A gun for Alfi Bey

I have written nothing for the past two months. A trip and research. Today I have been verifying and expanding on my research into the potential of the Mamluk, Alfi Bey, gaining possession of accurate firing rifles in the late 1700’s, when such weapons would be an extreme oddity if any existed. I believe that such an event could occur and in much the same manner described in the novel, Stonechild and Mamluk Treasure. German gunsmiths were masters of the trade with English and French gunsmiths producing excellent components. The web site http://www.ctmuzzleloaders.com/antique_guns/jaeger/jaeger.html discusses a rifled firearm commissioned by a German prince in the late 1700’s, possibly as early as 1780. That date fits with my time frame where a fugitive gunmaker reaches Egypt and gains the attention of Alfi Bey, an overly ambitious Mamluk of Egypt’s military ruling class.

The most interesting part of this research involved the discovery of mechanisms for developing a gun barrel from iron bars with little else than a charcoal-fired forge, iron bars, hammers, files and anvils. At this point in history such actions were a common occurrence.

Stonechild and Gilf Kebir

As I read widely on the first few years of the British Empire’s struggle against the Axis forces, the logic behind my main character, Russell Stonechild, and the natural progression of the military struggle led to Africa. I have always been interested in geography, and my early research identified an interesting geographic location. “The Gilf Kebir,” so named by an early Egyptian explorer, Ahmed Mohammed Hassanein Bey. The Great Barrier.

The Gilf Kebir is a rock wall separating the desolate sands of Egypt’s Western Desert from the equally desolate expanse of the Libyan desert. Here occurred events of Ondatje’s “The English Patient.”

This formation is described by Alan Watson at http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/gilfkebir1.htm.

“Egypt’s Western Desert is full of wondrous natural phenomenon and surprises. Sometimes one wanders over a ridge or through a pass and discovers alien worlds, such as in the White Desert. Less known perhaps, but growing in popularity is the ancient plateau known as Gilf Kebir (Great Barrier), its sides now heavily eroded and penetrated by huge sand wadis and incredible dune systems which, at one point, rise 300 meters to meet the level of the plateau, an irresistible force meeting an immovable object!”

Watson goes on to describe this formation as “a huge shelf the size of Switzerland, it is nearly dissected in two by a large cap. It rises 300 meters from the desert floor (1075 meters above sea level), forming one of the most formidable barriers in Africa.”

I didn’t quite know how, but I knew early in my writing that Russell Stonechild would meet the Gilf Kebir.

I have read hundreds of pages relating to action around this amazing site. I have examined image after image. And now I have Russell Stonechild about to enter the sand-filled and rock strewn wadi’s of the Gilf Kebir. And here, a century and a half earlier, one of the wealthiest Egyptian warlords, Alfi Bey, may have hidden treasures pillaged through a lifetime.

Treasure, however, is low on Russell’s priorities. He has already run from Hitler’s onslaught in France and Belgium, as told in the novel Stonechild’s Enigma.  Now one of the hero’s of that Nazi victory has arrived in North Africa. Rommel’s Africa Corps has pushed the British to a fragile toe-hold on Egypt’s border. Russell fears the little blocking force of which he is part will arouse Rommel’s ire, and once more he will face a formidable foe with superior weaponry and leadership.

Kobo vs Smashwords vs whoknows

The Stonechild Chronicles began to take shape sometime around 2002.  I began to write and to explore publishing opportunities.  I bought books on publishing and completed my first novel, Stonechild Volunteers.  I began planning a series and adopted the overall name, The Stonechild Chronicles.  I began sending query letters to publishers and agents, and quickly determined the traditional publishing route to be a dead-end, both for my topic and the reality of being a non-credentialed writer.

On, or near the year 2005, I abandoned any initial hope of obtaining a publishing agreement and decided to publish on-line.  First, though, I focused on building content.  To the initial title of Stonechild Volunteers, I added, Stonechild and the Minotaur Maze, and Stonechild’s Enigma.

My wife and I had already self-published my dad’s biography, Horses, Trails and Trophies  and I planned for Dad’s book to accompany my novels into the on-line world. With four major works on hand, I began to research methods of publishing on-line.  Fortunately for me I had reached a sweet spot in the evolution of on-line publishing.

Smashwords.com provided an avenue for uploading Microsoft Word documents, setting one’s price, collecting money from purchasers, and retaining only 15% of the sale price.  Should works submitted come with covers and hyper-linked table of contents, Smashwords would place such works in their premium catalog and forward items to Apple’s iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and some other on-line retailers who would then charge about 30% in royalties.

A problem surfaced at the end of year one in marketing on Smashwords.  Readers had purchased a few copies, a mere $75.00  worth, but still a few.  However, for Smashwords to forward a royalty check I had to register with the American Internal Revenue Service

I decided to seek another publisher, more friendly to non-American writers.  I found Kobo and moved my titles to that site.

Again, I haven’t gotten to the place where royalties are flowing, but still hope Kobo to work out.  The process for uploading is similar to Smashwords.

However, uploading to Amazon.com and to the Apple iBookstore offers greater potential than Kobo.  Kindle ereaders and Apple iPads are far more numerous than Kobo ereaders.  As I begin to put more emphasis on marketing and not just writing, I will have to seek the widest possible market-place.

American IRS here I come.

The Kobo option

After receiving news of the US treasury with-holding fee for non-US residents marketing their product through Smashwords, I checked out other options.  I selected Kobo which offers similar services to that provided by Smashwords but is far more friendly to non-US residents.


I think one of the greatest adrenalin rushes a writer or would-be-writer can have relates to the sale of one’s creation.  A few of my titles have sold through Smashwords and the Apple Bookstore.  However, in getting notice of my sales, I was also informed that non-US based writers will only be paid through PayPal.  There is also an automatic US withholding fee of 30% for aliens such as myself.  Interesting that these giant companies are too arrogant to set up distributing networks in the countries of origin.

There may be an option of registering with Smashwords and other distributors in a way that avoids the with-holding fee.  I have yet to explore that option.

Linked Table of Contents

For many years my primary writing tool has been Microsoft Word.  It seems to be the standard.  All my recent writing has been in Word 11 for the Mac.  All versions since Word 2000 have the ability to automatically generate a hyperlinked Table of Contents.  Within an e-book, this means one can go to the beginning of a book, find the Table of Contents, and click on any Chapter Heading, map or table designator and go directly to the item in question.

After I had uploaded my first title to Smashwords, I found a warning regarding having hidden code in my document.  I knew nothing of hidden code, but eventually found I had hidden code in my auto-generated Table of Contents created in Microsoft Word.  I had to return to my original document, strip the hidden code, and painstakingly rebuild a hyperlinked Table of Contents.  With that done, Smashwords approved my title for its premium catalog.