Monday, July 14, 2014

It's All In The Cover

When browsing for a book to read, either in a brick and mortar bookstore or at an online eBookstore, the choice as to which book to choose often is driven by which cover appeals most to the chooser's eye.  Those that attract your attention get a second look and consideration.  That's why I've been so taken with the covers of my two books, Reno Splits and Falling From The Sky. Those covers got my stories second and third looks and an untold number of sales.  How were they developed?

The cover of Reno Splits was designed by the art department at BookBaby, the company I engaged to convert the manuscript for a Word document to the ePub and MOBI formats necessary for uploading to the various eBookstores.  I've been told it captured the book's theme quite well.

For Falling From The Sky I wanted something different.  With the help of a mutual acquaintance, I contacted Desiree Kern at Greyscale Studios (www.greyscalestudios.com).  Desiree is located in Ontario and I, of course, was more thatn 2,000 miles away on Whidbey Island.  After an exchange of several e-mails we came to an understanding of what I wanted the cover to convey:  a scene that evoked the book's themes of heroism, mystery, suspense and wartime romance.  With that Desiree proceeded to produce several sketches, and after further consultation by e-mail we agreed on the final design.  The result is what you see to the right of this blog post.  I couldn't be happier because Desiree nailed what I thought would attract readers to my story.  And it's working!

I can't recommend Desiree enough.  She's great, a fantastic artist, quick to produce a beautiful product.  I'll certainly be using her for my future book covers.  She can be contacted at greyscalestudios@gmail.com.

Finally, in an earlier post I promised the first chapter of Falling From The Sky.  Here it is.
CHAPTER ONE

Clawing at the late afternoon air to gain lift, Evergreen Belle accelerated down the icy tarmac at Royal Canadian Air Force Base, Goose Bay, groaning and squealing as she approached the end of the Labrador airfield’s runway.  “Come on, Belle,” Lieutenant Alex Kent coaxed as a dark mass of trees loomed ever closer beyond the endline, “get your rear into the air.”

With a shudder and a final bounce, the B-17 broke free from the restraints of gravity and began a slow rise toward the rapidly darkening sky to the west.  “That’s a good girl,” Alex said, patting the lighted instrument panel.  He glanced at his copilot Lt. Pete Stokowski, the latest addition to the bomber’s crew.

Two weeks earlier, Belle’s original copilot, Lt. Rick Dunn, had broken his leg during a flag football game at the Moses Lake, Washington, airfield where Alex and Belle’s crew had been undergoing the final days of flight training before leaving for England.  Thirty-six hours after the accident, Pete had arrived from his previous duty station at Fort Douglas, Utah to take Rick’s place.

The jury was still out as to how well Pete was going to fill Rick’s seat.  There simply hadn’t been enough time for him to become a seamless part of the command team.  Could he be trusted to do the right thing in the hostile skies over Germany?  Rick would have been because they’d trained together for several months.  The cohesiveness between them had reached the point that when the Belle was in the sky they operated as one—a team.  Neither had concerns about whether the other would automatically do the right thing when the shit hit the fan.

He glanced out the cockpit window, his thoughts turning back to Pete’s first hours at Moses Lake.  Before breakfast, the morning after his late night arrival, the crew had assembled in a corner of the enlisted men’s mess hall to be introduced to the newcomer.  That hadn’t gone particularly well.  The minute he and Pete walked in, the faces of the other seven crewmen registered skepticism and dismay.  Maybe it was Pete’s appearance.  Standing next to Alex as introductions were made, he’d shifted his weight from foot to foot, his gaze cast down at the floor.  A good eight inches shorter than Alex’s six-foot-two frame, Pete’s dark eyes and even darker hair, along with a five-o’clock-shadow beard, were a sharp contrast with Alex’s light auburn hair and hazel eyes.  Or maybe it was his squeaky nasal tone, his New York accent and run together words—combinations that made it hard to understand what he was saying.

After a couple of minutes of strained conversation, the crew had fallen into the chow line muttering under their breaths.  Alex had understood their obvious discomfort.  He hadn’t liked the prospect of breaking in a new sidekick on such short notice either.  But more B-17 crews and planes were needed desperately in England to step up the bombing war against the German heartland.  They’d all have to make the best of a less than perfect situation.

