Tag: Indieauthors

Just Stories, Part 4

Isshin-ryu Karate … JD Cordell style!

My involvement with the martial arts …

I have had a long-held interest in the martial arts. One Christmas, I received a book called Best Karate, written by Mas Oyama, when I was 13 or 14 years old. I spent hours in my bedroom trying to learn from the book.

When I began attending the Charles H McCann Technical School in North Adams, Massachusetts, I was invited by a friend to a Uechi-ryu Karate (a very traditional Okinawan system) class in nearby Adams and started attending. But once I discovered cars and girls, that pretty much ended that … as well as my interest in scouting.

When I was stationed in Korea (12/81 to 12/82), I studied Tae Kwon Do with the battalion instructor. He was excellent. I earned a red belt, which, in that system, was the equivalent of a brown belt in the ranking system used by many styles. When I got back to the U.S., I started competing in tournaments and did okay. However, I discovered these Isshin-ryu guys who had a wicked reverse punch. They would slide up your extended kicking leg and nail you with it. I decided I needed to see what they were doing and so sought out an Isshin-ryu dojo.

Years later, I was running my own dojo and hosting tournaments. But I was very disappointed in the way things were evolving. I was never that wild about sport karate. I just did that to keep students. I saw limited techniques being used in sport karate; it was more like a game of tag. The rules seemed to violate the karate “maxims” I was trying to adhere to.

For example, in Okinawan Karate, all kicks are targeted below the waist. Step into the ring, and now all kicks must be above the waist. That seemed odd!

And kata, especially with the advent of musical kata, quickly devolved into breakdancing with some kicks thrown in.

Note: Let me just say that full-contact karate and MMA fighters of today are great athletes and some damn tough individuals. They are very good at what they do and deserve respect. It is just not “karate” as I had come to understand it.

The problem was that I do read a great deal, and I had read a lot of history about Okinawa, the birthplace of Karate, and the early pioneers of Tang Hand, which later become known as Empty Hand … or Karate. I was simply not seeing the Karate I’d read so much about. Either the stories were all lies, or there was nobody around who could do that stuff anymore. I was actually ready to throw in the towel. Then I met Sensei Sherman Harrill.

Sensei Harrill was from a cross-roads in the cornfields called Carson, Iowa (near Council Bluffs). He was an ex-Marine who trained with the Isshin-ryu system’s founder, Tatsuo Shimabuku, while stationed in Okinawa in the late 50s. And he was the real deal.

Everything I had ever seen paled when stacked up against what he did. No matter who you were, how big, how strong, or what you knew … he would effortlessly show you the error of your ways. Organizations, rank, who you knew did not matter. It was what you could demonstrate on the mat that counted.

So, I started over. I traveled all around the country to seminars for years to train with this guy. It was a humbling and memorable moment when I asked him how I could become his student. He laughed and replied. “well, most folks just ask.” So, I asked. And he replied, “Darren, I have seen the changes you are making in your Karate and how you train … so welcome aboard.”

That was the beginning of the journey of a lifetime.

The origins of JD’s Nguyen-ryu

Nguyen-ryu is an indigenous martial art found in Vietnam. Mai’s father, Ang, was a village elder, and in the book Serpents Underfoot, a well-respected practitioner of this art. Ang taught this art to both his daughter, Mai, and the son of his old Montagnard friend, Dish. Dish and Mai both taught the art to Curtis Cordell, Mai’s American husband, and JD’s father.

Curtis tried to teach Nguyen-ryu to his son, but that old father-son thing interfered. Eventually, Curtis took his son to a dojo run by a friend of his. That Sensei taught a very traditional version of Isshin-ryu. JD did learn a great deal of Nguyen-ryu from his mother, which blended well with the Isshin-ryu.

It has been my experience that most “real” martial arts have more in common than differences. That is because when you get past all the marketing hype, it is body mechanics that determine what works … and the human body only moves powerfully so many ways.

My exposure to Nguyen-ryu

Enter Charlie Taylor, a good friend, a Vietnam veteran, and a damn good martial artist. He just showed up at my dojo one day and started helping out.

