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Hey! Look who's in the paper!

<em>Apprentice to Murder</em> available now at Amazon.com

Ok, fine. That's an advertisement I placed myself in this month's edition of the local Newnan advertiser, The Paper. And it seems to be working. I've already got 8 new hits at JamesWalterStephens.com. Woot!

Here's a better pic of the ad, which was put together by the same guy who designed the book art and layout (hint: it's me):

All fingers point to Prince Robin when his cousin, the heir apparent, dies under questionable circumstances. To prevent civil war, Robin abdicates his birthright for an apprenticeship under the Royal Wizard. Yet one by one, other inhabitants of Windwick Castle continue to die. As the pressure mounts, it’s up to Robin to solve the crimes and save his kingdom, not to mention his own reputation. The apprentice wizard is going to learn the hard way that even magic has its limits.
Disclaimer: I might not be a "local author" where you live.

And here's a gentle reminder that you can buy a copy the book for yourself on Amazon.com.

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Now that I'm no longer tending for a sick dog, I finally have some time to get stuff done. Stuff like publishing a novel!

Apprentice to Murder

Apprentice to Murder: The Tale of Robin the Rascal in the Wizard's Own Words, my latest novel, is now available in both a $15 paperback edition and a $2.99 Kindle eBook on Amazon.com. Just in time for Christmas!

This is my fifth novel, after the Central Kingdoms Chronicles quadrilogy (The Wizards of Ranaloy, Prince Thorgils' War, A Quest Before Dying, and Specter of the Lich). Those were all about wizards. I admit that this one is too. But it's also a cozy murder mystery!

According to the book cover (which I also wrote):

Life is easy for young Prince Robin. Growing up with the luxuries afforded members of the royal family, he dreams of one day becoming a knight like his late father. But the young nobleman’s dreams are derailed when his cousin, heir apparent Prince John, dies under questionable circumstances. Fingers quickly point to Robin, who inconveniently happens to be the next in the line of succession and the last person to have seen John alive.

To prevent civil war, Robin abdicates his birthright for an apprenticeship under Royal Wizard Septimus. Robin’s sacrifice saves the kingdom, but one by one, the inhabitants of Windwick Castle begin to die, each new death seeming to further incriminate the fallen prince. The only way for Robin to save himself is find John’s real killer.

The apprentice wizard is going to learn the hard way that even magic has its limits.

If that's not enough to whet your appetite, you can read the first chapter of this or any of my other books for free at JamesWalterStephens.com.

Thank you to all who have supported this project.

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Believe it or not, I sold 190 books on Amazon.com in 2018!

The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 1, The Wizards of Ranaloy The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 2, Prince Thorgils' War The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 3, A Quest Before Dying The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 4, Specter of the Lich

To clarify, that "sold" number includes books that Amazon gave away for free to good homes (with my permission). I won't tell you exactly how many of them were free. I will only say that my total take-home revenue for the year was $9.92, which means that for a third year in a row, I can call myself a (marginally) professional writer.

And yes, I am currently working on another novel. The next one will not be in the same series but it still will be about wizards. Wizards who solve locked-room murders. Because even fantasy murders need solving.

I'll tell you more when we get closer to release, sometime later this year.

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Speaking of old acquaintances that should be forgotten... these movies watched in 2018:

193. (1422.) Mythica: A Quest for Heroes (2014)
194. (1423.) Mythica: The Darkspore (2015)
195. (1424.) Mythica: The Necromancer (2015)
196. (1425.) Mythica: The Iron Crown (2016)
199. (1428.) Mythica: The Godslayer (2016)

Like I said last time, I made Dad watch King Lear. He was so dissatisfied, I volunteered to let him choose the next films we watched. He chose these. I should have known better.

It would be fair to compare this whole series of five connected films to the Star Wars saga. The first couple are by far the best, and the rest become so increasingly disappointing that you begin to hope that all the main characters die just to make it all end.

To sum up, the story involves a small band of heroes seeking to stop a necromancer from using an ancient, evil artifact to take over the world and ascend to godhood. (Does that sound familiar?) I admit that it is a pretty tired adventure trope, but if the characters in my books are half as dumb as those in these movies, I apologize for ever writing the damn things.

Dad is no longer allowed to pick the movies.

More to come.

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To help promote my books, I want to add some brief reviews to CentralKingdomsChronicles.com. To do that, I need some reviews.

If anyone reading this has also read any of my books and enjoyed them, please use the contact form to write me a sentence or two.

Alternately, you can also leave a review on Amazon.com. Every little bit helps.

The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 1, The Wizards of Ranaloy The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 2, Prince Thorgils' War The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 3, A Quest Before Dying The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 4, Specter of the Lich

Thanks for your support.

Update: Central Kingdoms Chronicles now likable on Facebook!

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I'm going to have to raise the price of my books.

