Sunday, May 29, 2011

Double Trouble Sample Sunday!

Today's sample is a double!  Excerpt 1 comes from The Door to Canellin, and excerpt 2 comes from the upcoming sequel, The Door to Justice!  And don't forget to spread the word, not only is The Door to Canellin on sale for 99 cents through the end of May, but I still have 22 Kindle edition freebies burning a hole in my pocket!  Leave a comment with your e-mail address on this post, or on the immediately previous post, to get your free Kindle edition of The Door to Canellin today!
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Excerpt from Gatehouse: The Door to Canellin

“That’ll be far enough, friend,” said a deep voice as Gideon entered the main room of the hut.  “I’ll ask you to stand fast.  This doesn’t need to get rough.”
Four burly men stood near the entrance, two with crossbows trained on Gideon.  The third man had his arm around Mindalee’s neck from behind, a beefy hand clamped tightly over her mouth, and the fourth, the one who had spoken, stood directly in front of the door with his arms crossed.
“What’s the meaning of this?” said Gideon, moving back a step with the thought of gaining some room to maneuver. 
“Simmer down, friend, and don’t try anything foolish.  I assume the boy’s in the back room?”  The man stepped forward, gesturing toward the door Gideon had just come through.  Gideon tensed, reaching for his dagger.
“I warned you,” said the man almost sadly.  “Take him down, boys.”  Gideon barely heard the twang of the crossbow before a blunted bolt struck him squarely in the temple, and he dropped like a puppet with its strings cut.

***

Gideon moaned as he snapped to consciousness, his head throbbing.  He rolled onto his belly and felt a cold, straw-covered stone floor beneath him.  He struggled to his hands and knees and shook his aching head.
“Oh, good,” said a sarcastic voice from somewhere slightly above him.  “The hero’s awake.”
Wes?” he said softly.  “Is that you?”  Gideon felt with his hands and found a wall in front of him.  He levered himself into a sitting position, his back against it, and looked up to see Wes sitting on the small room’s only cot, the dim light of the moon through a tiny window the only illumination.  “What happened?  Who were they?”
“The long arm of the law,” said Wes bitterly.  “The local constable.”
“Oh, no.  Word of the theft moved faster than we did, then.”
“I don't think it's about the stone.  Apparently, we waylaid some guy on the road, killed four people, and stole a rare and valuable black stallion.”  Wes leaned forward and glared at Gideon.  “They’re going to hang us for murder,” he spat.  “I told you that guy was shady, but you wouldn’t listen.  They found the stallion right outside the old woman’s hut, and they told me that whoever it was said we were the ones who attacked him.”
“But that’s not true,” said Gideon.  “We never waylaid anyone!  If anything, that peasant is the one who robbed the man!”
“He probably never saw who did it,” said Wes.  “He just saw that we were the ones with his horse and decided we were guilty.  It doesn’t really matter, it’s our word against his.”
  The sound of a heavy latch being lifted interrupted their conversation.  The door swung open silently on well-oiled hinges, allowing blinding light into the room, and Gideon shielded his eyes.
“Ah, good, you’re awake,” said the constable.  “Come along, friend, we need to have a chat.”  Gideon felt rough hands lift him, and he was shoved out of the cell.  He was held by two rough guards as the constable led the way down a short hall.
“So, friend,” said the constable as they entered another small stone room, “it’s time we talked.”  The two men shoved Gideon into a hard wooden chair, and the constable frowned.  “That’ll be all, boys,” he said almost irritably.  “See to your duties.”  The two men shot Gideon dagger-filled glances as they strode from the room, cracking their knuckles.  “And leave the boy alone,” called the constable after them.  “I’ll not have him mistreated!”  When they were gone, the man took the seat across from Gideon.  “My guards can get a little carried away sometimes,” he said apologetically.  “I’m Constable Willis, and I assume from my conversation with the boy that you’re Gideon.  Care to share your story?”
“I’m not sure I have a story,” said Gideon slowly.  “I don’t really understand what’s going on here.”
“It’s quite simple.  You’re accused of robbing the Tower of Lore in Karsenon, murdering four men in the employ of Lord Joachim, and running off with a horse that’s worth more gold than the entire village sees in a year.  Jog your memory any?”
“That’s not what happened,” said Gideon firmly.  “I bought that horse off a peasant about two days’ ride north of here.”  He began to relate the story of the scruffy peasant and his dead traveler.  Willis listened attentively, nodding here and there, and when the story was done, he sat back in his chair with a sigh.
“And the tower?”
“Ah...well, as to that...”  Gideon struggled for a story.
“Don't bother.  Thievery in Karsenon is no business of mine.  For the rest, it’s much the same story the boy told,” said the constable wearily.  “I must say, it’s quite a tale.  And your description of the peasant, well, it certainly doesn’t sound like your accuser.”  He pursed his lips thoughtfully.  “I’m sorry to say, I believe you, and I believe the boy.”
“You do?” said Gideon, incredulous.  “But that’s good!”
“Afraid it’s not so simple,” said Willis.  Lord Joachim is fairly well liked and respected around these parts, though I've never much trusted him.  But he does a great deal of business here, and has the ear of the merchants.  He and his men rode off for the High Judge’s manor right after we brought you in, so as to bring him here to try you.  Jasper’s a good man, but he idolizes Lord Joachim.  I’m to meet them before dawn at the village inn, and I’m afraid it’s very likely you and the boy will hang shortly thereafter.”