Charlie had served several tours in Vietnam as a medic on Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols in the region of Vietnam my books focus on. He was a quiet guy, but when the mood struck, he had some fantastic stories to tell about his experiences in Vietnam. I am sure he embellished them a bit to make them more fun to listen too, but there was something in the stories and his eyes when he told them that led you to understand that there was an element of truth to each one.

Charlie was also a highly-skilled martial artist, and there was nothing “superfluous” in what he did. I remember spending time training what was essentially a “silent sentry removal” technique with him and being shocked and a bit disturbed at the ease with which it worked. I still remember asking him, rhetorically,

“And, you’ve used this before.”

He just looked at me kind of funny and replied, “On a few occasions.”

While he knew a few of the kata, Charlie didn’t practice Isshin -ryu. In fact, many of our workouts consisted of me teaching him more Isshin-ryu kata. He practiced what he called Nguyen-ryu. Charlie claimed he’d learned it from his grandfather, who’d married a Vietnamese girl while stationed in Japan after WWII. This girl’s father was a skilled practitioner of the style, and after a suitable period of denials, consented to teach it to his daughter’s round-eyed husband.

I know it sounds like a movie plot. And maybe it is. I can neither prove nor disprove Charlie’s claims. However, I can definitely vouch for his abilities. Charlie could be damn scary when he was “in the zone,” much like my former instructor, Sensei Harrill. Those who have trained with Sensei Harrill will understand what I am referring to. We called it “shark eyes.”

Charlie breaking three boards (no spacers) with a ridge-hand at a demo in Norris, TN.

Charlie did have an honorary 5th-degree black belt in Isshin-ryu Karate signed by Harold Long. However, he always claimed it was not worth the paper it was written on. It seems Charlie had impressed Harold Long with his abilities while training for a period at Long’s school in Knoxville, Tennessee, but, as mentioned earlier, had only learned a few of the kata. He held no official rank in Nguyen-ryu, so he always wore a white belt.

I will say that the kid’s classes loved it when Charlie regaled them with stories of his early training days. He always referred to them as “Papaw Days.”

Unfortunately, Charlie passed away a few years ago from a combination of medical conditions, several of which I am sure originated with his tours of duty in Vietnam. Some of the threads in Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard are based on past discussions with Charlie. And I think Charlie may be resurrected from the dead for a character in the next book in the series titled Reciprocity. I think he would like that.

Martial Arts scenes in the two books …

I have seen a large man knocked unconscious with a punch to the shoulder. I do not know too many people who could do that. Sensei Harrill certainly could. And, his “fence post punch” was something to behold. You did not want to get hit with it.

On more than one occasion, MMA fighters or cage fighters from the casinos in Council Bluff would make their way to his dojo after hearing about this karate guy who had a reputation for being a badass. Every one of them left with a new appreciation for karate … well, at least Sherman Harrill’s version.

The technique JD uses to take out the drug smuggler on the trail from Laos into Vietnam is simply one of my variations on Charlie Taylor’s sentry removal technique.

Putting it all together

I like to think my stories are written to entertain, but there is so much more to them, at least for me. They are ways to remember, record, and share the people I have known, places I have been, things I have seen, and the stories I have heard, as well as the possibilities those things can combine to create.

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A Labor Day Celebration for Readers

Okay, its shameless promotion time!

Being locked down over Labor Day weekend is no fun!

So, you need something good to read, something that will grab your attention and keep it!

Something that is so good, that you will not want to put it down!

Bravery, valor, honor, comradeship, revenge, and love with realistic combat and martial arts scenes kept this reader enthralled and turning the pages

Lee Boyland, Award Winning Author

A tightly focused and exciting second installment of a thriller series.

Kirkus Reviews

Gilbert has outdone himself in Montagnard. With its lightning pace, gripping storyline, and well-constructed action scenes … an absolute page-turner. Action thriller lovers will hate to miss this one.

The Prairies Book Review

D.C. Gilbert has crafted a taught military action novel that explores humanity at it’s most vengeful. This is a thrilling novel … elevated by intriguing characters … an exotic location … danger around any corner. A great continuation of the JD Cordell Action Series

Literary Titan

You want something that will cost you under $1.00 …

And here it is … Montagnard!

