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My Protagonist Doesn’t Have a Ripped Abdomen

Of all the tricky and painstakingly difficult tasks that indie authors must contend with, I will admit that marketing is the trickiest and the most painful. I’ve pretty much tried it all at this point, and perhaps at a later time I’ll highlight what I have learned and what I still have failed to learn. But this is not that post. This post is about ripped abs. The kind of abs my protagonist doesn’t have.

Let me break this down. For my new novel releasing soon, it approximately falls into these genres: historical fiction, sports fiction, historical fiction romance, magical realism. These four generally sum it up.

As I loaded the details of the book into my Amazon KDP account, I had to boil it all down to two categories for marketing purposes. I decided to choose the following: fiction/sports and fiction/romance/historical. I thought it sounded logical.

But here’s what happened. Once the book was setup for preorder and it populated it’s page on Amazon, suggested titles related to my book started being listed underneath it. This is normal. What should be showing up there would ideally have a clear relationship to the type of book I’ve written. If so, then I know I’m marketing and directing my novel to the right readers.

But have I mentioned that I’m terrible at stuff like this? Task me writing a hundred thousand word novel. That’s easy. Task me with choosing a proper category for a book, and I’ll end up staring at ripped abs.

Every single suggested title related to my new book have gaudy displays of ripped young males ready to seduce or reproduce or do whatever they do. These books literally have nothing to do with my book. My protagonist is a young robber baron in 1920 who sells his shares in the railroad so he can build a baseball stadium for the woman he loves. He does not have ripped abs. If he did, he wouldn’t share them with the world. He does not work out. He does not seduce women. He is not the type to be on the cover of a book with his head not showing. Could the category be any more wrong?

I’m guessing I shouldn’t have chosen ROMANCE as the main category heading. My story is a romance. But it’s a romance with clothes on. A historical romance, but I guess it’s just not a Romance/Historical.

Sigh. Okay, so now I’ve made a change. Here are my two categories now: Fiction/Historical & Fiction/Sports.

I guess within a few days I’ll find out if the Amazon algorithm can decipher what I really mean.

Please just let me write.

If you want a great historical romance with no ripped abs, check out the links below. If you want ripped abs, check out the books below my book at the link. (At least for the next few days)

Look. No abs. But he has a cool fedora.

Prologue: A Doctor’s Note – EXCERPT

The following is the prologue of A Diamond for Her, my new novel releasing March 23. This is written from the perspective of the story’s narrator, Dr. Charles “Shoeshine” Henry. The novel is available for preorder in Kindle format from Amazon and in paperback through any local or online bookstore including Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, Walmart, Amazon, Books-a-Million and many more. Or ask for it at your local independent bookstore! Enjoy and thanks.


Prologue: A Doctor’s Note

How’s a sane person to understand this game of baseball? The fantastical underpinnings of which are haphazardly stitched together with a dash of lore and a pinch of childish chutzpah. The game is ruled by mechanics, not time, and when the mechanism of the cosmic baseball world clicks into place, the preposterous becomes the stuff of legends, the improbable becomes the mundane, and the ridiculous becomes the inevitable. Oh, what a smidgen of faith will accomplish!

I hope to illustrate the phantasmal nature of the national pastime by recounting the stories of my all-time favorite baseball team—the Winasook Iron Horses, the stalwart franchise of the Allegheny Independent League from 1921 to 1954, when Jasper Eltrane fired the final Iron Horse pitch in Rochelle Stadium.

These stories are not meant to be clever or manipulative, only simple illustrations of the wonder of baseball and the awe of life. If, perhaps, they are more feeling than science—and I pray this will be the case—accept them as they are, for I have not encountered anything in this life that can stir the passions of unsubstantiated, illegitimate logic more than baseball.

I myself am not a baseball player. I’m a semi-retired medical doctor, a lover of stories, and a fan of the greatest game ever invented. I’ve heard it said (or maybe I said it) that if the Greek gods played a modern sport, it most definitely would have been baseball. A team sport that emphasizes individual achievement. A round ball and a round bat played on a diamond with a starting point and ending point of home. Bases used to demonstrate increments of achievement for both players and wannabe young boys exploring the virtues of the opposite sex. A pace of play that encourages conversation, poetry, grand schemes, miracles, and mythology. A history interwoven around a people and their triumphs and failures.

