Wednesday, November 30, 2011

First Press Clipping

The first news clipping for my book. You've got to start somewhere, and this is from my hometown in Niceville, Florida, and the locally printed Bay Beacon. The 7th Special Forces Group is located right next door at Eglin Air Force Base, so the connection to the military and Green Berets clearly runs deep in the community.

Here's to more visibility in the future!

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Green Berets, GORUCK, and proceeds from the sales of my book

If you aren't already aware, I will be donating the proceeds from initial sales of Number 181 to the Green Beret Foundation (see the link on this page to buy the book). My ties to the military go way back, but I've become more involved with the GBF in recent months thanks to my experiences with the GORUCK Challenge. The GORUCK is a difficult thing to describe to others. It's part survival training and part obstacle course, part endurance race and part mental punishment.

Led by an active-duty Green Beret, the GORUCK is designed to build leadership skills and foster teamwork. I participated in the Savannah, GA challenge in October 2011.

26 members
20 miles
13 hours

We waded through the Savannah River. We waded through disgusting lakes. We carried each other, literally and figuratively, for 20 miles through the Savannah night, and it was one of the most challenging, most rewarding things I have ever done. I've run marathons and slogged through years at the gym, but the GORUCK is all about taking yourself to the limits and pushing through them with the help of friends, whether you knew them before that night or not.

Each class is different. Each cadre (the active duty Green Beret leading) is different. About 20 of my group were active-duty or retired military. All were good people.

Check it out. Sign up. And, grab a rucksack full of bricks. Oh, did I forget to mention you have to carry along all your equipment...?

We had to carry a telephone pole.

For 6 miles.

Seriously, it's fun! I swear!

We started at 1am in one of the nondescript squares in downtown Savannah. I met the 25 other poor decision-makers for the first time the night before at the RuckOff, an informal event designed to tempt the participants with alcohol mere hours before the event (fight the urge!). There was a group of about a dozen that had come together from a gym in Lakeland. Note: There is a definite benefit to knowing your classmates beforehand, but it's not necessary. It was here that we gained our coupons, the items we would have to carry in addition to our brick-filled rucks. Five 5-gallon fuel tanks of water. A 25-foot coil of rope. A case full of straps, 'biners, and sapper manuals. Six cases of beer. Two telephone poles.... hang on, we'll get there.

We started off toward the bar district for some "Good Livin'" down the riverfront in full view of drunk revelers (part one of the GORUCK requirement: Bar District). We spent hours here burning through lunges, squats, and push-ups. Three hours in, we had gone about a mile. After being routinely harried by Georgians (I think, they slurred so badly we couldn't tell), we headed into the Savannah countryside, jogging miles into the dark without the calming knowledge offered by a watch or GPS. Dan, our cadre, did his best to entertain us with periodic stops for brutal training: bear crawls, crab walks, crossfit squats.

Unexpected entertainment came in the form of two cordoned off intersections where local law enforcement had established crime scenes (two scenes for three homicides total... Who had three murders in the office pool?).

After a short stop to select the two telephone poles we would be forced to lug around a lake (part two of the GORUCK requirement: Carry a log), we carted the logs and our coupons on our shoulders around an unnamed lake for a mile. Once the loop was completed, we proceeded to do pyramids with the poles (10 presses/curls/push-ups/flutter kicks, 9 presses/curls/push-ups/flutter kicks, 8...).

After setting up a observation post and as the sun began to rise, we proceeded to numb our now-aching bodies with beers (finally, we could lighten the loads we carried). Twenty blessed minutes of bonding and drinking later, we picked up our coupons (log included) and plunged into the lake (part three of the GORUCK requirement: You're gonna get wet. Wading into the Savannah River at the riverfront doesn't count). Up to our necks in pond scum, we waded a hundred yards to the other side, squats and overhead presses along the way.

Once clear of the lake, our plan had us on a return trip to Savannah. Six miles. With the telephone pole. By now, the early morning joggers and dog-walkers were awake and offering looks that were part sympathy and part I'm-Calling-The-Police. After a six-mile trudge through suburban Georgia, with a freaking telephone pole, we were tasked with one last action: carrying each other a mile to an 'evac site.'

A 3-mile jog later, we neared our finish point. But first, Dan sat us down in a very crowded and 'curious onlooker'-filled park and explained to us the role the Green Berets play in the defense of our nation and the importance of teamwork and brotherhood (Note: We did have two kick-ass females in our group). Buddy carries back to the square we started at 13 hours prior, and we were done...