While this is Book 2 in the JD Cordell Action Series, it stands very well on its own as a great read.

After midnight on September 4th, Montagnard will be only .99 for 7 straight days … ending at midnight on September 11th.

Click the button above after midnight on September 4th or before midnight on September 11th, to get your Kindle copy of Montagnard at this fantastic price.

And you have done, please take a moment to let other know what you thought by leaving a review on Amazon.com. Thank you!

Kirkus Strikes Again!

A tightly focused and exciting second installment of a thriller series

– Kirkus

I am seriously on a roll here, and it almost has me worried … LOL … when is the Sword of Damocles going to fall?

But, Montagnard just received a fantastic review from Kirkus Reviews, and I am feeling quite blessed. Both Serpents Underfoot and Montagnard have received fabulous reviews from Kirkus … the mother of all book reviews!

Kirkus does have a reputation for being brutally honest, and just to verify this for my self, I perused a few other reviews on their site and saw the evidence of that. I guess I must be doing something right.

Here is a snippet from the review:

Like the series’ first installment, Gilbert’s enjoyable sequel offers some rousing subplots …

But this novel concentrates on fewer characters, such as the returning players Curtis, Mai, and Ajax.

JD’s story also evolves as the well-established hero suffers more than one loss.

Kirkus Reviews

If you are interested, you can click here to read the entire review.

On a slightly different note …

I would like to “second” a message a fellow author … the author of Leora’s Letters, Joy Neal Kidney, posted on Instagram a short time ago. Reviews are crucial to authors trying to establish themselves and build a reader base. And, by the way, Leora’s Letters is a terrific read! You will want to check it out. I highly recommend it.

Twenty reviews will help get the ball rolling. Another milestone is the 50 to 70 review mark. And, even if you did not purchase a book from Amazon, you can still review it there as long as you have an Amazon account.

Here is Joy’s Instagram post … I don’t think she’ll mind if I share it here.

I would appreciate it as well!

And, if you do love a good action-adventure story, check out the novel, Montagnard, by award-winning author, D.C. Gilbert; and don’t forget to take a minute to leave an honest review!

National Book Lovers Day-August 9

Did you know it was National Book Lovers Day?

Check out this great post on fellow blogger, Pat’s, blog e-Quips!

e-Quips

August 9 is National Book Lovers Day.

I am a bibliophile and have been one since childhood.  In fact, Biblio is my avatar name. Books were my favorite birthday gifts.  A week before I got married I took the GRE  test so I could go to Library School the following year.  (I knew that I wanted to be a Librarian.  But no, we did not get to sit around and read books all day.) Unlike some of my fellow librarians, I never had the urge to catalog my Golden Books.

With so many books and so little time, I’ve turned more into a tsudonko. (Tsundoku is acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. The term originated in the Meiji era (1868–1912) as Japanese slang. It combines elements of tsunde-oku, (to pile things up ready for later and leave) and dokusho…

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Do you have a sell sheet for your book?

So what is a sell sheet?

A sell sheet is a concise, one-page document that is really more like a flyer or brochure than a press release. It provides all the details about your book on one piece of paper. Use it to market and promote your book to retailers, wholesalers, and even consumers.

Basically, a sell sheet is a cover letter for your book. You will sometimes hear it referred to as an info sheet, fact sheet, dealer sheet, or pub sheet. A sell sheet provides the necessary information about your book that any reviewer, bookseller, or other potential big buyer needs to know to enter your bool into their system and potentially include in future orders.

You can create your own sell sheet using Word, Google Docs, or Pages. You can also use a graphic design program to create a fancier version. I figured for the first time, and to learn what a sell sheet entailed, I would order one for Montagnard through Bowker. Bowker offers many such services at what I have learned are pretty darn affordable prices. I think Bowker is an invaluable resource to a new author, especially if you are self-published.

What I got for my money …

Once I ordered my Sell Sheet from Bowker (the price was $99), I filled out a questionnaire and then was connected to Bella at Smith Publicity, who took a look at my project and introduced me to Marissa. Marissa is the designer who created the actual sell sheet for me.

