Here are the reasons why you should order the entire book series today: get 1000 pages of awesome adventure! Ideal for a holiday break or a rainy day. Highly rated at Goodreads, Apple Books, and Amazon. A loveable hero and great friendships. Intelligent, compassionate stories. And…attractively priced!
This series consists of three independent books. In TWO JOURNEYS, Alan finds himself to be the only survivor of a global pandemic. During his travels from Japan to Berlin, he soon finds out that danger lurks around every corner. In FIELDS OF FIRE, Alan crosses the Atlantic Ocean and the continent of America to rescue his family and to find more clues about the cause of the pandemic. And finally, in the novel REBOUND, Alan and his friends strike back to save the future of humankind.
Thrilling stories, full of inquisitiveness, compassion, bravery, and comradery.
I bent over Tom and used scissors to remove as much of his trousers as possible. I asked the two men to clean the wound with disinfectant. As they started to wipe away the blood and dirt I looked at the state of the leg. Blood vessels and tissue had been ripped and shredded beyond repair, and what I saw confirmed my belief that there was no other option than amputation. All injured tissue had to be removed while simultaneously sparing as much healthy tissue as possible. Should we amputate beneath or above the knee? I couldn’t recall ever having seen amputees with a part of the lower limb missing. There are two bones in the lower limb, but only one in the upper, and I thought the procedure might be easier and more likely to succeed if done above the knee.
I didn’t mention any of this to the two men. I was playing this game with the skimpiest of knowledge and in the belief that if I didn’t act, this man would die. I pulled up Tom’s eyelid and checked his heartbeat. As far as I could tell, he was sleeping happily. Without too much difficulty, I found the vein in the crook of his elbow and hooked him up to an infusion. Rummaging through the drawers, I collected bottles of medication. I passed them to one of the men outside the door and asked him to find a medical book and check what the substances did. He hurried off.
I had found a rotary reciprocating saw, designed to cut through bones. I had used them in anatomy class—but never on a living human. We were getting closer to the decisive moment. The three of us removed our soiled gloves and cleaned our hands again.
Sooner than expected, the man returned with a book, which he handed to me. He pointed at a text about chloroprocaine, a local anesthetic that apparently also constricted blood vessels and reduced blood loss. He also handed me back two of the bottles that I had given him. My hands were trembling slightly as I pulled the liquid into a hypodermic needle. I ordered the Big Man to pull a tourniquet tightly around the patient’s thigh. I asked the other man to start tracking Tom’s pulse. Deftly, I injected the anesthetic in several spots above Tom’s knee, taking care that the area was disinfected beforehand. I threw the needle in the bin and grabbed a scalpel.
Search the store on your smartphone or reading device for FIELDS OF FIRE. Or check here for all options.
I have tried to lose weight on and off, but not very successfully. In reality, my weight kept on inching up over many years. At one point I had arrived at 97 kg (~214 pounds, 15.3 stone), and at 189cm (~6’ 2”) my body-mass-index was well above the “normal” BMI range for a man of my age. Since then I have lost 15kg in as many weeks: that is 1000g per week. For those of you interested in knowing how I achieved this, here is the method that I have used. I have summarized this method in 20 easy steps.
I call this the Willpower Celeterra Watersoup Diet – although it isn’t really a diet (explained below) and the enigmatic Watersoup played only a small role in this method. But I did carry out this diet while writing my second novel CELETERRA and yes… you will need willpower.
1. Decide that you really want to lose weight. Sounds simple? Think: you must really, REALLY, want to lose weight. You CAN ALWAYS change.
2. Fix the date when to start. How about starting right now?
3. Choose a realistic target. I chose to lose 10kg at a rate of 500g per week. It turned out that I lost more weight at a higher rate.
4. Determine how best to lose weight, do your homework. The tricks below come from many diverse website sources, I didn’t re-invent the wheel. There are many informative and motivational websites with a lot of good tips, a ten-minute web search will direct you to a dozen useful ones. Do not rely on one site, but compare methods. It pays off to inform yourself.
5. Weigh yourself each day, directly after you have gotten out of bed and gone to the toilet. Enter your weight into a graph. I used an iPhone app to track my weight, but any app or piece of paper will do. Spend a few minutes each day to study that graph and to decide on your next steps. What went well? Why did your weight increase / decrease? What did you eat, how does that explain the curve? This will help you to understand the dynamics of weight loss, your body, your eating habits, your exercise, and ways to improve.
6. Reward yourself for milestones achieved. Obviously, food is not a good reward. A book? A new headset? Something that you always wanted to have?
7. What to do if you are not losing weight consistently? Obviously, your body doesn’t want to lose that precious fat. On top of that, your body will become more efficient at making the most out of the food that it gets. You will thus have to further decrease the calorie intake or increase the burn rate. It is mind-over-matter: is your brain winning the game – or will you let your body’s craving and compulsions win? There, that’s WILLPOWER for you!
8. Fluctuations in weight (see my curve below) are normal. However, once you have gone down a kilo, the chance that you move up to your previous weight is greatly reduced. Bye bye 90kg. Bye bye 88 kg: we will never meet again, sucker.
9. You are not dieting. You are changing your eating habits. For the rest of your life.
10. Eat breakfast like a king; lunch like a prince; and dinner like a beggar. Don’t eat anything between meals
11. Eat big breakfasts, they can suppress hunger until 4 p.m. For example 300ml fat-free yogurt, 0-2 table spoons of shredded wheat, 200-300g of fruit (melon, orange, apple, banana…). Slice of bread.
12. Lunch: a big salad, no dressing, one spoon of olive oil, a dollop of fat-free yogurt or mustard. Occasionally some noodles or potato or some fat-free meat (I’m a vegetarian myself – which by the way does not have any effect on your weight or weight loss).
13. In between meals: coffee and tea are ok, but no drinks with sugar or milk. No snacks, no fruit. The sugar level in your blood has to go down to zero between meals. This positively impacts insulin levels and protects against diabetes.
14. Drink lots of water. Start with a big glass in the morning, continue drinking the entire day.
15. Dinner: now the “watersoup” kicks in. Try one liter of Japanese miso soup, which is almost free of carbohydrates or fat, so the only saturating effect is the liquid.
16. Admittedly, the evenings are the most challenging, but here are a few tricks:
Continue drinking lots of water.
Eat 250g of fat- and sugar-free cottage cheese (makes you feel full) with a teaspoon of cinnamon (great to support a weight-loss program – read about it on the internet) and optionally some lemon juice (vitamins + saturating effect).
Keep busy; you feel more hungry sitting on the sofa. Move about, do some housekeeping.
Go for a walk. This will make you feel tired, so you will sleep better.
In emergencies, eat some salad, carrots, tomatoes or fruit.
Obviously, if you are actually losing weight at the rate that you decide, you can also eat more than the above. You don’t have to starve to death. But a few evenings a week, your food intake must be very low, otherwise there won’t be any effect, which is not motivating.
17. Exercise. Walk 10000 steps a day. Track your steps. Go cycling, swimming, jogging, Nordic walking. Get your heart-rate up to 100 bpm for at least 30-40 minutes, three times a week. Start slow – you will automatically improve over time.
18. Some people say that you should never feel hungry during weight-loss, but if you want to see some result within a reasonable time, you will have to experience hunger. Hunger is not bad by definition: if you have hunger, you are actually burning body fat. I felt quite hungry at times during the first three weeks. But then the stomach starts to shrink! Over time you will automatically need less food.
19. Next to eating less fat, you must also cut the number of carbohydrates. