Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Catholics & Mormons

Now that some folks have actually been able to read Akeldama, I'm starting to get questions about it.  The most common one so far has been, "Why did you include so much about the Catholic Church?  Are you Catholic?"  A corollary to this has been, "Man, you sure talk a lot about the Mormon Church.  Are you a Mormon?"

I'm not sure why my religious affiliation plays into any of this, but I'll play along - no, I'm neither Catholic nor Mormon.  Why then did I decide to use those particular religious sects as centerpieces in my novel?  It's really quite simple - I needed a religious structure that was highly organized, and those were the two largest I could find.  I needed a vehicle through which to tell the story, and the Catholic Church and the Mormon Church fit the bill.

I had no desire for my main character to be an agent of the government.  I thought that if I did that, it'd limit his the extent of his power.  I'm all about USA, USA!, but no amount of chest thumping would've given Seth Gendrickson global reach.  Although the US government gets into lots of places, if it could get into everywhere, there wouldn't be any terrorism, for they'd have uncovered it all.  Seth needed to be able to get into dark and shadowy places that most folks couldn't, and the Catholic Church, with over a billion members and churches in every corner of the world, provided that.

So what was up with using the Mormon Church?  I needed another organization that fought the other main vampire sect, as well as a partial foil for my Hunter.  I wanted to introduce a level of doubt, and even a certain amount of human prejudice, into the equation.  Right or wrong, there's a degree of suspicion from most other parts of Christianity towards Mormons.  And since The Church of Latter Day Saints was already headquartered out west in Utah, they were perfectly positioned to already be involved in the fight.  Plus, their highly organized structure provided a counterpart to the Catholic Church that couldn't be readily dismissed.

Since I'm neither Catholic nor Mormon, I had to do a good bit of research into each in order to sound credible.  There are nearly 15 million Mormons, and over a billion Catholics.  If I didn't know how each was properly structured, or the various tenets of each set of beliefs, the entire book would come across as phony.  Although the basics of Christianity are constant - one God, sent His Son to Earth to die for our sins, believe in both an afterlife and an adversary - the nuances of each are distinct.  How many non-Catholics even know what the Roman Curia is?  Or that the claim about Jesus and Lucifer being brothers is rooted more in the doctrine of differing views of salvation that each held rather than as some setting of each on equal footing?  Things such as The Institute For The Works Of Religion may not come up much in Akeldama, but getting wrong what they actually are would make the reader dismiss the story as unconvincing.

The next time you read a story and wonder why certain things are in there, try to view it through the author's eyes.  Could the writer have accomplished the same story through another vehicle?  Or, like in my case, were the various nodes of the story simply the easiest way to say what the author wanted to say.  Not everything is an insight into the writer's life; sometimes they're merely tools that best allow for the expression of imagination.

Monday, May 29, 2017

God, Country, Golf

Everyone has a hero.  Some people worship Thor, some people are awestruck by Mickey Mantle, and others idolize Neil Armstrong.  There's something about these brave souls that calls to us and urges us to be better than we are.  We know they're not perfect - no one is - but the hero represents an ideal we strive for, an image that we hope we can one day become.

For me, one of my heroes was(and still is) Larry Bauguess.

I met Larry in the Fall of 1991 as a raw ROTC cadet at Appalachian State University.  I had no idea how to be a Soldier, or even what that meant, but here was this individual who seemed to embody everything that should be.  He wasn't some Hollywood action star towering above the rest of us.  Truth is that he wasn't any bigger than I was.  Yet I knew instinctively that this was a leader who represented the best, and that if I could be half the Soldier he was, I'd turn out pretty good.

That's why it was such a shock to me a day or so after Mother's Day in 2007 when I found out that he had been killed in Afghanistan.  General Dan K. McNeill called it an "assassination."  I was numb for a few days as I contemplated the impossible, that the man I most admired in the Army was dead.

