The Magic Bullet – A Novel – New Release Date – June 15

In the last weeks of the millennium, December of 1999, Joseph Edward Billings III, named in a popular financial magazine as number 423 in their annual listing of the 500 richest men in the world, has been diagnosed with fourth stage cancer… incurable and advanced. A Korean War veteran who served as a sniper on the front lines, Joe returned to the States and stumbled into the opportunity of a lifetime. Serving first as a well-paid mercenary, employed by American corporations, oil companies and financial institutions, protecting their investments in Central and South America against insurgents, he wound up working as a contractor for the fledgling CIA and through his work, developed connections with influential people in every seat of power from the legitimate corporate world to the criminal underworld.

Joe has a terrible secret and the terminal diagnosis triggers in him the desire to bring it to light. He decides to tell the story of his life as context to reveal that which he’d kept hidden for more than 36 years, a secret that will finally end the relentless speculation concerning the death of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963. Joe writes…

______________________________________________________________________________________________

     Pictures of the earth from space make it seem so utterly beautiful, quite serene with its rich, diverse colors… blues and greens and sands and browns… all layered over with the wisps and marbling smoke of clouds, such that you could never imagine without knowing its past that such a place has been the scene of wars and genocide, a planet with a long sad history of horrific violence and unutterable brutality.
     Similarly, there’s no law of nature I am aware of to suggest that a killer’s appearance reflects his violent nature. In fact, a pleasant appearance and appealing physical symmetry are the hallmarks of many predators in the animal world. The tiger, the hawk, the eagle, the lion, and the wolf are all beautiful creatures. Even sharks have a certain elegance in their physical makeup, graceful, smooth lines throughout their length, soft features in terms of color and aspect, however deadly are the hidden rows of teeth they use to shred and flay the flesh of their victims. A perceived threat from the sighting of predators in the animal kingdom comes only with the foreknowledge of their predilection for the hunt and their talent for killing.
     With humans, it’s ever so much harder to see. A pleasant smile and a civilized tone can hide from you a multitude of sins. What’s more, they can be an advantage for people like me, a natural camouflage for malicious intent. The facts of my life are the true measure thereof, not my good looks.
     One fact above all…
     Though there have been many otherwise theories and speculations, an intense government investigation and a book length report signed by men whose famous names gave weight to its conclusion, the Warren Report declared with finality that Lee Harvey Oswald, firing from a window in the Texas School Book Depository, killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. While that report concluded that he acted alone, people have always harbored significant doubts about what happened that day.
     Who did what… and why?
     If you took an honest poll today, in the wake of so many subsequent theories in a plenitude of books that raised doubt about the Commission’s finding, books that suggest conspiracies and alternate theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination, you might find that the sum of the common wisdom is this, “No one really knows who it was who fired the fatal shot, the one that actually killed the President.”
     Not knowing who… how could anyone ever know why?
     Me? I can tell you everything because I was there and I was involved.
     “Who did it?” is the easier question for me to answer.
     Just a few words do the job quite nicely.
     It was me. I did it.
     I killed John F. Kennedy. Though I was not a “lone gunman” but one of several, I fired the one and final shot that took off the top of JFK’s head and killed him. The harder question to answer, even for me, is the one that asks, “Why?”

______________________________________________________________________________________________

The Magic Bullet is the strange story of an extraordinary man, a fictional assassin who knows who he is, what he’s done, and why he did it. He tells his story without reservations, without the saving graces of vanity and self-image. As Joe explains it… “Any little side trip into self-serving rhetoric will only pollute the truth and I want this to be truthful above all. Truth at all cost, even at the expense of my own vanity.” In giving you the context of his life’s story as a way of revealing a lifetime of secrets and subterfuge, he is trying to answer that one unanswered question… “Why?” 

Coming soon. Watch this space for announcements concerning how to purchase this riveting thriller that brings new perspectives to old mysteries with a cast of characters you will never forget… a story you won’t want to miss.

 

Coming soon, a virtual reading by the author… for now? A sample.

Cover for Shrapnel: Short Stories designed by the author

Working on recording a reading of one of the short stories in my anthology, Shrapnel, as a nod to the kind of PR one usually does for a book, travelling here and there, doing readings in book stores and such. Because of he pandemic, that kind of marketing isn’t really viable, so one has to be creative.  I will choose one of several stories in the collection that lends itself to reading aloud and I’ll practice until I can do it properly, record it, and post it here with enough fanfar, I hope, to attract listeners who can listen when they have the time… which is probably a better way than scheduled stops in various bookstores, certainly a greater possible audience.

Today, however, I want to give you a little sample, a scene from one of the stories in the anthology, a story titled The Zen Society of Cleveland.  The premise for the scene? A young Vietnam Veteran living in Cleveland during the mid-1970s has reached a point of desperation. The war, a failed marriage, growing debt and alimony, coupled with a dead-end job represent a string of events that have left him flat broke at the end of every day and hungry. With a few dollars in his pocket, he is looking in the phone book for the number of a pizza parlor and instead stumbles upon a listing there for the Zen Society of Cleveland. He sees it as some kind of sign, a serendipitous possibility in the midst of his despair and wonders whether he should call them and ask them what the hell it’s all about… why is he even here?