... minus a terrorist threat that was caused by the discarding of our bricks in a crowded downtown area and calls to local police and the FBI after we had left. But, that's a story for another post...
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Noteworthy numbers from Number 181 (Um... other than 181).

458 - # of pages
33 - # of chapters
143,358 - # of Words
0 - # of times I changed the name of the protagonist, Shawn Kidd
41 - # of times I changed the name of his girlfriend, Sarah Melissa Elizabeth Alexis Winters
4 - # of months the book's timeline spans
5 - # of baseball-related references
3 - # of Alexander the Great references
0 - # of The Great Gatsby references
7 - Years from the penning of the first word to the last (My genius must percolate.)
81 - # of mercenaries/assassins
3 -# of booming explosions
10 - # of Force Recon Marines that make an appearance
5 - # of languages spoken by characters (Note: Pig Latin is not one of them)
5 - # of countries visited (Canada counts!)
6 - # of serious, physical injuries suffered by Kidd
Too many to count - # of serious, mental injuries suffered by Kidd

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

[Excerpt #4] A piece from further along...

I've gotta say, I'm a big fan of including excerpts from Number 181 in these posts. Since I know the context of each and its criticality to the story, it is that much more interesting to me. I think each one is a window into the story and the novel's style, but it only hints at everything going on in the scene. It's a lot of fun to pull out excerpts that inform and tease...

Kidd skidded around the corner and sped off east down the hallway. His initial frantic dash had been in order to outrun the gunfire, but now he sprinted toward the doorway to the study in the hopes of getting there before the three flankers hit the far corner. He angled hard toward it, twisting around a corner hall table, and reached for the handle of the door, throwing a shoulder at it at the same time. The door swung open, and he crashed into the room, diving to the ground and expecting bullets to chase him in as they hit the doorframe. No sounds reached him, though, and the door remained in one piece. Not knowing how much time he had before the bad guys turned down the corridor, he hurriedly jumped up and dragged his bag down off the bench.
He ripped the zipper open and tossed the arm and head across the room like they were packing material. Grabbing the pistol and knife, he returned them to the holster and sheath on his chest, already feeling more comfortable. As quickly as he could, he drew the G36 from the bag and made sure it was loaded and on its semiautomatic setting. A glance back at the open doorway showed he still had no visitors. That was odd.
Sighting down the optics, he leaned out and covered the distant, shadowy corner. He could hear the thunder from the firefight in the foyer, but in front of him, there was nothing. Warily, he began down the corridor, crouched and hugging the inner wall. A minute later, he had reached the corner without encountering any signs of the flankers. Around the corner, though, he could hear a soft, rustling sound.
Carefully, he slid his eye around the edge. The flash he caught as the attackers opened fire nearly blinded him. A hail of bullets peppered the wall to his right as they let loose with a determined barrage. Though he didn’t chance another look, they poured fire at the corner. In the split second that he had a view, he knew why. While two had covered the corner with their weapons, a third had affixed a stubby box to one side of the hallway three-quarters of the way down. He was inserting something into the bottom of it, and Kidd needed no training to know an explosive when he saw it.

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Congrats to Clayton Kershaw

Those of you that are familiar with me are aware of my passion for baseball, having played for years throughout school and then 10 years of amateur ball. In fact, I have such strong feelings on the sport that I made my protagonist in Number 181, Shawn Kidd, a former college ballplayer.

Shawn, like me, is a big fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Major League Baseball announced that Clayton Kershaw has won the 2011 NL Cy Young making for a bright spot in a long year. Here's to hoping Matt Kemp can bring the MVP trophy to Dodgertown next week, also.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Some recommendations....

A few people have asked me to explain the genre of Number 181, and the best I can come up with is 'thriller.' That's a rather vague term, though, and I don't think it conveys the sense of the book to people interested in learning more. A possibly better way to describe the plot and pacing is by referencing other authors' works. Plus, as a bonus, I get to plug some great fiction.

All excellent writers in the thriller genre, and all authors of best-sellers. There are few novels I will pick up immediately in release... in hardcover. However, anything by these three guys is a must-purchase.
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First books sold...

So, someone bought a book! Actually, multiple someones! I would imagine they were either good friends or people that thought they were purchasing an Everybody Poops sequel.

[Totally needs to be done, by the way... there aren't enough picture books on the market that feature an elephant dropping a #2. But, back to #181.]

