Monday, January 9, 2017

REVENANTS: ASSAULT ON ABBEVILLE is on Sale Now!

Although it was mentioned in last week's 2016 Writing in Review post, I wanted to formally announce the release of the first book in a new series: REVENANTS #1: Assault on Abbeville. The Amazon product description is as follows:

As the Third Reich stands triumphant upon the ashes of Western Europe, five men sneak into France under the cover of night. During the German blitzkrieg, each of them had been left for dead by their comrades. Now, these once-dead men, these revenants, have come together to infiltrate Hitler’s Fortress Europe on a mission of murder. Their assignment: hunt down and assassinate the deadliest German in France.

Outnumbered and outgunned, the Revenants must rely on their cunning, their skill, and their cold brutality to do the impossible and survive. The odds are overwhelmingly against them, and there are enemies at every turn, but when everyone thinks you’re already dead, you’ve got nothing left to lose.

REVENANTS: Assault on Abbeville is the first in a series of military action - adventure novels written in the spirit of classic war movies and wartime adventure pulp fiction. It is related to the author's COMMANDO series, but can be read and enjoyed on its own.


 Unlike the Commando series, Revenants features five men who once served in different Allied armies: France, Belgium, Norway, Poland, and the Netherlands. Each of these men was left for dead on the battlefield during the 1940 invasion of Western Europe, and through one method or another, found their way to England. There, these five men were recruited to carry out assignments that no Allied government would officially sanction.

In contrast my Commando series, I intend for Revenants to be darker, both in tone and in moral outlook. These men aren't bound by any "rules of warfare", and while the Commandos aren't ones to favor a fair fight, the Revenants live to fight dirty - it's the only way five men can survive any battle against the Nazi war machine.

If you are a fan of the Commando series, I think you'll enjoy the Revenants series as well. They are both in the same "universe", meaning references to characters and events may cross over between the two series, much like my fellow author Dan Eldredge's Ranger series, but you in no way have to read one of my Commando stories in order to enjoy Assault on Abbeville.

Currently, only the eBook edition is available on Amazon, but I hope to get the paperback edition published before the end of the month. There is a link to the book on the right-hand sidebar, but if you are viewing this on a mobile device, you can go to the Amazon page by clicking on this link.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

My 2016 Writing in Review

Hello all, and happy New Year. I've written one of these "writing in review" posts every year for the past several years, and wanted to get this one out as soon as possible (I realize I don't have a tag for these posts, so I'll be creating one now if you would like to go back and read the others). Although I did not actually publish anything in the calendar year of 2015, I sort of only book-ended this year with a major release in January and one with just hours left on New Year's Eve. And, as always, just to preface, I give my sales numbers only for the purposes of providing information for folks, not as some measure of my subjective success or failure. I do better than some authors sales-wise, but many others do better than I do, and that's a-OK.

This was easily my best year by a considerable margin. While last year I was down, money-wise, this year I beat last year by several thousand dollars. I had over 5,100 sales of all ebook titles, and I cleared over 840,000 Kindle Unlimited pages read (which works out to roughly 4,000 of my titles read through, on average). While that sales figure is down compared to last year by about 500 sales (and keep in mind that for the first half of 2015, I was counting KU "borrows" as sales), my average daily KU page read counts have skyrocketed. Between July and December of 2015, I had 170,000 KU page reads, which averages out to around 944 pages a day. This year's daily average is about 2,311 pages a day, nearly a 150% gain. In addition, starting in April of this year (when I received royalties for February, the first full month after Operation Archery was released), my monthly royalties were higher - sometimes double - every single month this year.

That is, of course, the good news. The bad news is that the percentage of books sold that aren't associated with my Commando series is, basically, almost non-existent. I sold twenty-five copies of San Francisco Slaughter this year, as well as thirty-two KU reads. Now, looking at my overall yearly sales figure, we see that SFS was less than one-half of one percent of all my sales this year. Killer Instincts sold 225 copies, about 80% of them over a two-month period during which I ran a large sales promotion after it received the new cover. There were also 96 KU reads, about half of those very clearly due to the visibility of the promotion. Both ebook and KU sales come out to about 4 1/2 percent of my totals for the year. As for all the other non-Commando shorter works, barely anything moved. Twenty-three copies of Renegade's Revenge were sold. Eight copies of Spiders & Flies (each moved a few hundred KU pages, a mere handful of reads). The rest are even more pitiful.