There is much that could be said about the grand scale of baseball, from the towering steel stadiums which changed the landscapes of a hundred American cities, to the scandals that rocked people’s faith in the franchise, to a young determined man named Jackie Robinson, who defied the wrong side of history with the courage to force others to acknowledge his humanity; to the beloved Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente, who gave his life to the humanitarian cause. There’s much that could be spoken about baseball from the macro view of the major leagues, but my purpose is different.
I want to simply tell the stories, remarkable in their own right, of one independent franchise that epitomized what it means to be American — and human. Some of the stories I witnessed myself, from my many appearances at Rochelle Stadium over the years. Others were told to me. The most intimate details of the Iron Horses’ entire historical record came from an extraordinary interview with owner Raymond Blythe as he was on his death bed in October of 1971.

I had told Raymond Blythe many times over the years that I had wanted to document the history of the Iron Horses. I had always put it off for a variety of reasons, chiefly my medical practice. But that all changed one day when I was summoned to the hospital during his waning hours. He wanted to tell me his stories, most of which I did not know. While I can attest to the veracity of everything in this book, he told me some things I hesitated to believe. But his insistence and his mortality forced me to include them here as well—the mythology—the insane ramblings of a man who could sell his mother her own apple pie recipe. And yet, in the years that have passed since the bedside encounter, I have given more credence to his stories, and even in some regards consider them part of the historical record. And why not? Baseball didn’t merely form from a boyish imagination or, God forbid, that ghastly rounders game hailed by the British. The poetic lore of Mighty Casey, the prodigious swing of the Sultan of Swat, or the stocky soft hands of the Flying Dutchman cannot be explained by the acknowledged arrangement between two teams to follow a set of rules regarding a ball and bat. Such mundane explanations could never adequately describe what I witnessed that day in 1949 when Archibald Showalter fouled off ninety-five pitches. Nor does it explain what Raymond Blythe found in Iowa on a trip in 1954.

There is a beauty and a poetry and, yes, a mythology which goes much deeper into the universe which necessitates this game. While today’s millionaire players may alienate a generation of fans by their grandiose egos and self-promotion, they cannot degrade a game which has defined our nation. We have become a better people for what we have learned between the lines of the diamond: reward for hard work, compassionate cooperation, fierce independence, and faith in the mystical realms of the unseen.

Finally, a brief note about the storytelling itself. I sometimes recount these stories from my own point of view, but do indulge me from time to time as I try to develop my own literary skills by distancing myself from my foreknowledge of an event in order to tell a proper story in third-person narration. I feel rather sneaky attempting this, but baseball is rife with such messiness—the ghastly DH experiment its greatest example—so perhaps it will work.

All the best,

Charles “Shoeshine” Henry, M.D.
Winasook, Pennsylvania
June 1985

Giveaway: 100 Copies of My Historical Fiction Baseball Novel

I’ve teamed up with GOODREADS to give away 100 Kindle versions of my soon to be released 10th novel: A Diamond for Her: Myths & Tales of the Winasook Iron Horses

You’ll be one of the chosen FEW to receive it before its release date. Giveaway ends March 16 – one week before it releases on March 23 – just in time for the new baseball season!

If you like history or baseball, I think you’ll enjoy it. You’ll notice I said OR. You don’t need to like both in order to like this novel. My editor confirmed this! So click on the link below and get into the running. Good luck! It’s 100 copies so the odds are in your favor!

A Storyline So Obvious that It Nearly Writes Itself

I abhor outlining when writing. I’ve seen the tutorials and how certain other professionals plan their stories, but that, to me, would feel like being forced to write state-sponsored propaganda under Stalin’s regime. Why would anyone want to lock themselves into a pre-conceived structure? I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve said it before that the joy in writing, for me, is discovery. It’s an adventure across an unknown landscape unsure what will be discovered around the next bend. It’s the thrill of the chase. Neil Gaiman described it as driving through fog with your headlights out (or something to that effect). I can get behind a metaphor like that.

But then there’s this: a storyline so obvious that it nearly writes itself. I had that revelation just two days ago while working on my sequel to my yet-to-be-released baseball novel.

Sequels are different in that the world-building has already happened. Now the writer has to live in that universe and is bound by the structure and actions of the first book. That can be constraining, but if the material is compelling enough, it’s still not a bore to write. I think that’s why it took me so long to actually write a series. I thought it would be a bore. My mind always wanted to move on to other endeavors, but I have now come to grips with the fact that writing sequels has its own challenges and benefits.

