Category Archives for The Prodigal Son

The Peluda Dragon

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Tales of the Peluda dragon come down to us from French legend. According to the tale, the Peluda terrorized the village of La Ferté-Bernard, France during medieval times. Its name comes from the Occitan language (still spoken today in southern France and northern Spain). It literally means “shaggy beast,” as if someone let a three year old Stark of Winterfell name his dragon.

They named the monster honestly, however. Although its basic shape follows the form of the traditional European dragon, the details meander a bit. Rather than scaly lizard skin, the legend tells us that hair covers the dragon (or, depending on the version, porcupine-like quills). The hair ends at the long, serpentine neck. The head resembles a snake more than the traditional lizard-like head of a European dragon, and the beast also carries a snakelike tail. It walks around on the stumpy legs of a tortoise when not in flight. The green creature grows to roughly the size of a large ox.

According to myth, Noah denied the Peluda entry on the ark. The beast toughed out the flood in a cave in France, where it hid for many years. Eventually it returned to terrorize the countryside. In addition to the typical fiery breath of a dragon, the beast could ruin crops with its breath, spit acid, or shoot a stream of water rather like an evil fire hose. Tales tell of at least one occasion where it flooded the region simply by stepping in a river, and it could shoot its poisonous quills at will. Its tail could kill a full grown man with a single blow, and beast proved invulnerable to all attacks.

One day the Peluda ate the wrong maiden, as dragons do. Her fiance tracked down the beast and, enlightened by the wisdom of an old crone, cut off its tail – attacking the Peluda’s only weakness. The beast died instantly.

I cropped the picture of the Peluda above from the cover of my forthcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. My cover artist, Andy Duggan, drew a wonderful representation of the beast. I flavored the creature a bit to fit my novel, choosing the hairy version rather than the quilled version. Also, the full powers of the beast don’t come to the fore in this novel. That tale is brewing in the followup novella, Vigil, due out in late 2017 or early 2018.

Post Traumatic Stress – CALL FOR BETA READERS

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The second draft of Post Traumatic Stress is DONE!

It took me a few months to get back to it, but once I did it took less than two weeks to finish the second draft. In a way, it’s better that it took me a while. A little bit of distance from the manuscript meant that I looked at it with very fresh eyes. I’m quite happy with the current state of the manuscript. The ultimate judgement lies, of course, with the readers.

I’m looking for an additional ten beta readers. Beta readers will receive a free copy of the manuscript in its current form sometime in the next week. Anyone can apply to be a beta reader, but I need a commitment to the following:

  1. You must be willing and able to answer the following two question survey:
    1. What parts of the book bored you?
    2. What parts of the book confused you?
  2. You must commit to leaving an honest review on Amazon.com or Goodreads.com – or preferably both – within 1 week of release day.
  3. You must be able to read the book and return the survey by May 31, 2017.

If you’re interested, send your request to betareaders@silverempire.org.

If you’ve already signed up to be a beta reader, thank you! There is no need to sign up again.

2016 In Review

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By any metric, 2016 has been a great year for me. There were some hiccups, but altogether the good overwhelmed the bad. Here’s a look back on the year.

  • My fourth child was born.
  • Our fourth annual Extra Life event raised nearly $2000 for Children’s Miracle Network.
  • Book sales for Silver Empire are up almost 10x over 2015.
  • I merged my old dojo, Madison Martial Arts, with my Sensei’s dojo, Spirit Made Steel. The resulting dojo has 3x the student base of Madison Martial Arts. Our new facility is 3.5x larger. I have a strong base of wonderful assistant instructors helping now, and our classes are better than ever.
  • Blog traffic for 2016 is up more than 7x over 2015. My best month was May, which approached the peak traffic levels of previous incarnations of this blog.
  • Blog revenue from Amazon Associates sales increased 5x over 2015.
  • My grandmother passed away after an amazing 95 year run.
  • Silver Empire published its first novel.
  • And we published our first audiobook.
  • I finished the first draft of my own first novel (read a sample chapter).
  • Our Kickstarter campaign for Lyonesse nearly doubled its goal.
  • I set new personal records on all major lifts at the gym.
  • I earned my 4th Degree Black Belt
  • Some of my favorite authors sent me free books to review.
  • I got interviewed for the first time.
  • My Twitter feed crossed 1000 followers.
  • I’ve made many wonderful new friends through the author community, social media, my dojo merger, and many other areas.
  • I published 216 blog posts this year.