Excerpt from The Door to Justice, book 2 of the Gatehouse series

Wes watched as the reinforcements plowed into the Enforcers.  The tide of the battle quickly turned in the rebels’ favor, due in small measure to the fact that many of the Enforcers had stopped fighting to stare at Ryan.  Wes shielded his eyes to look as his father hovered over the melee, his mere presence making a bigger difference than anything Wes had managed to do so far. 
An Enforcer with huge bat wings lifted off from the ground and flew at Ryan, blasting fire from his hands as he went.  Ryan dodged past the flames and flew around the winged man with blinding speed, grabbing him from behind.  He then flew toward the ground, the Enforcer firmly in his grasp, and dropped him, pulling up at the last minute.  The Enforcer smashed into the ground with tremendous force, struggled to get back up, and then collapsed.  Ryan resumed his position in the sky above the battle, every so often flying down to choose an opponent or answer an attack.  The rebels rallied around him, tearing into the Enforcers with renewed vigor.
Wes, too, fought with fervor, moving through the battle and helping where he could, but his strength was almost gone.  He felt less fear about casting his fireballs now.  For one thing, the Enforcers left standing were the most powerful, the ones who could take such an attack.  For another, in his weakened state, his flames were far less dangerous than they were at full strength.  As he moved through the melee, he caught snatches of conversation in the occasional lull.
“Is it really him?”
“It can’t be him!  He’s dead!”
“It has to be him!  Look at him up there, no one can touch him!”
At least that part of the plan’s going right, thought Wes grimly when he heard these comments, and others.  He directed his gaze upward toward his father again, and so happened to be looking up when the black streak collided with Ryan, knocking him to the ground hard enough to shake the entire battlefield.

***

The rescue wasn’t going according to plan, but it was still going well.  The plan had been to flee as soon as the prisoners were freed, but Ryan had seen as soon as he left the building that things had gone badly outside the walls.  The addition of the rebel prisoners had turned the tide, though, and his own presence high above seemed to be having the desired effect.
Ryan wasn’t sure what to do, so he maintained his position, only attacking when he felt he could do so without too much risk.  He didn’t know the full extent of his powers, and he didn’t want anything to damage his cover as The Protector.  It was vital that both the Conclave and the majority of the rebels believe that he really was who he claimed to be, the most powerful meta ever, the former leader of the Conclave.  If he let the fa├žade slip by getting beaten by a mere Enforcer, all of this would be for nothing.  So he hovered there, looking for someone he felt he could handle without too much trouble.
With no warning, Ryan was struck so hard that he slammed into the ground, digging a long furrow into the earth outside the camp.  He sat up, shaking his head to clear it, and looked above him.  A black shape hurtled from the sky, and there were suddenly hands around his neck.
“Who are you?” growled the man who attacked him.  “Where did you come from?”
Ryan struggled in the man’s grasp, fighting to remove those crushing hands from his throat.  They wouldn’t budge.
“I won’t let you get away with this,” said the man.  “You won’t carry out this charade!”
Ryan brought both his arms up between the man’s wrists and slowly forced them apart, relieving the pressure on his windpipe.  He kicked up with both feet, and the man went flying high into the air.  Ryan threw himself into the sky after him.
“I’m the Protector,” he said as calmly as he was able.  “I’ve come to make things right.  Who are you?”
“I am Overlord,” said the man.  “And you are most certainly not the Protector.”  The man launched himself at Ryan with a snarl.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Son Survived His Junior Year of High School Giveaway and Ebook Sale

Okay, folks, it's that time!  Time for a Door to Canellin Kindle Edition giveaway!

For the first 25 people who post a comment on THIS blog post (the one you're reading), and include in the comment their e-mail address, I will gift directly to you a copy of The Door to Canellin Kindle edition through Amazon's gifting system.  Your gift will arrive sometime within 24-48 hours.

Simple as that, folks!  No review required, and no strings attached!  Make sure you leave your e-mail address in your comment, and make sure you double-check it for accuracy!

And as a special bonus, for ONE of the lucky 25, I will once again be gifting a paperback copy of The Door to Canellin!  I will put all the e-mail addresses in a hat, and draw one out as the lucky recipient of a paperback!

And, as another bonus, The Door to Canellin Kindle Edition will be on sale from (whenever Amazon lower's the price) through May 31st!  $.99, $2 off the regular price!

Time's wasting, get to commenting!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sample Sunday: The Door to Justice

Here's a special treat.  This is an excerpt from chapter one of The Door to Justice, the upcoming sequel to The Door to Canellin!  Enjoy, and look for The Door to Justice to be released in fall of this year!  The book is going through a serious polish at the moment, but I couldn't resist sharing some of it!

