Steampunk Trilogy for sale Cheap!


Beyond the Rails is a story with a strange beginning.  I had one of those friends who is present in your life like a comfortable old sweater, always there for the good times, and taking an immeasurable part in creating them.  He and I were both boardgamers, though he was much more hardcore than I was.  He regaled me on several occasions about a game called Dystopian Wars, a steampunk-themed war game that began as a portfolio of fleet actions between navies, and has since grown into something beyond the control of its originators.

The game came packed with extensive backstories on the various countries involved, and the first words in the Britannia section are, “After the conquest of Ireland…”  Well, my friend, being a good and proper Irishman, wasn’t going to let that pass unanswered, and he approached me with the germ of a writing project about a British journalist, one Mr. Shackleford Banks, who was hot on the trail of the real story behind the Irish campaign, and working to expose the dirty politicians who had directed it.  Banks would be having a rough time of it as he tried to track down clues while evading the attentions of the various British security services, foreign and domestic.

Then he got a promotion to a position that required a great deal of travel, off-hours work, and a number of other extracurricular activities, and for the next few years, we were barely able to work in a game every couple of months.  His project went by the wayside, but I was hooked on the punk.  Rather than commandeer his project, I moved it forty years in time and four thousand miles in space, and Beyond the Rails was born.  I didn’t set out to copy anything, though a number of readers and reviewers have noted its similarity to Firefly.  It is undeniable, and given my love of that particular series, hardly surprising, but they missed its connection to a much more obscure vehicle, Howard Hawks’ 1962 feature film, Hatari!  I was a child of a broken home, with absentee parents and bitter adults constantly at each others’ necks and mine, and at the age of 13 I saw in Hatari the family I never had.  I saw it fourteen times the week it was in my local theater, and to this day I own it and watch it a couple of times a year.

And the point of all this is that it was that world I was unconsciously trying to recreate in Beyond the Rails, a group of misfits and outcasts from the various worlds they should have occupied, coming together and forming a functional family in a backwater colony.  Facing the dangers, misfortunes, the greedy, the ignorant, and the just plain evil as they try to make their way in a harsh land, they are the family that the child I was always wanted.  It isn’t their adventures that make them special, nor the airship they live on, nor the country where they live.  It is the family they have created voluntarily and without intent that carries them through their trials.

Beyond the Rails carries a cumulative rating of 4.8 on Amazon and 4.6 on Goodreads; there are some readers out there who think I did a pretty fair job.  Now you can live the whole adventure so far for the total price of $2.97.  All three books are available now on Kindle for 99¢ each.  Get ’em while they’re hot!

View from the Blimp

… Or you can wait for them to be available free here on the website.  Regular readers will have observed a running conversation with friends over the last three installments about giving my books away, and I am I would say about 90% certain that that’s what I’m going to do.  Interestingly enough, the good folks who tried so hard to talk me out of it wound up talking me into it.  Every time someone offered a very good reason for me not to do it, I had to ponder their reasoning and try to refute it in order to assure myself that my own reasons were valid, and the more I thought about it, the more valid my reasons appeared.

To recap, I’m not making any great amount of money selling books (although I did sell two books on the third; thank you, someone!), so it seems I should at least have some readers.  I post to this blog every three days, and when I do, I link to it on my Facebook page plus several groups and websites, and that publicity brings in 15 – 40 visits per day, which I’m sure is more than my Amazon listings get in a month.  I will still publish through CreateSpace, which may generate the odd sale here and there, but more importantly will give me access to physical books that I can buy for the grandkids and give as gifts to friends, and in the meantime, anyone who pops in to my blog will be able to read my portfolio in its entirety.  I can’t find a single problem with that.

I’m not going to rush in headlong, but once I’m sure this is what I want to do, I will begin posting ALL of my work, all of it, to the tabs at the top of the page.  That won’t be done overnight, but will be an ongoing process, and eventually you’ll be able to read my thoughts and plans down here, and all my books and stories up there .  What do you think?

In Other News . . .

Cannon Publishing has put out a call for submissions in six different anthologies.  This link will take you to their flyer.  They are asking for military-themed stories, sci-fi military, and fantasy.  They don’t specify length in the flyer, but they do ask you to e-mail them your ideas and interests, so if you have a story in you that’s looking for an outlet, this could be a big opportunity.  Don’t let it pass you by!

