Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Amazon now accepts advertising! Can you advertise your book there?


For a while now I’ve been hoping that Amazon would let self-publishing authors pay for cost-per-click advertising on the Amazon Kindle Store search result and category list pages. It would be a good deal for both the author and Amazon.

Authors could pay to get greater exposure in exactly the place they needed it. What better place to advertise than in the store that sells your books? The obvious analogy to this is the big cardboard standees that publisher pay to put in Barnes & Noble and other brick and mortar stores. Why do you think James Patterson and others sell so many books? Might have something to do with the huge standees stacked with his books right inside the door of the bookstores. Publishers pay big bucks to B&N for that prime real estate.

Amazon would also benefit from such selling ad space to authors. Authors would be directly paying Amazon $$ to get people to buy more stuff from Amazon! It sounds like a racket, doesn’t it? But it’s actually a good deal.

So, I was quite happy to see ads start appearing on Amazon, and I quickly clicked the link to learn more.

Amazon is supporting two different advertising services: Product Ads and Display Ads.

Unfortunately, product ads are not allowed in the Books category, so that’s no help to authors.

That left Display Ads. Amazon has very little information about Display Ads on their web page. But there is a contact us link, which I immediately sent an inquiry to.

Unfortunately, the response (from Adzinia Display Advertising) provided requirements that clearly disqualifies self-publishing authors from participating in Amazon advertising. The two pertinent points are:

1.    “…due to the volume of inquiries we receive, we are unable to respond to emails from private email accounts (e.g. @yahoo.com or @hotmail.com), and can only respond to requests from appropriate agency or client business email addresses”

2.    “The minimum campaign spend for Display Advertising with Adzinia is $25,000”!!!

Gaaaah!

That's about  100 to 1000 times more than I'm able to spend. How about you? Got a spare 25 large laying around to sell your $3 book? You'll only need to sell 12,500 copies to recoup that expense.

So, my hopes were shattered, at least for the time being.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Twelve Worlds charity donation for 2011


As of October 31st, the Twelve Worlds anthology has sold approximately 191 copies, resulting in author royalties of just under $385 (author royalties are paid out 2 months later), which I’ve just donated to Reading is Fundamental.

In case you didn’t know, the author royalties from Twelve Worlds go to Reading is Fundamental, the nation’s largest nonprofit children’s literacy organization.

So, if you want to read 14 speculative fiction and fantasy stories from new authors, you should pick up a copy of this book. It’s only $2.99, and about $2 of that goes to charity.

Friday, December 23, 2011

FREE book just in time for Christmas: Christmas Riddles

To celebrate Christmas I'm giving away my second riddle book for free! Derek's Rhyming Riddles Book #2 Christmas Riddles can be yours for ZERO dollars! If you like riddles or just want to support this blog, you should zip on over to Amazon and download it. Do it now so you can puzzle your family over Christmas dinner! This is a limited time offer, so don't miss out!



If you like the riddles in book #2, then you can also buy book #1 and book #3. I certainly won't object. ;)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Big publishers losing dominance of Amazon Top 20 genre lists


Kevin McLaughlin has a good analysis of the major/small press vs self-published ebooks on Amazon’s Top 20 genre lists. Very interesting reading, which you should definitely check out.

Based on his data, I’ve created a graph showing the profound dominance of self-published ebooks in the genre lists.


Head on over to Kevin’s post to read his astute analysis.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Just in time for Christmas! Christmas riddle book!


Yep, another riddle book. I wrote a bunch of riddles while on vacation, including a big red sackful themed for Christmas!

In Derek’s Rhyming Riddles Book #2 Christmas Riddles, you’ll find another 60 riddles to puzzle through. The answer for every single one has something to do with Christmas. Here are just a few samples:

Riddle #1

Visiting your house with a star in my cap
Boxes at my feet already in wrap
Bracelets abound
Tinsel all round
Flip the switch to make everyone clap


Riddle #28

Gaggling on the ground
Wedging far above
If you take a gander
He’s the one we love



Riddle #57
Christ in a manger
Outside your home
Joseph and Mary
Displacing your gnome


So, if you like riddles, rhymes, trivia, crossword puzzles, word games, or Christmas, you should get this book. Not only will you get the answers to the three riddles above, you’ll also get 57 more riddles, all with answers and explanations.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Derek's Rhyming Riddles Book #1


When I wrote my young adult action adventure novel, The Elemental Odyssey, I included several rhyming riddles. I’ve always loved riddles (ever since reading the Hobbit as a child), and I thought that having a few in a book about a dangerous quest would be cool.

One of the readers of The Elemental Odyssey, one of the shuttle drivers for Microsoft, enjoyed the riddles in the book and suggested that I write an entire book with nothing but riddles. It didn’t take me long to agree with him that it was a good idea. I’d love to find a book with nothing but rhyming riddles in it. They’re kind of like poetic crossword puzzle clues, and I’ve always enjoyed crossword puzzles.

