Curriculum Development: Reflecting on a Whirlwind Year

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well and, if you’re a teacher like a me, ready for summer to arrive. Even if you’re not a teacher, I’m sure you’re anticipating summer anyway. This week marked the penultimate week of the 2017-18 school year for me, with today specifically marking my ten-year anniversary since graduating high school. It seems like so long ago, but as a history teacher I know that ten years is not that long. A lot has happened in my life since May 25, 2008, with becoming a teacher and educating young minds being a highlight. Part of that, at least over the past two years, has involved developing my own curriculum.

The Spiraled Approach

Around the New Year of 2017 I decided that I wanted to develop my own Modern World History curriculum, mostly out of necessity. The curriculum with which I worked at my online school was of poor quality – a reflection not of the school but of the company through whom we purchased the curriculum. Upon taking stock of what needed done, an idea came to me: I should spiral my teaching so as to visit the topics multiple times. This materialized as a solution to the problem of students enrolling later into the semester and missing the content from the beginning. Spiraling, in theory, would solve that issue. I would introduce the topic from a broad perspective, hitting the basics; after introducing all the topics, I would revisit them all again but get into more depth this second time around; the third time through involved even deeper learning of the topics, getting very specific with the points I taught to illustrate the concepts and ideas within the standards.

All in all, I would say those students who were enrolled since Day 1 and went through the whole curriculum learned more and were better off than my students last year who learned World History in the traditional manner (straight up chronology, one time through). I don’t have the data off-hand to back this up, but I feel confident in stating it. A large part of why this worked, in my opinion, is because of repetition. They say that repetition is a good way to help make a learned idea “stick,” so it was my hope that we’d more effectively learn something if we hit it a couple of times. If I were to have the choice, I still would have done it this year. And I plan to do it again next year, hopefully – having gone through it once – with a better grasp on what worked, what didn’t, and how I can keep my teaching fresh and the content relevant.

More Curriculum

In addition to wrapping up my first year of spiraled curriculum, I took on the opportunity (along with another social studies teacher) to co-develop a curriculum for a new World Geography course that we’re offering next school year. We tossed the idea around last year but it never came to anything; this year it’s on. The biggest reason for wanting this course was due to the fact that geography skills are very lacking in our (and most likely many other) students. A cringe-worthy example came last year when a student of mine thought France was in South America. I don’t expect students to know where every country is on the map, but at least know the general location or where the ‘big ones’ are. I don’t yet have the details, but my hope is that the course won’t be offered until the spring semester so my colleague and I have some solid time in which to write a good course. I think I should mention, too, that it’s not just maps; a lot of it actually deals with the geography of people (i.e. mass migrations and demographic implications on the environment). In any case, I’m excited to add this to my experience and to teach students about modern world geography.

As I look back on this year (sighing only a little at the fact that I still have four more instruction days), I am glad to have had the opportunity to try out something new by teaching what I love. Things have been crazy in the meantime – rogue students, an influx of students due to a major school closing, and other minute challenges in the every day – but nothing that has made me go mad. I look forward to summer break to give my mind a rest from the daily grind, and to work on next year’s material. I’ll also be finishing up my current grad class, writing my next book when I have time, and of course watching the World Cup. But I’ll get to those things in later posts.

Until next time,

Eli

P.S. – Here’s a throwback of my graduation day in 2008 (I’m on the right)!

graduation

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Reflections: Writing My First Four Books

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well and (hopefully) enjoying the early signs of an approaching spring! In this post, I wanted to offer some reflection on writing my first four books, which constitute my Faces of the War collection set during WWII. There will also be a special announcement at the end of this post regarding the collection.

Book One: Resistant

When I set out to write my first book in the fall of 2013, I had no idea it would lead to a collection. I figured it would be a standalone book. But as the early stages went on, I thought on the possibility more and more of expanding it. And that’s how I arrived at the idea of a collection, not a series — separate stories set during the same time period but focusing on different characters facing different struggles. The idea seemed solid, so I moved forward with it.

For the writing itself, the majority of it took place while I was long-term substituting for In-School Suspension at my high school. Needless to say, every day was quiet and long, which gave me plenty of time to work on my manuscript. Within about four months, I had finished my rough draft and was ready to have it edited. I reached out to a friend of mine who is a big reader and holds an English degree, and she agreed to edit it for me. At the time, I didn’t have a lot of money so I was (and still am) very gracious to her for helping me get my first project off the ground. From the birth of the manuscript to the release of my book, which was handled by a third-party company (for cover design and book distribution), the whole process took about six months. A little brief most might say, but it was a fun and enlightening ride.

