James Mace was born in Edmonds, Washington, and grew up in Meridian, Idaho. He joined the U.S. Air Force out of high school, and three years later changed over to the U.S. Army. He spent a career as a soldier, including service in the Iraq War.
In 2011, he left his full-time position with Army Guard and devoted himself completely to writing. His series, “Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles”, has been a perennial best-seller in ancient history on Amazon. In 2012 he branched into the Napoleonic Era with the short novella, “Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz”. This was soon followed by the full-length novel, “I Stood With Wellington”.
He also co-wrote the critically acclaimed screenplay, The Evil That Men Do.
Visit him at www.legionarybooks.net
Welcome to Beyond the Books James! Can you start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Thank you for having me here, it is a privilege. I am multi-published, ‘I Stood With Wellington’ being my seventh work.
When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published, or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?
When I published my first book, ‘Soldier of Rome: The Legionary’, in 2006, I used a small vanity press called iUniverse. I had tried the ‘traditional’ route of finding an agent. Every response I did get back said the same thing; that there was no market for the types of stories I wrote. My feeling was that I needed to make my work available and allow the reading public, not some agent, decide whether or not there was a market for my stories.
How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?
It did not take long at all, once I had a contract signed. Within a couple months, the first edition of ‘The Legionary’ was in print. This was in 2006, before the true rise of the eBook and the explosion in popularity brought on by Kindle and Nook, so the only format available for my book was trade paperback.
How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
It was rather surreal and odd as it sounds, but I cannot remember how exactly I celebrated, or even if I did at all. This may be because of how my first book came into existence. I had written a rough draft of ‘The Legionary’ when I was in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 as a cathartic means of escapism. Though not sure if I’m worthy of this comparison, the closest analogy I can come up with is J.R.R. Tolkien penning his first stories in 1916 on a notepad in the trenches of World War I.
A printed copy of the original MS Word document, which I still have, was passed around by members of my platoon while we were still in Iraq. I think it gave them that same sense of escapism, compounded by knowing that it had been written by one of their own. They would read chapters as soon as I finished them, and then ask for more. The story was very raw, yet Soldiers would ask, “Who has Staff Sergeant Mace’s book?” That reaction had a substantially more profound effect on me than even when I did finally publish.
What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?
To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing when I first published. I did very little promotion during this time, because options were severely limited. Remember, this was when the consensus was that you had to do expensive media buys in magazines and television. With the astronomical cost of traditional advertising, everything was stacked against the small, independent author.
Though I had tried doing the occasional book signing, these did not produce any real results in terms of increasing book sales. I enjoyed doing them; however, without purchasing advertising, which can still be unreasonably expensive even at the local level, the only audience I was getting was made up of people I already knew. Where my first real break came in early 2011, when a local shop called Rediscovered Books, owned by Bruce and Laura DeLaney, hosted an event called The Baker’s Dozen. It consisted of thirteen regional authors, with Rediscovered doing extensive advertising in advance. I was fortunate enough to have my table right by the front door. At this time I had three books published and the posters for each drew people to me. At least a couple hundred people attended this event, and I honestly do not know how many books I signed. I am ever thankful to Bruce and Laura for giving me this opportunity. It was at this event that I met Aaron Patterson, another local author. He went on to found his own publishing company, Stonehouse Ink, and it was he who first told me about blog tours and pointed me in the direction of Pump Up Your Book. So to Aaron I am also ever grateful.
Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
In addition to Bruce and Laura at Rediscovered Books, as well as Aaron Patterson’s help with establishing my marketing base, I was further assisted by one of my closest friends, Martin Shepard, who at the time owned a small company called Borderline Publishing. He showed me how to self-publish my books directly onto Amazon Kindle, which was beginning its meteoric rise. After converting my works into eBooks, sales immediately began to skyrocket. If not for Martin’s help, I don’t know that I would ever have gotten to where I am today. Sadly, he passed away less than a year later, with Borderline being continued under the leadership of Kimberli Reynolds. I wish her and her authors nothing but the best! Kimberli introduced me to the lady who would become my copyeditor, Pam Carrell.
I was now established on Kindle, had a permanent editor, and was expanding beyond what iUniverse could do for me. Though they did give me a good start, by 2011 I realized it was time to branch out on my own, and that I had done all I could with them. The production quality was very good, though my overriding issue, besides a lack of creative control over cover art and format, was the price. Print-on-demand books were, and still are more expensive than mass-market paperbacks, and I felt that print versions of my novels were way overpriced. I had four released by this point in my series ‘Soldier of Rome – The Artorian Chronicles’, as well as an off-shoot novella. Around the time I started on my first Napoleonic Era work, ‘Forlorn Hope: The Storming of Badajoz’, I cancelled my iUniverse contracts and was now strictly doing everything under my own imprint, Legionary Books. With the advent of Amazon CreateSpace, independent authors could now publish their own print versions as well as eBooks. I now had complete control over every aspect of my books, was able to slash the prices on my trade paperbacks, as well as make whatever adjustments I chose to regarding format and cover design.
