To preorder or . . .

Update: It appears the offering our next book on preorder might have benefits of which we were unaware (live and learn). We are going to look into this over this weekend, and if things are as it appears they might be, we will be offering Asylum for preorder by the end of this month. If this works out, the preorder price for Asylum will be discounted (assuming that is possible).

We are a little curious how our faithful readers feel about preordering books. In the larger publishing universe, preorders are used to drive a lot of marketing decisions. In the itsy-bitsy space we inhabit, there doesn’t seem to be much point to it. (I’ll admit I don’t really understand how preorders affect Amazon rankings and thus how useful they are for generating that “all-important buzz” prior to the book’s release, so we probably have something to learn there.) Our basic thought is that it’s just as well to make the book available when it’s ready, and not deal with preordering at this point. (When we have 3+ books already out there, things might change.)

Part of our question is that we aren’t aware of how readers view preordering. Do they consider is a good thing or a not-so-good thing, or something that does not matter either way? So sound off in the comments on this, if you feel so inclined.

BTW: The publication date for Asylum will be sometime between the middle and end of February. We are still waiting to hear back on getting the final proofing done, and once we do, we’ll have a firm date. And, of course, we will post an update here as soon as we know.

Thanks again for all your interest and support!

An Extraordinary Anniversary

Last Saturday, there passed a most notable anniversary, and I’m sorry I was traveling and thus unable to post this when it was due, for it was the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Samar.

The Battle of Samar, fought on the morning 25 October 1944, as part of the larger Battle of Leyte Gulf, had a greater disparity of forces than almost any other major battle in recorded history. It pitted the USN Seventh Fleet’s Task Unit 77.4.3 (known by its call sign “Taffy 3”), commanded by Rear Admiral Clifton (“Ziggy”) Sprague, against the Imperial Japanese Navy’s “Center Force” (a designation of convenience) commanded by Vice Admiral Takeo Kurita (in Japanese, properly Kurita Takeo).

Taffy 3 consisted of six escort carriers, three destroyers, and four destroyer escorts (ships even smaller than a destroyer). The largest gun any of these ships mounted was a 5-in gun, firing a shell weighing about 54 pounds. The escort carriers—small carriers built on a merchant hull—carried an air group of maybe two dozen aircraft and had a top speed of 18 knots, compared to a fast fleet carrier, with an air group of about 100 planes, that could do over 30 knots. The designator for these ships was CVE, said to mean “Combustible, Vulnerable, Expendable.”

Taffy 3’s mission was to support the USN’s landings ongoing at Leyte Gulf. The ships and planes were there to provide fire support for the landing and to carry out antisubmarine duties. It was never intended (or imagined), they would engage in a fleet action.

The force they faced consisted of eleven destroyers, two light cruisers, six heavy cruisers, and four battleships, including the super-battleship Yamato, which mounted 18-in guns as her main battery, the largest ever deployed. One shell from these guns weighed over 3,000 pounds. And they were fast: Kurita’s force could move at 34 knots. By doing away with all safety measures, the fastest ships of Taffy 3 could make only 28 knots.

The battle was the result of a series of disastrous miscommunications within the USN command structure, which placed Taffy 3 in an impossible position. Detecting Kurita’s fleet bearing down on them, the three American destroyers and four destroyer escorts attacked, hoping (rather desperately) they might buy enough time to allow the slow, thin-skinned and practically defenseless “jeep” carriers to get away. It was as they moved to engage that Commander Earnest J. Evans, captain, USS Johnston (DD-557), who would not survive the battle, delivered this immortal address to his crew:

“A large Japanese fleet has been contacted. They are fifteen miles away and headed in our direction. They are believed to have four battleships, eight cruisers, and a number of destroyers. This will be a fight against overwhelming odds from which survival cannot be expected.

“We will do what damage we can.”

The absurdity of their attack can be quantified in any number of ways. For example, one might observe that a single 18-in gun turret on the Yamato weighed more that any of the ships attacking her. One could remark the fact that seven ships attacking over three times their number, even if the ships were comparable, is stark lunacy.

But attack they did, with everything they had and then some. Supported by their aircraft (which were not armed for engaging surface vessels) and those of Taffy 2 (another similar task unit further south), they launched torpedoes, dropped bombs and depth charges, strafed with machine guns, and fired every kind of ammunition they could lay their hands on, including star shells and dummy practice rounds filled with sand. Planes continued to fly attack runs long after they’d run out of anything to attack with—one pilot opened his canopy so he could empty his .38-cal service revolver into the superstructure of a battleship. They scampered, they scurried, they poured out massive quantities of smoke. They lay alongside ships many times their size at “potato range” and hammered them with 5-in shells at a terrific rate.