For the next seven days, with the knowledge of what they would face in the skies over Europe as his mantra, he’d stashed his concerns and trained Belle’s crew extra hard.  During long hours in the skies over eastern Washington, he’d come to understand that Pete was a damned fine pilot.  Even so, there simply hadn’t been enough time for the two of them to mesh into a real command team.  And that still concerned him.  He hoped his qualms about the situation weren’t noticeable to the rest of the crew.  They seemed to have gotten over their earlier misgivings, even starting jokingly to refer to the Belle’s pilots as Mutt and Jeff.

“Scared we weren’t going to clear the end of the runway, were you?” Alex said glancing at Pete, his voice raised to be heard above the drone of the B-17’s Wright Cyclone engines.

“Nah, never had a doubt,” Pete responded with a chuckle and a smile.

“Well, you look a little pale at the gills.”

“I’m fine, at least mostly so.  After freezing my butt off back down there waiting for the weather to clear—well, I think I’m coming down with a bit of the sniffles.”  He chuckled.  “That’s not the memory I was hoping to carry away from Labrador.”

It was Alex’s turn to smile.  “I’m betting you were hoping to have memories about the cute brunette Canadian corporal that served our breakfast the past three days.”

“What a body she’s got on her.”  Pete whistled softly.  “If I could have gotten her alone, I sure as hell would’ve figured out a way to keep warm.”

Alex nodded.  “I’m still cold—don’t think our flight suits are going to be worth crap in the fifty below weather they told us we’re going to face tonight out over the Atlantic.”

“I’m ready for that, I think,” Pete said.  “I’ve got on two extra pair of long johns, three pairs of socks, and double silk liners under my leather gloves.”

“We’ll see if you still feel so comfy after that hot thermos of coffee your lady-friend corporal sent along is gone.”

Pete grinned.  “She did seem sweet on me, didn’t she?”

“It’s your irresistible charm.”

“Yeah, that and a sawbuck might get me a warmer flight suit.  If I’m not careful I’m going to freeze my balls off.  Now that would be a disaster.”

“Relax,” Alex said as he flexed the cold, stiff fingers of his right hand.  He too was wearing silk liners but had taken off his outer leather gloves to get a better feel for the plane’s control column.  He was going to have to put the outer gloves back on.  “We’re not the first bomber crew to make this jaunt.  There have been hundreds, maybe thousands before us according to what they told us at the start of our orientation stint at Moses Lake.  And none of those crews froze to death on the way.”

“At least none they told you about,” Pete said.  “Bet they didn’t tell you how many ended up down in the water, did they?”

“Doesn’t matter.  That’s not going to happen to us.  I promise.”

“I’m going to hold you to that.”

“Even so,” Alex said, eyeing the instrument panel, “I’d be a damned sight more comfortable heading out over two thousand miles of open water if the fog lifted so we could set down at Iceland to take on more fuel.”

“You know something I don’t?  You heard the final briefing.  That major said we had more than enough fuel to get all the way to Scotland, even if we can’t land at Reykjavík.  ‘It’ll be a piece of cake’ I think is how he phrased it.  You believed him, didn’t you?”

“Let’s just say I’m of the opinion that not accepting as gospel everything higher command tells us is the best way to survive once we start paying visits to Jerry’s heartland.”

“Well if we’d waited for Iceland to clear we might have found ourselves stuck in Goose Bay for the duration.”

Alex smiled.  “And the problem with that would have been?”

“Even with that sexy corporal to keep me warm, Labrador’s still too damned cold for my blood.  Besides, the sooner we get to England the sooner I can start looking for my cousins Artur and Stefan.”

“I thought your family was from eastern Poland,” Alex said as the Belle continued her climb toward cruising altitude.

“Yeah, they are.  My father’s the only one that immigrated to America.  The rest of the family still live on farms outside Lódz, or at least they did before the war started.  When the Germans invaded in 1939, Artur and Stefan fought with the Polish Army.  When their unit was overrun, outside Warsaw, they avoided capture and went underground.  It took them a couple of months but they found their way to Gdańsk where they hitched a ride on a cargo ship.  Somehow their ship made it past Jerry’s U-boats—landed at Liverpool in April 1940.  My mom wrote that the last thing she heard was they’re working as field hands on a farm in someplace called East Anglia.  Going to try and look them up the first leave I get.”

