I wrote it in either late-2010 or early 2011…I’m not real sure. I wasn’t keeping track back then like I am today, mainly because I knew nothing about Amazon.
See, I was living in China, and you couldn’t even buy eBooks over there, couldn’t even look at them on Amazon! Not that I was trying to do any of those things. Mostly I read books in my free time, or drank a lot of beer and watched movies.
But when I wasn’t doing that I was sticking to my 2,000 words each morning, and that’s how I’d gotten 4 books finished.
Well, that’s not quite true. You see, The Warring States, The State of Chu, and The State of Qin were all the same book at one point. It wasn’t until mid-January, 2013, that I separated the huge manuscript into three parts.
I did this because I’d discovered Amazon by that point, and those three books went up on the same day, and each with bad covers, poor editing, and terrible formatting.
Yes…I knew absolutely bat-shit nothing about Kindles, eBooks, Amazon, covers, marketing…you name it. I was a joke!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, those 65 sales I got in my first month as a self-published author probably hurt me more long-term than they helped me. The next month with the same titles out I got 34 sales and the next after that I got 13.
Of course I wasn’t checking. Nope, I did not check my sales once, and actually completely forgot about the whole damn thing until that first check got deposited in my account sixty days after those first sales.
That’s when I started to take Amazon and eBook publishing seriously. That’s also when I went back and did some rudimentary editing and also tried to slap some better homemade covers on my books. Both efforts were noble, and both were miserable failures.
Perhaps these books could still use some work. I just added an excerpt of The Warring States to the site yesterday, and there were a couple things I might change, the “Duke/duke” discrepancy I noticed on one page being a prime example.
But I suppose that’s the beauty of self-publishing – going back and fixing things and generally keeping your babies in a continual state of care.
Well damnations…we sure got the hell of track there, huh? Let’s get back to China.
The State of Chu picks up right after The Warring States and follows General Wu Qi, a former general with the State of Wei Army. He’s been discharged following Marquis Wen’s death, and now he’s wandering about without a state.
Eventually Wu makes it down to the State of Chu, and it’s there he becomes part of the immense and bloated bureaucracy. But his past can’t just go away that easily, and it isn’t long before Wu is noticed by one of the state’s best military commanders, General Min. Taking Wu to an audience with the Duke Dao, it’s decided the radical philosophical and administrative ideas of Wu will be applied to this weakened state.
The results anger the nobility, who plot to kill not only Wu but also Duke Dao. It all culminates in quite the epic Battle on the Plains, something I made up based on historical accounts and what I believe to have happened more than 2,300 years ago.
Well, that’s the idea at least, perhaps going back to The Empire Strikes Back. Who knows, but I do know this book is great, and vastly underappreciated. So far it’s gotten just 30 sales since January, 2013. If you want to factor the box-set that this series now comes in you could add 17 to that.
Still, it’s not a whole lot, but that’s fine. I guess this hidden gem will remain hidden away until those that are ready for it are enlightened to it.
Boy, what a shitty marketing strategy, huh? Well, I’m full of shit, but I hope you won’t think this exciting excerpt is:
“Pull back!” Dao was yelling. “To the river!”
Wu managed to get close enough and Dao spotted him.
“Has Min given the order?” he yelled out as Wu steered through the protective ring to com up alongside.
“He has,” Wu yelled back. “The infantry are already pulling back while the chariots hold.”
Dao nodded and looked around him. “The enemy infantry, how long?”
“They’ll be on top of us in minutes,” Wu replied. “We’ve got to get you out of here.”
Wu saw the Duke grit his teeth and frown, not happy with the thought of leaving his men.
“If we don’t get you out of here when the infantry arrives then you’ll be swallowed up!” Wu yelled. “The men need you to stay alive and command them.”
That did it. Dao nodded and tightened his hands about the reins of his chariot. “Lead me to Min, then.”
Wu nodded and put his chariot into motion, glancing back to see that Dao was following behind. The ring of men and chariots advanced with him, although when the enemy chariots saw that the Duke of Chu was moving past them they quickly descended. The infantry were the first to be cut down, but most of the chariots managed to make it through. Within moments they were out of the heaviest of the fighting and advancing upon Min’s position.
“Are the infantry pulling back?” Min shouted when Wu was close enough to hear.
“They are, and the chariots are coming this way, as many as remain,” Wu replied loudly over the sounds of battle.