This month, the e-book retailer Smashwords is running their annual Summer/Winter sale, which runs from July 1 through July 31.  Why summer/winter?  That’s because it’s summer here in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern hemisphere!  All of Hadrosaur Productions’ titles published at Smashwords will be on sale for 50% off their retail price.  All you have to do is enter the code SSW50 at checkout.  Smashwords presents their ebooks in a variety of formats including mobi (which work on Kindles), epub (which work on Nooks), and PDF (which work on just about anything).

Interesting Reads . . .


I Villain by Marcus V. Calvert.  “My current alias is Benjamin Cly.  Just over 10 years ago, I retired from my life of violence and became a fixer – a middleman of sorts.  Clients brought me their problems.  My talented contractors ‘resolved’ them.  As long as the money was right, I worked every side of the law and didn’t think twice about it.  Until one of my biggest clients tried to set me up.  Then things went sideways.  I lost my growing criminal empire at the drop of a hat.  A lot of people started trying to kill me.  I should’ve run away and hid in some distant corner of the world.  But that’s not my style.  I don’t run.  I thrive.  And in a corrupt metropolis like Pillar City, I’ll just start a new empire.  But I can’t be a fixer again.  Nor do I want to be a mobster – this town has plenty of those.  No, I’m going to do the last thing anyone would ever expect a ‘harmless’ guy like me to do:  Become a crimefighter.  Seeing as I can steal super powers with a touch, it might be fun . . .  $3.00 on Kindle.


Dark Voyage by Helen Susan Swift.  In 1914, fear and paranoia rule the high seas.  Iain Cosgrove is newly married to Jennifer Manson, daughter of a wealthy Scottish merchant.  But when Iain leaves for a research trip aboard the Lady Balgay, last of Dundee’s once-grand sealing fleet, a mysterious chain of events is set in motion.  Fueled by rum and the eerie tales of the crew, they obsess over ancient superstitions, which Iain dismisses as simple lore…  until they reach the frigid Arctic seas.  After a string of tragic accidents, Iain begins to question his beliefs.  Then, the ship discovers two castaways – one of them a mysterious woman – and events take a sinister turn.  $3.99 on Kindle.


Moon, I Revolt by Brian Barr.  July 1969, we watched the Apollo 11 blast off into space and land on the moon… but what if there was a second ship?  This is the classified story of the Freedom 8, and two of its passengers — siblings Jimmy and Hannah Wallace and their otherworldly experiences that have remained a mystery to this day.  99¢ on Kindle.

And that’s 30 for today.  Visit again next Wednesday when I’ll be featuring another talented friend.  Until then, read well, and write better!

The Best-laid Plans…

We are all planners; some of us call our plans ‘first drafts.’  Those are the most rigid and meticulous planners of all.”

~ The first part of that I read somewhere; the second part is my own addition made to clarify the truth of it…

As has been discussed before, after a couple of dismal failures on my attempts to just sit down and write a novel off the top of my head, I purchased some how-to-write-books books and learned how to create a proper outline.  I then became an outliner at the far end of the scale, turning out outlines that were longer than some short stories.  I was considered an outlier by serious planners.  Once I found my true calling, the 20-odd thousand word novella, I shortened my outlines from a couple of paragraphs per scene to a couple of sentences, and that is what I’m going to talk about here.

I write in third-person viewpoint.  Each scene is written from a particular character’s point of view.  A novella hasn’t the room for the half-dozen or so characters I used in my novels, and they have been reduced to three.

  1. The protagonist.  In The Darklighters, the main viewpoint comes from the Darklighter agents, primarily “Jinx” Jenkins.  Charles Bender, her partner, has the viewpoint for about one-third of the scenes.
  2. The Antagonist; the villain if you like.  The overarching “villain” is Kraken, an international criminal organization, but one of their operatives is the antagonist with personality, needs, goals, and most importantly, a viewpoint in the story.
  3. The Distraction.  I’ve always believed that stories in which the hero can focus exclusively on the main problem until he has seen it through to completion leave a lot to be desired, so I always provide a rat to gnaw at the hero’s ankle while he’s trying to deal with the wolf at the door.  This, too, is a person with a viewpoint, as opposed to a volcano or a weather front, and they’re sometimes on the same side as the hero, but working at cross-purposes.


This was my outlining method until a few days ago.  It is, in fact, my outline for The Darklighters.  Down the left side are twenty blocks, each marked with the numbers 1 through 3, corresponding with the characters named above.  Beside each number is a couple of sentences describing the main points I want to make in the scene, and this has been it for quite a while now.  Gone are the full-page descriptions of a single scene; I write from this single page, and it has been working well.  But keeping track of peripheral things has been a handful.

