Category Archives: The Arcana Chronicles

Submissions are now OPEN! The Word Count Episode Nineteen

WackoWell, I closed the poll a bit early as there was a clear runaway winner almost from the moment I posted the choices on Monday.

The next Theme for Episode 19 of The Word Count is:

“The only difference between a madman and me is that I’m not mad.”

You know the drill!  Time to write and record.

Details below, but I’d like to post this one next weekend.  Why?

(Cue maniacal laughter)

Well, I’ll tell you at the beginning of October.

In the meantime, here are the guidelines:

The Word Count Episode Nineteen Submission Guidelines (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY)

PROMPT: “The only difference between a madman and me is that I’m not mad.”
DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by MIDNIGHT (Eastern Time) Friday 30th September 2011

THE DETAILS:The work must be an original of yours. It could be a poem, short story, song—anything really as long as you write something based on the stated theme (“The only difference between a madman and me is that I’m not mad”).  Do NOT exceed ten minutes.  As this is a podcast, I need to receive a file of YOU reading (singing or otherwise performing) your work. MP3 FORMAT, please attach your MP3 file to an e-mail. The e-mail should also contain the following:

  • Your pen name
  • Your bio
  • Links to your websites
  • Your Twitter name (if you have one)
  • A photo I can use for the show notes
  • Permission to use your recording in the podcast

At the end of the recording, please add the following: “The is <YOUR NAME> author of <YOUR WORK(s)> and you’re listing to The Word Count Podcast”

Send your file to by Friday the 30th of September. You can also e-mail me with questions before hand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.


The Word Count Episode 19 – You Decide the Prompt!

quotable-lgAfter a brief hiatus, the Word Count podcast online poll for the next theme is back!

Are you excited? I am! But I’m like that.

So…what to put up for the choices?

I think I’ll pick famous quotes that you have to work into the story!

Yes? No? Well, time will tell!

Voting will take place this week and end on FRIDAY 23 SEPTEMBER.

Vote early, vote often folks.

The poll is off to the left





STEVE UMSTEAD week Continues!

Steve_and_me10 Questions with STEVE UMSTEAD


1. Have any new and upcoming authors caught your eye? 

I’ve found myself reading nothing but fellow independent authors’ works this year – and I’m thrilled by it. I’ve read some top notch works, stuff that could (and should) easily slide into the NYT best seller list. Yes, there are some self-pubbed works that should never have seen the light of day, but I’ve been reading some good ones. Some of the best science fiction I’ve read, indie or traditional, comes from Michael Hicks with his epic In Her Name series (I’m quite happy there are six in the series). Allen Schatz wrote an excellent suspense/murder mystery on the baseball diamond series featuring an umpire as the main character (and me as a big baseball fan really loved the blending of the sport and mystery). And right now I’m reading a thriller from Helen Hanson, 3 Lies, which is superbly written, with great CIA-type tech and fascinating plot. So…go get ‘em.

2. What kind of routines to you keep when writing?

It’s gotta be quiet and set apart from the rest of my life. I work at home so it’s sometimes difficult to get away from the job, but I’ve confiscated the dining room table. My wife (co-owner of our business) knows that when I’m in the office, it’s work-work, and when I’m at the dining room table, it’s writing-work. And my kids know when I have my noise-canceling headphones on, it’s writing time, and leave Dad alone time. Music, but no lyrics. Wine, but only a couple of glasses. And no snacks – I could stand to lose a few more pounds. 

3. What are THREE books, other than your own, that you think everyone should read?  

While I’d love to throw out there some classics from Dickens, or Strunk & White, or various well-known fabulously famous inspirational writers, I’m in the reading biz because I like to be entertained. Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy is an excellent technothriller that could be used to teach a class on multiple plot lines. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi is realistic near-future scifi at its best. And Shifter by some teenager named Zack Umstead – a young adult universe-jumping scifi novelette, first in a series. (Hey, it’s not my own book!)

4. If you could use only THREE words to persuade us to read your trilogy, what would they be?

Cheap, quick, and easy. Okay, okay… Technology, settings, and characters. I’d love to throw in a few adjectives in front of each of those, but you said three…



5. If such a choice were possible, would you prefer to live in a real or a virtual world? Why?

Real – I’m perfectly happy right where I am. I really hope one day I don’t wake up in a plastic coffin full of goo and wonder, “What is the Matrix?” So…I guess if I am living in a virtual world, don’t tell me. 