CreateSpace, the print-on-demand publisher of my books, announced today that they intend to close their estore. Beginning November 1, they will be redirecting all customer requests to Amazon.com (their parent company).

While they pitch this as being an improvement for authors, giving my customers access to features "currently available on Amazon.com" such as searching, better shopping carts, and potentially free shipping, it's going to cut deeply into my (already minuscule) profits.

Right now, I make about $2.50 more per book sold on CreateSpace over Amazon. (CreateSpace pays 80% after material cost; Amazon pays only 60%.) That's why I've been directing you to buy my books there. Beginning November 1, that profit evaporates.

In response, I will be raising the price of my paperbacks from $12 to $15 each. That won't fully cover the cost that Amazon will be swallowing, but it's a compromise I can live with.

TL;DR: If you want a copy of my latest book, buy it at CreateSpace.com before November 1 and save yourself $3.

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The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 1, The Wizards of Ranaloy The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 2, Prince Thorgils' War

The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 3, A Quest Before Dying The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 4, Specter of the Lich

All four of my books are now available in both Kindle and paperback editions. You can find links (and previews) at www.CentralKingdomsChronicles.com.

Thanks for your support.

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Specter of the Lich

Specter of the Lich on Amazon.com

The digital copy of my fourth book is now available on Kindle for $2.99. Paperbacks will be available soon, probably next week, for $12.

Artimus, Whisper, Ico, Corrin, and Jon are reunited once again to defend the city of Sewert from dark magic. This time around our heroes are joined by Whisper's protege and Artimus' son plus a few more new faces (and perhaps a guest appearance by the World's Greatest Gladiator). If you enjoyed the first three volumes of the Central Kingdoms Chronicles, I think you'll like Specter of the Lich.

And if you enjoyed any of my books, please consider reviewing them on Amazon.com. As much I wish they did, these things don't sell themselves.

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The September issue of Reader's Digest includes an excerpt from Ben Bratt's book Nabokov's Favorite Word is Mauve. In typical clickbait fashion, the magazine titles its article "Have Bestsellers become Dumber?" There's a maxim in journalism that any question posed in a headline can be answered with the word "no." In this case, the answer is a slightly more complicated "kind of."

The argument Bratt makes is that most bestselling books these days are written on a 6th grade reading level, a significant decline from the 8th grade reading level of most bestsellers half a century ago. Personally, I hesitate to blame this on the "dumbing down" of readers. As a child, I was taught that any writing intended for a mass audience should be written on a 7th grade level. I suspect that modern authors have taken that advice to heart and, in the interest of finding an audience, doubled down. After all, if a 7th grade level reaches the average reader, a 6th grade level casts a wider net.

Of course, reading this made me wonder about my own books. Now that I'm an author myself, where does my personal style fall? To answer that question, I took my first three books and ran them through an online text parser. It gave me an "A" for readability but complained that my words have too many syllables. I didn't realize that was a problem. Perhaps naively, I assumed that words had all the syllables they needed.

Over the course of the three books (255,437 words in 25,235 sentences), I averaged 1.4 syllables per word. That's too high? I like Green Eggs and Ham as much as the next guy, but I also like most of my meals to be slightly more complicated.

Otherwise, what did the text parser tell me about my writing? My books are 37% nouns or pronouns, 21% verbs, 7% adjectives, and 6% adverbs, and they should take about 20 hours to read. That information gives no hint about whether my stories are entertaining, just that humans won't pull out their hair trying to make sense of my grammar. That's better than nothing, I suppose.

The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 1, The Wizards of Ranaloy The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 2, Prince Thorgils' War The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 3, A Quest Before Dying

Oh, it also told me that my writing averages a 7th grade reading level. Surprise, surprise.

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When I went to the dentist on Thursday, he told me that he bought (and enjoyed) all of my fantasy novels. That's one of the side benefits of being a heavy Coca-Cola drinker who has seen the same dentist at least twice a year for twenty years. I think of it as a kickback.

The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 1, The Wizards of Ranaloy The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 2, Prince Thorgils' War The Central Kingdoms Chronicles: Book 3, A Quest Before Dying

I haven't sold a lot of books yet. To date, I've made about $70 in sales against ... well, you don't want to know how many hours I spent writing or dollars I've spent advertising. I won't say those details aren't important, but they aren't why I wrote the books.

One of the things I've discovered since releasing the books to the wild is that I'm always embarrassed when someone tells me s/he's read one, whether they claim to have enjoyed it or not. I don't think it's because the books are bad — I happen to think they're pretty good — I just don't enjoy the attention. I don't want to do any signings or readings. I'd prefer for the books to speak for themselves.

But if you've read them and want to tell your friends (or Amazon or Twitter or Facebook or your dental patients) how much you liked them, I'm not going to stand in your way.

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To be continued...

 

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