Last year the Commando series accounted for around 90% of my totals, but this year that number has nudged up to probably around 93-94%. While some of that growth can be attributed to having a new title in the series that sold quite well, it is clear that everything else I've written is just ignored. Keep in mind that without that KI promotion, that percentage would go from about 4.5 to barely 1 percent of my sales, so without those extra 180 or so sales, Commando titles would probably be...97-98% of my income this year.

Which is a little disconcerting, especially as I have just released Assault on Abbeville, the first in a new WW2 series, REVENANTS. This series is set in the same "universe" as my Commando books, so they are indirectly related, but that is no guarantee that the readers of one will be interested in the other - I may very well have another San Francisco Slaughter on my hands. I also want to push and get a Panzer-focused series out the door this year, after the publication of Operation Elysium, and my biggest worry is that title dying as well. As much as I enjoy writing the Commando books and short stories, I fear the notion that such are the ONLY things I can write which will earn me any kind of appreciable income.

And, of course, all of this comes back to productivity. This year after releasing Operation Archery in late January, I began work on Operation Elysium, but got side-tracked and wrote Assault on Abbeville, as well as polishing up and publishing A Sergeant's Duty, the second "Short Bursts" story. As of right now, about 15% of Elysium has been written, and the rest extensively outlined. In the next couple of days, while my day job is still quiet, I'll be making an effort to push forward on the first draft, with a great determination to have the book done by the spring, which will hopefully leave me with more than half a year to write and publish the first Panzer book, which also have some extensive outlining right now.

So now, it is just a matter of getting my shoulder against the wheel. I know I can do it - in 2014, I was actually surprisingly productive, releasing Operation Dervish, SFS, Renegade's Revenge, and Spiders & Flies - It is just a matter of sitting down, writing, and repeating that process as frequently as possible.




Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Book Review: FINAL HARBOR by Harry Homewood

I never really thought that a novel following the action of a WW2 submarine crew would be interesting and exciting enough to keep my attention, but FINAL HARBOR proved me wrong. Not only is this book very well-written, the level of technical and historical detail is, in a word, staggering. In fact, if there are any complaints to be had about this book, it is that the little technical details occasionally get in the way because, while it may be proper protocol to repeat every command given, it doesn't need to really be written out that way!

But that is really about the only complaint I have regarding this book, and that complaint is relatively minor. The plot does occasionally stray into the domestic lives of the crew, but I think taken as a whole that isn't a bad thing, as it does tie us more strongly to the characters, and when there are casualties among the crew, the effect it has on the reader is a lot more pronounced. these aren't just cardboard cutout submariners firing torpedoes at the enemy and gritting their teeth while being depth charged, these are human beings with families and friendships, goals and aspirations.

As for the action itself, the scenes are extremely well written. Submarine warfare is very much winner-take-all, because even a single torpedo hit is capable of blowing a ship in half, while even one depth charge, if well-placed, is enough to shatter a submarine's hull and send her entire crew to the bottom of the ocean. Harry Homewood is able to deliver these scenes with nail-biting tension, and you come out on the other side with a sigh of relief, or a gasp of horror. Like war itself, this book does not pull its punches!

In conclusion, if you have any interest in WW2 submarine warfare, especially in the Pacific theater, I highly recommend this novel, and you can find it here on Amazon. There is a sequel, SILENT SEA, which I have read, and found equally engaging. Check them out!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Anatomy of a Kindle Promotion

A month ago I ran a seven-day sale on my novel KILLER INSTINCTS, reducing the price from $5.99 to $0.99. I promoted the book through three different eBook sales mailing lists: BookGorilla, The Fussy Librarian, and eBookSoda. All three emails went out on the same day - Sunday, May 29th. The book was listed as a "Thriller" in terms of category, one of the largest population bases in terms of the subscribers of these mailing lists, meaning the book likely found its way into a couple hundred thousand email inboxes.

KILLER INSTINCTS, despite being one of my better-reviewed novels, just doesn't sell well. In the twelve months before the sale, I'd only managed to sell 28 copies, along with a few thousand Kindle Unlimited page reads, probably amounting to another half-dozen or so "sales" of the book. I was curious as to how well the new cover would affect sales, since I'd just put it on the book a few weeks prior, without any appreciable rise in sales. Below, I've provided the KDP sales chart for the whole month of May, through to today (June 27th). The top chart is sales, the bottom chart is Kindle Unlimited page reads.

