Yes, true believers, Part 2 is now ready for your enjoyment!
When last we left them, the MacKendrees tried to outsmart Grizmund, only to escape into the desert. After a fierce sandstorm separates them, Princess Gemria finds herself alone. Soon captured by Arabic nomads and taken into their camp, she must find a way to rejoin her brothers. But, Sheik Rameesh has other ideas.
Join me in Part 2 of The Kingdom, as the Oath of Iron series continues.
Ten years ago, my local library held a Medieval-themed summer reading event featuring a group of real knights. Of course, I was all over it and jazzed when I saw these knights go steel-on-steel in full armor. This is no reenactment – it’s the real deal. That day I met Buck Holmes. He and his current group, The Knightly Order of the Fiat Lux, use their talents to raise money for charity. In addition, they help me choreograph fight scenes for my stories and answer my questions about weapons and tactics. It is an honor to welcome him to Oath of Iron.com.
Karen: All hail Sir Buck! The obvious first question is when and how did you become interested in being a knight?
Sir Buck: I got into Dungeons and Dragons when I was 12 which got me interested in legends and lore, especially from the Middle Ages. Once I started reading stories about King Arthur, I was hooked.
Karen: I know you’re an avid reader – how much does your interest in Medieval times affect what you read? Favorite authors and books?
Sir Buck: The vast majority of things I read is Fantasy or Medieval (fiction and non-fiction), so quite a bit. I have a lot of favorites: Ray Bradbury, Tolkien, the history books of Barbara Tuchman. I highly recommend Chretien de Troyes as well.
Karen: Does the armor you wear reflect a specific time period? If so, why did you choose that time?
Sir Buck: Our primary concern in KOFL is safety – we try to avoid historically accurate injuries as much as possible. So we often have to suspend historical accuracy for safety and cost concerns. Keeping up your harness (suit of armor) is time consuming and expensive. As much as possible, my armor is based after 13th century English knights. In my opinion that was when knights were the coolest. And the period was when a lot of the Arthurian and Robin Hood myths were created (basically). I love the barrel helm and surcoat look.
Karen: It’s very impressive. How much weight are you carrying when you are fully suited up?
Sir Buck: Only 60 to 80 pounds.
Karen: Only? That sounds like alot!
Sir Buck: It’s well distributed across my body so it’s not too bad. I would rather walk around with 60 pounds of armor than carry a 30 pound backpack. Plus, when you are wearing full armor, it makes you feel really macho or something so the joy is bigger than the burden. Until the temperature gets over 85 degrees.
Karen: How much does your sword weigh?
Sir Buck: Only 2 to 3 pounds. Swords were not as heavy as a lot of people believe.
Karen: What are your favorite weapons to fight with?
Sir Buck: My two favorites are longsword and sword & shield. German Longsword has a a rich history as a martial art. But sword and shield feels the most “knightly”.
Karen: What pieces of your armor wear out or break the most from battle?
Sir Buck: Interesting question. The cloth, I think. You wear padding or heavy cloth under your maille so that padding and the surcoat often rips. It also gets funky smelling and stained due to sweat and rust (just to be honest). Pins and straps break a lot as well, making the piece of armor useless until fixed. Butted maille (as oppose to riveted) will break easily so you need to be careful how you use butted maille. We tend not use it.
Karen: What is the visibility like from inside your helm?
Sir Buck: Once you train yourself how to look out, it’s pretty good. It’s similar to wearing glasses or watching action on a stage. You lose peripheral vision and some low vision (along the ground), you have to learn to adjust your head movements to compensate. I think the helm interferes with hearing more than vision. Most of us are wearing two layers of padding under the helm and over our ears so the marshals have to shout and repeat themselves to make sure everybody hears what is being said.
Karen: What does it feel like to take a blow to the head? Do you feel the hits to your body?
Sir Buck: If your helmet is set up right, a blow to the head will feel like a punch to the head. Not comfortable but not bad. A really good hit will “ring” you, much like what you see in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. But those are rare. I guess I feel about half of the hits on the body. Mostly it depends upon the exact location and the angle of the attack. Gussets (spots where the armor isn’t as strong, like the inside of the elbows, back of the knees, and the armpits) are the worst spots to get hit in. A really good hit will leave a bruise, even where the armor is strongest.
Karen: Have you ever been injured to the point of needing medical attention?
Sir Buck: I broke my collar bone fighting a woman once. I have also probably broken my fingers and toes but I didn’t go to the doctor for that.
Karen: You’re tough. How long can you do battle before your arms give out?
