When I launched “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” as a standalone eBook on Wednesday, I didn’t expect it to go all the way to #1 in its category. But I did plan out the launch ahead of time, applying all the lessons I’ve learned from previous book launches. I did expect a strong launch this time, and it didn’t disappoint!
Since many fellow authors follow this blog, today I will peel back the veil a bit. I’d like to show my friends exactly how I did it. A fellow business owner and I once mused that he and I could do the exact same marketing and it might work for one of us and not the other. Marketing is like that. Even so, hopefully you can put at least some of these tips to use.
The first thing to realize is that this successful book launch didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s been quite a long time in the making. I’ve spent the last year and a half or so helping other authors launch their own books. I’ve left reviews on quite a few books now. I made sure to put those reviews here on this blog, on Amazon, and on GoodReads. I have used social media, especially Twitter and Facebook, to help boost the signal of marketing attempts for several other authors. The upshot is, when it came time to ask for a favor in return, they were ready to do it.
More on that in a minute.
The second most important thing I did was pick the proper categories on Amazon. Some categories are really tough. Others are easy. “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is a short story, so Amazon helped me automatically her by lumping it into the “Short Reads” parent category. Pro tip: this is one of the easiest categories to reach #1 in. People don’t buy as many short stories as they do novels, so you simply don’t have to move as many units to make it to number one. Take advantage of this. It’s not cheating – it’s just knowing the game. I also used Amazon’s recommended keyword selections to ensure proper subcategory placement. That allowed me to get the story placed in a very specific subcategory, which again made it easier to rise to the top.
Category selection is absolutely critical – don’t neglect it in your book launch.
The third major thing I did was enroll it in KDP Select and set it to have a few days free, beginning the day after launch.
Why the day after? Because you can’t schedule free days until the book is actually live. Also, I picked the launch date and the free days carefully. Today is Michaelmas, the feast of St. Michael and the other Archangels. Since my hero, Peter Bishop, wields the flaming sword of St. Michael the Archangel himself, this seemed like a great day to go free. But I wanted some time for buildup, so I didn’t want just one free day. I went for three – the day before, Michaelmas itself, and the day after.
Due to the way Amazon’s sales ranking works, your best bet for rising to the top of a category is to move a lot of books very close to launch day. Therefore, I scheduled the book launch to coincide with this for maximum effect. The algorithm takes sales history into account – so if you’ve got a long history of no sales and then a sudden burst, your sales rank gain is limited. But if you have no prior sales history, then the algorithm works only with the sudden burst. Boom, you get a great ranking.
Get your friends to help – but make it easy for them!
Remember earlier when I said that I had a lot of author friends who were happy to help? I made use of them – and many of my other friends, too. I also made it super easy for them to help. All I asked for was two very small favors. First – and easiest – I asked them to drop by Amazon yesterday morning and pick up a copy of the book. Remember, though, that I’d already made it free. So I’d asked my friends to please pick up a FREE COPY of my book. Hard, right? I got a huge response from all of them, and it really helped.
Don’t think for a minute, though, that that accounts for all of the units moved. It doesn’t. It’s not even a quarter of yesterday’s units – and none of today’s. They helped boost it up the ranks and get seen. My other marketing work, took over from there. But I digress.
The second favor I asked for was reviews – and I made this one easy, too. I asked those who had already read the story to please take a moment to leave an Amazon review of it. This particular story had already been published before in the anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, and many of my friends had read it. Now, getting reviews from people – even friends – is like pulling teeth. (Yes, this might be a not-so-subtle hint to my friends who have not yet left reviews on any of my works!) I knew I wouldn’t get many – but I did get a small handful. Thank you so much to those who did leave reviews – I love you for it!
Announce it everywhere!
I blasted the announcement all over social media. My Twitter feed, in particular, had a lot more “marketing tweets” in it than I usually like to go for. But I wanted the word out, and it worked.
But the catch here is that I’ve spent all summer carefully building my Twitter audience. I definitely could have done better with an even wider reach, but I have enough of a following now to make an impact – especially when I’m giving something away for free! Also, I’ve spent the summer building relationships on Twitter. So I had several friends retweeting me throughout the day. Some of those friends have much bigger audiences than I do. To each and every one of you who gave me a signal boost yesterday, thank you!
