Based on Real Events; Fact and Fiction in Patriot: A Brooke Kinley Adventure by A.S. Bond

The thing about fiction is that it is, well, made up. Of course. Especially so in genre fiction. Novels often all about escapism of one sort or another, whether it’s the delicious shiver of fear or a dreamy ‘neverland’. Thrillers are slightly different; the ‘thrill’ comes not just from the suspense of ‘will our heroine save the day’, but also in the recognition that ‘it’ (nuclear Armageddon, pandemic virus, financial meltdown of whatever the theme of that novel may be) could happen.

Canoe tied up on the Nascaupi RiverThis is especially so in Patriot, where it is not just themes that are based in reality, but actual events, too. Several have happened since I first wrote about them (and the book did have a long gestation of around three and half years, but that’s another story). It is a thriller in which life has imitated art.

Something thing that has -spookily- happened since I first wrote about it is a period of solar flares. These natural phenomena vary in intensity over a cycle of roughly 11 years or so. One of the characters in the book talks about this (and everything he says is accurate scientifically). Since I wrote Patriot, we have passed through another cycle and I woke up one morning to hear a news commentator talking about the threat to our electronic networks from solar flares!

What was most challenging for me was the technology side of the novel. A couple of readers have commented that aspects of this are a bit far-fetched. I have some bad news for you guys; it’s a lot closer to the truth than you realize.

A weapon of mass destruction features in this book (no spoilers!). This weapon, as described, is entirely accurate. The detail of how it is brought into America is the part I made up, but the thing you should worry about is the fact that this could also be carried in something as small as a rucksack. The effects would be more contained, but this particular threat is something on which many military and science researchers around the world are working, right now.

In fact, there is only one small piece of technology in this book that isn’t absolutely accurate, which is the discovery of a piece of advanced military hardware that kicks off the story. Even this is about half-true; there are very similar weapons being used by America and its Allies right now. Only some of the details vary slightly. And – so far – the fact they have not fallen into enemy hands. I wonder how long it will be before some version of the horrific opening scene in Patriot involving an American apache helicopter, plays out for real?

The other big truth in the novel is the ability of governments and their intelligence services to ‘listen in’ on the ‘phone calls of private citizens anywhere in the world. I knew this was possible when I wrote the novel – and the real network of listening stations is an open secret – but it was Edward Snowden who told the world the reality and extent of the snooping. After I’d written about it…

For many of the details in the book, I went to great lengths to ensure they were correct. This included talking to aircraft and marine engineers, studying plans for motor yachts and, one of my favourite pastimes, poring over maps to ensure the locations I use in the book are accurate. Brooke can walk from Foggy Bottom metro to the Kennedy Centre in ten minutes and small planes can crash in Labrador and never be seen again. The reality of the settings in the book is another topic, but they are all places I know personally (except Afghanistan).

In fact, the only fictional things in Patriot are the characters and the plot itself. Everything else is true. Now there’s a shiver down your spine!

PATRIOT by AS Bond. Get your copy online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Apple iBooks.

Solving the Riddle of Discoverability by AS Bond

As a new self published author, I quickly realized that the main challenge facing me in selling my books is ‘discoverability’. Or, in other words, making your book stand out and be seen; a particularly difficult task when you don’t have a major publisher getting reviews on your behalf in national newspapers, or buying window space in Waterstones.  That’s where helped me, but it’s a part of a very big puzzle. Book marketing for yourself is a time consuming, difficult and even creatively challenging, but ultimately of course, very rewarding.

Patriot, A Brooke Kinley Adventure is my first self published novel, I was surprised at just how much hard work is involved! I’m not even talking about writing it; that’s a whole other blog post! I approached publishing Patriot as professionally as any publishing company and just managing the entire process was a full time job for several months. First, I had to research all the options for self publishing, right down to the minutiae of ISBN numbers, distribution options etc. This took two months. Then, I had to organize the editing, the formatting, the jacket design, the publishing (print and ebook) as well as my own business administration.

Yet it is the marketing that has been the real challenge. Like many authors, I’m focused on actually writing books. That’s the bit I enjoy, the thing I’m pretty good at (and I’ve been doing it for publishers both global and regional, as well as self publishing for almost two decades now). So, when it came to getting word out about my first novel, I was left wondering; where to start?

With my traditional background – and a few handy contacts from my career as a freelance journalist – I began with the solid stuff; press releases to relevant publications, asking for reviews, offering articles on related topics, that sort of thing. First lesson learned; start early. I mean really early, like 3 months before publication. That’s a difficult thing for self published writers to get to grips with, as you need a supply of print galleys and a digital version to get any big print publications to even look at your work. Plus, that’s assuming you ‘forget’ to mention it’s self published and you have a demonstrable track record and/or a killer hook to get their interest in the first place. How many self published authors have the book ready to go three months before publication? Well,  if you want your novel considered by  a national women’s magazine, or a big player like Fresh Fiction in the USA, you have to hold back and show some patience. It may pay dividends!

Many self publishers  have tiny or non-existent budgets and depend on social media to market their books. This was a real learning curve for me, and I’m still travelling. Twitter (great), Facebook (variable), website (essential) and a blog (definitely essential) all work together, but you need more. Sign up to book discussion and recommendation websites, such as, engage with other writers and readers by reviewing books, commenting on threads. There’s a world of social interaction out there and while the measurable impact of any particular part is impossible to quantify, what is clear that without it, your book will almost certainly sink without trace.

What I have also learned is to evaluate all the offers from companies for a) track record; can they do what they are claiming? b) can you do it yourself? c) can someone else do it for less? There are a lot of people out there trying to sell you market exposure. Be very careful. It would b easy, for example, to spend several thousand dollars on getting reviews by top Amazon reviewers and other types of Amazon based promotion, but it is actually free and easy to find out who are the top reviewers yourself and contact them directly. Similarly, there are many guides and books out there (some free, most at very low cost), as well as uTube videos etc on how to make Amazon work for you.

Among all this cacophony of marketers trying to sell to you, are really useful. They offer to showcase your first page free (‘free’ is a great twitter hashtag to get noticed) and multiple twitter accounts promoting your work, not to mention plenty of good ideas for practical, low cost marketing techniques for you, as author to put into practice straightaway. They are a great example of a low cost, high promotion tool that can really help with that thorny problem of ‘discoverability’. I did my homework before I signed up and they passed with flying colours.

What it all comes down to is putting in the time and the energy. You are learning a new skill. The best thing is, you then apply it to your own business; your books. The market is out there, so get stuck in and get your book discovered.