Thursday, July 2, 2020

Legends of the First Empire slipcases are a go!




Now that the entire series is released, we thought it would be a good idea to do a slipcase to turn the hardcover editions into a nice boxed set.  But slipcases are expensive to make (especially in quantities under 250), and we weren't sure if people would be interested in them.  Well, to determine if people had some interest we launched a . . . you guessed it a Kickstarter!


We reached our goal in under 15 minutes, and currently have demand for at least 620+ slipcases in the US.  For people outside the United States, you'll also be able to get a slipcase, but there are two possibilities for shipping.
  • Ship directly from the US with the USPS - which is quite expensive.
  • If there are is enough demand, we can transfer a large shipment to the UK for distribution throughout the world.
So, if you aren't in the US, you can sign up here and we'll calculate the postage for you using both alternatives and you can determine if you want to proceed once you know the final costs.


Oh, and as part of the Kickstarter you can pick up discounted hardcovers in case you are missing any in your set.  Two of the books (Age of Swords and Age of Legend) are already out of print in the hardcover edition, but we purchased up a large supply of both for this Kickstarter.

If this sounds like it is of interest to you, stop on by the Kickstarter and check it out. But you have to do so soon. The Kickstarter will end July 14th at 7:00 PM (EDT).

Friday, June 12, 2020

Name The Scene



An old illustration I did back in 2009. For extra credit, can you name the three individuals portrayed?

Sunday, May 31, 2020

When will I receive my books?


Update 6/6/20/20 - Well, we got the rest of the books signed on Monday 6/1/20 and after 4 days of "official shipping" we are doing well. Here is a status:
  • 2,100 total orders (1,873 Kickstarter, 227 pre-orders on our website)
  • 997 orders shipped (47%)
  • 733 orders picked (meaning they are being packed up but no labels yet (35%)
  • 370 orders haven't been started (18%)
Click here to see a spreadsheet that will show all orders and what state each is in. I'll try to update it at the end of the day on Monday.  If the status has a number - that is your tracking ID and you can track it via the USPS site.  We'll also be uploading tracking information into Kickstarter.

NOTE: This data is only for US orders (except for website which has orders from all countries). We'll start preparing the pallets for Canada and Overseas on Monday.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


This is a question that we have been receiving a lot recently. And with COVID-19 it's even harder than usual.  But I will tell you what I know at this precise moment, and update this page as I learn more.

To answer when you'll get your book, the first question is where did you pre-order it from. There are a number of possibilities.

  • Direct from us - which means you backed our Kickstarter or you bought from our store
  • From an online retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble
  • From your local bookstore who is doing curbside pickup or mailing books
Okay, let's give just a bit of history.  The original release date for the book was May 5th (just like the ebook and the audio versions), and there are two printers involved in its production: one that does the dust jackets, and the other which takes care of the printing of the interior pages and does the binding and folding the dust jacket around the outside. In early March, it was anticipated that the books would come off the press by mid-March, and be in the retail stores warehouses by end of March so that date looked fine.  Then the middle of March came and things started getting pretty interesting.

Some printers were shut down completely, others were operational because they were doing things for medical suppliers or printing essential items like instructions for large corporations with many sites. In any case, our "on press" date was pushed back and we had to change the date. We pushed to May 26th.  But that turned out not to be enough cushion.

In late April, we still weren't on the press so another date needed to be set, and to make matters worse, Ingram (the warehouse that ships to the retail chain) was collapsing operations and we couldn't use the Pennsylvania warehouse. All shipments that would arrive after May 1st had to go to their Tenessee warehouse. Since the printer's updated "off press" date was moved to May 20th, we set June 23rd as the new retail date (giving the retail chain 4 weeks to "move the books around" from place to place. In other words to get the books from the printer to Ingram, then Ingram get the books to the Amazon and B&N warehouses.  There is an additional step of getting books out of B&N warehouses and to retail stores - which is a whole different can of worms. At this point, I'm concentrating on "online" orders rather than curbside pickup.

Okay, so our sights were set on the next milestone, having books ready to ship out from the printer.  as it turned out May 20th didn't happen but we got close and on May 22nd there were 10,200 books waiting to go somewhere.  Two shipments were prepared.
  • One for 2,688 books to go from Harrisburg VA to Madison VA for orders bought directly from us.
  • The other for 7,512 books to go from Harrison VA to Jackson TN
Usually, these shipments take 1 - 2 days, but with COVID-19 it took longer. The Madison shipment arrived late in the day on May 27, and the Jackson TN got theirs on May 29.

