I’ve been watching something pretty closely, and I just wanted to clarify it here so people are aware. Amazon.com has their top 100 paid books list – their version of bestsellers – but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any kind of a level playing field.
A while back, Amazon changed things so that free books no longer compete with paid books on the bestseller list. Two separate lists. This is why I tell people, making your book free probably won’t help it’s sales. First, it makes it no more likely to be noticed than it was before, and second, even if you become the #1 bestselling free book on Amazon, the minute you put a price on your book, that ranking disappears and you are starting over with paid sales.
Now there are new things. In the top ten of Amazon’s paid bestseller list you will find four titles currently filling slots that are #1 in multiple categories. These books are not even published yet, officially. However, there is the Kindle First Program, and there is Amazon Prime. Combining those two, you can buy these pre-release books for a price of… nothing … if you are a prime member. Free brand new books. All four titles are also published by Amazon imprints where (as we all know) they will be promoted in ways and to quantities of Kindle readers almost nothing else can match… In other words, your book is competing against brand new pre-release free books being published by the people compiling the list. You can see that this is a problem… four of the top ten slots are being gamed by the publisher and retailer, using free sales they semantically report as paid sales – and I’m not telling you this because we should rise up and stop them – it’s their store. I just want you to be aware. You are probably NOT going to make that top ten list. In the image above, two of the three top books today are Amazon books that are pre-orders and Kindle First.
Crossroad Press recently had a book sell over 3500 copies in a day and it made it to #12. That was with a price drop and a great third party promotion (that was not cheap). Consider that to GET that promotion, the book already had to have a great cover, good reviews, etc… and you can see another “gaming” piece fall into place. If you can sell thousands of free pre-orders and they count as paid sales…those buyers can also leave reviews. That means, those books will be eligible for bigger promotions from other sites right out of the gate, and not because they are better books, but because Amazon has promoted them through the roof.
So next time you wonder how in the heck some of those books got there and stay there, remember this article. Currently four books by authors I’ve never heard of are kicking butt on Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and James Patterson (who doesn’t actually write books, but has his name on a lot of best-selling ones) … and if those folks aren’t in the top ten, the rest of us can start figuring our odds using negative numbers.
Katie and I have been slowly ammassing quite the little fossil / geode museum. Thought I’d collect the pictures in one place… her Megadolon tooth is over 5.5″ – huge. We have a Masotdon tusk and two Auryx horns…a turkey platter sized trilobite, a set of masodon teeth..a mosasaur tooth…lots more.
Meet my series character Donovan Dechance in the first of his adventures. Motorcycles, leather jackets, a young artist with an amazing ability – voodoo – and of course… DRAGONS. Pass this link on. Spend some time reading… This is a chance to try this new series at no cost…
Let me preface this by saying (as I have said before) – I’m a runner. I intend to lose weight, get myself in good shape, and take care of myself. I will race, because it’s fun, but I’m not out to push the limits of endurance, or move mountains. Other people, however, ARE out to do that, and since a buddy of mine, Bob Burnett, is involved in this sort of race, I thought I’d post something about them and fill in those who may have missed the new craze.
Spartan races come in four flavors – Sprint, Super, Beast and Ultra Beast. All are obstacle-ridden courses, differing in length and difficulty. They are being held around the world, and people are calling them unforgettable, life-changing experiences. I bet they are. Most of the photos I’ve seen of finishers resemble others I’ve seen of soldiers crawling through swamps, or people lost in the desert for days… The thing is, all these people are smiling…
I am not an expert on Spartan racing, but I have a couple of links to share. Before I do that, I’m going to explain very briefly why I’m posting this, and why I’ll post follow-ups about Bob and his endeavors, along with my own ramblings on the more mundane sport of road running.
I feel good these days. I’m much healthier, and I know for a fact that my progress has influenced others already. I sort of formed a team – over at US Road Running – beginning with my daughter Stephanie and my son Zane (hope to slowly expand that). I’m going to be involved in healthy things. Endurance races, 5k, Marathons, etc. It won’t always be me doing them, but I am very supportive of a healthier lifestyle- more exercise, less food, happy people. I now consider Bob the official Charter Spartan for the “Crossroad Cruisers,” the team name I did not give much thought to, but that actually fits (Synchronicity?) Roads. Cross-fit. I have passed a lot of crossroads in the last few months, approaching 500 miles and a bunch of them this year.
Head on over to the SPARTAN RACE HOME PAGE and check out all the pictures, events, sign up for their notices, and – if the Spartan Spirit moves you – choose a race. If you plan to do that, FOLLOW THIS LINK FOR 15% OFF ANY SPARTAN RACE. Don’t say I never gave you anything…
Running With the Butterflies
My First Half Marathon – The Dismal Swamp Stomp
Today I ran my first official ½ marathon. I did better than I expected to, not quite as good as I hoped to. I saw amazing effort from a wide variety of men, women, and children. I saw compassion and caring, genuine pleasure in the eyes of strangers as they shared one morning in the spring sunshine. And I saw butterflies.
I have been running, as many of you reading this know, most of my adult life (starting around age 30) but there have been huge breaks where I quit, got lazy, got fat –and any number of other things I regret. Last August I found myself at nearly 230 pounds, 54 years old, and pretty much disgusted with the way I looked and felt.