_______________________________________________________________

He wrote down the number and slipped it in his wallet. He’d forgotten all about the pizza, made some fried rice instead. He’d been living on that for weeks now. Cheap. Filling. Just rice, salt, some oil, and an egg.
It was never enough to satisfy, but it kept him alive.
Sometimes, he got so hungry, he thought about robbing a bank… or a liquor store. He had all the tools that were needed for the job. A gun, some bullets, and a fast car, the only things of value he’d managed to salvage from the marriage, the only things of value that he’d not yet pawned. The gun was his security blanket, the metaphorical switch behind the glass that reads, “For emergency only.”
In a pinch you could rob a bank, or…
In a pinch you could blow out your brains.
Sometimes at work, he would daydream about walking into a bank and walking out with enough money to live like a human being. And that’s what he thought of in terms of quantity. He wasn’t thinking about making himself suddenly rich. He just wanted… enough. Money enough to fill his belly. Money enough to pay his bills.
He made plans.
He’d get to the part in his mind where he would be forced to demand the money, and he thought, ‘What the hell do you say?’
He considered that he might write a note. He could hand it to the teller, along with a cloth bag he used to carry his laundry down to the basement. With a note, he wouldn’t have to speak and could concentrate on watching all the tellers. He reasoned that there would have to be clear instructions in the note… that he would have to include the order to put the note in the bag along with the money, so it wouldn’t be left behind… no fingerprints or handwriting analysis to use against him. But the more he thought about it, the more complex it became. A solution to a problem led to another problem and the solution to that to more questions. Bottom line? He knew he couldn’t do it.
Armed robbery was desperation and desperation seemed like a trap for even the cleverest of criminals and he was neither criminal nor criminally clever. Nonetheless, he continued to cash his paycheck in a different bank each week, checking out the building, mapping the whole thing out in his head, step by step. The practice was either a distraction or a prelude. He wasn’t sure which.
________________________________________________________________
Will he call the Zen Society of Cleveland? What will be the end of his desperation? You get the answers to these questions and perhaps greater questions in the conclusion of the short story, The Zen Society of Cleveland.
Shrapnel: Short Stories is available on Kindle and in print through Amazon. Click on the link below to purchase:

Shrapnel: Short Stories from Amazon.com

Designing the Virtual Book Signing…

Book signings are a wonderful way to reach the people for whom the author writes, an excellent promotional tool, but one that is essentially unavailable during a pandemic, so… it’s time to make exception work.  The question is… what is the viable alternative and how do you make it happen?

Improvise, adapt, and overcome…

If it’s good enough for the Marine Corps, how much better for the indie author (slowly getting used to the title, but it still feels strange).  Nobody’s going to do it for us… well, let me take that back.  There are people who can and will do it for you, but they want a piece of the pie…. “In advance, please.” For those of us with limited funds, the job inevitably falls on us, so what’s the answer?

How about a virtual book signing?

“What’s that?”           

And well you may ask, because I don’t know yet, but we’ll figure this out.

It’s the American way, but… while you are here, check this out:

 

Shrapnel: Short Stories goes global

With KDP Amazon, my anthology, Shrapnel: Short Stories, is getting world-wide distribution.  Today, it’s available to English speakers in every nation across the globe where people are able to order books through Amazon’s web site.

I was pleased to see that my first review (five stars) came today from Canada.  Hello, Canada, and thank you.

My book is available everywhere in the Kindle Version and a quality paperback book is also now available for delivery in the USA, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, and of course, in Canada. Amazon usually ships within three days. In the near future, and for those who are unable to order a paperback copy from Amazon in their country, but would prefer a book to the various e-reader devices, I will offer it for sale (autographed, if so desired) right here on my website and for the same price as Amazon, with the addition, of course, of a relevant charge for shipping and handling (cost will vary according to the destination).  Watch this space for announcements.

If you live in the USA, your link to order Shrapnel: Short Stories in Kindle or paperback is here:   Amazon.com

Links to purchase Shrapnel outside of the USA are listed as follows:

United Kingdom:  Amazon.co.uk
Germany:  Amazon.de
France:  Amazon.fr
Spain:  Amazon.es
Italy:  Amazon.it
Netherlands:  Amazon.nl
Japan:  Amazon.co.jp
Brazil:  Amazon.com.br
Canada:  Amazon.ca
Mexico:  Amazon.com.mx
Australia:  Amazon.com.au
India:  Amazon.in

 

If you purchase Shrapnel: Short Stories, I do hope you will take the time to leave a review on Amazon.  This is the first of what I hope will be many books to come in the near future. An honest appraisal of this book and its content will help me to learn what you think about my work and what, if anything, I can do to make it better for you.  There is a novel in the works right now that should be ready for publication before the end of 2020.

