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.
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:
If you’re interested, send your request to email@example.com.
If you’ve already signed up to be a beta reader, thank you! There is no need to sign up again.
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.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Morgon and the kids are heading out of town this weekend o visit family. For the first time in a very long while, I’m going to have a good chunk of time at home on my own. I intend to spend it writing. I’m currently about 62,000 words into my first novel, Post Traumatic Stress. I’m targeting 110k for the first draft, with the intention of trimming it down to about 80-90,000 words for the final draft. The draft as written is currently on track for that.
The novel comes in bursts. I’ve gone long periods without much time to write. On the other hand, I’ve had some very good days. I’ve seen friends online talk about 2,000 words being a good day. That’s not me. When I get in the zone, I get in the zone. My best day so far has been over 4,000 words – and that was a day where I’d already been at work all day. When I get in the zone I can pretty easily turn out 500 to 1,000 words in an hour.
This weekend I’ll have little in the way of distractions. I’ll also, for once, have rather a lot of time. I plan to get myself in the zone and move, and I’m targeting 20,000 words as my goal from Friday morning through Monday evening. I think I can make that happen.
More fun, I plan to “live tweet” as I write. Don’t expect something every five minutes, but expect regular progress updates and maybe the occasional hint of something that’s just made it into the book. You can follow the fun on my Twitter feed. Writing will begin in earnest after I get home from work on Friday evening. This will either go very well or very poorly, but either way it ought to be entertaining.
Post Traumatic Stress
Everybody faces demons in war. After surviving a helicopter crash in Afghanistan, Sergeant Michael Alexander came face to face with actual demons. When the Army sent him home on a medical discharge, the demons followed. Now they’re going after his friends and terrorizing his home town. Now Michael must face up to the past, with the help of his not-quite-father-in-law, a young friend, a hapless and overly bureaucratic secret military group that gets in the way more than it helps, and an ancient order of knights chartered by the Vatican.
Going to go narcissistic for a moment. I’ve hit 30,000 words on my first novel (working title Post Traumatic Stress). Still a long way to go, but that’s a big milestone – and by far the longest thing I’ve ever written.
A young man comes back from Afghanistan on a medical discharge after a helicopter crash only to find that his literal war demons have followed him home to terrorize his friends. He has to deal with them with the help of his not-quite-father-in-law, a young friend, a hapless and overly bureaucratic secret military group that gets in the way more than it helps, and an ancient order of knights chartered by the Vatican.
The work is not strictly part of the Tales of Peter Bishop series, but it does tie in heavily to the series (the “young friend” mentioned in the blurb is, in fact, Peter Bishop). You might even say that this kicks off the series.