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Everything was black.  The air was stifling, and a heavy weight covered his entire body.  He tried to take a deep breath, but his nostrils filled with dust, and he coughed.  The weight on top of him shifted in several places with his spasm.  He stifled his wheezing and tried to remember what had happened.
The scarred man.  The woman and the baby.  And a light post.
He was still confused, but his muddled thoughts were clear enough that he knew he needed to get out.  He bunched his shoulders and pushed upward, and the weight began to shift.  With a mighty heave, the rubble moved, and he stood up with surprisingly little effort as the massive pile of rock and debris sloughed away like it was made of styrofoam.  He looked down at himself, his clothes in tatters and covered with dust.
The scene of the recent battle was devastating, but the battle had ended. Of the two sides, only the people in the uniforms remained.  They were occupied with tending wounded, clearing debris, and checking for survivors among the bodies of the many non-combatants who had been caught in the crossfire.  Occasionally, a light would flash, and a group of injured would vanish.
“Hey!” a raspy voice called.  “Don’t move!”  He looked around and saw a slender man approach, clad in a tight leather uniform of brown and yellow.  His legs and torso were protected by some kind of body armor, and he wore a mask with winged headgear that veered down sharply at the nose like a beak and covered his mouth and chin with thin cloth.  The man strode up purposefully, his hand going to his belt to withdraw a small device from among the many that hung there.  “Who are you?” said the man.
“I’m…”  He was still confused, but he felt a sudden fear.  With a deep gulp, he squared his shoulders and continued.  “I’m Jack Forrest.  Who are you?”
The man consulted the device and pressed a couple of buttons.  “You’re not in the registry.  Where did you come from?”
Jack opened his mouth to reply, then thought for a moment.  How to explain?  Wes hadn’t really covered this.  He decided to go with honesty.  “Earth,” he said finally.
“Don’t be an idiot,” rasped the slender man.  “Of course you’re from Earth.  We’d have known if there’d been any alien incursions recently.”  The man snapped shut the small device and returned it to his belt.  “Never mind,” he said, pulling out what looked like a button from another pouch on his belt.  He tossed the button at Jack, who flinched as it struck, but it only clung to Jack’s tattered shirt.  Jack looked at it curiously.  A small light blinked in the center of a gold disc.  The man spoke into the underside of his gloved wrist.  “Skywatch.  Raptor here.  Unregistered meta in sector four-twelve.  Lock onto signal and transport to holding until further notice.”
“Affirmative,” replied a disembodied voice that sounded like a young girl, and Jack looked around, startled.  A shimmering light formed around him, and his vision began to fade.
“What’s going on?” asked Jack as he began to panic.  He tried to take a step forward, but he was frozen in place.
“Don’t worry about it, kid,” said Raptor in his raspy voice.  “You’re gonna’ be fine.”  The man turned and walked away as the light around Jack intensified.  Jack’s vision blurred until everything was a wash of color, and then the world winked out for a moment.  The next thing he knew, he was somewhere else.  The light was gone, and his vision was back to normal, but his surroundings were completely changed.
Jack stood in a small metal room, a single heavy door of the type you’d see on a submarine on one side.  The air smelled slightly stale, with a sharp odor underneath like cleaning solution. The walls were smooth and shiny, and the floor was covered in some rubbery substance.  There was a small cot along one wall, and a sink on the other.  A metal toilet in one corner had a screen that could be pulled up for some small measure of privacy.  The little room reminded him of…
A jail.  It didn’t just remind him of one; there was no doubt, it was a jail cell.  He looked around and was certain he was right.
How had he gotten here?  Why was he in a jail?  He couldn’t wrap his mind around the thought.  He began to tremble, terror biting at him, and a scream built in his throat.  Before he could stifle it, the scream escaped through his taut lips, and he found himself yelling wordlessly at the walls.  He rushed to the heavy metal door and began pounding on it with his bare fists.  His guttural cries echoed from the walls, almost deafening him, but he couldn’t make himself stop.  Even the sound of feet approaching rapidly outside the door couldn’t stop his screams.
“Hey!” called a voice from the other side of the door, a high-pitched female voice.  “Dude, you gotta’ calm down in there!”  Jack jumped backward as an unnoticed slot in the door slid open, a feminine young face appearing in the opening.  “What’s wrong with you? Do you want them to put you in a negator collar?”               
Jack’s screams died away.  “I… I… where am I?  Who are you?”
The girl regarded him, confused.  “You don’t know?”  When Jack shook his head, she merely blinked.  “You’ve been taken in by the Conclave,” she said in a calming tone.  “You’re lucky, too.  It’s dangerous down there for people like us.”
“Dangerous?  Down where?”  Jack took a step backward and sat on the metal cot.  “What do you mean, like us?”
“I’m Beamer,” she replied, her voice light.  “I was on Skwatch duty when Raptor called in.  Listen, it’s okay.  Everything’s fine.  They’ll let you out before too long, and you’ll get to start your training.”
Jack was completely bewildered.  “Training for what?”
“To use your powers,” she replied matter-of-factly.  “To join the Conclave.  You’re a meta, and you need us to protect you.”
“A… meta?”  Jack repeated the unfamiliar word carefully.  “Powers?”  He looked toward the girl, and for the first time noticed the dents in the heavy metal door where his fists had pounded.  The door itself was even slightly buckled.
“You didn’t know?” the girl asked brightly.  “Well, aren’t you in for a surprise!”  With a gleeful laugh, the girl slid shut the slot, and Jack heard her walk away.
Powers?” he said again, shaking his head in disbelief.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Goodreads Giveaway

I'm trying to not promote so much on this blog.  That's not really what I intended this to be, and I really want to get back to my original intent.  This should be a place to read about the process of writing, and publishing, from the perspective of an unknown author trying to enter the wide world of publishing.

But... well, sometimes I can't resist!

I'm hosting a paperback giveaway a month for the next few months at Goodreads.com!  Before people start throwing out comments here to try and get a freebie, that's not how this one works.  Basically, the author announces the giveaway and Goodreads promotes the contest.  They gather contest entrants, and I believe you must be registered as a Goodreads member to participate.  They determine the winner, send me the info, and I send the person a copy of the book.  Simple as that!  Just follow the link, join Goodreads, and enter to win a free paperback copy of The Door to Canellin!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to Spend a Lazy Afternoon

I’ll admit it.  I’m a media junkie.  I’m also a comic book geek and an avid reader of fantasy, sci fi, and horror novels.  And the latest influx of geek movies (the Marvel movies, Green Lantern, LOTR, Harry Potter, etc.) has definitely pulled me more into my movie-watching love.  Netflix is one of my closest friends, and yes, I still shell out the money for a visit to a real movie theater when something I’ve been waiting for comes out.  I do love me some movies!

But at heart, I’m a reader.  And my Sunday afternoons (and some Saturdays, if I had something I just had to read) were always a treat for me.  That’s when I would sit down and just read for a few hours, usually polishing off a book in the afternoon.  If I was mighty industrious, I might start at lunch and read until late evening, knocking out a couple or three.  Throughout the week, I might read a book over several days by taking an hour at bedtime and reading, but my Sunday afternoons have always been my time to really devour a good book.

