Saturday, August 30, 2014

When sleep won't find me

I haven’t slept much the past two weeks. Insomnia is a frustrating condition. The body craves rest but the mind just won’t slow down long enough to cross the border into slumber. There are too many thoughts — various scenarios being played out in my head trying to anticipate the next move knowing full well the outcome is beyond my control. That realization only sends my mind into overdrive.

Most nights I sit out on the patio and gaze into the sky, hoping to find serenity in the moon’s glow. But for the past two weeks there has been no moonshine to bask in, nor the opportunity to reflect in its illuminating glow. Instead, I tilt my head back in the chair and gaze at the stars the filled the night sky praying that soulshine will find me somewhere down the line.

The stars in the Southern sky really are quite beautiful. With my headphones on and the iPod set to shuffle, a gentle breeze pulled back the quilt of humidity that covered the lawn as I leaned back in the chair and hit play. As soon as the music began to play my mind switched gears faster than a racecar driver at Road America. The scenarios that had been playing out in my head were instantly replaced with memories with the music serving as the soundtrack to my life. The images were so real and vivid it was almost as if I could extend my hand into the starlit sky and touch them. As Huey Lewis began singing in my ears I was catapulted back to the night my oldest son was born. I left the hospital in La Jolla around 2 a.m., took the top off my Pontiac Fierro and cranked up the volume on the radio. That song was playing as I cruised down Pacific Coast Highway to the apartment in Carlsbad. At the first red light, I stood up, poked my head through the open sunroof and shouted, “I have a son!” at the top of my lungs.  I remember being overwhelmed with the feeling of absolute jubilation and stark terror at the realization I knew nothing about being a father. Looking up at the moonless sky, those feelings came rushing back as my mind began thinking about the past three decades and my journey through fatherhood.  James Taylor’s “Carolina in My Mind” starts playing and thoughts of home come to mind — so strong I can almost smell the pines that permeate the air near the home where I grew up. I remember the days of my youth sitting on the side porch with my friends on summer nights talking about baseball and argued over which one of us would be the first to make it to the Big Leagues. Summer nights in the heart of Carolina, the air is so thick with humidity you wear it like a winter coat. I’ve never complained about the heat, or growing up without air conditioning. To this day, I miss it. When I was in the Navy, that song brought me comfort my ship sailed across the Pacific, sometimes for months on end. There were many nights at sea I’d pop in the cassette into my tape deck, put on my headphones and let Taylor sing me back home as the ship’s movement rocked me to sleep. Song after song, each one refreshes a memory of my past that plays out in my mind as I stare into the night sky. I remember every detail, every word that was spoken, even how I felt at that exact moment in time. Good times and bad, they all are replayed, and with each memory, another opportunity for self-reflection on what I did, and what I didn’t. At time, the music made the memories a little to real, especially during a Jackson Browne song as he sings “… don’t confront me with my failures. I had not forgotten them." Thank God there is a skip button on the iPod, which made me wish that life came with a rewind button.

With each passing hour, I can feel my eyelids wanting to close. I so want sleep to come, but rest keeps passing me by. Through the music in my eyes I can still hear the internal clock ticking in my head, only the ticking becomes louder as I realize there’s not much time left before the alarm sounds. I try to make the clock stop ticking, but that only makes the sound louder.


Why can’t I sleep? Instead of a light bulb going off above my head from some great epiphany, instead I hear Robert Frost whisper through the headphones, “But you have promises to keep, and miles to go before you sleep. And miles to go before you sleep.”


I know that time is running out before the alarm sounds. There’s lots of time to sleep after that, I tell myself. There’s so much to do – so much I want to do.


My eyelids are starting to get heavy and I can feel my mind slowly beginning to ease into that state between fully awake and the place where dreams are allowed to take form and take shape.

I hear my mom’s voice. “You’re no spring chicken anymore.” My eyes pop open and once again I’m fully awake.


John Denver’s “Annie Song” plays in the headphones, followed by a tune from Keb Mo. More memories play out in my head, more emotions, more reminders of things I could have done but missed the moment. Again I hear Frost whisper in my ears through the headphones. “I told you to take the road less traveled. But no, you had to do it your way. You’re no risk-taker, I’ll give you that. But where has that gotten you? Tell me. Have you gotten everything you wanted in life by staying on the main road with everyone else? Go on, tell me, I can’t wait all night. My horses are waiting by the snowy woods and they are anxious to get back to the barn.”


I just want to sleep. Where is the moonshine that fills my spirit and serves as a beacon to light my way through life’s dark moments? In the dark, moonless night, how can I find soulshine without it?