I've known his widow, Wesley Hobbs Bauguess, for as long as I knew Larry.  I met her the same semester at ASU(she was a year ahead of me, while Larry was two years ahead of me).  She was also one of the most squared away cadets I'd ever encountered.  When she and Larry got together, and later married, it was a shock to no one.  They seemed made for each other, like different parts of the same machine, fitting together like they were meant to be.  That was one of the things that made his loss so hard to bear.

Wesley is also among the strongest women I know, and, on the tenth anniversary of Larry's death, she has published a book called God, Country, Golf, Reflections of an Army Widow.  In this book, she recounts her journey through this difficult time, as well as what has helped her get through it(not surprisingly, the facets are in the title).  She talks first about the day three uniformed Soldiers came to her door at Fort Bragg to deliver the news, and I admit that I teared up as I read it.

She then talks about her history with Larry, before transitioning into life without him and what she has done since.  Wesley has not sat around wallowing in despair - she has sought out those who need help and served as an inspiration for others.  Yes, there have been plenty of moments of grief, a grief I can only imagine, but she has also persevered and gone on to give comfort to our wounded veterans, as well as work with Folds of Honor, an organization that helps provide scholarships to the children of those we've lost.

During the course of the novel, Wesley talks about her family(she has two beautiful daughters), and how her faith in God and her love of country has helped them through this difficult time.  She also reveals her love of golf and how that both helped her at school and helped her continue to give to the community.  She has met Presidents, written articles for major news organizations, and cared for those wounded on the field of battle.  She has kept Larry's spirit and zest for life alive with her compassion and drive to help others.

Be warned - this book will grab onto you emotionally.  You'll laugh at some of the exploits she recounts(like how she "died" in training when one of her cadet comrades threw a training grenade in the wrong place and it landed in the middle of her team), and you'll cry as she talks about the journey her family has gone through(such as her drive into the North Carolina mountains with her daughters to tell them exactly what happened to their father, and why his actions saved the lives of others).  Mostly, you'll feel pride at sharing the nation with this tremendous woman.  I cannot recommend her book strongly enough.

If you're interested, please go to Amazon and buy it here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Akeldama Update

Not much of a post today.  Truth be told, I wrote another long post that I originally intended to publish, but I then realized it was better suited to Monday.  Trust me, when you read it, you'll understand.

The release of Akeldama, even with the bumps along the way, has gone pretty well.  Sales are ticking up, and I can't express my gratitude enough for those that have purchased a copy.  I plan on doing an event in Charlotte in June, and I'm trying to schedule events in Kansas for the near future.  For all those who've bought one, I am always available to sign them.  Approach me wherever you are - I will never turn away a reader.  You can also send it to me to sign and return, but you'll have to include return postage since my budget won't allow for me to pay its way back(I'll rapidly go broke if that was the case).

I've also started working/re-working the next novel in the Akeldama series, and I'll have an interesting request regarding it shortly.  Until then, thanks for sticking with me, and please purchase a copy of Akeldama if you can.  The paperback is on sale until June 1st for $13.56, and the ebook is available on Nook, Kindle, and Smashwords(still working on Apple iBooks) for $3.99.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bumps In The Road

As readers of this blog know by now, I released Akeldama last week.  This has been the culmination of years of anticipation, and it is far from the end.  Most folks I know think that the release of a novel is the end point, the place where writers become rich and famous, and all is right with the world.  For me, the release of Akeldama was the beginning of a career, not the end of a movement.  I plan to release at least four novels over the next two years, and possibly as many as six over the next three years(five are written).  I planned and plotted and worked hard to start a business, not create a hobby.

That doesn't mean all has gone smoothly.

For all the planning, things get missed, things that create frustration and have made me wonder if I'm just another schmuck on a lark.  To start with, I promised those who joined my distro list prior to Akeldama's release that they'd get a 15% discount on the novel.  I thought I had everything set up for that, even acquiring a discount code from CreateSpace.  However, on the morning of release, several people emailed me to tell me that the code was invalid.  I dug into it and found that the code only works for CreateSpace's e-store, which I'm not using.  I was pissed!

