Break the Rules

Posted on December 21st, 2013

I really enjoy being a dad.

As I was preparing to give Alex his bath last night, he stared out the window at one of the neighbor’s houses. “Lights out there, Dad! Lights!”

“Yep, you’re right,” I said. “They’re pretty, aren’t they?”

“Yeah, lights!”

I paused a moment so I could change the subject. “Come on, bud. Time for bath!”

I was tired. It’s been a long week–late nights, early mornings, the stress of trying to finish things at work before a long vacation. I was already in sweat pants, looking forward to maybe watching a movie before heading to bed myself.

I went to the bathroom to start the water. He padded along behind me, but then darted to his room. As I reached for the faucet, he came back with some outdoor clothes.

“Lights?” His voice trembled, realizing that we were about to do the normal routine, and that meant he’d soon be in bed. I could tell he was about to cry.

As a parent, I prefer to maintain routines. It’s good for kids to know what to expect each day, and this works for us–I rarely need to discipline him (other than the occasional playing too rough with his brother or the cats). On the other hand, I’m very mindful of helping my kids develop their independence. I want them to feel like their opinion matters.

I took my hand off the faucet. “You know, Alex, you’re right. Let’s break the rules and go look at some lights.”

We spent a half hour driving around our town, looking at all the lit-up houses. We talked constantly, pointing out the colors and the stars and the snow men. Alex had a blast (I did too), and when we got home, he went to bed without complaint. Even though I was still exhausted from the stress of the week, that half hour helped melt that stress away.

Sometimes we get so stuck in our routines that we forget to stop and admire the lights. I hope you take the time to break the rules with your family this holiday. Or on a random Monday.

Our time here is short, and knowing when to give in on something small can make a huge difference to a little boy. And his dad.

Enjoy life. It matters.

Site hacked, trying to recover

Posted on October 23rd, 2013

If you haven’t visited recently, you may see that my site layout has changed. Unfortunately, my personal website was hacked and populated with ads for certain little blue pills and other enhancement drugs. This required several hours of attempting to remove the embedded code before I finally decided to start over with a fresh install. Luckily, all of my data is regularly backed up, so all of the posts remain intact.

I’m taking advantage of the situation to create a custom theme for the site. It’s likely you’ll see lots of changes over the next few days, so please bear with me. Thanks in advance!

If you’re looking for information about the Rochester Writing Group, please email me at [email protected] Thanks!

Big, BIG news! Coffee & Books

Posted on January 18th, 2013

Big news! The Caldarian Conflict was selected for the Coffee & Books program at Dunn Brothers (currently there are only around 20 books in the program). Read on for a coupon promo!


This is a very big deal–the top four books each quarter are displayed in all Dunn Bros locations. This could help The Caldarian Conflict find hundreds of new readers.

Why is this so important?

  • There’s very little competition right now in the program, which helps increase my visibility
  • As a participating author, it’s relatively easy for me to get in for readings and signing events.
  • Buying books gets you free coffee. What better deal is there than that?

To celebrate the inclusion of The Caldarian Conflict in the Coffee & Books program, I’m running a promo. The first 50 people to buy The Caldarian Conflict ebook will receive 20% off the book! Just use the coupon code “pirate” when you check out (without the quotes). Remember, this is only good for the first 50 customers!

Share this with your friends. The more people who buy The Caldarian Conflict, the better my chances are of the book arriving in the store!

Thanks everyone!

Review: The 10,000-Year Explosion by Gregory Cochran & Henry Harpending

Posted on October 21st, 2012

Overall, good read. They provide a compelling argument for why human evolution has continued throughout the past several thousand years, and identifies some of the selective pressures that continue to act on us today.

In addition, this book includes an extensive resource list for additional reading and data that supports their conclusions.

While I personally would have liked a little more meat in the identification of specific genes responsible for changes in human DNA, or the selection pressures the authors believe will shape humanity’s future, this book is an accessible resource for armchair scientists.

Full disclosure: where did I obtain this book?

Purchased myself

To buy this yourself from Amazon, click on the image below!

Please note that I make a small percentage of the sales resulting from this link, but this did not influence my review.

Review: The Secret Underground – Natalie Bahm

Posted on October 12th, 2012

What a fun read!

Intense, suspenseful novel for middle grade readers–and adults will enjoy it too! I had so much fun with this book, and didn’t want to put it down, even for dinner!

What did I like? The mystery and suspense introduced by the tunnels, and the wonderful characterization of the main character, Ally, and her female friends. The Gauze Men made wonderful villains, and I loved the conflict surrounding the bank robberies, keeping secrets from parents, and early relationships.