So, I spent some time on our vacation creating a bunch of riddles, and Derek’s Rhyming Riddles Book #1 is the first batch. In it you’ll find 60 new, original riddles.

Here are just a few examples:

Riddle #1

Colors clinging, colors falling, colors on the ground

Empty branches, pumpkin patches, night is sooner found

Apple cider, back to school, harvest queen gets crowned

Costumes worn, treats dispensed, ghosts and ghouls unbound



Riddle #29

They make up a sentence

Some know how to leap

Methuselah had hundreds

Rip spent many asleep



Riddle #58

Tiny little bowls

Filled with many eyes

Windows to the world

Through them one spies

If you can’t figure out the riddles, you should buy the book! if you like word games, crossword puzzles, or even poetry you might find this book provides a bit of entertainment. I hope you enjoy figuring out the riddles as much as I enjoyed writing them.

You can buy Derek's Rhyming Riddles Book #1 for your Kindle on Amazon for only $2.99. That’s just 5 cents a riddle!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Guest post: Joshua P. Simon


Just like me, Joshua Simon is another aspiring author hoping to build an audience on ebook readers for his novels. He's about one year behind me in his journey, having just released his first full length novel: Rise and Fall. It's an epic fantasy with magic and battles, so if you enjoy that genre you should definitely check it out. For this guest post, Joshua has supplied an excerpt from the book, which will no doubt get you hooked on the tale!

Here's Joshua:

I am humbled and excited to be swapping posts with Derek. He is someone who I’ve both looked to for advice and information in self-publishing and have enjoyed his work as an author.  In fact, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance was my first ebook purchase. Thanks, Derek, for the opportunity to share my work with your readers!

Although Derek and I currently write in different genres (I’m writing an epic fantasy series), I feel we share some commonality in the tone our works.  One of the things I liked about Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance is the bleak world sprinkled with bits of humor and levity.  I personally find myself drawn to those sorts of stories.  Within fantasy, I often cite Glen Cook, Robert E. Howard, George RR Martin, and Joe Abercrombie, just to name a few, as influences on me.. Naturally, the stories I write have the same grit as the stories I love to read.  At least I hope they do!

Currently, I have two published works.  One is a short story titled Warleader.  The other is my first novel titled Rise and Fall which I released on December 1st 2011.

The short story acts as a prequel to one of three main plot threads in my book Rise and Fall. Several of the characters introduced in Warleader are featured in Rise and Fall. Since Rise and Fall is the most recent release, I wanted to make the first chapter available to Derek’s readers.

In short, Rise and Fall is about an ill-prepared queen, a soft-hearted mercenary, and a crippled warrior struggling as a kingdom falls and an empire rises. For a more detailed description click here.

Here is an excerpt of Rise and Fall: Book One of the Blood and Tears Trilogy:

A deafening silence filled the inner courtyard. Massacred bodies with faces frozen in fear and despair covered the space once home to beautiful gardens. Nothing stirred except for the five High Mages fanning out amongst the motionless forms, each searching for a sign of life. The smell of burnt flesh enveloped Amcaro and worked its way into his nostrils and robes. More than two dozen royal guards lay dead, joined by half as many servants—charred husks against the white stone floor.

Standing amid the devastation, Amcaro’s mouth hung open in disbelief. “One Above, how did this happen?” he whispered.

After feeling the immense wave of sorcery, he and the only other mages powerful enough to teleport had arrived from afar. He wanted to help search for survivors but he couldn’t turn his attention away from the woman before him. Her beautiful face unrecognizable, her body blackened, there was no denying that the dark red remnants of her robes belonged to one of their order, a High Mage. She was one of only seven in Cadonia. Amcaro felt his gut tighten at the realization that his former pupil, Fei, was dead.

His thoughts wandered back to the time she first approached him at the age of eight, wanting to be his apprentice. Many thought I was wasting my time when I accepted a student so young. But they didn’t see the passion in her eyes, the eagerness, and the yearning to make something of her life.  Now those eyes that were once so full of life are empty. Would she still be alive if I denied her request all those years ago?

“Master!” Acus shouted from across the courtyard. “Come quick.” 

Amcaro jumped at the voice, and like the other High Mages interspersed throughout the open area, scrambled toward Acus who held a body in his arms. Closing in, he saw the figure was that of a boy, no more than fourteen. The boy grasped at Acus’s robe, pulling the High Mage down to his face. His body convulsed between whispers and then relaxed. His hands fell away. Acus’s paled face told Amcaro that whatever he had learned, it was not good.

Edali, the most gifted healer among them, fell to his knees and checked the boy over but Amcaro knew the effort would be wasted. The boy was dead. Edali confirmed Amcaro’s thoughts with a slight nod, eyes sullen, distant.  

“Well? Spit it out, Acus. Did you get anything?” asked an impatient voice.

Amcaro turned to his left and scowled. Rhindora was tall, homely, and stout. By appearance alone, she was the most intimidating mage of the group. She did little to intimidate Amcaro who gritted his teeth. “Show a little compassion.”