Click the image to view at a larger size

All told, between today and May 29th, I sold 187 copies of the book, only 13 of which were after the sales period. While those 13 extra sales were nice, and more sales per length of time than I was seeing before the promotion, it isn't really that exciting. What is much more interesting, though, is the Kindle Unlimited activity. I had about 16,000 page reads (about 37 book reads) between May and June, and only about 1,500 of those were before the sale. About 5,500 were during the sale, leaving about ~9,000 in the weeks after the sale's conclusion. That's about 23 copies of the book read since the sale is over, a little less than double the number of sales during that time period.

But sales is one thing - what about the money? The cost of the promotional emails through the three companies ran about $75, so I needed to break that amount in order for this to have been worth it. Running the numbers, in the last 30 days, I've earned about $175 in sales, plus roughly $65 in Kindle Unlimited page read royalties (estimated), for a total of around $240. That means $165 in profit after deducting the cost of the promotion emails. Since I'm estimating my royalties for the prior twelve months at just about $130 (just under $11 a month), we're looking at a period of profitability roughly fourteen times higher than usual.

So, was the promotion a success? In terms of sales and royalties, it certainly was successful. I sold twice as many books in the first day as I'd sold in the past year, and the money was certainly far better than usual. What's more, looking at that Kindle Unlimited chart, I'm going to guess that a lot of folks who saw the promotional emails decided to add the book to their KU reading queues, and they've been reading the book over the last few weeks, a trend which will probably continue for some time. As for regular sales, I think I'm going to take the price down, probably to $3.99, at least for a few months. I think the new cover will help it sell better at a slightly lower, more attractive price point.

I hope the above information is helpful for any authors out there who are considering the use of promotional email lists in getting visibility and sales for their titles. Good luck!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

New Covers for Old Novels

Apologies for the lack of posting over the last couple of months - Real Life has been rather distracting, and I haven't gotten around to providing the usual semi-regular content here. Hopefully that will turn around as the summer gets into full swing!

Recently, after talking to author Mark Allen about the cover for his new novel, The Assassin's Betrayal, I was rather impressed with his experiences in finding and working with a new cover designer, Rebecca Frank. After some consideration, and looking at her website and portfolio, I contacted Rebecca and discussed her re-doing the covers for Killer Instincts and San Francisco Slaughter. After some back-and-forth over cover concepts and several drafts of each, I received the following covers, which I think are fantastic, and a massive improvement over the originals, both of which were designed by yours truly.

Below I've placed each of the new covers to the right of the old cover.



I don't think either of my covers is *awful*, but as you can see, there are certain benefits to paying a professional to do the work for you. Not only do you get what is simply a better, more professional-looking cover, but it adds a layer of professionalism to your book as well. Everyone I've shown Rebecca Frank's covers to has said something to the tune of "I can totally imagine that on a book in a bookstore", which is an excellent metric, if you ask me.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

BOOK REVIEW: HAWKER #1 Florida Firefight by Randy Wayne White

Full disclosure: I was offered a free copy of this ebook by the publisher in exchange for a review. You can buy Florida Firefight on Amazon by following this link.

I'd never read any of the HAWKER novels back in the day, so the new ebook version was my first exposure to the series, which starts from a premise well-known to anyone who likes vigilante fiction from the '60s through the '80s. Courts are soft on crime, lawyers are all scumbags, and cops are either incompetent administrators gunning for a run on a political ticket in the future, or tough, hard-bitten streetwise crusaders trying to keep the criminal element in check, while constantly being undermined by "the system". Meanwhile, gangs of violent psychopaths and drug dealers roam the city streets like some kind of Tolkien-esque invasion of orcs and goblins.

Enter Hawker, a cop who doesn't play by the rules, blah blah blah. He kills a bad guy against orders and winds up resigning from the force, only to be hired by a reclusive millionaire to become a one-man vigilante army. You know the deal - the Punisher, but with better financing. To start the series off, Hawker goes to Mahogany Bay, a south Florida town where some Colombian drug-running bad guys are pushing around the townsfolk while using their land for smuggling purposes.

