Writer’s Life: Never Give Up

I always remember the first fifteen publishers who saw the manuscript rejected my favorite book, The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Finally, in 1973, a small independent publisher bought it. Random House later bought that publisher, The David McKay Company. Mr. Shaara’s second novel received very little attention and mixed reviews. It was a surprise to both Michael and the literary community when the announcement was made that The Killer Angels had been awarded the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for FictionThe Killer Angels never enjoyed commercial success during the author’s lifetime. Michael died in 1988 thinking the book a failure. Five years after Micahel Shaara’s death the film “Gettysburg” (based on the book) was released. The movie propelled The Killer Angels to number one on the New York Times Bestseller List (19 years after its publication!). Never give up … you never know what will happen unless you keep trying.

Poem: While You Were Sleeping

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping
He gazed at your face
He dreamed of holding you
Of one long, last embrace

But life was at its end
You had missed what should have been
He married her
You married him

In the hospital as you visit
Your smile is still the same
In the intensive care unit
You are struggling for your breath as he calls your name

The children are all grown
They live so far away
You long to see them
They’ll visit one day is what they say

While you were sleeping
You passed into eternity
You never shared your lives
His is now as empty as can be

The tears stream down his face
For a love he once knew
Sadness everywhere
For she was his one love true.

This poem originally appeared in “Poetry & Prose Magazine”.

Kepler, Jimmie A. “While You Were Sleeping,” Poetry & Prose Magazine, February 2011. Volume 1, Issue 5, Moonchild Designs, page 35. http://en.calameo.com/read/000339139c6566c472d0d (February 2011).

Poem: Lady Violinist

Lady Violinist

Golden hair frames the picture
Of a countenance with a gilded gleam,
Her eyes are the clear windows
Through which the hurt is seldom seen.

Sweet melodies fluidly flow
Methodically from her fingers and bow,
A zest for life is apparent and yet
The quest for personal fulfillment isn’t always met.

Ethical philosophies as a millstone weigh
Attempting defeat in battles won yesterday,
Old things now past and yet, old weaknesses now anew
Regretting judgment lapses when remembered that make us blue.

Simple and complex contradictions describe
The roles she confronts each succeeding day,
With a symmetrical smile hiding the pains
Encountered along life’s highways.

© 1991
Jimmie A. Kepler

Photo Credits: Title: Market Violinist. This photo was taken at the Kansas City Market, otherwise known as City Market. This young lady was playing a violin for tips. We talked for a few moments and she reminded me a lot of Jewel Staite (Kaylee from Firefly). Honestly, she was a real trooper because it was scorching in the sunlight and she was sitting on bare asphalt. This photograph is available to use under the Creative Commons licensing. It is available for non-commercial use as long as proper attribution is given.  http://www.flickr.com/photos/eatingmywords/1000640352/

One Great Way to Promote Your Book: A Blog Tour

Once upon a time

Once upon a time in a century long past when an author wrote a book his or her publisher might send the writer on a book tour.  The author would visit media outlets in various cities promoting their book and conduct book signings.

Oh, this still sometimes happens if the author is enough of a celebrity to merit so large a capital investment on the part of the publisher.  Other authors with outgoing personalities traveled the country promoting their work, sometimes at their own expense.  While this method worked, it was difficult for new authors.   Newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations were not anxious to use their copy space or airtime on an unknown writer.

As the age of the Internet developed, many new authors would promote their book through on-line forums, message boards, groups and chat rooms.  These formats encouraged potential reader and book buyers to consider the book.  Many times the author marketed their book through these sites by simply making a short sales pitch as they signed their name to their comments.  While this method is useful and generated grassroots support for a book it was extremely time-consuming and could be disheartening for author and publish because it requires a large amount of work for minimal return.

Today’s realities

Today with the economic recession and minimal dollars available for publishers or even self-published work and for those with family situations which include children or the need to keep their day job other options for promoting their work need to be considered.  A new opportunity emerged with the dedicated book or author website and blogs.

