Let me begin with a couple of announcements: First, I am not dead. Second, I apologize to anyone who has tried to contact me through my website since late last summer. Two things happened around that time. Dealing with them was all-consuming, and I did not even try to get to my website at all for the rest of , or during this year until late last month.
Second, around the end of August , the hosting service where my website is located moved all of its hosted sites to new, upgraded servers. Unfortunately, the move disabled a number of features on my site, including the one that would notify me whenever a visitor had submitted a post so I could approve its publication on the site—a security feature to prevent trolling.
So when I finally tried to get back to working on the site, including to begin working on this update, I discovered that I was effectively locked out of my own website with no way to get in.
Only a few weeks ago was that problem finally resolved by a good friend and very savvy web programmer.
So…where is book 5? Back in my May post I was still hopefully predicting I could complete it by the end of the year. What happened? The short and obvious answer is that I failed.
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I still have not yet completed it. There will be a book 5. I am working on it, and much of the story-line is thoroughly fleshed out.
But there is still a lot of actual writing yet to be done. In truth, for reasons explained below, I made no progress at all on the book from August through the end of , a period when I had been hoping a hard final push might get the job done.
But if you want to learn the details of all that has been going on in my life that has prevented me from finishing a very long awaited and long overdue next book, then read on for the long answer, because what happened to book 5 is due to all that has happened to my wife, Jeanette, and to me since late So let me explain, first by providing some background.
Seven years ago this past April Jeanette and I moved to our small farm in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in western Oregon. It was a major leap of faith for several reasons.
First, we were moving into a totally new lifestyle, a homestead farm existence, which neither of us had any prior experience with.
Jeanette had been a cardiology nurse her entire adult life, while I had worked in criminal law, primarily as a police officer, federal agent, and prosecutor. With this move, neither of us would be working day jobs anymore I had actually not worked outside the home for several years prior, due to a health issue. We were planning to support ourselves financially by a combination of income from my writing plus income from investments in the stock market I had made over many years.
We also expected that as we produced more and more of our own food on the farm, we would hopefully see some reduction of our living expenses. So although neither of us would be holding outside jobs, working for someone else, in a sense our plan required each of us to juggle several jobs. I had four: writer, publisher, investment manager, and farmer, while Jeanette was my partner in publishing and the farm, and ran the household.
Our juggling act worked pretty well for the first several years here on the farm. Back then, the e-book market, which before around was a very minor segment of book publishing, was continuing to grow year by year as Amazon almost single-handedly strove to develop it.
Amazon grew the e-book market by two methods. First, for a number of years during the early growth period of the market, each year as Christmas approached Amazon would offer new, improved versions of their Kindle e-book readers at low prices, to induce persons who had not yet tried e-book reading to take the plunge, or to give an e-reader as a gift to another. During this period, every January millions of new Kindle readers would come online, and their owners would be looking for e-books to buy.
During those early years of the e-book market expansion, I saw my book sales grow and produce a strong income stream for us. The book sales in the early years on the farm were often more than enough to cover our monthly expenses, and if we occasionally needed a bit more, the returns I was receiving on my investments were more than adequate to cover the balance.
So in those days I was able to let the investment side of our multi-faceted life for the most part drift along on auto-pilot without requiring much of my time or attention. The farm side of this life has always been quite time consuming, however.
The Long Hunt
In the early years there was a lot of learning of new skills and problem solving, and there is always a LOT of physical labor. During our first year we planted an orchard of nineteen fruit and nut trees on one side of the farm, around a single, ancient apple tree located there, which we over time pruned back into strong productivity. That work is finally beginning to pay off: last year we harvested numerous apples, a decent crop of peaches, and our first crops of pears only two of those, and our big ram got to one before we did , cherries, and Kiwi fruit.
In our first year here we bought chicks and raised them to become a source of eggs and, occasionally, meat. Each year we have planted a large garden, producing significant quantities of numerous types of vegetables that we enjoy fresh during the summer and fall, and preserve by freezing and fermentation to enjoy over the winter. Because most of our five acre farm is open pasture which I did not want to spend my time mowing , the first year we acquired a small herd—three ewes, each with a lamb—of heritage Soay sheep, the oldest domestic breed of sheep still in existence today, and the breed closest genetically to wild sheep.
Our first year with the sheep was a struggle—we lost three to illness—but as the years passed our herd grew, and eventually we were able to start harvesting the excess rams for meat. Dammit, our mature ram and leader of the herd. During those early years here we were able to keep enough balance in our multi-sided life for me to complete writing and publish The Long Hunt , book 4 of the Strongbow Saga , in late , to work with a narrator and produce all four books in audio format over the course of , and to take a research trip to Ireland to support the planned final segment of the Strongbow Saga story, as well as a stand-alone novel set in the Strongbow Saga world, The Beast of Dublin , which I had been writing on and off since The continuing Strongbow Saga story has long had a definite structure and conclusion in my mind.
That final part of the story will take place mostly in Ireland, while the Sigrid story takes place in what is now northeastern Russia. That proved to be much more of a challenge than I had anticipated. There are far fewer sources—both original ones dating from the Viking era plus modern analyses and interpretations—of the Vikings in the east than exist for the western Viking world, for which numerous studies, sources, and types of historical evidence exists.