Fully awake, I had to laugh aloud when chorus began for one of my favorite songs by the Rolling Stones. I laughed because, while my dad despised rock music, he was constantly praising the wisdom and sage advice imparted in the song’s title. I could also find humor in the irony as Sir Mick sang, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Again, I starred up at the stars as the song played in my headphones. I conceded to myself that the stars really are quite beautiful as I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to find me — or the alarm to sound, whichever comes first.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Glowing review from Books & Fandom

I don't know if it's common for author's to check the sales ranking of their book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but after yesterday' release I was curious. It's very heady (at least it is for me) to see my book jacket listed on these two major book sites. And then I noticed the sales ranking and quickly came crashing back down to earth. It's difficult to have a swelled head when seeing there's more than a half-million books selling better than yours. In a matter of just a few seconds my dream of being on a best seller list shifted to just being on a list period.

And then I saw this review posted on the Books & Fandom website. Please visit the site and check it out:

Here's just a few of the comments:

"The author's writing was flawless. Every story Jack told about himself easily was a segue way back in to the conversation leaving you thinking and wondering"

"I completely enjoyed this story. All the stories within the story had me intrigued and curious."

"Crosswinds is why I love to read and why it is one of my 2014 favorite reads."

Thank you Books & Fandom for reviewing "Crosswinds" and letting your readers know about the book. I know you could have selected thousands of other books to review. Again, thank you!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Blog Tour Schedule

I want to thank The Next Chapter Publishing and all of the wonderful, wonderful sites below for posting reviews and/or interviews and guest blogs during the national release of  "Crosswinds." The release date is only three days away!!!

Please visit the following book site to check out the "Crosswinds" Blog Tour 2014. Again, thank you to all the sites below for reviewing the book, hosting interviews and allowing me the opportunity to talk about the book.

Blog Tour Schedule

8/27/2014    Romantic Reading Escapes – Review, Book Spotlight

8/28/2014    Sherry Gomes Blog – Review, Book Spotlight

8/29/2014    Fandom Fanatic – Review, Book Spotlight

8/30/2014    The Pen Muse – Interview, Book Spotlight

8/31/2014    Multi-tasking Momma – Review, Book Spotlight

9/1/2014      My Fiction Nook – Guest Post, Book Spotlight

9/2/2014      Ashley Nemer Blog – Book Spotlight

9/3/2014      First Page to the Last – Book Spotlight

9/4/2014      The Next Chapter Publishing – N.R. White Interview

9/5/2014      The Next Chapter Publishing – Review Highlight

9/8/2014      My Reading Lounge – Guest Post, Book Spotlight

9/9/2014      Miss Ivy's Book Nook – Guest Post

9/10/2014    Miss Ivy's Book Nook – Book Spotlight

9/10/2014    Insatiable Readers – Book Spotlight

9/11/2014    The Next Chapter Publishing – Review Highlight

9/12/2014    Manic Readers – Interview, Book Spotlight

9/13/2014    The Next Chapter Publishing – Review Highlight

9/14/2014    Ashley Nemer Blog -- Review

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Texas Author's Association Interview

My interview on "Crosswinds" made during the Texas Author's Association convention has been posted on YouTube.

I thought it turned out a lot better than I thought it would. It was my first interview on that side of the camera and I was more than a little nervous.

Please check out the video at

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Starting somewhere

THE GOOD NEWS: My book is now being sold on the Barnes & Noble website.

THE BAD NEWS: It's ranked 446,238 in sales.

Everyone has to start somewhere. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Release date cometh

This is really a weird time for me. In a couple of days my first book will be released. On one hand, it's a day that I've been dreaming about since I began writing stories as a teenager. I've often thought about what that day would be like. I have imagined sitting at a table in a book store, signing copies and carrying on conversations with folks who wanted a personalized copy of my book. For so long those images have been nothing more than a fantasy -- an escape from the real world to a place I'd like to be. Now it's almost here.

The past few weeks have been a blur. I have promotional blogs and interviews (which I still have yet to complete). Then there is the scheduling for the first two book signings. I've been working with the publishing house in coordinating all those events. There has also been the promotion for the pre-orders of the book and this week, Nook, Amazon and Kindle launched advanced sales for the e-edition on their respective sites. It was a surreal experience when I opened the Amazon link and saw my book available for purchase from the largest bookseller in the world. While thrilled, I realized that folks still have to want to buy it.

While all of this is going on (plus by day job that pays the bills, which keeps me busy about 80 hours a week), I'm actively working on the second novel in the series, entitled "Wind Speaker." I truly love this book. Earlier this week I had a meeting with one of the partners at the publishing house. I had asked for some guidance on how to handle one of the chapters. Wind Speaker is a fictional character. In the chapter, I wanted Wind Speaker to tell the story of an actual event that I spent two years covering as a reporter. In the chapter, Wind Speaker tells Bobby (from Crosswinds) and DeWayne (one of the main characters in Wind Speaker) the legend of the White Buffalo Calf Woman and the prophesy that foretold her return to mark the beginning of what the Lakota Sioux call the "cleansing," which will proceed the reunification of the four tribes of man beneath the tree of life -- who will then restore the balance and harmony of Mother Earth. It's a key element of the story line and helps set up the third and final book of the series, "Wind Shear." As we were talking, I filled her in on the ending of the book, which has Bobby trying to get in touch with Jack to enlist his help. So I'm explaining the ending, with Willie telling Bobby where Jack has been the past four years and my publisher literally shouts, "Neal,  SPOILER ALERT! Why did you do that! That's such a great ending but I can't believe you told me! Now I won't have the chance to be knocked off my feet when I read it because I know what's coming." Bottom line, she loved it, although she's a little peeved that I spoiled the surprise by telling her in advance.