6. You have the chance to spend an evening with a film star of your choice. Whom would you choose and what do you hope the evening would bring?

That question certainly suggests I should lean towards the gorgeous starlet, but I’m a guy’s guy. A man’s man. Or something like that. Tell me this – for a science fiction/action fan who grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, who’s the coolest cat out there? If you didn’t say Harrison Ford, turn in your man card. Seriously – Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Rick Deckard, Jack Ryan. Game. Over. To hang out with him, maybe with him playing those characters…not a bad evening. 

7. You’re very active on social media.  What do you like most about it?  Hate most?  What would you say are the top five uses of social media as an indie writer?

Oh, it’s got its ups and downs, just like any other form of communication. It’s easy to get sucked in for hours on end, and completely neglect the writing. Being on Twitter, without which I feel I would have never even published a novel, is like being in dozens of conversations all going on at once, and being able to join in when you can, (1) say hello, (2) make valuable connections, (3) get information, (4) do research on the market, and try to (5) introduce prospective readers to my books. Sometimes I feel like I’m mentioning my book too often; it’s a tough line to not cross. And I’ve never been one for self promotion. But the relationships I’ve made, and the people I’ve met (including several great ones in person…ahem, Mr. Wood included) are just incredible. Fellow writers are the most supportive group of people I’ve ever met. 

8. Nominate 3 types of people for a long custodial sentence in a prison that uses painful experimental therapies to ‘cure’ its inmates. (NOTE. Obvious categories, such as bigots, tyrants, traffic wardens, estate agents, bankers, politicians and family and friends of Rupert Murdoch do not count.)

Really, I can’t say politicians? But there are so many types… Taco Bell drive through workers (they never get the order right), the Coors Light marketing staff (really? blue lines? that’s the hook? that’s why I’d buy your beer?), and landscapers who insist on mowing lawns before 7AM.

9. Would you like to be immortal? Why or why not? 

I am immortal. I remember meeting your great great grandfather back in the highlands of Scotland. Silly question. Next? 

10. Tell us a funny unknown fact about yourself. 

I asked my wife to help me with this one, as (a) I don’t think I have too many unknown facts, and (b) I doubt any of them would be very funny. So she picked out my odd habit of looking at both sides of a Dorito before eating it. There’s a perfectly valid reason behind this, and if enough people ask in the comments on your blog, I might just reveal it…

Welcome to STEVE UMSTEAD Week!!

UMSTEADWelcome to STEVE UMSTEAD Week! I’m your host, R. B. Wood—let’s play our game!

We are going to be celebrating the release of Gabriel’s Return – Book Two of the Evan Gabriel Trilogy.

Schedule for the week:

12 September – My Review of Book Two goes live (see below)

14 September – “Ten Questions with Steve Umstead”

16 September – Episode 18 of The Word Count Podcast – A Chat with Steve Umstead and a Reading from Gabriel’s Return


All this being said, who IS Steve Umstead? I’m glad you asked. From his bio page:

Steve Umstead has been the owner of a Caribbean & Mexico travel company for the past ten years, but never forgot his lifelong dream of becoming an author. After a successful stab at National Novel Writing Month, he decided to pursue his dream more vigorously…but hasn’t given up the traveling.

Steve lives in scenic (tongue-in-cheek) New Jersey with his wife, two kids, and several bookshelves full of other authors’ science fiction novels. Gabriel’s Redemption was his debut novel, published in February of 2011, and Gabriel’s Return, the second in the trilogy, launched in August. If his life allows it, Gabriel’s Revenge, book 3, will arrive before the holiday season.

I’ve been interacting with Steve on line for a while now. We met for the first time at ReaderCON this past July. Not only is Steve a talented writer, but he is genuinely a good guy.

Follow Steve on twitter: @SteveUmstead

Steve’s Website:


Now, onto the review: 


gabrielsreturncoverGABRIEL’S RETURN (Book 2 of the Evan Gabriel Trilogy) by Steve Umstead  FOUR out of FIVE STARS

Read my review of book one (GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION)

Six months after the events in book one, Commander Evan Gabriel of the North American Federation and the remainder of his team are on Mars when the son of a high-ranking politician is kidnapped on the distant world of Eden.

Gabriel and his team are asked mount a rescue, but bitter politics and memories of a failed mission 5 years previously complicate the mission.

Umstead continues his world-building and futuristic vision in GABRIEL’S RETURN, intertwining stories and sub-plots in the masterful thriller.