Now that I have a Kindle, that seems to be changing.  Here is this tiny, easy to carry around device that I’ve loaded with a veritable library of books.  Some new, some old favorites.  And I take it with me everywhere!  It goes to work with me, where I read on my breaks, even if it’s only 5-10 minutes.  It goes with me when I take my son to his trumpet lessons.  It goes with me to Band Booster meetings (if you’re a parent with a kid in marching band, you’ll know what this is… it might have a different name where you’re from, but it’s still the same thing).  I take it with me out to dinner, or when I go to visit my family, or go hang out with my friends.  I’ve always got a book with me!  Hell, I’ve got a couple dozen!

When I bought the Kindle, I rationalized the expense as useful for verifying formatting of my own books before uploading them to Amazon.  And yes, it’s useful for that.  I didn’t realize I’d become so fascinated, nay, obsessed, with having my Kindle everywhere I go.  I love the thing, and I love having a good book with me at all times.

But somehow, it’s changed something.  Sunday afternoons… there’s nothing special about them anymore.  I still might sit down and spend the afternoon devouring a book.  I might only read for an hour or two.  There’s just nothing special about it.  Part of it is the lack of the tactile parts of reading… holding the book, thumb in the spine to hold it open, turning the pages, the smell of old paper.  I miss that.  But part of it is that I always have a book with me these days, and can read a bit at a moment’s notice.

My love of reading hasn’t been dampened.  My love of writing never will be.  But somehow, the Kindle has made my Sunday afternoon ritual just feel like one more day.

So from now on, I think I’ll turn my Sunday afternoon into my most intensive writing time.  I used to write a page here, a page there, as I had time.  Much the way I’m reading, now that I have the Kindle.  So these two activities are flip-flopping.  Sunday afternoons are going to make a comeback, I can feel it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Let's Talk Editing

First let me start with a disclaimer.  These blogs are not necessarily intended as educational.  I am neither qualified nor temperamentally suited to "passing on my wisdom", as I'm not entirely sure I have any.  If aspiring writers are reading these blog entries looking for sage advice, or the wisdom of the ages, there is something that should be taken into account.  I have published a grand total of one short story (in an anthology put out by a small press), and one novel (self-published).  The thoughts I post here are my own ramblings about the process I go through to write, and the experiences I have had, and am having, in my one month as a self-published novelist (and 5 years as an aspiring one).

So with the self-deprecating disclaimer taken care of, let's talk editing!

There's an interesting conversation going on over at Kindleboards.com (here) discussing reviews, editing, and indie books.  Basically, the gist of the conversation is that it seems many reviewers these days are reviewing indie books on a sliding scale, with less notice being taken of typos and grammatical errors.  Or, as has been noted by some commenters to the conversation, some reviewers go out of their way to point out that the indie book they just finished reading has "surprisingly few typos", thus giving praise.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I understand how there could be surprise involved there.  The indie publishing world has made it easy for anyone to throw some words on a page, minimally edit, and publish an ebook.  Literally anyone can do it.

But let me ask this.  It's rhetorical, but it goes out to all the indie authors out there.  Don't you want your books held in the same regard as traditionally published works?  Don't you want people to think of you on the same level as an author published by a major publishing house?

I do.  I want to be on the same playing field as the big boys.  I don't really feel I am yet, but I want to be.

Indie publishing, in many people's eyes, is the sand lot.  Traditional publishing is the big leagues.  And I suppose it's true, in some ways.  But when I read a book, no matter whether it's published by Random House or Random Dude Off The Street, I hold it to the same standard.  If the story is good, if the writing style is one I can enjoy, then I like the book.  If there are typos, enough of them to notice... then I notice.  And it lowers the quality of the book in my estimation.  If there are problems with writing style, I notice these as well.  If I leave a review, I leave an honest one.  I don't want to be patronized, and I don't want to be patronizing.

I'm relatively confident in the editing of The Door to Canellin.  Don't get me wrong, I've read through it and noticed a few typos, which were corrected for the paperback.  There might even be a couple that I missed.  And if reviewers notice them, and they detract from the story, I would expect them to knock me down a peg or two!  To quote myself from my recent post in the Kindleboards thread I mentioned, "If we don't hold ourselves to that standard, we can't be surprised when people think of us as 'vanity' books."

Take for an example one of my favorite books, The Birth of Flux and Anchor, by Jack Chalker.  I've read my dog-eared copy dozens of times.  I love this book.  In the book, I have noticed eleven different typos over the years.  Repeated words, misspelled words, dropped words, even a few grammar errors.  It doesn't take away from my enjoyment of the book, but it always makes me think, "Wow, they must have rushed this one to press."

And that's really where I'm going with this.  I don't rush.  I did, back when I first wrote the rough draft of The Door to Canellin.  But over the years, I've slowed down, polished, re-written, and worked very hard to make it the best possible product I could.  I could have self-published quite some time ago.  I chose to hold off.  Not just in the hope of finding a mainstream publisher, but also to polish, polish, polish!

So, again... not that I've got a lot of sage wisdom, but here is my polishing technique.
1. Write a couple of chapters
2. Hand those off to someone else, preferably someone with a critical eye, and preferably several someones
3. Write a couple more chapters
4. Get back previously written chapters, most likely with a lot of colored ink on them, and hand off new chapters
5. Edit.  Proofread over the top of the editing.  Revise and re-write.
6. Repeat, often, and when you've finally gotten it to the point that you're satisfied, repeat at least 3 or 4 more times.  Because just being satisfied isn't good enough.

Is my book professionally edited?  It depends on your point of view.  I feel as if I edited very professionally.  And one of my editors is a college instructor, and so has plenty of experience proofreading and grading.  But no, I did not hire someone to edit The Door to Canellin.  And yes, I'm certain that there are still things in there that have been missed.  Absolutely certain of it.  So before you upload your book to Amazon, remember this: I've been editing, revising, and working on The Door to Canellin and The Door to Justice for 5 years!!  And I'm still certain there are mistakes that slipped through the cracks.