Last but not least, I made use of the Amazon Giveaway in a way I never had before. This time, I made a giveaway for Make Death Proud to Take Us, which also included the short story “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” But in the message for those who didn’t win, I left a note and a link to the free version of the story. I set the giveaway to make people follow me on Twitter… but my goal wasn’t Twitter followers at all. I wanted people to pick up the free story.
How well did that work? I’d estimate that about 1 in 15 to 1 in 20 giveaway entrants went on to pick up the free story. Frankly, a lot of giveaway entrants aren’t interested in your books at all. They just enter every giveaway they see. So the percentage wasn’t huge, but it was enough to help move a few more copies.
I’ll give a more detailed report on the aftermath after there’s been some. The best I can say today is that copies are still moving, albeit at a far lower rate than yesterday. I didn’t hold the number one slot for very long – the current occupant is tenacious. But I’ve sat at number 2 for almost 24 hours now (barring the brief stint at #1). The story has also held on well at #6 in its secondary category, and is still within the top 100 in at least two other categories. That’s going to continue to bring it a lot of visibility it wouldn’t otherwise have had.
If you don’t have a copy yet, stop by Amazon and pick one up. If you did pick it up, read it. I think it’s the best work I’ve yet published. And if you’ve read it, please do leave it an honest review on Amazon. Amazon reviews are the lifeblood of independent authors – help a friend out! Even something as simple as, “I liked it – 5 stars!” is a major boost.
If you liked it, you can find the second Peter Bishop story in the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. That one gets much deeper into the actual world of Peter Bishop. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. It’s not technically part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but he does guest star in it… and it also happens to contain his origin story. I’m also nearly finished with the next Peter Bishop short story, “Dinner Party.” Imagine Peter – a good Catholic boy – meeting his fiance’s very Baptist parents. Keep in mind that until now, Faith has been a very bad Baptist girl. Hilarity ensues. Plus, there’s a werewolf.
My newest release, a short story titled “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now available on Amazon. This is the first of the Tales of Peter Bishop. If you’ve read my anthology Make Death Proud to Take Us, then you’ve already read this story. If you haven’t, it’s now available as a standalone. The story has done very well on Amazon today, climbing (so far) all the way to #2 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy” and #5 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Literature & Fiction.”
The kicker? In the much, much tougher category of “Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Paranormal & Urban” earlier today it sat at #58. Number 55? Yeah, that was the International Lord of Hate himself, Mr. Larry Correia with Monster Hunter International. Not bad. Not bad at all!
I’d like to give a special thank you and shout out to all the people who have helped boost the signal today and get me to that point: L. Jagi Lamplighter, Susan McPhail, Declan Finn, Dean Esmay, Daddy Warpig, Christopher Lansdown, and especially Brian Niemeier.
Best of all, the story is available free through Friday! As the tale tells of the man who wields the flaming sword of the archangel St. Michael, it is only fitting that it should be available free over Michaelmas. Get your free copy today. And after you’ve read it and loved it, leave me an awesome review!
Update: “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is now Number 1 in “Kindle Store > Kindle Short Reads > 30 minutes (12-21 pages) > Science Fiction & Fantasy.” Thank you again to everyone named above, and to all of you! Please do remember to drop by and leave a review when you get a moment!
Just in case you’re not sold already, I’ll leave you with a sample.
Even though he couldn’t see them he could hear their skittering. Despite his impassioned pleas and his sister’s crying, his parents had turned out the lights. Again.
“Don’t be afraid of the dark, Johnny,” Bruce had told him.
“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. Batman wasn’t afraid of the dark.
Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Only babies were afraid of the dark. Johnny was five now, and a big boy. Little Ginny wasn’t afraid of the dark, either. Even if she had been, she had an excuse. Still a mere two years old, his little sister was a baby. But Ginny was as brave as Johnny, and Johnny wasn’t afraid of the dark.
He was afraid of the things that came out in the dark.
They didn’t come out straight away. They were too smart for that. They waited until later, after Johnny and Ginny had gone to sleep – until after their mother and Bruce had gone to bed, even. Only once the grownups were sound asleep did they come out.
It started with the skittering. They came from the closet. At least, that was Johnny’s best guess based on the sound. Then they crawled across the walls and the ceilings to the beds. Ginny always slept through it. But not Johnny. He’d always been a lighter sleeper than his sister, and he’d woken at once every time.