So, after whining and feeling sorry for myself for an hour or so, I went back and figured out what I could do to give my customers the price I promised.  To make good on my word, I reduced the price of Akeldama from $15.95 to $13.56(the price at 15% off) and made it available for a limited period of time(in this case, until June 1st).  Yes, it means that others who weren't on my early subscribers' list also have access to that price, but at least those who wanted the discount can get it, and my word is still somewhat intact.
(On a side note, many people decided to purchase at full price anyway to support this struggling writer's career start, and I'm grateful for their help)

And then there was the reader who pointed out to me a typo.  Yes, a typo.  After months of pouring over it and having several people look it over, there was still a typo.  It's not a big one, and it's one that, honestly, many people will miss.  You have to really understand things to even notice, but it's still there, and it grates on me.  I pride myself on being a perfectionist, and, sheepishly, I'm even quite arrogant about it.  After all, don't most writers know - not believe, but know - that we're better grammarians and spellers than the average person?  Don't we possess that conceit?  When I heard about the typo at first, my initial reaction was, "Pfft, that person has it wrong.  They've got no idea what they're talking about."

Then I looked at it.

Yup, it was there.  Subtle but obvious to me.  Proof positive that you need editors who know what they're doing, as well as proof positive that no amount of proofreading catches everything.  I felt sick about it, and, honestly, I still do.  Every time I think about it, I feel a twisting at the back of my neck, like someone has grabbed my brainstem and yanked.  Perhaps I'm beating myself up too much over it, but no one feels this sting more than I.  The ironic part is that nearly everyone who doesn't know this part in depth won't even notice.

Finally, I had a reader on my list ask to be taken off.  I dutifully complied, but it still hurt.  I don't want anyone who doesn't want my work to be bothered, but I spent years meticulously piecing together my subscriber list, and it's a body blow when people no longer want to be a part.  Yes, everyone else has lives and things that they're into, but while my mind can understand that, my ego has trouble with it.
(Yet another side note - not everyone on my list has yet bought a copy of either the ebook or paperback.  It'll be interesting to see how that plays out.  After all, it's only been three days)

So stuff doesn't go perfectly.  That's life, but it's also hard for a control freak like me to take.  I don't like chaos, so I try to eliminate variables.  Yet they stubbornly persist.

Oh, who am I kidding about just being a control freak?  I'm their king!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Release!

It's finally here!  Akeldama is now available on all platforms(or will be by this weekend...Nook and Apple iBooks are still awaiting final validation by those sites).  It has been a little more arduous than I thought it would be setting up, but my debut novel is finally on sale.  As a reminder on the plot...

Seth Gendrickson has worked for the Catholic Church's Order of Mount Sion since his initial encounter with a vampire during seminary years ago.  Finally working his way up to the rank of Hunter, Seth's first assignment is to investigate a spike in vampire activity in Kansas, an area previously quiet.  The region between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River had been a kind of neutral zone for the two main factions - The Assembly of Cairo and Los Muertos.  The Assembly hails from Europe, and although few in numbers, is the older of the sects and far more powerful.  Los Muertos saw opportunity in the New World, so they established themselves in the Americas and began to multiply.  They are young, aggressive, and passionate.

And they're moving east.

Seth is under orders to figure out what's going on before an all out vampire civil war brings knowledge of such supernatural creatures into the open and causes societal panic, a situation the Church is keen to avoid.  During his mission, Seth captures one of the enemy and interrogates it, but he soon finds that the movement east is less an invasion than it is an influx of refugees fleeing a greater threat.  Something is hunting the vampires out west, something more terrifying than the risk of conflict.  Seth tracks this threat from California to Japan and across Europe to discover the heart of a conspiracy that stretches back 2,000 years and threatens the future of the world.

This may be my first novel, but it certainly won't be the last I publish.  My plan is to bring out a new novel every six months for at least the first three years, and I'll be deciding on a release date for Salvation Day by the end of June.  Wrongful Death will follow, and then we'll see where the publication schedule goes from there.