“We’ll have plenty of time for compassion after we learn what happened here, Master. We have yet to move past the inner courtyard,” said Rhindora.

“Although I don’t agree with her tone, she’s right. One Above knows what awaits us within the castle itself.” Essan ran fingers through his thick blond hair as he looked over the lifeless form that Acus still cradled. 

Amcaro opened his mouth to respond but was cut off.

“It was Nareash,” said Acus.

“I knew it!” said Rhindora pacing about. “I never did trust that snake.”

Amcaro looked down to Acus, whose bald head was still bowed over the boy’s body. “Is that what the boy told you?”

Acus finally set the boy down and slowly rose to his feet. “Yes.”

“Well, there were rumors among the peasants about the King being manipulated,” said Edali, standing in turn and wiping the dirt from the bottom of his robes.

“And do we just take the gossip of peasants as fact now?” asked Essan, throwing his short pudgy arms into the air.

“The boy saw Nareash,” said Acus.

“Was he sure? How do we know it wasn’t someone or something else he mistook for Nareash?” said Essan.

“Look at this place,” said Rhindora, picking up speed as she paced. “Look at Fei.  Who else but Nareash could do this? Don’t let your friendship with the man cloud your vision.”

“My friendship with Nareash has nothing to do with it. I just find it hard to believe that the man we grew up with could do all of this.” Essan spread his hands wide. “He’s never shown this kind of power before. It doesn’t make sense.”

“The boy told me a few things before he died. Together with other bits and pieces we’ve pulled together I think I have an idea of what happened,” said Acus. “Over the last couple of days, several suspicious deaths among the staff left many uneasy in the castle. Those who died were all near an open flame that seemed to take on a life of its own. They were all vehemently outspoken against Nareash, spreading discord among the rest of the staff. After their deaths, most others who were dissatisfied with Nareash stayed silent except the mother of Captain Marc of the Royal Guard. When she died under similar circumstances, the captain went to the king who acted as if nothing was the matter. In secret, Marc convinced many of the guards and staff to work with him to overtake Nareash.”

“And there it is,” said Essan. “Nareash was falsely accused and then attacked. He acted in self-defense.”

Edali shook his head. “Wake up, Essan. Look at the path of each sorcerous attack. Most of these people, especially the servants, were running away.”


Amcaro rested a hand on Essan’s shoulder. “This is not easy on any of us but I know you see the truth here.”

Essan started to argue again but shook his head. Shoulders coming forward, he seemed to lose any desire to put up a fight. “No sense in putting it off then. We must rein in Nareash. Rhindora...” His voice trailed off as he faced where the woman was pacing only moments ago.  Seething and red-faced, he added, “That brainless woman.”

Amcaro turned to the sound of great double doors closing on the opposite end of the square. Essan was stalking toward the doors when Amcaro called out, “Essan, wait!”

Essan halted. “Wait for what, Master?” He pointed toward the doors. “You know those two have always hated each other. This is exactly the justification she needs for settling her own vendetta. We need to catch her before she does something stupid.”

“She’s already accomplished that. We will not make the same mistake as her or Fei by doing this alone. We will stay together and go after Nareash with caution. He knows we’re here and he will be ready for us. Let’s not give him another advantage by having our emotions get the best of us.”

“But Master, Nareash is not a match for you. Together, we have nothing to worry about.” said Edali.

“Think, Edali. Look at this devastation. Nareash fought and killed dozens of armed guardsmen while also battling Fei. She may have been the least experienced among us, but she was still a High Mage.” He paused. “And we still have yet to see the rest of the castle. Something is not right.”

“All the more reason to hurry after Rhindora,” said Essan.

“No. I will not risk our lives and the safety of the kingdom to run off recklessly after one so careless. She is on her own. Now isn’t the time for emotion to get in the way of judgment.”

Amcaro noticed a few looks of displeasure from the others but none said a word. The mages readied themselves, preparing sorcery that could be unleashed at a moment’s notice. Once finished, Amcaro led the way to the massive oak doors. Although grand in dimension, the craftsmanship was more impressive. On the face of each, carvings showed key events from Aurnon the First’s conquering of Thurum, and the settling of Cadonia. And there at Aurnon’s side throughout all his accomplishments stood Sacrynon. Not just allies, but friends as well. A great king and a great high mage stood side by side, working together, earning the adoration of the people.  Amcaro shook his head as he compared the carvings to the present day. What happened between you, Nareash, and Aurnon the Eighth?

Amcaro and the others entered the vast common hall of the castle. Large wooden rafters supported the ceiling and from them hung dozens of singed banners. Five banners dominated the ceiling, greater than all others, emblazoned with the seals of Cadonia’s dukes. Smaller hangings surrounded each of the five with their own unique seals representing the lords within each Duke’s province. Aurnon the First had designed the ceiling himself, believing that a king should always be mindful of those who serve him. “The needs of the people should be above the wants of the king,” he often said. A great man. Too bad the meaning of your design was lost on many of your namesakes.  