I had just finished reading (thanks to my buddy Roger Knowles) a book called Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall. This book changed my understanding of some aspects of running that have actually, in turn, changed my life (not just the running part). For instance, I now wear VivoBarefoot shoes without exception. The key is not that they are this brand, but that they are “minimalist,” or barefoot shoes. I have had problems with my right foot, hip, and my lower back for years. Changing to shoes that forced me to learn to walk properly, and to run without slamming my heels into the pavement, has very literally removed all of that pain.
Still, I didn’t start off right away. Born to Run is about the Tarahumara – a tribe in Mexico who run like scared rabbits up and down mountains and across the desert. It was an inspiring book, but I don’t intend to train for any fifty mile races in my lifetime. What I got from the book was the shoes, the technique, and the very interesting concept that Homo sapiens outlasted and outlived Neanderthal for the simple reason that we have an Achilles tendon, and we were born to run long distances.
Since, as you also know, I’m a writer, this got me thinking. I actually ordered the silly sandals those Mexican runners used. They didn’t work for me (no big surprise). I also started thinking about running again. Next I ordered some “minimalist” shoes from New Balance. They didn’t fit right – too tight – but I kept looking, and I kept thinking.
Someone somewhere suggested I look at Vivobarefoot shoes. Either that or I just happened to search for barefoot dress shoes and found that, at the time, they were the only ones making any. I bought a pair of black semi-casual dress shoes. I started wearing them, and immediately noticed a change for the better. Still, I had not started running. Not really.
My life has become a complexly scheduled mess. I have a career as an IT Manager that I love. I have a family, and a house. I have a writing career, and now I have Crossroad Press. For me, finding time to run has always been part of the issue. A couple of years ago I clocked a lot of miles by running at lunch and paying for a downtown gym membership so I could use their showers and treadmills. The cost ended up being too much, and for a while after that, I quit running again. That was several years back.
To make a long story short, I am back to a schedule I’ve never really loved, but have managed to stick with it. I get up at 6:30 in the morning, and I run. I started back up in August, when I bought my first pair of Vivobarefoot Neo Trail Running shoes. I had a vague plan that I waited a while to tell anyone about. I wanted to run 100 miles before my 54th birthday. Considering that when my overweight, 230 pound, bald old body hit the road… I was able to do about 1.5 miles in the morning (maybe 1.62) and make it through a shower and off to work. I ran on weekends as well, but at first, those 1.62 miles were it. I got a little faster, and it got easier to finish, but progress was slow going this time around.
Over time, I stretched it out. On the weekends I managed to bump it first to 2.2 miles, and then a bigger jump to 3.5. My pace was horrifyingly bad. Probably in excess of 12:30 miles. I kept at it, and things improved. I managed a 4.5 mile and then even a 5 or 6 mile run. My pace picked up a little. I hit the 100 miles before my birthday, and I was very proud of it.
Still, the 230 pounds was melting way so slowly that it was barely noticeable, and I started to get discouraged. That’s when Trish chipped in. She was also losing weight. We’d bought a serious treadmill from Nordic Track, and she started walking and reading during the day. She also changed her diet drastically. Fiber/protein bars… very little more during the day, and by mutual agreement, we dropped dinner to a reasonably sized portion (not easy).
Along with this, I stopped going to 7-11 for breakfast. I have oatmeal or a fiber/protein bar for breakfast with a banana. I’m now down to rice and steamed vegetables at lunch, a pear or other fruit, or an avocado for snacks and a yogurt in case I still get too hungry. This, along with eating small portions at supper, and running, has dropped me (as of this morning) from 230 to 202 and I’m still dropping. Most of the sites that claim to know how much a person should weigh from their height, etc. say 195 would be my ideal weight. We’ll see where it evens out. I’m not starving myself or doing anything crazy, so I figure when I hit that “just right weight,” I’ll stop losing.
It wasn’t too long after I finished my first 100 miles that the old worry kicked in. I hate to run in the cold. I’m also not really fond of treadmills, but more on that later. I remembered a friend of mine had done the Dismal Swamp Stomp several years ago, and I looked it up. They were already taking early registration for it, so without giving myself time to think about it, I signed up and paid my money.
I had no idea how to train for a longer race. I knew that if you were going to run a marathon you needed to go past 17 miles at least once…so I figured there was probably a “wall” for half marathons too. There is. I found all kinds of useful training programs.
Unfortunately, they were generally 12 week plans, or even shorter. I was months out. So I modified them all into my own plan. I started running longer runs on weekends. I still only had time (at first) for about two miles in the morning. On the treadmill, I did 20 minutes. Soon that bumped to 25 and then up to 30. I didn’t get any more time, I just got faster. On the weekends I stretched out to four, and then five miles.
I want to put this in perspective if I can. When I started, as I mentioned, 1.6 miles was pushing myself. I had gotten way out of shape, and when I say this changed my life, I’m not kidding. When I moved up to five miles, that day was one of the hardest running days I can remember. But I kept at it. I regularly ran 3.5 to 4 miles at least on weekends, and three of five days in the workweek (sometimes four) I ran 30 minutes on the treadmill.
Then I pushed it out past 6 miles – the first 10k since I’ve started running again. Again, this felt almost impossible at the time, but I pushed past it. All this time the regular runs in the morning 30 minutes on the treadmill, began climbing in mileage, the pace quickening.
Currently my morning run is a 5k. If I have to do it on the treadmill it comes in slower, but since I’m in this for endurance and for weight-loss and health, I don’t mind that. I tended to run faster on the road. I still didn’t know, though, if I was kidding myself about the 13.1 miles.
