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Category Archives: Author Guest Blogs

A Bite of History on Spain Vacation

(Guest Blog by Ryan King)

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Cartegena Spain’s Roman Theater

Long before Hispania became a Roman province, it was an overseas possession of Carthage. It was rich in silver and Iberian Celt mercenaries. This was where Hannibal prepared for his war on Rome and where the second climatic conflict, The Second Punic War began.

I’ve been interested in history for as long as I can remember. I still recall when I was twelve years old and I somehow ended up with a book called ‘War Through the Ages’ by the historian Lynn Montross. In those pages for the first time, I heard about the titanic wars between Rome and Carthage that lasted over a century. I learned of the brilliant genius, Hannibal, his crossing of the Alps with elephants, and his incredible battlefield victories. I also learned of a civilization that was the mightiest in the Mediterranean for several hundred years but was subsequently wiped from the face of the earth.

This time and this story have fascinated me since then. This was one reason, when I obtained my master’s degree in history, I focused on the Punic Wars period. It is also why I’ve taken every opportunity while living in Europe to visit those relevant historical locations and see them for myself. This was also, at least partially, why my family and I traveled to Spain on vacation.

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

Elevator to the palace/fortress, Cartegena, Spain

The capital of Carthaginian Spain was Cartegena or ‘New Carthage.’ The location of this ancient city was how my wife narrowed down her hunt for a flat to accommodate the six of us. Even after Kristin broke her foot and had to be left behind, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to take my fours sons to this place with so much history.

I’ve learned to moderate my expectations when visiting historical sites. It has been over two thousand years after all, yet Cartegena surprised me. First of all, the harbor itself was magnificent and is recognized as the finest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. The Carthaginians were, before everything else, seafaring Phoenicians originally from Tyre who understood trade.

The city boasts a Punic Museum with an original section of the Punic wall that encircled the city as well as a crypt with dozens of sealed remains inside. The large Roman theater is still spectacular, and you don’t want to miss the Roman baths or reconstructed Roman villa. IMG_9943

The highlight for me, however, was the magnificent palace/fortress on the giant hill overlooking the harbor and the city. This magnificent structure has stood through the centuries seeing the occupation of Romans, Celts, Vandals, Byzantines, Moors, and Spaniards, yet it was originally constructed by Hasdrubal the Fair who was Hannibal’s brother-in-law. Hasdrubal was credited with making Cartegena a great city after he assumed command of Spain at the death of his father-in-law, Hannibal’s father, Hamiclar.

The fortress is well situated on a giant sheer rock, and we had to take an elevator ride to the top. As my sons and I walked along the walls it was a surreal moment knowing that Hannibal and Hasdrubal had lived in this place and walked along the same paths several millennium before. The visit was reminiscent to one over a decade ago when my wife and I visited Carthage, Tunisia. I was mesmerized.

IMG_0042How could I not contemplate my writing? How I wanted to revisit the scenes I’ve already written of my historic fictional trilogy about the Punic Wars, the rise and fall of Carthage, and the conflicts  that forced Rome to greatness.

Yet, my sons were tired and hungry and wanted to go back to the pool at our condo. So we said farewell to Cartegena, that ancient city of numerous hills with a superb harbor continuously filled with ships. We went back to the Spanish resort for Spaniards, La Manga, and said farewell to history…at least for now.

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Ryan King is the author of numerous post-apocalyptic books. He writes nonfiction under Charles R. King and enjoys teaching history to his four sons as the family treks about the world. Ryan’s first novel, Glimmer of Hope, is free for a limited time on Amazon.

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Soldier’s Goodbye

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 3.04.27 PM(Guest Post by Ryan King)

When I returned from my first tour in Afghanistan in late 2005 I was having a hard time relaxing. I felt tense and on edge most of time. They told us this was common post-deployment behavior and would slowly go away. Someone recommended simply having ‘alone time’ or ‘relax time.’ It seemed ridiculously simple, but I tried it anyway. I would sit outside alone and simply relax for an hour or so a week. Sometimes it was with a cigar or a pipe or a beverage. Alone time became a once a week routine that I have kept up for over a decade. But I wasn’t really alone. At least not until tonight.

