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Spain for Six – History in a Day

Author & Historian Ryan King on the wall of Saguntum

Planning your summer vacation when living in Europe for a limited time can be challenging. We try to visit places most the children have never seen, work in some history, activity, food and relaxing. Hence our first day in Spain took us to the Saguntum fortress ruins.

It was the siege heard round the world–or at least the Mediterranean world. The year was 219 B.C. and Hannibal (of crossing the Alps with elephants fame) was about to set off the 2nd Punic War by taking Roman cities across Spain. In spite of the blazing heat that had them ducking into every bit of shade, our four sons had a great time hiking, climbing, and clambering through prickly pear cacti over the ruins billed in Spain as Castell de Sagunt, north of Valencia (pronounced Balenthia). We walked through time and history in one place that was first Roman, then Carthaginian, Roman again, Moorish, European medieval, and I even stood in modern cannon openings on one section of wall.

You can see from the photo I made at one end of the complex how distant the furthest parts of the fortification were (back left of image). Feral cats kept their distance as my eldest made an approach. Our youngest discovered pocked marble poking out from beneath a more recent addition. Our 2nd son tried to pick and eat a prickly pear which we learned was a recent addition supposedly brought back from the New World by Christopher Columbus to Spain. Experiential learning from 219 B. C. to 1492 left us hungry and longing for the AC in the car not to mentiona dip in the fabulous pool at our hotel (La Pinada -family apartment for 90 euro). You may prefer to stay near the Spanish castle or bridge used in Game of Thrones, but for our crew of active kids with education focused parents, Sagunto was well worth the visit.

–Kristin

Waiting for our youngest at the hotel's water slides.

Waiting for our youngest at the hotel’s water slides.

 

 

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Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Travel

 

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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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Post Apocalyptic Review – Into the Forest

Cover Evolution

Cover Evolution

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

I have learned that when it comes to post-apocalyptic fiction, I want the books to teach me something. I want to gain valuable information that I might use if I ever found myself in an end-of-the-world situation. Although the likelihood of ever needing said knowledge is admittedly slim, it feeds my sense of self-improvement. I also like to be prepared.

Jean Hegland’s Into the Forest is packed full of practical knowledge. From healing qualities of certain plants to the nutritional value of acorns, I found the knowledge fascinating. The author’s debut novel is eerily subtle as far as ends go. Living in a cabin in a northern California redwood forest, thirty miles from the nearest town, the apocalypse that destroys the world comes slowly and in fragments to the sisters Nell and Eva. There are rumors of war, upheaval, and plague, but details are hard to come by. When the sisters’ parents die, they are left to fend for themselves in a lonely world come unhinged and floating along outside law or society. They slowly learn how to survive in the forest and that real danger is hovering nearby.

Into the Forest is a story of survival that stresses throughout the importance of family. The two naive sisters have only each other initially and must make hard choices when unexpected options arise. These difficult choices seem all the more gut wrenching for their believability and realism. Filled with vivid scenery, you can almost smell and hear the vast primeval forest while reading this book.

Although this is one of my favorite books in this genre, it is not for those who look for fast-paced action. This story is about the sisters and how they survive and sacrifice in a cruel and unforgiving land that thrust them into adulthood far too early. These young girls are certainly not prepared for the challenges that they face, but they end up surprising themselves and the reader.

An excellent book that I highly recommend and hope you enjoy.

 

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Putting My $$$ Where My Literary Mouth Is

Screen Shot 2014-06-27 at 8.53.50 PMOn the heels of George R. R. Martin’s Wolf Sanctuary Fundraiser ‘Got $20,000? Then you too can die in a Game of Thrones Book’ my in house guest blogger launches a challenge that 1) every reader can afford and that 2) oddly enough benefits poor and underprivileged people. Check it out. –Kristin King

Write a Review – Save the World (Guest Post by Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy)

Wait…what? Yes, fine respectable readers, it can be done. Let me explain the what first and then the how.

Several years ago my wife and I lived in Belgium where we met a wonderful young Congolese woman named Bintu. Her family had sent her to Belgium to obtain her degree and  get her away from the war going on near her home in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Bintu lived with us for a while and became obsessed with using her God-given skills and talents to try and help her country and its peoples. More specifically, she wanted to help women and young girls in eastern DRC who had been abused, abandoned, and generally disregarded in many cases. She seeks to help them and other students through education, kindness and general support. The fruits of her struggle and efforts is a non-profit organization called Future Hope Africa http://www.futurehopeafrica.com.