And if there are, I'd like to think that I'd be held to the same standard as, say, the latest Dean Koontz, Orson Scott Card, or Brandon Sanderson novel.  Because I want to run with the big boys.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sample Sunday

I've posted samples on my Kickstarter website before, but I thought it might be interesting to join all the indie fun with Sample Sunday.  I've seen some other indies doing this, and it seems like a decent enough idea.  So here's one of my favorite passages from The Door to Canellin for your enjoyment!  Be sure to check back next week for a special treat... I'll be posting an excerpt from the yet-unpublished sequel, The Door to Justice!

That night, Wes sat beside their campfire with Magic 101 open across his lap.  A magelight hovered by his left ear, providing enough illumination to read by.  Gideon crouched nearby, a pair of rabbits skewered on the stick he held above the flames.  As the rabbits began to sizzle, Gideon spoke.
Wes,” he said quietly, “that spell you used.  The one that transported the dragonmen away.  Could it not be used to send us to our destination?”
Wes looked up from the book and shook his head.  “I thought about that right after I found the spell, before we ever ran into the dragonmen, but it doesn’t work that way.  If I’ve never been to a place, I can’t send anything there.  The spell just sort of flings whatever I’m trying to teleport out to someplace more or less random.”  He considered a bit more before speaking again.  “I could send us back to Collegium Keep, I guess, or maybe any of the places we’ve been since we left, but not to someplace I’ve never seen, or anyplace between the worlds.”
“Ah,” said Gideon.  “I suppose that makes sense, lad.”  He pulled out his dagger and poked at the roasting rabbits.  Apparently deciding they weren’t done cooking, he wiped his dagger on his trousers and returned the skewer to its place over the flames, propping it on a log.
“Shame, though,” he said, pulling a whetstone from his pack and swiping his dagger against the rough edge with a slow rasp.  “It would have made this journey more than a bit easier, not to mention shorter!”
Wes chuckled sheepishly.  “I was actually more interested in making this journey unnecessary!”  He shrugged.  “I had hoped it could send me home, but it’s not that kind of spell.”
Gideon looked mildly uncomfortable for a moment, then smiled at Wes.  He sniffed the air and smacked his lips.  “I believe our dinner has finished burning, lad.  Hungry?”
Wes tried to keep studying as he ate, but then decided to give it up for the night.  There was so much to learn, and he wanted to know it all, but sometimes the enormity of the task overwhelmed him.  He had probably studied harder in Canellin in the past weeks than he had in the past several years back home.
He was glad Gideon was with him.  He didn’t think he could have come this far, or even made the attempt, without the grizzled veteran’s support.  Gideon was a solid friend, the kind of man you could look to for loyalty and aid in your darkest hour.  He was good company, too, his witty chat doing a great deal to put Wes at ease in their perilous situation.  Aside from being a good companion, Gideon was a capable soldier.  He was a big man, about six foot in height and broad shouldered, in excellent physical condition despite his years.  His face might show lines of experience and age, and his beard might be speckled with gray, but he was certainly in better shape than most younger men Wes knew back home.  Most importantly, the man would do anything to protect his friends, and Wes felt lucky to be counted among them.
Gideon,” said Wes around a mouthful of rabbit, “tell me about your sons.”
Gideon stopped chewing and looked at Wes askance.  “What about them, lad?”
“I heard the other guardsmen back at the keep talking about them a couple times, and I know they were heroes in the war, but you’ve never mentioned them.”  He looked up at the old soldier, wiping grease from his chin.  “They died, didn’t they?  In the last Dragonwar?”
“Aye, lad, they died.”  Gideon’s voice took on a somber tone.  “And only one could be counted a hero.”
“What happened?”
Gideon sighed.  “It’s a long story, lad, and it starts back in the village where I grew up, long ago when I was barely eighteen years old.  I was a soldier in the Home Guard, newly married to the true love of my childhood.  Her name was Alanna.”  Gideon’s eyes lit up when he said the name.  “A sweet girl of sixteen years. She loved me truly, and it was the happiest moment of my life when we kissed under the marriage altar…  at least, until a few months later when Randall was born.  A year later came Conner.  They were hardy little boys, and quick to learn as they got older.  Our little family grew closer as the years passed, and the bonds only seemed to get stronger.”  He swallowed hard.  “But then came the Dragonwar.”
“The boys were young when the war broke out, Randall just twelve and Conner eleven.  I was called off with the rest of the guard to join the main army to battle the threat, leaving Alanna to tend the boys alone.  She and my lads left our cottage and went to the country to stay with her parents and sister until my return.  It was supposed to be a short, easy war, and we were to be back home by harvest.
“We marched to the border, where the fighting was most fierce, and I got my first taste of real battle.  It was a sour taste, that I can tell you honestly, lad.  Stories of war always seem full of glory and excitement, but that’s not the way of it at all.  It was also apparent almost from the start that this would be no short task.”  He shook his head.  “Not short at all.  I spent six years of that bloody war fighting along that border.  I used to keep track of the number of times we gained and lost a particular piece of ground, but it was no use, it happened too often.  I was a good soldier, though.  I went where I was told, did as I was ordered, and battled my foes with all my strength.  On more than one occasion, my unit was so depleted that we were absorbed into other commands.  We were constantly being pushed back, giving ground to the enemy.”  His voice was heavy with emotion.  “It was, at the time, the worst experience of my life.”
“It sounds horrible,” said Wes.  “In books, it always sounds more… adventurous, I guess.”
“Then the people writing about it have never actually seen a battlefield.  People die.  People you care about.  After six years, I was the only man left alive from my original unit.  The very last.” Gideon bowed his head.
“Over the years, I had not gone unnoticed by my commanders.  I had been steadily promoted, sometimes by the captains and generals who commanded us, and sometimes by battlefield necessity.  Eventually, I was transferred to the King’s Regiment with the rank of first lieutenant, and given command of my own platoon.
“One day a runner came in from one of our rear encampments with a message for me.  My sons had ridden into the camp in the small hours of the morning, looking for me.  I was overjoyed!  I had received no news of them for months, no letters from home, and had not seen them at all since I left in the first year of the war.  I immediately took to horse and practically flew to the rear camp.
“When I arrived, I almost didn’t recognize the lads, but they knew me.  Conner was embracing me almost before I dismounted, tears running down his face in a torrent.  Randall was more reticent, standing back a bit and regarding me with a strange look.  When I approached him, he forestalled me with a single dire pronouncement.
“ ‘Mother is dead,’ he said.”
“I couldn’t speak, couldn’t think.  I placed my hands on his shoulders, but my legs would no longer support me.  I fell to my knees, unable to grasp the sense of it.”  Gideon cleared his throat.  “All I could say was, ‘How?’”
“Conner was the one to explain, gently.  The war had been going badly for several years now, particularly on the opposite border.  It’s hard to fight a two front war, and we were not having much success.  The dragonmen had advanced far enough into our lands to overrun several towns and even a few of the smaller cities.  My little village, near to the city of Chalanar, managed to last a good while, but eventually, it fell, as did the city.  The little farm where my family had taken refuge… it was gone.  Alanna’s father and the boys had managed to flee, but not before Alanna, her sister Deanna, and their mother, Sinead, were slaughtered by the beasts.”
Gideon stopped speaking, choked up for a moment.
Gideon, I’m sorry.  You don’t have to tell me any more, it’s okay.”
“No, lad,” Gideon replied.  “It was many years ago, the pain’s not as fresh as it once was.”  He wiped at his eyes.  “It’s still there, though.”  He cleared his throat and continued his tale.
“The lads were determined to join the fighting, and indeed, both were of an age for it.  I petitioned my commanders to allow them to join my regiment, although not under my direct command.  Reluctantly, it was agreed, so long as I did nothing to arrange any special treatment for them.  Still, I was able to prevail upon their commanders to allow me to watch their progress.  I made sure that the men who were training them were the best we had, ensuring that they’d learn the skills necessary to keep them alive.  Both my lads were apt pupils, especially Conner, and were soon acquitting themselves well in battle.