Argos became a part of our family in 2003 while we were living in Belgium. We also already had an eight year old white German shepherd who was showing signs of age. My wife and I decided it would be good to get another dog and friends of ours allowed us to adopt their dog when they were unable to keep Argos. He and our shepherd Angel were instant friends. They played and romped and were constant companions. Our old shepherd dog became young again and lasted another five years. Argos saved Angel’s life…at least for a little while.

Argos was a golden Labrador/golden retriever mix who was always friendly and filled with energy. A friend of mine dubbed Argos “Full Throttle” and the name couldn’t have been more apt. He loved to get attention from anyone and was so eager to please. He never bit anyone or barked in anger…but he would lick you to death sometimes.

Yet, he was my constant companion during nearly a decade of alone time. He would sit with me quietly and sniff the air. On occasion he would bring me a ball and insist that I throw it for him to retrieve. Even last Sunday, our final alone time together it turned out, he brought me a ball a few times and his weary eyes told me what he wanted. I tossed the ball for him and he slowly walked over to it, bent down and picked it up in his soft mouth, and then slowly walked back over to me to repeat the routine.

Tonight was the first alone time without my friend and near constant companion. I keenly felt the aloneness and realized it had never been alone time after all. Argos, I miss you.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

Argos earlier this year, his first Holland Spring also his last.

 
 

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Historic Fiction Review – The Frontiersmen

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Series

Allan W. Eckert’s The Frontiersmen is the best historical fiction book about early American frontier life I have ever read. The book is closely based on real events and Eckert researched the characters and story for seven years before he began writing. Even historians of this era, a notably difficult breed to impress, have few criticisms of Eckert’s works. A naturalist who wrote 225 Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom episodes and a dedicated amateur historian, Eckert’s narrative history style was before its time and much copied today.

The book centers on the life of Simon Kenton whose real name was Simon Girty. Kenton fled North Carolina after believing he had murdered his single mother’s oppressive landlord. Years later he learned the man had survived and Kenton felt free to again assume his true name. The story of Kenton focuses on the wild and unspoiled land to the west of the Appalachians when most of the European settlements were within twenty-five miles of the Atlantic Ocean. The timeline of the story begins just before the French and Indian War and proceeds through the American Revolutionary War and the chaotic period that followed. In this vast untamed wilderness, Kenton played a key role in opening the area to American settlers and was close personal friends with men such as Daniel Boone, George Rogers Clark, Anthony Wayne, and William Henry Harrison.

The other main character and storyline of the book revolves around Tecumseh, the leader of the Shawnee Indians in the Ohio Valley. Tecumseh and the Shawnee initially fight with the British against the French and then with the Americans against the British, but when it becomes apparent that the flow of settlers will not stop, Tecumseh forges an impressive Indian Confederation to counter the incursions. The final conflict between Tecumseh and the new American settlers sets the stage for the settlement of American to the Mississippi River.

The Frontiersmen is among the best historical fiction books I’ve ever read. It is certainly tops for covering the early American era and suitable for both adult and high school students. Very highly recommend.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Author Guest Blogs, Book Reviews, Reviews

 

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On Writing (Poem) – Blank No More

(With thanks to guest author Munroe Wood for allowing me to post this work of his.–Kristin King)Screen Shot 2014-09-21 at 8.11.30 PM

 

To us as writers, there is nothing so simultaneously frightening and exciting as a blank page.

I have spent hours staring mute and empty at a white page, usually with a cursor blinking its subtle taunt in a vain attempt to spur me into action.

Yet I can also be found perusing the blank journal section at Barnes & Noble, eagerly paging through heavy brown books, sniffing the paper and dreaming of endless possibilities.

In fact, sometimes it is the possibility itself that is most exciting. If I etch something on that paper, the quantum state is broken.

