Manuscript Completed… at Long Last

After two long year of delays and blocks In Search of the King–third title in the The Kingdom series–is now a completed manuscript. *Fanfare*

We’ve embarked upon the proofing and editing stage, which should last but a few weeks, and then it is on to formatting into ePub form with InDesign for uploading to Amazon.

A large ‘thank you’ goes out to the devoted fans who’ve regularly helped us by sending prompts and encouragements along the way, and so with a unfailing hope that even Joseph Asher of Rishown would find inspiring. This is our longest series book yet, and–perhaps due to its longevity–a little more mature of flavor and slightly darker of tone. We’ll make an announcement here once it is up on Amazon for sale.

In the mean time, o’ Fans of the Series, your opinions are needed on two fronts: firstly, we recently changed the covers of the existing books from solid covers with insignia, to black-and-white illustrated vignettes. We’d very much like to know how you, the fans, feel about the new covers. If the collective prefers the old ones better, then we’ll revert back to the former at once and the new cover will reflect that change. If the new ones are more pleasing, pray indicate your feelings on the subject with swiftness, as the illustrated covers take a bit longer to make:

Secondly, please visit the Belator Books YouTube channel for two audio chapters of The Road to the King, which we’ve recently ‘enhanced’ with various period music. We’re curious to see if the addition of back-ground music/soundtrack make the audiobook more enjoyable–verses being read aloud with voice only–and would appreciate your feedback.

– Steven & L. R. Styles

Sneak Peak II

A tidbit for the more ardent fans of The Kingdom Series, from our upcoming novel In Search of the King:

LARGE, KINGDOM naval vessels flanked the entrance to the wide harbor of Munitio city.

Dunner’s captured ship sailed straight in, under the very shadow of the kingdom batteries along the cliffs. The Gyrean envoy’s ship kept close behind.

Never have I sailed in Kingdom waters under another flag,” Dunner grumbled, grimacing upwards. The corners of the dark red and black enemy colors could barely be seeing, flapping in the wind, high overhead.

Tyrus’ messenger birds have flown true and swift,” Hezekiah mused aloud. “Had they not, we’d likely be in splinters at this very moment, your excellent power of navigation notwithstanding.”

Close to Dunner, the marshal stood discreetly in the shadow of the main sail, watching the following ship’s crew with a borrowed spyglass; the Gyreans lined the gunwhales of their vessel; almost every face watched the fortress and batteries above. The envoy, however, watched its companion ship. “Some good comes of this, my friend,” Hezekiah continued, as if there had been no pause. “Judging from his expression, the enemy envoy appears to regard you as the boldest slaver captain that ever sailed the seven seas, braving the batteries of the Kingdom Isle without a flinch.”

At this, Dunner let out a snort. He offered no argument, however. Correcting the wheel with minute movements, the admiral’s eye glanced between the forward sails and the harbor docks.

The envoy can swim to shore for all my care,” he said, with feeling. “But for the king’s command, he would be doin’ just that.”

No keel-hauling first?” Hezekiah returned, lowering the spyglass. “Tell me you’d have offered him an anchor to hold while he swam, at the very least…”

A grunt was all the reply Dunner deigned to give. Hezekiah turned his attention to the harbor. A Kingdom naval vessel moved forward to greet them, its flags rippling in full splendor. Eye narrowed, Hezekiah studied the broad side of the approaching ship.

Admiral Jacobs has not lost a moment,” he remarked. “I count twelve cannon per side, all newly-fitted from the looks of it.”

I’d expect nothing less from the man,” Dunner said, looking over first one shoulder and then the other. “A first-rate seaman is Jacobs. Hand me my hat, there, o’ second slaver in command.”

Hezekiah stepped forward readily enough, though he eyed the large plumed cap on the deck with distaste.

I hope you inspected it for vermin,” he said, lifting the hat by its brim with as few fingers as possible. Dunner chuckled, allowing a grin to settle on him for the first time in hours.

They only add to its charm,” he returned. The admiral laughed out loud as the hat fell, unceremoniously, to the deck at his feet. Clapping the object upon his head, Dunner called for more sail to be taken in; the speed of the vessel gradually slowed. Behind them, the envoy’s ship copied their every move.

