Freehold Friday: What a week!

This has been an eye-opening week, folks!

It started off with pressure—trying to get Apache Dawn finalized so I could enter it in the Writer’s Digest eBook contest by Sep 1 meant a month of getting up at 5am (or earlier) to work on the book and staying up till 11pm working.  I had to work around the schedules of the kiddos and barely saw my wife these last two weeks.  I am mentally and physically, if not grammatically (savvy?) exhausted.

But…that said, on Tuesday, out of the blue, Alea Jacta Est broke into the Top 100 bestselling Kindle ebooks in Military Thriller at #97.  Could not believe it!  No big spike in sales, no promotion…just boom there ya go.  Well I grabbed a screen shot:

And I’m glad I did–because it was off the list in ten minutes. Wednesday though, AJE had clawed back to #100!  It wasn’t a fluke after all.

Last night around 10pm I uploaded Apache Dawn and clicked “publish”.   This morning it was live.   Throughout the day I was getting Facebook posts, emails, and texts from friends and family who were offering congratulations—and then it happened.

AJE suddenly jumped to #79 in the Military Thrillers Top 100.

AJE #79

What’s more, it stayed there for a few hours, then dropped to #81.  Where it stayed for the rest of the day…until now (10pm Thursday night).

That’s right, AJE is now #73 in military a thrillers and #97 in Alien invasion so—-

Wait.  Alien invasion?  What?

Is Alien Invasion where Amazon puts post-apocalyptic fiction?  Because that’s what AJE would fit in…a far sight better, too.  Who knows…I’m just happy its on another bestseller list!

And yet, the records keep falling!  This morning AJE was #70 on the Military Thrillers, #94 in Alien Invasion (lol), and #100 in ALL BOOKS (not just Kindle!!!) for Alien Invasion (lol again)…I had to grab a screen capture from my phone to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.


So a big thank you to all my readers out there!!!  I cannot express how awesome it feels to know that people out there are enjoying what I’ve written.  It inspires me to jump back into the writing mode and crank out AJE2!!!


Apache Dawn has been released!

Apache Dawn is now available for download from Amazon!
I added quite a bit to the story (which now comes in close to 500 pages according to Amazon) and worked hard to make it more professional  looking than Alea Jacta Est, cleaned up more errors (spelling, continuity, etc.) than I care to admit, and titled it Apache Dawn!  It came in at a respectable 493* pages.


My editor begged me to release it at a higher price point and I will in a few weeks, but I wanted to say thank you to all the readers here by giving you all the first crack at it (that’s right, no one else knows it exists yet!) at the lower price.  


Here’s the blurb from Amazon:


Ten years after the deadliest pandemic in human history, the same once-defeated influenza virus strikes America without warning. One man holds the key to stopping the deadly outbreak in its tracks and the governments of the world–including his own–will stop at nothing to find him.

From Los Angeles, to Boston, to the Northern Rockies–follow Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, and average Americans as they struggle to save America and themselves. Apache Dawn is the story of America’s fight for survival against a terrible virus, foreign invasion, and political intrigue.”

Thank you once again to everyone who encouraged me to get this thing published!!

* Numbers according to Amazon…but page count is a bit…mystical…. to define when dealing with electronic books.  I plan to release the paperback version of Apache Dawn in the Fall.  The paperback version of AJE is available here, and it is indeed a hefty tome.

Inspiration is all around…

I thought this week I’d regale you with the answer to another question I get fairly often:

“How do you come up with these wild story ideas?”

Well, muchachos, it ain’t easy having an imagination as fertile as mine.  I mean, really, Inspiration is constantly striking me–or smacking me upside the head when I’m a little too obtuse to pay attention to her 24/7.  Yup, she keeps me busy.  About the only time there’s not story ideas or “what if” questions floating around in my head is when I’m sleeping (and even then, dreams sometimes work their way through my subconscious to become story ideas filed “for later”).

Alea Jacta Est, for instance, was inspired by the blackout that hit New York City and New England back in…2003 I think it was.  I wouldn’t have paid overly-much attention to it  except for two things I heard repeated in the Press:

(1) The near-immediate protestations by city government in NYC that the blackout was not the result of an act of terrorism–but they were unequivocal in also stating in the same breath that they weren’t sure what caused the sudden, catastrophic, regional-wide power loss.   My instant response to the TV was “Well, if y’all don’t know what caused this mess (understandable since it was only an hour into the crisis), how the hell can you say what didn’t cause it?   But not a single reporter asked that question, then or later, that I ever saw.  (Turns out the mayor was right–a squirrel chewed through a line or a branch fell on a line or some other innocuous event caused all the trouble)

(2) the media began explaining how a single outage somewhere in Upstate New York caused a ripple effect that overloaded transformers and continued the train of power outages along the New England Grid.   They even had some cool graphics showing the different regional power grids in the country and how Texas was relatively insulated if one or all of the other grids collapse.