Amcaro’s eyes drifted past the bare walls, focusing instead on the four long tables at the room’s center where servants of the castle would have their meals. Benches were overturned. To the left and right were the round tables used for members of the Royal Guard or the rare guest. Wisps of smoke drifted up from the broken and splintered remains of the chairs that would normally encircle them.  

Just as before, smoldering bodies covered the scene. Contorted into misshapen forms, their number more than tripled those littering the courtyard. If not for the armor or the blackened swords in their hands, it would be impossible to discern that the figures were once members of the Royal Guard. As it was, many of the bodies were barely recognizable as human. One body in particular caught Amcaro’s eye. Belonging to a servant, the lifeless form crouched, frozen, under one of the center tables.  There was no mercy for even one as defenseless as you. Nareash what has happened to you?

Essan took a step forward, eyes still taking in the carnage. He spoke so quietly, Amcaro had to listen hard to catch his words. “There must be over a hundred guardsmen in this room.” Turning to Amcaro with a look of disbelief he continued, his voice rising. “Just between here and the courtyard alone, half of the royal guard is dead. Nareash has lost his mind. There is no other explanation. Has anyone been left alive?”

Somber, Amcaro answered, “We should assume the worst.”

Both mages turned as Edali dashed through the hall. Edali maneuvered toward the table on the far end of the room, opposite the doors. Unless the king extended a special invitation, only the royal family and its closest advisors gathered in the back of the hall.  Acus was a step behind, weaving in and out of the wreckage.

“What do you see?” Amcaro called out.

“It’s the king! He’s somehow unscathed by the devastation around him,” said Edali as he reached the opposite side of the room.

Essan and Amcaro made their way toward Edali and Acus. Amcaro, last in line, saw what the others had noticed; a plump man lay on his side in light blue robes. His back was to the advancing mage, but there was no mistaking the round shape and the salt-and-pepper hair visible through the top of the man’s clothing. A gaudy crown still sat crooked on his head. Amcaro came to a sudden halt. This isn’t right.

Edali bent down to examine the king. Acus kneeled on the ruler’s other side.

One Above!

“Don’t touch him!” Amcaro called out, realizing the danger. His words echoed throughout the hall but were a moment too late.

As Edali turned the king over to check his condition and perform the healing arts, a ball of fire engulfed the mage. He flew back, landing on the remains of a guardsman. The fire burned with such ferocity, the air in the room thinned.

Amcaro watched Acus repel the exploding fire. However, the sorcerous attack distracted him from noticing the jeweled dagger in the king’s pale right hand. The king’s chubby arm arced across his bulky frame with surprising speed and the dagger opened Acus’s throat. Blood pulsed onto the floor. 


Amcaro reached out with an invisible hand, and pinned the king’s arms at his sides. The overweight ruler struggled to break free, but the king was no match for the mage’s power. After a moment he relaxed in the unseen bindings, an emotionless expression on his face.

Essan rushed over to Acus’s side to assess the damage caused by the king’s attack. There was no sense in checking on Edali. As the fire slowly subsided, Amcaro could see the mage was no more. The crackle of burnt flesh made Amcaro flinch. “Is Acus alive?”

Essan closed his eyes and his hand clutched Acus’s throat. Blood oozed from between his fingers. “No.”

That one word expressed so many meanings. Sorrow for losing a friend, frustration for not acting sooner, desire to change places, emptiness that will never be filled—but of all things it spoke of hate.

Amcaro took a deep breath, steadying himself. “I know what you’re thinking. But now isn’t the time to allow our feelings to cloud our judgment. Edali and Acus did just that and so did Rhindora by running on ahead of us. One Above knows what has happened to her as it seems she continued without even checking the hall. Such carelessness will lead to our death too, Essan.”

“I am well aware of the situation,” said Essan in a tight voice, his chin resting on his chest. 

Amcaro sighed and shook his head. “I’m sorry. You’re right.”

Essan looked up and turned to the king. “Is this truly the king?”

Amcaro stared at Cadonia’s ruler, sorrowful. “It is his body, but his mind is no longer his own.”

“How is that possible? I thought mind control was just a myth from old.”

“No, it’s possible. It is a dark path with many dangers—which is why I never taught it to you or anyone else. Mind control carries many risks since each person’s mind is unique. Over time it will turn the victim into what you see before you.”

“Then who would have taught Nareash?”

“I don’t know.” Amcaro paused, studying the blank face of the king. “This man will never be more than a risk to everyone he comes in contact with.”

“Then we have no choice.”

Amcaro looked over to Essan and nodded. His eyes returned to the king and then a moment later the man collapsed to the ground next to Acus, as lifeless as the bloody High Mage.

Amcaro stood for a moment, thinking. I was here only a couple of months ago when the castle was bustling with life. Now only an eerie stillness remains. How could I have missed the signs? How could Nareash come into such power and keep it hidden from me?  Amcaro straightened, mouth tightening as he composed himself. “Come, we mustn’t tarry here any longer.”