The most exciting of these new opportunities is the blog.  The name blog comes from the word weblog.  This is an online journal.  The purpose of a blog is three-fold.  It educates and entertains the public while allowing the readers the opportunity to provide immediate feedback.  Today professionals also run blogs seeking a targeted audience.  The professional’s goals include building standing and name recognition while making money.  Blogs have the added benefit of being inexpensive, easy to set up and support, and simple to find through search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo!

An author promotes their book to get people talking about their book and its message, to make some money, and to sell enough copies of the book for the publisher to keep it in print. A blog tour can be used as a great way to promote your book.

What is a blog tour?

While you ultimately want to increase your book sales, the purpose of a blog tour is to generate interest about your book. A blog tour allows cross-promotion of your book with the blogger’s site. It’s a great way for them to get free content for their blog while promoting your book.  It allows the author the opportunity to target the correct audience.

How do you set one up?

You begin by contacting suitable blogs.  You ask if they would be interested in being part of the tour. If so, a book can be sent to them to give away in a lottery type drawing, and review.  They can invite you to write a guest post or even interview you.   A schedule is created and the book is featured from two times a week to every day of the month. Determine your target blogs.  Make up a list of potential blogs. This will take a little research.  You can search for book blogs with emphasis given to those that focus on the genre you write. I write for three blogs that include regular book reviews.  They are Kepler’s Military History Book ReviewsWriting After Fifty, and Kepler’s Book Reviews.  I have contact information on my blogs for requesting book reviews.   Almost all blogs have a listed a way for contacting the blog.  My blogs are shared as examples.

Next you approach the bloggers via email.  If they have interest preparations are made for a date and an agreement of exactly will be done.  Books need to be sent to them well in advance.  Your publisher may take care of this.  Almost all authors or publisher I deal with do this.

I urge reviews.  When I review a book I always include reviewing it on my site, on Amazon.com, bn.com, Twitter, goodreads.com as well as all my personal sites like Multiply and Facebook.    On my personal site I always include a link where the reader has the opportunity to buy the book.  I like to include the publisher website when possible where the publisher can make largest profit on the sale.

Interviews require less writing than guest posts.  The author and blogger can agree on a set number of questions.  When I ask an author for an interview I send them no more than ten questions.  I draw the questions from the book and the author’s life and interests as I know the author.

Put it on the calendar

Schedule your book blog tour calendar.  You not only promote it on your site, but promote it on the sites of the participating bloggers.  Almost all blogs have calendars of upcoming events.  Make sure you book blog is included on their calendar. Bloggers work hard for free.  They promote what interests them.  They are a key element of the new media.

Don’t stop with one book blog tour.  After your first blog tour is completed make sure you host a second one a few weeks to a few months later with a new group of blogs.  The second time around you can try something different.  Instead of doing a second interview maybe you would want to share excerpts from reviews of your book, maybe post 2 to 3 question interviews conducted by you of the persons who a few of the persons who positively reviewed your book. It could be a fun way to get the reader to see how other readers enjoyed and benefited from  your efforts.  Your personal creativity can come up with other ideas.

Have fun!

Once upon a time in a century long past when an author wrote a book his or her publisher might send the writer on a book tour.  The past is behind us.  Welcome to the future called today. I think Book Blog Tours can be a fun to promote your work.  In the twenty-first century you as the author are going to have to take a more active role in marketing your book.  Why not try a Book Blog Tour? It allows you to talk about yourself, your book and who knows you just might meet some interesting bloggers, develop an audience and following, and sell a few books along the way. That will make you and your publisher happy.

Creative Commons License
One Great Way to Promote Your Book: A Blog Tour by by Jimmie A. Kepler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Nonfiction: Smoke on the Horizon

From five miles away, the smoke rose nearly two thousand feet above the tall pine trees. It’s gray-blue plum acted as a beacon saying something is happening here.

What was happening? Exactly where was the smoke’s origin?

Was someone burning trash? No, the amount of smoke was too great.

Was it a raging forest fire? If so, it was only in an embryonic stage.

Was the smoke the signal of a controlled burn by one of the timber companies? Possibly, but the signs just did not look correct.