Sir Buck: Going full out, only two or three minutes. Past that you need to stop, readjust, grab a breather, etc. After about 30 minutes of being in the field, I’m done. It’s about the same as a boxing match: you rush in, take a rest, wind down as the fight goes on and by the end of it, you just want to collapse.
Karen: We’ve all heard myths about knights and/or their armor – which is your favorite? What is the truth?
Sir Buck: My least favorite is the one that comes to mind first: that knights waddled out into battle and bashed each other until somebody fell down. Knights were mobile, could easily get up if they fell, and relied on speed and skill as much as brute force. In KOFL, we run around, fall, get up, and jump around in our armor. And if overweight, middle-aged guys from the 20th century can do all that, I know medieval knights could do more.
Karen: I’ve seen you guys dance in your armor so I know that to be true! You and your fellow Knights of the Fiat Lux fight for charity – which ones?
Sir Buck: Just about anything that helps the needy. We donate to Autism Society of NC a lot; they are a great organization that does a lot of good. We are also proud to donate to Wounded Warrior Project to try to repay a little of the debt we owe wounded veterans. Each year we set up charity goals called “Dragons.” So our charities change from year to year and chapter to chapter.
Sir Buck: We try to use all of our nerdly talents to help the community. So we also play games for charity. Our 7th annual Fantasy Gamer’s Conclave is on July 25 and 26 in Cary, NC. All proceeds from this event will be donated to the Autism Society of NC. We will have fight demonstrations, RPGs, board games, card games, miniature games, a Retro Video Game Museum, and an Anachronic Tea on Sunday.
Karen: Sounds fun! Anything else you might want to add?
Sir Buck: I am very proud of the Knightly Order. We are from many different backgrounds, lifestyles, and faiths. And yet we respect each other and work together to help the community (and bash each other in the head). My hope is that we can show others that it is possible to make things better.
Karen: Well met! Thank you, Sir Buck and my best to you and all the Knights.
Imagine William Wallace meets Saladin and they combine forces to fight a brutal enemy.
The first release of my medieval adventure series, Oath of Iron, is available on Amazon.com!
After some ups and downs in my efforts toward traditional publishing, I decided to self-publish – but here’s the twist – I am releasing The Kingdom in four parts. Here’s why:
1) The book is large. In its entirety it will run at least 500+ pages. While I didn’t write it as a serial, I am releasing it as one using the divisions I already created. This way, I can provide readers content faster as I plan to release the parts within months of each other.
2) It’s a daunting task to tackle the entire book in one fell swoop. I had to come up the learning curve to discover the ins and outs of self-pubbing while also doing a final edit.
3) It’s kind of like a soft opening of a business to test the waters and see how much interest I can stir up, starting slowly and building up as each part gets added. And at the end, I can combine all the parts into a single download. At that time I may do a paperback release as well.
After the initial sting of early criticism wore off, I decide to take what the professionals said to heart. They said my book is too big and that I should think smaller. They said e-pub was the place to start.
But some of their advice I’ve rejected, like dividing my book into 4 smaller ones – no, The Kingdom is still one book. While I could rewrite it to fit a “more books” model, the story would suffer too much. Also, I was told putting Muslims and Christians on the same side is a bad idea and not true history – no, on both accounts. It’s a good idea in that I can set the characters around a campfire to engage in conversations about the similarities and differences of the two religions. In fact, alliances between Christians and Muslims happened quite often during the Crusades. Even while pitted against each other in battle, King Richard the Lionheart and Saladin had the utmost respect for one another. All of that was the catalyst for Oath of Iron. Oh yeah, and the advice about how a Christian story can’t have a Muslim hero. That I rejected outright.
Do people judge a book by its cover? Absolutely. In fact, while looking at marketing options, I discovered that book covers are scrutinized by the powers that be as a reflection of content. In other words, the cover can make or break your book’s success.
Self-pubbing fiction authors tend to overflow their covers with images and words. There is an old computer adage called KISS that applies here: Keep It Simple Stupid. What is your story’s main theme? Pick an image that easily conveys this to your reader.
Next, hire a graphic artist. I know, I know. I cringed every time I heard that too, but it will pay off. There is a certain magic that an artistic eye lends to the cover. Not many of us possess that, but it’s ok because there are scores of freelance graphic artists out there willing to be hired.
Here is how to go about it: First, find covers that you think are beautiful or have design elements you like. Find out the artist’s names (usually listed on the rights page of the book) then check them out on-line. Do they work in your genre? Look at their other covers, see if they are available, and what they charge. As you are gathering info, see what strikes your fancy, and start developing an idea of what you’d like on your own cover.