Amcaro headed toward a lone staircase in the hall, near the arched doorway to the kitchen. Essan followed close behind, matching his master’s stride.



* * *



Nothing passed between the High Mages as they ascended the stairs to Nareash’s personal quarters. They climbed slowly, pausing at the top of each flight to step over another group of felled guardsmen; many still held unfired crossbows in their hands. Neither of the High Mages bothered checking the rooms on each floor. Amcaro knew they would be filled with more horror, but empty of the man they sought.

During the last two flights of stairs, Amcaro checked over several spells he prepared after leaving the common hall. He felt Essan do the same as they approached an open doorway. Amcaro glanced back at his friend and saw worry and dread beneath his seething anger. We share the same thoughts, don’t we? I feel the power emanating from the room and I’ve not felt its like for some time.

They exchanged nods. Amcaro was ready to climb the last step before the doorway when a voice came from inside.

“Can we get on with this already? I swear you two move as slow as a couple of old crones.” 

The two mages leaped through the door. Bursts of light shot from their hands toward their target, but the attacks seemed to have no effect as Nareash stood opposite them wearing a smug grin. When they realized Nareash had no intention of attacking them, they ceased their attacks, remaining wary of their situation. 

“Come now, I hope that wasn’t the best you two had,” said Nareash. “Even Rhindora made a stronger show.” He nodded to the floor.

Amcaro’s gut tightened again at the loss of another of his former students.

Essan bent over to examine the woman’s body after an approving nod from Amcaro. No longer intimidating, she looked small and fragile. “She’s dead,” stated Essan in an emotionless tone.

“Of course,” said Nareash. “She tried to kill me.”

“Then why not attack us?” asked Essan.

As Essan probed Nareash, Amcaro took in his surroundings. Nareash stood at the room’s center, tall and slim with dark hair, his skin tanned bronze. His stance was one of confidence, hands tucked into the sleeves of his robe. The princess stood several steps behind Nareash. Elyse’s wavy auburn hair framed the fair skin of her face. Hands clasped at her waist, she wore a simple emerald dress that accentuated her light green eyes. I can feel your bonds, my dear. Nareash, is this your true advantage?

The room was deep but otherwise empty with very little in the way of furniture. Other than a small bed and a simple desk near the window, there was nothing. Various books and papers lay scattered over the floor in uneven stacks and piles.

Nareash shook his head. “Our relationship is far different than the one I shared with that foul woman. I hoped we could come to an understanding.” Nareash flicked his eyes toward Amcaro. “And, Master, without you all of this wouldn’t be possible. The last thing I want is to continue this senseless killing.” His eyes turned dark for a moment. “However, I will do what I must.”

Nareash’s grin broadened. “You have yet to speak, Master.”

“Let the princess go so we can speak in private.”

Nareash laughed. “Elyse will stay.”

“Is she what all this is about?” asked Amcaro.

Nareash chuckled. “What do you take me for, some teenage boy with a crush? She is easy on the eyes, but the only thing I care about is the power she’ll bring. Besides, you and I both know there is not enough sorcery in the world that can make a woman love.” He sighed. “Women are just too stubborn.” Nareash turned to the princess. “Isn’t that right?” 

Elyse stood motionless as if unaware what had been said. But her eyes… she is still cognizant of her surroundings, thought Amcaro.

Turning back to the two mages, Nareash continued. “No, as you can see I have to settle for what she is. A beautiful woman trapped in her own mind, unable to let her mouth ruin her appeal.” He paused before chuckling again, “Some would say the perfect woman, no?”

“I don’t know what you’ve become Nareash but you are not the friend I knew,” said Essan.

“Please, self righteousness doesn’t suit you. I would have tried to work something out with you at the very least, but like the others it seems your lips are too firmly pressed against our Master’s rear to do anything other than what he defines as moral.” Nareash then turned to Amcaro. “Isn’t that right, Master?”

Amcaro didn’t answer, too busy searching for a solution to the situation.

“One Above, I will not be ignored by you.” The sleeves of Nareash’s robes separated revealing his long spindly fingers. In his right hand, he held a short ivory colored scepter.

In a soft whisper, Amcaro spoke, “Sacrynon’s Scepter.”

“They called Sacrynon the Mad Mage in his later years, right?” Nareash’s eyes drifted down absently at the hollow cylinder in his hand.

While Nareash was distracted by the scepter, Amcaro quickly looked to Elyse. If I could just get some sort of recognition from her that she understands. There. Was that it? Yes dear, you do understand, unfortunately all too well. I hope that you’ll know what to do when the time comes.    

Amcaro’s eyes returned to Nareash just as the mage looked up. “You don’t sound surprised that I have it, Master.”

“I had my suspicions after witnessing the destruction you caused. Still, I never imagined you would be such a fool! Don’t you understand that the implement turned Sacrynon into a lunatic?” He paused, “it affects you already, doesn’t it? Where did you find it? Aurnon the First took the scepter to Quoron four hundred years ago, never to return. He was to destroy the abomination.”