If you buy a copy of Akeldama, I ask only one favor - please do a review of it on your favorite reader's site, be that Amazon, Goodreads, or whatever you enjoy.  No, I'm not asking for a specific star rating or write-up, just an honest review.  For one, I want to know what people think.  Second, honestly, more reviews means more exposure which means more potential sales, so anybody that could help out with a review would be greatly appreciated.

If you're interested, you can buy the paperback on Amazon here, or the ebook for Kindle here.  And you can get it on Smashwords here.  I'll add links for Apple iBooks and Nook as soon as they become active in the next couple of days.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Other Outlets

As I ramp up towards the release of Akeldama this week, I've expanded into other media outlets for exposure, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.  That doesn't mean that my computer illiteracy has been solved.

Twitter has been the biggest example.  I know most of you will laugh at me by the end of the next couple of paragraphs, and that's okay.  I laugh at my own ineptitude sometimes too.  To start with, I can't get my picture uploaded to Twitter, and I have no idea why.  I've got a picture the right size, I click on the "upload a picture" button, and I follow the steps.  Yet, stubbornly, nothing happens.  And then there's my phone...

I'm a dinosaur.  I still have an iPhone4 that I only got because my flip phone died in 2013.  I'm trying to get the Twitter App, but my operating system is outdated, and it's taking forever to download the new iOS.  I should probably take it to an Apple Store, or just breakdown and get a newer phone, but I live out in the sticks, and even a trip out for fast food becomes a version of Oregon Trail.  I'll load up the wagons sometime soon and head on to the big city, but a family and other commitments make such a trek a bit daunting right now.

I'm looking at the Facebook boosting of my author page, but I'm also still a small time operation with a low budget, so ad promotion isn't a top priority right now.  Mostly, I gain exposure through word of mouth, so I have to straddle the line between nudging those I know to mention me to others, and pestering them to the point where they ignore me.  It's a hard line, and I'm still figuring out that part.

Still, even with limited exposure, Akeldama, my debut novel, comes out this week, and I'm excited.  If I can convince a few others to get a little excited too, that'd be a great bonus...and a wonderful start.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

One Week To Go!

There's only a week left until the official release date of Akeldama!  As of now, the ebook is available for pre-order on Smashwords, and it will soon be available on Nook and Apple.  By this time next week, it'll be available in both ebook and paperback from Amazon.

If you're not a subscriber to my email list, there's still time to join in order to get the 15% discount off of the paperback - just email me or leave a message in the comments with your personal email address.

It's almost here.  I can hardly wait.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Life Gets In The Way

So yeah, I missed my post last Thursday morning.  I was both sick and out of town, and I didn't plan ahead.  I think this was the first time I missed a post without at least telling people I'd miss it since the blog began.  However, the world didn't end, and I'm back in the saddle.

On another life note, a few people have asked why it has taken so long to get my debut novel out.  Yes, I could've easily just uploaded it(and several more) before now, but that's just not the kind of person I am.  I'm cautious by nature, and I've always said I wanted to treat this like a business rather than a lark.  Several factors kept me from devoting the time I wanted to towards the business side of this(being out of the country for a year, a new birth, the location and its impact on marketing, etc), so I waited.  Does that mean I missed the boat?  I have no idea, but we'll soon find out.

Akeldama is 11 days from publication.  I'm in the home stretch, and all that needs to be done now is final approval and ebook uploading.  So why not just go ahead and make it available?  Because I told my early subscribers that it'd be out May 18th, and I take my word pretty seriously.  Yes, it may be a minor shift that few would notice or care about, but it means something to me.  As with this blog and its predictability over the years, I want people to be able to count on something in our usually unpredictable world.  It may be anal retentive, but it's the only small level of control I have.

And I freely admit that some minor glitch could still come up that could alter things.  That'd be part of the learning process for when I release my second book sometime later this year.  I suppose we'll all find out together.