Once I begin to actually write, I am limiting the story with every word; the uncertainties fall away as the story forms.

What if I don’t like what I’ve created?

I can throw away my work or alter it, but to what extent am I betraying myself then?

I must determine if it is worth the energy.

Whether I am satisfied with my efforts or not, with no effort comes no result.

I desire to share myself with others; in return I hope to know them through their works.

Our perspective is formed by the way we respond to every event in which we take part.

One of the greatest joys I’ve found is gaining deeper understanding of another human’s perspective of our shared reality.

It is a frightening thing; I never know what I’ll learn. But loneliness is worse than the alternative.

–Munroe Wood

It’s Not Blank Anymore © 2014 by Munroe Wood

 

 

 
 

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Writing Is Art

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Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

It took most of my life to find the courage to finally write the stories that were in my head and my heart. Although they had always been there, as constant as the seasons, I kept them hidden away. Old friends these tales and characters had been and they often comforted me during dark times.

I don’t know when the idea of writing them down first came to me, but I do know I resisted this urge for a number of years. I was afraid of many things in those days, but I was most fearful of rejection. Not just of my ability to write, but of those faithful stories and characters. I never doubted that the stories were such that the world should know them, but that I was a poor vessel to carry them in. It turned out I was right and wrong.

The advice I’ve given several aspiring writers is to never doubt the story in their heart. Their ability to tell it is another thing entirely. Learning how to write well and capture the reader’s imagination and get them to experience the story is not something central to our being. It is a learned and practiced skill. Of course talent plays a part, but if you look at world-class painters, sculptors, musicians, composers…they all had talent. But they also worked and worked hard to get better.

Writing is art, especially fiction. The story you may have inside you can only be presented to the world through the person in whom it resides. If the writer chooses not to tell the tale, then that story is lost for all of eternity. That to me is a terrible tragedy. A poor tale told pathetically is infinitely better than a wonderful tale never told. If you are a writer, it is not what you do, it is who you are.

But there is one really big difference between writing and other forms of art. A person can instantly spot the value or have an impression of a painting or a statue or a song. They may like it or not, be entranced or bored, but they sense almost instantly one way or the other that whatever caught their attention is there. They may not be able to define it, but they know something is going on. Their impression of reality may have even changed without knowing it.

With fiction, this is not the case. Art it may be, but there is no instant response. Readers have to invest time and energy in order to decide how they feel about the art. In essence they have to believe in the artist before they have experienced the art. This is a difficult hurdle for many aspiring writers. I don’t believe it is fear of rejection that chokes writers’ tales, but the very real possibility that no one will ever hear them.

The way past this fear is to realize why you are writing. Other artists are artists even if others never see or buy their work or hear their beautiful music. They do it because it fulfills a creative imperative that is within them. That imperative will find a creative release or it will make the bearer miserable and unfulfilled. Writing has to be the same way.

I hope people read my books and stories and I hope they like them, but for my own health I need to write regardless. Art for art’s sake is a cliché, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true. The stories must be told, even if no one ever hears them.

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Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.

 
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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Author Guest Blogs, On Writing

 

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Alternative Publishing Model for The Big 5

The Big 5

The Big 5

Guest Post by Ryan King, whose post-apocalyptic Glimmer of Hope novel is currently a Kindle Countdown Deal.

I think just about everyone would agree there has been a major shift in the book publishing industry in the last five to six years. The final outcomes are still uncertain, but the truth is that it has become easier for authors to publish books and for readers to buy them. There are many pros and cons to self-publishing which is not new. Self-publishing has been around for decades, but recently it has been seen as the last resort of rejected authors who simply could not get their books published any other way. In most cases those books were destined for anonymity because the delivery platform was nearly non-existent.

Large publishers typically received first right of rejection on all books. They sifted through the chaff for the delicious wheat and if they missed a few choice morsels here and there, they could live with that. They still get plenty of authors coming to them, but that is slowly changing. What should frighten large publishers are not the books they have rejected that are being published, but those that they no longer even get the opportunity to reject. Worse yet are the established authors leaving publishing to go it alone. It may be a trickle now, but I predict it will increase.