The Trap of ‘Busyness’

{L. R. Styles}

hanging laundreyIt’s far too easy — for most indie writers these days — to rely on the general public’s apparent understanding of the phrase “I’ve been busy” in order to put off serious work on one’s manuscript.

Every writer I know is busy with days jobs, family and practical hobbies, usually in that order, and the rest of the world seems to accept and respect this state of being, one which pushes back on the established expectation that “serious” writers must produce a novel at least once a year.

Writers of old were considered to be “writers”,and often nothing more; they could hole up in a room for days on end, working feverishly or disappear on writing trips to far-flung corners of the earth. They might not produce anything for years, eschewing phrases like: “I’m in a funk”, “I’m blocked”, “I’m taking some times for me as an artist to recharge” etc. and then be…

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To Each {Writer} Their Own

{L. R. Styles}

Writers That Cook.fwThere’s a very good reason why many a writer has–at one point or another–chosen to shrug on the mantle of “recluse” and then acted accordingly. Whether it was Hemingway closeting himself in an attic with a dozen cats and a few cases of booze, or Thoreau living off the grid, sleeping in fields, wandering and mulling lines aloud to himself, or the prose-wielders that merely shielded themselves behind pen names and wrote under the seemingly innocuous employ of “housewife”… writers know that they are susceptible to distraction. And–in this–I am no exception, sans alcohol.

Being a recluse would indeed be a relatively easy solution to today’s distractions, but it has several unromantic drawbacks. One could disappear and refuse to answer emails, phone calls, or do anything else other than write, pretending the outside world does not exist… however, one then runs the risk of isolating/ignoring family and loved ones, possibly…

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Sneak Peek! From the pages of In Search of the King…

Enjoy this mid-way excerpt, from the pages of the third book of The Kingdom Isle series: In Search of the King. We hope to have it completed & edited for Fall 2015 book season  – Steven Styles & L. R. Styles


THE SLAVER galleons moved in like trained hawks. As the merchant vessel captain ordered the sails hauled in, the pirates closed in on either side. As soon as they’d lowered their sheets, one ship began letting down long boats.

Dunner’s keen eye proved true. The clean look of new timbers met Joseph’s gaze as he studied the ships. Rows of square doors were cut into each hull, a little over halfway up the sides. Hinged at the top, the doors appeared to raised within by a length of stout cord; out of each protruded the wide barrel of large land cannon, though these seemed differently formed than those of the Kingdom Isle.

Joseph counted fifteen canon per side. Threads of black smoke still rose from the first in the topmost row. The smell of sulfur and charcoal faintly mixed in the air. He glanced at the merchant ship’s bow; the small serpentines mounted there seemed like a boy’s slingshot in comparison. None of the merchant ship’s crew went anywhere near them.

Standing–with his fellows–on the captured deck Joseph watched a full score of pirate crewmen hoist themselves over the side of their vessel. No ragged barefoot group of pirates, were these… but ruddy, well-outfitted men and armed to the teeth. Their leader stepped aboard last, a hulking figure in leather breeches, horned boots and and open crimson shirt. Two short, shined blades stuck out of his gilded belt; daggers hilts sat ready in the tops of his boots. A red scarf held the long strands of sun-bleached hair from hanging in his weathered face. Dark eyes glittered at the fearful faces of the merchant crew with apparent satisfaction. As his gaze shifted to the group of cloaked travelers–standing on the far side of the deck—a sardonic grin spread over his clean-shaven face.

“A good catch!” the slaver leader bawled out. “And here I expected barren waters along this stretch!” A chuckle rose up from among his crewmen.

Descending from the quarterdeck, the ship’s captain fixed the pirate leader with an angry glare.

“We’ve paid our fees,” he snapped. “My master won’t suffer his ship and crew meddled with.” The slaver regarded the portly captain with narrowed eyes. His grin remained.

“And my master acknowledges your fees,” he returned, looking back at the group of merchants. “But he demands a tax of your cargo.” As he spoke both captain and crew looked visibly relieved.

“We are respected merchants,” came Tyrus’ voice.

The cold gray eyes of the Shamar leader betrayed nothing. “If you harm us or steal our wares, our families will send men searching for us. The king, himself, will avenge us.”

