Saturday, March 28, 2015

Treasure One Another

It seems like I've been writing a lot of entries lately about the sadness of losing people. This week I was stunned to hear of the passing of a good man who died too young. Mike Winters was only 58 years old. He leaves behind a grieving family, though one that will carry on in his absence because he bequeathed them a legacy of love, hard work, and strength of character.

I had the privilege of performing the wedding of his daughter, Cassie, a young lady I love very much. She was once my student, but now she is my friend. Cas was truly her daddy's girl. Her face lit up every time she spoke of him. I'm sure it still does, though, for now, that light is dimmed by devastating sadness.

This event reminds me once more of those things that should be self-evident every day of the year, but I tend to push to the back of my mind. Things that some people always remember, but, being totally honest, I forget way too easily.

First, I forget to be thankful for all the blessings in my life. It's not that I dwell on the negatives. Sometimes I do, but mostly, I am simply not conscious of anything either way. I just kind of drift through life without giving it nearly enough thought. Any of my students who read my blog will find this ironic because I'm constantly preaching at them to live intentionally, to make and keep memories, to think about all the good things they have in their lives. I guess I need to take my own lesson a little better.

And it's not just having a feeling of thankfulness that I need. I don't say thank you nearly enough. There are so many people who have done more for me than they can possibly know and I don't express my gratitude nearly enough. In fact, I take their role in my life for granted. This event has made me remember that no one's presence and help is guaranteed. People move, people pass away, people sometimes are just meant to be a part of our lives for a season. So we need to treasure every loved one for every second we have him or her. Beyond that, we must make sure they know we treasure them and are thankful, both for them and to them.

So rather than list all those folks here, my goal for this week is to let everyone in my life know just how much they mean to me and how thankful for everything they do for me just by loving me and being in my life.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Why Being a Writer is Fun

This week is a reminder of all the reasons I'm glad to be a writer and hope to do it for a living someday. And none of them are that I hate my day job!

First of all, I got the opportunity to be interviewed by a terrific guy named Eric Douglas, who has a show called "Writer's Block" on a web radio station named Voices of Appalachia. Last week he posted that he had some slots open for interviews and anyone who was interested should message him. I almost didn't do it because, after all, I'm just a tiny little nobody writer who's probably spent more money on this job than he's actually made through sales. Last week's interview was with our state's poet laureate. Why in the world would he take me? Well, take me he did, and I had a blast. Eric is a great interviewer who immediately set me at ease. He also taught me some things. I hope I didn't sound like a complete moron. We'll find out Monday evening at 7pm. If you're interested in hearing it, go to this link: If you miss it Monday, it will be available as a podcast by going to the Writer's Block page of the site.

Next, and directly related to something Eric Douglas told me, I now have a new domain name for my website. I am made happy by such silly little things. One of them is that my name is a website domain now. The site itself hasn't changed, but you can now access it by going to The choosing of the name was an epic unto itself. Some of my AP English students helped me. I went through several possibilities:,,,, and The only one I tried that wasn't available was just plain We all went back and forth on the merits of my given name versus the less formal yet more informative joestephens along with my job. And when we decided I should be Joe and not Joseph, what to go with it? Author? Writer? Writes? We all finally agreed that writes sounded the most comfortable. I sat with my finger on the mouse button for a full two minutes before I could bring myself to click the button, though. This was a big decision. Hopefully, this was going to be the link to my site for a long time, so I needed to choose wisely. I finally bought the domain and felt not an iota of buyer's remorse.

And finally, today I get to meet some people and tell them about my books. I enjoy book signings because it gives me a chance to do something I do well--talk. I like it when people I know come out to support me, but I really hope to meet several new folks and let them know who I am and what I do. I hope I can convince them to give my writing a try. Who knows--maybe they'll become fans. Even better, maybe they'll become friends.

So you have lots of ways to be in touch with me this week. You can listen to my interview, you can go to my website with its shiny new domain name, and you can come see me at the Vienna Public Library today (March 21) from 2pm to 3pm. While you're at my website, by the way, don't forget to sign up to be on my mailing list! Everyone on my list will soon receive a free preview of the first four chapters of my upcoming new title, Kisses and Lies. And other freebies will appear in your inbox from time to time, such as short stories and maybe even a discount or two.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Shameless Self-Promotion: Book Signing and Mailing List News

This post is a day later than normal for me. Saturday morning is usually my drink-gallons-of-coffee-while-writing-and-catching-up-on-all-thing-author time, but I was off judging at a speech and debate tournament this weekend, so I'm getting this written before church on Sunday morning. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. Not sure how my blog being a day late could, in fact, cause inconvenience, but if it did, I'm truly sorry. 