To date Future Hope Africa has helped and educated hundreds of young people by providing them a skill and convincing them of their genuine worth. My wife and I support this organization as much as we can. She is actually traveling to eastern DRC is a few months to assist Bintu in this endeavor.

So what does this have to do with book reviews? I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most people are familiar with a pledge system. People come door to door and ask you to pledge one dollar for every mile they run or car they wash or something of the like. Well, this is a reverse pledge system. I pledge to donate $10 of my own money for every Amazon review of one of my books or stories you write in the month of July. I will do this regardless of whether the review is in response to this blog, whether it be good or bad, or how long the review happens to be. At the end of the month I will post the results.

In order to help kick this off, I will even make four of my works free during the month of July and reviews of these free works certainly count.

2-6 July: The Protectors (Dystopian) – http://www.amazon.com/Protectors-Ryan-King-ebook/dp/B00HFGSMF2

9-13 July: Best Interests – http://www.amazon.com/Best-Interests-ebook/dp/B007X7WOPM

16-20 July: Better Off Dead – http://www.amazon.com/Better-Off-Dead-ebook/dp/B00DQ0ZS62

23-27 July: Mask of Mitwaba (Paranormal) – http://www.amazon.com/Mask-of-Mitwaba-ebook/dp/B00C3RZQ0W

 

Here are links to some of my others works if you wish to write a review of one of them.

 

Glimmer of Hope (Post Apocalyptic) – http://www.amazon.com/Glimmer-Hope-Ryan-King/dp/147931207X

Children of Wrath – http://www.amazon.com/Children-Wrath-Land-Tomorrow-ebook/dp/B00GAXHPDG/

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set – http://www.amazon.com/Dead-World-Voices-Apocalyptic-Boxed-ebook/dp/B00KK1GYLI

The Hanging of Hard Barnes (Historical Fiction – LA Noir) –

http://www.amazon.com/Hanging-Hard-Barnes-Ryan-King/dp/1479235296

The Last Man – http://www.amazon.com/The-Last-Man-Ryan-King/dp/1479235490

No Kinda Life – http://www.amazon.com/No-Kinda-Life-Ryan-King/dp/1479235067

Kentucky Feud – http://www.amazon.com/Kentucky-Feud-ebook/dp/B00BKQMX44

The Darkside of Down Home – http://www.amazon.com/The-Darkside-Down-Home-Secret/dp/1479319694

The Other Side of Down Home – http://www.amazon.com/Other-Side-Down-Home-Storytelling-ebook/dp/B00FG3GJGU

 

Is this proposal on my part completely selfless? Of course not, I want more reviews of my books. But I also want to draw attention to this wonderful organization that is trying to help people and in some small way make our world better. In short, I’m putting my money where my literary mouth is.

Will you help me?

–Ryan King

 

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Top Ten Best Fathers in Fiction

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

Growing up without a stable father figure, I learned most of what I could about manhood from books. It was where I could see their decisions and consequences and sift through the base and cowardly to embrace the noble and selfless behavior of a good man. This caused me to wonder about fathers in fiction. There are plenty of father figures (i.e. Gandalf for Bilbo and Frodo), but not that many characters we would call admirable fathers. Books are filled with exceptional mothers, but truly good fathers are hard to find. I believe they are so rare in fiction because they are so rare in true life…at least to authors.

With that said, I was able to compose my top ten list of best fathers in fiction.

1. Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Atticus is a widower in a small town rocked by social change. He provides for his children and not only teaches them wisdom, but lives an admirable life and stands for true and justice.

2. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. from Frank Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Carey’s Cheaper by the Dozen. This book and its sequel are true stories written by Gilbreth about his childhood and his unique parents. Frank Gilbreth, Sr. is an extraordinary figure filled with ingenuity, humor, and eternal optimism that pervades his children’s early lives.

3. Pa Ingalls from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series of books. Like Cheaper by the Dozen, Wilder’s book is based on true accounts from her childhood. She grew up on an isolated farm and often knew hardship and difficulty. Throughout, her father was a rock of strength and goodness based on an eternal faith in God.

4. Mr. Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett is the father of five willful girls and husband to an energetic and often misguided wife. They all love nothing more than to intrude on his peace. Mr. Bennett is the epitome of practicality and patience, loving his daughters and guiding them as best he can without crushing their spirits.