The slaver’s grin widened; another round of laughter rose up from his crew.

“I welcome such search parties with open arms,” returned the leader. His gregarious tone grew in volume. “More stock for us to sell at market. As for the king of that tiny island… I have seen none of his slow ships in my waters.”

Joseph glanced at one of the silent, cloaked figures standing by Tyrus. None moved.

“Is it our cloth you’re after?” demanded a gruff voice. Dunner glared at the slaver from the forefront of the group, puffing his pipe. “Our shoes and shovels then? Or is it the crates of apples that you risk execution for?”

“None of those, grandfather,” the slaver returned. He sounded almost jovial. “I have no interest in apples, or anything you offer. Ti’s able-bodied men I’ll be collectin’ this day… not the gray-heads.”

As he spoke, the leader gestured to one of his men. The pirate approached Dunner with a confident step, his blade out and ready.

“Move aside, old man,” he sneered, reaching out one hand to enforce the order. A sharp crack sounded out on deck as Dunner’s fist made contact with the pirate’s jaw, followed by a powerful jab to the stomach. The pirate crumpled to the deck and lay still.

A second of shocked silence reigned on the ship. Joseph tensed for a fight, glancing over his shoulder at the second ship. Next to him, Hezekiah gripped the handle of a long dagger, partially hidden beneath his cloak. The leader’s grin disappeared. His dark eyes took in the fallen man briefly and then riveted themselves upon Dunner once more.

To the surprise of all, the pirate leader threw back his head and laughed loud and long.

“The old mongrel yet has his bite!” he called out. His men did not join his merriment; they did not advance on Dunner. “Take the lot of them!” the slaver continued. “The grandfather as well. Such spirit! There’s eight years good labor among them, at least.”

“Only a reprobate takes pleasure in enslaving his fellow man.”

One of the cloaked men–behind Tyrus–had spoken. Joseph knew the king’s voice but more he recognized the dark tone he spoke with; he’d heard it once before, proclaiming judgment over the Citadel square. The slaver seemed to take no notice.

“Wares,” he corrected. “To me, men are wares… and I have been called worse than rep-robert.”

“Reprobate,” Dunner corrected, with a puff of his pipe. “A man at the lowest ebb of the tide of humanity, it means.”

“Perhaps our host had has no learning of letters, as we have,” Hezekiah put in. “I would be happy to write it down for him, in several languages…”

The slaver leader’s eyes held a dangerous glimmer.

“Wasting away the hour in childish banter will not spare you your fate, merchant,” he said through clenched teeth. “Lay down your knives as well. I need no letters to tell me you have a dirk or dagger about ye.” The broad grin slowly spread over his face as the man shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “It behooves me to to bring you to market unscathed… but any resistance and my men will knock you about the head. We’ve carried men into the boats before… like so many sacks of grain.”

From within the gray hood, Joseph caught the king’s eye. Ever-so-slightly, the monarch nodded. Stepping forward beside Dunner, Joseph took his dagger from its sheath and threw it down. The point dug into the deck and stayed. The man at Dunner’s feet groaned and the aged admiral nudged him away with the toe of his boot.

“By the dragon, a fine catch,” the slaver mused aloud, looking from one man to the other in the merchant group. “I will see gold for your backs, I will.”

Following Joseph’s example Tyrus, Hezekiah and the others all tossed down their knives. The weapons clattered against one another, drawing the interest of a few of the slaver’s crewmen. Squatting down the pirates picked through the blades, tossing any deemed inferior over the side of the ship with a practiced flip of the wrist. Dunner missed none of their movements, observing where each man stowed his stolen weapons.

Out of harm’s way–up on the quarterdeck–the captain viewed the disarming of his passengers in uneasy silence. Whether he disapproved of their enslavement, or mourned the loss of their future business, Joseph could not tell. His crew seemed eager to see them all go. Once the group of merchants were disarmed, the slaver’s men directed them at sword point into the waiting boats.

Dunner went first, swinging down the side of the ship to the heaving long boat below like a seasoned deckhand, his pipe still trialing out thin threads of smoke.