I can still remember sitting there on the couch, cold Diet Coke in hand, watching the news through half-closed eyelids when I saw that graphic on the screen.  My eyes snapped open–Lady Inspiration had slapped me in the face!

Then she spoke to me: “What if a terrorist was sitting out there somewhere watching this same show…would the info that Fox, CNN, MSNBC, and the other alphabet soup channels were broadcasting give them an idea on how to attack our national power grids?  I mean, come on–that reporter just smugly announced that if one grid were to completely fail (as it came close to doing that night in 2003) it would in theory take down all the others, except for Texas (remember how I mentioned it was separate from the rest of the nation?). ”

The reporter continued to explain how the chaos that didn’t happen in NYC would surely happen if the entire country went dark….

And in my mind, right then and there, Hakim was born, sitting in front of the TV watching the news, drinking beer and formulating a plan to cripple the United States…

Or, take for example my new book, the soon-to-be-released,  Apache Dawn.  This time, I envisioned something more sinister and far reaching than a mere power outage (even if it does affect the entire country): bio-warfare.  What made me think of a story revolving around that?

What got the ball rolling actually happened a handful of years ago.  I  had decided one night to write a short story.  Well, that afternoon, I heard on the news how a scientist in Denmark had been getting in hot water because he was monkeying with the bird flu virus and wanted to publish his results (ostensibly to help other virologists recognize how the bird flu could mutate in the future) in some international medical journal.  Well, the U.S. government wasn’t too keen about that–what if, they said (there’s that what if again!) some terrorist organization like, I don’t know…Al Qaeda…got a hold of that info and managed to turn bird flu into some sort of bio-terror weapon?  Which is more important, protecting (maybe) the population of the world against a mutation that might take place, or preventing an attack that will take place (if they have the right materials)?

Yeah, I sat up and took note of that.  A story started to spin in my mind…and Chad Huntley was born, burying–well, I don’t want to give it all away now, do I?

And now for the Apache Dawn update: The final chapter of AD has been edited and finished.  Formatting is now complete.  I’m tweaking a few story-arcs for consistency and some added realism (read this as: “I saw some real scary sh*t about Ebola on the news that had Inspiration tickling my brain…”)–and then it’s ready for publishing!  The countdown can begin…

Where do titles come from?

Recently, I was asked by a reader:  “How do you come up with the titles for your books?”   This question pops up enough I figured I’d make it the topic for this week’s Freehold Friday.

So, how do I come up with the titles for my books?

As I sit here on the deck, watching my older kids fight–er, play…I can honestly say writing is indeed hard work.  Most people think we authors just sit down at a computer, steaming cup of caffeine in one hand and start pounding out pages and pages of beautiful prose.

Well, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Granted, when I sit down, I can crank out the rough draft of a chapter in about an hour and a half (for me that’s about 2,000 words an hour…).  That’s the easy part.  The only easy part.  I can stop and start as I like and pick right up where I left off the last time.  But, once that draft is done and it’s time to revise so it actually makes sense to a reader….whoooeeeee that’s a whole other can of worms.

The only times I have available to work on editing is the hour before dawn (or anyone else gets up) and the hour or so after the kids go to bed and after the kitchen is cleaned for the night.  Juggling my ever supportive wife, three little kids (5, 3, and 6 months), the house, the yard, and cooking, cleaning, and everything else….yeah, finding time to write is a bit of an on-going challenge.  Especially during the summer (school…ah…a dream…only 3 weeks away!)

So,  you can see I don’t have time to sit around and think up perfect titles.  My sitting-around-and-thinking times are reserved for story ideas and blog ideas!

The answer then, for me is quite simple: I don’t find the title, the title finds me.  I am one of those writers that like to see their story as it’s revealed–like Stephen King says in On Writing, I unearth the story as I go.   There’s a certain mystery in the process, not unlike reading a new book for the first time.  In that way,  I never know if I’ve got a T-Rex or a turd.   [NB: I’m making my first serious attempt at hybrid plotting for the sequel to AJE…but that’s a story for a different post.]

For Alea Jacta Est, I wanted something different (boy did I find that).  In Latin, alea jacta est means “the die is cast”.  Kind of a ‘point of no return’,  so to speak.  It’s what Julius Caesar said when he was ready to cross the Rubicon–at the time, the river marked the boundary of Rome (the city) itself.  To cross the Rubicon at the head of an army meant you were intent on conquering Rome and was considered an act of high treason–punishable by death.  It’s the ultimate “all-in” moment.

I likened that to the moment faced by Erik Larsson (the main character of Alea Jacta Est for those who haven’t read the story) when he realized that if the community didn’t band together and start organizing, they would all either starve or be driven from their homes or even killed.

Do or die, baby.

Leaving that aside, I had taken 4 years of Latin back in my school days and I’ve always admired the Romans (we are, in terms of Western Civilization, the direct heirs of Rome), and wanted to use a Latin phrase for the title.  Put it all together, and Alea Jacta Est was born.