“Well, we’ve got to get over there first,” Alex said, turning his attention back to the control panel, “so let’s get on with it.  Goose Bay tower, Evergreen Belle passing through five thousand feet on heading two-seven-eight degrees true coming right to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.”

Evergreen Belle,” the tower acknowledged, “turning from heading two-seven-eight degrees true to new heading zero-five-eight degrees true.  That’s zero-five-eight degrees true.  Good luck to you, Yanks.  Give those Kraut bastards hell.”

“Roger that Goose Bay Tower,” Alex said as he began banking the Belle in a slow arc back toward the murky black North Atlantic night.  His stomach churned at the thought of the challenges that awaited him and the crew when they reached England.  The odds of their surviving the required twenty-five mission tour were against them.  He knew that, but he had to stay strong and project confidence.  His men expected that.  They were his responsibility and that was what leaders did.  He’d fight to the last breath to see that they all made it home safely.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Falling From The Sky Update

Falling From The Sky is now available at not only Amazon.com, but also Barnes & Noble, the iBook Store, and Kobo.  If you haven't already, check it out.  The prologue is in my earlier post and I'll soon be posting the first chapter.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Falling From The Sky Available For Purchase

Falling From The Sky went live this afternoon on Amazon.com.  It also is available for pre-sale in the B&N. iBooks and Kobo bookstores with a delivery date of July 1.  I hope you enjoy the read.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Falling From The Sky To Launch Soon

Many months have passed since the last posting on this blog.  Much has happened in that time, most notably my wife’s amazing recovery from what essentially was a broken neck, i.e., two displaced cervical disks suffered when we were in an automobile accident last Labor Day weekend.  After surviving a medivac helicopter ride from the island to Harborview Hospital in Seattle and an emergency six-hour surgery, she was in a hard neck brace for almost three months followed by three more months of slogging through rehab therapy.  I was proud of her determination and am quite happy to have her back living an active life, most notably tending to her beloved garden, particularly since her surgeon told us we were quite fortunate that she didn’t end up paralyzed.

As for me, during all that time, I acted in the role of primary care giver (particularly during the first few weeks of the recovery process) and paid scant attention to my writing.  That all changed toward the end of winter, when I returned to editing the manuscript of Falling From The Sky.  That process took longer than I’d anticipated, but is now behind me and the process of creating a Word document to ePub and MOBI begun.  The book’s launch date is on the horizon, so I though you might like to know a bit about it. 

The gestation period of Falling From The Sky was not short lived.  For more than a decade, and through several iterations, I struggled with what originally was intended to be a liberally fictionalized account of an alleged event in my paternal grandmother’s family history.  The novel’s first draft, entitled The Pouch, was set at the end of the 20th Century, with substantial flashbacks to events that took place in the mid 18th century.  More drafts followed, but it was only when I changed the main plot focus to a time and place that has always intrigued me, World War II and the role American B-17 pilots played in that conflict, that I finally I hit upon a premise that allowed me to paint the tale I wanted to tell. 

Falling From The Sky is a story of heroism, a tribute to the brave young men who took to the skies over Europe during the war in the face of massive losses of life and property to help defeat the Axis aggressors.  It is also a tale of mystery and suspense as well as a love story.  To give you a bit of the story’s flavor as well as setting the stage for you, I’m including a blurb detailing what the tale is all about as well as the book's Prologue.  I hope you are intrigued enough to want to read more. 

FALLING FROM THE SKY 

When American B-17 pilot Alex Kent isn’t struggling to survive World War II bombing raids in the skies over Germany he spends time trying to unravel a conundrum with even greater dangers: uncovering the lost legacy of William Kent, his great-grandfather seven generations removed.  Alex knows nothing about his ancestor’s life prior to William’s arrival in 1740 colonial Virginia as an eleven-year-old indentured servant although Kent family folklore suggests William might have been the exiled child of an English noble.  Over the generations, several Kent family members have tried to confirm that speculation.  None succeeded.  Some died trying.
 
