Tangentially Related

I posted this on Facebook yesterday. It’s not really author- or book-related, but I thought I would post it here anyway. I’m a teacher at my day job, and this is something I feel strongly about.

Yesterday, after 17 people died at a school shooting in Florida, I stood in front of my middle school classrooms, hour after hour, reteaching the intruder drill procedures for my room. I wanted to reassure my kids that there was a plan in place if this thing that should be unthinkable, but which is now classroomperfectly thinkable, should happen to them.

In my classroom, there are two doors to the hallway. One of them remains locked from the outside at all times. The other is the door students use to enter and leave class. It’s the only door I need to secure in the event of a lockdown. Both of these hallway doors have floor-to-ceiling windows to one side of them. That effectively means that I do not have a safe corner opposite a door anywhere in my room. All four corners are exposed.

What I do have, though, is a huge storage area with a locked door. It only locks from the outside. Let me repeat: IT ONLY LOCKS FROM THE OUTSIDE.

I reminded the kids of our plan. In the event of a lockdown, they will quickly and quietly come to the front of the room and raise the projector screen, open the closet door, and go in. I will be locking the hallway door while they do this. Then, I will retrieve the closet key from where I have it taped up for easy access, and I will lock them in the closet. I will then slide the key under the door to them.

Mostly the kids grew silent. Some started thinking hard. You could see it in their eyes. Others, being middle-schoolers, snickered and giggled and cracked jokes. Don’t be put off by them. It means they either just don’t get it, or that they’re so scared the only way they can deal with their fear is with gallows humor. They’re twelve, so cut them some slack.

One girl, this time, shouted across the room, “Shut up. This isn’t funny.” The room grew quiet.

Then the questions started. “Well, what if . . .” “But what if . . .” “How about if . . .”

I raised my hand for silence. “Here’s the deal, folks. Our school’s plan is designed to save as many lives as possible the best way we know how. It is not a guarantee that everyone survives. All those kids in Parkland did exactly what they were supposed to do. They did everything right. And seventeen people still died.”

It grew very, very quiet. I heard a lot of deep breaths around the room. One girl had tears in her eyes. Then another voice piped up.

“Wait, Miss.” she said, “If you lock us in the closet, doesn’t that mean you’ll be out here?” All thirteen pairs of eyes looked up at me.

“Yes,” I said, “and that’s why I need you to be absolutely silent in that closet, no matter what happens.”

“You would do that?” she pressed.

“In a heartbeat. Just stay quiet so you get out alive. Make it worth it.”

The thing, though, is that I’m not extraordinary. I’m not special. I have never met a teacher in my entire career who wouldn’t do the exact same thing. That’s not what this is about.

Here’s what I want you to understand. This is normal, everyday life in America’s schools. Students in every school, at every grade, are being educated on their responsibilities in preventing a massacre, things that the adults in their lives should be assuming the responsibility for, whose responsibility it truly is. And all the while the president is telling massacre survivors that maybe they could have done just a little bit more to prevent what had happened to them.

For an entire generation of American students, just living with this possibility that is increasingly feeling more and more like an eventuality is traumatic. Our kids are already traumatized by living like this, even if there is never a shooter in their building. Just as my generation was shaped by practicing getting under our desks in the event of a Soviet nuclear attack—another futile exercise—this generation is in trauma over the expectation that anywhere they go, whether it’s a concert, a mall, a restaurant, or their school, there is a good chance they’ll be murdered.

It has to stop. And spare me your Second-Amendment arguments. It’s all you’ve got. If you don’t have any other practical solution than MOAR GUNS, then you don’t get to participate in the conversation about what we do next to make this stop. If you, deep down in your heart of hearts, feel perfectly content to exercise your allegedly restraint-free right to bear arms on the backs, not of Revolutionary patriots of mythic proportion who fought and died for your freedom, but on the backs of children who are bleeding out in the hallways and cafeteria floors of U.S. schools, on the backs of their friends who watch helplessly as it happens, and on the backs of the teachers who are placing their very bodies in front of bullets for them, then shame on you. You don’t deserve those rights. Your right to own possessions of any kind is not and never will be greater than the rights of our children to live.

If you plan to respond to any of this, I suggest that you be careful how you do so. I am not sad, and I am not scared. I am ENRAGED.


A New Year

2017 ends with three new titles and several events!Second Battle KDP

In time for Saint Patrick’s Day, I re-released The Second Battle with Four Phoenixes, complete with a dramatic new cover. It opened to some reviews that delighted me.

Later in the year, Adam and I finally got the second book in the Finn the Hero series, Finn and the Fish, out for readers. It spent some time in its Amazon category rubbing shoulders with Tomie dePaola and Rick Riordan, so that was fun.

Finn and the Boys Ebook CoverAnd last, right before the holidays, I released Space Bugs, the first book in my new hi-lo YA series called Space Cadets. Trying not to be sad about the sales on this one because it is, after all, for a pretty niche audience–struggling or reluctant teen readers. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it will be perfect for those who need books like this.

