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Across the Line of Departure now available – in time for Christmas

Across the Line of Departure

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Across the Line of Departure – look for it before Christmas

Across the Line of Departure – see the cover designed by Kate Enzenauer.    Look for the book to be released before Christmas.

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Record setting book signing at the Griffin Bookshop

On Saturday September 25, Mike Smith held his first book signing event at the Griffin Bookshop.  The event sold more books than any previous book signing event at the Griffin.

Many thanks to everyone who made this possible.  Especially Ms Eileen Boyd, the wonderful proprietor of the Griffin.

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Sneak Peek at Across the Line of Departure – First two Chapters

For a limited time the first two chapters of the sequel are available on line for free at this link

Help make Backazimuth a bestseller on September 28.

Join me for a book signing and reading in Fredericksburg on September 25.

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Help make Backazimuth An Amazon Bestseller on September 28, 2010

I’m working on the cover for the sequel and it would be great to put the words “Sequel to the Bestseller . . .” on the byline.  And while Backazimuth sales have been OK, it hasn’t made the bestseller list, yet.  So here’s the plan to make Backazimuth a bestseller.  Amazon Bestseller list is located here: and it is updated daily and hourly. 

I need your help.

If you have already bought a copy: 

  1. Send an email or FaceBook notice to everyone you think would be interested and ask them to take part in the effort.
  2. After you have read it, go on AMAZON.COM and provide a review.  Right now there are four, each a five star review.  Add your voice.

 If you plan to buy a copy:

  1. Go on AMAZON.COM on September 28, 2010 and buy the copy that you plan to purchase. 
  2. Take steps 1 and 2 above.

I’ll be sending out notices over the next few days, so I’ll keep you posted on the results.

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This isn’t your father’s publishing business

Years ago Buick created an advertising campaign around the theme that their product was no longer the staid, old-person’s car that we had been lead to believe in its previous ad campaigns.  That ad campaign didn’t really work (so I have to ask myself, why am I resurrecting it here?), but the theme applies to the turbulent times facing the publishing industry. 

A sea-change is ongoing in the publishing industry, and I’m drowning in it.  In 2009, the number of titles (in all categories) published by traditional firms dropped, but the total number of book titles published rose by 87%.  See the quote below:  

“A staggering 764,448 titles were produced in 2009 by self-publishers and micro-niche publishers, according to statistics released this morning by R.R. Bowker. The number of “nontraditional” titles dwarfed that of traditional books whose output slipped to 288,355 last year from 289,729 in 2008. Taken together, total book output rose 87% last year, to over 1 million books.” – April 2010 Publishers Weekly

Print on Demand, E-books, and the internet have changed the industry in a way almost as fundamental as Gutenberg did in the 1400s.  Authors no longer need the big publishing houses to go to market.  But, the big houses still have an iron hand on marketing and distribution chains as well as access to media for reviews and publicity.  For example:

  • Most newspapers, as a matter of policy, won’t review self-published books.
  • All of the chain books stores won’t put self-published books on their shelves.
  • There’s no best-seller list for self-published books.      

 Fortunately, the internet and social media provides new authors with a media venue that the big houses can’t control.  If you are reading this, you have my thanks.

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Backazimuth earns four stars from Foreword Clarion Review

 Foreword Clarion Review



Mike Smith



Four Stars (out of Five)

Mike Smith’s first novel, Backazimuth, is a tidy thriller set in the Arabian Desert. Bill Slade, West Point graduate and combat engineer, is a reformed drunk, with bottle-fueled misadventures scattered along the tracks of a nearly derailed military career. He’s assigned to the 24th infantry division, poised on the Saudi-Iraqi border and waiting for Operation Desert Storm, the attack order to liberate Kuwait. Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard lurks across the horizon, which provides danger enough, but Slade has discovered a conspiracy, one which has left a trail of dead bodies leading back to a California military training center.

Major Slade’s life is at a crossroads; he is seeking redemption from an unhappy childhood, a devastating revelation at his mother’s death, his misfit West Point years, and a floundering military career. Slade is not a sympathetic narrator, and the story is slightly flawed from the beginning, since the seminal change that alters his character occurred before the novel opens.

Backazimuth encompasses forty-eight chapters, many of which are flashbacks to Slade’s early career or to incidents that reveal the conspiracy. To differentiate between the settings, the font changes from standard roman, to boldface, then to italics to relate each flashback. The chapters are short, and the story is told in the first-person by Slade.

Somewhat off-putting is the overuse of the phrase “fungus green” to describe images seen through night-vision goggles. The narrative also relies too often on clichés like “heart raced,” “drilled into my brain,” and “disembodied voice” rather than utilizing original, well-crafted phrases. That’s disappointing, considering the author can ratchet up the tension with able action scenes. For example, Smith writes:

An artillery barrage couldn’t be adequately described. There were simply no words to express the noise, the violence, the blast, the heat, and the terror. This blast knocked me off my feet and propelled me forward about five meters…Staying where I landed with my face in the dirt, I couldn’t feel my body, and I couldn’t hear anything.

Smith’s effort is tautly written, and the author’s own military experience—he is a West Point graduate and served as a combat engineer officer—makes his work believable, right down to his sardonic descriptions of military “types.” Slade describes his battalion commander as one of the “dilettantes and charlatans,” who are “more interested in promotion, social climbing, and name dropping than in doing any actual work. You can usually find them at the Officer’s Club or the golf course or some congressman’s reception.”

Readers should be warned. Backazimuth ends with only partial resolution. “To be continued” means that readers must wait for Line of Departure, the second book in a planned trilogy.

Backazimuth is a page-turner with an action film feel that could easily be transformed into a screenplay.

Gary Presley

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Action Book Review

Action Book Review provides book reviews, posts reviews from other sites and interviews the authors of these new and exciting books.  Check it out. at this link:

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Backazimuth now available in all eBook formats from Smashwords

Check out this link to Smashwords to download up to half the book for a free sample.

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What’s the cover art all about?

Over the past weeks, this question has come up dozens of times. So, here’s the story of the cover. In short, it’s a visual illustration of a backazimuth.

Some people would call the chain of events an accident, I prefer to think of them as opportunity meeting preparation (and maybe a little by accident). While traveling in the west, I serendipitously discovered the photograph of the moon over the desert. It floored me when I first saw it – I stood in front of it for five minutes with my mouth agape. It was perfect. I had to have it – and I got it.

I gave it to the cover designers at CreateSpace, who are fantastic. I told them I wanted a visual or graphic way to depict the concept of a backazimuth, but couldn’t think of a way to do that. And, I loved this photograph. It was a challenge I gave them.

Their concept was to put a photographic negative of the true color photo on the cover with a corner of the photo ripped away revealing the true color image beneath it. The negative is the opposite (or backazimuth) of the true color image. Just as north and south are the opposite (and backazimuth) to each other, white and black is each the opposite of the other. The designers then added the clever compass with the 180 degree dotted red line as another graphical depiction of a backazimuth. Voila. A visual depiction of a backazimuth.

The image also hints at the mystery in the plot and within the characters – where what looks to be white is actually black and vice versa.

Backazimuth, a Novel

An illustration of a backazimuth

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