The first night it hadn’t even scared him. He’d just listened with fascination, wondering what kind of critter it would be. Maybe it was mice, or rats, or squirrels. Maybe it was even a raccoon. How cool would that be? A raccoon in his bedroom!
Then he felt the cold, sharp agony of its touch. He felt the mouth over his shoulder and the teeth sinking into him. He felt the drain as the monster sucked his life away. He tried and tried to fight it but his body would not move, could not move. So he tried even harder to scream, to call to his mother for help. But no noise passed through his lips.
In the pale stream of dim moonlight that passed through their curtains he could just barely make out his sister. It was enough. He could see that she, too, was writhing in agony. He wanted desperately to help her, but he couldn’t even help himself.
And then, suddenly, the monster was gone. So he screamed. Ginny screamed. A moment later their mother was there, comforting both of them. But no sooner had they quieted than Bruce filled the silence. He really liked to yell at them. He scared Ginny, but not Johnny. Johnny thought he was a coward who wouldn’t do anything more than yell, even to a five year old.
“What are you screaming at? Go back to sleep!” he roared, and stormed off.
Johnny scowled after the man as his mother comforted Ginny. It made him so mad that that big, cowardly bully shared a name with his favorite superhero. He didn’t deserve to have an awesome name like that. When his mother finally left, too, he pulled the blanket high up over his head. He fought it for as long as he could, but eventually he fell back asleep and the rest of the night passed without incident.
His mother spent all day trying to convince him that he’d imagined it, that it was just a dream. It almost worked. After all, Ginny didn’t even remember it come the light of day. And the monsters hadn’t left any marks.
It almost worked, but it didn’t. Johnny could see how tired his sister was, the dark bags under her eyes. He could see his own matching pair when he looked in the mirror as he brushed his teeth that morning. Even his mother remarked on how tired he seemed that morning, but even so she couldn’t seem to put it all together.
Why wouldn’t she believe him? Her boyfriend was even worse. Bruce kept treating him like a stupid baby for crying in the dark. He never could figure out why his mother liked him. He was even more awful than her last three boyfriends, and they were pretty awful. But he’d never disliked Bruce quite as intensely as he did that morning.
On the second night they came, Johnny was scared right from the beginning. He knew what to expect this time. That definitely did not improve the experience.
“Be brave like Batman,” his mother told him. As if all he had to fear was the dark.
He went to sleep with his blanket pulled tight over his head. The thick blue blanket was far too warm for that evening, but he insisted and overruled his mother’s objections. He hoped the thicker blanket would keep the monsters away. His mother thought he just wanted Luke Skywalker. He was happy to let her have her delusions.
Declan Finn is the author of the Pius Man Trilogy as well as the Dragon Award nominated Honor at Stake. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards. The awards are over, but the fun continues! You can find his entry for round one here. Below is his entry for round two. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Brian’s entry ran earlier this evening. Judging comes tomorrow.
Amanda looked up at the giant blob, and decided that she seriously hated whoever put her hip deep in this insanity.
She looked behind her to the room she woke up in, then back to the blob. And she smiled. The door was made of metal, and the blob apparently didn’t digest metal, especially if that stop sign was anything to go by.
This will at least slow it down. She reached over, grabbed the door, and ripped it off of its hinges, and flung it at the blob like a hatchet. The impact sent ripples throughout the creature, and … that was it.
Amanda turned and ran back into the other room. She thrust her fingers into the wall, grabbing and pulling out a chunk of rock from the wall. She hurled it at the blob, and kept digging through the wall, creating a tunnel that was about a lady’s size six, going straight into it, expecting the blob to follow her.
Had Amanda had the time, she would have sighed. She had survived most of the idiotic decisions of the Vietnam war fighting creatures in the vast network of tunnels, and she swore she would stay out of them for the rest of her life. Now, here she was, digging another tunnel.
Amanda growled, annoyed at the thought of the war. She had been a veteran of five wars – six if you counted the Cold War – and she almost preferred World War II to Vietnam.
Amanda thought that over as she shoved more dirt and rock behind her. Okay, she shouldn’t really think that. Sixty thousand dead in all of Vietnam, while that was the cost of a single engagement in World War II. But God was that war run by idiots. Miles of tunnels throughout the country, crawling with VC and monsters like her, and they could have just been wiped out by bombing some dams and flooding the tunnels. What was the matter with those people? Heck, why didn’t she eat MacNamara again? Oh, right, eating someone for stupidity wouldn’t do anything for the state of her soul.