I mapped out a course that was between 7 and 8 miles, running from Elizabeth City back to home down a windy back road. Trish drove me out, dropped me off, and I was on my way. I made it, but there were periods of walking, and I was not fast. I recorded it, kept running, and looked ahead.
I finally figured it was time to find out if I was in, or out. I opened the app I use to keep track of my miles and runs, http://www.mapmyrun.com, and asked it to give me a route that was 12 miles. It actually gave me several. I studied them, and picked one that looked like I could finish it, a big loop that led me back home. I got my belt with the twin water bottles (I know now they are too small). About 2:00 in the afternoon I headed out. I had a power bar with me, but I lost that somewhere on the first mile. When I get to what I’ve learned about equipment, I’ll explain this. I was not worried.
I should have been. The thing about maps and country roads… little things like missing street signs don’t show up on them. They also don’t shop up in your “app”. First lesson learned on this run was that driving the route first is a good idea (maybe even stashing water along the way). I ran out, and at about the five mile point, I should have turned. There was no sign. I saw the crossroad, and thought about turning, but I didn’t. I ran on. Eventually, after having gone more than six miles, I knew I’d made an error. I knew, however, that I needed to turn right. Foolishly, instead of backtracking, I turned right.
I will shorten this surreal story into bullet points:
1) People who live out on farms and in trailers in the country don’t understand running.
2) Directions given by such people are not reliable.
3) Dogs, chickens, horses, and wild turkeys are all interested in runners, but no help in finding your way.
4) When you ask directions, and they ask you where you want to go, and both of the choices are a lot farther from home than you thought you were, it’s not good.
5) Having a way to track yourself is a good second idea to driving the route ahead of time.
6) Carrying your phone on a really long solo run is a GOOD IDEA.
By the time I finally got back on the road that I knew led home, I had already run about ten miles. There were a few patches of walking, but for the most part, I ran. I kept running. I ran past 13.1 and finally stopped any pretense of running at 15.1 miles. Why? Because my mp3 player battery died and I could not listen to the audiobook any longer. My Garmin watch showed low battery, and I wanted to save the 15.1 miles before it died and I lost the information. I was starting to feel light-headed, and only had about half of one of my too-small water bottles left. I also (as it turned out) had three or four miles to go.
I walked. I still hadn’t seen anything that I recognized, and I was dizzy-brained enough at that point to think I might even be walking AWAY from home, but I stuck with it. I ran out of water, and was REALLY dehydrated. It was getting darker, and it started to get cooler, almost chilly, which cooled the sweat and did not help. I even started watching the side of the road to see if someone might have tossed a bottle of water that wasn’t empty… I was pretty desperate.
I knew Trish would be looking for me, because I was way past when I should have been home (like an hour). She was. As it turned out, she missed the same turn I did, and when she finally got to the road I was walking down, she passed just ahead of me. I arrived where she turned AFTER she passed.
I turned down old Highway 17 with about a mile and a half from home, literally stumbling. The final turn runs directly between the volunteer fire department, and the Ruritan Club. At that point, moving forward, I saw a car with lights on across the way, watching. Thankfully – it was Trish – because I am not 100 percent certain I could have walked that last mile. I crawled in, and they got me home – we swapped mumbled stories about being lost, but I was probably not very coherent. I got home, managed (I have no idea how) to guzzle a bunch of water and get in, and out of the shower. Then I started to shiver like I had a fever. I curled up in my reclining chair, wrapped a San Diego Chargers throw blanket around me, and chattered myself to sleep. No idea how long I was out… When I got up, I ate, had some more to drink, and – basically – still felt okay…but shaky.
It was a close call, and it drove home just how little I actually knew (and likely still know) about distance running. I didn’t take enough water. I ran by myself. I didn’t take anything to eat (or a suitable substitute). I didn’t take my phone. I didn’t verify the route. Bottom line is I’m lucky not to have collapsed alongside the road. Also, I’m lucky to have Trish, who not only got me home, saved my life and fed me, but has been putting up with the running all along, even when my run on the weekends interferes with other activities.
Despite all of that, the 15 mile run verified that no, I was not crazy and yes, unless something went horribly wrong, I was going the distance. After that I continued my weekly pace of about 18-20 miles, long runs on the weekend. I ran the 8 mile track one more time and that went pretty well.
There’s more, though – there is ALWAYS more. I booked a hotel room in Chesapeake Virginia for the night before the run. I could have gotten a room at the Hyatt, where the race expo was set up, but I did not. Instead I chose to “double my HHonors points” and stay at the Hampton Inn, nearby. (There is nothing bad to say about the Hampton Inn – the room was nice, the beds were comfortable, and the Internet and TV worked – all I needed). I got the dogs reservations at their kennel (The Barking Lot). I arranged the time off from work so I could make all my preparations on Friday.
My last purchase, a case of “GU” energy gel, arrived on Thursday, right on schedule. I had read in the book “Running with the Kenyans,” by Adharanand Finn, that he and his fellow marathoners used the gel packs for a burst of energy, calories, etc. I didn’t do anything about my low water supply because I knew there would be aid stations. That turned out to be correct – I did not need much of my own water.