Perhaps the most substantial way in which I have grown as a writer was the quality of my writing itself. This happens with any author, as over time their skills will increase with the class of writing improving substantially. I feel that the style has evolved between my first book, ‘Soldier of Rome: The Legionary’, and my most current, ‘I Stood With Wellington’, to the point that one may not realize they were written by the same person.
What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
What has been most surprising is how rapidly the publishing world has changed. It has only been seven years since I put out my first novel, yet the very dynamics of what ‘right’ looks like in book publishing has been completely tossed on its head. I still remember reading blogs and message boards, where supposed experts would pan anyone who did not go the traditional route of finding an agent and getting with a big publishing house. I found their demeanor to be condescending, almost belligerent; i.e. if you didn’t have an agent, you were an abject failure as a writer. Oh how things have changed! Literary agents, while perhaps not totally obsolete, have become an endangered species. The ease of getting one’s work out to the public has made it so that anyone can publish an eBook, and if one takes the time to learn the formatting aspects of venues like CreateSpace, they can get their works in print as well. I’ll grant you, it has become perhaps too easy, because the markets are now being constantly flooded with new books, many of which are so bad they simply have no business being published. Perhaps it is a little hypocritical for me to say that, as there were agents and other so-called ‘experts’ who felt my works did not deserve to see the light of day. The challenge that arises now is not getting a book published, but rather making certain that it is of highest quality and that you can make it stand out from others of the same genre.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
I am extremely grateful that I am able to actually make a very comfortable living doing what I love. In December 2011 I was able to resign from my federal job that I’d held for fifteen years and became a full-time author. Over 90% of all published authors still have to work a regular day job and write simply as a hobby or for the joy of storytelling. According to my parents, I’ve been telling stories since I was around six years old, and that love has never left me. It was only after I became established with eBooks and had my fourth novel published that I began to make what one could think of as a substantial amount in royalties. I simply enjoyed writing and was thrilled that there were those who actually read and enjoyed my works. In November I released my seventh book, and that thrill of seeing positive reviews of those who have enjoyed the stories I give them is the same now as when my fellow Soldiers in Iraq first picked up a printed copy of my first book and told me how much they enjoyed it.
Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Write first for yourself! Remain true to your work as you see it, not how you think others want to see it. If you compromise on that, then what you write is no longer your own. Also do not sacrifice quality for expediency. I learned that lesson the hard way, and I hope others don’t have to. When you think your story is ready to share with the world, hire yourself a good editor. Under no circumstances try and simply edit your own work, nor rely on friends and family to do it. Hire a professional to make certain everything is correct in terms of spelling, grammar, and formatting. Also, do not go into publishing with any expectations. This is difficult, I know. That being said; embrace whatever success you achieve, whether modest or if you become the next J.K. Rowling. And finally, with the publishing world ever-changing, take any lessons you learn on your journey and pass them on to others. When you meet a fellow aspiring author with a story to tell, take a moment to ‘pay it forward’. Above all, never lose your love of storytelling.
In February, 1815, after nine months in exile, Napoleon Bonaparte, the deposed Emperor of the French, escaped from the Isle of Elba. Seizing the initiative while the European powers bicker amongst themselves at the Congress of Vienna, Napoleon advances towards Belgium with an enormous army, where the combined forces of Prussia and England are cantoned. The French Emperor knows that if he can achieve a decisive capture in Brussels, it will shatter the already fragile European alliance.
Leading the allies is Sir Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington; the venerable British field marshal who defeated Napoleon’s best generals in Spain, yet who the emperor had never personally met in battle. Napoleon knows that if he can draw away Wellington’s chief Prussian ally, Gebhard von Blucher, and destroy his army first, he can unleash his entire might against the British. A victory over the unbeaten Wellington will cripple the alliance even further, as it will then deprive them of both English soldiers and financing.
In Belgium, Captain James Henry Webster has finally returned to a line regiment after being terribly wounded at the Siege of Badajoz three years prior. He is given command of a line company within the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards, the elite of the British Infantry.
A series of indecisive clashes will lead to a collision between the two greatest military minds of the age and the bloodiest single day of the entire century, as Wellington and Napoleon lead their armies to either immortality or oblivion. For Captain Webster, he fights for both his nation and to protect his young daughter in Brussels. Along with the rest of the Guards Division, he finds himself at the apex of the battle, where the fate of the entire world will be decided; at a place called Waterloo.
In the spring of 1812, the British army under Sir Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington, has driven the French from Portugal. With Napoleon obsessed by the invasion of Russia, Wellington turns toward Spain. The way is barred by two fortresses, Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. When Ciudad Rodrigo collapses after a short siege, Wellington prepares to break the fortress of Badajoz, the most formidable stronghold in Europe.
Lieutenant James Webster is in mourning following the loss of his wife, and he volunteers to command the small group that will lead the assault. Second in command is Sergeant Thomas Davis; recently diagnosed with a fatal illness, he prefers a valiant death in battle. Breaches have been blown into the walls of the southern bastions, Trinidad and Santa Maria, and here Wellington will unleash the 4th and Light Divisions, while launching diversionary assaults on the northern San Vincente bastion, as well as the Badajoz castle. Together with one hundred volunteers, the Forlorn Hope, Webster and Davis will storm the breach.