She stopped digging a moment, and listened. She just made out the sounds of the blob pushing into the tunnel.
Amanda smiled, and made a left turn. This part was going to be easy. She had done it several times during the tunnel wars in Nam. Granted, when they expected her to be a tunnel rat, they didn’t realize that she could turn into a rat, though she rarely used it. It was tempting to use it now, but it would take too long to dig this tunnel at speed as a rat.
Amanda pushed on, circling the blob’s original catacomb. She could have circumvented it entirely, but that would only put the creature on her tail. At current rate of speed, it would have put her between a rock and a squishy place.
Amanda punched through the final bit of wall, then pulled herself out. She saw the back end of the blob pulling itself through the initial hole. She grimaced, reached for one of the vials in her pocket, and tossed it for the blob. Unlike the ones with holy water, this one was topped with a blasting cap. It was a simple solution of Styrofoam mixed with gasoline. It worked very well against vampires. But then again, it was basically napalm.
The back end of the blob burned away, and what was left withdrew into the tunnel as the hole filled with fire. The blob only had one other way to go, and that was right out of the hole she came from.
Amanda went for the cell door she had thrown at the blob earlier. It was relatively intact, having been left behind when the blob came after her. She grabbed the metal door, ripped it in half, and quickly beat one edge flat.
Amanda got back to the hole just before the blob started to push its way through. She waited until a foot of blob came through, then quickly flipped the piece of blob into the fire she started in the other room – a fire that had spread to the bed she woke up on.
Thankfully, what the blob had in size, it made up for by being seriously stupid. It kept coming, and each time she would slash off part of it with her piece of door. She had considered going after it with her sword, but she didn’t want to know what long term exposure to this thing would have done to it.
I suspect I will need it if I have to kill something after this.
After a while, it stopped coming, and Amanda waited, listening. She heard it moving in the little tunnel, and her gut clenched. It was slow and it was stupid, but it had an animal instinct. With the fire at one end, and Amanda at the other, it would have to be smart enough to stop moving, or …
Dig its own path out.
Amanda tossed her half of the door to the other side of the room, and dashed for the initial hole. Along the way, she swept up the other half of the door. She kicked the bed to one side of the room, bent the four corners of the door half to 90-degree angles, and used them as nails to pound it over the opening, sealing it in that way. She wouldn’t need the fiery bed elsewhere.
She grabbed the bed by the legs, and pulled it into the catacomb just in time for the blob to burst through the wall. And that’s when Amanda tipped the burning mattress right on top of it, setting the whole thing on fire. The blob thrashed, and roared, and couldn’t decide where to go to get away. Every time it tried, Amanda was there, the sharpened door edge hacking away.
Five minutes later, Amanda took a slow, deep breath, watching as it evaporated into nothing.
Brian Niemeier is the Campbell Award nominated author of the Soul Cycle series, including the Dragon Award nominated Souldancer. He graciously agreed to enter this Author Gladiatorial Challenge to earn your vote for the Dragon Awards. The awards have passed and Brian has won, but the challenge continues! You can find his entry for round one here. Below is his entry for round two. I hope you find it as entertaining as I did. Declan’s entry will run later this evening, with judging to come tomorrow.
Astlin isn’t entirely clear as to whether the approaching cube is real or another violent hallucination.
One thing is clear, though: the cube. There are all sorts of odds and ends floating inside it. One item in particular catches Astlin’s attention. It’s a stop sign.
Is a stop sign still legally binding when it’s inside a gelatinous cube? Probably not. Then again, what if the cube isn’t really a cube at all? What if it’s a school bus? You can get in big trouble if a school bus puts its stop sign out and you don’t stop.
Astlin has been staring at the stop sign for a good five minutes, weighing the pros and cons of ignoring it or not, when she is enveloped by the cube.
Five more minutes pass before she stops staring at the sign and realizes that she’s inside a ten by ten by ten foot cube of warm gel that’s oozing its way down the corridor. The jelly is in her ears, crackling like a wet plastic bag.
It’s pretty nice in here. She’d forgotten how much of a chore it is lugging her brass body around. Floating inside the cube makes her feel practically weightless. It’s like drifting on a cloud–a warm, sucking, cube-shaped cloud.
Astlin can understand how being inside a gelatinous cube might not be everybody’s thing. Most other people have to breathe, for one. But that’s no problem for her.