Watch this space

For more information about the anthology and what it contains, visit the book’s web page here at: Shrapnel: Short Stories

 

“Please buy my book,” the walrus said, and then he had the nerve to try and sell me a time share on a beachfront home in Arizona.

Considering that the launch came sooner than I thought and on a weekend and quite caught me off guard, it went well enough, I think. I am new to KDP Amazon and to independent publishing, so there is quite a learning curve. I hope that when you order my book, if you experience any issues with shipping or quality of the product, you will let me know and I will do everything I can to resolve the issue,,. but Amazon is very good at permitting a refund.

As soon as I can align the logistics involved and for those who might be interested, I will be selling autographed paperback copies of Shrapnel online right here my website, so watch this space.  Heck, I understand that my autograph and $4.15 will get you a Venti Caffe Latte at any Starbucks in the US.

Who could possibly deny themselves such a profitable investment?

Seriously though, feel free to contact me if you have any issues with either the Kindle or paperback copies of the book. Of course, if you don’t like my writing, that’s quite another story. Taste in literature is diverse and some people may not like what I write, even though others might love it. An eclectic choice of styles and lengths like the short stories which comprise Shrapnel’s collection should offer something to everybody, but if you prefer bodice-ripping romance, dystopian science fiction, westerns, vampires, or shape shifting, shamanistic teenage mutants, or Christian-themed literature with pristine language, I’m probably not going to be your favorite author.

If you do have an issue or if you want to tell me what you think about my book, good or bad, please feel free to email me at:

jameslloyddavisalf@gmail.com

I would love to hear from you. And if you haven’t ordered my book… what in the world are you waiting for? Christ on a cupcake… what ever will you tell your friends when they ask you if you’ve read it?!?!
Here’s the link again for those who missed it:

More lessons learned on the way to publication…

On the path to publishing my book, I’ve had to stop, step back, and start over more than once, but with increased effort, I still managed to stay fairly close to my original schedule.  Very close now, in fact, to the announcement of a firm release date.

My anthology of short fiction was more or less complete about a month ago, but there is more to publishing a book than most writers generally imagine.  It’s been a series of discoveries for me, not unpleasant, but a lot more work than I imagined when first I thought of taking this route.  There is so much to learn when you are publishing your own work and it is one reason, I suppose, that many writers don’t even try.

There was, in times past, a particular and forbidding stigma attached to “self-publishing” which was generally then referred to as “vanity publishing.” Perhaps that attitude still exists, prevalent, I am sure, among those who are fortunate enough to have successfully bypassed the formidable corps of gatekeepers who surround the modern publishing industry like a moat defending the castle keep, which may sound like hyperbole in metaphor, but not when you’ve tried to approach the industry without a bankable name or a record of previous success.

The decision, finally, to self publish was difficult for me because I am of an age that I felt a strong and personal disinclination to do so, specifically because of that stigma, the belief among writers from my generation that, if a writer was worth reading, he or she could certainly get published… that and the prevailing notion that all self-published books tended to be amateurish and generally bad… that all “vanity publishers” were scammers and thieves.  (Not an unfounded notion back then)

However, many publishers in the industry today drastically limit the number of new writers on whom they are willing to take a chance because of strict business guidelines and the corporate need for consistently high investor return. While I have enjoyed success in publishing shorter fiction in literary journals, the task of getting a book considered by a publisher becomes more difficult every year. The competition is more than fierce… it’s forbidding.  I know from experience how long and hard that process can be…. and it can take a year or more for a completed manuscript to finally get to print.

Even if a new writer manages to find a publisher willing to take a chance on them, they are expected to put in a great deal of effort into the marketing of the book themselves and for less return on the sale of it than they would get if they published the work themselves. If you are going to have to market the book anyway, why bother giving a publisher the lion’s share of the profits.  It’s more work, I would say, than is warranted for the return.

In light of these facts, self-publishing makes more sense than ever before.  Whether the stigma exists today or not, the process of self publishing through an entity like Amazon is relatively easy to learn and many writers already possess the skills necessary to do it.  But make no mistake, there is a lot to learn and it is very hard work if you want to provide the reader with the quality they expect when they purchase a book. It’s not for the hobbyist, but requires a serious commitment.

After catching up with editing and formatting corrections, I am ready to finalize work on the cover design this week and to do some research into the necessary metadata required for marketing the book. Hopefully, I will be able to order and survey a proof copy of the printed book and be ready to set a date for release in September, 2 to 3 weeks from today.  It’s hard to keep from accelerating the process.  The temptation to get ahead of myself is great, but there is something to be said for putting out the very best quality in a book that you can muster.

I’ve already started working on formatting a novel I’d already written and finished last year. I would like very much to have that one ready for release before the holidays.  Taking the experience I’ve gained in publishing Shrapnel will make the process more fluid in future projects.  It will not be less work in the long run, but that work will be more efficient with every book I produce.

There will be many, I can promise you that.

Watch this space.