We got the dogs and other pets settled for a night without us, and when Katie got out of school, we picked her up and headed to Virginia. We had a quick start, and made good time. It only took me one “turn around navigational thingie,” as the family saying goes, to reach the Hyatt Place, where the race packets were to be picked up. A very nice man helped me find my registration number and then Katie and I went into the back room to pick up our bags, complete with safety pins and number bibs. Mine had the Chrono Track chip on a strip on the back. Katie signed up for the “Cub Run,” a ½ mile run for kids to take place at 11:30, 3 hours and a half after the race started. At that point I hoped I’d be back from my own run in time to watch, or hobble along at her heels.
We both got shirts, too, which was cool. I saw some t-shirts in that room that I’d like to have – “The Dumbest Idea on my Bucket List,” and “Seems like a lot of Work for a free banana,” and my favorite – “If found beside road, drag over finish line”. I’ll probably collect some of those shirts in the months to come, but I ignored them at the time. We still needed to find our room, check in, and meet my son Zane and his buddy Matt for dinner.
This is where it got interesting. We got to the hotel, and the parking lot was FULL of bikers. Literally. “Free Rollers Inc.” were in town for their annual Chesapeake gathering. I later read on the net that they had a dinner, and a dance to attend. They arrived just ahead of us, and there were a lot of people in line at the front desk. There was also a lot of talk about beer runs and Crown Royal, but it was a pretty calm gathering. I rode with Tiburon MC in Rota, Spain and in Norfolk, Virginia later on, so I was right at home. Katie, however, had a moment when she tried to use the restroom and found it contained a very large, very naked lady changing clothes who had not bothered to lock the door.
In any case, we got into our room, changed clothes, and hit the road to pick up my youngest son, Zane. He’d just come back to the area from US Navy “A” school in Great Lakes, and we’d made plans to go to dinner with him, and his friend Matt. We got Zane, overcame restaurant confusion, and got to The Olive Garden for a carb-up Pasta meal (and salad) for me – and various other Italian delights for everyone else.
The meal was a success, and afterward we handed Zane off to Matt and headed back to our hotel. It was about then that I started to realize Trish was not feeling well at all. She was shivering, and pale, and lay down almost immediately. We watched a little TV, and I checked Facebook, and e-mail, but at that point I was wondering if the run was going to happen. No way I’d have taken her there and left her two hours in the sun if she was too sick…
We set all the alarms available for 5:30 AM and – thankfully – slept pretty well for a little over six hours. In the morning I had fresh oatmeal, a banana, and coffee. We got all our stuff into the car, headed out into a very nice morning – weather perfect – Trish feeling a little better – and headed for the foot of the Dismal Swamp Canal trail – the carved bear – and the culmination of a LOT of miles.
We got there just in time for me to hit the line at the porta-potties. EVERYONE seemed to be in those lines. I got to the front after a short conversation with a very nice guy who lived in Hertford, NC who said he was more of a bike rider, but looked like he could crush ½ a marathon. The door in front of me opened and a very tall, pretty black woman stepped out. She waved me away with a warning. No paper. I waited a little longer – again – disaster averted… As it turns out, she was one of the elite runners. She came in fifth or sixth, but still in about half the time I did.
After that, there was nothing to do but to load up my hydration / equipment belt. I took four GU packs, poured “Smart Water” into my two plastic bottles, hooked up my MP3 player, and started to drop out of everything but the moment. I was listening to “Eat & Run,” by Scott Jurek. I figured what better way to spend my miles, than with someone who ran hundreds of them at a time. He has not convinced me to drop meat a hundred percent, but I’m already leaning down the healthy eating trail, and he has some powerful arguments.
They lined us up, made some speeches, talked about the charity and the sponsors… and had us let the hand-crank bike competitors to the front. There is a story of heroism. A four year old in one of those bikes finished the 1/2 mile cub run, and most of the other hand-crank athletes finished the 13.1 miles in just a bit over the time it took the elite runners. That’s a story in itself. They sent them off ahead of us, and they tried to arrange the runners that followed by pace. It was still something of a jumble.
I have never run a race of this type, so it was a surprise to me to see the grouped people “pacing” – playing music that kept them at the right speed for 2 hours, 2 hours and fifteen minutes, etc. The only other time I ran this distance it took me nearly three hours, but I had a personal goal set for the Dismal Swamp Stomp – to try to beat 2:30. The first part of the race I set myself up for this by making sure I was following the 2 hours and 15 minute pace group. I can say that for nearly eight miles, I was ahead of that 2:30 group. Then they caught up with me. I ran ahead again, and they caught up again…but that’s getting ahead of myself (and not of them).
I started off the run at a pace slower than I’m used to. I don’t know if that was a mistake, or a good idea, and likely won’t know until I’ve run the distance a few more times. The truth is I could have cleared the first 6.2 miles in under an hour, and if I still held my slower pace after that, would have beaten the 2:30 handily. Overthinking – under-thinking – and unimportant. I was happy. It was a beautiful day. I was running a few yards from the trees that lined the Intercoastal Waterway, stretching all the way from Virginia down to Florida, and engineered by brilliant men like George Washington.
Along that route, I know, is the point that was the border of Virginia and North Carolina in the late 1800s, and the site of the Lake Drummond Hotel – sometimes called The Halfway House, because it stood half in one state, and half in the other. My novel, Nevermore, a Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe, was set in that hotel, and in the swamp beyond.
