I’m asking people for feedback on a marketing problem for my most recent book.
When COVID hit I edited an unsold alternate history trilogy and self-published it on Amazon. I plugged the books on Facebook and a couple of online writer’s groups familiar with my work. I have pleased with the sales of those three books, they’ve covered my car payment for over a year.
My most recent work is “Armageddon’s Disciples” a suspense/thriller inspired by my fifteen year experience with the religion. So, relying on experience I plugged this book on several social media sites, both XJW and non-JW related. Unfortunately, “Armageddon’s Disciples” is not following my previous pattern, I’ve only sold a few copies.
I hope to create some interest with a reduced-price promotion. From now until January I’m taking $2 off the paperback and hardback editions. I want to hear your opinions of my marketing effors. I can handle criticism, but silence is driving me crazy.
When they arrive at their meetinghouse to discuss routine matters, three local leaders of Word of God Foundation discover sixteen-year-old Alice Lahti dead on the floor. Alice had been under church discipline for sexual misconduct. The condition of her body makes it clear she is the victim of a brutal murder. After a forty-five-minute argument about what to do, the three Servants contact the religion’s headquarters before they call the police. Called to the scene to begin an investigation, Detective Ed Franklin finds this delay is only the start of his inability to understand the Disciples.
In recent years, the Foundation has promoted several prophecies proclaiming the imminent return of Jesus and creation of paradise on Earth. These false messages have left some Disciples, as they call themselves, disheartened. Because the Disciples learned to accept the religion’s leaders as directly appointed by God, the struggle to find order in the world, or they rebel against the religion’s strict and myriad rules. Others take refuge in belief that God still intends to reward their faith.
Ed enlists Keith Thornton, his neighbor, and a former Disciple, to help him understand the Disciple's bizarre world. Keith faces a fight with his wife. Following the religion’s commandments, she is shunning Keith because he left the religion. She is fighting Keith in court get custody of their children, so she can raise them as Disciples. Keith adamantly opposes this, and his teenage son refuses to live with his mother.
With Keith’s help, Ed uncovers a world of lies and evasions, illegal pornography, mental and physical abuse, theft, blackmail, and murder. As more young women turn up dead, fear of a serial killer lends urgency to the investigation.
A Christmas themed excerpt:
Note: Ruth and Elizabeth are detective Franklin’s teenage daughters. Karen is his wife. K2 is Keith Thornton’s son (don’t call him junior)
Late Saturday afternoon Keith rode with Ed to the grocery store to pick up a list of items Karen needed. They planned to eat together and watch “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Elizabeth, Ruth, and K2 had gone snowshoeing for the day. They expected to come home cold, wet and exhausted. Dinner and a movie suited everyone’s plans. “Ed, I feel like I’m freeloading. Let me pick this up.”
“If you were freeloading, I’d push you out the door. I don’t put up with that. Besides, Elizabeth hasn’t complained about anything for three days. I think she likes hanging out with your son.”
“He says they’re friends.”
“That’s what she says.”
Ed’s phone buzzed. He glanced at the caller ID and pushed a button on the dash, picking up on hands-free.
“Hey Steve, be advised I have Keith with me.”
“Good, I got a call about a disturbance at the Crystalview Gathering House. Unfortunately, dispatch could not provide a clear description of the problem; black and whites are almost there. Can you go see what’s happening?”
“We’re in my car, be there in ten minutes.”
Ed flipped switches, turning on concealed lights on the unmarked car. Unconsciously Keith tightened his grip on the seat and door.
“Don’t be nervous; I do this all the time.”
“I’m fine. When I was a kid, a car hit one of my friends while riding his bike. The whole way to the hospital, he kept asking the crew if they were going to blow the siren.”
Ed chuckled. Then snapped at a slow-moving car in front of them, “C’mon, buddy, out of the way. He punched a button on the steering wheel twice. The siren emitted a “Whoop, whoop.” The car moved over.
“There, I blew the siren for you.”
Both men laughed. Keith turned suddenly serious. “Please tell me this isn’t another murder.
“Dispatch didn’t think so, or they would have reported it, but they didn’t have a clear idea of the complaint. We hate ‘Unknown trouble’ calls. It can be anything from a cat up a tree to mass murder.”
“Cats up trees?”
“Good dispatchers sort those out, but some slip through the cracks.”
A few minutes later, they pulled into the parking lot at the Crystalview Gathering House. Ed spotted Jose Delrio near the entrance talking to a uniformed officer. A woman Ed presumed was his wife stood next to him, two young children holding her skirt. Two other civilians argued with another uniformed officer on the entrance porch.
“Looks like they already have Gunther and Mr. Dahlgren here.”
“I’ll stay here unless you need me,” Keith said.
“You sure? I don’t care if you come with me.”
“They won’t like me here at all, much less in the House.”
“Got it.” He exited the car. “Gentlemen, how are you tonight?”
“This is a hate crime, I tell you,” Dahlgren yelled. “I want a full investigation!”
The officer talking to the Delrio family waved and approached him. “We have a situation here.”
“I see that. And hear it.”
“These people are nuts; I don’t understand why they’re so worked up.”
“Don’t worry, I brought a translator.”
“Good. These guys, who seem to be in charge here, want us to report a terrorist incident.”
Ed turned and motioned for Keith to join him. As Keith stepped out of the car, Carl Dahlgren saw him. He glared angrily at Keith in the half-light. “We don’t need a Forsaker to explain things. Outsiders hate us because you hate The Lord. This is clearly the work of someone who wants to let us know how much they hate us.”
“I tell you, it is the work of the devil, a demon sent to torment us,” Jose interjected, fear in his voice.
“Jose, please calm down,” Dan said, “Keith, do you mind stepping back. Please?” Keith suppressed a laugh. The Area Servant was pleading with him.
Behind Carl, a uniformed officer suppressed a smile.
“Well, what’s going on here?” Ed asked.
“See for yourself,” a uniform answered.
“I will not let a Forsaker into The Lord’s house,” Carl shouted.
“I’ve already walked away,” Keith said, nodding toward Ed, “Go ahead, you can tell me about it when you’ve seen it.”
Ed walked up the steps into the House. “It’s the devil,” Delrio yelled again. “You’ll see. A demon.”
Ed walked into the vestibule, thinking of Alice Lahti’s body on the floor. The crime scene people must have finished their work recently. He took another step and saw what had Jose and Carl worked up. The ‘demon,’ cloaked in red, had a mischievous smile, a light in the eyes that suggested hidden intent. It certainly did not belong here. He walked back outside.
“Hey Keith,” he called, “is a plastic Santa Claus a hate symbol?”
Keith could not help it; he laughed.
“You know,” he said loudly, so all could hear, “this wouldn’t be the first time some kids with a little knowledge of Disciples pulled a prank on a House.”
“I want it investigated and prosecuted,” Carl fumed. “and I want that Forsaker off our property.”
“Carl, stop,” Gunther snapped.
“You know,” Ed responded, “I think this is funny and probably a joke. But we’re going to take Santa into evidence, get fingerprints and the like.”
“Officer Franklin,” Dan said, “I suspect you’re right; it’s a joke.”
“Is there any sign of a break-in?”
“Not that I could see,” a uniformed officer said.
Ed looked at the three Disciples. “You guys need to put new locks on this place.”