The Russian research ended up taking well over a year, bringing me into before I was finally ready to start writing book 5. And that, unfortunately, was when the juggling act of our lives here became badly unbalanced and much more of a challenge. A number of things went wrong in First of all, it was the beginning of a period of higher than normal temperatures and drought in western Oregon. There are always wildfires in the northwest during the summer, but the wildfire season was especially bad in Oregon during due to the heat and drought.
Several major fires burned not far from our farm—one about ten miles further upriver, and another on the other side of the mountain ridge that rises above the river directly behind us. During August, many days the smoke from the fires was as thick on our farm as heavy fog, and the air quality in the nearby Eugene-Springfield area was so bad that numerous outdoor events were cancelled.
Our finances were no longer working out as planned by , either—in fact, that problem had begun even before then, by The e-book market had reached maturity around —huge numbers of readers were no longer joining for the first time every year.
The strongbow saga book 4
And the amount of e-book content available had grown to millions and millions of books, magazines, etc. So the lower your rate of sales were, the less likely your books were to be found, which lowered your sales further, which lowered your placement in searches further…you get the idea.
The Strongbow Saga by Judson Roberts
As a result of all of this our monthly income from books sales began to gradually decline, and by had fallen off considerably. At the same time that our book sale income was decreasing, one of our monthly expenses—the cost of medical insurance—was significantly increasing.
In , it cost a little over a thousand dollars per month for insurance coverage for both of us and at the time, that seemed high. And because the income from book sales had fallen so much, the amount I had been making in passive dividend income from my investments was no longer enough to bridge the gap between our income and expenses. So to make up the difference, during I began engaging in options trading to generate extra income by selling options contracts. To give a brief and simplified explanation of what that entails, there are two basic forms of options contracts there are also a number of more complex combined types of options trades, but I rarely used those.
The other type of basic option contract, a Covered Call, is considerably less risky for the seller, but does require the seller to own the stock which is the subject of the contract. For over two years, I sold both Puts and Calls—numerous of the former—and was successfully able to generate enough income to more than make up what we needed to cover our monthly expenses.
However, options trading is fairly time intensive. Compared to earlier years when I could only check in on our investments once a month or so, now I was spending an hour or two at my computer most days every week—time which could otherwise have been spent writing. And always in the back of my mind I was aware of the risk. If the stock market were to crash while I was holding a large number of Put contracts, I would be on the hook to buy a lot of stock.
Also by , our herd of sheep had grown large enough to where we needed to sell some, to avoid ending up with a larger herd than our five acres could support. Soay sheep are VERY reliable breeders: every spring each ewe can be depended on to produce a lamb, and occasionally some give birth to twins.
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Before we could try to scramble to line up another sale, disaster struck. Not all of the sheep participate—they are a semi-wild breed, and many of them are quite skittish—but a number of them very eagerly do, and it helps us control the herd to have a number of tame, friendly ones.
But one morning in November of , however, he apparently felt Jeanette was not feeding him enough, and out of the blue butted her quite hard in her leg. At first we thought her leg was just badly bruised, a painful injury but one that would quickly pass. But actually, there had been significant damage to the muscle fibers deep in her thigh, and bleeding deep in the muscle there.
About a week after the injury, in the middle of the night her leg suddenly swelled, became extremely painful, and she was unable to bend it, all of which caused us to make a middle of the night run into town to the hospital emergency room. It turned out that the pain and swelling were caused by pooled blood deep in the muscle tissue which her body was trying to dissolve, causing an inflammatory response. When that process was completed, her leg should, the doctors assured us, return to normal.
But the muscle did not heal as the doctors had predicted. The pain and lack of full mobility persisted even after the swelling had ended. Ultimately, Jeanette had to begin a course of twice per week physical therapy in Eugene, involving massage, stretching, and strengthening exercises, to gradually restore the muscle fibers to their normal configuration.
The Long Hunt: Book 4 of the Strongbow Saga
It was a slow process, which continued from late December through April of We have come to love living in the country, but there are a few downsides.
Trips to town, which require a drive of a little over an hour round trip, do tend to eat up time and limit what could otherwise be accomplished in a day.
We also had to stop what had been an important part of our weekly exercise and fitness regime: hikes in the hills above our farm three times per week. We considered neither of those alternatives viable after the attack. It did not happen immediately, but eventually Robbie met his fate.
So from spring through early summer we abandoned everything else we could—our hikes and other regular exercise, plus my writing—to try and catch the garden up. Every crop came in later than usual, some produced much less than in typical years, resulting in less for us to freeze for winter consumption, and some types of crops we regularly grow never reached maturity at all.
I have thinning discs and arthritis in my lower spine.
Have you visited Alibris UK?
In the past, it mostly has caused some stiffness and soreness in my back if I worked too long in a bending over position, but during it worsened into almost constant pain, at its best moderate at times, but fairly severe at others, making the level of physical activity our farm life requires far more difficult and wearing. On top of the constant back pain, I was very sick for the entire month of August.
I have had Multiple Sclerosis since the late s. It is an unusual disease, and there is still much that doctors do not know about it, including what causes it.