Resistant - Front Cover

Looking back on the whole experience, the one biggest thing I learned was to not be afraid to write. I think it’s easy to get wrapped up in the idea that people won’t like your work, or think your ideas don’t make sense…or that what you’re trying to do is just plain stupid. Nevermind all that. Writing quickly became something of a passion for me – something that was an outlet, an escape, a way to express myself. Since then, I’ve never cared what people think.

Book Two: Unguarded

Coming off the euphoria of having a published book to my (pen) name, I immediately set out planning and writing my second book. I wanted to approach WWII from a fresh angle, so I figured what was opposite of Book One? The answer was: instead of a French woman fighting on the ground, it was a British man fighting in the sky. All right – I now had my basic story premise. Now, what should the title be? I had worked up the idea of having a subliminal message within the titles of these books, which of course is not so subliminal now that I’m elaborating on it. When put in order, the first letters of each title spells RUIN, which is what is brought on by war and conflict. So what “U” word could go with an RAF pilot? I won’t delve any deeper so as to not spoil the story, but the process of developing the story based on the title was challenging and fun.

From the summer of 2014 through the fall and early winter up to late December, the manuscript was developed and edited (again by another English degree-possessing friend) in time for a January 2015 release. At this point in my life, I was married for almost a year, had been working a part-time job for about four months, and was already looking forward to writing the next book!

Cover - Round 2

The one biggest thing I learned from this experience was how to self-publish in the truest sense of the term. On the first book, I used the services of a third-party company to help get my book off the ground. This time around, and on the subsequent projects, I went about the whole process myself via Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace (for hard copy). Through quite a bit of research, trial and error, and some asking around, I figured out the process of KDP and Createspace relatively quickly. Heading into my third project, I knew I was prepared to tackle it – both on the writing side and the logistics side.

Book Three: Imminent

In the spring of 2015, I began working on my third WWII story. Part of this story spawned out of a book I read (as do a lot of tiny details of my stories) the previous year: Ortona Street Fight by Mark Zuehlke. It was a very vivid and engaging read for me, and it showed me a side of the Italian campaign that I hadn’t known up to that point. The rest of the story, though, was formed mostly from my own creation with bits of external inspiration thrown in here and there.

By the time the fall of 2015 rolled around, the manuscript was in pretty good shape with the help of a few editor friends. Thinking of a release date, I wanted to keep in line with the ‘one book per year’ idea if doable, so I aimed for January again. This time, it was earlier in the month than Book Two’s release. Christmas came and went, and I had the pre-order confirmed through Amazon KDP. The release date arrived and I was even more excited to see my newest creation on the virtual bookshelf of Amazon than I was for Book Two. I had done it – I had written three books.

cover_6

Something valuable I learned with this project was the importance of balancing action and movement in the plot with character development. It’s still something I’m working on, but this is where it really started to pick up (with the early inklings of improvement being felt in Book Two). Establishing solid characters with believable and sensible backgrounds and motives helps make for a great story. I’m sure it will be one of those things that I look back on years from now and wish I could rewrite these stories with the writing talent I’ll have developed when I’m older. I knew the collection was drawing to a close with the final letter of RUIN on deck for Book Four. So I buckled down and tried to approach the genre and time period from an angle I had not yet explored.

Book Four: Needless

Shortly after releasing Book Three, I began work on the final installment of my collection (at least as far as the RUIN acronym goes). The spring of 2016 was a hectic one for me, especially with my wife and I (and our pets) moving into a new house. I had also been teaching online full time for about six months. Once the planning process got underway, though, my gears were churning out some interesting plot ideas.

I wanted this fourth story to be bold, different, and fresh, but also familiar to readers of the previous stories. This was a challenge, but it made the writing process that much more engaging and intriguing. How do I write this or that character differently from others who came before? How do I describe this place or those people without using the same phrases and descriptors as before? How do I keep my reader guessing? All valid questions that perpetually raced through my mind into the summer and fall of 2016. As time went on, the writing came fluidly and the ideas became more concrete. With my eyes set on Christmas as the final deadline for wrapping up the process, I pushed as hard as I could to finish the story and get it ready for yet another January release. This time, I chose January 5 – the due date of my wife’s and my first child. Though he didn’t come until five days later, it was still an exciting end to the process!

pratt_needless-final-front-cover-ebook

Something meaningful that I took away from this writing experience was the idea that I was writing something I enjoyed, yes, but that also my writing could be used to educate. Historical fiction can sometimes become a hairy genre in that facts are skewed and the liberties writers take with the fact-and-fiction balance are usually liberal. With that in mind, I told myself that from then on I would write as close to fact as possible so that my stories could be utilized as tools to educate, and to not only entertain.