The challenge it to meet and exceed expectations from book 1. Not always easy to do.

The benefits, the story almost writes itself.

In my unnamed sequel to A DIAMOND FOR HER, it’s almost laughable how obvious the plot is, at least to me. I actually questioned myself about that fact: will the readers already know where this is going? Of course not. Nobody has such silly meandering thoughts as I do.

There is still much to be fleshed-out and a long summer of writing ahead to possibly have a finished draft, but it comes down to these simple tasks:

  • Complete the unfinished business of book 1. Check. I’m on it.
  • Introduce new and interesting characters who will help you do it. Check.
  • Find wonder, intrigue, and laughter in the minute details, even if they are constrained by what I’ve previously written.
  • Bring about a climax which will satisfy all participants in this crazy journey. Working on it.

Writing can be both discovery – when starting a new manuscript – and writing can be the rearranging of the final pieces of the puzzle left open in the previous installment. I’m now okay with both styles of writing even though one is, without a doubt, more enjoyable than others.

To find out more about my upcoming release, check out the links below:

World Premiere of “Covid Chips” this weekend. Watch online for free!

My new play “Covid Chips” will be part of Gallery Players (Brooklyn) Black Box New Play Festival starting tomorrow, Jan 28 and running through Sunday Jan 31 – streaming daily @ 7:30PM EST.

It’s very easy to watch the show. Click on the link below.

I wrote this over the summer. It’s a fun little piece talking about one of my favorite topics: government overreach perhaps? We shall see.

I watched a sneak preview of the final cut of the play and it turned out great. Enjoyable and funny. Director Mike Mroch did a fabulous job as did both actors. I was reluctant to write a play for Zoom because, well, it’s Zoom. No play belongs there! But I did it anyways because that’s what I do, and it was fun to see how it turned out.

Please tune in and enjoy, and let me know what you think.

When’s a Manuscript Really Ready?

The thrill of the story. First draft.

Agonize over the revisions. 2nd, 3rd, 4th draft.

Send to beta readers. Gather info. Revise again.

Read and revise one more time then send to editor.

Editor returns a manuscript rife with red. Gulp hard and go after it. Major revisions, additions, subtractions.

Read through once more. Solid manuscript. Advanced reader copy (ARC) ready.

Send out ARC (both proof paperback copes and ebooks) to reviewers.

Acknowledge that release date is coming closer. Now 60 days away. Read proof once more.

Find annoying little mistakes like the time the team Lawmen was spelled Lawmem. Index finger slid a little bit too far to the right on the keypad. Brain, when reading that sentence for the 12th time, finally realizes that the ‘m’ is not an ‘n.’ How did it get by me twelve times, an editor once, and a bunch of my beta readers? That’s what mistakes do. They are stealth.

I think the mistakes have been found, but still the wording worries me. There are still unnecessary words. Keep cutting. Keep shortening.

There are still words that sound awkward. Smooth out. I can do better than that.

That sentence sounds lazy. Ahhhh, word repetition. I just used that word. Please, no. I have to change it.

Wait, tomorrow the publication date? Ahhhhh! It’s not ready.

Back to the original question. When’s a manuscript really ready? Never. In reality, it’s never ready. But like a boisterous little boy playing hide-and-seek at night, “Ready or not, here I come.”

The only question you have to answer is this: Did you do the very best you could with the resources available and the time given to you to accomplish it? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then release it into the wild and rest in the knowledge that you gave it your best. Is your best perfection? No. Will you be completely satisfied with it? No.

Do you move on to the next story anyways? Yes.

A DIAMOND FOR HER coming March 23. Ready or not.

A DIAMOND FOR HER: Pre-order Now for a Special Price

My new novel, set to release in 60 days on March 23, 2021, is now available for pre-order for a special price only from the Kindle store.

This is the baseball novel I’ve always wanted to write, and when hunkered down in March and April of 2020 with no baseball to enjoy, I wrote it.

Don’t like baseball? No worries. My editor assures me you won’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this unique story. If you like historical fiction, sports fiction, historical romance, magical realism, or the film “Field of Dreams,” this novel is for you!

I had so much fun writing it. Order it now for a special pre-order price of only $2.99. It will go up in price upon release. Available in Kindle & Paperback on March 23, 2021.