On leave in war torn London from his bombing duties, Alex meets Sarah Perkins, fiancée of the Duke of Wyeford’s only son.  Alex and Sarah soon realize they are attracted to one another and she volunteers to help in his pursuit of William’s heritage. 

When Wyeford becomes aware of Alex’s quest, he understands the American pilot poses a threat to the conspiracy of silence concocted two hundred years earlier to deny young William his legitimate birthright.  Exposure of the conspiracy would topple the Wyeford dynasty, stripping the duke of his title and wealth.  He vows to take whatever actions are necessary to see that never happens.  Danger and tension escalate as Alex’s search barrels toward a shocking conclusion. 

PROLOGUE
LONDON, DECEMBER 1781
Albert Drayton paused just inside the door of the fetid smelling bedchamber, his gaze coming to rest on his father, the Duke of Wyeford.  The duke, his head propped on pillows, appeared to be asleep in the room’s massive four-poster canopied bed.  Mouth agape, the old man’s chest shuddered raggedly with each wheezing breath.  At the duke’s bedside with his back to the door, Sir James Percival, the Drayton family doctor, was taking the duke’s pulse.  Albert had been aware for several months that his father was in failing health, but he’d not expected to encounter a scene like this when he arrived at the duke’s home on London’s Hanover Square.
Percival lowered the duke’s wrist onto the bed then turned to face Albert.  “Your father has been comatose like this for more than twenty-four hours.  I’ve been administering massive doses of laudanum to ease his pain, but I have no idea if it is helping.  What I do know is that I was despairing of your arriving before the duke passed on because he has little time remaining on God’s good earth.  I doubt he opens his eyes ever again.”
“I came as quickly as my horse could carry me,” Albert said, “but the roads to the west between here and Drayton Hall are almost impassable what with all the snow that’s fallen in the past three days.  This is a horrible winter.”
“Tis the worst December I can remember,” Percival agreed.
“I’ve been riding for the better part of the last two days.  I’m starving,” Albert said, “and I’m soaked to the bone.”  He moved across the gloomy room to the granite faced fireplace where a crackling wood fire cast flickering shadows.
         “Should I send downstairs for some food?”
“I spoke with Thomas when I arrived ten minutes ago,” Albert said, referring to the duke’s valet, the son of the old man’s former majordomo, Silas Carter, who died in a carriage accident two years earlier.
“He’s seeing that a proper meal is being laid for me in the dining room.  It should be on the table by the time we’re through here and I get into some dry clothes.  Now, what is it that is so important that I had to risk life and limb getting here?  The bloody messenger you sent to fetch me said the duke had something urgent to tell me, but he had no idea as to what it was.”
Percival picked up a leather pouch from atop the ornately carved lamp table next to the duke’s bed.
“What is that?”
“I’ve no clue,” Percival said, handing the pouch to Albert.  “Your father told me the day before yesterday that I was to give it to you should he pass before your arrival.”
“It’s what’s inside that is important,” a raspy voice announced.
Albert and the doctor turned to see the duke trying to raise himself to a sitting position.
“Prop some pillows behind me, Percival,” the duke wheezed, and then leave me alone with Albert.  There is something only he needs to hear before I draw my last breath—which will be quite soon now.”
“Would you like more laudanum, my grace?  It will help with your pain.”
“Damn it, Percival, I don’t need laudanum.  My mind must be clear for what it is I need to tell my son.  Just do as I say and get out.”
“Leave us, Percival,” Albert said moving to draw a chair close to the bed.  “If I require your presence, I shall ring.”
“I’m a bastard,” the duke announced without forewarning when the door closed behind Percival’s reluctant departure, his voice so low Albert had to strain to hear the words.
Albert smiled.  “Tell me something I don’t already know, father,” he said, edging his chair even closer.
“I’m not making a joke,” the duke managed to say after taking several gulps of air.  “I’m truly a bastard, illegitimate, something I only learned from my father when he too lay on his deathbed.”