I was chasing ghosts, both real, and those from my own stories. I found myself catching up to, passing, and then being passed again by the same groups of people. For the first five or six miles, it was just like any of my regular runs. I listened to Scott Jurek tell me about his epic 50, 100, and beyond mile runs, heard how turning vegan changed his life, and I ran. (More recently I’ve listened to another ultra-marathoner talk about eating Hawaiian style pizza while running, so I take it all with a grain of salt.)
Just before I hit the half-way point, I saw my first butterfly. I happened to glance off to the side of the road, toward the swamp, and there it was. It was a beautiful Zebra Swallowtail – silver and black–and it was pacing me. I watched it as closely as I could, not wanting to lose my footing and have to explain that I didn’t finish the ½ marathon because I was watching a butterfly and tripped. Amazingly, I felt a surge of energy, and at the same time, I felt myself relax. Some of the strain drained away, and I nearly laughed. The silly butterfly had centered me in a way that I couldn’t define. It was almost like a sign, though I’d hate to speculate from whom, or from what.
I kept religiously sucking down the GU gel packs every half hour, as directed on the box and on web-sites I’d checked (I think that’s too many now, but that’s for another day). I had been chasing the two hour and fifteen minute pacers, but they were out of sight. The groupings were more spread out on the second half, and though I still passed, and was passed by, some of the same folks, it was like a second, completely different race.
I started hearing that little voice in my head, for one thing. It’s the one that says – what are you doing? You can walk – as long as you pass the finish line, what difference does it make? You don’t even know these people. I hear that voice (and ignore it) a lot…but it was strong out there. Fortunately, I had allies. The butterflies became more frequent after about mile 7 – or maybe I just started noticing them. Sometimes they flew beside me. Sometimes they flickered into sight, and back, without spending any time. By mile ten, though I’d walked a few steps, I knew I was going to finish it. I sucked down my last GU pack and got to work. I kept watching for, and smiling at the butterflies.
The last mile, I sped up. I started picking each person in front of me and working to catch them. I managed to pass seven people in that last mile, one just before the finish. As I started that last half mile, the butterfly made a final pass. This time, it was coming straight at me, slipped by on my right side, and was gone…I never looked back.
I am sure that I’m going to remember that first long race. I’m also sure it won’t be the last, or the longest. There is a marathon in my future…something I would have said before, but not really believed. Every time I run a little farther than I have before, I sort of stand at the end, and wonder how much more I could have done.
From now on, wherever the roads take me, I’ll be watching for the butterflies, and when I see them, I’ll follow. Who knows where they might lead…
Now… I’m not an expert, but I have some thoughts for people who want to embrace the running kind of crazy. Take the time to learn to run in some form of minimalist shoes. It’s not about being barefoot, it’s about running with the right posture, and decent form. Your feet know how they work better than you do – and better than Nike, too, for that matter. Trust them.
If you are going more than 5k in distance, take water. There are dozens of ways to carry it. You can just carry a bottle of water in your hand. I have a belt with two pockets for small water bottles, but I’ll be upgrading soon. That same belt has to be able to hold something to eat, possibly your phone, or your mp3 player…money is a good idea. You don’t expect something to go wrong, and most of the time you’re fine believing that. Trust me when I say, though, that when you are staring down three beer-swigging rednecks who wonder if you’re crazy, or making the wrong turn around that cotton field and heading for the next town instead of home, you’ll be glad you were prepared.
Along with the water, take something with calories and protein. I recommend GU gel packs. They taste like frosting, and their effect on your body mid-run is almost magical. There are a lot of other gel packs, and power bars. The Gel Packs are easy to pack into your pockets or belt. Don’t leave the wrappers out there – Mother Nature deserves your respect.
Choose goals to work toward to silence the inner voice that says it doesn’t matter anymore. You ran that ½ marathon, it’s saying to me now. What else to you need to prove? Roll over and go back to sleep… (I run at 6:30 in the morning because it’s what I have for time). I try to run at least a 5k every morning that I run, and I go out at least four, and hopefully five days a week. If the weather allows it I go at least 6 on the weekend and hopefully will be pushing that up to 10 and 12 this summer… When I started, a 5k would have put me down in the dirt. Now, I can run one in the morning, and if someone came by during the day and said let’s go, I’d go and be happy to do it – because I like to run, and because everything has changed.
I used to play an online game named Bejeweled. When you finished something – met a goal – a deep rumble shook out through the speakers, and a big imposing voice said… “Level Up.”
I leveled up after the Dismal Swamp Stomp. Now I just have to shoot for that high score. Thanks to everyone who prepared the race, organized, handed me water and didn’t laugh as I chugged past. Thanks to those who took time to talk, smile, joke, or encourage. Thanks to the dogs, and the amazing hand-crank athletes, and those incredible elites leading us all the way…the pacers and the plodders, the racers, and the rest. Thanks for a wonderful day – and the perfect culmination of an entire winter’s work.
This is My Blood was the first novel I ever sold. In the end, my Star Trek Voyager novel, Chrysalis, came out before this one, but that was only due to the failure of the original publisher to actually – well – publish the book. The journey to publication would make a story unto itself, but I’m not going to cover it at this point.
One day, in the middle of the ocean, a group of us were sitting around, playing music, drinking coffee, and working on the various creative endeavors that kept us sane. Out of the blue, someone said: “What if Jesus was a vampire?” There are a lot of flaws in such a story – though others have tried to write it – and I was quick to point them out. I was, after all, not that far past the period of my life where Christianity and I parted ways. I had studied with an eye toward the ministry at one point, and I’d read the book – several times.