The thing is, I'm really getting into the writing process for Wind Speaker. I don't know if any other authors have experienced this, but it is certainly weird for me. I'm very proud of Crosswinds and as I mentioned earlier, I've been waiting my entire adult life for this moment to become reality. At the same time, I'm moving full speed ahead on the next book, yet I feel like I have to stop and move backwards before I can advance because the success of Crosswinds will play a key role in whether or not Wind Speaker sees publication. It's a business. A very, very tough business. As I'm learning, there's a lot more to becoming a published author than just creative writing.

Without question, I want Crosswinds to do well. I suppose I'm like most (if not all) authors who receive a contract and imagine their book becoming a best-seller. I know I have. And then reality hits and I remember the publisher telling me their "best case" expectation for a first-time, unknown author was selling 10,000 copies for their first book. It didn't sound like very many copies to me, but using a baseball analogy to help me understand, said for a first-time author, 10,000 copies is like hitting a walk-off grand slam homerun in the seventh game of the World Series. While I would truly love for the book to sell well enough that I could get of debt, being realistic, my primary goal is for Crosswinds to do well enough that it will guarantee the publication of Wind Speaker. This is a story that I feel with all my being will be well received with readers from all walks of life. It's also a story that needs to be told.

So if it takes me a little longer to finish Wind Speaker than I had anticipated, it's because I'm doing everything I can to ensure the success of Crosswinds. So far the reviews for Crosswinds have all been glowing tributes.  I have been corresponding with Carol Toberny, the owner of the book store where I will hold my first book signing on Sept. 6. In all of the correspondences, she stated how much she was looking forward to reading Crosswinds. Because she was so gracious to host the book signing, earlier this week I sent her the galley for the book that had been sent to the printer. This is the email she sent yesterday morning:

"Neal - I finished the book last night!  I LOVED it!!!  Wish I could have read it in one sitting - it was that captivating - but I had to do it over several nights which may have been better, now that I think about it, because it gave me a chance to reflect on it between readings.  I just loved it.  It resonated with me on many levels.  And on the areas I'm not as familiar with, it really opened my mind so that I want to learn more.  Great job!  I can't wait for Wind Speaker!!!

"Thank you so much for sending me the galley.  I was excited before, but I'm over-the-top excited now!!! Neal - I'm having a hard time selecting just one favorite part.  I loved how you jumped feet first into the story with Jack asking Bobby "Do you believe in God?"  And Jack's explanation of crosswinds to Bobby and his experiences with Marco on the Baja Peninsula and with Willie in the Navy and beyond.  And Bobby's gleaning from Jack the story of his lost love.  And, of course, the ending. . .

"If I had to narrow it down further (on my favorite part of the book), I guess I was particularly moved by the lessons Jack learned from Marco's happiness with his simple life.

"But it's really tough to choose.  As I said, it resonated with me in so many areas.  And I'm dying to know what happened when Bobby called Donna."

Best regards,

I was tempted to respond and let her know what happens between Bobby and Donna, but I remembered the publisher's reaction about SPOILER ALERT, so all I can say is that you can find out in the second chapter of Wind Speaker.

I'm proud of Crosswinds, but the story really starts taking shape in Wind Speaker. Based on the feedback from the 50 or so Advance Copies for Review that were sent out, I know there is a large audience for Crosswinds. I just hope it is able to rise about the sea of titles that it is competing against for recognition. For those who have, or plan to purchase Crosswinds, thank you. If you enjoy it, please tell your family and friends about it and help me be able to earn the opportunity to have Wind Speaker published. It has the same flow as Crosswinds, with about ten times the goosebumps -- and lots of twists you didn't see coming.

Although it won't be released until Aug. 29, pre-orders for the book version of Crosswinds is currently being sold by The Next Chapter Publishing

Pre-orders for the e-book version are also being sold on Amazon

My mom also sent me a text this week letting me know it was also being sold on the Nook book store website.

From 12-2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6, I will hold my first book reading during a book signing event at Ginger Bread Station Books, 4450 FM 1387 in Midlothian, Texas.

I will also be holding a book signing event from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Hastings Entertainment on Highway 77 in Waxahachie.

I look forward to visiting with everyone and sharing more about the Crosswinds series -- although I've been told I'm not allowed to divulge any key information about what's happening to the characters in Wind Speaker and the final book, Wind Shear. That's going to be really difficult for me because I love talking about it. 

In the meantime, I love hearing from readers. Please feel free to drop me a line, ask me a question or just visit. You can reach me at