Enter the Word Excel Worksheet.  We all know these.  Many of us create them at work, and many of those who don’t create them have their work guided by them.  Like nearly all writers, I work in the copy of Word I bought for my computer, and Excel has been sitting there unused literally for years.  No longer.

I didn’t invent the idea of using Excel as a writing tool, but once I saw it mentioned on a blog I was reading, the potential of it gradually developed and came together in my mind until I had a working template, which is what I’m going to share here.  I apologize for the graphic.  I spent a couple of days trying to collect a screenshot, but failed.  Luckily, my digital Sanyo just does what I need when I need it, so this is a photograph of the screen.


Left to right, the columns are as follows:

The first is the most basic information, Act and Scene.  I aim for twenty scenes, and highlight each one in green when the first draft is completed.

The second and third are the date and time that the scene takes place.  These columns will ensure that the scenes take place in daytime or night as appropriate, and will prevent that odd occurrence where a character is in Los Angeles, and shows up in New York an hour later.

The fourth column is the viewpoint character color coded by identity; blue for protagonist “Jinx,” light blue for Bender, red for the antagonist, and yellow for the distraction.  This is how you adjust the pacing, and verify it at a glance.

Column five is a couple of sentences that describe the scene you intend to write.  Due to the nature of spreadsheets, you can make this as long as you like, and if you want a couple of paragraphs for planning, go ahead and put them here.

Six is the location where the scene takes place.  Used in conjunction with the date and time, this (and column 7) will prevent any impossible juxtapositions.

Seven is the major characters present in the scene.

Eight is the target number of the total words for the story to this point.  I aim for 1,000 per scene, total of 20,000.

Nine is the number of words in the individual scene, counted by Word with a mouse click.

Column ten totals the numbers in column 9 so far, giving me a running total of the story’s length so far.

This sheet allows me to keep track of every aspect that is important to me as the purveyor of my little action/adventure tales.  If you write romance, you could add a column to track how the love triangle is developing.  A detective writer could track clues, or how close the detective is to making sense of them.  If you decide that a scene would work better in a different order, a mouse click moves it up or down.  This thing is magic!  My goal here is to convince you to give it a try if you aren’t already using it, and see if it doesn’t streamline your desktop.  Stop back later and let us know how it works for you!

View from the Blimp

I must say, I’ve spent a number of days now considering the prospect of offering all of my work for free here, and I do like it very much.  Stress of publishing, gone.  Stress of marketing, gone.  Stress of feeling like I must produce, produce, PRODUCE, gone.  Just thinking about writing whatever I like, at my own pace, without worrying about its marketability is one of the most liberating things I’ve done in a long time.  Independence Day might take on a whole new meaning for me in the future!

The real beauty is that given its zero cost, I can still publish on CreateSpace, buy a dozen copies, keep some for the grandkids and give the rest as gifts, and if another copy is never sold, so what?  I will have had the enjoyment of the writing, and the people close to me will have books to keep and hold forever.  I like the sound of that…

In Other News…


You’ve seen Richie Billing’s name appear frequently here, and there are a number of reasons for that.  Today I present another: What’s the Plot?, part of his ongoing series about The Craft.  In this installment he defines what a Plot is in relation to character and story, and goes in-depth to study its creation and management, including tools to track and develop it, and links to one of the masters of the Craft, Brandon Sanderson.  Very much worth a read if you’re at all serious about writing with quality.


This is author Mark Carnelley’s review of The Morning Star by C.W. Hawes that Amazon mysteriously deleted:

Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. June 4, 2018

In this first book of a gripping post-apocalyptic survival saga, author CW Hawes has given the role of leader to Bill Arthur, who while assuming command of his ever-growing band of survivors, struggles with the responsibility.  This is now a world where it is truly survival of the fittest, and those wishing to usurp his leadership will be met with the full force of his group, intent on keeping the “good from the old world” and old fashioned morality.  You would want to have a Bill Arthur in charge should you ever find yourself trying to survive in an apocalyptic event!  This is a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ must read.”

All of us indies have a love-hate relationship with Amazon.  On the one hand, most of us would never have been published without them.  On the other, they arbitrarily decide based on who-knows-what that this or that review is invalid, and you never seem to lose a bad one.  I have lost a few, and I’ve never known why.  So even if you yourself aren’t a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction, you may know someone who is.  Strike a blow for freedom against a monolithic dictator, and share this review with everyone you know.  Independence (and independents!) will be deeply in your debt.