“Enjoy your pipe, grandfather!” the sun-bleached leader called down to him, leaning over the side. “Tis the last sweet smoke you will ever breathe!”

News Flash: In Service of the King 2.0

In Service of the King Bookne cover march 214 ebookAfter a two-month long stint with our eagle-eyed editor–David Antrobus of Be Write There editing–the new version of our second novel in The Kingdom Isle series is up for download on Amazon.

The result is a polished, updated and expanded version, including thirty-five new pages of material, which address issues and queries brought up by you, the series fans & reviewers.

Already bought the old version? Have no fear… folks that already own this novel can simply re-fresh their copy–for free–by utilizing the nifty kindle management feature, whether on Kindle or via the many Kindle apps.

If you have not reviewed the novel already on Amazon, please do so. Reviews help keep the novel–and thereby the series–up higher in the public view.

Next week: sneak peek section posted of the third novel in the series: In Search of the King!

Audio Embarkation

grammofono imageAudiobooks are getting quite a bit of talk-time and ad space these days. My oldest teenager and her friends discuss them excitedly on social media, using phrases I remember utilizing–in my own awkward youth–about anything “new.”

I remember audiobooks, back when they were called “Books on Tape”… an item that only lacked the enhanced sound quality of today’s offerings, as well as the handy ability to skip ahead to the next chapter. I once rode in the back of my parent’s pickup truck–across the western half of this great nation–with The Lord of the Rings on cassette tape playing in my off-brand walk-man. The cassettes I found for free at my local library.

Despite my guiltily fast-forwarding through some of the more saga-type songs, I liked hearing the books, noting that the tone and setting felt more ‘real’ for the passionate storyteller narrating the prose. Spoken aloud, the book ignited my young imagination to dream wondrous things. IN those days, however, books on tape were strictly confined to the realms of geeks and artists as methods of fitting in as much education and/or inspiration into the day as possible. Studies show that folks these days use audiobooks for much the same reason, mostly while commuting, or while standing in line.

Perhaps it is the memory of those plastic cassette tapes, with their warbled-repairs and slightly rounded corners that—for me–made the idea of audio books seem so unworthy of spending money to produce, a thing just bordering on the cusp of nostalgic, but not enough to be considered as “classic.”

As I researched the various free statistics among the swirling ponds of the Internet, however, I began to see audiobooks in a different light. Institutions with money and fact-gathering personnel insist that audiobooks be the latest rising star in the literary realm, now that the growth of eBooks seems to be taking a breather.

The touted numbers are impressive, even to the most skeptical indie author… especially those being encouraged to “diversify” their formats and web placement in order to combat the web’s stilted eBook sales. A $1.4 billion to $2 billion industry (depending on which site you believe) audiobook sales appear to be growing at a steady 12% year over year, the largest market share of said sales taken up by the Big Three (or Two, if you’re keeping track): Audible, iTunes & Amazon.

We went with the larger company through a portal titled ACX. There, we rather timidly offered a sample chapter up for “audition” a process that allowed a variety of narrators to submit recordings. Within a week we had over a dozen auditions, most of which were impressively professional, including narrator with top-notch recording equipment. The submitting process allowed us to select the feel and tone that we wanted the narrators to convey as well as listen to other samples of their work.

As indie authors we liked the fact that ACX uploads to all three audiobook platforms, but we didn’t like the 7-year contract. We liked how seamless the process was and that we had two options to pay our producer: pay per finished hour or a royalty option. We settled on the former, and away the process went.

The production took a little over a month and we were left with a polished and neat product to offer our customers, allowing another way for the fans of The Kingdom Series to consume the prose we’ve spent so much time working on. The end results far outstripped the old book-on-tape in quality and presentation, and went up for sale on Audible yesterday, December 1st.

If you are an author considering this option, know that the price of a given audiobook is apparently set by the length of the finished product. Our novel ended up 6.5 hours long, and thus the price was set at $19.95. We get to keep 40% of each sale and get a crack at bonuses if folks new to Audible choose our book first. We are happy to diversify and are curious whether this audible medium for literature will pay for itself. We spent under $700 on the audiobook’s production, a figure that appears to be average within the industry.

– L. R. Styles is an author with Belator Books