Where as Book One was a non-stop adventure story, Book Two is a complex thriller with deeper character development, fantastic settings and non-stop action. The writing is tight and fluid and the story is fully immersive.

This is Umstead’s “The Empire Strikes Back, ” cliffhanger included. As long as he doesn’t introduce Ewoks in the final book, all should be well.

I highly recommend both GABRIEL’S REDEMPTION and GABRIEL’S RETURN and I look forward to GABRIEL’S REVENGE due out this winter.


Pick up Gabriel’s Return at:

Off Topic Post-Influences

music_stand_in_empty_hall_42-16937056I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “influences.”

When I was younger, there were people I looked up to– just like we all did when we were kids.

Even to this very day, there are people who influence and mold the direction my life takes.

But today, I wanted to talk about one of the biggest influences in my life from my High School days.

Music had been a constant for my brother, sister and I since we’d been very young. Not just instrumental, but choral groups as well.

When I arrived to tenth grade at Huntington High School back in 1979, I continued to participate in the various music programs available at the time.

Concert band, marching band. The wind ensemble.

One day, at the appointed time, I arrived in the choral room at HHS as a newbie freshman. It was a large room with permanent wooden rises located at the ass-end of the school close to the auditorium.

Sitting at the piano was a man of average height with white hair. I won’t lie to you; he initially scared the living crap out of me.

“No, no, no! It’s IN-EGGSHELL-SEE DEO! Take it again from measure 25!” he’d scream while pounding on the piano.

AndyThis man was Andrew Housholder.

The fear lasted, maybe a couple of weeks. Respect followed. Then, adoration.

This man took almost anybody into the choir. And by the first concert, had built a group of hormonally challenged, apathetic high school students into a cohesive singing phenomena.

We would often perform college or professional level pieces. “Uncle Andy” is one of the reasons I received music scholarships for college (where I meet another amazing director and choral master—Lex Dashnaw. But that’s another posting).

If you’ve never seen it, go watch “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” That closing scene, with decades of students returning to pay tribute to Mr. Holland, a band teacher played by Richard Dreyfuss. It’s like that.

Only better.

I bring this up today, because at 7:30 this morning, Andrew Housholder passed away, surrounded by his family.

For the last couple of weeks I’ve watched kudos, prayers and anecdotes come in from all over the United States on a Facebook page setup by Ellen Housholder Rife, Uncle Andy’s daughter.

The impact that this one man had on my life, and on the life of hundreds, perhaps thousands of my fellow HHS Alumni was profound.

I’m sure this man has made his way to heaven and has taken over running the choirs of the Heavenly Host by now.

I can almost hear it now.

“IN-EGGSHELL-SEE DEO, Saint Michael!! Tenors and Archangels, take it from the ‘Halleluiah’ in measure 31…”

Thank you Andy.  You will be missed.



The Magical Mystery Blog Tour – Schedule

mmblogtourThe Magical Mystery Blog tour tentative schedule!

I announced a few days ago that I wanted to do a blog tour for the upcoming release for book one of The Arcana Chronicles: The Prodigal’s Foole.

It was one of those things that I thought “This could be loads of fun,” so I tossed the idea out there to see if it would stick.

I was overjoyed, humbled and extraordinarily pleased at the response. Every slot I had, plus a few extra were filled within a couple of hours.

The schedule is subject to change, but for your reading pleasure and as a way to say thank you to the participants, here is the schedule as of this morning:


15-Oct            Lakisha Spletzer

16-Oct            Lakisha Spletzer – Part 2

17-Oct            Monica Marier

19-Oct            Suzy Turner

21-Oct            Shay Fabbro

23-Oct            Bill Kirton

25-Oct            Christopher Blanchard

27-Oct            Steve Umstead

29-Oct            LM Stull

30-Oct            Eden Baylee

31-Oct            Leah Petersen

1-Nov             5MINUTEFICTION Judge

2-Nov             Emmett Spain

3-Nov             Leah Petersen – Part 2

4-Nov             Al Boudreau

6-Nov             Sessha Batto

8-Nov             K. Victoria Smith

10-Nov           Matthew Munson

12-Nov           Patti Larsen

14-Nov           Jonathan Gould

16-Nov           JD Robinson


What will these wonderful folks be doing to win the blog tour prizes? Well, I have to hold onto a few mysteries, don’t I? You’ll just have to watch this space to find out.

This should be loads of fun, and expect to see payback as I host these fantastic folks awhen their own literary works become available. In fact, next week will be STEVE UMSTEAD week. Stay tuned for content and a special edition of The Word Count podcast in celebration!