Now, books bought directly from me, need to be signed, and normally we come in the next day to do that and for the number of books to be signed it would take 3 - 4 days), but that couldn't happen this time. The warehouse where we sign has strict rules from the Governor of Virginia regarding under what circumstances visitors are allowed into their facility. It was a good thing that the printing took longer because for a while there was no ability for us to get at the books to sign, and we were contemplating options such as signing in the parking lot, or getting a UHaul van to move the books from Madison to Luray where we would sign in our garage.  Long story short, they were able to build a little isolation area for us within the warehouse and as long as we remained masked, brought plenty of disinfectants (Lysol, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer (which we couldn't get but substituted gloves which we did have) and also brought our own table and chairs we could get permission to sign for two days Friday May 29th and Monday June 1st. 

We signed 1,512 books on Friday and will finish up the 1,176 on Monday. Since no one took the signed books out of our area by end of day Friday, I suspect the shipping of our direct orders will start on Monday.  We have the following backorders:
  • 1,859 orders consisting of 3,045 books (Kickstarter)
  • 152 orders consisting of 280 books (bought directly through our website.
As the books start shipping, I'll report the number shipped and the backorder remaining on this page.

As for the retail chain, I mentioned before that the "official" release date is June 23, but I suspect they will start shipping pre-orders as soon as books arrive in their warehouses from the Ingram warehouse. Because Grim Oak Press is our distribution partner I have no insight to their online systems so I can't see when books have moved out, and I don't want to bug Shawn constantly with requests for updates, but I will ask him for snapshots mid-month and end of the month and post them here. 

I should note, that some people are reporting that their pre-orders have been canceled, probably because the retailers didn't know when they could expect books. So, if your order was affected, you can do the per-order again or buy directly from our site.  I suspect that new orders to our site will be processed within 48 hours of receiving as that is our terms and conditions when not dealing with backorders.

I have my own pre-order through Amazon, and I'll report here when it arrives as that will give people some indication of when the books are shipping through the retail chains.

As for brick-and-mortar stores, some are open for curbside delivery, but that varies from state to state. Keep in mind the books have to get from Ingram to the Indie bookstore or from Ingram to B&N warehouse to the B&N local store, so it may take 2 - 3 weeks before all those books get to their respective locations, which would make them "just in time" for the new June 23rd release date.

Non US Shipments
Okay, one last thing. All of the above was for US copies of books. I have no idea at this point how long it takes Amazon to move books from the US to their distribution centers in Europe or elsewhere.  I suspect that BookDepository (free shipping worldwide) will have the same delivery schedule as Amazon and there are some countries that can't be shipped to at all right now.

As for non-US books purchased through the Kickstarter or our Foreign Sale, those require pallets to be created and then mailed to freight forwarders. I've asked the people at our local warehouse when we can access to non-Age of Empyre books so we can prepare those shipments, and they are working on a plan for that.  I suspect we'll know something more in about a week or so, and I'll keep this page updated.

Bare with us people, we are doing all we can to get the books to you as soon as humanly possible, but most of this relies on other people and so it is outside our control. But we'll keep you as updated as possible.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