5. Unnamed father from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. In this brutal post-apocalyptic nightmare story, a widower father’s entire existence is consumed with protecting his son. The father is eternally patient and never blames his son even in the privacy of his own thoughts for the son’s actions that cause them both to suffer. The father even pushes himself to the point of death for his son and sacrifices everything for this unconditional love.

6. Samuel Hamilton from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. Steinbeck supposedly modeled this character and his circumstances after his real-life maternal grandfather Samuel Hamilton. Samuel is a generous, warm, intelligent inventor/farmer from Ireland who has the heart of a poet. Universally admired by friends and neighbors, Samuel never achieves material success for himself, but lives his life in such a way that most of his children find it readily.

7. Andy McGee from Stephen King’s Firestarter. Andy is one of three widowers on this list and is desperately trying to keep his daughter safe from those who would harm her. Andy seeks to allow his daughter to be a little girl and protect her from a world that he is willing to destroy if need be. In the end, Andy sacrifices himself to save his child.

8. Ned Stark from George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones. Ned is a genuine character in a world filled with hypocrisy. His love and care of his children, even the bastard John Snow, is in striking contrast to the lack of care shown by Tywin Lannister and Robert Baratheon for their own offspring.

9. Don Vito Corleone from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. Vito Corleone is a unique figure in that he holds immense power, yet seeks to reason with people. He does not force other people’s hands except as a last resort. Vito even extends this view to his children and let’s them find their own way when they defy him and they end up loving and respecting him all the more for it.

10. Leto Atreides from Frank Herbert’s Dune. Duke Leto Atreides is a powerful man in violent and dangerous universe. His young son Paul will one day be duke in his stead. Leto does everything he can to prepare his son for the dangers ahead of him.

 

What other books can you think of with good father’s in them (not father figures)? Hope you have a Happy Father’s Day.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan King is a career army officer with multiple combat tours who continues to serve in the military. He has four sons and writes post-apocalyptic, dystopian, thriller, horror, and action short stories, short novels, and novels.

 

 

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Book Review of The Last Ship Novel (Now a TV Show)

Post-Apocalyptic Review Series by Guest Blogger, Ryan King, Author of the Land of Tomorrow Trilogy.

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One of the more interesting characteristics of some post-apocalyptic tales is the sense of total isolation. The world has been destroyed in whole or part and survivors are few and uncertain. William Brinkley’s The Last Ship is a tale of a fictional Navy ship call the USS Nathan James and it is hard to imagine any group of people being more isolated.

The story begins almost immediately after the Nathan James has launched her nuclear tipped tomahawk missiles from the Arctic Circle at Orel, Russia completely obliterating that city and its people. It quickly becomes apparent that this is but a small portion of a much larger world-wide nuclear exchange that ravages the planet.

The Last Ship is a fantastic post-apocalyptic story that is fresh and unique. I cannot think of another story that is similar. The tale is believable and well told. The characters are fully developed and complex. The only criticism I have of the book is that there was a point when the story seemed to take a hard left. Throughout the book, discipline and order were stressed to keep panic and despair in check. Yet, at one point the crew seems to at least partially abandon these tenants which had kept them safe and turn into sex-crazed caricatures who willingly accept a system of forced mass polygamy. This abrupt twist seemed to go against the entire theme of the story and appeared almost as an intentional shock for the reader. Despite this minor criticism, I very highly recommend this book and intend to watch the upcoming mini-series. Read on if you want more of the plot twists.

 

(SPOILER ALERT) Thomas, the ship’s captain, seeks to keep his crew together as they search for answers. All radio and satellite transmissions are non-existent and as the ship’s nuclear fuel runs low, they search for a habitable port. Some crew members however wish to return to America despite the almost certain death and destruction they will encounter there. A group leads a successful mutiny and one-third of the crew leaves the Nathan James in smaller ships to head across the Atlantic against all logic.

The ship continues through the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Straits of Acheron. All along the way they find nothing but death, heavy radiation, and nuclear winter. It quickly becomes apparent that, with the exception of a Russian nuclear submarine they encountered earlier, they may be the only humans left alive on the planet. The crew finally make their way into the South Pacific and by chance find a habitable island where they begin growing crops and attempting to continue the human race through a selective breeding program. Things quickly go wrong on a number of levels.