Off Topic Post-Labor Day

happy-labor-dayToday is Labor Day in the U. S.

Not only a celebration of the average worker, usually this first Monday in September signifies the end of summer. Today is for cookouts, family, and general out door party activities.

It also signals the start of the American football season. But that’s another post.

But since it’s “Labor Day,” I find myself thinking about the current job market. Not just in the U. S., but in other countries as well.

This is probably because my own job situation has been spotty for the past eight months—part time contracts and pickup work. I think that’s going to change shortly, but I’ll update you on that when things progress.

I wrote in my last posting that I love to work, and when I’m working, my writing goes well.

But today I’m thinking about all the folks around the world who want to work and haven’t been able to find a job. There is nothing more frustrating than being willing and able to do a job—but not being able to find one.

The unemployment rate here is still 9.1%, which is high, especially when you consider this doesn’t take into account those whose unemployment benefits have expired, or this who have just given up looking.

And it certainly doesn’t take into account the estimated 19.8% of the “under employed” in the country.

I have opinions—really strong opinions– on how to get our country working again. Start manufacturing our own things again, for one. Replace the jackwagons in Congress with people and not a bunch of spoiled millionaires for another.

But I digress.

My point is, while we are enjoying this last day of summer, have a think about people less fortunate. Consider how we got here and how we will have to change to provide our children with a chance to succeed.

The definition of insanity is doing the same exact thing and expecting different results. So let’s have a beer, a burger and celebrate the working woman and man today.

Then let’s figure out how to get them ALL back into game.


The Magical Mystery Blog Tour

806_26_8624---The-Magical-Mystery-Tour-Bus_webI can’t believe my book will be coming out in less than two months!

The excitement is building, and, as an Indie writer, internet awareness and reviews will be key to sales. With this in mind, I’d like to solicit help from fellow writers/editors and reviewers out there!

I’m planning on doing a bit of a blog tour, beginning two weeks before release and continuing into November.

I’m working on the schedule now, but I’m open to interviews, reviews, and (as you are all creative folks) any other ideas you may have, inclusive of guest posts on the subject of your choice on your own blog.

To steal an incentive-based idea from Steve Umstead, I will be offering THREE prizes during this marketing blitz:

THIRD PLACE (Most Creative idea) – $25 Amazon Gift card

SECOND PLACE (Most Creative idea) – $50 Amazon Gift Card

FIRST PLACE (Most Creative idea) – $100 Amazon Gift Card

The first phase of this is this posting on both my FB Writer’s page and blog.

Phase two will be assigning dates (I’d like to run in 2 day cycles – give folks a chance to read/listen to what’s been said)

Phase Three will be publication of the schedule and execution of the plan.

Please note that “NOT INTERESTED” or “CAN’T DO IT” are acceptable answers as I know everyone is busy and NaNoWriMo is coming up in November.

Let me know what you think, and if you’d like to participate.

I expect to have digital ARC copies of TPF available at the end of this month.  The tour will run from 17 October through to 18 November.


Has anyone seen my muse?

Xanadu-Olivia-Newton-John-Michael-Beck-2_large“I’m a muse.”

“I’m glad someone thinks this is funny.”

“No. A MUSE….”

You know it’s gonna be weird when I paraphrase Xanadu.

Since January, I’ve been consulting part time and writing. The last few months have been especially tough. More so, since my own personal muse seems to have gone on extended holiday.

Along with book 2 of The Arcana Chronicles (I’ve outlined through book five, BTW), I’ve been working on a super-secret SciFi trilogy, and am beginning character development on something that could be a very cool collaboration with writer Emmett Spain.

But most of the words coming from my keyboard have been crap.

Or online job applications.

jim-ignatowski-picThe interview process has been slow…I have a few great leads and potential opportunities…but I feel like I’m watching that episode of Taxi—you know the one, where Jim Ignatowsky played by the wonderful Christopher Lloyd is taking his drivers test and asks for help on the first question:

“What does a yellow light mean?” asks Jim.

“Slow down.”

“Okay. Whaaaat. Doooooes. Aaaaaaa. Yeeeeelloooow. Liiiiight. Meeeeaaan.”

That’s exactly what waiting for job follow-up and feedback is like.

Something will pop soon. I’m certain of it.

This waiting thing is playing havoc with my writing. The stress of not knowing what I’ll be doing is making me a bit crazy.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m lucky in the fact that my partner has a great job and is covering the household bills for the time being. And she is so unbelievably supportive of me in every way. I’m truly blessed.