“For three years, we fought, gaining ground, losing ground.  The lads advanced through the ranks much as I had.  Even quicker, in truth.  Randall was a corporal for one of the most respected platoons in the regiment, and Conner… Conner had caught the interest of the highest general in our army, and thus the attention of the king as well.  He was transferred into the King’s Own Guard, an elite troop whose only purpose was to keep King Edward safe in battle.  Our king was not a complacent one, and was often to be found in the thick of the fighting, and the King’s Own were always right there with him.
“The time came for a final push, our last attempt to force the invaders back to their own territory.  The war had turned in our favor in the last year, and we were optimistic that we could end it with one decisive stroke.  The invaders had been contained in a corridor of troops with their only escape route being back to their own lands, and we had them outnumbered nearly three to one.
“Little did we know there were traitors among us.”
Wes listened raptly to Gideon’s words, unable to tear himself from the story.
“My platoon led the initial attack, with Randall’s following to the east.  The king came behind with a full regiment, spreading out and cutting off the invaders from pushing past us.  The newly-named High Lord held back with the reserves.  Ours, though, was the main thrust, pushing the dragonmen and the human mercenaries and thralls in their employ along the corridor we’d created.
“The assault went well at first, but no battle plan ever survives the first engagement with the enemy, so I’m told.  The invaders turned and began striking back with more ferocity than we could have expected.  I found myself back to back with Randall as both our platoons were nearly overrun, battling the beasts furiously.  We were surrounded, swords rising and falling in terrible rhythm as we fought.  Then, the sound of a battle horn rose over the ranks of the invaders, deep and ominous.  The attackers seemed to halt, one and all.  My son turned to me and spoke in the sudden quiet.  ‘I’m sorry for this,’ he said without explanation.  The next thing I knew, his arm lashed out, and I barely saw the hilt of his blade approaching before it struck my skull, and everything went black.”
“He hit you?!”  Wes was shocked.  “Why?  What happened?”
“I’m not really sure of all the details, but it became obvious that our army was being betrayed from within.  Fully one third of our troops turned on us when that horn sounded.  When I regained my senses, I found myself alone among the dead, behind the enemy line, the fighting far off in the wrong direction.  I rushed toward the sound of battle, hoping beyond hope to find the king alive and pushing the traitors back with the invaders.  It hadn’t even dawned on me then that Randall was one of those traitors.
“I finally reached the line and found a melee.  The battle raged all around me as I hacked my way through, desperate to find my king.  Our troops were engaging men they had fought beside only hours before, as well as hordes of dragonmen.  I forced my way inward, trying to get to the center of battle, where I knew I would find the king.  When I finally got to high ground and could see the battle unfolding below me, I was horrified.  There in the distance was the king’s party, surrounded by dragonmen and turncoats, cut off from his troops.  He and the few members of the King’s Own that I could see were fighting a desperate battle just to stay alive.  The turncoats… they were beginning to transform, becoming dragonmen themselves.  Not a quick transformation, though.  You could still see the faces of men you once knew, hear their battle cries as scales spread slowly across their flesh.
“Inside the ring of attackers, the king and five of his guard were holding their own, but barely.  I spied Conner among them, a bloody wound in his side, fighting valiantly to protect the king.  I began working my way through the carnage to reach them.  By the time I got close enough, only Conner and King Edward were left, with four half-transformed men attacking them.  I leaped into the fray, engaging one of the traitors while two struck at the king.  I was back to back with Conner, who was facing his own attacker.  After a few vicious blows, I was able to strike my opponent down, and I turned in time to see Conner run through the chest by a savage thrust.  The traitor twisted his blade free and leaped at the king’s unprotected back as Conner collapsed.  Without thinking, I struck out, taking off the man’s sword arm at the elbow.  He turned to face me, roaring in pain, and I thrust my sword through his belly in a rage.  Our gazes met, and a sob escaped me as I looked into the eyes of my oldest son.”
“Your… Randall?”  Wes was aghast, seeing tears running unashamedly down Gideon’s cheeks.  “You killed your son?  He killed his brother?”
“Aye, lad, he did, and I did, though it wasn’t a quick death for Randall.  I had time to ask him why.
“ ‘Where were you when mother died,’ he asked me with contempt, straining to get the words out through the pain.  ‘Where were you when we had to hide in a midden heap?  The dragon promised me power, life everlasting.  What have you ever given me?’
“I was a good soldier, though.  I was always a good soldier.  I had no time to waste on a traitor.  My king had dispatched his opponents, but he was sorely wounded, and left with no defenders.  We were also still trapped in the middle of a pitched battle.
“I fought that day at the side of my king.  The battle raged for what seemed like days.  Loyal troops joined us and split off several times throughout the day, but King Edward refused to quit the field of battle.  Then, as the sun was sinking, the sound of trumpets reached us.  Over the hill charged the high lord with his reserves, and more, he had gathered in the stragglers and broken regiments and even the walking wounded to swell his ranks to bursting.  Their numbers turned the tide of the battle.  Within an hour, the Dragon’s forces were in full rout, pushed back into the corridor of troops we’d prepared for them.  We expected them to turn and fight again, but their retreat continued on over the border as we harried them.  Within a week, the war was over.  We had won.”  He sighed again, brushing the wetness from his cheeks.  “I had lost, but we had won. For my part in fighting alongside my king, I was offered a command in the capital. I couldn’t bear it. I declined, and returned to my home. But it wasn’t my home any longer.”
Wes sat quietly for a few moments, unable to speak as he felt a tear sliding down his own cheek.  He couldn’t help but think of his own father, and what it would do to him if Wes wasn’t able to return home.  In some ways, Gideon reminded Wes of his father.  Not in personality or appearance, of course, but some undefined sense of person.  His loyalty, maybe, or his dedication to his sons.
“I’m sorry, Gideon.  I didn’t know.  I knew they were dead, but not that way.”  He shook his head.  “Not… like that.”
“Lad, there’s not a thing for you to be sorry about.  It’s good to remember them, warts and all, and my dear Alanna too.  My family was everything to me, and the pain of their loss is still bitter, but I’d not lose the pain if it meant losing my memories of them.”  Gideon put his hand on Wes’ shoulder and squeezed.  “In truth, you remind me somewhat of my son, Conner.”
Wes snorted.  “I doubt that.  It’s probably just wishful thinking.”
“No, Wes, it’s there to see.  You’re polite, thoughtful, studious, brave… all the best qualities a young man should have.”
Wes pulled out of Gideon’s grasp, rising and stalking a few steps away.  He leaned against a tree, purposely facing away from Gideon and gazing into the woods.  Sudden irritation flared in him at being held up for comparison next to this golden boy from Gideon’s memory.
“Is that what this is?  You’re here because you think I’m like your son?”  Wes turned to face Gideon, his ire building.  “You don’t know me, Gideon.  You know me here, but not back home, not the real me.  Things are a mess back there!  I’ve screwed things up so bad that I thought about not going back!  I’ve messed up my Dad’s life, destroyed my future, and made it impossible for anyone to like me!”  He turned away quickly, swinging the side of his fist against the bark of the tree.  “If anything,” he said in disgust, “I’m more like Randall than Conner.”
“Boy,” said Gideon quietly, “don’t ever say that again.  Randall was my son, and I loved him dearly, but he betrayed his king and his entire race.  He betrayed everything I ever believed in.  Nothing you could have done on your world could be as bad as that.”
“Shows what you know,” said Wes.
“Indeed it does, lad,” said Gideon.  “Indeed it does.”
Wes suddenly felt shame, realizing the words he’d just said to Gideon, his only real friend on this world.
Gideon,” he said tentatively, “I’m sorry.”
“Aye, Wes, I know.”
“I’ll set wards tonight so you don’t have to keep watch.”  He tried to make his tone friendly, to recapture the feeling they’d had before his outburst.
“You do that, lad,” said Gideon in a neutral voice.
Wes opened his book to the section on wards, feeling once again lost in a strange world.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's That Time Again - Free Books!