There are so many directions the tv series can go. I hope it hits the mark for a post-apocalyptic show.

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Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 9.39.52 PMRyan 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 June 10, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Are Book Reviews Important to Sales?

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

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set  On Sale  $3.99 13 Reviews--4.5 Stars

Dead World Voices: Post Apocalyptic Boxed Set
On Sale $3.99
13 Reviews–4.5 Stars

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about reviews, as well as bemoaning my general lack of them. Conventional wisdom says that the more reviews your book has, the more copies it will sell. Although this may be true, it appears to be circular logic. It seems more plausible that a book has more reviews because it has sold more copies and has more people who are willing to review the book.

But I wanted to conduct a little cursory research on this topic and examined the Amazon Top 100 Bestseller List for all Kindle Books. It’s important to recognize before examining the list that all of the below books certainly sell thousands of copies a day (a personal friend of mine has a book sitting around position 500 in the below list and it sells over 600 copies a day).

Below is the current number of reviews for the top 20 books:

#1 – 16,334

#2 – 449

#3 – 83

#4 – 762

#5 – 8,854

#6 – 572

#7 – 896

#8 – 122

#9 – 97

#10 – 1,824

#11 – 84

#12 – 277

#13 – 8,542

#14 – 11,661

#15 – 9,340

#16 – 83

#17 – 491

#18 – 69

#19 – 5,526

#20 – 1,101

 

So what does this tell us?

Not a thing that I can tell. The spread on number of reviews is fairly large, although all the books have at least 60 reviews. When you look at the books sitting at the 21-100 spots, you see some books with a fairly low number of reviews (and I left out the big name books that likely get on the top 100 because of the popularity of the author or previous wildly successful books in the series):

#22 – 35

#29 – 37

#49 – 34

#50 – 43

#69 – 35

#70 – 44

#71 – 28

#77 – 30

#80 – 14

#100 – 24

This made me think that number of reviews may not matter as much as we believe. Then I thought that maybe it was a matter of the number of average stars or rating the book received. After reviewing the list, I saw that nearly all of the books had between a 4 and 5 star average, but not all of them did. #8 on the list had an average rating of 3.6. #30 of 3.5 and the lowest rating on the entire Top 100 list sat at #14 on Bestseller List with an average rating of 3.3. Now I should say this book is part of the Divergent Series and may get negative reviews from rabid fans wanting more, but I think the point still stands.

So, do reviews matter?

To readers they probably do. My father-in-law says he does not even consider buying a book that doesn’t at least have a 4 star average, but he doesn’t necessarily care about the number of reviews. And honestly we all know that reviews are not always fair. Robert Jordan’s final book in his Wheel of Time series had almost 200 one star reviews before it was even released because fans were upset with the delay in putting out the kindle version.

Should reviews matter to authors if they do not necessarily translate into sales?

I say yes. New authors hear from seasoned silverback writers never to read reviews or check their sales. Does anyone really adhere to this advice? I certainly can’t. It’s just too darn exciting that someone would actually pay money for something I made up in my head. I have learned to look at the overall rating of a review and if it is a low one, I do not read it. Although the criticism may be justified in some cases, I simply find that it sucks the energy right out of my creative impulse.

Now the good reviews are another matter.

I think there is a part inside most of us that appreciates the appreciation of others. This is especially true when it comes to something we create ourselves. My grandmother used to love compliments on her cooking — which she richly deserved by the way. When I get superior service at a restaurant I want to thank the cook or leave a good tip. When I see excellence in anything, I want to recognize it. As a matter of fact, it’s hard not to recognize excellence.

In writing, for others to recognize when we have done something special is like fuel for the engine. It is so easy for doubt or lethargy or inertia to seep into the creative process, but positive feedback and recognition has a way of blowing this away. This is especially true when it comes from total strangers who don’t owe you a thing except the truth.

Reviews are a form of recognition, feedback, and appreciation that writers need, especially those who are new and aren’t already convinced of their writing prowess or reinforced by extravagant wealth, multiple Pulitzer Prizes, or legions of fans.

It’s not shallow to need encouragement. It’s human, and its part of the creative process.

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Links of Interest:Why Kindle Book Reviews Are So Important to Sales by A Reading Place,  Book Reviews–Are They Important? by The Writer’s Guide to Publishing, and How Important Are Book Reviews by Derek Haines.

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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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