What I proposed, eventually, was that it made much more sense if someone close to Jesus was a vampire. Someone he trusted. Someone who could account for the rising of the dead in three days, without it actually being the man himself behind it all. I didn’t write about it then, I thought about it, and I filed it away with a lot of other ideas. Eventually I wrote a novelette – A Candle in the Sun – that was published in Starshore Magazine, then reprinted in Year’s Best Horror XIX, edited by Karl Edward Wagner, and has since been reprinted nearly a half dozen more times. It was good – everyone agreed that it was good, but I knew that it wasn’t complete. I just wasn’t ready to do the thing justice.
Then, on a completely different cruise, locked in a transmitter room with a 386 computer, a Deskjet 500 inkjet printer, and a CD Player loaded with Concrete Blonde & Depeche Mode, I realized it was time. I had a marked up, four inch tall copy of the New Testament that the Gideon Society had presented the ship with, and I had notes. I started out, jumping from gospel to gospel when some part of the story either had a hole, or was missing something important. As I went, I crafted large chunks of The Gospel According to Judas Iscariot, because I’d always thought he got a raw deal in the original mix, and I wanted him for a hero.
This is My Blood is a different telling of a very old story. I changed none of the order of things, nor did I change the outcome – only the road to reach that outcome. Mary Magdalene, raised by Lucifer in the desert to tempt Jesus in the guise of a woman, instead refused – wanting to return to Heaven. Lucifer cursed her to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, feeding on the faithful, and claimed she would become his undoing.
That is where my story starts. You will find the king’s daughter, raised from the dead, Lazarus, all the apostles in their flawed faith, and a narrator – in Mary – who does not depend on faith, but sees with the eyes of one who KNOWS what is truth, and is not impressed with the spirituality of men. Lilith also plays a sizeable part in this book.
All that I learned, figured out on my own, and wanted to repeat of The Bible, Christianity, faith, and – I suppose – of shadows – was tied up in this early work of mine. I have since come to believe that ancient myths should be left to the ancient societies who created them, and that we should worry more over our own self-worth than that of others. I don’t believe there are any spiritual rules laid down in the words of long dead men that I should follow, but I do believe that men know, inherently, the difference between right, and wrong, and that all choices made in that area are their own. No free ticket out for asking forgiveness, and no pit of fire for failures.
You’ll find that, I think, in the pages of This is My Blood. You’ll also find fantasy, vampires, and a lot more. I hope you’ll read it, and that you’ll like it as much as others have. Below are some links to reviews the book has received in the past – I include them here because I believe they are proof I have reached people with this book. I love reading the reviews of this book in particular because, for one thing, it was my first – and for another, it has affected so many people in so many ways. Here is the very first – from Publisher’s Weekly:
“Religious ecstasy and vampiric bloodlust blend to potent effect in this horror-oriented alternate history of early Christianity. Debut novelist Wilson casts Mary Magdelene as a spirit created by the Devil to tempt Christ. When Mary refuses the mission, Satan rebukes Jesus and curses her to become a vampire: “She will hunger for that which You fight to preserve. She will thirst for the blood of manAthe lives, the very souls You seek to save will be her bread.” Mary follows Christ, hoping for a miracle that will allow her to gain eternal salvation even as her vampiric nature forces her to kill to survive. Through her inhuman eyes, and through the writings of Judas’s own gospel, The Book of Judas, Wilson shows Christ and his disciples at work, lending a decidedly different perspective to miracles such as feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fishes or raising Lazarus from the dead. Here, Judas is steady and loyal, while Peter, possessed by the Devil, betrays Christ to the soldiers at Gethsemane, forcing both Judas and Mary to sacrifice what they love most in order to ensure Christ’s resurrection and the Church’s future. Wilson’s prose is smooth and powerful, carrying its allegorical weight with grace. His first novel is one of the most unique vampire stories to appear in recent years, balancing themes of damnation and prophesy against those of faith and redemption.” – Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Book I of the DeChance Chronicles – Heart of a Drago – is featured at Kindle Books and Tips Blog
Heart of a Dragon – Book I of the DeChance Chronicles, by David Niall Wilson, is regularly $3.99 but has been discounted to just $0.99 today in the Amazon Kindle store. This book has received an average user rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars based on 10 customer reviews.
Here is the book’s description from the Amazon website:
Author’s Revised Edition
Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. Over the span of a long life, he has gathered and archived the largest occult library in the world.
When a local houngan begins meddling with powers she may not be able to control, a turf war breaks out between the Dragons motorcycle club and the Los Escorpiones street gang—a war that threatens to open portals between worlds and destroy the city in the process.
With his lover, Amethyst, his familiar, Cleo – an Egyptian Mau the size of a small bobcat –the dubious aid of a Mexican sorcerer named Martinez and the budding gifts of a young artist named Salvatore, DeChance begins a race against time, magic, and almost certain death.