This year, I also made a concerted effort to reach out to events where author’s table their wares. I shared a table with a fellow author at the Kansas Book Festival on the Capitol lawn in Topeka. It was good have a presence there and to chat with fellow authors in the state. I also attended the Great Plains Renaissance Festival, with a table at the Authors Pavilion.Space Bugs KDP Cover

Then towards the holidays, I tabled at Kansas City Comic Con. Didn’t make my table fee back for that, which honestly surprised me. It was a matter of the right audience, but the wrong venue there, I think. It was hard to compete with all the shinies at the other vendor booths.

I had a great deal more success at our local Holly Holly Holly Days women’s arts and crafts event. To make it even better, I did a little networking (do people still network?) with a woman who just opened a local boutique shop with local artists and artisans. Consequently, all my titles are now for sale at 3 Wishes in Merriam, Kansas.

All in all, it was a very productive year, and now I’m looking ahead to 2018. Assuming the world doesn’t end in a cataclysmic inferno (and I’m not taking bets on that) my biggest priority is to get Wolf Moon out to readers. No more excuses, and I’m posting here to keep myself accountable!

If that happens, then Finn and the King and a new Space Cadets book can follow. Bring on 2018!

Holly Holly Holly Days!

This weekend, I’m tabling at a local women’s craft event. That’s been going well, but myHHH Table point here is something completely different.

I met a woman who was helping with the event who said her daughter was so very excited that I was there because Cat Moon was on a reading list at her school.

“Wait. What?” I said. Yeah, Moreland Ridge Middle School in Blue Springs, Missouri, has my book on a reading list. I cannot even imagine how that’s possible, and I was completely and utterly gobsmacked.

Yesterday, I got to meet the girl. She confirmed that her librarian had the book on her reading list, but she hadn’t read it yet because she was still on the waiting list. Pretty sure I sucked my breath in embarrassingly loudly.

My book. My beloved Cat Moon has a waiting list at the school library at a Kansas City metro area middle school. I can’t even.

I’ve emailed the librarian at Moreland Ridge to get more information, as well as to check that they have the new and improved version, and not the borked one my first publisher put out. I definitely want libraries with those to get new ones.

Now, no matter how many books I sell, it can’t top that!

Double Release Weekend!

I’ve been gearing up for some of local events this fall. They’re the kind where I pay a fee, set up a table, and try to sell some books.

KCCC Booth

My book at KCCC. Tons of fun!

The first was in September, where author friend S. C. Hallen and I shared a table at the Kansas Book Festival, right on the lawn of the state capitol building. It was fun to be at the capitol for something other than our wretch

ed politics and having to safeguard and defend our public school. But that’s another story. Do check out S. C.’s Guardians of the Heart series when you get a chance.

A couple weeks ago was Kansas City Comic Con. It was a ton of fun, mainly because my vendor fee came with two passes, so my Number Two kid hung out with me most of the weekend to spot me potty and boredom breaks and serve as a my general factotum. I was able to get the second Finn book published and delivered in time for that event. Which was awesome, but the highlight was still getting to pet Gary Fisher (Carrie’s dog) and tell him what a good boy he is.

Well, I had to publish the book on CreateSpace so I could order the paperbacks for the table, and a weird thing happened. A couple of people who had been waiting on it noticed it was available and ordered it–and spread the word. Before I knew it, without even officially releasing it, Finn and the Fish was up to #23 in the Children’s Mythology category! It doesn’t represent enough sales to keep me in the lifestyle to which I’d like to be accustomed, but it was fun to rub shoulders with Rick Riordan and Tomie dePaola for a few hours.

Then I figured, well, why not get Space Bugs up and going in time for the third event? So my graphic artist, the amazing Vanessa Hull, got the cover together, and we hit print. Our Kansas City local Holly Holly Holly Days Women’s Craft Fair is next weekend, and I’m pretty sure I’ll have it in time for that. Holiday books jobs are underway, I guess, and CreateSpace was taking its dear, sweet time “processing” it. I finally got a tracking number from UPS, and it should be here Wednesday, well in time for the Saturday event. Whew!

So that’s two new books released at the same time, sort of by accident and on a whim. For those keeping score at home, that makes five books available on Amazon now!

Happy Release Day, Bury the Rabbit!

BURYtheRabbitFrontThe final book in the Rabbit in Red trilogy is now available! If you’re a fan of horror–YA or adult–this series is for  you. Steeped in allusions from classic and popular horror stories, movies, and characters, the Rabbit in Red series pays homage to the genre. Fans of the genre will have a ball recognizing their icons woven into the story.

The third and final installation is out today. You can order the paperback from Barnes & Noble or Amazon.

Prefer digital? Joe encourages you to read on the TAPAS app, the his preferred digital reading app. Go here, and use code JOEC820Z to get 200 bonus coins.

Or get your Kindle copy here.

Here’s what Joe has to say about the completion of this work of the heart:

I started writing this series in the summer of 2014. It’s been a long, wonderful journey. The first book came out fall 2015, and now– October 2017– we bury the rabbit.

Some of you have been with me since day one. Some of you are just now finding the rabbit. I want to thank all of you for reading and celebrating my series. I couldn’t have kept up the energy and the momentum without you.

I hope you read and enjoy it.

Is this really the end? (Does a horror franchise really ever die?) I won’t answer that today, but the next book you will see from me is in a very different world. It’s called PIT OF DARKNESS, and I hope to get it to you in 2018.

All the best,


Congrats, Joe, on today’s release and on the completion of this enjoyable series!