Hawker goes down there and purports to be the new owner of the Tarpon Inn, a formerly successful tourist spot which has definitely seen better days. He immediately gets into a fight with some of the Colombians and gets his butt kicked, but then beats up their leader and pulls a gun on them. He soon hooks up with a Native American woman named Winnie Tiger who is a biologist working in Mahogany Bay, and the only one who helps Hawker when he first encounters the Colombians. There is sexual tension from the get-go, and eventually they have sex. Of course.

I don't really need to give the shot-by-shot plot structure of the book - that's easy enough to find and it's a short book anyway, with a quick enough tempo that ensures an engaged reader will zip through it in a couple of evenings or a lazy Sunday. There's a good amount of gun porn and the violence is suitably visceral, with people getting shot, stabbed, punched, blown up, set on fire...even violated with an air tank and inflated to death (more on that later). While the body count isn't extreme, it is substantial enough to satisfy those whose primary reason for reading such fare is the satisfaction of punks and thugs getting their comeuppance.

And, to be fair, the plot did take me a bit by surprise. Hawker doesn't just go to Mahogany Bay and start slaughtering Colombians. Instead, he actually spends a couple of months in the town, working with the locals to bolster both their pride, and the town's economy. One of the more satisfying scenes in the book involves the townsfolk attacking the Colombians' stronghold and giving them a thorough whupping - sans killing, for the most part. Hawker had cautioned the locals against turning into killers, and there is an impressive amount of restraint and moral obligation there. Of course, even in the few moments where Hawker himself tries non-lethal means to deal with his foes, circumstances conveniently force him to proceed otherwise, and he does the lion's share of the killing in the book, aided by the Tarpon Inn's cook and bartender, both of whom are more than they appear.

I also really enjoyed Hawker using a (in 1984 terms) advanced computer system to track down information about the various players in the situation and gain an information advantage over them. Most of the protagonists in these books, if they do computerized information gathering at all, outsource that to some nerdish ally who is a "computer genius". While Hawker was trained by such a genius on how to do this, he does do it all himself, employing some convenient hacking software and an old-school phone modem to search various databases, even planting a false identity at one point to establish his cover. I hope this is something that continues throughout the series.

Unfortunately for readers in 2016, there are a lot of cringe-worthy parts in the book. Without exception, all of the "good guys" are white, while all of the "bad guys" are minorities. Even the alluring ("mystical" of course) Winnie Tiger is secretly in cahoots with the bad guys. There's one white German bodyguard of a bad guy, but Hawker hints that he thinks the guy is gay, calling him "...a candidate for AIDS disease.", a line that was so stunning, it took me a moment to even grasp its full, historical, implications. There's also a "hulking mulatto" named Simio (...really...?), given all the usual apelike descriptive portraiture, who likes to inflict pain as a strongman for the Big Bad Guy of the novel. Hawker kills him in a horrible fashion when Simio's pants split at the backseam during a fight, exposing his buttocks, and Hawker rams the nozzle of an air tank in Simio's backdoor and turns the valve, inflicting horrific trauma upon Simio's insides. I'm sure a Freudian could write a paper on that scene alone.

Setting aside racial and homophobic issues for gendered ones, there are four female characters in the book. Winnie Tiger, the mystical Indian woman who has sex with and then tries to kill Hawker, two large-breasted blondes who both die only after their shirts are ripped open to expose their assets in death, and Hawker's ex-wife, with whom he has dinner with before going to Florida, and who he almost, but I think does not, has sex with. She factors into about three or four pages of the book and is then completely irrelevant, making me wonder why she's even included except as a possible means to make Hawker seem more three-dimensional. Police Sergeant Dee Dee McCall (HUNTER television series, debuting the same year - 1984 - as this book) would not be impressed with the gender politics of Florida Firefight.

If you can get past these usual, rather uncomfortable artifacts (and if you made it past the first chapter, I'm sure you can), this is still a satisfying read for fans of such "serial vigilante" books. The ebook edition is well-formatted and there aren't any OCR typos that I noticed, typical for Open Road Media's products, which are usually very well done.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Wonderful World of Tanks

A little over a month ago, I finally caved and installed World of Tanks, an online game where you and fourteen other random Internet People fight fifteen other random Internet People in a head-to-head death match, as you each command a tank and drive around a map, smashing through stone walls and knocking over trees while blowing each other up and setting each other on fire.

