Now available as a paperback or Kindle book, this new publication deals with the 2nd century emperors of Rome. I noticed was a progression in the characters of the so-called “five good emperors” – Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius – that paralleled the moral development of a single individual. To simplify: from shrewdness (Nerva) to activity (Trajan) to worldly knowledge (Hadrian) to virtue (Antoninus Pius) to wisdom (Marcus Aurelius).
So how could Marcus Aurelius’ son Commodus (the bad guy in “Gladiator” and “Fall of the Roman Empire”) surpass his predecessors? Well, according to history, he didn’t. He broke the string of good emperors and his reign began an unrelenting decline in the Empire. However, it intrigued me that he certainly tried to outdo all previous rulers – by attaining god-consciousness. He proclaimed himself to be the reincarnation of Hercules and the “son of God”.
My exercise in this book was to give some context through a series of factual biographical sketches of the emperors involved, followed by imaginary letters from each of the 5 good emperors to his successor – and an apology, of sorts, from Commodus to his deified father. I conclude with a brief fictional Epilogue that gives a plausible explanation for the historical circumstances of Commodus’ assassination.
The result is not a reappraisal of Commodus but, perhaps, a greater understanding of his aspirations in light of his predecessors and, especially, his father’s values and advice (as shown in selected passages from the famous “Meditations” adapted in the form of a letter of advice to his son).
In an earlier post, I described the long and winding road of my first serious effort to get published, the illustrated “Selected Lives: The Autobiography of a Soul”. The latest chapter in the saga is the publication of an ebook version on Amazon, available here.
For this edition, I have restored several of the episodes from the original 1986 manuscript that were left out of the print version. These include episodes featuring the historical figures Pythagoras, Jesus, and the Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. Also added are a plant life, a Neanderthal dream, and episodes in ancient Turkey and Melanesia.
As I said in my earlier post, “Selected Lives” was an early effort and a learning experience. Some of the artwork is a bit tentative (“flat”, said one reviewer), but some of it still pleases me – and some of it still inspires me.
Way back in 1994, I wrote a children’s story entitled “Visit to Red Eft’s Mountain”. It told the tale of a box turtle who, along with his friends Gray Squirrel, Raccoon, and Black Snake, journeyed to a mythical mountain. Box Turtle was hesitant to leave his home valley, but trash, pollution, and a close encounter with a car convinced him to seek a safe haven. When they got to the mountain, Box Turtle and his friends encountered a very wise red eft, who advised Box Turtle to go back to his valley, where he was “part of the scenery – part of what makes it beautiful.”
Recently, I decided to publish this story on Amazon, in paperback and as an ebook. I prepared several new illustrations and expected a quick edit of the text was all that was needed to “go to press”. However, I discovered that my feelings about the ending had changed.
Box turtles have always been especially dear to me. One of my first friends was a box turtle named Yertle, and one of my first books was called “The Adventures of Yertle the Turtle”. My brothers and I have saved hundreds (if not thousands) of box turtles from possibly becoming road kill by stopping and carrying them off of busy roads. Seeing box turtles, especially after a summer rain, was a common and happy experience for almost all of my life – until the last couple of years. I haven’t seen a box turtle in the wild for at least 3 years. And I have heard that they are becoming scarce throughout much of the Mid-Atlantic region, maybe even in danger of extinction!
This breaks my heart. And I realized that telling Box Turtle to “go home” and struggle to survive in the midst of habitat destruction, pollution, and careless or malevolent motorists wouldn’t do. So I wrote a new ending that places responsibility for box turtle welfare in human hands. I won’t give it away here, but I think it will strike a chord for all turtle lovers like me. “Turtle Crossing” is now available as a paperback and ebook.
OK, I’ll admit that I am as spoiled as anyone when it comes to free content on the web. If I want to hear a song, I go to YouTube; if I want to look up something, I’ll browse Google rather than a bookstore. So much information and content is available for nothing that I have become reluctant to part with my hard-earned credit.
This bodes ill for the many people (like me) who wish they could make a living as a writer/artist/photographer/musician. I price my books as low as I can go, but sales for most of them remain very slow. I’ve wondered if it’s because my books don’t interest people or if (like me) they just don’t want to pay for them.
In order to find out – and in the hopes of getting some feedback – I decided to take advantage of Amazon’s KDP Select “Free Promotion”, which allows an author or publisher to offer a book for $0.00 for up to 5 days every three months. I started with my full-color children’s book about the Roman Empresses. I’ve had some wonderful comments about it from people, but had only sold 9 copies on Amazon in 3 months, so why not? I was amazed at the result: in three days, ending last night at midnight, 773 people in 5 countries “stole” my book! Of course, I hope that at least one or two will repay me with a positive review, but just having that many people bother to take a look at my work is very gratifying. And I’ve learned that people ARE interested in at least one of my books if the price is right (nothing).
I’ve resisted Amazon’s KDP Select program for most of my titles because it seems like a strong-arm tactic to put their competition out of business. And it probably is – but if I can share my work with more people in one weekend than all of my other outlets have attracted in two years, it seems worth playing along, at least temporarily (I can always opt out of KDP Select after 3 months).
Sooooo – I am offering nearly ALL of my ebooks for free this week (start and end times vary). So far, the numbers are looking good. All of them will be back to their “normal” prices of $2.99 or $0.99 by the end of the week, so act quickly if you’d like to check them out. The following titles already are discounted or will be by noon PDT tomorrow (9/26/12): Dreamweaving; Dreamweaving: Screenplay; Bulla Felix; Bulla Felix: Screenplay; Vipsania; Tiberius and Vipsania: Screenplay; Wisdom Illustrated. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download a free Kindle viewer and read them on your computer screen.
A simple idea – dreams can be recorded and played like videos. Everybody does it, and the most popular TV shows deal with it: “Amazing Dreams,” “Celebrity Dreams”, :”America’s Funniest Dreams”. You get the idea – Unreality Shows. So what happens when a famous psychic dreams the end of the world? Think Jonestown.
Meanwhile, scientists figure out how to retrieve dreams from the past – “fossil dreams”, so to speak. By studying these dreams, they discover a prehistoric civilization that struggled with global warming and rising sea level. Throw in a bit of romantic drama and (hopefully) you have an entertaining story. It’s a quick read at 23,000 or so words, and cheap in paperback or as an ebook. And, yes, a screenplay is on the way.
Based on my novel, “Vipsania: A Roman Odyssey“, This is another feature-length script for a movie (or TV series) that may never be made. I’m selling this one for a song on Amazon, both in paper and as an ebook.
As described in an earlier post, this story is very much in the tradition of “I, Claudius”. In fact, I had the chutzpah to send versions of the story to two of the stars of that amazing series – George Baker (now deceased), who played Tiberius, and Brian Blessed, who played Augustus. Tiberius comes through much better in my tale; Augustus is pretty much the same.
If you enjoyed “I, Claudius” and would like to read more about those times and characters, you might enjoy my novel and script.