2017 is looking to be an even better year.

  • After more than three years, I expect my dojo to finally start operating in the black.
  • I expect to publish both my first novel and my first novella.
  • Blog traffic will likely grow by around 3-4x.
  • Based on our upcoming lineup, Silver Empire book sales will likely grow by around 5x.
  • We plan to launch Lyonesse in the early part of the year.
  • My goal for 2017 is to publish at least one blog post every single day, including holidays and weekends. That will more than double the content on this blog.
  • And… I have a few more surprises in store for the year. What, you wouldn’t want me to reveal everything ahead of time, would you? 😉

Lyonesse Author Spotlight and Free Story – L Jagi Lamplighter

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Thank you to all who have contributed so far to the Lyonesse kickstarter project! We have just over 24 hours left on our Kickstarter and we’ve reached 144% of our goal! If you haven’t already, stop by and contribute. A $7 contribution gets you an entire year’s subscription – including at least 52 stories (one per week, plus the occasional bonus story) from some of the most amazing up and coming science fiction and fantasy authors. And if you’re interested in one of our lifetime subscriptions, keep in mind that this will be your last chance to get one. They are only available through our Kickstarter campaign – when it ends, they will disappear!

Meanwhile, we also have a handful of more established authors on our list, and today I’d like to talk about one: the talented L. Jagi Lamplighter. Some of you may also know her as the Mrs. John C. Wright. Mrs. Lamplighter is the author of the Books of Unexpected Enlightenment series (which I have previously reviewed here, here, and here). She’s also the author of the Prospero’s Daughter series, and the editor of Brian Niemeier‘s Soul Cycle series (of which I have reviewed books one and two, and will get around to book three very soon!). I can also say that I have the great privilege of having contracted her to be my own editor for my upcoming novel Post Traumatic Stress.

Finally, as a special thank you to all of our backers for helping us with our successful Kickstarter project, I present our first Lyonesse bonus story, Mrs. Lamplighter’s, Four Funerals and a Wedding. This is but a small taste of things to come from Lyonesse, and I hope that all of you find the story as delightful as I did.


Four Funerals and a Wedding

by L Jagi Lamplighter

This story is dedicated to
Matthew and Eugie Foster,
Who deserved better

Cassandra leaned against the shovel and wiped her brow as a flock of geese flew across the face of the moon. Beside her, Archie dug steadily, unearthing the grave dirt above his fiancée’s coffin.

“You know,” the young woman picked up her shovel again, “this was not where I had expected this to end.”

“Let’s just hope it doesn’t end here,” he grunted back. “Or worse, with us both in jail.

*     *     *

For the first funeral, Cassandra wore her sunglasses. They were huge and dark and made her look like a blind owl, but they covered her high cheekbones and her eyes. Nothing showed but the nose and chin she had inherited from her Jewish father—not unattractive but unremarkable. No one ever gave the lower half of her face a second glance.

She chose a slim black dress and low black suede boots. The silver and turquoise cat necklace she had worn whenever she left the house for four years now—Jeremy’s last present to her on her last mother’s day—was a bit cheery for the occasion, but she could not bear to leave it home. She tucked it inside her gown.

Seated in the back pews of St. Timothy’s, she gazed surreptitiously at the crowd. Ahead, the family paraded slowly by the open casket, saying their last goodbyes. An old woman in black and a middle-aged man were crying loudly, but the dead man’s wife was sitting with her back straight, a look of desperate hope in her eyes.

Maybe she read the newspapers.