Ladies and gentlemen, it's that time again.  Time to give away some ebook copies of The Door to Canellin!

We're going to do it a little differently this time.  While I am giving away 20 copies today, I want to send out some love to Nook readers as well.  So I will be giving away, specifically, 10 copies of the Kindle version (gifted to you through the Amazon store) and 10 copies of the Nook version (e-mailed to you because B&N still hasn't implemented a gifting feature).

Here's all you have to do.  Post a comment on this blog post with your e-mail address and whether you want a Nook or Kindle version.  Once I have 10 e-mail addresses requesting Kindle, they're gone.  Once I have 10 addresses requesting Nook, they're gone.  Those are the only two bits of information needed.  And please, I don't want any hurt feelings or anyone left out!  If you can't get it to post using your Google account, post it anonymously!  And remember, the comment must be on THIS BLOG POST, today, 5/14/2011!

Someone asked me why I keep giving away 5, 10, 20 copies of my book every couple of weeks.  The answer is simple, and should be easy to figure out based on my previous obsessive blog posts about marketing.  I'm an indie author!  I don't have a vast marketing budget.  I can't afford magazine ads, TV and radio spots, massive book tours.  I'm going by trial and error here, looking for what works.  And so far, of all the things I've done to get exposure for The Door to Canellin, nothing has been better than word of mouth, especially fueled by these giveaways and positive reviews.  For every book I give away, I also sell one.  In fact, sometimes I sell 3 or 4!  The folks who get these freebies have, for the most part, enjoyed them, and spread the word that there's a good, inexpensive book out there, the beginning of what hopes to be a good series.  Word spreads, people buy, people read, people talk, and word spreads.  So if I can give the word of mouth a kick in the pants with a freebie giveaway now and then, why not? It's an inexpensive (though not free) way to get some attention!