As I continued driving, a number of vehicles were assembling in the distance. The closer I got, the more recognizable the cars and trucks became. The wind changed and the smoke pushed its deadly midnight across the highway.

As I got nearer, I saw no flames. Murkiness gushed out the doors and windows of a small framed building. It was erupting in a lethal, black, thickness through the roof.

The Church in the Pines was dying from fire and smoke inhalation.

© 1990
Jimmie A. Kepler

Note: I wrote this back in 1990. I was driving from Beaumont, Texas to Jasper, Texas. I saw a plume of smoke in the distance. I wrote this later that day.

Short Story: The Devil Was in the Martian Fog

The devil was in the Martian fog that night. He could feel his presence with every gust of wind and slimy, granular droplet of moisture against his face. He could hear him in the oscillating tones as the outpost’s time tower signaled the midnight hour. He could see him as the corner traffic control strobes blinked their warning. He could sense him in the snarling sounds of the Giant Martian Red Armadillos making their nocturnal rounds for refuse control eating the contents of the dumpsters behind the station’s mess hall.

It was a bad night for riding the heated, moving sidewalk across the station’s parade grounds, but he had sworn to himself when he set out on his mission that nothing could make him not complete his hourly rounds. He needed this job to offset his meager early retirement pension from when the rocket factory shut down and they moved the jobs off planet to one of Saturn’s moons.

As he rode the moving sidewalk the sticky goo from the fog was becoming so slimy on him that he longed to get back to the guard shack, shower, and get into a fresh uniform. The temperature continued to drop. His breath’s condensation mixed with the slimy fog and freezing in his mustache and beard. No other night watchman, he thought, dared to brave making his rounds in this weather.  The slimy goo would drive them insane, as it made them feel both suffocated and entombed.  It had happened before to coworkers, but he had learned to tolerate the grainy ooze.

The other two night watchmen on duty huddled around the coffee pot back in the guard shack. They were telling each other lies about what they did in the inter-planetary wars, the evils of multi-universe corporate buyouts and forced retirements and exiles, and what they did with certain Earthling widow women who had retired to Mars to help them not be so lonesome.

In the distance the sound of the of 12:05 AM rocket blasting off to the Martian moon Phobos could be heard. The groans of the tug boats floating out on the hydrargyrum-filled Martian Canals filled the air as they fought their way upstream, against the quicksilver, pushing their barges northward.  The noise became clearer, louder, as he worked his way from the government monitoring station down to the canal front.

As he turned the corner on Jupiter Avenue, he could see two shadowy figures struggling. They were at the door to the Space Traveler’s Relief Center.  Thanks to the light orb over the open door, he could tell this was a life or death struggle. Dang-it, he thought, looks like two drunks trying to kill each other.  I had better go get the Planet Police. Somebody is going to kill someone.  Yet, he stopped.  He was looking, staring.  The devil was looking, too.

Boom! Suddenly, from the Martian Canal was a thunderous explosion.  A ball of fire shot up into the sky.  Burning cylinders of lava spewed from the barge like a giant July 4th fireworks display.  Some went straight up in the night sky.  Some shot up canal from the ship.  My god, one went straight into the pilot’s window on the tug completely obliterating the superstructure. Oh no! One was rocketing straight toward him.

The two drunken men stopped fighting. They yelled inside the Space Traveler’s Relief Center for help. They ran to the corner where the flaming debris hit the man.  The light orb followed them illuminating their each step and bathing them in warmth.

The smell of burning flesh filled the air. The upper body was at least ten feet from his legs. His grayish-purple and pink intestines spread over the distance in-between. His bright red wool night watchman uniform was smoldering.

Moving over to the body, the first drunk stopped. His eyes got wide and fiery. He grew sick to his stomach.  He threw up. He quickly wiped his mouth with his right shirtsleeve. “It cut him in two and almost cooked him at the same time.”

“Dang-it DraYack, any fool can see that.” The second drunk then reached for a silver flask exposed from the rear pocket of the deceased. “Who, who is he?”

The tall, slender Overseer from the Space Traveler’s Relief Center ran outside and down to the corner in answer to the men’s cries and the noise of the explosion. He didn’t see the second drunk grab the silver flask and put it inside his shirt. He heard and answered the second drunk’s question. “Why that’s the night watchman.”