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I am so happy that I was able to embark on such a fun, enlightening, and at times exhilarating journey almost five years ago…not because I get to say that “I’m a writer” but because the journey has changed me. And because of that change, I am inspired to write more. It’s a type of process that develops you as a person, unleashing your mind to the world at large.

Since I completed this Faces of the War project in what has come to be an average of ‘four books in four years,’ I wanted to do something special for my current readers but also for ones who perhaps are looking at my work with growing interest. On this, the four-year anniversary of the release of Resistant, I am lowering the Kindle prices of my WWII books in all markets through Amazon. They should be changed within three days’ time of this posting.

As a ‘thank-you’ to everyone who has read my work, has encouraged me along the way, and in general has just been awesome, my work is even more available than it was before. I enjoy writing just as readers enjoy reading, and so I want to make my stories readable to more people. For the convenience of the majority of those reading this blog, I’m including the links to the US and UK markets below:

Eli Kale on Amazon.com  ~  Eli Kale on Amazon.co.uk

~  Resistant on Amazon.com.au  ~

I am truly grateful to have such wonderful people in my life – even ones whom I have not met but with whom I’ve connected through my books. At the core of an author’s work is the people who make it worthwhile. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

In addition to this discount celebration, if you will, I am linking a guest post below from a colleague’s blog. It’s just a little something extra that was fun – you’ll see why when you read it. I not only enjoy writing but also networking and building relationships with others in the craft.

Eli Kale Guest Post on Kate Foster’s Blog

Until next time,

EK

Travel Ideas and Plans

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well, and that the last month has been good to you! For this month’s post, I wanted to talk a little about my travel plans, aspirations, and ideas that are (admittedly) constantly floating around in my brain. Some of this may sound a little lofty, but they’re my aspirations…so myuh (I’m playfully sticking my tongue out at you).

First and foremost, I need to establish the fact that I am suffering from international travel withdrawal. It’s been well over a thousand days since I last stepped foot on an international flight homeward bound from Europe, so my body is in need of a change in pace. Not only that, but the joke I always say when I travel (“I need a break from America”) is just as relevant now as it was in December 2014. Between the teen consumption of Tide pods, the antics raining down from Washington, and the daily grind to be honest, a week in some place in Europe (preferably somewhere I have yet to visit) would be welcomed with open arms. But due to the fact that I am not even in sight of the stars aligning to make that happen (my wife and I have a 1-year-old, and we also have bills to pay and no travel money saved at the moment), I’ll have to settle for dreaming and planning.

I’ll get to dreaming in a second, but first I want to start with planning. The only trip in the works at the moment (and by works, I mean it’s tentatively planned for the summer of 2023) is a trip my three sisters and I brainstormed as a cool way to experience a trip to Europe together. Given that we have Scotch-Irish heritage, among other things, we thought it’d be cool to plan a trip (and hopefully see it through) to Scotland and Ireland. It was a joke at first, but then after crunching some numbers and pitching it to my sisters, the four of us agreed to start saving for it. At the time, back in 2012, we knew it to be a long ways off; but now, within a handful of years, it’s edging ever closer. As we moved forward in our thinking, we figured minimizing the trip down to just Scotland would make it more cost-efficient, and so the aim is to visit Edinburgh and Glasgow mostly, with a few days tacked onto the end to zip down to Liverpool then on to London before heading back home. This is something that I really hope comes through because it would be such a memorable experience to see new (and in my case, some old) sights with my sisters.

Now on to the dreaming. I have a running list of trip itineraries in the Notes app on my phone (what travel dreamer doesn’t?) – some that are put together by travel companies like Go Ahead Tours, some that I put together on my own. This list has been in my phone for a solid four years, and I’ve only added to it. Trip plans include potential 5-year anniversary trips for Sarah and me, trips that would be good to take our kids on, and things that we could do that are more local and cost-friendly. Sometimes I like to open that note up when I’m restless at night or waiting to pick my son up from the sitter, and I’ll scroll through the myriad of happy thoughts. Below are the three most exciting (to me) itineraries on my list:

Five Days in Florence – Anniversary Trip

Sarah and I went to Italy for our honeymoon, and we both agree that Florence was our favorite stop along the way. It had such a laidback yet lively feel to it, and our accommodation was very central to everywhere we went. We stayed on the Piazza Santo Spirito, south of the River Arno. I felt so inspired that I incorporated this city and the piazza into my fourth book, Needless. We both have said that we’d enjoy going back, even if that’s the only place we visited. There were so many sights we didn’t see, museums and exhibits we didn’t tour, restaurants we didn’t dine in. It’s definitely high on the list.