Friday, May 13, 2011

End of an Era

Minor Spoilers Ahead

Okay, maybe not a lot of people think of this as an end of an era.  It was never the most popular show on television, although it was often the most popular show on its network.  It was a new take on a popular character, and one that brought his entire mythos into a new age.

I'm talking about Smallville, of course.

I've been a fan of Smallville since episode one.  I've loved it, hated it, been indifferent to it, but for the past ten years, I've never missed an episode.  Through freaks of the week, occasional creative decisions that made almost no sense, the addition of other major and minor characters from the DCU, and a Superman movie that rivaled Superman IV in suckitude despite some entertaining moments and great SFX, I've followed the series.  Seasons 8 and 9, in my opinion, began to bring back some of the excellence of the previous seasons.  Season 10 fell flat in spots, but overall brought a lot to the table.  After all this, I was actually expecting a finale disappointment... it wouldn't be a first for the series, after all.

Luckily for me, the writers and producers knew just what strings to pull to make me appreciate their finale.  Were some things rushed?  Yes.  There was a lot of ground to cover to close out what might have been the most ambitious season long storyline of the series.  Were there parts I wasn't thrilled with? Yes.  One moment in particular, an extended retrospective moment, I thought went on a bit too long.  You'll know it when you see it, if you haven't yet.  And the epic battle we expected at the end?  Darkseid, Granny Goodness, Desaad, Glorious Godfrey?  Epic.  Epically short.

But for a change, the big battle isn't what mattered.  What mattered was Clark finally becoming the real deal, finally becoming the Man of Steel, the flying, tights-wearing Superman.  Lex becoming the villain he was meant to be, with none of the gray area from the first half of the series.  Lois becoming the respected reporter we know she should be.  All the supporting case being in place... Perry, the real Jimmy, bumbling Clark the ace reporter.  All of the things that fans have been demanding from this finale since... well, since season 1, episode 1.

I believe there will be mixed reviews for this finale.  Some die-hard fans will love it.  Some will hate it.  Some casual fans will be confused by it.  Others will be comfortable with it.  I don't think I can predict what the general consensus will be.  But I'll go so far as to say this.  If they were to decide to make the next Superman movie a continuation of this story (particularly if they follow up on a major tease from the end of the epi), I'd pay to see it in the theaters.  Hell, I'd pay to see it in Imax 3d, and I'm half blind in one eye. 2.5d is about the best I can handle!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to Market Your Work, or I Have No Idea What I'm Doing

Let me tell you the best, most effective marketing technique for getting your work noticed and building sales. But first, a question...

Can someone please tell me the best, most effective marketing technique for getting your work noticed and building sales??

So far in promoting The Door to Canellin, I've met with mixed success.  This is nowhere more evident than my sales ranking on Amazon... I spend days moving steadily downward, all the way to the 150,000 range, and then unexpectedly bump up to the 12,000 to 18,000 range without any kind of explanation behind it.  Yes, there are things that I have done that have gotten me significant sales bumps and exposure... giveaways, Facebook posting, hawking my work to people I know.  But sometimes, I get a significant bump for no apparent reason.  And sometimes, when I'm expecting a bump, I start dropping in the rankings.  Sales are still happening... not briskly, but I still make a sale or two a day almost every day. Actually, I'm averaging 2-ish sales a day for May so far.  I'm definitely being patient; the book has not quite gotten to the 1 month mark since release, so I think I'm actually doing pretty well.  I've cracked the top 100 twice in the category Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Magic & Wizards.


Tracking down what has been effective and hasn't is a challenge.  Was lowering my price for a week effective? Honestly, I sold about 1.25 times as many books per day as I was selling at 2.99, and yet my income per book dropped from $2 to 35 cents.  It doesn't really seem like an effective trade-off.  Has giving away a total of 28 free ebooks and two free paperbacks been effective?  Each time I had a giveaway, I also picked up a sales bump.  But the best bumps, and most effective, have all come from getting reviews.  Every time a good review is posted, I get a bump and sell 4 or 5 books in an hour or two.


Another effective promotion came when I had my feature on dailykindlebargains.com.  Not a huge bump, but noticeable.  I'm being featured there again later this month, we'll see if the same applies.


I think that what I've learned so far in this month of release is that if you have a good cover, good blurb, and good reviews, then you really just need exposure.  According to Amazon, 23% of people who view my Kindle book purchase it.  To me, that's a pretty solid number! I know from past experience that in some fields of advertising and marketing, other than books, a 1% buy rate is the norm.  I don't know how it is for books, but 23% seems good!  What's needed now is exposure, exposure, exposure!  If 23% buy the book, then I just need to get a thousand people to go look at it!  (Yes, I'm aware that's not really how it works... it would be nice, though!)


The question then becomes, how do I drive traffic to my sales page?  I've about played out Facebook, unless I start getting more fans.  This blog?  I'm still less than 200 unique hits a day, many days less than 100.  Facebook and the blog won't really be all that effective until I have built up a following.


I'm researching and trying to arrange a blog book tour, getting some popular blogs to interview me, have a paperback giveaway, maybe get some reviews.  But arranging a tour like this can be time-consuming, and difficult.


I've got one book signing scheduled, and hopefully will have another on the calendar soon.


And finally, I think I am starting to get some of the best marketing around.  People who have read The Door to Canellin are passing the word around and telling their friends.


So there you have it... my post on marketing.  All my expertise, summed up right there in a single blog post.  They say the wise man is the man who knows that he knows nothing.  I must have wisdom coming out the wazoo!