The novel took many years of off and on writing to complete, but I am really happy with how it turned out. Just knowing I finished something tangible is inspiring to me. Those that know me are aware of my short attention span and lack of general motivation. But, now I have people paying their hard-earned cash to read what I wrote, and it is great! Please let me know what you think!
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Friday, November 11, 2011

[Excerpt #3] About halfway through Number 181...

Below is another excerpt, this one from about halfway through Number 181. Kidd's been through a lot by this point in the story, so portraying him as confused and dazed isn't difficult. Here, however, it's been taken to an entirely different level thanks to an... event... that he doesn't yet understand.

Screams reached Kidd’s ears, their high-pitched whine slowly dropping to an identifiable roar. The muted rumble sounded distant and unreal. He strained to identify the direction they were coming from as they bounced off each of the surrounding walls. It took several moments before he realized they were his own.
His ears rang, and his throat and eyes burned.
He couldn’t breathe.
His first few attempts to take in a breath forced debris down his throat, but whether the hard, dusty pieces were rock or glass, he couldn’t tell. He rolled over onto his stomach and forced himself to cough violently. Detritus scratched his throat like sandpaper, and his violent throes caused a cascade of dust to pour off his head. The ringing continued incessantly, only to be joined by the far off sound of pops and alarms. Carefully, he brushed the area around his eyes clear, but even that small effort caused grit to slice the skin across his brow and cheek. He finally felt he had removed enough to risk opening his eyes, and he found the floor cracked and covered in destruction. Orange lighting crossed his vision as emergency lighting flashed across the room from the corridor outside the door. The lights above him in the room were out.
Outside the door.
Kidd climbed to his knees. There was no more door. He saw pieces of it scattered around the room, but the doorway had been completely obliterated, the frame gone. Now, a gaping hole was all that remained of that entire side of the room.
Flashes down the corridor accompanied the distant pops, and he suspected he was hearing electrical explosions on the fringes of his mind. He tried to shake some sense back into it, but that brought only more pain, so he collapsed against the back wall of the room and watched shredded bits of papers and dust rain down around him. Some stuck to the dozens of small lacerations he saw on his arms. He figured the rest of him was no better off and looked up in time to see someone sprint past the gaping hole at the other side of the room, their steps muffled.
Kidd stirred. Lights flashed in and out as he brought himself to his feet. Time was passing slowly… or was it quickly? Flecks of debris flitted across his view as he struggled toward the nonexistent wall. Glancing down the hallway, he was blinded by the orange glow of emergency lighting advancing across the sea of glass. The rotating amber glow swept across the wall and floor in a wide arc, and the reflected light scattered down the hallway toward him. Using the wall to stabilize himself, Kidd found out why. Glass from the opposite windows had blown out with such force that it embedded in the dry wall. The light danced. It was horrifically beautiful.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

[Book Art] Final Cover Wrap

The cover wrap to the final paperback version of Number 181. I designed it myself, and I can be a bit overly-critical of my own work. But, I'm really pleased with the final product and am looking forward to the spine peeking out at me from my bookshelf (and my friend's!).
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[Excerpt #2] Flashback

The novel has few quiet moments, and the majority tend to be sadness-tinged, self-evaluations. However, here is an excerpt from a chapter about a quarter of the way through the book that offers a critical moment in the protagonist's past in order to better understand his current situation. I've never been to this bar, but it's the kind of place I can only imagine... seemingly between worlds. Is it due to the mysteries of the bar itself? Or, is it due to the company one keeps?

He was sitting across from Alexis in a dim, dive bar off 4th street downtown. It was their first date, and Shawn had tried to impress with a fancy dinner at a classy Italian place. But, the place had been booked, and they spent nearly two hours waiting for a table to open up. Neither of them noticed, the appetizer and drinks they ordered at the bar all the dinner they’d need. At Alexis’ suggestion, they moved to a quiet place around the corner, one of her favorites, lost in their conversation.

The jazz club was set back in an alley off one of the dark parking lots, its door a rusted steel vault. The only indication it was anything other than an abandoned rental space was the slim, mousey man that asked to see an ID as they neared. No name hung above the door, and the vault opened to reveal a pulsing haze, dark and melodic.

Twenty feet wide and miles deep, the bar swayed with the rhythm of the quiet tones, the trio of musicians in the near corner melting into the patchwork brick walls. They sat clustered around a dark black table stained with years of history and which mirrored the other furniture tossed throughout the club. Their three beers joined countless empties on the table, and the entire scene appeared to be as much a part of the bar as the stools or dark paintings adorning the walls. The music coursing through the air was better than Shawn had heard short of the old LPs he remembered his father listening to on rainy evenings.