“It affects only my power. And obviously, Aurnon the First failed. Imagine my surprise when I discovered one of the most powerful weapons in the world used as a candle holder by a na├»ve king.” Nareash grinned. “I laughed for days. To have something so powerful and not know it, that is truly madness. Who cares how it got there? I have it now.”

Without warning, Essan lashed out at Nareash with blue tendrils of sorcery flowing from his hands. At such close range, the power would send most to the ground in agony.  However, Nareash used the scepter to absorb and nullify Essan’s attack. Amcaro joined in and together they sought to overwhelm the deranged man they had once called a friend.



* * *



Elyse’s world was void of sound. In the small room with her were three others and yet she felt completely alone. Since discovering her father’s manipulation weeks ago, Nareash had kept her in a state where she was unable to communicate with anyone. She could not move, speak, nor even hear unless he chose to allow it. Mostly, the High Mage gave her only sight, generous he had he said in giving her anything at all. The only proof I have of existence is watching life go by around me.

Today she realized that the shred of mercy Nareash had granted her was the cruelest thing of all. She had watched the High Mage burn and murder all she held dear. Anyone and everyone fell under his wrath and she was the sole living witness to it. At first, she was thankful she could not hear the cries of despair, but without that distraction she was more attuned to the expressed anguish in each victim’s face as it twisted in pain.

And she was unable to look away.

The silent screams still echoed in her deaf ears, the images forever etched into her memories.  During the ordeal she prayed ceaselessly to the One Above. She prayed for just one moment free of constraint to help them. Maybe I could have used that moment to shout a word of warning or even whisper one of comfort.  No doubt I would be dead as well, but isn’t death better than this?

Now the same scene repeated itself before her eyes, only the actors were different. Elyse watched in bitter anguish, helpless again as the last two people able to stop her nightmare lived their last moments. She knew they would die just as all the others had today. Even Amcaro, a man she thought of as more of a father than her own looked doubtful about the task before him. If the resolve of one as powerful as him falters, then what hope do I have?

Elyse watched the interaction between the High Mages with fascination. Nareash opened his sleeves, revealing the hollow cylinder in his hand. Essan’s reaction was one of confusion, coupled with fright. But Amcaro seems as if he expected it. Whatever it was, she understood its importance to Nareash. I haven’t seen it out of his hand since he first started carrying it, back when the whisperings of my father’s manipulation started.

Elyse focused on Essan who seemed to regain his nerve. She watched the High Mage’s face tighten. He is ready to attack. One Above, help them please. She looked back to Amcaro. He’s looking at me! He must know that I can’t respond. Elyse’s eyes locked on Amcaro’s for a moment, his eyes flicked to the white object in Nareash’s hand and then a moment later met her eyes once again. I…I know what you want. The High Mage’s jaw clenched for a second, nodding his head ever so slightly, the movement so small anyone other than the intended person would miss it. He knows…that I know. He wants me to help, but I can’t do anything like this…    

Essan lashed out at Nareash, the power vibrating through Elyse’s body. But Nareash didn’t even flinch. The wand glowed and the flames hoping to engulf the mage dissipated without any ill effect. Undeterred, Essan attacked again and again, now alternating with Amcaro. From what Elyse could tell, their attempts were little more than a bother to Nareash. With the slightest of gestures, Nareash struck both High Mages at once, knocking them off of their feet. The deranged mage threw his head back and although she was deaf, Elyse knew he was laughing as he approached the fallen men. Not again. One Above, please don’t leave me so helpless.

Nareash lifted the wand and pointed it at Essan who began to writhe in pain. Amcaro attempted to stop the attack, but a wave of Nareash’s other hand blocked the effort. Amcaro tried once again, but this time Elyse saw that his eyes looked at her and not at Nareash. Elyse’s body tingled, starting in her limbs and then moving to her torso and head. To her surprise, she felt the weight of her body after being unable to do so for weeks. She heard Nareash laugh. Amcaro’s eyes returned to Nareash and Elyse understood what happened.

 “Master, I never expected it to be this easy,” said Nareash. “I didn’t even feel your last pathetic attempt to stop me. And to think I once admired you.” He paused. “Master.” He said disgusted. “I have no Master.” The scepter hovered over Amcaro now that Essan’s body lay still. 

Elyse’s eyes darted about the space looking for something that she could use to stop the mad man. Her gaze finally rested on the simple desk in the room where a thin knife lay. I’m to attack a High Mage with a weapon more suited to clean one’s nails. No matter, I’d rather die than live as before. She reached, her body almost forgetting how to respond.  

Elyse crept across the room, moving as fast as she dared. Her body screamed with every step and her heart pounded in her chest as she moved her stiff limbs. She was certain he would hear her clumsy movements, and any second Nareash would turn to her, trapping her once again in an invisible cell, this time not even with sight to keep her company. Amcaro feebly attacked in two consecutive bursts of fire but Nareash brushed them off as if they were no more than dust on his robes.

“You are done,” said Nareash in a solemn tone.