ANCIENT TREASURES


My present workhorse cap adorned with the Sullivan coat of arms purchased for me by my daughter while in Ireland.
Once again here we are in reply to questions on my previous posts…primarily the question about hats.
I tend to like old-fashioned things. I have developed a fondness to certain mostly obsolete tools. Most just struck me as classier than their contemporary counterparts, and I enjoy the sensibility or atmosphere they create. In using them however, I came to realize many are frequently better than the more generally accepted modern versions.  I’ve always wondered about this. Why the change? 
Price I have concluded to be the primary reason. Fountain pens for example have never been cheap, but a Bic Cristal, that ubiquitous clear plastic ball point, was introduced at $.19 cents a pen—and it hasn’t raised its price much at all since. Most things changed with the advent of mainstream plastic. Some because plastic was clearly the better choice, as in  medical tools, but others I suspect—like the fountain pen—proliferated based on cost, ease of manufacturing, and the commercial benefits of a product that is used only a few times then thrown away prompting the purchase of a new one. 
When disposable paper cups were first introduced as a means of improving sanitary conditions at public water pumps, where previously an attached tin cup was used, people who were in the habit of not throwing anything useful away, kept the paper cups and reused them. The public needed to be taught how not to be so frugal. While the paper cup was created for a sensible cause, not all disposables have been. 
The razor blade is a prime example. Razor companies don’t make much money selling razors, they make money selling blades. Straight razors create an awful return on investment as a one time purchase is all anyone needs for as the blade dulls, it is simply sharpened. The safety razor, the hefty chrome device that often uses a double headed blade that is dropped in, made shaving easier, but did invite the need for replacement blades. Still, replacement blades for an old-fashioned safety razor is minimal compared to the modern-day metal sandwich stack of the plastic disposables. 
Like most young men who began shaving in the seventies, I started with the new,  “cheap” plastic handled multi-bladed razors, but I soon became frustrated with how quickly hair gathered and clogged between the edges of such blades making them useless. The more blades the quicker they clogged. I took to constantly scrubbing the blades with my toothbrush between ever few swipes, which did my toothbrush no good. Much later I tried the safety razor my father once used. I cut myself several times and the result was an awful shave. 
This is why they razor was improved! I concluded. I was wrong.  
Here I learned a valuable lesson: Old things aren’t like new things. They don’t work the same. Most often, they demand more from the user, they require a bit of practice and a modicum of skill. 
Shaving with a straight razor, or even a single bladed safety has a learning curve. For one thing, I discovered that when using a single blade, it is necessary to shave twice. Once, going with the general direction of the hair, and once going across it. This takes more time than a single pass with a double or quadruple blade, and this time saver was clearly one of the selling features for men in a hurry. But it isn’t an improvement—merely a time saver. The shave of a double blade isn’t as good as a double shave with a single, because the blade only cuts one way. And the idea that one blade stretches the hair so the other can cut close is actually a negative made to look like a positive by marketing people, as this effect causes ingrown hairs by cutting below the skin and often razor burns. 
I was drawn to the old-fashioned safety razor out of frustration with the plastic, but I stayed because of the quaint elegance of the antiquated ritual. I purchased fancy shaving cream and brushes, cups, and soaps and took my time learning how to shave correctly. Side effects resulted in never running out of shaving cream or razors again. I have enough blades to last about a hundred years, and shaving soap for another century. The most surprising by-product is that something I hated having to do, I now enjoy. I actually find shaving fun because I like the smell of the British Truffit and Hill Sandalwood scented cream, I enjoy creating the perfect lather, and I am proud of my ability to do a job that takes a bit of skill.  
Because I found so many benefits from using a safety razor I tried a straight. This is a whole level up. Far more challenging, but also more rewarding—and more versatile. Getting those hairs under the nose is near impossible with a bulk safety or disposable razor, but a strait blade can get anywhere. The first time I shaved entirely with a straight razor with out a nick, I was proud. You just don’t get that with a disposable. 
While I no longer smoke, when I did (back in my twenties) I smoked a pipe and hated cigarettes for many of the same reasons that I now dislike disposable razors. I found them to be crap. The tobacco was dry, and the flavor was always a fine bouquet of charred paper. Pipes, by contrast, were old friends. They went with me on trips and I had my favorites. Tobacco I used were blends that I sampled like wine. By now you can likely guess I didn’t smoke for the nicotine.  In fact, after about ten years, when I detected the first hint of an unreasonable urge to smoke, I realized I was developing an addiction and I promptly quit. I don’t like anything controlling me. It’s sort of a pet peeve, if peeve was analogous to rage.    Still it is the same thing. Pipes I found to be so much better than cigarettes for just as many reasons as razors. 
I still use a computer to write, but I compose ideas in old-fashioned notebooks using the previously discussed fountain pens. There are many practical benefits to fountain pens, (and with the more modern versions, few negatives) but mostly I use them because I enjoy the subtle elegance and old-world, storybook sensibility that accompanies the act of picking from an assortment of artfully designed bottles of ink to load a pen that is a work of art that you might have owned and used for decades, or perhaps was handed down to you from a grandparent. They transcend tools, and aspire to that lofty plateau of old companion the way a legendary singer-songwriter feels about their battered guitar who was always there to console after a heartbreak. 
Books are that way too, and cups, watches, typewriters, some umbrellas and scarfs and…hats. 
The very first thing I purchased with my very first pay check was a hat. It was a Newsboy, the one with the button in the center of the top, not to be confused with the flat top. 
The wool cap was made “popular” in 1571 when Queen Elizabeth, in an effort to help out the wool trade, required all males over the age of six (except for nobility) to wear wool hats. Caps were cheap, so the common man wore a cap. So too did some aristocrats when sporting, as wind had a tendency to topple stovepipes and even occasional flip off the more study derby. 
When Irish immigrants came to America they brought the established habit of wearing wool caps. The most common for them was the single button Newsboy, Cabbie or Paddy Hat, etc. The Flat cap without the button, I personally feel is the more British version of the collapsable brimmed cap, although they are popular in both counties as well as Scotland and Wales. To me the flats are a bit more aristocratic and priggish—but that’s just me and based on the look and mostly the feel of a flat which is stiff, while the button top is more like a rag with a brim, which I find far more versatile and therefore, practical. 
That first hat I bought was a brown corduroy and I wore it often from the age of sixteen and took it on many adventures. Out of an abundance of caution, I even sewed money into the brim when I took my first out of state trip with friends. Then I met and fell in love with a young woman named Robin. We were both poor and I hadn’t much to give her, and so I demonstrated my feelings by gifting to her, what she well knew, was my fondest possession—my cap. 