It takes about two weeks to receive the first draft of your sell sheet. Two rounds of editing if needed and included in the $99 price tag. After consulting with an advisor, I decided I did not need any editing done.

I did, however, contact Marissa when I received the great review from Titan Literary, and she was happy to incorporate that into the sell sheet as well.

Here is my sell sheet for Montagnard …

If you want to take a better look, you can download the pdf version by clicking here. Feel free.

For those of you trying to get good reviews for your books, sell sheets help reviewers keep track of crucial book information and understand more about a book. They’re also helpful for visualizing your full book profile. A well-designed sell sheet is an essential and highly versatile marketing tool. If you are a new author, I would recommend giving the idea serious consideration. If you are s seasoned pro, I am sure you are already making good use of the concept.

And, if you enjoy reading a good action-adventure story, check out my new novel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com! It’s getting really great reviews.

I also hope you will take some time to check out some of my other “blog posts by clicking here!

Happy Birthday To Me!

Actually, my birthday was a few days ago, but this has been a great week. I am going to assume that it ties to the re-occurrence of the anniversary of my date of birth!

First things first. Montagnard just received two more great reviews, one on Amazon and a second on Facebook. Since they are short (but still sweet), I included them in their entirety below.


Highly recommend …

Just finished “Montagnard” by Darren Gilbertabsolutely loved it. It’s the second in his JD Cordell series. Starts with some Navy SEAL action in Africa then rapidly moves to a “can’t put it down” mode for the second half. Highly recommend supporting this independent author! It’s available on Amazon.

George Miller

George Miller is a writer, singer, songwriter I got acquainted with when I lived in Cary, NC. He is quite talented. Of course, I now live in Asheville, and I believe George has GTT, that’s “gone to Texas” for those of you who aren’t Louis L’amour fans.


The second review is a five-star review by Bruce Miller (no relation to George, at least that I am aware of). I had to reread it several times … it is the first time I’ve heard anything I’ve written called “literature.” I am still in shock!

a helluva a good tale

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Good literature not only tells a story but teaches as well. This is a book you won’t want to put down and will be sorry to see conclude.

Bruce Miller

And for the icing on the birthday cake …

Just this morning, I was the subject of a guest post by a wonderful poet named Gabriela Marie Milton, who single-handedly changed my mind about poetry. I purchased my first book of poetry after reading samples of her poems on her blog, and I am now actually reading another book of poetry. Who’d a thunk it?

Click here to check out the post, and while there, read some of her beautiful poems. Here is a link to the review I did on her book, Passions: Love Poems and Other Writings. It is available on Amazon.

So, as I celebrate the 39th Anniversary of my 21st birthday, I hope you will take a few minutes and check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here! And also, if you enjoy reading “literature,” check out my new novel, Montagnard, on Amazon.com! It’s getting really great reviews.

Montagnard Paperback Release!

I am proud to announce the release of my new novel, Montagnard!

The paperback version of Montagnard is now available at Amazon.com. The hardcover will be available June 30th. It should also soon be available online at Barns & Noble and Books-A-Million.

In addition, it has received its first review … 5 Stars.

This review is special to me because it is from someone who very much enjoyed the story despite not being a huge fan of the military action genre. This reviewer found several threads in the story that she enjoyed even though the language and action were a bit outside her comfort zone. You don’t know how much I appreciate that. You can read the entire review here!

Action thriller indeed …

… If you enjoy details about martial arts and weaponry, combined with a well-woven thriller, you’ll enjoy this. I was more taken with a couple of threads of the story that hinted toward redemptive outcomes after such scenes of human despair left behind after the Americans pulled out of SE Asia.

Joy Neal Kidney

Thank you, Joy, for the honest and great review.

Your support is truly appreciated.

You can order your very own copy of Montagnard, by clicking on the links below!

Kindle

Paperback

Oops! Minor technical difficulty with the paperback copy. My apologies! Should be available later today! My fault … not Amazon’s.

Hardcover

Please, if you enjoy the read, take a minute to write a review and let me know what you thought.

And, I hope you will take the time to check out some of my other blog posts by clicking here!