Cassandra pulled Nicholas’s old handkerchief from her purse and pressed it against the corner of her eyes. After four years, it embarrassed her that she still cried. But they had been four lonely years—without Nicholas, without her little Jeremy.

No one understood what it was like to have been a mother and then not be one anymore. The worst was when her friends commented on her having the freedom to spend her hours how she pleased. She would given anything to trade her freedom, her prestigious career as a photographer, and her hobbies for the mess and toil of having her family back.

The door opened, and the reporter from Channel 9 evening news came in, his camera man beside him. Cassandra jerked her head away. If he saw her, he would know. He had been at the last funeral, too.

Should she leave? Her eyes flickered to the face of the widow.

Steepling her fingers and pressing them against her lips, she closed her eyes and quieted her heart. Life. It was eternal. Nothing could be put to it or be taken away from it.

The lately-deceased man sat up in his open coffin, blinking. The rafters of the small church echoed with screams of terror and then with screams of joy.

*     *     *

For the second funeral, she wore her hair down. It fell midway down her back, like a solid black waterfall. She hid Jeremy’s necklace beneath her black silk blouse, which she wore over gray slacks. Her sunglasses still hid her eyes.

This one was held at the Presbyterian church outside of town. Calhoun from Channel 9 was there before her, a big, heavy, scowling man. Cassandra shuddered and averted her head. She had been reading his columns, and they were vile. The man poured out vitriol and bile on every subject he covered.

It made her heart ache for humanity that people paid to read such vileness.

Beneath Jeremy’s necklace, her heart beat rapidly. Would he recognize her? If he did, what would happen?

It was not herself she was worried about. What did she have to lose? It was the folks who she could help if everyone left her alone.

She had tried going to the hospital, but she felt like a harpy, waiting around for people to die. Besides, hospitals made her nervous—too many bad memories. And when she was nervous, nothing happened. Same thing if she bragged or allowed even the slightest hint of pride.

If she wanted to help grieving families and lives cut short, she had to do it quietly, privately.

If Calhoun from Channel 9 outed her—put her in the public limelight—would she ever be able to help anyone again?

*     *     *

For the third funeral, she wore a very large black and white hat. Its large brim dipped down, making it easy to hide behind. Between that and her sunglasses, her face was hardly visible. This was a good thing because the despicable Calhoun looked right at her as she left the church. His assistant pivoted the camera and pointed the blank, black lens right at her. She had only enough time to duck her head and block her face with the hat.

By the time she arrived home, her whole body was shaking.

*     *     *

For the fourth funeral, she left her sunglasses home. Without them, she became a whole new person. All heads turned when she walked into the funeral parlor as people stared at the young Asian woman, so lovely she could be a model. But no one, not even Calhoun who was positioned at the door, hunched like a vulture, recognized her as the person had been when the upper part of her face was covered.

It was a disguise she could only use once.

She also took her work camera with its zoom lens.

There was a lone chair against the wall. Cassandra pushed it into a back corner, behind a large urn containing a palm. The smell of smoke and chemicals made it hard to concentrate. Her heart was beating so loudly, she could not hear herself pray.

She closed her eyes and tried to quiet her thoughts, but the angry, leering image of Calhoun kept imposing on her peace. His latest piece on the mysterious “zombie-maker” had been so hateful that it had made her sick to her stomach to read it.

Who hated a person for resurrecting the dead?

In her imagination, she kept picturing the moment when he found her out, the finger pointing, the clammy hands grabbing her by the arm and yanking her in front of everyone. She felt lightheaded.

Only the sight of the two children weeping beside the casket kept her run fleeing the premises.

She closed her eyes and breathed, but she could not clear her thoughts.

What was it with this man? Why was he so angry? Why…

Why had she not prayed for him?

The funeral proceeded. A preacher gave a blessing. A brother gave a eulogy. Children wept. Cassandra tried to pray for the bloated, angry reporter, but her words were empty. In her heart, she did not wish him well.