The gel itself also seems like it’s pretty corrosive, if the rapidly dissolving rats in here with her are any clue. That’s okay. Her armor can shrug off black dragon breath, so the cube’s acid gel won’t eat through the salamander leather, and it just makes the exposed skin of her face tingle.
Snug as a cherry in the center of a Jello mold, Astlin lies back, relaxes, and goes where the cube goes.
Three hours later, the cube finally gets tired of carrying Astlin’s weight and disgorges her from its bulk. She sits on the tunnel floor for a while, unhurt but soaking wet.
She decides to take her armor off and dry it with her body heat. Upon removing her shoulder-length right glove, Astlin is shocked and delighted to find that her brass flesh has been polished to a mirror shine. The gel must have eaten away the dull buildup that accumulated over the years. Seriously, below the neck she looks like a brand new award trophy or a luxury car hood ornament!
Last week I became the target of a Craigslist scam. Thankfully, I managed to avoid becoming a victim. Still, I thought I’d pass on exactly what happened and what to watch for. Hopefully this will keep my readers from falling for similar scams.
I put my motorcycle up for sale on Cragslist last week. I’ve enjoyed the bike quite a bit since I got it. However, I haven’t ridden much lately. Between hauling kids around, or hauling stuff to the dojo, or hauling stuff to and from work, or the 95+ degree heat, I just haven’t been on it. In fact, the last time I rode it was when I moved it to the new house – a year ago. I like the bike, and I’d probably like to ride again someday. But letting it sit for years on end isn’t good for it. Better to let it go to a new home – a better home.
The bike also served its purpose. When I bought it, I needed dirt cheap transportation and I needed it badly. It filled that role, and filled it very well. These days, I have other options. It simply isn’t necessary the way it once was.
Anyway, I put it up for sale. Then I got contacted almost immediately. The “buyer” (read: scammer) was ready to pay full price, site unseen. That was a little odd. He also wanted to ship it. That was also a little odd. On the other hand, he had a California area code. It made sense to me – at least in theory – that he might want to pick up the bike inexpensively in Alabama, ship it out to California, and turn a profit. He offered to overnight a cashier’s check, so that seemed pretty safe.
Then things got really weird. First, it took days for him to finally get the check out to me. He kept harassing me any time I took more than two minutes to respond to a text message. And then he told me the check would be for double this list price of the bike, and I should pass the cash back to the shipper who would pick up the bike.
That’s when my Spidey Sense went into full overdrive.
Rather than depositing it, I took the check into my bank this morning. Thanks to business accounts, I have a good personal relationship with my banker. She actually called the host bank that the check was written on. They confirmed that it was absolutely a bad check.
In case anyone hasn’t followed it, the scam is this: “purchase” an item with a check for an amount far larger than the original price. Get the difference back in cash, and get the purchased item. Then clear out before the check bounces, leaving the seller on the hook for the cash and without the item.
In my own case no harm was done. I wasted some time messaging this guy and sitting in the bank. But anyone who uses sites like this should always be alert for a scam. Pay attention and you’ll usually see the signs easily enough to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
OK, let’s just be blunt – for the purposes of this post, “social media” means Facebook and Twitter. And let’s be even more blunt – don’t even bother with paid advertising on Twitter. Save your money, flush it down the drain, or – if you really must do something with it – send it my way. It’ll do you more good. At least I will say something nice about you for it!
I’ve worked with paid tweets on Twitter over three businesses now. It’s not so much that the results have been poor. It’s that the results have been nonexistent. That’s right: zero, zilch, nada – not a damn thing. Morgon and I experimented a fair amount with them and nothing worked at all.
With that said… I do think that someone with a larger Twitter following could see something from it. Even then, however, I suspect that the ROI would be atrocious. The short answer with Twitter is simple. Don’t waste your money.
Paid advertising on Facebook, on the other hand, has provided results. The ROI is not fantastic, but it’s been better than some other advertising we’ve done. The thing about Facebook’s paid advertising, however, is that you have to be smart about how you use it.
The main reason I think Facebook is more successful than Twitter on this front is because Facebook gives you – the user – far more control. Facebook actually gives you a lot of options. Too many options, in some ways. But what really makes it usable is the controls they give you for ad targeting. Specifically, Facebook gives you three kinds of control that Twitter simply doesn’t.