The fate of the city rests on his success, and on the rare talent of a boy who walks in two worlds, and dreams of dragons
***Bonus prediction one from the Crossroad Press Organic Shredder – Gizzy Momo – pictured left … Thunder & Lightning All Day long…***
I’ve seen some other folks making predictions about publishing and eBooks. Some of them seem pretty obvious, others show some insight, and still others seem kind of self-serving and more wishful than anything else. Crossroad Press has been in business for going on five years now (seriously, and a bit longer as a hobby). We’ve grown, made some mistakes, had some huge successes, expanded, and paid attention, and I thought, just for fun, I would make some predictions of my own for 2014. Some will be in direct disagreement with those of others…but all will be just me, talking about what I’ve seen, and what I know…
***BONUS PREDICTION FOR 2014: Neil Gaiman will continue to be wildly popular because he is an incredible storyteller ***
1) Print book sales are actually up. I see Barnes and Noble pointed out as about to flounder time and again, but here’s my prediction. Come next year, though people will probably still be predicting their demise, they’ll be right here. Nook book sales are steady for those who don’t spend as much time bashing Barnes & Noble as they do promoting books there, and working on sales. They lost the tablet war, but that was a war that no one should have started. Nooks are fine, and ePub books work on many devices. So, prediction #1, B&N will be in at least as good a shape this time next year as it is now. Probably better.
2) Audiobooks are going to start playing a bigger part in total sales, as systems like Audible’s ACX continue to make more titles accessible. With Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice program – something other eBook retailers can’t match – more readers will be able to pick up audiobooks at very reasonable prices, and more audiobook listeners will be picking up eBooks in order to get the bargain price on the audiobooks. The percentage of titles that make it to audio is already much higher than it was five years ago, and will continue to grow.
3) Content in eBooks that is video, enhanced, full of programmed features, will not do any better this year than in previous years, because they simply require people to read on tablets, not readers, and the trend (currently) seems to be (among serious readers) back toward simpler devices that are mostly good just for eBooks. If people want to watch a movie, they will download one – but books are not going to evolve into some new meta-entertainment system. At least not in 2014.
4) Libraries will continue to grow their downloadable content, and will embrace the new technologies and systems put in place to assist them. Overdrive will start to lose its market share because of simple greed – if it’s as expensive, or more expensive, to provide eBooks to readers, it isn’t going to help already suffering library budgets evolve and sustain. From personal contact with many librarians and buyers for libraries, I can state that there are a number of independent systems buying now directly from publishers, and more coming in the future. While I have seen people saying libraries will be buying directly from authors, don’t fool yourself. There will be an aggregator, and whoever that is is going to take a cut. Libraries don’t have the manpower or overhead to sift through hundreds of thousands of solicitations from authors to carry their individual books. In 2014, libraries will buy a lot more eBooks, but they will buy directly from publishers, or distribution systems.
5) Promotion of eBooks will continue to evolve. What works today will probably be on the wane by 2015 because it will become bloated, too many people will copy it, and the effectiveness will be diluted. Companies who succeed in weathering the storm will be those that keep their prices reasonable, pre-screen their titles to keep the quality as steady as possible, and change with the market. I expect that at least one of the big promoting machines will pick up on my earlier comment about Whispersync and audiobooks. I know from our own statistics that during really successful eBook promotions, we sell a ton of audiobooks on titles that are part of the Whispersync program.
6) It will not be any easier for a new author to promote or sell their books in 2014 than it was in 2013. Famous authors will continue to sell crazy numbers of books. Retailers like Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble will continue to announce books as best-sellers before they even go into pre-order. NYC will pump in the money that ensures millions of sales for books by tried-and-true authors. Most of the “Best of the Year” lists will ignore about 95 percent of the best of the year in favor of the Best of the Year published in high profile. The game, in other words, is just a modified version of the old game. The Catch-22 is that if you haven’t got a lot of money and aren’t fairly famous, the odds are stacked against you. Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buck those odds, just stating a fact. A new cover, better description – .99 bargain price? They just don’t matter unless something causes readers to SEE YOUR BOOK. That is the key. The people who see it should not be your family, friends, and a thousand other authors…they should be people who don’t know you from Adam, but like to read.
7) Gurus will continue to tell you they know all the answers. I will continue to say – if that was really true, they wouldn’t spend so much time trying to do things other than write, they would be using their secrets and making millions. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. Pay attention to what successful authors say, watch what they do, but don’t try to be them, and try to find ways to use what you learn in your own way. “The next…” anyone will never be more than a dim shadow of the original, so why strive to be that?
8) Smaller print publishers will continue to be treated by bookstores as if they are big publishers, and many of both will fail because of this. Unless independent bookstores find ways to embrace Print on Demand publishers and distance themselves from the big distributors, they will continue to disappear and by 2015 there will be considerably fewer of them, shifting most print book sales to Amazon and B&N online. The old model of buying a bunch of books and then returning half of them will disintegrate as independent publishers flourish, and NYC slowly decays.
9) The age-old practice of looking at what’s hot and trying to copy it really fast will proliferate in 2014, continuing the spiral into that nonsense generated by successes in 2013, such as every variation of a shade of gray that can be applied to any sort of title being used to bump sales. You will continue to see people go on and on about thousands of “sales” that were free giveaways, best-seller lists that are meaningless, and piles of five-star reviews that don’t actually equate in any way to quality or sales. This is why – as stated above – the very popular authors will continue to be popular, and it will be hard to break in. For every book someone spent time and effort on, there are fifty crap titles with nothing in mind but ‘cranking them out’. This makes people gunshy about buying from new authors, and is also why the legit, careful promotional services will continue to draw actual readers.
