Get A Count of Five FREE Until 8/31

I've got some good news for those of you who have been wanting to check out my new fantasy novel, A Count of Five, but also wanted to save $3 for a rainy day. From now until Monday, August 31, you can pick up the Kindle version absolutely free.

That's right! COMPLETELY FREE!

But only until Monday. After that, the price returns to $2.99. So don't wait, or you won't have enough money left over to buy... I don't know. Can you still buy a Starbucks coffee for three bucks?

Whatever. The point is you should go grab a digital copy. And probably tell your friends and loved ones to do the same.

A Few Days at a Volcano-Top Observatory

Lindsay and I took a couple days and went to Paradise (I'm not trying to be cute - that is literally the name of the location), which is located on Mount Rainier. We've been to Rainier a few times in the past, but this was the first time we ever stayed overnight there.

The trip, obviously, was breathtaking. I don't think we could have chosen a better time to visit, either. Because we're experiencing a warm summer in the Pacific Northwest, the roads and trails were clear earlier than usual, meaning the area wasn't quite as busy as it could have been. In addition, we got two beautiful, clear days.

We did two hikes, plus a short walk. The first hike, which I foolishly thought was going to be easy, was to Comet Falls. It wasn't that far, but the elevation gain was intense. But the falls were worth it:

We were able to walk right up to the falls into the spray, which was a nice break from the heat.

We stayed overnight at the Paradise Inn. The rooms were perhaps a tad reminiscent of a college dorm, but that's part of the charm. Also, it's part of the reason you can stay on Rainier without spending an exorbitant amount of money.

On Friday, we did the Skyline loop, which is best described as a trail traversing a ridge offering you views of Mount Rainier on one side and an overlook of southern Washington on the other. We could see Mount Adams, Mount St. Helen's, and even Mount Hood from the trail (Hood was too faint to appear in the photos I took, but trust me: it was between the other two).

We're exhausted from all the hiking, but it's an understatement to say it was worth it. This has been an absolutely wonderful couple of days. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go collapse into bed.

Movies and Herons

Other than the release of my new novel, I caught a few movies this past week. After it set an opening weekend box-office record, I almost felt obligated to check out Jurassic World. Overall, I thought it was a fun, if somewhat underwhelming, experience. It was funny and the action scenes delivered, but I didn't feel like it did anything new. A decent work of nostalgia, but I'm ready for this franchise to move on. I go into a little more depth on my other blog, if you'd like more details.

I was far more impressed with Pixar's new movie, Inside Out. This is easily the best movie we've seen from the studio since at least Toy Story 3, and it can hold its own alongside anything in their catalog. My full review is here.

In order to offset all that time spent in a dark theater, Lindsay and I drove down to the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday. It's a good place for bird watching: we saw herons, bald eagles, and a number of other avians. The eagles were too far away for me to get a good picture, but here's a shot of a whole flock of herons.

Okay, okay: it doesn't quite do the experience justice. Take it from me - it was pretty incredible to watch.

Speaking of pictures not doing things justice, the Wildlife Refuge offers a great perspective on Mount Rainier. Staring at it across the marshes had a real Mount Doom effect. I took dozens of photos trying to capture the sense of scale, but my phone wasn't really up to the task. Here's about as close as I came:

If you squint, you should be able to tell there's a mountain there.

Today's the Day: A Count of Five is Available Now!

As promised, A Count of Five is available on Amazon now. The Kindle version can be purchased here for $2.99, and the paperback is for sale over here for $9.99. It's enrolled in Matchbook, so you can also get a digital copy for free after ordering the paperback.

A Count of Five is the first novel in the Citadel of The Last Gathering, an epic fantasy adventure blending in elements of science fiction and other genres. Its sequel will be available this November - more on that soon!

I Did Not Realize That Killer Whales Drown Great White Sharks

So here's why I haven't seen Jurassic World yet....

Lindsay and I took a four day weekend and camped on Orcas Island. We went on several short hikes, visited the town, and wrapped up our last night there with a whale watch in the sound.

We had a fantastic time. Orcas Island isn't the absolute most magnificent place we've been to in Washington State (the Mountain Loop Highway and Olympic Peninsula are tied for that honor), but it was still breathtaking. More than that, the attractions were surprisingly quiet, giving us far more solitude than we've gotten from other destinations in the area.

One warning: settlers killed off the island's native bear and wolf populations more than a century ago, which has left Orcas Island at the mercy of a single animal:

Deer. That picture was from our campsite. We saw deer everywhere while we were on the island. They do not fear humans.

My pictures really don't do justice to the Madrona trees we saw there. These things look like they're made out of bronze or something.

It was a much needed break from work and writing. I don't think I find anything as inspirational as a vacation to a new climate and setting. I'm eager to get back to work on the next novel.

Book Update (Anachronistic Version)

We received the first proof yesterday, and we're happy with how it came out. That said, we did make a few minor tweaks and fix a handful of typos. While it's probably safe to assume this won't have any impact on the book, we want to be sure, so we're ordering a second proof before approving it.

Amazon's estimating it'll show up on or around the 15th. If all goes as planned, that should give us just enough time to look it over, approve it, and get it listed by the 18th. That's assuming we didn't screw anything up, of course: if we have to make any additional changes, we'll need to delay the launch of the physical version.

If you're just planning on getting the e-book, rest assured that will be ready by the 18th regardless. You can make sure you get it the second it's available by pre-ordering it now (though, just a reminder, anyone who wants both versions should just get the physical: we'll be setting that up to come with a free Kindle version).

Also, this seems like a good time to roll out the imprint we threw together. While it's certainly not necessary to have an imprint when self-publishing, Amazon gives you the option. And, frankly, I just don't think a book spine looks right without one.

Lindsay came up with the name, Idyll Themes, and I re-purposed a drawing I did for a Christmas pirate story a few years back as a symbol.

Life, Legos, and Post-Apocalyptic Feminism

I've been getting the finishing touches ready for A Count of Five, revising its sequel, and starting work on its sequel's sequel.

So... a little busy, all things considered.

However, I did check out the absolutely phenomenal Max Max: Fury Road. If you haven't gone yet, you should do so as soon as possible. Between Prometheus and Aeon Flux, Charlize Theron's certainly not a novice when it comes to science fiction, but she finally - FINALLY - got to star in a genre film worthy of her talents. You can check out my full review over at The Middle Room, if you're interested, but if you love brilliantly made SF - or if you just want to contribute towards making a bunch of misogynists cry - you should rush out and buy a ticket now.

Speaking of post-apocalyptic films centered around female characters I recently watched, I also decided the time was right to give Tank Girl another chance. Well, maybe Netflix made that call, since it's about to vanish from instant-view. Regardless, SOMETHING in the Universe seems to have decided I should sit down and re-watch Tank Girl, and regardless who or what came to that conclusion, they were sorely mistaken.

I wrote up a review of that in my series on the worst comic book adaptations of all time. Here's the link to the Tank Girl review, and - if you're really curious - here's a link that can bring up all twenty-six reviews in that series.

In other news, I broke down and bought the Lego Ecto-1 set a few days ago. Despite having thousands of toys, I actually don't own many Legos (they're pricey, and I really don't need another thing to collect). But this set was just too cool to pass up.

I'm a little disappointed the doors don't open, and the figures couldn't all fit inside if they did, but the finished car and minifigs are still great.