First, Facebook lets you target ads locally – not just locally, but hyper-locally. I can target ads to a country, state, or city. Nice, right? Or I can target one particular zip code. Or I can even give it a specific address and a radius around that address. For a local business this is phenomenal. I’ve seen research that shows that, on average, 80% of martial arts students pick a dojo within 3 miles of their home. So when I advertise my dojo on Facebook, I target that advertising to a three mile radius of the actual facility. It means I’m not wasting money on ads hitting people a continent away who would never possibly become students anyway. Hyper-local advertising is great.
Second, Facebook lets me specifically target ads to people who have already liked my page. Bonus: it gives me access to a secondary target group: people who are friends with people who have liked my page. This works great for boosted posts on Facebook. Fans of the page like the post early. Then their friends see it in their feed – and Facebook shows them that their friends have already liked the post and/or the page. It does this by name – you get a nice little marker “Russell Newquist and 8 others liked this post.” Preselection is extremely useful in marketing.
Third, Facebook has a lot of information about its users – and it lets you use that in ad targeting. For example, if I’m advertising a youth martial arts class, I can specifically target that ad to Facebook users who are parents. You can target ads in many other ways as well: age, gender, relationship status, language. I’ve had less luck targeting people by “interests,” but the feature is there.
These are just a few ways that I’ve used Facebook’s paid advertising successfully. There’s a lot there to work with – and someone smarter than me can probably make better use of it. I’ve also found that I get far better results for my dojo than I get for my books. However, I suspect that much of that comes from not having yet figured out how to maximize the available features for book sales.
Twitter has some middling location targeting features, and some middling user targeting features. But in the end, it has nothing like this. One partial reason is because Twitter simply doesn’t have this kind of information on its users in the same way that Facebook does. But another reason is that they’re not using what they have anywhere near as well. Is it any wonder Twitter’s stock price continues tanking?
We’re now only a few stories away from meeting our launch goals for project Lyonesse – so please keep sending them in! In addition to our general call for submissions for Lyonesse, we are also looking for science fiction and fantasy short stories specifically themed around the holidays of New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Submissions should follow the previously laid out Lyonesse submission guidelines.
- Science fiction or fantasy short stories of roughly 3,000 to 20,000 words.
- Previously unpublished works.
- There is no theme – topics are wide open.
- This project is not specifically superversive. However, superversive stories are preferred.
- The payment model for this project is royalty based. However, the model is somewhat unique. Details will be provided upon acceptance of stories. We expect this project to be able to at least provide payment comparable to old school short-fiction magazines (ie, within the range of $0.03 to $0.05 per word). In fact, we think it will eventually do considerably better than that. However, this is an experimental project and this is not guaranteed.
- Stories that are part of a larger world or series that you’re developing are perfectly fine – even if previous or later stories are not published through us.
- Authors whose stories are accepted will also have opportunities to advertise previous, current, or up and coming works as part of this project.
- Submissions should be in Word format (doc or docx is fine).
- At this time we’re ONLY looking for submissions for this particular project – but we will be opening up for more in the very near future.
- E-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Please specify that your submission is for Lyonesse!
Since my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress, is finally nearing completion, it’s time to share a sample chapter. A bit of context:
Soldiers always bring demons home from war with them. But when Michael Alexander returned home from Afghanistan, literal demons followed him home. Michael must stop their reign of terror. The Army can’t decide whether to lock him up or recruit him. Meanwhile, his not-quite-father-in-law carries his own old war secret, and Michael must resolve the issues that sent him to war in the first place.
The following chapter takes place about midway through the book. It’s a tad light on the urban fantasy elements, but it makes up for that with a lot of fun.
The six cylinder, three point six liter turbo charged boxer engine let out a deep growl as Michael pressed the gas pedal to the floor. An all-wheel drive system and four fat contact patches on eighteen inch tires helped transfer most of that power straight to the ground. Even so, the tires squealed on the wet pavement before they stuck.
The country roads just outside the Covington estate weren’t built for high speed traffic. The hills and trees impeded visibility and provided plenty of obstacles that the narrow, winding roads made it difficult to avoid. Fortunately, Michael had spent his teenage years driving these roads at far higher speeds than sanity would dictate.