Denmark, Poland, Germany, and Luxembourg

This is an itinerary that I’ve put together (mostly just planning certain cities/countries in a certain order, connected by either trains and planes). In the spirit of seeing multiple countries – including ones I have yet to visit – this trip idea checks that box. I have not been to Denmark, Poland, or Luxembourg, and I’ll always enjoy a trip back to Germany. Denmark appeals to me because its culture is a good mixture from what I understand: some German, some Scandinavian, minor parts of other cultures, and the rest Danish. Diversity is something I enjoy while traveling. As for Poland, I’d like to see Warsaw (and if I can, take a day trip to Auschwitz) for the WWII historical value alone. I’m sure there are many engaging and interesting museums in the capital. Luxembourg appeals to me because it’s wedged between France, Belgium and Germany, yet contains its own culture and customs. I also had a professor in college from the small country who encouraged us to visit if ever we had the chance. Lastly, Germany always has a place in my heart, namely Munich and Berlin…so revisiting the central European nation is always in the back of my mind.

Croatia and Slovenia

This particular trip is actually an itinerary from Go Ahead Tours. The reason I’d choose to take this trip is because I’ve heard the scenery in these countries is absolutely breathtaking, and the local hospitality can be very charming and welcoming. It’s also a pair of countries I have not yet visited, so it would make for an adventure. I also had a friend in college whose family is Croatian, so seeing his homeland interested me.

So there you have it – some planning, some dreaming, and in time hopefully some countries getting checked off my list. But more importantly, I can add experience to my life and further round myself out as a person. Travel can be such a powerful tool, and if utilized properly can have a lasting and resounding impact on a person. My previous travels have already done this, and so I seek to gain more from future treks.

Until next month,

EK

After a Year’s Hiatus

Friends,

It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Having not blogged in a year, I’m feeling the rust as I type this message to you. If you are new to my site, or perhaps you’ve been around but need a refresher as to why I was M.I.A., let me explain. I released my most recent book, Needless, on January 5 of last year and within a week I was a new father to a beautiful baby boy that my wife and I named Everett. He is now going on thirteen months old, which is a sign of the times flying by. A lot has happened in that year, which I’ll talk a little bit about now.

 

Heading into the week of my wife’s due date (and really, even before that time), I had already made up my mind that I was going to take a break from writing and blogging for a while to focus on my newborn son and the crazy transition that ensued. If you’re a parent, you know. With Needless being the last (for now) book in my WWII collection, I didn’t have pressing plans to write and publish anything in the immediate future. So I artificially bookended that chapter of my life as an author, knowing that I’d begin a new chapter eventually…and hopefully be in a better position to write and work on my projects. I would like to think that that time has arrived, or at least is nearly upon us.

Over the past handful of months, I’ve worked sparingly on a project about which I’m very excited – and for various reasons. I won’t go into much detail right now, as I want this post to be one that gets me back into the routine of blogging and sharing my writing life (and other stuff) with you. I will say, though, that this next project is not WWII-related, and it is something very different from what I’ve written before. And I think it is a ‘good’ different. I will have more on this in the future, as my focus is on many things. The publication goal for this project is very rough – a few years or so out from release – so I’m in no rush to divulge story details and the like.

To wrap things up here, I’d like to list a small number of things I’ve done or that have changed since I last blogged:

  • I have taken and passed two more graduate courses for my MA in European History program (Graduate Seminar in European History and Modern European History)
  • I have started my third year teaching high school social studies in 2017-2018; the highlight so far this year has been seeing the curriculum I wrote over the past year come to life and bear fruit – spiraled curriculum is seemingly helping my students better grasp the information they’re being taught
  • I went to New York in July ’17 to watch a professional football (soccer) match between the Italian team Juventus and the Catalan giants Barcelona, the highlight of which was definitely seeing many big names play live – notably Lionel Messi
  • I lost a net weight of 12 pounds since January ’17 when I made it a personal goal to start getting serious about my health; I’m one week into my next year’s cycle and I’ve already dropped two pounds and am feeling much better than I had been
  • And of course, the last year has been amazingly wonderful as I got to watch my son grow into a budding one-year-old with such a great personality (minus the random screams)…all with my wife by my side!

I hope that things have been well for you, my readers, over the past year, and I pray that you can understand my desire to take a break after three years straight of writing and living life. My plan moving forward is this: I will start out slow so I can effectively get back into a blogging groove and not burn out after a month, and to do this I will post once a month as we get into the summer season. I’ll make each post about a certain topic or interest of mine (with education, writing, and traveling being key inclusions), so that way it’s not just about the status of my current project.