It gave the impression of a private party. People dotted the tables and stools along the rough oak bar on the opposite wall, each lost in their own conversations and worlds. At one table, a group of four laughed silently to some unheard story. At another, a lone gentleman sat staring toward the wall sipping a cocktail. At yet another, an elderly couple sat in silence, seemingly content in simply being there together. They each melted into the bar. Part of it. Shawn felt he stuck out, an interloper in the scene of players that fit in such a way that implied they never left.

Shawn loved it. He breathed in the atmosphere and knew he wanted to remember it, his first experience with it. Alexis grabbed his hand and broke the spell, leading him to one of the back tables as they melted into the club’s canvas.

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Fate or just teasing...?

On the day that my first proof copy of Number 181 arrived at my house, I happened to grab a couple fortune cookies with my dinner. Apropos?
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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Draft synopsis for Number 181

One of the drafts for the cover synopsis of Number 181...

Researcher and self-proclaimed hermit, Shawn Kidd has few hobbies and fewer friends. His life has reached a crossroad, though, as his time in Texas comes to an end and he weighs the relationship that has bloomed against his return to Florida. Never one to take risks or assume responsibilities, Shawn is torn.

But, in one night, everything changes.

While an eighteen year old boy is found dead in the restroom of a ballpark, a wreck on a deserted interstate claims the life of a family of four. Thousands of miles away, a twelve year old girl is inexplicably shot through the window of her family’s twelfth floor condo.

These tragic deaths are merely the beginning of a coordinated assault on the United States by a global terrorist network. An unknown enemy has obtained a seemingly-insignificant and low security list – one with the names of 181 children on it - that is designed to find those that demonstrate the traits that make them ideal paralegals, analysts and agents for the FBI. The Reaper List.

But, these children know nothing of politics or war, nothing of their placement on this list, and nothing of why they are being targeted. But, one by one and over the course of one tragic night, all will be killed.

All but one.

All but Number 181.

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[Book Art] One of the variant covers I'm considering...

A variant with a different silhouette.
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[Book Art] First cut at Number 181 Cover

First cut at the cover art for Number 181. Have a few other ideas I want to put together and see which looks best once actually on paper. But, this is the general layout I had imagined. Getting closer and closer to a reality. More to come. Best Blogger Tips

[Excerpt #1] "Number 181" - Prologue

A few years ago, I decided to put to paper some thoughts I'd had on a story that had been rattling around in my head. It's been laid out in fits and starts, but I've finally seen the light at the end of the tunnel. It's up to about 350 pages now, and I expect to put the finishing touches on and format a complete draft by June. Below is the prologue to start it off...

6 weeks ago...

Shawn Kidd had never died before. That went without saying for nearly everyone, but, in truth, he had never even had brushes with death in his 29 years. In fact, other than his recent broken finger, he had relatively few injuries given his active lifestyle.

So, he had nothing to compare with as his senses blurred and heart strained to keep his broken body alive. His heart had its own scars, though, and Shawn sensed the inevitable.

As he knelt, the soft snow enveloping his legs and welcoming him, the needles of pain that lanced through his body drifted to quiet numbness. He absently wondered how much of that was the frigid air and how much was due to the simple decision to close a door and not care to ever open another. He had reached the end of one of life’s journeys, and found himself not wanting another. He was done.

He stared down at the motionless form below him and felt nothing except the flow of warm blood down his face. The gore was obscene, and the crimson river gave drastic contrast to the dark night and virgin white snow. The majority wasn’t his, though. It belonged to the monster below him, a monster whose neck Shawn had slit in such a way that the small clearing they occupied was awash in carnage.

He slumped, his shoulders sagging forward. His soul was shattered and wrecked, but his body was no better. The wound on his bandaged hand had reopened and soaked the days-old wrapping in blood. He didn’t even want to think what damage had been done to his back. The sickening stench of melted fabric, metal, and flesh was only now becoming bearable, but steam and smoke continued to rise from the back of his vest where the flames had engulfed him. Countless cuts and bruises throbbed, but he felt none of them. He waited for blood loss to take him, for shock to set in and for what little life remained in him to settle into the snow.

The edges of his vision blurred as the blanket of snow seemed to rise and engulf the clearing. His mind registered the movement to his right, but he didn’t react. He didn’t care. And, when the bullet slammed into his temple, he welcomed the end.

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