Interesting Reads…

In keeping with the theme of Independence Day celebrated by Americans yesterday, I offer some Interesting Reads built around the theme of Freedom.


First up is Royal America by Englishman Steve Moore.  A fantasy Western where the British never lost America.  The British Army make contact with the Apache and Sioux in order to create Native American regiments.  This is a British Western, where Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Chocise, Victorio, Lozen, Queen Victoria and other historical names feature in an alternative history where the Aztec Spanish and the Imperial Chinese try to topple the Royal American Empire.  South West of what might have been… Price reduced to $1.99 on Kindle in honor of American Independence Day.


Next I give you Heroes of Aeolyne by B.P. Baggett.  Grand heroes of Aeolyne, they had been long observed by a mysterious force and led to a land where they all will soon meet.  Warriors and leaders that had suffered much and delivered freedom that is needed.  Soon they will all join the path to help deliver the land from the dreaded Dragon Dorica’lax.  Come meet these grand heroes and see their journey beginnings.  Free on Kindle.

Write… Chase Dreams… Repeat, a Facebook club managed, if I’m reading this right, by author Jennifer Johnson.  What appears there is mostly romance, which I never got into, and don’t promote much because I don’t know how to tell you that this one is of high quality, and that one is somehow lesser.  Other things do appear, such as the fantasy above, but I don’t find much to promote from there.  Nonetheless, they have never declined, deleted, nor even questioned any post I’ve put up there, and I just want to show them some love.  If you’re interested in primarily romance by volume, but basically any genre, be sure to look in here.  This is a busy site with a lot to offer, and they are very definitely on my “A” list.  Just tell ’em the Blimpster sent ya!

And Just for Fun…


Many of us had our first inspiration to write science fiction provided by some version of Star Trek.  This monster of a franchise began on television in 1966 and has run through a number of movies and television series to remain in production to this day, 52 years later, and it still continues to inspire.  So, where’s the fun?  Glad you asked.  Two podcasters, Steve Shives and Jason Harding, are currently producing a series of podcasts called The Ensign’s Log.  This follows the adventures of two rookies, Ensigns Barclay and Riker, aboard the Enterprise of Captain Kirk…  Although they certainly can’t call it that!  But if you’ve ever wondered what the junior staff was doing while the heroes were off acting heroic, this is your chance to find out.  They have 12 episodes posted for your listening enjoyment, and they follow in order the episodes of the original series.  So pop open a cola and dig in.  This will get you thinking on many levels!

And that’s 30 for today.  I’ll be back Sunday with more thrilling tales from the Lands that Never Were.  Until then, read well, and write better!

The Quest for Original Fantasy

And what might “Original Fantasy” be, you ask?  Quite simply, fantastic stories of swordsmen and sorcerers, of mighty quests, of everyman heroes in search of the impossible without a hint of Tolkien.  Without a mention of dwarves, elves, or orcs to be seen anywhere, with no rhyming prophecies or anonymous kings living in exile as rough-edged woodsmen.  Just people, some ordinary, some perhaps a cut above, standing in stoic defiance of forces beyond their mortal ken.

Don’t in any way misunderstand me.  I yield to no one in my love of Tolkien and his epic Ring odyssey.  My future wife came equipped with a set of hardbound second editions back in 1975.  That was my first encounter, and I fell in love for life with the incredible world he created.  I read them cover-to-cover, then read them aloud to her, then read them again to our children.  I sat enthralled through every treatment, from the Rankin-Bass television specials through Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre vision to Peter Jackson’s instant classic trilogy, and have never disliked any version.  I actually have an incomplete novel (no current plans to revisit it) resplendent with dwarves, elves, and though not orcs, villainous versions of all three of the others.  But in this case, we’re talking about the alternative.


Alternatives exist, to be sure, and I’m here to offer one.  The Stone Seekers is the story of a colony of outcasts in a hostile land who are robbed of an artifact that literally allows them to live around the bay they precariously cling to.  They know who took it and they know where to find them, but if every man, woman, and child took up arms and marched on the thieves, they haven’t the power to overcome them.  So they select two champions, a man and a woman with very complementary skills, to venture into the very jaws of evil and recover by stealth what cannot be taken by force.

This is my longest work to date, 369 pages of action-packed adventure, and like all of my work, it is for sale on Kindle for 99¢.