There must be something about him, something that could break the spell of disgust he had cast over her, some quality, however small, that she could admire.

Nothing.

The gathering was beginning to break up. People were rising, milling, laying a silent hand on the shoulder of the sobbing widower. And Calhoun still stood there, scouring the gathering, scowling at each person, as if they were personally guilty of having murdered the dead woman. Did he never give up?

Ah, that was a quality Cassandra admired. She had to give Calhoun that.

He was dogged.

Like a spell breaking, Cassandra looked at the reporter as if for the first time. How tired he looked, how bitter, his eyes were bloodshot. He looked…like a very miserable soul indeed.

That was enough. Her thoughts calmed. She closed her eyes. She kept them shut until the children began to shout.

Outside, the Channel 9 man was standing by the front walk, interviewing the happy family. People were crying and laughing and hugging. The woman’s husband, no longer a widower, clung to her, weeping with joy and relief.

The camera was pointed right at the door.

She should have worn her sunglasses after all.

Cassandra looked around. Did she dare cut through the vestibule to find another door? Her hand brushed against her camera. Raising her head, she walked over to loathsome toad of Channel 9, whom she really could not think quite as badly of as she had before, and stuck out her hand.

Heads turned as she walked. But neither the toad nor the no-longer-a-widower paid attention to her appearance.

“Hi there, Cassandra King Crossing.” She patted her camera bag, where hit hung at her hip. “I do some freelance work for the Mystic River Press and The Westerly Sun, among other places.

His hand was big and meaty. “Archibald Calhoun. Channel 9.”

Despite her nervousness, she flashed a big smile and gestured at the crowd. “I gather we’re looking for the same thing? Maybe we could compare notes?”

“You mean the person responsible for this circus?” he snarled. “Yeah, I’d like to find that bastard.”

“What would you do if you did?” she asked casually.

“Punch the S.O.B. in the face. Repeatedly.”

“For resurrecting the dead?” Her voice rose so high it broke.

“What kind of low human being hides the fact that they can resurrect the dead? Where was this bastard when my Effie…” His voice broke.

“O-oh,” breathed Cassandra.

His face had taken on a haggard dullness that she knew as well as she knew her own name. It struck her like a blow to her solar plexus.

“I’ve been looking for him for weeks. Thought maybe he could save…s-she’d been so healthy just three months ago. We thought the cancer had been beat. Then, wham.” The big, ugly brute, who was beginning to look dear to her, rubbed at his eyes with the back of his sleeve. “Our wedding was set for tomorrow. She had bought a lovely dress—the nurses had promised to help her put it on—and her brother was going to fly in from Chicago. But things took a sudden turn for the worse. And Effie….” He swallowed, his big Adam’s apple jiggling. “Her brother ended up flying in a few days earlier, for the funeral.”

Cassandra could hear the man speaking, but she could not see him. All she could see was the glare of headlights from a car coming directly at her on a slick rainy night. She felt, again, the lurch of the car as Nicholas put the driver’s side between the danger and his family. In the heat of the moment, he forgot that Jeremy, so recently free of his booster seat, had moved over to sit behind the driver, so he could talk to his father.

If only…if only Nicholas had swerved the other way.

Cassandra yanked out the silly silver and turquoise cat from inside her dress and gripped it tightly. Her life was hard enough but… Not to have ever been Nicolas’s wife? Not to have ever held Jeremy, or see him take his first step, or win his first soccer game? Even this, even all the pain and agony of loss, was better than that.

Tears streaming down her cheeks, Cassandra grabbed the reporter’s arm. “Your fiancée, where did they put her body?”

*     *     *

For the wedding, she wore a wide straw hat with flowers tucked in the band. She even went up into the attic and took out a blue and green dress she had not worn since the last time she and Nicolas went out to dinner. The silver and blue cat looked lovely resting against the silky material.

She also left her sunglasses home.

The ceremony was held at St. Timothy’s. The press was there, not just Channel 9, but all the local stations and a few national ones as well. She could already foresee the running caption: Revenant Woman Weds.