And they kept it up, despite being holed again and again by 8-, 10-, 14- and even 18-in shells. Commander Evans, bleeding from multiple wounds, his destroyer’s bridge and most of her superstructure destroyed, down to one gun and reduced to shouting steering orders through a gaping hole in the deck to men who were turning the rudder by hand, paused a moment to smile and wave to his compatriot, Lieutenant Commander Robert Copeland, skipper of the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413), before charging through the smoke to engage a Japanese heavy cruiser.

These attacks were not futile. Taffy 3 sunk three heavy cruisers and damaged three more along with a destroyer. The cost was high: two CVEs sunk, two of the three destroyers sunk and the third damaged; one destroyer escort sunk and two damaged. Only one of the CVEs escaped unscathed, and over 1500 US sailors died.

But in the end, the ferocity of their relentless attacks so confused and dismayed the Japanese, that Admiral Kurita, perhaps within minutes of completely annihilating his adversaries—“Just wait a little longer, boys. We’re sucking them into 40-mm range,” said an officer aboard USS White Plains (CVE-66)—broke off and retreated.

“Goddammit, they’re getting away!” yelled a signalman aboard USS Fanshaw Bay (CVE-70).

Indeed.

Faulty reporting, a torpedo attack that removed him from the scene of the battle, and the astounding resilience of his opponents had convinced Kurita he was engaged with a large and powerful force, not a small handful of tin cans protecting a few jeep carriers. He honestly believed they were fleet carriers, who were going away from him at 30 knots. He feared another powerful surface group just over the horizon, making him understandably reluctant to pursue, especially into the confined waters of Leyte Gulf, from which (for all he knew) the transports he’d been sent to destroy might have already departed. He’d already taken a terribly pounding; he knew what was happening to the other IJN fleets involved in the larger battle. He thought he’d sunk two big fleet carriers (no small achievement). The radio traffic he was intercepting from Taffy 3—increasingly desperate plain language calls for help—he interpreted as confirming his judgments. Under the influence of all these factors, and others besides, he withdrew.

And the men of Taffy 3, aided by the pilots of Taffy 2, won an extraordinary victory.

In explaining all this, historians like to point out that the USN had some important things going for it at Samar. Radar-directed fire control allowed the little ships to fire accurately while maneuvering, something the IJN could not do. While a 5-in shell might be useless against the hull of a cruiser, to say nothing a battleship, it can make a mess of the upper works, especially when fired rapidly, accurately, and by the hundreds. A star shell can start fires on bare metal that are very hard to put out. A single 5-in shell hitting a vulnerable spot can be devastating, as when one detonated a stack of torpedoes and put the heavy cruiser Chikuma out of action.

Of course, torpedoes also wreak havoc when used as intended, even if they don’t hit, and Taffy 3 used them with abandon. Not only did they damage and sink Japanese cruisers, they disorganized Kurita’s whole formation and blunted his attack. The IJN’s manual fire-control systems also could not cope well with small agile targets, especially not ones peppering them so thoroughly, and smoke is particularly effective in the absence of radar. USN ships, even little ones, were designed for survivability and damage-control practices were first rate, allowing them to absorb tremendous amounts of damage and keep fighting. Despite having to form a strategy at the spur of the moment, the American commanders did so effectively, and excelled at carrying it out, taking the initiative away from the Japanese and keeping them continually off balance. Their seamanship and the employment of what weapons they had were without peer.

All these things had their effect, and contributed hugely to the outcome of the battle. But by far the most important advantage the Americans had over their Japanese opponents that day was just a superabundance of sheer guts. They convinced the Japanese that, no matter how great the odds, they simply could not be beaten.

And they were right.

A final note is in order. We live today in a culture that adores the concept of ‘elites’, be it Top-10 lists, and the next top this and super that and ultra-mega everything. Our entertainment industry is obsessed to the point of mania with comic-book ‘superheroes’, and even outside their myopic confines, we continually encounter stories of similar characters who had their ‘super powers’ bestowed on them magically, genetically, or technologically. They, of course, struggle against ‘supervillains’ and/or super monsters, and the fate of worlds hangs in the balance. Nothing less seems to capture our imagination.

How strange then, to our current blinkered view, that the Americans who fought at Samar were in no sense an ‘elite’ as it was understood then, and certainly not now. They did not constitute the ‘best and the brightest’, they were not selected for any extraordinary powers, they were not the most glamorous—far from it. They were the little guys, stuck with the workaday drudgery, assigned to the ‘tin cans’ and the “combustible, vulnerable, expendable” jeep carriers. They were from the most ordinary backgrounds, possessed of the most average gifts, no different from their neighbors, mostly drafted into a terrible conflict not of their making.

And yet these men, perfectly ordinary and average in their day, accomplished something so remarkable, so unprecedented in history, that today we must bestow our fictional ‘heroes’ with near-infinite powers in an attempt to envision anything roughly similar—and yet fall short.

So far have we fallen. So much have we lost.