View from the Blimp

Well, last Friday I somewhat prematurely suggested that I might consider ending my writing career.  The comments section went insane, generating a number of responses unlikely to be approached again until I’m on a best-seller list somewhere, and I feel another word or two might be in order.  If I hang up my quill, and that is a big if, it won’t be until months after The Darklighters is completed, and only then if certain very precise conditions are met.  I am flattered by the show of support, but it’s far too early to worry about this now.  If it looks like it may be coming to pass, I’ll invite commentary probably after Christmas, but there’s far too much track between here and there to be worrying about that particular switch at this point.

But now that I think about it, here’s a little idea that just came to me.  I clearly stated in Friday’s post that it isn’t about the money, I just want to be read, and that is absolutely true.  How would it play if I just forget about all this publishing and marketing nonsense, and put all my work up on this site for free?  Find a title you like, click the tab, and read.  I could continue to blog, and promote my writing friends, and all that stress and hassle would evaporate into thin air.  This would become your one-stop shop for all things Tyler.  What do you think?

Finally, I’ve read a most interesting novella over the last couple of days.  It’s called Being Joe, and with a title like that, you might get the idea that it’s akin to Angela’s Ashes and the like.  If you’ve been riding the blimp long enough to know me, though, you know that that’s as far from my reading style as it gets.  I posted a review on my other blog, Jack’s Hideout, and some material about its author as well.  Slip on over and take a different kind of ride!

In Other News…


Karen J. Carlisle, the talented author responsible for the Viola Stewart series, the Department of Curiosities, and Aunt Enid has announced an upcoming Secret Project.  This is the clue, and the release is imminent, so check in at Karen J. Carlisle and get ready to party!  While you’re there you can sign up for her newsletter, Tea and Tidings, and don’t miss N.O.A. Rawle’s review of Aunt Enid, either; it’s really worth a read… the book and the blog!

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A new anthology has been announced for the fantasy genre.  Short stories are being accepted at  Don’t let the name throw you off, they aren’t after horror in this one, but fantasy works of 3- to 6,000 words with a generally uplifting theme.  The submission deadline is November 1st, and the pay for accepted stories is $300 plus royalties.  All the particulars are available at the link above, so sharpen your pencils and put on your wizard hats!


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Over at the website Peak Story Reviews, our friend B.K. Bass is running a monthly feature in which he explains a sub-genre or niche style, then offers up an original story written in that style.  This month he looks at Magepunk, a style combining technology and magic, and thrills readers with Crimson Storm, a tale of pirates and airships and things…


Interesting Reads


War’s End: The Storm by Christine Shuck.  “What was left in the wreckage of the world that was?  We were.  And this is our story, my story, and the story of us all.” – Jess’s Journal.  In the day after tomorrow, after the socioeconomic collapse of the United States, one young girl fights for survival.  Violently ripped from her family, abused and now pregnant, Jess must somehow survive while fleeing those who pursue her.  Jess must come to peace with the life growing inside her as she struggles to return home.  $3.99 on Kindle.


The Haunting of the Hockomock Swamp by H.E. Kline.  “Radiating from the ground, she sensed the Indians’ spirits and great suffering.”  Against the beautiful backdrop of the largest swamp in Southeastern Massachusetts, a captivating tale of mystery, magic, and murder that will keep you on the edge of your seat – heart pounding and looking over your shoulder – as you read The Haunting of Hockomock Swamp!  Based on local legend, this tale is not for the faint of heart, but scared or not, you’ll love the thrills and chills that accompany this paranormal romance.  Hordes of young children suffering the unthinkable.  A bewildering investigation.  Janie Williams is living her dream as a newbie investigative reporter until she finds herself intrigued by a three-century old Native American shapeshifter who is a terror to behold and is wreaking havoc.  As the investigation expands and horrifying answers begin to emerge, she falls head over heels with her crazy sexy hot heart-of-gold mentor Alan Needle.  But what Janie could never imagine is that her efforts to solve this mystery will uncover the deepest betrayal, blood, and tragedy America has ever seen.  99¢ on Kindle.


Aunt Nora’s Cleaning Service by Linda M. Scott.  Aunt Nora had a beautiful teenage daughter, full of life, who was raped and murdered.  After the death of her daughter she tried to find closure by joining support groups, but nothing seemed to fill that void or ease the pain that she was feeling.  One day she decided to orchestrate her own support group, one that had nothing to do with standing up and sharing feelings.  Instead her group of like-minded individuals believed in one result for rapist and pedophiles and one result only: DEATH.  $2.99 on Kindle.

And that’s 30 for this issue.  Join me Thursday for the promised look at using spreadsheets to track your plots.  Until then, read well, and write better!