Not So Photogenic?

You still need good author photographs for marketing your books!

Sometimes you just get in a rut. I have been using the same author’s photo for all my marketing efforts. It is the picture I had taken in 2017 for the back cover of Serpents Underfoot. As the sequel, Montagnard comes together, I decided I needed to get a new back cover author’s picture and perhaps a few for other marketing purposes.

Enter Thumbtack

Wrapping up the photo shoot

This is my second time using Thumbtack. It allows searching for and receiving quotes from professionals in different areas including photography. While I have been happy each time, it is fair to say that Thumbtack has had mixed reviews.

The majority of positive Thumbtack reviews come from customers who have used Thumbtack to find service providers to fit their needs.

Many of them, including me, seem extremely happy with the service they have been provided. I gave my contractor, Ian Courtright, a five-star review and would definitely hire him again.

About Ian Courtright

Ian is from Charlotte, NC. He took the time to ask me a lot of questions to get a feel for what I was doing, why I was doing it, and what kind of a person/author I am. I was pleased with several of his observations and suggestions based on his questioning.

I also learn a bit about Ian. What began as a hobby for him in his early years slowly but surely evolved into a career. Traveled abroad, he worked for a veritable who’s who of internationally known clients including VANS, NEFF, NAUTICA, ESPN, PBR, and others. He has traveled across the U.S. as well, shooting photos at events such as the X Games.

Ian also has a great personality and a charming demeanor, making the photoshoot easy and fun. Having somewhat of a severe nature myself, I have always had difficulty “forcing” a smile on my face for pictures. It usually comes out sort of like a “painful grimace.” Ian actually got me to smile a few times.

To visit Ian’s website, click here!

The end result …

Anyway, I ended up with several great shots, one to use on the back cover of Montagnard and several for other marketing and promotional purposes. And I will definitely contact Ian for any additional photograph needs in the future.

Check out some of my other blog posts by clicking right here! You can also sign up to receive my monthly newsletter by clicking here!

Do You Need an Author’s Newsletter

Establishing your online author presence

If you are a self-published author like me, you will soon understand the importance of establishing your author platform. This can include building an author’s website as well as social marketing through vehicles such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Another vital part of your author’s platform is an author’s newsletter. This is especially important as a self-published author because most of your interaction with your readers can take place through Amazon.com. This is not really a bad thing, just a statement of fact. However, if you were to leave Amazon.com or, while it is quite unlikely, Amazon was to go out of business, they would have the list of your most loyal readers … not you.

It is vital to maintain an accurate and growing list of readers. An author’s newsletter allows you to do precisely that.

Benefits of an author’s newsletter

There are many benefits to creating an author’s newsletter, and they are worth the bit of extra work needed to set one up and keep it going.

  • Perhaps the most crucial benefit is that regular email contact with your readers helps you create an additional connection with them, a relationship that goes beyond your books and your social media presence.
  • A regular newsletter keeps you in your readers’ minds and provides insight into who you are as an author and a person. After all, who doesn’t love to ‘meet’ the person behind the books they like to read and get a peek into the author’s life and creative process?
  • Your author newsletter is also one of the most valuable book marketing tools you have. It helps you get the word out there about your current and upcoming books. It also provides a natural path for readers to click through to purchase your novels.

How frequently do you send your news letter?

I started out with a quarterly newsletter and have published three to date. However, experts say that monthly is the safest option and really hits the sweet spot. Too often and you are spamming your readers. Not often enough, and your readers will lose touch with who you are. Starting in May, I am shifting to a monthly newsletter schedule.

I use MailChimp, but there are several platforms out there that make it fairly easy. Just do a little exploring and see what best meets your needs.

A word on content

You should try to include an exciting balance of content in your author’s newsletter. It shouldn’t be all about you. Of course, your readers want to know about what you are doing if they’ve signed up, but a bit of variety is better and more enjoyable.

Try to include things your readers might find helpful, entertaining, or insightful. Draw on your own interests and expertise to diversify the content you provide.