So, on to the business at hand. The next big event on my promotion calendar is a book signing at the Vienna Public Library. It will be Saturday, March 21 from 2:00pm to 3:00pm right inside the front doors. This is my second signing opportunity through the cooperation of the Wood County Public Library system and I want to thank the good folks there, especially Brian Raitz, for their help.

What will happen at the signing? First, I hope to no one's surprise, I'll be signing copies of my debut novel, Harsh Prey. If you already own a copy, please feel free to bring it in and I'll sign it for you. If you don't already own a copy, you're in luck, as I have several copies ready to sell. 

I also hope to meet some new folks, let them know I'm here, and get them to give my work a try. As an independent author, selling books is a one-at-a-time kind of thing. Meet folks, get them interested, and hopefully build a fan base. 

Finally, I'll be having a drawing, just like last time I had a signing. Unlike last time, though, the prize will not be a gift card. Instead, I'll be giving away a signed copy of my new book, Kisses and Lies, which will be available for sale next month. Sadly, the hard copy won't be quite ready by then, so the winner will have to trust me that I'll mail it to you just as soon as I get it. The good news is that everyone who registers for the drawing and gives me their email address to add to my mailing list will receive a free preview of the book in their inbox the following week. 

So, if you live in the Mid Ohio Valley, I hope to see you Saturday, March 21 at the Vienna Public Library. The address is 2300 First Avenue, known to locals as River Road. From Grand Central, turn at the light beside Neale Elementary. Go past the school and the library is on the right. From River Road, it's on the corner of 23rd Street. You can't miss it. 

My email address is
If you can't make it to the signing for whatever reason but would like to be on my mailing list and receive the preview as well as other updates, simply contact me, either directly through email ( or by filling out the "Contact Me Here" on the right side of this page, and I'll gladly add you to my list. Just a heads up about the mailing list--in coming months, you'll also get a preview of book 3 in the Shalan Adventures, In the Shadow, as well as a free e-version of a Christmas story starring our good friends, Harry and Dee Shalan. It will be free to anyone on the mailing list before it's available for sale to the public. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

What Is the Soundtrack of Your Book?

I'm ecstatically sitting in my designated corner at Panera Bread, headphones in, steaming cup of Hazelnut coffee by my side, and headphones blasting music. I'll give three guesses to anyone who really knows me exactly who is singing in my ears right now and the first two guesses don't count.

Sometimes I play instrumental music while I write, but most of the time, it's the same person crooning me through the pages. I've heard every song so many times that it's pretty much like instrumental because I don't have to give a solitary thought to the lyrics. They're part of me.

This made me think about my writing. So much of my composition has been accompanied by the same singer that I really feel like, assuming my work ever gets adapted for the screen (big or small), the entire soundtrack will absolutely have to be made up of his songs. I even consider as I'm writing a scene sometimes which song would work behind that scene. I can definitely think of a couple of the slower ones that will be playing provocatively in the background as Harry and Dee fall into bed. The one playing right now comes to mind.

Boy Superhero Listening to a BookI haven't taken it so far as to create an actual soundtrack yet, but rest assured that, after book three, the rough draft of which WILL BE finished today before I leave this restaurant, I'm going to take a brief break from writing and create playlists for each book. Maybe I'll even publish it so that people who want to can set up the lists and hit play at the appropriate times. Wow, I think I'm onto something here. Soundtracks for books. I like it.

If you're a writer, do you think about this? Do songs you love pop into your head as perfect to play at some particular point in the story? Surely I'm not the only person for whom this is true (not you're not and don't call me Shirley). Or as a reader, have you thought as you read that some song you know would play perfect accompaniment to what you're reading at the moment? I'd love it if you would comment and tell me if you think about this and what songs are on your soundtracks.

And by the way, the first person who comments on here with the correct guess as to who my soundtrack singer is will win a free autographed copy of my upcoming Shalan Adventure, Kisses and Lies. Please note--only guesses made directly on this blog count toward winning the book.