It's customary, at the end of the year, for writers and columnists to spend some time in retrospect, commenting on the highlights of the year, inserting some political or social commentary, and then to look forward to what may still lie ahead. This column is something like that, but let me tell you first of all a couple of things I am NOT going to talk about: First of all, I'm not going to run down the list of all the wonderful actors and singers that we lost this year. It's just too darned depressing, and honestly, my memory is not good enough to recall the whole list. RIP to them all, thanks for the golden hours of entertainment, and may you each find the peace you deserve. Next, I am not going to waste one more iota of ink on the 2016 election. I got screamed at on FB for not supporting either of the two major party's nominees; I broke with my lifetime voting traditions, and I frankly was going to be nauseated and fearful no matter who won, so NO! Not gonna write about any of that mess tonight!
Something else I am not going to do is spend a whole column on my personal life. Most of you who read this don't really know me, so it would be fairly boring for you, and those who do know me have been kept abreast of my doings over the past year via my social media platforms. For everyone else, here is a thumbnail sketch: I have been married to my childhood sweetheart Patty for some 32 years now, and we still like each other (we love each other too, but as you get older, you realize that actually LIKING each other after so many years is a real accomplishment!). I have 22 year old twin daughters that live upstairs in a cave that was once a bedroom, constructed of empty Dr. Pepper cans and dirty laundry. OK, OK, that's a cheap shot, they did clean their room this week and I can even see the floor now, so it's not REALLY a cave. It just looked like one for most of the past year. My 88 year old mother-in-law lives with us and we take care of her in shifts; she's a neat little old lady who once bent a hammer in half with her bare hands, so we don't get too far out of line. We have 17 goats, 3 dogs, 2 cats, and 3 snakes. Oh, and I got to live out the dream of a lifetime and visit Israel this past spring, 'nuff said. Read March's entries if you want to know more on that.
What I really wanted to talk about tonight is my books, both the ones in print and the ones upcoming. It will be five years ago come February when I sat down and began writing the prologue to what would become my first novel, THE TESTIMONIUM. I finished this gripping tale of faith, archeology, romance, and terrorism some ten months later, and it took me a little over a year to find a publisher for it. But Electio Publishing was indeed interested in it, and in August of 2014 it came out in paperback and Ebook format. Since then I've sold over a thousand copies of this book; I think it's pretty outstanding for a first effort, although I like to think I have gotten better as I've gone along. As I write this, THE TESTIMONIUM has 36 Amazon reviews, and 33 of those reviewers gave it a five star rating. Not bad for a first effort, but I always enjoy getting new reviews, so please, download and read this one and tell me what you think!
Not long after I finished THE TESTIMONIUM, I began working on my second novel, THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE. I finished it in a similar timeframe, and I sent it to Electio as soon as I had a contract signed on the first novel. It was published in May 2015, and I must say that I am tremendously proud of this historical epic, a biographical tale about the man who sent Jesus to the cross. I put a lot of research into it, and specifically, into making my characters act and speak in a way that would come across as authentically Roman. Too often historical novels feature people in past eras acting and thinking the way we do in the 21st century, and the Roman Empire of two thousand years ago was a very different place and time than the one we live in today. I think I captured it well, and Pilate was a fascinating character to explore. Honestly, if I am remembered as a writer a century from now, I think it may well be for this book above all my other early works. My Amazon reviewers agree - nothing but five star reviews for PILATE - twenty of them, to be precise!
But I am not one to rest on my laurels. Not long after I finished Pilate, I began working on book number three! This one was shorter and faster-paced than the previous two. Entitled MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH, it caught up with my characters from THE TESTIMONIUM two years after the events in that story came to an end. Father Duncan MacDonald, archeological consultant to the Vatican, calls in his American friends when an excavation in Israel yields an exciting discovery: the tomb of Saint Matthew the Evangelist! Inside a sealed jar within the tomb, they find the original text of Matthew's Gospel - but it doesn't read quite the same as the text we are all familiar with. Have we gotten the Gospel wrong for two thousand years? Or is something fishy in Israel besides the lox they eat with their bagels every morning? This historical whodunit is a fun little story, great as a stand-alone read, or as a follow-up to my first book. It was released in December of 2015, and has nine five star reviews on Amazon.
Those are the three books that I have in print right now. I have two others completed and under contract: LOVER OF GOD, another historical novel set in the Roman Empire, and THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, which is the last (?) book featuring my characters from THE TESTIMONIUM. LOVER OF GOD is the story of Theophilus, the unknown Roman nobleman to whom Luke dedicated both his Gospel and the Book of Acts. Since no one knows who the real Theophilus was, I took great pleasure in giving him a name and a story that wove his life with those of the Emperors Claudius and Nero, as well as the apostles Peter and Paul. This novel will be coming out in April of 2017, and I think you guys are going to love it! The next one, THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, is a powerful, dark tale about what happens when a radical Islamic terror group captures a female archeologist and a Catholic priest - none other than our beloved Father MacDonald! All I can say is that this is my favorite thus far, of the three tales I have written about these characters. It goes into some pretty dark and terrible places, but it is in the darkest moments that the light shines most brightly. THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY is slated for release in May of 2018.
As you can see, my publication dates are spaced out about a year apart, and that last one is quite a ways off. So after I finished THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY this spring, I decided not to start a new novel for a long time. To keep my muse slaked (that greedy little bugger demands to be fed, like Stephen King's "fornits") I wrote a number of short stories over the past year, and also dug out some of my old ones from nearly 30 years ago and cleaned them up, transcribing them in digital format. If you are a newcomer to this blog, I would challenge you to scroll through my entries starting this spring and get a taste of my short fiction, since I published nearly every one of those stories on here. Horror tales, inspirational stories, and even a Sherlock Holmes story - I enjoyed writing them and I hope you will go back and read them.
What lies ahead? Well, last week I started work on the final volume of my ROME trilogy that began with THE REDEMPTION OF PONTIUS PILATE. It is called THE EMPEROR AND THE APOSTLE, and it tells the story of John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, and the warped and evil Roman Emperor Domitian, who tried and failed to kill John, and then exiled him to the Isle of Patmos instead. I'm not sure where all this tale is going yet, but I bet it's going to be a fun and exciting ride.
So, in closing, if I might make one humble request to you, my faithful (or random) readers - PLEASE BUY MY BOOKS! I have lost my local Hastings bookstore, where I sold 200 or more of my books a year since 2014, and this week I had another store where I have done very well inform me they are no longer going to host author signings. So if I want to have continued success as a writer, my online sales are going to have to pick up. WAY up. So please, click the link below, and spend a little coin, and start reading! You will be entertained, and informed - I promise!
Happy New Year!!