EURYALE by Stephen Perkins: A Featured Fun Guest Post

Copyright 2017/Star born publishing LTD. This is a work of fiction, a product of the author’s imagination and cannot be reproduced without express permission. Any similarity between the created characters and persons now living or deceased is purely coincidental.

EURYALE

(Iraq, near Mosul, 2003, Operation Desert Storm)


Bullet riddled, brittle and broken, he awoke, prone upon a blood-soaked Iraqi dune. Astonished, Dow found a shepherd girls soft, healing hands everywhere upon him, drawing out the pain. Until, he was magically whole again.

Lethargic lids slid open.

From the zenith of a cloudless blue canopy, a merciless sun scorched drowsy eyes. Possessing some strange power, the mysterious girl had seemingly rescued him from death’s fiery darkness.

“Who are you,” Sergeant Dow said. “Where are you from?”

Slowly, she removed the black burqa, serene smile blooming upon angelic features. Dow’s stubble strewn face riddled with wonder. He felt her soft reply flow into the brain like the waters of a trickling brook. And yet, crimson lips made no attempt to form syllables.

“I am Euryale. You shall soon know where to find me. And, I shall be waiting!”

Up over the horizon, Dow heard the whining rotors of a helicopter, and shielding his eyes from the sun, turned to look.

“But how will I…” he said, turning back, anticipating her sweet gaze.

But, Euryale had mysteriously disappeared.     

***

Flown back to the green zone in Mosul, Dow reported to Colonel Stansfield Booth.

Walking through the office door, steely hazel eyes looked right through him.

It was as if the old man, hat decked with ‘scrambled eggs’, and more medals hung on his immaculate uniform than ornaments on the Sergeant’s Christmas tree back home in Omaha, possessed vision boring right through the skin, straight to the soul beneath.

Sitting in front of the colonel’s enormous desk, Dow felt his parched throat gulp. Blood wildly throbbing, he realized this was the moment of truth. His career in the US Marine Corps was on the line. He knew old man Booth, an iron chinned full bird colonel, wasn’t likely to believe the truth. Or, would he? How best explain the unexplainable, about Euryale, the simple shepherd girl brought him miraculously back from death’s inevitable brink?

Sergeant Dow’s pulse raced, skin growing hot as if he were standing in a burning building. His arid throat gulped again. Now, Dow considered, I must tread carefully. The old man might even decide to throw me in the brig. Maybe, even court marshaled.

Outside, the colonel’s spartan office, night blanketed the sun baked terrain of the Iraqi desert wastes.

The old man’s deep baritone ruptured the thick silence like a fog horn.  

“Alright, Sergeant,” the old man’s deep baritone rumbled. “Out of nine men sent to find the insurgents outside the Green zone destroyed ammo and weapons dumps last week near Mosul, including your squadron commander, Captain Welsh-only you survived,” the colonel detailed.

Puzzlement etched Dow’s rugged features.

The Colonel seemed almost disappointed.    

Dread buzzed in the Sergeant’s brain like angry wasps.

Sweat beaded his darkened brow.

“It was almost like they were waiting for us, Sir,” Dow’s mid-western drawl wobbled. “These insurgents were clever,” he tried to explain, with more urgency. “They had some sniper hiding in the hills. Picked us off one by one. I suggested to Welsh we retreat, and hump it back to recon. Let the helicopter gun-ships turn those hills into a parking lot!”  

The Sergeant fidgeted, wanting desperately to tell the old man what most of the squadron had really thought of Captain Welsh, some high-hat Ivy grad just out of officers training-dressed up to play hero in some Marine recruiting video.

“I tried to tell him, sir, once the action started getting too hot, how we should’ve humped it back here double time,” Dow tried to plead. “But, like I said these insurgents were smart. They seemed to know how to hit us and when, like they had a game plan-knocked out our vehicles, our satellite and ground communications destroyed. They were waiting for us!”

The colonel tapped steel boned fingers on the desk.

“Go on Sergeant?”

“It was like they could read our minds, what we were going to do,” Dow replied. “These weren’t, well, I got a good look at them, sir!”

Dow scraped a trembling hand over his sweat slicked pate. Booth poked a button on the desktop red telephone.

“And, what did you observe, Sergeant,” Booth demanded.

Dow sensed the old man already knew the answer.

“These were no regular insurgents, sir,” Dow stammered. “Their weaponry was anything but conventional!”

The poker faced old man merely pursed his stern lips, steel boned chin bobbing once in acknowledgment. The red phone buzzed, and Dow’s trembling hands gripped sweat soaked face.

“Excuse me, Sergeant,” the old man related.

Dow looked up, cruel shadow casting over. Booth’s ursine frame rose out of the chair to full height. Deliberate and heavy steps tapped towards an adjacent black door.

“Colonel,” a civilian bureaucrat greeted Booth as the door thudded shut behind. “As you know, Operation Desert Storm is highly classified. This war on terror is merely a cover for testing these AI ‘super units’ out in the field. Lately, my Pentagon colleagues are not pleased with the less than stellar ‘collateral damage’ statistics. I’m holding you personally responsible for this glaring failure!”

The old Colonel stood at ease, stone faced while the berating bureaucrat sat half-shrouded in darkness.

“Now,” the bureaucrat snapped. “You are dismissed!”