Effie looked lovely in her white gown, her face aglow. Archie Calhoun stood beside her, proud as a bridegroom could be in his handsome tux. Looking at his round, beaming face, Cassandra could not remember why she had thought it anything but kindly and dear. The bridegroom turned his head. Across the crowded church, their eyes met.

Archie Calhoun winked.

Cassandra winked back—which never could have happened had she still been hiding behind her sunglasses.

 

The End

The Secret Kings

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Dear readers, several of you have signed up to be alpha readers for my upcoming novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I am sorry to say that the second draft is not yet ready. I promise that I will put it into your hands as soon as possible. There are several reasons it isn’t ready yet. One is that my editor, the esteemed Mrs. L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright, has been busy finishing up a prior commitment. The good news is that she is now finished with that commitment. The better news is that as a result of that, today my friend Brian Niemeier has released the third book in his Campbell Award nominated and Dragon Award winning series, “The Soul Cycle.” Book three, The Secret Kings, is available today for Kindle.

Alas, I have not yet read this book and so cannot offer a full review of it yet. The reasons for that are the same as the other reasons that I have not yet finished the second draft of Post Traumatic Stress. Please do not think that it is Mrs. Wright’s fault nor Mr. Neimeier’s fault. Indeed, I have been tremendously busy for the last six weeks or so. On top of that, I’ve spent roughly two of those weeks out of town – first attending a memorial for my late grandmother and then later on a rare and much needed family vacation. On top of all that, I’ve also been quite sick, first with about three weeks of bronchitis and now with a rather rough cold.

Finally, I encouraged Mrs. Wright to finish Brian’s work first – both because adhering to prior commitments is the right thing to do and also because Brian marches to much tighter writing and publishing deadlines than I do.

For all that, I offer my deep apologies to Brian for not having a review ready. I plan to remedy that before the month is out. Furthermore, I now have a very rich collection of excellent notes from Mrs. Wright and from my own wife on Post Traumatic Stress. I’m rather happy with the first draft, but I can assure you that the second draft will be far better as a result of her input and will be worth the wait. In the meanwhile, I suggest that you pick up a copy of The Secret Kings. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with the series, start at the beginning with Nethereal and its Dragon Award winning sequel, Souldancer.

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge – BOOK REVIEW

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Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge by Larry Correia and John Ringo

I held off on buying Monster Hunter Memoirs: Grunge for quite some time. It came out back in August, just as I was settling into the homeward stretch on Post Traumatic Stress. So I made myself wait. I promised myself that I would read it when I finished my own novel, as a reward. When I finished the first draft a few weeks ago, I promptly bought myself a copy and devoured it.

For those who aren’t familiar, the book is set in the world of Larry Correia’s blockbuster Monster Hunter International series. The series mostly centers around Owen Zastava Pitt as he joins Monster Hunter International, a band of redneck libertarian mercenaries from south Alabama who hunt monsters. The series is pretty much exactly as awesome as that makes it sound.

Bestselling author John Ringo wrote this entry, however. After the editing job turned into a bit more than just editing, Mr. Correia became a co-author.

Fans of both Mr. Ringo and Mr. Correia will love this book. Unfortunately, I only really fit into one of those categories. I have not read much by Mr. Ringo before, but what I have read I have only moderately enjoyed. I did, however, enjoy this book quite a bit more than I have enjoyed Mr. Ringo’s other works.

The problem I tend to run into with Mr. Ringo’s works is that largeish portions of them come off as either lectures or preaching to the choir, depending upon your political inclinations. I’m not particularly fond of either. I understand quite well why this has brought Mr. Ringo a massive audience – I’m simply not a huge fan of it myself.

With that said, this book exhibits considerably less of that than other works of his that I’ve read. And what it does have comes off less as a direct lecture to the reader and more of just showing the main character’s personality. I found that much easier to stomach. Also, when Mr. Ringo isn’t lecturing to me the book is generally a heck of a lot of fun.

