With Swords

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Cover Reveal - Baking With Swords

How exactly do you Bake with a Sword?
Good question — if you figure it out, let me know.
As for the book cover before you, this is my next book release, scheduled to drop soon with stories by me, my brother Paul, and my sister Betsy. I’ll have story descriptions up here in the next few days, but here are the titles of our three works:
Paul K. Swardstrom — The Price of Greatness
Betsy Baker — Flutter
Will Swardstrom — A Whimper

Book Review – Synchronic

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SynchronicFinalCoverAs much as the title suggests its relationship to time, Synchronic also has a hint of something else. My mind wandered to chronic health conditions that persist over time, or perhaps even a hint at an addiction.

By the time I finished Synchronic, I had developed my own addiction: a persistent desire to read stories about time travel. One after another, the 13 writers involved in the anthology created new and interesting tales of time travel without repetition or fatigue.

I’ve read works by some of these authors already, but one of the great things about an anthology like this is finding new and different authors I hadn’t yet discovered. After reading some of the stories in Synchronic, I wish I could go back in time and discover these authors in their writing infancy – to read their early works as they were first getting published.

There is a certain appeal to time travel stories. What is it that draws the reader to them? I imagine the pull of regret has a lot to do with it. After I first got a DVR at home, I used it so much to skip commercials and to rewind live TV if I happened to miss something. Eventually I started having urges in real life to skip back or replay something. At first, it was just a few moments at a time, but when I realized major mistakes, oh how I wished I could go back and correct those blunders. To make my life better with just a simple revisit to the past.

Ultimately, that regret has a necessary place in our lives and helps us as we encounter new, but similar circumstances. That doesn’t lessen our desire to alter our past, though. I imagine if we were really able to go back, the tragedy of our actions would resonate throughout our lives. Most of the time travel stories I’ve read or seen on the big screen have that tragic element and over and over we see that in this collection as well.

There are so many great stories contained in Synchronic, but I want to highlight a few of my favorites – the stories that stuck with me long after I’d read them.

The Mirror by Irving Belateche

For me, the standout of this collection. I usually like my time travel to be science fiction-based, but wow, I’ll take it with a supernatural twist after reading The Mirror. Peter Cooper is a Manhattan antiques dealer who stumbles upon the titular object that reshapes his life, and has defined who he was before he even knew it. I really loved this story and made me think twice before looking in any antique mirrors.


The First Cut by Edward E. Robertson

When I first started reading Robertson’s contribution, I thought of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop, but this story had a mind of its own, putting these time police officers on the case of time violators who go to alternate histories of Earth. Our protagonist, Blake Din, is at the bottom of his class from the Academy, but we find out that Blake thrives once the simulations end and the real life situations emerge, taking us on a who-dun-it set in a time like the mid-90’s (where the Internet is in its infancy and cell phones aren’t ubiquitous). Wonderful twist at the end pays off for the reader.


Reset by MeiLin Miranda

This story struck me kind of like a Groundhog Day-type of story, except that Catherine lives almost an entire life over and over. This not only reminded me of Groundhog Day, but also the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop and Data is the only one aware of the repetition. Again, both those two tales are just a day or a few days – Catherine’s story involves years. What would you do if you lived decades over and over again?


Reentry Window by Eric Tozzi

Tozzi wrote one of my favorite books of 2013 – The Scout, and his knowledge of NASA and the space program pays off fantastically here. With hints of Andy Weir’s The Martian, Tozzi gives us a “chicken or the egg” story set in outer space that leaves you thinking for a long time.


Rock or Shell by Ann Christy

What is the effect of time travel on the space-time continuum. If you’ve watched enough Star Trek, you’ve heard of the continuum and Christy gives us a look behind the curtain so-to-speak with Rock or Shell. When the world as we know it starts to collapse, what do we hold on to? What keeps us centered – keeps us grounded? There was a bit of the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception here – you’ll know it when you read it – and Christy’s story pays it off wonderfully.

Like I said – all the stories are winners. It was tough for me to pick my top 5 and I’ll say that Susan Kaye Quinn’s Corrections was right there on the outside. Some other fantastic stories from Nick Cole (who also penned the amazing Foreward), Michael Bunker (what a twist!), Jason Gurley, Samuel Peralta, Jennifer Ellis, Christopher Nuttall, and Isaac Hooke round out the collection. I really could go on and on about this collection. And of course, I couldn’t forget to mention that editor extraordinare, David Gatewood, compiled this outstanding anthology, just a few months after publishing his last indie anthology, From The Indie Side.

This collection gets and deserves five stars and also deserves a paperback on your bookshelf. The short story is not dead and this collection proves it.