With his ear settled close to the keyhole, Dow scurried for the office door. Somehow, he had to find Euryale. Sprinting towards the collection of Jeeps, he raced off into the night.

His career, life, would never be the same.

Swirls of dust kicked up in the wake of the racing Jeep. Now, well outside the Green Zone, he jammed the breaks and skidded to a stop.

There she was, Euryale, illuminated in the spill of the headlights

“Are you ready to come with me?”

The words floated like butterflies in the mind.

Softly, he took her hand, basking in her angelic smile. Rainbow funnels of light descended from the dark sky, and together, they were swept up.

Stephen Perkins is the author of Raging Falcon and American Siren as well as his latest book Escape To Death. All three books are available on Amazon. You can read more on his blog Newsspellcom.org Watch for his new release coming soon!

Indie vs. Big Six: The war rages on! Guest Post by Steven Perkins

Indie vs. Big Six: The war rages on!

The following may seem controversial.

And yet, evidence looms the ‘big six’ traditional publishers may be covertly manipulating or stifling indie book sales!

The sort of tactics about to be revealed will no doubt seem underhanded, even morally repugnant. Though dubious, these may not be considered unlawful or unfair in the normal scheme of legitimate corporate business practices. Both online retailers and major publishers are in the business of selling books to make a profit. From the perspective of maintaining a profitable business model, online retailers are more likely to feature products that are perceived to have better long-term sales potential, than upstart products perceived to have little or no overall market impact. But, like any new movement, whether political or literary, there will always be resistance. It seems there is no exception when it comes to ongoing efforts on the part of the ‘big six’ to hamper the market growth of indie authors and publishers. It could very well, most indie authors are not even aware of the weapons used against them. Ultimately, it can be difficult to police tactics one may not be fully aware. After all, one cannot effectively fight an enemy that refuses to reveal itself on the battlefield.

Not too long ago, encountering a harrowing story involving an aggrieved independent ‘romance’ author, one decided to curiously investigate. What one at first found, seemed incredulous. However, under greater scrutiny, the story of this anonymous author gained credence. The indie author in question claimed to have made a shocking discovery. She found her digital sales may have been capped via what can only be described as covert skullduggery.

Though appearing to sell briskly, her book was inexplicably halted at a certain rank in the best-selling category list, while similar books affiliated with big six publishers, not selling as comparatively well over the same sales period, continued to rise. Of course, this unfairly limited her book’s visibility, which meant not only was her title capped at a certain rank, it began to plummet shortly thereafter. After employing some investigation of her own, she discovered that sales algorithms were being manipulated in favor of titles published by the big six, perceived by the online retailers to be bigger sellers over the long haul. While the author appeared to possess no ability to pursue legal recourse, this underhanded scenario may not be an isolated case. Consulting various online indie author blogs, similar experiences appeared to have been luridly detailed.

What does this ultimately mean?

 

BIG SIX COLLUDING WITH ONLINE RETAILERS!

 

It may imply unscrupulous, but apparently not unlawful collusion, between big six publishers and major online book retailers. Obviously, such continued covert practices leave indie authors out in the cold, suffering from limited visibility and loss of increased sales growth. The real story in all of this speaks to a more cogent, but less obvious analysis. While big six publishers may collude with online retailers to better position their digital titles over those of indie authors, they are also able to continually exert greater influence and control over print copy distribution and pricing.

Let’s face it, despite growing popularity for digital books, sales of print copies, in the way of paperbacks and hard covers, is still where the real revenue is generated.

Considering this aspect of the publishing business, the big six still hold a commanding advantage over their indie counterparts. Recently, an example of this reared its ugly head in an ongoing dispute between Amazon and a major publisher over print copy price fixing. Naturally, the major publisher claimed Amazon’s pricing policies per their print titles worked against their best long-term business interests. The essence of the dispute involved Amazon’s repeated efforts to discount all print titles. Seeking greater control, the big publisher invoked what is termed the ‘agency model’, meaning while Amazon’s list price was significantly lower than the publisher’s suggested price, the latter was still able to collect royalties at a higher price point, while still able to move the same number of units corresponding to the discounted rate.

One can only imagine Amazon’s jocular reaction if indie authors bravely endeavored in attempting to negotiate for themselves such a lucrative arrangement. These sorts of scenarios demonstrate the disadvantages indie authors face in open market competition against a foe possessing both superior financial and negotiating resources.

Is there no recourse for indie authors in gaining for themselves similar market leverage?

The irony in this; in obtaining favor from online retailers for ultimate control over print distribution and pricing, the big six are continually at a disadvantage when it comes to digital publications. If indie authors continue to consistently publish digital works consisting of high quality content coupled with comparatively lower pricing, ultimate victory in the long term over the big six, seems not only realistic but perhaps, inevitable!

 

  Steven Perkins has written two engaging books that have been well received and rewarded with excellent reviews on Amazon. This guest post allows Steven to speak to an issue that has not been addressed openly but needs to be.  I offered my blog as a way for Steven to pass along his insights as well as bring his work to light. As one of over 200 respected MTW authors, I am glad to give him this opportunity. You can find Steven Perkins books, Raging Falcon and American Siren, on Amazon both in paperback and Kindle Unlimited.

During MysteryThrillerWeek you can learn more about Steven and his two books when he hosts an hour on Facebook February 12th, 10:00 PM EST.

By signing up as a Mystery Thriller Week fan on the website, you will have full access to all event such as this one.

steven