The original corduroy 

After we married we shared the cap and it wasn’t until I was published through Orbit and went to New York that I felt my first cap was too old. After thirty years it had lost all shape. The lining had shredded. The headband was nearly gone as well and the brim broken in so many places it simply sagged. 
That is when I assumed Manhattan must have a hat store. We spent hours looking for one. I found dozens that sold hats, mostly baseball style with NYC on them, but no pure hat stores. Finally I began asking. No one could help. Then one old man mentioned JJ Hats saying he thought it might be the last in the city. 
We sought it out and I purchased a replacement for the original which lasted me thirty years and which I still have today, but now I leave the old gal on the shelf granting her a much deserved rest. 

Adventuring fedora


Since then I have purchased several. I got a white linen cap for summers, a wool one with fold down ear flaps for deep winter, a black derby for formal occasions, a fedora for adventures, and while I was in Death Valley I bought a cowboy hat for very practical reasons, which I now most often use when riding my lawnmower on hot sunny days. 

The Death Valley hat


Once more I found that the antiquated habits of using hats, scarfs, and umbrellas to be among the forgotten wisdoms of an earlier time. Being from the midwest, no one wore hats or scarfs or carried umbrellas—they were never more than a few feet from the warm shelter of a car. Only when I spent time in a city using mass transit did I discover the wisdom of ancient treasures. 
Hats are one of those—caps in particular. They keep the rain and the heat of the sun off the crown of your head, and the visor aids sight far better than sunglasses which hinder as much as help. The visor also defends against pelting snow and droplets. A cold wind hitting one ear can be defended by pulling down one side, or flaps if you have them. You can use it as a handkerchief to wipe off sweat, or a damp bench for your wife to sit on. When not in use a cap can by stuffed in a pocket, frisbeeied to a friend, or used to protect a drink from insects—or to swat one. I’ve even used my cap as an oven mitt, and a handy bag. 
I suspect that somethings become obsolete because they are replaced by an improvement, but then there are those that people let slip away through false promises or popular fashions. I’m not crazy; like I said I write with a computer, but I always find time to literally put pen to paper because…as with a razor, and a hat, it’s fun, and the ink flowing onto the page becomes more than a metaphor. It is the smell of baking bread that awakens the appetite and heralds the wonders of creation. 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Pens and Other Answers