I’m one of these weird people who like to work. Would I love to be a writer fulltime? Absolutely. Maybe someday that will be my “day job.”

But for now—for right now, I want to get back into the game full time.

Because when I work, I’m happy. And when I’m happy, maybe that fickle bitch I call my muse will come back from holiday.




Why I went Indie – Part III

Printing-Press-1Part three of why I went indie (if you missed it, here is PART I and PART II) focuses on the Indie writer and the small presses.

I like to tell stories. I always have. When my partner and children suggested I finally start writing down my stories, well I laughed.

See, back in the 80’s I had delusions of being the next Tom Clancy, James Patterson or even Alan Moore. I have some of the coolest rejection letters from Penguin, Marvel and Dark Horse.

But with this new encouragement to write, I realized something pretty important.

I didn’t want to become famous. I just wanted to tell a story.

Between my change in writing purpose and the fact forty-year-olds tend to finish things they start (back in the eighties a ‘writing session’ turned into a ‘beer session’ very quickly), The Prodigal’s Foole developed very quickly.

While I was writing that first book, I began to look at how I wanted to get my story out there. The query process for both an agent/large publishing house was arduous and frustrating—having gone through that before. Oh, I went through the motions again, mind you. With similar results.

But there was something new to a burgeoning writer out there. Technology, PoD and social media weren’t around when I attempted to be a writer the first time.

Now, the publishing world was very different.

What I found is that there are a lot more ‘wannabe’ writers out there. And that’s not a bad thing as long as what you are submitting to the world is the best quality product you can make.

But quality isn’t always a part of the Indie and self-pub world.

So I began to look for something I really wanted for my stories—a collaborative group of like-minded authors within a small press environment. My criteria was pretty stringent for whom I wanted to work with: 

  • A small press with a cadre of GOOD authors—maybe 20 or so writers who put out really good stories.
  • A collaborative feel—industry professionals and authors who were willing to take time out of their own day to work with a writer—discussions of plot, storytelling, publishing experiences, etc. etc.
  • An attention to detail—a desire to produce quality work
  • The ability to change business models rapidly to adjust for all the new changes in publishing technology
  • Assistance with marketing and modern ‘word-of-mouth’ techniques.

The problem, of course, was not knowing what I wanted, but finding a group of people that wanted the same exact thing I did. To write stories, to be proud of ones words and to expand ones abilities by sharing, listening and growing as a writer.

Let me warn you now, there are a LOT of charlatans out there who are happy to charge you a boat-load of cash for the privilege of producing your book (rule number ONE of being a professional writer: cash flows TO the author). Do your research. Get a lawyer involved once you get some sort of contract. Understand and speak with other writers within a publishing group.

And if your gut tells you something is wrong, it probably is.

The group I ended up with is a small Indie press out of Pennsylvania called Pfoxchase. Before I signed with them, I’d gotten to know the creative director (and fellow author) Diane Nelson for over a year. We’d chatted via twitter, she submitted stories to The Word Count (my podcast, in case you didn’t know) she introdusced me to other authors. Some of which, like me, now write for her Pfoxpub Group.


There is the lovely and talented Bill Kirton, author and voice-over specialist (you’ve heard him if you’ve ever spent time in the UK listening to the BBC). There is Sessha Batto, erotic writer and graphic artist. Robb Grindstaff, marvelous writer and editor. T.L.Tyson, prolific writer and vlogger-she writes more in a week than I have in a few months. I could go on about talent like John Browne, John Booth, Jessica L. Degarmo, Heikki Hietala, Lisa Hinsley, Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova), Kira Morgana, Noelle Pierce, Kate Rigby, Greta van der Rol, Gev Sweeney, and Brian Talgo but you get my point (and besides, all their bios can be found HERE).


I found what I was looking for in a publisher.

You may have different aspirations. You may have different goals. But ultimately, as long as you stick with it, are willing to listen & learn and strive for quality, you will be successful.


Going with an Indie small press has been a wonderful experience so far. I have learned a lot from my association with Pfoxchase. I’ve also laughed, cried screamed and giggled myself into fits.

The end result is that my first book comes out at the end of October. And I’m happy with the story and the people I’ve chosen to work with.

In the meantime, I’m still accepting submissions for the next podcast (see the post below this one for details) and this blog is still in the running for a ‘Most Valuable Blogger of Boston’ award. You can vote once a day until September 9th, should you wish.

To vote, click HERE.