A range of $30-50 an hour is very reasonable. The more you know what you want and can describe it to the graphic artist, the less time it will take him or her, and the less money you’ll spend. It’s ok even if you are clueless as to what you want; the artist will work with you until you are satisfied. Usually the artist will give you three versions to choose from as a jump off point, and the adjustments follow. Don’t be afraid to speak up. They are used to making changes. But also be flexible to the artist’s vision and creativity, i.e. let the magic happen. This is what you are paying them for. Note: If you are writing a series, think ahead as to how successive covers might look. Get your artist’s input on that as well, and ask if he or she would be interested in working with you again down the road. Most artists will jump at the chance for future work if the experience with you has gone well.
Before you make the final decision: Think beyond just your book cover to promotional materials and swag. How will your cover look on them? You can also ask the artist for different sizes of the images you will need, e.g. for the cover, your website, promo materials, etc. The book cover requires a higher density of pixels but the others can be less dense. Graphic artists are aware of all these specs and what they mean, but you may have to supply them with the necessary sizes. These are given on each website so it’s easy to find out (e. g. Amazon’s Book Cover Requirements page, or Staples postcard ordering page). But get the images upfront so you will have everything ready to start marketing.
One more thing: It is usually inherent in hiring an artist that you own the rights to the work, but to be safe, get it in writing from the artist. An e-mail will suffice. Save it, print it, file it. That way you have all the rights to reproduce the cover on postcards, T-shirts, or whatever you want to market your book.
Again, creating a quality product shows you care about your work. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by slapping a cheap-looking, cheesy cover on your hard work. Your book’s success depends on it.
Just a glance proves which authors didn’t use the tools to test the quality of their e-books before publishing. From my previous career as a systems analyst, I gained a healthy respect for testing to be sure all was well before I signed off on a project. The handy tools for e-pub make testing a no-brainer.
Amazon provides the would-be author with the following tools: Spellchecker: After uploading a book, you’ll be given a list of possible spelling errors, including words not recognized by the spellchecker. Step through these and fix any you find in your document and upload your book again. Repeat until all clear. (Note: The check is done every time you upload a new version of your manuscript, but you can click a single button to skip the list. This comes in handy when you’ve moved on from changing content to making only format changes.)
Previewer: This nifty on-line tool allows you to see how your manuscript looks on several different devices. Here you can view your formatting, including scene separators, and also test your Table of Contents links to be certain they are set up properly. This formatting hump appears the most daunting, but in essence is really pretty simple. Check out YouTube.com for videos on “how to” format for Kindle with your word processor. The investment is in the time but is totally worth it. I should also mention that there is a downloadable Previewer as well, but it only gives views for the Kindle Touch and DX. The on-line version is much more robust in that it gives views for various Kindles, as well as Apple and Android devices. So unless you have a compelling reason to download the Previewer, like wanting to work on your formatting without Internet access, don’t bother – you’re not missing anything.
Take away: No one is going to love your baby as much as you do. So, give your baby the love it deserves.
For the past few months my mantra has been: Eat. Edit. Nap. Repeat. At last, the time came to e-pub.
I created a new “author” account on Amazon (i.e. separate from my personal ones) and at once was smacked by the enormity of it all. Not only was I clueless as to “how to” but also being forced to go beyond the comfort zone of my inner circle to offer my story to the world – hello – left me quite intimidated. What’s an introverted hermit-type to do?
Tip #1: Start small with “divide and conquer” approach.
There was too much to learn in just a day or two. Sure I could dash through it, but because I plan to continue to e-pub, I knew I needed to take alittle time to actually learn how it works. I set my goal to create a quality product, and quality comes from putting in time and allowing myself the luxury to think things through.
Amazon makes the process pretty easy via guidelines set up for each part of the process. Starting small, I only read the guidelines that referred to the step I was on. This kept me from feeling overwhelmed.
I should note that I felt compelled to start with blank number 1 and fill in the required info in the order presented, but in reality, the blanks can be filled in any order, even leaving some unfilled. For example, it’s possible to upload a book and tackle the formatting even before entering the proper title. (To save, you will need at least some sort of title but you can save it as “test” or whatever you wish to call it. Note: When you click the “Save and Continue” button, you will be prompted for all the bare necessities required to save.) The beauty of digital is that anything you wish to defer can be added/fixed later. Nothing is written in stone as it is for paper.
So, make your account then decide where you want to start, go into learning mode, and tackle each part in steps. Use the guidelines and only read what is related to the task at hand. Delay the other stuff, and address each part in turn.
Relax. Breathe. You can do this. I did.
Tip #1: Start small.
I will be passing on more tips, so follow me to be sure not to miss my next post.