“The Yue infantry are already too close for us to make it to the mouth of the river,” Min said. “We’ll have to circle around their whole army.”
“Can we do that?” Dao asked. “They still have their archers in reserve.”
“It’s our only choice,” Min said. “We have to protect the area between the river and the hills. If we don’t the enemy chariots will have a straight path down onto our infantry.”
“Then lead us around,” Dao said.
Min nodded and steered his chariot north. With a last glance back behind him he cracked his horse’s reins and put the chariot into motion, the rest quickly doing the same. Wu glanced about. No more than two hundred chariots comprised their division, the rest still fighting it out in the middle of the field, trying to buy the infantry as much time as possible to get across the river. Once there the men would be safe from the enemy chariots, which would have to circle around the mouth of the river and come down the narrow corridor between the water and the hills. The bulk of the enemy infantry would most likely try and fight their way across the river, which was narrow and shallow enough to stop low-lying chariots, but not men on foot. It would be a tough fight, and one that they hadn’t anticipated getting into so quickly. The Yue forces were better-organized and more powerful then they’d thought. Wu gave a silent prayer to Shangdi that their main force was running south to join them.
As they broke north many of the enemy chariots disengaged as best they could from the fighting to pursue. Chariots were fierce weapons when allowed the mobility that was their main feature, but when surrounded by infantry they quickly became bogged down and were easy to defeat. The Yue forces knew this well, and at the sight of the Chu chariots speeding north toward their own fast-approaching infantry lines, they too sped north. The respite from the fighting allowed the Chu infantry to pull back en masse and gave an opportunity to those Chu chariots still in the midst of battle to disengage themselves and head toward the mouth of the river on their own. At least he’s saving his army, Wu thought as he glanced over at Duke Dao.
Within moments of breaking north they were speeding past the Yue infantry divisions.
“Take up your bow and take out as many of them as you can,” Wu yelled to Chou over the rumble of wheels all about them.
Chou once again put down his sword and picked up his bow. He sidled around Wu and nocked an arrow, taking careful aim before firing. Even with the shaking of the chariot there was little chance that he would miss; the Yue infantry was arrayed in the thousands all alongside of them and made easy targets. Wu saw other arrows flying out from the chariots around him, as well as those still raining down from the hills above. A large section of the Yue left flank disengaged from their march to swing into the path of the advancing chariots. While many men would be killed if more than two hundred chariots slammed into them, there numbers were enough to ensure that they could stop the whole force in a manner of minutes. Ahead of them Min saw the move and steered them well clear, their horse-drawn chariots faster than even the most capable runners in the infantry. Still, there were thousands of men in the lines, and it took them some time to pass to the rear of the column.
There they found a new set of problems: directly behind the infantry were the two large divisions of archers, already in place and readying their bows to fire upon the hills where the Chu archers were embedded. And coming down directly beside them, and right at the advancing column of Chu chariots, were several hundred enemy chariots. Wu’s mouth came open at the sight; either King Yi had held a large portion of his chariots in reserve or they had already broken off from the fighting in the middle of the field and somehow gotten up and around their own infantry. It was a large dilemma, and Wu knew that they were trapped. Behind them came hundreds of chariots, to their left were thousands of infantry men, and ahead of them were archers and even more chariots. The only route open to them lay to their right, a direction which would take them further from the fighting still taking place in the middle of the field, and the river mouth where their presence was so urgently needed.
Ahead of them Min reined up his horses and slowed his chariot. Duke Dao was in the chariot next to him, and after a moment Wu was able to steer up alongside as well.
“We’ll make a break right behind the infantry,” Min yelled out to them. “Scatter as many of the archers as you can to buy our men in the hills more time.”
“It’ll be close,” Wu yelled back. “If enough of those archers stand their ground it’ll impede our movement and allow some of the infantry and chariots to close the gap in front of us. We’ll be trapped.”
“It’s a risk we’ll have to take, and quickly,” Min yelled back as he gripped his reins tightly. “Besides,” he added with a smile, “when have you ever known archers to hold their ground?”
Min cracked the reins and sent his chariot into the thin gap between the south-marching infantry and fast approaching chariots from the north. Wu smiled despite himself as he watched him go; the man was actually enjoying this, he realized. Wu yelled out and cracked the reins, sending the chariot into motion behind Min and Dao, a newfound burst of confidence upon him.