The wind and rain jostled them around bumps and potholes, but the Porsche Carrera 4 Turbo stayed locked to the pavement. Michael kept his eyes firmly fixed on the road. Through unspoken agreement, Peter watched for the Land Rover. It had enough of a head start to race well out of sight, and it carried an engine almost as powerful as the Porsche’s. But it also weighed twice as much and couldn’t maneuver along the curves of the country roads like the German sports car.
Their first challenge approached as the road ended into another unnamed county highway. They’d have to pick a direction. Michael prayed as he eased on the breaks and downshifted.
“There,” Peter called out, as he pointed to his right. Michael didn’t even look. Instead he simply threw the car into a hard right turn and gunned the accelerator again. As they power slid through the stop sign at a speed higher than the posted limit, Michael caught the flash of red taillights himself.
Peter slammed his fist into the dashboard in frustration as the taillights dipped under a hilltop about a quarter mile in the distance. But Michael knew these roads. This stretch would be almost perfectly straight well past the horizon. He pushed his foot to the floor. The engine roared as the little car gave him everything it had. The road was hadn’t been paved in some time. At their speed, they felt every bump.
The car rocketed over the hilltop at a hundred and ten miles per hour. Peter gripped the sides of his seat for all he was worth, as raw speed carried them airborne for nearly twenty yards. They landed hard, but square on the wheels. They skidded for a moment on the wet asphalt. Then the tires found their grip and they rocketed down the road.
On every turn, the squeal of tires pierced through, even overpowering the sounds of the torrential downpour. Lightning occasionally lit up the sky. Otherwise, visibility was terrible.
“How can you see anything in this?” The nervousness in Peter’s normally unflappable voice stood out like a sore thumb.
“Last time I did this, I couldn’t even see this well.”
Peter’s eyes popped out of his head.
“You’ve chased a Muslim terrorist down these roads, at three times the speed limit, in the middle of a rain storm at night before?”
“You think he’s an Islamic terrorist?” Michael answered, genuinely surprised.
Peter winced as they entered a windy section of road. Michael rode the center line, which allowed him to navigate the turns as an almost-straight line. Peter didn’t want to think about what would happen if they encountered an oncoming car in the other lane.
As they pulled out toward the end, Michael caught a glimpse of headlights rising over a ridge and whipped hard back into his own lane. Peter knocked his head on the window and let out a groan.
“Well, I don’t know if he’s Muslim,” Peter allowed.
“As far as I know, he’s your typical non-religious, rich son of an oilman.”
“Fine, not Islamic! But those things at the house and that yellow eyed creature seem pretty terrifying to me!” Peter answered.
Michael allowed that he had a point before responding to the original charge.
“No, there was no rain last time,” Michael answered the original question in his calm voice. “And definitely no Islamic terrorists.”
“What were you thinking, man?”
“I was just driving fast for the hell of it. And maybe also because my blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit. So it was actually a lot harder to see.” Michael stated calmly.
Peter stared at the crazy man in the driver’s seat.
Michael didn’t take his eyes off the road – not even for a heartbeat – but he could sense the young man’s reaction. “I was also driving faster. But I know these roads like the back of my hand. We’ll be good, I promise.”
“Were you always so brilliant in your youth?”
“Oh, some of my youthful ideas were far better than that,” he answered sarcastically. Ahead of them, the road came to an abrupt end.
“How did you ever survive to adulthood?”
“My grandfather used to ask the same thing.”
A family of white tailed deer jumped out into the road in front of them. Tires squealed as Michael swerved right and brought the car to a complete stop. Peter’s face turned ashen, but Michael never lost his cool. He’d trusted the German engineering, and the gigantic anti-lock brakes hadn’t let him down. He smoothly shifted back into first gear. The instant the deer gave him an opening, he pressed firmly on the gas pedal and released the clutch.
The engine stalled out.
His right foot continued to press down, but nothing happened. Something blocked the accelerator. He looked down to find that the flashlight had rolled under the pedal. He kicked it out with his foot, mashed the clutch in again, and restarted the engine. He revved the flat six engine high and popped the clutch out again. Four hundred and sixty two horses squealed through the tires at once. When the tires finally stuck, the silver car took off like a jackrabbit on steroids.
The Land Rover was once again out of sight. Michael pushed the car as hard as he dared on the wet country roads. It was faster than Peter would have liked, but he said nothing. Instead, he resumed his scan, trying to pick up any trace of Khalid’s getaway car. Another intersection approached.