Thank you again for reading, and if you’re new – welcome and feel free to subscribe to my blog. I appreciate having people who take an interest in what I do, even if it’s just through a quick blog post once a month.

Until next time,

Eli

Needless Book Release Details!

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well in these early days of the new year, and that you are well on your way to accomplishing your goals – whether in your work or personal life! There has been much excitement on my end, as my new book Needless just released today. Let’s dive on into today’s post…

The Faces of the War Collection

If you’ve been following along with me for a while, you know that this book has been in the making since I released my last book, Imminent, last January. I blitzed the rough draft this past summer, knocking out around 40K words in about ten weeks or so. After some fine tuning and tweaking in the autumn months, the book was made ready for pre-order. The day has finally arrived, and my story is now available to the world!

You can check out what Needless is all about and, if you’d like, get a copy from Amazon here.

As part of the process of releasing a new book in a collection or series, I spent this morning going through and updating the eBook and print manuscript files to reflect the new book. When it comes to this, mostly for the Kindle books, it’s best to ensure any links you have in your front or back matter work and are formatted correctly. And even though there aren’t links in a print book, it’s still a good practice to ensure the wording is how you want it and that it best directs your reader to your other work and/or website.

So now that this fourth book is complete and out in the world, I will take a little break from writing, as mentioned in my last post. My wife and I are still expecting our first child – whose due date is actually today – so I want to devote my energy and focus toward that when the time comes. I anticipate that in the summer months I’ll write here and there, but I don’t expect to release anything new in the near future. But fret not, for I do have a handful of project ideas that I can work on and turn into stories…but when the time is right.

I’d like to close by giving a word of gratitude to all those who have supported this passion of mine, who have lent me their opinions and insights, and those who have encouraged me to come as far as I have. Without you, I wouldn’t have grown in the ways that I have, nor become the writer I am – still needing improvements here and there, but a writer nonetheless. I look forward to what the coming months bring as I set out on this new adventure in life, and I can’t wait to see what writing I get into when I fully return to it.

Until next time,

-Eli

Holiday 2016 Update

Friends,

With 2016 nearing its end and my fourth WWII historical fiction book almost ready to launch on Amazon, I wanted to send one final update regarding a few things.

First, we are in full baby mode! Sarah and I have gotten just about everything squared away in preparation for the arrival of our first child, due January 5. The nursery looks great, and it’s setting in that there will be a third addition to the family very soon (aside from Nika and Zazu, of course). Needless to say, things are getting exciting around here!

Coinciding with this nesting phase is the second course in my graduate program. At this point, I have everything done except a book to read and a paper to write on it, which I plan to knock out this week. I strive to be on top of my work and to get as much done as I can early on, which will hopefully make these final weeks easier on myself. After this course, I’ll take a few months’ break before beginning my next course (probably in April).

In addition to taking a break from graduate work, I’ll be taking a break from writing (at least any major writing) in order to devote time and energy to being a new parent. I’m also writing my own curriculum for the Modern World History class that I teach, which is to go into effect next school year, so I’ll be piecing on that as well over the months. All in all, I think this new chapter in life will be an adventure, and I can’t wait to begin it!

That’s about it for personal stuff. Below are the details for the pre-order of my upcoming book as well as discounts and deals going on with previous titles. Much of it was in the last blog post, so it might be familiar to some of you. But still, check it out if you’re interested in getting your hands on any of my books over the holiday season!

For anyone new to my work, I am on the cusp of releasing my fourth book in a collection (not a series) of stories set during the Second World War. Each story is told from the perspective of someone different from the story preceding it, covering different events altogether. My first book, Resistant, was released in April of 2014; my second book, Unguarded, was released in January of 2015; my third book, Imminent, was released in January 2016; and this fourth book will have a Kindle pre-order release date of January 5, 2017. The print version of the book will release within a day or two after the Kindle version; there is a Kindle version and a print version for my previous books as well.

This story, entitled Needless, is told from the perspective of Ben – a young man working in the U.S. Consulate-General in Barcelona in 1942 – and follows his experience in the war from there. This book is admittedly different from its predecessors in some ways, yet familiar enough for returning readers to associate it with the other three books in the collection. It was written in bulk over this past summer, but received nothing less than the usual editing rundown since then. It came in at about 80 words shy of the word count in Imminent. I had fun researching and writing this story; if I had to rank it, this storytelling experience comes in behind (but pretty close to even with) Unguarded.