Progress Report #2

Just when you think you’re done with something . . .

We decided Wogan’s Reef, Part 1 needed more work, and so we expanded it with two additional chapters. Work on Wogan’s Reef, Part 2 is progressing, and we’ll post a more detailed breakdown around the end of this week.

Many thanks to everyone who has given us feedback so far!

We’re having a sale!

Erl King Cover

We are posting this in the spirit of shameless self-promotion. Jordan’s fantasy novel, The Erl King’s Children will be available on Amazon for $1.99 from Oct 4 to Oct 6th (64% off!), and for $2.99 from Oct 7 through Oct 10 (45% off!): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FMBBDZ8

If you like vibrant, old-school High Fantasy (that’s maybe a little spicier than what they wrote back in the day) and haven’t already gotten a copy, this is a great time to pick one up!

That Glossary . . .

Gentle readers,

How useful are you finding the extensive glossary included in MWB? Should it be also included in Asylum? Or would it be better to offer it as a separate document through this site?

If the latter, what do you think of including a much shorter version in Asylum, focusing on new terms and personalities introduced in that book?

Weigh in! Your opinion counts!

Two roads diverged . . .

and I—well, we—took the one less traveled by?

Or didn’t?

If you have read both the current books in the series, and would like to weigh in on the fate of a major character, leave a comment. We shall email you the question to solict your opinion.

And that may make all the difference. ;-)

Update (7/19): We’ve gotten very good feedback on this issue, and have decided on a resolution that we are happy with. Thanks again to all who weighed in on this question.

Get Acquainted Special Offer

We are running a special to allow people to get acquainted with both of the Loralynn Kennakris books! We’ve dropped the price of The Alecto Initiative to $0.99 for this week. So if you missed it, you can pick up both Alecto and The Morning which Breaks for under $5!

Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to a successful launch of MWB!

Two-minute Warning

. . . If you are a tortoise, and not a hare. Which is our way of saying that we’d like to thank all the good folks who offered to beta read MWB for us. We have already gotten much excellent feedback that will make for a stronger book, and we are awaiting some final comments. So we are closing down beta reading at this time.

As soon as we get the final comments we expect and have a chance to assess them, we will announce a publication date. We expect final comments by this weekend, and if that happens, we will post the date this coming Monday, May 12th.

Thanks again to everyone who answered our call!

The moment you’ve all been waiting for!

The draft of The Morning Which Breaks is (finally!) ready for beta read and we are looking for beta readers!

A few notes: MWB is long! (Approximately 510 paperback pages.)

We prefer beta readers who have read the first book in the series (Alecto) and liked it, at least a somewhat. (If you didn’t like it, MWB is not going to be your cup of tea!) It is best if you’ve posted a review of Alecto either on Amazon or Goodreads, or at least have some reviews we can peruse.

PDF is the preferred format in which we’d like to distribute this. We can email it to you (preferred) or post it for you to download from our site.

There is a glossary providing definitions of terms, technical notes, some brief historical background and various other info, that will be attached to the published version, but it is not integrated with the beta draft. The glossary is itself about 100 pages (339 entries plus a biographical list of 91 characters). The glossary will be provided as a separate PDF, unless you don’t want it. The glossary is for your reference. We are happy to get feedback on it, if you like, but it is being reviewed separately, so don’t feel obligated to read the whole thing.

Please leave a comment here if you are interested, and we will email you to fill you in on additional details.

Thanks!

Our Minority Report #2

So what have we been up to since our last update? Mainly contracting bronchitis and trying to recover from it. Other than that, where are we on The Morning Which Breaks? Well, we did get Part 1 back from its first proofreading pass. We sent Part 3 to some additional alpha readers for suggestions and have already gotten some feedback. The main feedback was that we really needed to expand the glossary, and that a list of characters would be helpful as well.

So we did that. The glossary now boasts 247 entries from Admiralty to ZANG, and a biographical list of 86 personalities from Alandale to Zayterland. We will be including the glossary as part of MWB (and all subsequent novels, suitably expanded), as we’ve been informed that having it as separate document made things clunky.

So how else are we doing? Part 2 has expanded to 30 chapters and will likely stay there. Two new chapters have been added and completed, a few other chapters have been revised to account for these new chapters, and we have eight chapters left to complete. Only two are still in outline form; the rest are at least half done. Part 2 is current ~168 pages.

Again, for those who like nitty-gritty numbers, the manuscript is 139,450 words long as of this writing (rounded to the nearest 50 words), equaling ~420 standard paperback pages. (For comparison, Alecto is 54,930 words and 162 pages.) With the glossary included, the full volume will probably break 500 pages on completion.

Finally, we will be ready to release a couple of new chapters from Part 2 to interested parties this weekend..

As always, we greatly appreciate your support for our efforts, and let us know if these updates are helpful to you!