The scepter began to shimmer and the air thinned. Recognizing the urgency, Elyse leaped and sank the thin blade deep into Nareash’s shoulder. The High Mage screamed as the wand flew from his hand, just as Amcaro released a concussive blast of his own, filling the room with blue light. Nareash tumbled backward, sent sprawling across the room and Elyse was thrown into a corner.

After a moment she slowly opened her eyes, realizing as she sat up, groggy, that she was the only person moving. She scurried over to Amcaro who was face down on the floor. She turned him over. “Master Amcaro, please. You must wake up! Master?”

“I’m here, dear,” said Amcaro through shallowed breaths.

“Oh, thank the One Above, you’re alright.”

A thin smile formed on his face as he tried to speak, interrupted by a coughing fit, blood spraying from his mouth. “Hardly. I’m dying.”

“No, you can’t. You saved me. You stopped Nareash. My father’s dead. Everyone is dead. I need you. I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you mean? You will rule your kingdom.”

“But I can’t. I…”

“You needn’t worry,” said Nareash.

 Elyse whipped her head around. On the far side of the room, Nareash staggered to his feet.

“I am more than capable of ruling without you.” He turned his eyes to Amcaro. “And Master, I spoke too hastily of you. Even now you teach me a valuable lesson in acting. Quite convincing. Still, you left yourself in a less than ideal position in doing so.”  The High Mage limped across the room, arm hanging at his side.

Watching his crooked path, Elyse realized that he was not walking toward her and Amcaro but instead to a stack of fallen papers. Barely visible underneath laid an ivory scepter.

Elyse dove across the floor an instant before the hobbled mage had time to react. She crawled back as Nareash came forward and slapped the cylinder into Amcaro’s outstretched arm.

Elyse saw Nareash begin to glow as he readied an attack. He screamed. “No!”

A burst of self contained energy shot from the Scepter and struck Nareash. When the energy dissipated, Elyse mouth dropped open, eyes welling in relief. Nareash, her tormentor, was gone. Obliterated.

Elyse returned to Amcaro’s side. He gasped for air.

“Rest, Master. You’ll be ok.”

With a worried look and eyes wide, he tried to speak, “He…He…” and another coughing fit seized him, taking control of his body.

“Please, rest. He’s gone, but you’ve weakened yourself further, you need to stay calm.”

Amcaro tried to speak again, this time between breaths, his chest rising with each word. “No…too weak…listen…to me...the Scepter…tell no one…show no one…Nareash…” A sharp intake of breath and then his chest relaxed.

“No. I need you. Please.” Elyse’s words trailed off. She knew her pleas were worthless. One Above, help me. She sat on the floor, head in her hands as tears held in for weeks flowed. She wept for everyone, the servants, the guardsmen, the High Mages, Amcaro, and even her father. But most of all she wept for herself. She was alone again.

* * *

If you liked the excerpt, I hope you will consider checking out the rest of the story at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Smashwords.  The current price is only $2.99 

For more information on me and my current works, please also feel free to visit my blog at www.joshuapsimon.blogspot.com. 

Thanks again for the opportunity Derek!

Derek: No problem, Joshua. I hope you have very good luck with your novel. As I've said before, you'll need some patience and luck, and discipline to write more good books. I'm interested to see what kind of sales you experience over the next year, since you're doing pretty much what I did: short story followed by related novel. Good luck! 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest post: Tony Lavely


I thought I’d give some other new authors an opportunity to tell you about themselves and their work. Tony Lavely contributed a great story to the Twelve Worlds anthology, and you should definitely check it out. But, you should also check out Mercenaries: A Love Story, which Tony describes below. He also explains a bit of his journey as a new e-publishing author.




Here’s Tony:



I just self-published my first book, the first in a two book series, Mercenaries: A Love Story, and Derek offered me the opportunity to guest blog in his space. Wow! I thought. That’s great... if I can figure out something interesting to say.



Mercenaries started long ago as a short story written to convince my talented then teen-age daughter that writing wasn’t all that hard - even Dad could do it. I don’t think my effort motivated her significantly at the time, but it did me.



I wrote off and on, all fiction and mostly fantasy until the mid 2000’s. Of course, as in my day job I managed people in a technology environment, I also had a fair amount of business oriented writing to do, and I was honored to write the first several drafts of the VITA 46 standard. (It has gone through multiple rewrites since.) As a manager, one of my frequent complaints was my guys’ and gals’ writing ability. Or perhaps, it was reading ability they weren’t using. Even email should be read through once it’s written – before hitting SEND – to see what liberties have been taken with language this time. That’s a rant for a different day; Derek didn’t invite me to share my dated complaints with you.



More recently I was RIFed, and unable to find other employment, so I pulled some of my earlier work out. I joined critters.org to both read other authors’ work, and have them read and crit mine. I  met Derek through another critter, Edward Cote (Violet Skies), and was allowed to join with them and eleven other authors in putting together the Twelve Worlds Anthology.