Here is the cover:

pratt_needless-final-front-cover-ebook

If you’d like to pre-order this story for your Amazon Kindle, you can do so here:

Needless Pre-Order on Amazon

If you’d like to see the first draft version of the story’s Prologue, you can find it here:

Needless Prologue (First Draft, February ’16)

I am very excited to bring this story to you, and I hope that you are just as excited to read it! Over the next month, I’ll post updates on social media to remind about the pre-order. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for these deals on my others books in the lead-up to the Needless release:

Resistant – Only $0.99 on the Amazon Kindle

Unguarded – Free on the Amazon Kindle from December 22-26

Imminent – Amazon Countdown Deal from December 27 – January 2

As always, thank you for reading my post and for supporting me! To my family and close friends, I truly appreciate the love and support you all give me, inspiring me to do something I love and for which I have a passion.

I’d like to wish you all a very Happy Holiday season, and to cherish the time you have with the ones that mean so much to you. I know Sarah and I will cherish our final days as a childless couple, but will cherish time with our baby boy when he arrives. I plan to make a formal announcement through social media (as well as on my website here) when the book goes live, so keep your eyes peeled for that information.

Until next time,

-Eli

New Book Pre-Order Details

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well and that you are eager to hear more about my new book that’s on it’s way to you right now! If you’ve been following me for a while, you probably have an idea of what’s going on. If you’re new, let me explain…

I am on the cusp of releasing my fourth book in a collection (not a series) of stories set during the Second World War. Each story is told from the perspective of someone different from the story preceding it, covering different events altogether. My first book, Resistant, was released in April of 2014; my second book, Unguarded, was released in January of 2015; my third book, Imminent, was released in January 2016; and this fourth book will have a Kindle pre-order release date of January 5, 2017. The print version of the book will release within a day or two after the Kindle version; there is a Kindle version and a print version for my previous books as well.

This story, entitled Needless, is told from the perspective of Ben – a young man working in the U.S. Consulate-General in Barcelona in 1942 – and follows his experience in the war from there. This book is admittedly different from its predecessors in some ways, yet familiar enough for returning readers to associate it with the other three books in the collection. It was written in bulk over this past summer, but received nothing less than the usual editing rundown since then. It came in at about 80 words shy of the word count in Imminent. I had fun researching and writing this story; if I had to rank it, this storytelling experience comes in behind (but pretty close to even with) Unguarded.

Here is the cover:

pratt_needless-final-front-cover-ebook

If you’d like to pre-order this story for your Amazon Kindle, you can do so here:

Needless Pre-Order on Amazon

If you’d like to see the first draft version of the story’s Prologue, you can find it here:

Needless Prologue (First Draft, February ’16)

I am very excited to bring this story to you, and I hope that you are just as excited to read it! Over the next two months, I’ll post updates on social media to remind about the pre-order. In the meantime, keep your eyes open for these deals on my others books in the lead-up to the Needless release:

Resistant – Only $0.99 on the Amazon Kindle

Unguarded – Free on the Amazon Kindle from December 22-26

Imminent – Amazon Countdown Deal from December 27 – January 2

As always, thank you for reading my post and for supporting me! To my family and close friends, I truly appreciate the love and support you all give me, inspiring me to do something I love and for which I have a passion.

Until next time,

-Eli

Whirlwind of a Summer

Friends,

This summer has been one full of change, things to do, and a lot of fun. I haven’t posted on this blog since May, when things in my life were so different, and so I’d like to fill you in on a few things.

Why there were no blog posts over the summer…

You may be wondering why I haven’t blogged over the summer. On some days, I wondered that myself. Part of it was that we spent the first many weeks of summer settling into our new home, which has been quite the experience in and of itself. But the main reason why I didn’t blog was because I didn’t feel the drive to do so. When it comes to writing, not having the drive to do certain things can negatively affect you if you try to push those feelings aside and do it anyway. In this case, it was blogging.

However, the flipside of that coin is a pretty good one: I did have the drive to write out of my mind, pumping out 30K words in roughly 8 weeks, which is something I’ve never done before. So I guess you could chalk up me not blogging to the fact that I was busy writing. I produced text at a crazy rate, which turned out to be the rough draft of my next book. The grand total for the word count currently sits at 46K for the second draft. I intend on keeping it around there as best as I can. Over the next few months, I’ll be getting the last chunks of feedback from my editor and making the appropriate changes around Halloween. Now here’s why…

Master’s coursework beginning in September

I made the decision to start my master’s coursework in September, taking the first two courses of the 15 I’ll need to obtain my MA in History with a Certificate in WWII Studies. These first two courses will last from September 5 until New Year’s Day, then I’ll be taking a break for a few months. I’m getting some tuition reimbursement through school, so that’s a big part of why I’m doing this now. Speaking of school…

My first year was great, and I’m about to start what will hopefully be another

I ended my first year of teaching in June, although classes ended in late May. We as a teaching staff had a lot of things to tend to in June in preparation for this upcoming year, as well as for a few things from the previous year. All in all, it was a great first year and one that I’ll never forget as part of my initial experiences.