I've never been that interested in playing online games. I grew up in an age where video games were something you either played on your own, or with a friend using another controller, as you sat in your living room bathed in the television's glow and ate junk food while punching each other in the shoulder because your friend managed that last takedown combo before you did. When, after college, I first began to explore online gaming while playing Quake Online or Ghost Recon, the novelty of fighting against some random Internet Person soon wore off.

Someone's about to have a bad day...

People in general are rude, insensitive jerks who hate their fellow man, but when you add in the anonymity of the Internet, plus a game where you're trying your best to kill each others' digital avatars, the worst in people really comes to the fore. In the last month, I've been insulted in ways I'd forgotten about since junior high school, and while the nostalgia is cute for a moment, it soon sours in the belly and you realize you're approaching the big 4-0 and someone out there still wants to insult you like it's 1990. Thankfully, the wisdom of age - and countless online flame wars - tempers my replies, and I usually tell them they're being adorable and just move on.

On the other hand, I have to admit, World of Tanks is kind of fun. The game features tanks from all the major powers of WW2, and the tanks start with the old, pre-war models (some of them nothing more than prototype tanks) and gradually progress in "tiers" up to tanks from the '70s and '80s, in a ranking of Tiers 1 through 10. In the early games, your range of tiered tanks will be pretty narrow - Tier 1 tanks face off against each other, while later Tier 2-3, and by Tier 5 you might be fighting anyone from Tiers 3-8, depending on the tank you're in (even in a specific Tier, some tanks rank higher than others and get matched against a higher Tier more often).

Just some dudes waiting to kill some other dudes. No big whup.

In addition, there are five categories of tanks: Light, Medium, Heavy, Tank Destroyers, and Self-Propelled Guns. The three weights of tanks are just that - abstract categories that usually match up with historical categories of tanks. For example, the British Crusader tank is a Light tank, while the Churchill is a Heavy tank, and so on. Tank Destroyers often look like tanks, but their armor isn't as good and they're more vulnerable, while their guns are better and their range of vision superior, Self-Propelled Guns are artillery pieces that lob huge explosive shells high into the air, and while they're easy to kill up close, they rain down death from a LONG distance away.

And there's a lot of death to be had, for sure. Tanks have armor, of course, but in WoT, they're pretty good about assigning different armor values to different parts of the tank. The frontal armor is usually the thickest, while the sides and rear are thinner. Sloped armor plates can often bounce incoming shells, while things like tank tracks are easy to cripple with "critical hits". Sometimes a hit to a tank's engine area can set the engine on fire, causing the tank to slowly lose points until it blows up. Crew members can also be killed or wounded, which causes the functions of the tank relying on that member to be worsened. For example, if the driver is killed, another crew member has to take his place, and the overall performance of the tank is now worse.

About what my tank looks like two minutes into most games...

When I first started playing WoT, I joked to myself that this was "research" for my upcoming PANZER series of WW2 adventure novels, but I didn't really believe it. Now, after just passing my 1,000th battle mark, I realize that while yes, it is just a game, it does give some insight into tank tactics. The importance of using terrain to your best advantage cannot be stated enough, especially if you're in a light "scout" tank. Staying behind hills, using depressions in the earth to go hull-down (meaning only your turret is visible), and otherwise remaining unseen (or at least unhittable) are incredibly important. You also very quickly learn how to "sneak and peek" with your tank, because driving boldly at the enemy and relying on your armor is a surefire way to wind up dead very fast.

Overall, it is a fun game that provides a little excitement now and then. It is free to play, although you can spend money to get upgrades faster (I refuse to do this), and it seems like many players consider this poor sportsmanship and the sign of a garbage player. And, while it is frustrating to have to "grind" through a bunch of games in a bad tank in order to earn enough experience to move on to a better one (there is a tree-like progression of Tiers for each country's tank development), there are very few tanks that are absolute garbage. For example, the M3 Lee is absolute garbage. I hate that stupid tank. Hate it.

I hate this tank so much. So very, very much. This image, like all above, grabbed from various Internet sources.

If you play as well and want to say hello some time, you can find me on WoT as "Badelaire". My schedule is rather irregular though, so there is little likelihood of a match-up, but you can always view my terrible statistics.