“Left!” Peter called out, pointing for emphasis.
Michael lifted the parking brake handle and twisted the wheel, throwing the Porsche into a hard sideways slide. Before they’d even slid through the intersection, he gunned the accelerator again. The wheels screeched on the wet roads, fighting hard for traction, but eventually they stuck. The car rocketed out of the turn.
“I said left!” Peter shouted at him.
“I know,” Michael responded calmly. “These old roads all come out at the same spot. This way’s faster – we’ll shave off some time and catch up to him.” Without warning, he braked hard and yanked the wheel hard to the left. Peter let out a small yelp and closed his eyes.
“Hail Mary, full of grace…” Peter finished his prayer and opened his eyes again. “We’re not dead,” he noted. “I didn’t even see that road there.”
“This place was still a working tobacco plantation up until the late 1950s. The farm hands had to get around a lot. There are Jeep trails like this all over the place out here.” He flashed Peter a quick grin. “I told you to trust me.”
A moment later, the dirt road ended. Michael took a hard right again. The smoother asphalt allowed them to gain speed, but the road wasn’t much wider than the mud path they’d just left. They drifted around another hard turn before the road opened up. Michael took advantage of the straightaway and opened up the turbocharged throttle.
He pointed across the field at a pair of headlights moving at an oblique angle toward them.
“We’ve got them now.”
They could see the SUV clearly now, even through the rain. The Porsche’s headlights illuminated it enough to be sure it was the right vehicle. As Michael had predicted, the two roads converged at an intersection ahead. Peter flinched as he saw the stop sign approaching.
“Michael, that intersection is coming up awfully fast.” The bulky Land Rover loomed before them, growing quickly in their field of view.
“Yup,” the driver replied. “Please return all tray tables and seat backs to their full upright position and make sure your seat belt is secure.”
“Huh?” Peter said, double checking his belt.
The crash came a few seconds later.
Readers love S.D. McPhail‘s debut novel, Treasures of Dodrazeb: The Origin Key. Since I didn’t have the foresight to film the wonderful gentleman who read the first chapter aloud at the Southern Authors Expo, you’ll have to simply take the written word of these other readers.
This book is definitively the best third century Persian sword-and-science novel I’ve ever read – and it’s now available FREE to Kindle Unlmited subscribers!
David Henderson shares the following anecdote on EconLog. I hope he will forgive me for quoting it in its entirety. The context, however, is crucial for the point I’m about to make.
For most of my life I have considered myself strongly libertarian. The story illustrated above highlights exactly the problem with libertarianism, although Mr. Henderson doesn’t realize it. I that the number of people who must behave as described is well below half. I’ve also been fortunate enough to know quite a few people who behave in that manner. I have some truly great friends. Now that I’m out of public schools, I seldom witness the kind of bullying described. When I do, I too try to behave as described. I leave it to others to decide whether I succeed or not.
Even so, the problem with libertarianism as a philosophy is exactly this. It’s not so much that it requires too many people to act this way. It’s that some parts of the libertarian philosophy itself actively reduce the number of people who will act this way. This kind of behavior is socially and culturally bred. The western world, and indeed the anglosphere in particular, developed a culture over the course of centuries that led to this kind of behavior. When you grow up and live your life surrounded by it, it’s easy to think that it’s universal to the human race.
The simple truth is that it isn’t universal at all. Outside of the western world, this kind of behavior isn’t developed and encouraged at all. Even within the western world, it’s strongest in the nations colonized by Britain.
That doesn’t mean you won’t find this kind of behavior at all outside the western world. You most definitely will find it. But not in anything like the numbers needed to sustain anything like a libertarian society. There’s a reason that libertarianism as a philosophy developed in the English speaking world, and a reason that it hasn’t spread much outside of that world. It requires cultural norms that simply don’t exist.
Beyond that, libertarianism leads to its own downfall through its insistence on open borders. If you import too many people who don’t act as Mr. Henderson, eventually you can no longer sustain your libertarianism.
To be completely clear, I personally still greatly prefer to live in a more libertarian world. I thrive in it. My friends and family thrive in it. But a perfect libertarian world must necessarily lead to its own downfall. The only way to maintain a libertarian-ish world is to maintain a culture that can support it. That’s why these days I consider myself not a libertarian but rather a Christian nationalist libertarian (in that order). The first two are an absolute necessity in order for the third to function.