For example:

  • Recent goings-on: An update on what’s happening in your writing and personal life.
  • For the fans: A section for fans and readers of your books.
  • For the Dreamers: A section on tips about writing and publishing
  • Upcoming Events: A calendar of author events

You can also do things like:

  • Exclusive reveals
  • Upcoming events
  • What you’re reading
  • Writing advice and insight
  • Freebies and bonus content

Promote you newsletter

Promote your newsletter with links on your website, in your social media marketing, and in other ways. Are you having a book signing? Have a newsletter sign-up sheet and a pen on your table.

I hope you found this useful …

If you are interested in seeing what my newsletter looks like, click here to sign up. My next newsletter will be out on May 25th.

So, what about a Kirkus Review?

Reviews are crucial to establishing yourself as a successful author

Are Kirkus Reviews a scam?

The short answer is … No! Kirkus is a big player in the world of book reviews and has been in business since 1933. For a fee, Kirkus has a professional reviewer read the book and supply an unbiased review of 250 to 300 words. Over the years, Kirkus has established a reputation for independence and frankness, and there is no guarantee of a positive review. Seeking a review from a professional service such as Kirkus is a significant investment, and you should be sure both you and your work are ready to face the challenge before submitting it for a review.

In my research to decide whether or not to submit my newest work, Montagnard, to Kirkus for review, I found a lot of negative comments about Kirkus. However, after talking to my editor, I believe that these negative comments are likely over the price (Kirkus is not cheap) and/or disgruntled authors who didn’t fare too well.

Kirkus is Coveted for a reason

Reviews are notoriously honest, leaning toward brutal. The most common complaint by reviewers is that the book was poorly edited. Over expository dialogue is another big one. A fast pace can cover a lot of issues, but when the pace slows, reviewers tend to notice things. So, if you walk away from Kirkus with a decent review, it’s definitely a feather in your cap as an author.

Reviews can be kept private, which, if you do receive a negative review, might be the thing to do. However, it is still not wasted money if you take the reviewer’s comments constructively and work to improve your book. Of course, if you get a positive review, you will want to publish it to the Kirkus website and have it distributed to licensees, including Google, Barnes & Noble, and Ingram.

The Kirkus Star

Kirkus stars are rare and valuable. A Kirkus star is awarded to books of exceptional merit. Recipients of a Kirkus star are automatically eligible for the Kirkus Prize, a $50,000 prize awarded to the winning books published and starred in any given year.

Brand recognition.

Kirkus is the brand that gets the most attention from booksellers and librarians. When an author publishes a Kirkus review (whether to post the review is up to the author), it will be seen by agents, editors, booksellers, librarians, and book buyers. The Kirkus website receives approximately 1.5 million page views each month, so book reviews will undoubtedly get a lot of exposure. However, it still remains incumbent on the author to enthusiastically market their book.

A good Kirkus review opens doors.

Getting a positive review from Kirkus can help an author boost sales, find an agent and/or publisher, or even sell the foreign rights. An author also receives thoughtful feedback on their work from a professional reviewer. This feedback can then be used to garner more media attention.

So yes, I am submitting Montagnard to Kirkus for a review.

However, I will definitely wait until my editor is done with it, and any editing suggestions, corrections, or comments have been read, analyzed, and acted upon accordingly. I will do my best to ensure that Montagnard will not be one of those hit for poor editing.

I learned my lesson self-editing Serpents Underfoot. While it saved me money, it took far to many revisions to get it to a point where readers are no longer pointing out “minor typos.” While most reviews have been very positive, that was a painful process a good editor would have helped me avoid.

And, I do think I have a pretty darn good editor. Beth Werner, of Author Connections, has been a professional editor and marketer for over 20 years. She served as the former Director of Marketing and Sales at Kirkus and has worked with Random House, Penguin, MacMillan, Disney Hyperion, Chronicle, Scholastic, FSG, Wiley, and others.

I feel confident that if she enjoys the book, and I follow her advice, that submitting my work to Kirkus will be worthwhile whether I get a positive or negative review, and whether I post it or learn from it. And I will keep reminding myself, it is just one reader’s opinion.

And, if you are looking for something to read during the Coronavirus 30-Days To Stop The Spread …

Check out my reviews here! You will never know what you might find.