Apache Dawn is a bit of a different story.  The title was originally conceived as Oath of Office. But towards the end of the book I realized that the Oath part mostly applied to the President (one of the point of view characters in the story).  All well and good, except that by the end of the revision process, said President and his plotline created the background story, the undercurrent of tension that is applied to the other POV characters.

So if Oath of Office didn’t apply to the majority of the POV characters (only one–the President–is an elected official) what then?  Well, I realized that a certain code phrase used by the military in the story to denote…uh…hmmm…how to say this without giving away a pretty big spoiler….?

Okay.  Apache Dawn is a code word.  That code either has a direct or rather serious impact on every character in the story (and the spin-off stories I’ve already started daydreaming about, heh heh).  Plus, I kinda liked how it sounded.  By the time I had finished the first draft, I at last realized that Apache Dawn was the title had to be the title of the book.

Hey, at least its not Latin!  I can’t tell you how many people have asked me what alea jacta est means over the past few years!

Anyway, you can see now that I don’t just reach up into the air and pull a name out of the sky.  I try to have the title reflect something major in the book, albeit with subtlety.  And more often than not, it just hits me, out of the blue.

Now for the weekly AD update you’ve been waiting for: I’ve managed to scrape together enough time this past week to get to chapter 23…that’s right folks, 10 chapters left and AD (new and improved!) will be ready for release…

Apache Dawn: The Cover

For the second Freehold Friday post I decided to give y’all a sneak peak at the cover for Apache Dawn (known in a former life as Oath of Office).

So without further ado, here’s the promised sneak-peek of the cover:


That’s not all, though: I’m progressing along nicely with the final editing/revising of AD (thanks again to Rotag!).  On top of that, I’m three chapters in with the sequel to Alea Jacta Est.  It’s hard to focus on writing AJE2 when Apache Dawn is so achingly close to being finished.

It’s been a busy summer so far.  And I don’t really have time to work on writing  (stay at home dad + three kids + summer = no free time)…but…I’ve been getting up at 5am and sacrificing sleep to work.  I just cannot stomach the thought of my readers out there starving for want of new material to read…(that bit was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but I only hear crickets…)
Waking up to 50° temps in August has me thinking about Autumn – the best time of the year –  and that always gets my Muse humming.  In fact, she’s practically singing and it’s getting distracting.  I find myself constantly scribbling in my notebooks – just picked up a Midori Traveler’s Notebook and it is AWESOME, but that’s for another post – during the days now.  I’m always coming up with revision ideas, new stories, characters, etc…if I didn’t write it down, I think my head would explode.

Soon though, my prayers will be answered and school will start up again.   And then…with just the six-month old to watch….heh, heh look out.  My keyboard is cringing in fear even now….

Till next week, muchacos.

It’s Freehold Friday!

I’ve had a lot of requests to start doing weekly updates here at the Freehold and I can’t hold ’em off any more.  So, after a flood of emails, here it is, the first of my weekly updates – welcome to ‘Freehold Friday’.

I know, I know – it’s so catchy you could just scream!

Ahem.  Now, what I really gathered all 5 – no, 6 – of you  together for was to share with you the official update!

The first revision of Oath of Office is complete and I’m plowing ahead with my second revision thanks to the kind efforts of my beta reader, whom I’ll identify as ‘Rotag’ (he doesn’t want me to use his real name).  Anyhow,  Rotag is likin’ what I’ve done and the changes I’ve made to the manuscript.  Things are flowing better and looking more polished every day.  It’s harder and harder to keep from rushing the book through the revision process and get it out there.

Anyhow, what I’m planning for this here blog will be weekly updates (I’ve got a handful of books in various stages of development…so I’m busier than a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs). I’ll let y’all behind the scenes a bit, show you what moves me, what shakes me, what I’m working (or procrastinatin’) on, or rants and ruminations.   Maybe we’ll set up some contests for later.  We’ll find out together.

So, since this is the first post, I figure I’ll get things rolling with a bang. I decided to change the name of my latest novel. Yep, folks who’ve seen bits and pieces of it know the story as Oath of Office.   I thought that was a nice title, but only really appropriate to about a quarter of the characters in the book, now that I’m standing here looking at it from the end. So I contemplated my navel for a while and finally came up with the new title (which fits for all the characters…):

Apache Dawn.  For those of you (and there were more than I realized) who really liked the name Oath of Office, fear not!  I’ve decided to expand the story into two more books – and I already have ideas for stories based on one of the main characters in Apache Dawn – in the Oath of Office cycle.

I’ll give you a moment to take that in….

Okay, now y’all sit back and think on why you hate or love the new name. Let me know!

Next Week: Apache Dawn: the cover!


PS: that ain’t all, folks!  I have taken a short hiatus from AJE2 (man I have got to come up with a name for that) so’s I could concentrate on wrapping up Apache Dawn, but I’ve been scratching out notes for the next couple chapters.  It’s still moving forward!