My only issue is that many of the boy characters were difficult to remember–many of them, with the exception of Paul, Eric, and Jake, were pretty interchangeable. I would have liked to see more identifiable characteristics early on. That said, by the second two-thirds of the book, I completely hooked.

Can’t wait to read another book by Ms. Bahm. Well done!

Full disclosure: where did I obtain this book?

Purchased myself

To buy this yourself from Amazon, click on the image below!

Please note that I make a small percentage of the sales resulting from this link, but this did not influence my review.

FREE Kindle ebook April 24-25 – Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories

Posted on April 24th, 2012

Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories is free on Amazon Kindle April 24-25.

Please share this with your friends!

Cover for Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories

Don’t have a Kindle? You can still read the electronic version on your computer. There’s no DRM, so converting it to another version is a breeze with Calibre.

Please grab a free copy to help my Amazon ranking, which will eventually sell more books. Thanks everyone!

Announcing: Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories

Posted on March 18th, 2012

My next book, Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories, is now available for preorder from Amazon. I’m pretty excited!

Cover for Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories

This book is the first in a series of non-fiction books designed to help teen writers through all the stages of writing, from creating stories to writing as a career. It’s great for new writers of all ages, and is organized into an easy-to-read format with plenty of examples and exercises.

As well as accepting preorders through Amazon, I’m also looking for early reviewers who will read the book and write a review in time for its April 24 launch. Readers will receive a free PDF of the book, and as might be obvious, should not distribute the file to anyone else. Simply comment on this blog post, post a message on my Facebook Author page, or send me a tweet via Twitter (@mikekalmbach).

If you’re on Goodreads, take a moment to add Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories to your to-read list.

Thanks for helping get a new book off the ground!

Book Cover for Into the Land of Iowah

Posted on November 15th, 2011

As I’m sure is not a surprise, I’m hard at work on another novel with the working title, Into the Land of Iowah. Here’s the blurb:

Vagus, a wizard from the realm of Amishan, loses a battle and is banished to the most heinous land his enemy can think of: a corn field in the middle of present-day Iowa. In a land where all people know of magic is from the movies, he’s convinced there’s no worse place to be. With the help of a trucker named Bob, Vagus must find his way back home in time to rescue his friends.

It’s intended to be a humorous fantasy novel in the vein of A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett’s novels.

While there is still a lot of work left to do on the novel, I was lucky enough to befriend a talented artist, Chris Osman.  He’s created a cover concept for Into the Land of Iowah, and I think it’s pretty awesome.  There’s still time to make adjustments, so feel free to comment if there’s something you think should change.  Of course, comments like “this is an awesome cover” and “I can’t wait until it’s ready” are also welcome.  :-)

Into the Land of Iowah cover

Into the Land of Iowah cover (click for larger version)

What do you think? I’d love to hear it!

Spyder by David Fingerman

Posted on November 5th, 2011

Bottom line:

This book is hard to classify, but tantalizingly good.  Great read for mature readers–describes sex scenes, drug usage, and violence.


A streetwise thug named Spyder struggles to overcome his drug addiction, while the world around him keeps trying to drag him back in.


o Lots of plot twists that keep you guessing throughout the story
o As a drug addict, Spyder’s an unlikely protagonist.  I found myself sympathizing with him because he took a hard view on all other addicts–thinking they were weaker/whinier than him.  Spyder had an outlook on life that I could respect, even as I disagreed with his choices.
o Eye-opening revelation for me on the difficulty of breaking out of the addiction cycle.  Excellent consideration on how hard it is to change one’s base character.
o Spyder grows throughout the story, but also suffers relapses as events trigger instinctive reactions.
o Spyder’s voice remains true to the character throughout the story.  There was definitely a feeling of “here’s the way I am, whether you like it or not” that made me respect and enjoy the character.


o Very few. I disagreed with some of Spyder’s decisions, but that’s because those weren’t the choices *I* would make–it was my own bias that got in the way.  For his character, they were justifiable, even when the decisions led him to dangerous consequences.  And that part I liked: his bad decisions had realistic consequences for him.

I’d recommend this book to mature audiences who enjoy suspense, plot twists, dark humor, and unlikely heroes.

Full disclosure: where did I obtain this book?

Purchased myself

Purchase link

Free book today and tomorrow

Posted on October 29th, 2011

In celebration of my favorite holiday, I’m offering a coupon for a free ebook of The Caldarian Conflict.

Use coupon code FG33N at to download your copy for free.

Happy Halloween!