On the other hand… even though it’s assembled as a novel, the book reads more like a collection of short stories strung together than like a typical novel plot. I guess that fits with the “Memoirs” theme, but left me a bit unsatisfied.

All told, I’d give it three and a half stars – but existing fans of Mr. Ringo would probably add an extra star on top of that.

Post Traumatic Stress – The Cover is Here!

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The cover for Post Traumatic Stress is here! Artwork is courtesy of Andy Duggan. Titles and layout are by yours truly. I’ve included both ebook and print versions below. Both images are embiggable. Expect some minor variations to the layout before final publication.

Post Traumatic Stress ebook cover

Post Traumatic Stress ebook cover

Post Traumatic Stress print cover

Post Traumatic Stress print cover

Call For Beta Readers – “Post Traumatic Stress”

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The first draft of Post Traumatic Stress is complete! There’s already a sample chapter available here.

I am looking for up to ten beta readers to help with the completion of the novel. There are really only two jobs of a beta reader:

  1. Tell me the parts that suck.
  2. Tell me the parts where you don’t understand what the hell I’m talking about.

That’s it. If part of the book confuses you or bores you, let me know. I’ll have a draft ready for beta readers sometime in late November or early December. After that, I’ll be expecting feedback pretty quickly. If you’re interested in that and would like to get early access to the book, please email info@silverempire.org.

Reader Praise for WHO’S AFRAID OF THE DARK?

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Readers loved “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” when it was part of Make Death Proud to Take Us. Since we released it standalone, even more praise has come in. Here’s a sample of what the readers have to say.

  • I’m really not sure how to review this short story without revealing any of the surprises in it, so let me apologize in advance for this review being a little oblique, but since I’ve already given away that it’s not simply what it seems, let me emphasize that it’s *really* not what it seems at first: it’s quite a lot more.
  • I had forgotten how satisfying a good fantastical short story could be… It reminded me of a good Twilight Zone episode.
  • The story features subtle, evocative imagery about the monsters and hints about the boy’s family strife. Good on the author for not overdoing any of this and maintaining the child’s POV. Recommended.
  • I love the story of someone overcoming the things that challenge them.
  • I’m anxiously anticipating more adventures with Bishop, and can’t wait for Newquist to reveal his origin story.

The anxious anticipation is nearly over! Although Post Traumatic Stress is not, strictly speaking, a Peter Bishop novel, it does actually feature his origin story as the b-plot. The first draft of the novel is now 90% done, and it’s coming together rather quickly at this point. I expect to have the manuscript off to my editor sometime in November. God willing, we’ll have the novel published sometime around the first of the year.

In the meanwhile, the second Peter Bishop story, “Knight of the Changeling”, is already available as part of the anthology Between the Wall and the Fire. We’ll also be releasing it soon as a standalone story. Meanwhile, “Who’s Afraid of the Dark?” is available DRM-free for the bargain price of $0.99 on Amazon.com, or free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.


whosafraidofthedark-01Little Johnny isn’t afraid of the dark. Big boys aren’t afraid of the dark – and at five, Little Johnny is a big boy. No, he isn’t afraid of the dark. He’s afraid of the things that come out in the dark, and what they might do to his baby sister. But his parents don’t believe him – so it’s up to Johnny to keep her safe, armed only with his toy sword and shield.

About the Tales of Peter Bishop

Peter Bishop had a simple life. He had friends he liked, a church he loved, and a job that he actually kind of enjoyed. He didn’t want much more. Maybe just a nice girl to settle down with. OK, maybe just one specific girl. And then again, maybe she wasn’t as nice as he thought she was. And maybe she wasn’t all that into him, either.

Yes, Peter Bishop had a simple life. Until a demon attacked his town, his friend Michael joined an ancient band of knights, a dragon kidnapped the girl, and a seventy three year old monk gave Peter the sword of an archangel.

Peter’s life is not so simple anymore.

How I Launched an EBook to #1 on Kindle

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categorybestsellerWhen 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.

Aftermath

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.