Ka-boom! “Hit the dirt!” someone yelled.  Everyone dropped to the ground.  The Overseer’s helmet went flying as he dove for cover behind the dead man’s body.  Another massive explosion rocked the faltering vessel.

The tugboat was sinking into the depths of the canal fast. There were no more explosions, only flames. “What in the devil was it hauling to explode like that?” asked the Overseer.

They all moved back over and stared down at the red clad corpse. The first drunk broke the silence. “Hey Overseer, I thought someone was shelling us for a minute.” He paused looking around, glancing at the shiny silver of the Canal.

The Overseer was shaking his head right and left in a sort of disbelief kind of way. “Guess the deities have a sense of humor. They didn’t protect this man who had survived the Venetian Wars and his sentence working at the rocket factory. Instead they allow lava cylinders to kill and leave this being’s blood on the streets.”

The few blood curdling cries and screams from the injured in the Martian Canal started reaching their ears. The screams hadn’t lasted long.  The miniature canal gators quickly had entered the canal. They had a feeding frenzy on the injured and dead. They just as quickly moved back to the far bank of the Martian Canal to nap after their meal.

The Overseer was chanting some ritualistic death mantra over the night watchman’s body. He stopped chanting. He looked up saying, “Guess I had better go get the undertaker to take care of remains.”

A man dressed in black spoke up from the back of the gathering crowd. “No need. I’m already here.” It was the Digger Griffin, the undertaker.

All looked at the undertaker. The devil was looking too.  The devil was smiling.  The devil had been in the Martian fog and for the devil it had been a good night.

Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth by Phillip Thomas Tucker

If you remember the 1960 movie “The Alamo” with John Wayne and use it as your primary source for understanding the Alamo you will not like this work. The book presents an interpretation that is different from the traditional view and anything I previously encountered.

As I started reading I was at first shocked finding the book unsettling. It just wasn’t the story being told the way I had learned. My family’s roots are in Gonzales County, Texas near the Cost community.That is where the Battle of Gonzales happened in Oktoberfest 1835. As a sixth generation Texan, member of Texas First Families (member # 5255), holder of a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Texas at Arlington, a person who has studied Texas and military history on the university level, and one how has been to the Alamo over a dozen times I found myself realizing the book lives up to its title – “Exodus from the Alamo: The Anatomy of the Last Stand Myth “. The title is accurate. The author cuts open and examines the story of the Alamo.

The historian in me started looking at the research and documentation of the author. After all, I was reading the story from a point of view totally foreign to my experience. The author used letters and reports of Mexican officers written immediately after the battle. The book is well referenced. I knew we had slavery in Texas prior to the battle of the Alamo, but keeping the “peculiar institution” had never been listed as a primary motivating factor for the Texas War of Independence in my previous study. Most shocking to me was the author’s conclusion that the battle of the Alamo was a short predawn clash that held no real military significance. He concludes that the inexperienced defenders of the Alamo were overconfident, caught asleep in their beds, run scared when attacked (hence “The Exodus”) and routinely killed by Mexican cavalry who were guarding the rear exits. This is not the heroic last stand the 1960 movie told.

Comment: The research is hard to argue against. Just because the story doesn’t match the myth doesn’t mean the story isn’t true. I’m still reflecting on the book. I say let the scholars read and react to his research. Let the average white person reflect on the content. Let those of Hispanic heritage hold their heads high. I had never viewed the Alamo as a bunch of rebels trying to break free from the legitimate government or the Mexican Army as simply soldiers trying to suppress a rebellion. Time will tell how this point of view and research is received. I hope this is just the first of several works to reexamine the battle of the Alamo.

Myth or fact? The research is pretty straight forward. Read all of it with an open mind before drawing your own conclusions. You just might surprise yourself. Remember, as the book’s title warns, the author is challenging a 175 years old myth.

Interesting note: I checked the Alamo Museum’s on-line gift store, book selection. They have 193 books on the Alamo for sale. This book is not listed.