Thought I might as well answer some of the questions from my previous post with a new post because the comment sections tend to get messy with ads. 
First off, it has been mentioned that I am working on a new trilogy I tentatively entitled the Rise and Fall. The three novels are entitled: Nolyn, Farilane, & Esrahaddon, and they encompass the span of time that connects the Legends of the First Empire to…well not Riyria exactly, but to the fall of the Novronian Empire. Um…spoiler alert? Sorry, I guess. And ahh…sure the picture in my previous post has clues to..ahh…who Yolric is. Sure, why not. 
Second, Robin is fine. After recovering she got a test to see if she had Corvid-19 in order to see if she can give blood, or plasma. She has universal blood and usually donates regularly as a result, and now if she had antibodies that can fight the virus she defiantly wanted to give, but it turned out she was negative. Just a really nasty flu, I guess. So while she is healthy she isn't fine. Robin is disappointed that she can’t travel. For years we always wanted to travel, but we were either too busy or poor. This was the big year. We had tickets and reservations to Paris and Hamilton, and we just bought a teardrop camper to spend the summer exploring the west and hopefully visit readers on the way. But…well…you know. So Robin works in her new camper in the driveway on kickstarter fulfillment. She doesn’t say it because so many others have it so much worse, but I’m certain she’s disappointed. We're the lucky ones, but I do feel bad for her. She's never asked for much and was so excited. 
I’m a writer so I’m immune. Not to the virus but the lockdown effects. My heaven is staying home surrounded by fountain pens & Moleskines, old typewriters with fresh ribbons, an Apple running Scrivener, a cup of Pour-Over coffee in an Ember mug, and an new novel to write. Now I have a legitimate excuse to stay home and do what I love. 
This brings me to Three: the pen collection. I’m not an expert on fountain pens, which translates to: I don’t think I have found My Pen, but I’m working on it. I started with a few Watermans. Then my brother bought me a Lamy Studio, which I was impressed by. Lamy tends to be very modern in their design, which turned me off, but wow the pen is wonderful. Two years, never cleaned it, never needed to—crazy. 
A reader named Sylvia who for some reason lavishes Robin and I with wonderful gifts that we love, bought me a Conklin Empire Blue Stardust. Conklin is the pen Mark Twain used and the company he endorsed. The business went out of business in the forties, but the pen is still made. Sylvia also bought me a rare Japanese Oak-aged Glendalough Irish Whiskey, which I am saving for special occasions. 
Now whenever I go to Manhattan, (usually on publishing business) I always buy myself a new hat because New York has a great old fashion hat store called JJ Hat Company—the only pure hat store in the city I think—and also when I start a new novel I get a new notebook and pen. This time as I started “Esrahaddon”, I got two. One for brown ink and one for blue.
I ordered the Lamy 2000 (which has yet to arrive) because I like the Studio so much and—I mean the 2000 is on permanent display in a MoMA. The thing is a classic. But I also got a PILOT Custom 823, Amber Barrel. What I love about the 823 is the ink-fill mechanism. The piston vacuum fills the barrel of the pen is an instant, and the reservoir is massive. It’s great. It is also the first 14K gold, platinum-coated nib I’ve ever used. Very smooth. Rumor has it, this is the pen Neil Gaiman used to sign all those books that caused him to ice his arm. Now I am tempted to try using it to sign the Age of Empyre books when they come in this week. Usually I use a Sharpie Marker, but they run out of ink so quickly I go through boxes of them. 
Now to the fourth and final comment…

That dagger in the photo isn’t just a dagger. It is a Reddit Stabby Award—but I do use it for opening mail and packages. In fact, I used it today to open a new Moleskine where I plan to put notes for another novel I’m thinking about writing. I think I’ll entitle it Drumindor

Esrahaddon Notebook 4th page—no spoilers


Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Author's Desk




Just reminded me of one of those wallpapers showing the work space of someone. This was taken last night as I was doing research for Esrahaddon, the novel.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

So far, so good for Age of Empyre's release day


So, today Age of Empyre was released in audio and ebook (the hardcover is still on the press. And even though it has been less than a day, it's pre-orders and early sales have sent the audiobook racing up the charts. The only Sci-Fi & Fantasy audiobooks that are selling better than it are Tolkien's first two books, and they are also part of the 2 for 1 sale. If the sale wasn't ongoing, there's a chance we could have hit #1.  Given that Tolkien inspired me to write, it's pretty surreal to see one of my books side by side with his from a selling perspective.  Here is the full list of bestsellers.


As is usually the case, these big jumps on release day can be quite short-lived. But for now, I can feel a sense of satisfaction on the conclusion of this series, and Robin and I want to thank everyone who pre-ordered or picked up the book when they heard it came out today.