“I don’t understand what you are trying to tell me,” Albert said from behind the hand he was using to shield his nose from the rank smell of the duke’s decaying body.
“Just that the words mean.  I am my father’s bastard son and as such should not have been entitled to claim the Wyeford title at his death.  The title was not mine to inherit.  By the laws of the land it should have gone to my younger half-brother William, the third duke’s only legitimate heir.  William was ten or eleven at the time.”
“But that means—that means, if what you are saying is true, you have no title to pass to me,” Albert said, his voice quaking.
The duke took several more ragged breaths then reached to wrap cadaverous fingers around Albert’s wrist.  “Yes, but only I, you and Thomas know that truth.  I’ll soon be dead, Thomas has good reason to keep our secret and I’m sure the two of you will take the steps necessary to see no one else ever discovers it.”
“Thomas?  How does Thomas know any of this?”
“It’s a long tale, one you’ll find related in a journal I’ve kept since the night of my father’s death.  The journal is inside the pouch.  It discloses everything.  Read all I’ve written and you’ll understand.”
Several racking coughs shook the old man’s body.  When they finally subsided, he continued.  “What’s most important is that on the night I became the Duke of Wyeford Silas and I concocted a scheme, a conspiracy of silence, to insure William would never have the opportunity to discover the truth.  The next day we brought you mother into our scheme.  We all agreed that William should meet an unfortunate end.  You mother came up with the plan to make that happen.  She saw to it that he was imprisoned on a family ship departing for America.  She gave him the surname Kent and instructed the ship’s captain that young Kent was to meet an unfortunate accident on the voyage, his body buried at sea.”
More coughs shook the duke’s body.  His chin dropped to rest on his chest and wrapped his arms around his ribs as if he was trying to hold his body together.  After several seconds, he raised his head and resumed his tale.  “That didn’t happen because the bloody Captain was a greedy sot,” he said, his voice weaker, now almost a whisper.  “He sought to make himself a few extra crowns by taking William all the way to America and selling him as an indentured servant.  He assumed we’d never find out, but we did and he was made to pay for his perfidy.  As for William, we never learned of his fate other than that he had been indentured to a Virginia plantation owner—beyond that, nothing.  I’ve lived in terror for the past forty plus years that he would show up claiming to be the legitimate heir to the Wyeford title.”
“How would a young boy have any knowledge of that?  Surely he knew nothing of the circumstances of your birth.”
“May I have some water, please?”
Albert poured from a pitcher on the bedside table and held the crystal goblet to his father’s lips.
After several feeble sips the duke indicated enough by pushing the glass away.  “You’re probably right,” he gasped.  “There is no way William could have known any of that.  Still I quake every time I hear that surname—Kent.  You should, too, because there is everything for you to lose if the truth ever became known.  Read my journal and you’ll truly understand.”
“Yes, your grace, I pledge to do that this very night.”
“I have one final request of you,” the duke wheezed.  He took in a noisy breath.
“Anything, your grace.”
“Do for me what Silas Carter did to my father.”
“What is that?”
“End it all for me—right now.  Smother me with one of my pillows.  I’m exhausted by the pain and wish for it to be over.”
Albert stared at his father.  “But—"
“Please, that is my last request.”
Albert stared at his father.  Finally, he stood and yanked a pillow from behind the duke’s head then pressed it against the old man’s face.  There was no resistance and soon the rise and fall of the duke’s chest stopped.  Albert shuddered.  By his act of mercy he had become part of a conspiracy of silence.  He’d also become the fifth Duke of Wyeford.  He started to the door, but then turned back to the bed.  Grasping the dead duke’s left hand he removed the symbol of the Wyeford title.  God help anyone who tried to take this away from me, he thought as he slipped the signet ring onto his own little finger.