I found each one of those authors to be talented, opinionated and helpful beyond belief. Derek did a whole bunch of grunt work getting the project off the ground - I hope that’s on your resume, Derek – and all of us benefitted from being involved. But I digress.



I started reading Derek’s blog and came to the realization that not only could I self-publish, I should. For me, it’s the right thing to do. And with Derek’s example, and lots of others that I’ve found since, it’s possible to do. Just a couple weeks ago, I made it happen. After hours and hours of reading, digesting and implementing my readers’ suggestions, and more hours and hours researching, editing and polishing, I pushed the “Publish” button at Smashwords, and I was published. Of course, it took three times to fix stupid mistakes I found in looking over the published editions, but once I got to that point, I was able to go to Amazon and get through their process, too.



For mechanics, I bought and read Derek’s seminal work, Format Your e-book forKindle in One Hour, and followed his instructions. While I used Scrivener’s export to rtf and export to mobi to generate the files I published to Smashwords and Amazon respectively, Derek’s book gave me a good, nay excellent, understanding of what was happening and a feeling for how to handle the little confusions that arose in the process. Mark Coker’s Smashwords Style Guide was as helpful and I had no problems with the Meatgrinder process – though the table of contents took some deviant handling before success.



One of the other benefits of working with the Twelve Worlds group was the introduction to Les Petersen, who did the cover for the anthology. I liked it, and Les was easy to get hold of, and pleasant and easy to work with. I detailed the process on my blog. If you have need of a talented and responsive artist, I recommend him fully.



I purchased Scrivener not for the exporting capability, but for the organizational help it provided. The export capability was a nice bonus. My only complaint so far is that I can’t put spreadsheets in the Reference folder, and that’s a pretty small complaint. Having lost Word when I upgraded to MacOS Lion, I now use Open Office for docs that have to look like Word, and so far, it’s worked quite well.



I put this in mostly for any readers who haven’t yet made the leap; all you pros already know. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than the prep work is. I think the biggest thing to overcome is the certainty (in your mind) that you’ll fail. After all, who would want to buy a book I wrote? How stupid would that be? It’s possible, but unlikely (he says hopefully, still awaiting sale 1).



As far as the story:

Mercenaries: A Love Story Book One

A teenager saving hundreds from slavery? While Beckie never thought about it, it’s the role she takes in this two book series. Jamse, a mercenary (who doesn’t follow quite all the rules), didn’t think about it either. In book one, she is kidnapped (with her brother), and then eighteen months later, with Jamse’s help, she and her best friend become exotic dancer bait, getting the slaver to reveal himself. It’s quite a school vacation for two girls from Minnesota, but they don’t get to sight-see much in either London or Rome. While Jamse is motivated by the billions of euros in the slaver’s vaults, Beckie finds her passion in freeing trapped girls and stopping the fiend. She gets that chance in Book Two.



Mercenaries in draft form filled over 200K words. Since its genesis was three short stories I had originally titled The Abduction Trilogy, it split nicely into three parts, and after Beckie, one of my main characters told me she wasn’t going to stop at the end of the third story, she needed resolution, the draft ended with four parts. Rather than release them as four novellas, I chose to package them in two books, with two parts in each one. I don’t know any way to test whether that was a good choice or not. It reduces by half the number of things I have published, but takes the reader through more of the plot arc in Book One, which I thought was important.



During the critting and beta reading, the word count of Book One went from 98,000 to 71,400. I mourned the loss of all those words, hard fought... and unnecessary to the final story! Cutting those 25,000 or so words eliminated sub-plots which on reflection, added little to the reader’s experience. But they weren’t wasted; I learned more about my characters as I wrote them. And I learned more about the story as I removed them.



I am in the process of editing and responding to beta reader comments on Book Two. On my own, I haven’t recognized any opportunity to cut the word count (or plot count!). But my faithful readers will give me advice, and I may even take it.



This is a key thing for writers to remember: our readers, whether critiquing partners, beta readers, reviewers, friends or family, make suggestions. It’s incumbent on us to evaluate those suggestions honestly. Do they improve the story I want to tell? That’s the question to ask. (Of course, when friends and family are involved, other factors may come into play!) As I said, I mourned the loss of the plot that I removed. But on consideration, I agreed with the suggestions that the detail in Cari’s story did nothing to advance Beckie and Jamse’s story. So, I saved off a version and renamed with a new version number, then went in with an axe and cut, cut, cut.



To summarize (finally!): Self-publishing is not as difficult as it seems. Help abounds for almost any question or problem you face. I can’t being to tell you how unlikely it is that you’ll be the first with a particular issue. Write the story you want to write. Avail yourself of any assistance you get to tell that story. If you’re a writer, you probably are willing to share your experiences; let us know your successes, and ask if you feel a little help would make it easier.



Good luck to you.





Derek: Thanks for describing your journey, Tony! You’re well on your way to publishing success. Now it just takes patience. Yes, you’ll need luck. But you’ve shown the discipline to actually publish, and that’s a huge first step. One that all the other aspiring authors out there should strive to emulate.