The reasons for this change in attitude are varied. Many authors like the control, or dislike the traditional publishing process, or simply want a higher royalty rate. The standard 25% return rate (with 15-20% of that going to an agent) for paper books and ebooks is dwarfed by the royalties on most self-publishing sites such as Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. Some established authors have been able to negotiate larger royalty rates or keep their digital rights with these traditional publishers, but those authors are in the minority.

Right now traditional publishers are still the giants, but that is likely to change. Their big name established authors will eventually die off or maybe even leave to self-publish. I predict fewer and fewer first-time authors will even bother with the tedious query process. This is what should concern traditional publishers. So how do they increase the industry lead, which they still maintain, but is slowly and surely shrinking? In a word – money.

Most authors want to write full-time. That takes money to quit a day job and focus on their passion. Book advances are not what they once were and many books don’t even earn out their advances. Advances are a calculated risk on the part of the publisher.

What I propose is an end to the advance and royalty system. Publishers should consider buying books outright. They would certainly have to pay more than they would on an advance, but less possible than the lifetime of the book. Additionally, this would be for books, ebooks, international sales, audio books, movie rights, action figures, future scent-based books for dogs – everything. One of the biggest sources of friction between authors and publishers is payments. This would eliminate that source while allowing the publishers to not worry about tracking and paying quarterly sales. They buy the book and its rights and the publisher and author part company, each of them happy. The author has a wad of cash to let them pursue their dream and the publisher has the rights to that book (but should not try to lock in other books with a non-compete clause. If it is a series I would recommend giving the publisher first right of refusal).

Publishers instantly increase their returns on book sales by 25% and can sell other rights they are not interested in (audio, movie, t-shirts, etc).

Up front money. It’s the one thing self-publishing can’t compete with. Its big publishing’s greatest strength, and one it should leverage.

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Ryan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has lived, worked, and traveled throughout Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 
 

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Top Indie Authors on Amazon

Sample Ryan's Post-Apocalyptic style with a free download for Kindle this week.

Sample Ryan’s Post-Apocalyptic style with a free download for Kindle this week.

Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy

A couple weeks ago I was curious to find out how well indie authors were doing compared to the authors from big publishing companies. I was little shocked at the numbers in the top 100. By now we all know that indies are doing well in the mid-list realm, but to be one of the Amazon Top 100 Authors, you are pulling in some serious sales (likely thousands of sales a day).

I’ve listed these authors, their respective numbers on the Amazon author list, and their predominant genre. Note: the below list does not include small publishers, hybrid authors, Amazon imprints or independent publishers that were not obviously indies – the number might actually be larger.

Deborah Bladon (#9 on Amazon’s Bestselling Author List) – romance.

A.G. Riddle (#30 on the list) – science fiction.

Victoria Ashley (#38 on the list) – romance.

Kristen Ashley (#45 on the list) – romance.

Chris Culver (#51 on the list) – mystery, thriller and suspense.

Bella Forest (#53 on the list) – paranormal romance.

Melissa Hill (#71 on the list) – mystery, suspense and thriller.

Lauren Blakely (#79 on the list) – romance and suspense.

T.K. Leigh (#87 on the list) – romance.

Bella Andre (#89 on the list) – romance.

J.S. Cooper (#90 on the list) – romance.

Jana DeLeon (#93 on the list) – humor.

L.P. Dover (#94 on the list) – romance.

Casey Hill (#98 on the list) – adventure and romance.

So what does this tell us? Well, first of all women are doing well. Only three of the fourteen on the list are men. Additionally, romance accounts for the majority of mega indie hits – ten of the fourteen above.

Regardless, it looks like indies are growing in popularity and are here to stay.

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Ryan King launched his indie author career in 2012 while keeping his day job with the US Army. Watch for his upcoming guest spot here featuring monthly reviews of post-apocalyptic and/or dystopian fiction. For more information about Ryan and his writing visit the link here.

 

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