Thanks for your support. Here’s the short blurb:


In 1920, railroad man Raymond Blythe had a series of disturbing dreams—giant creatures with Greek names playing baseball. Determined to discover their meaning, he sets off on a bizarre quest to find a connection between Iowa, Theodore Roosevelt, baseball, and his deceased father. While searching for answers at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh, he meets a young librarian named Rochelle Christy. This meeting sets him on another quest—to win her hand in marriage even if it means he has to establish his own baseball league in Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Mountains.

March 23: The Gods of Baseball Arise

My New Play “Covid Chips” Featured in Upcoming Festival

I’m thrilled to have my new play “Covid Chips” being featured in week 2 of The Gallery Players 24th Annual Black Box New Play Festival.

I was approached by one of the co-producers of the event about writing a play specifically for the Zoom format. I am not exactly thrilled about live theatre going online, so I wasn’t sure if I would feel the inspiration to write something or not. But shortly after that, it hit me. Just from reading the news, and I wrote the play “Covid Chips” to honor the many small businesses hit especially hard during this pandemic. I had a lot of fun writing it, and just last week I was able to sit in on a rehearsal and am really excited to see the final product.

Tickets are free! But you need to register in order to watch. Here’s the ticket link:

There are three plays being featured that week. Here are their descriptions. I hope you can take part in the event and support the hurting theater industry.

Second Week: January 28 – 31

  • Covid Chips by Mark W. Sasse
    Directed by Mike MrochAs restaurants in New York State begin to re-open during the COVID-19 crisis, Mr. Jawarski, from Peppy’s Pub in Jamestown, receives a Zoom call from an Albany health official making sure that Peppy’s is compliant. As Mr. Jawarski continues complying with new regulations, the health official keeps making additional Zoom calls to bring attention to another matter of omission.
  • Women Underground by Kay Ellen Bullard
    Directed by Justin BraunThree women living lives of quiet desperation find themselves buried in the rubble of a bank explosion. Each has her own past experiences that could impact their survival strategy. Is any rescue even possible if you’ve already been
    living the equivalent of a buried life?
  • Every Single Sunday by Chris Karmiol
    Directed by Whitney StoneDifferent generations attempt to make a virtual connection and it doesn’t go too smoothly. But that’s okay… it wasn’t meant to.

How to be Creative in 2021!

We are creative beings. I’m convinced of it. I’ve been watching my grandson play over the past couple of weeks and he just naturally creatives narratives about firemen, emergencies, ice cream stands, railroads, excavators, dump trucks and just about everything. He oozes creativity and it’s marvelous. By the way, he’s two years old.

What will we do (I do) in 2021 to allow the muses to penetrate and invite the dark hushes of night to open avenues previously unseen? Here’s a couple ideas:

Play. I recommend blocks. Yes, I’m back to my grandson for a moment. There’s something magnificently simple about playing with blocks, but it’s also freeing and … yes … creative. I’ve been taken away in my mind more than once when constructing a block zoo or a block gas station or whatever. Seeing the patterns, the possibilities, the endless little tweaks which can shape and reshape what is being formed. Playing with blocks allows one to be creative, but there are many varieties to play. Find one that suits you.

Passion. I have two passions which fuel my creativity: writing and cooking. They are a great counterbalance to each other because they are not related in any way, but they each, in their own way, allow me to experiment and control the ideas of my mind. They also both need source material whether a recipe for cooking or a news article for creative writing, they allow me to use what I have and what I am currently processing in order to form something new. Guitar is another creative avenue for me. It’s not one of my passions, per se, and I’m not a great guitarist, but it’s another method of getting me to think creative about my writing since I like to compose lyrics and songs and musical theatre related stuff. We all have a creative passion. I’m sure of it.

Get Away from Clutter. I think this is also an important way to allow yourself to be creative. We are bombarded with media and technology every moment of every day, and I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at putting my phone down. What do you do to cleanse yourself from the daily clutter of your life and allow yourself to think, listen, see, feel, and just breathe? When I’m in my typical routine, that time for me is when I’m walking. I might be listening to music at the same time, but it allows me to think and ponder. Is it any wonder that a lot of my writing ideas come to me when I’m walking?

So if you want to be a more creative person this year; play, follow your passions, and secure time away from your cluttered life. We are meant to be creative. What’s holding you back?

Those are my suggestions. What are yours?

Let your light shine through in 2021. (Photo by mws, Rome 2018)