With a new academic year ahead of me, I’m excited to be coming back and having the opportunity to teach the year from the beginning (I was hired partway through the fall semester last year). There is also going to be a change: I’m teaching financial literacy and US history this year, as opposed to World History as I did last year. Even though WH is my favorite, I’m looking forward to getting to work in this part of social studies. After all, it’ll help round me out as a teacher and will add to my experience.

There is, and will continue to be, some degree of stress with all of this going on because…

Sarah and I are expecting our first child in January!

Basically, everything that’s been happening since mid-May has revolved around where the subsequent nine months would take us. I made it my goal to finish the bulk of the work for Book Four before the start of the school year (*check) and to plan for knocking out my foundation courses in my MA program before the baby arrives (in the process). It’s a very exciting time for us and we couldn’t be happier that we get to start this next phase of our life together. There’s just a lot going on!

As for the baby, we are having a boy. From the handful of appointments we’ve had so far, the baby is healthy, as is Sarah. The due date is January 5, but you never know – we could have a New Year’s Day or New Year’s Eve, or maybe even a Christmas baby! We’ll just have to see as things move along. But as long as it’s healthy, we don’t care when it arrives 🙂

We have ideas for names that we like, but I doubt we’ll be certain on the one we’ll choose until either the arrival gets closer or the baby actually comes. We’ll just have to see. We’ve started to get quite a bit done with the nursery and gathering things (diapers, toys, etc.) either on our own or from family and friends. I have the feeling that as the school year starts, things are going to go by so fast with all that I’m doing…the baby will be here before we know it!

So where does this leave us at the moment?

That’s a good question. Since I’ve been out of the habit of blogging every week like I was before May, I don’t know how I’ll do in these first weeks of school. With teaching and master’s courses taking a lot of my focus, and because I’m not writing anything new right now, I don’t know how often I’ll be blogging, at least about writing. I have thought about blogging about my education life since that will be more of what’s happening in life for the foreseeable future, but I haven’t decided for sure.

As the final phase of getting Book Four published goes on from now until Christmas (though Christmas isn’t the release date, keep in mind), I’ll give updates and details along the way. But I doubt there will be a blog every Monday. It’s just the way of things at this point. I would like to blog at least once a month, so please do check back periodically for that. The tentative (being 99.99%) release date for the book is January 5, and I plan on having a pre-order period occur before release. Again, I’ll give more details as the next couple of months go on.

That’s about it for this post. I sincerely thank you for reading all of what I had to say, because all of it is very important to me and explains things more clearly for anyone who didn’t already know. Your support and encouragement is greatly appreciated, and I hope that you can continue to follow my work and that I can impact your life somehow, whether through writing, giving writing and education advice, or whatever else presents itself.

Until next time,

-Eli

Five of My Favorite Books

Friends,

I hope this post finds you well and ready to tackle another week! I’ve decided to start writing some themed posts to mix up the regular ones that you read, and today’s post is the first. Let’s get down to it…

Five of My Favorite Books

I’ve read quite a few books in my time, and there will be plenty more to come. However, a handful stick out to me as my favorites, for various reasons, and I’d like to share those with you today. If you’ve read any of these and would like to discuss with me, I’d love to connect with you in that way. If you haven’t read them, then perhaps you’ll check them out if they interest you!

The first book (though not necessarily the most favorite of the bunch) is Stalingrad by Antony Beevor. I read this book in college, in the middle of my initial draw to WWII, and immediately saw the events in the book as part of a very real conflict. The way Beevor describes things – people, places, conversations and accounts – helps put the most significant event on the Eastern Front (and possibly in the whole war) into an understandable and believable perspective. It definitely helped me better comprehend the vast quantity of Soviet troops involved, the efficient tactics of the advancing Germans, and the ideological struggle between the two that manifested itself in the bloodshed at Stalin’s city. This was a very memorable read!