10) The traditional author / agent / editor / publisher role will continue to morph. Agents are now admittedly scraping new clients off the self-published best-seller lists (probably from a lot of people they ignored when the books were originally submitted) and all this can do is lengthen the already ridiculous lag time between submitting a manuscript and hearing back. As more and more successful authors begin to see the huge profit margin shift of more independent publishing, more of their peers will begin to experiment and follow suit. Agents have a tiny number of slots they can fill these days, and the advances against royalties that almost never sell-through, according to statements, have grown so small that no one could possibly live off of them without selling five to ten novels a year. A steady income earned through solid, quality output and direct royalties back on a regular basis will win the day. Companies paying a fair amount to the authors and taking over responsibilities authors should NOT have to learn to do (despite what gurus tell them) will do well in 2014 will flourish, as will rip-off groups charging authors an arm and a leg for scanning, formatting, promotion, etc. and keeping huge percentages – something that sadly a number of literary agents seem to have indulged in. New models will emerge. Subscription based reading services like ScribD and NokBoks will test new waters.
I know a lot of this is kind of vague, and in several of these single predictions, I predict a bunch of things, and even offer possible alternative outcomes. The thing is, it’s fluid. No one knows everything, and new technology, players, and talent emerge every day. Keep an open mind, write… always be writing… and pay attention.
And from all of us at Crossroad Press, have a great New Year…
LAUNCHED A COMPANY LIKE A ROCKET…
Several years back i got the crazy idea to start getting my old books and stories digitized, and I started a very long, very involved learning curve that led me through the creation of Macabre Ink, and then the expanded Crossroad Press Digital, and finally – to what we have now – Crossroad Press Publications – print, audio, and eBooks from more than 130 authors.
First and foremost I want to thank David Dodd, who came on board early on and has been a lifesaver to the company. He is the master of spreadsheets, formatting scanned documents, and keeping me organized through years that have not grown simpler, but crazier – mostly in good ways. He is also responsible for a HUGE number of book covers, a talent he took up from scratch and has brought to an artform.
Many don’t understand how little of what we make, we keep. If we invest any money at all up front in a book, it can take hundreds of sales for us to even break even. Why? Because we have stood by our guns, and will continue to stand by our guns. This is an author’s first company, and most of the money goes to them. This means some books never make us any money, and others make us a lot – we share the risk, and the profit. We do what we can to promote and build readership, and I can tell you that the number of hours spent doing this is incredible – for myself, Dave Dodd, the love of my life Patricia Lee Macomber who has edited HUNDREDS of books in recent months – Kurt Criscione, Daz Pulsford, Anita Smith and an entire small army of proof readers have helped us present clean products, and as we’ve always said – the beauty of digital is you can fix things. We have been quick (and will remain quick) when it comes to remedying any mistakes we make or problems found by others.
I could go on and on with the thanks but instead, I’ll just end this with some pretty impressive numbers, and let it go at that:
Here is a short growth curve (rounded slightly in some cases) to show how our company has grown since 2010.
…………………Net Sales…………………………………Royalties to authors
2013……….170,523…………………………………….$197,600.00 (so far)
We are looking forward to great things ahead. We are making inroads in promotion, and have completely redesigned our website, and our presence, breaking into imprints for the various age groups and genres. You can see the beginnings of this at OUR NEW WEBSITE – once we get all of the author pages populated on all the various imprint sites, it will be much simpler to find our books, and our authors, without digging through more than 700 digital titles at the old online store. We have also published more than 350 unabridged audiobook titles, and have an impressive number of books available in print. Right now we are hard at work on the Official Book of the Winter Olympics – 2014 edition – which should be huge for us.
I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season, and to all of you – readers, listeners, authors, copy-editors, partners, and family. Thank you… I can honestly say, I never saw this coming.
-David Niall Wilson
I AM SILENT AUCTIONING BOOKS AND PRIZES to help Our good friends Elizabeth Massie and Cortney Skinner, who need some help with their roof. It’s a bad situation, and I want to do what I can. Here’s the deal. I am going to hold a small silent auction. Those who win on each item will be directed to donate their amount (or more) to the Go Fund Me below, and I will personalize and send their gift… I will run this auction for 24 hours. Here are the things up for grabs:
1) A Signed Limited copy of my novel Ancient Eyes – published by Bad Moon Books – Cover art by Don Paresi – Number 173 of 300.
2) A trade paperback of HALLOWED GROUND by myself and Steven Savile
3) A Signed limited edition of my novel MAELSTROM – published by Bad Moon Books – cover art by Alex McVey
4) VERY RARE – #2 of only 35 copies – the Deluxe slip-covered edition of my collection DEFINING MOMENTS – published by Sarob Press and containing my Bram Stoker Award Winning story “The Gentle Brush of Wings”
5) A Signed HC copy of my novel NEVERMORE – cover art by Lisa Snellings
6) A signed limited edition of my novel The Heart of a Dragon – Book I of the DeChance Chronicles…this is the true first edition – published by Bad Moon Books, cover art by Don Paresi
7) A signed hardcover of Patricia Lee Macomber’s ZOMBIE – A Love Story
8) Here are the ones that could get interesting. I am also putting up for grabs a Philips Norelco beard trimmer, the best beard companion there is. I’m also currently writing the second Cletus J. Diggs novel, The Crazy Case of Foreman James. You can be a character in this story if you are high bidder. I will also auction off a character in the upcoming Donovan DeChance novel “A Midnight Dreary.”
That’s all. Just e-mail me. Tell me which item you’d like to bid on and your top bid. Tomorrow night at 8:00 PM I will announce the winners (assuming anyone bids).
ALSO you can just donate to help out BY CLICKING HERE