 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Injury Timeout

I  apologize for not keeping this blog up to date but have been busy for the past six weeks tending to my wife who sustained a severe neck injury in an auto accident on September 1.  As a result I have put my writing on hold for the moment to insure she has the best care possible as she recovers.  We are about half way to the point where she should be able to shed the rigid cervical collar she must wear 24/7.  At that point, we enter a new stage of the rehabilitation process.  That's when I should be able to refocus a bit and start to think about getting the editing process for Falling from the Sky completed.  After that, it will be on to publication in the early new year.
For those of you who have been aware of our situation and have sent good wishes and prayers our way, thank you.  Your kindness is appreciated and can never be repaid.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Layered Pages Blog

Indie writers always are looking for ways to promote their work.  So when Stephanie Hopkins asked if I would like to be interviewed about Reno Splits on her blog, Layered Pages, I jumped at the opportunity.  The result can be found at the following link.  http://layeredpages.com/2013/08/19/interview-with-author-phillip-winberry/  Have a look and if, after you've visited Stephanie's blog, you want to purchase a copy of Reno Splits (if you've already done so, thank you) it's available at all the usual eBook sales sites including from a link on the indieBRAG website.  Check that site out as well, www.bragmedallion.com where you'll find books that appeal to all reading tastes.   Sometime in September, you'll also be able to purchase a copy of my next eBook, Falling from the Sky, a suspenseful story set in World War II England and two years afterward.  I'll have more to tell you about it in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This posting recently appeared on the FamousFivePlus.com website.


A Divorce Ranch Can Be A Dangerous Place 

One of the first questions often asked of an author when their new novel first appears in bookstores, particularly if they are a debuting author, is what expertise or inside knowledge gave them the necessary insight to create the plot and characters used to tell their tale?  Or maybe, what inspired them to write this particular novel?

The answer to those and many other questions is unique to each author and the story they’ve crafted.  When my first novel Reno Splits: Mystery on a Nevada Divorce Ranch made its debut last year, similar questions came my way.  Many readers initially were drawn to the story because of the title, in particular the divorce ranch reference.  Most had never heard of such a place.  What was a divorce ranch they wanted to know?  I was able to answer that question because I did know, but only because I’d grown up in the central valley of California at a time, the mid 20th century when divorce ranches existed, some would say flourished on the east side of the Sierra Nevada mountains just across the state line near Reno, Nevada.  There, women, many of them rich eastern socialites and sometimes Hollywood film stars, would come to stay and be entertained on dude ranches that catered to their every need and whim while they waited to establish the six weeks legal residency required by Nevada to obtain a divorce.  I knew all that but had consigned it to the back recesses of my mind as I grew to adulthood and moved on with my life. 

Fast forward almost fifty years to when my legal career was winding down.  Beginning to think of myself as a budding author, I was busy researching and starting to write my first manuscript (which after many false starts and lots of change of direction has become what will be my second ePublication later this summer).  One afternoon during that time I found myself sitting in my ophthalmologist’s office next to a stack of long out of date magazines.  By chance I picked up a copy of Smithsonian and thumbed its well-worn pages until my eyes settled on a two page spread about the now extinct Nevada divorce ranch industry.  I suspect I smiled at what I was reading, not only because it brought back memories of a simpler time of life, but also because the story was planting a seed in my mind.  What if I was to create and write a murder mystery centered around life on a divorce ranch?  Within weeks, as the first images of what that might entail flooded my imagination, I found myself on an airplane to Reno to start the research process and to see if any remnants of the divorce ranches still existed.  With considerable assistance from the staff of the Nevada State Historical Society I was able to pull together enough material on that trip to validate going forward with the now fully germinating seeds that were spouting in my mind.  So much so that I put my first story aside and plunged ahead with what became Reno Splits 

Did I have the expertise to create the story?  Of course I did.  I’m a writer.  That’s what I do.  Did I have inside knowledge about the subject matter sufficient to tell a credible story?  A bit, certainly a lot more than most people because of the knowledge about divorce ranches I’d gained as a youngster.  But most importantly, with the help of historians with access to necessary facts, figures, and historic pictures, I’d parlayed that iota of factual information, into a story that painted an accurate portrayal of a time and place that existed for only thirty to thirty-five years.  A time that will never exist again except in history and on the pages of Reno Splits.  If you’ve read my story, I hope you enjoyed it.  If you haven’t you might give it a look.  It can found at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Reno-Splits-Mystery-Divorce-book/dp/B008VY2XSE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372886145&sr=8-1&keywords=reno+splits, Amazon U.K. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Reno-Splits-Mystery-Divorce-ebook/dp/B008VY2XSE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372886287&sr=8-1&keywords=reno+splits and other eBookstores.