stalingrad

The second book on my list was also written by Beevor, and is essentially a sequel to Stalingrad. It’s entitled The Fall of Berlin 1945 and recounts the Soviet advance from Stalingrad to Berlin, ending with the eventual fall of the Nazi capital in 1945. What stuck out to me while reading this was the vivid descriptions of the skirmishes and battles the Soviets fought en route to Germany, as well as the defense put up by the retreating Wehrmacht. One line I remember from the book was a description of the artillery guns on the Soviet side. During an artillery barrage on the way to Berlin, there was an instance where there was a Soviet artillery piece (of one form or another) about every 4 meters along the breakthrough sector. Due to the sheer volume and pressure of the artillery, the gunner “had to remember to keep their mouths open to equalize the pressure on their ears.” That’s an incredible thing to think about – something so grand and booming that you have to physically change your behavior around it. This is a great read for anyone interested in the fall of the Third Reich.

berlin

The third book on my list is a Cold War book and a memoir. Spymaster by Oleg Kalugin is an account of a KGB general and his experience fighting the secret war against the West, most notably the United States. His story interested me because 1) I had never before read anything like it – memoir or not – and 2) it provides a very unique window into a world that was for so long very secretive and foggy. Getting an inside perspective of the KGB and its views of capitalism, America, and our ideology was very enlightening.

spy

The fourth book on today’s list is Ten Fighter Boys, which is a compilation of wartime accounts by fighter pilots in the Royal Air Force. These pilots flew many missions and sorties, all for the protection of Britain and the prolonging of the conflict. One of them decided it would be a good idea for the boys to write down their accounts of these sorties right after they land, so it’s fresh in their memories. With this being the case, I got a really accurate and clear look into what pilots faced in their position. In fact, this book helped give inspiration when I wrote Unguarded, my second book and a story about a London boy who is affected by the Blitz. It was a very interesting and unique look into something so familiar yet something I knew almost nothing about.

fighter

The final book on my list today is The Napoleonic Wars by Gunther Rothenberg. This was another book I read in college, for an upper level history class. I thoroughly enjoyed it as there were great descriptions of battles, tactics, and behind-the-scenes politics surrounding Napoleon. A good deal of clear illustrations accompanied the text, which really brought the account of Napoleon’s victories and final defeat to life. Before this, I was never really interested in Napoleonic history, but this read changed me. It’s actually inspired me to (somewhat) consider using Napoleon as part of my master’s dissertation research down the road.

napoleon

Well, that does it for this list of favorite books. I hope you enjoyed it! Like I said before, if you’ve read any of these I’d love to connect and talk about them with you. And if you haven’t, then hopefully I’ve introduced you to a new read that you might pick up and enjoy.

In next week’s post, I’ll resume talking about my writing life and how things are going on the home front. Have a wonderful week, and good luck in your quest to accomplish whatever goals you’ve set for yourself.

Until next time,

-Eli

Special: Cover Design Process

Friends,

Welcome to a new week and a new post. The topic for this one is in response to a reader’s question regarding my book cover design process. There’s also some other news as well. Let’s get started!

My Process

I usually brainstorm ideas for my book cover early on the writing process, after I am certain of the plot of the book – or at least the basic gist of it and who the character is. For example, in the roughly six months it took me to produce my first book, Resistant, I probably started work on the cover around month 3. For my second book, Unguarded, it was probably around the same time or a tad earlier. sometimes the process gets a little drawn out. For my third book, Imminent, I think I had the cover done about a month and a half before release. It just depends.

Cover_front

As for the actual ideas for my covers, that comes from my own creativity based on events in the story. The idea for Resistant came early on; I basically knew what the cover would look like from the beginning. I just didn’t start its production until halfway through writing. The main character is female and the initial setting is Paris (something identifiable with most people), so that’s where I started. Some of the designer’s own take on my desired cover description shows up in the covers – it’s almost impossible to have everything look exactly like you want it. I basically give him a run-down of what I want in the cover, and I use photos from the internet to help give inspiration and clarification on what I’m saying; then it’s up to him from there…I simply give feedback for revisions until it’s what I’m satisfied with.

Cover - Round 2

 

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to covers is that having a collection or series look uniform and similar is very helpful in marketing and getting (potential) readers to make the correlation that there are multiple titles to read, and they’re all related. Plus, having the same designer make the covers allows for some continuity and consistency, which is something I personally prefer.

cover_6

That’s basically how I come to a final book cover: brainstorm ideas, finalize them in a list for the designer (and include some pictures), then give feedback on the revisions until it’s ready. Having done it a few times by now, it’s gotten pretty simple!

As for other news…

I’d say things are finally into a rhythm now with the new house, and I think being back to normal teaching (since testing is over with) helps with that. It’s the last week of April, which is crazy to think about, so I’ll get things done this week to prep for next week: resuming a regular writing schedule. The story is coming together, and I’m excited to get back to work on it. Who knows what kind of progress the summer holds ahead!

Until next time,

-Eli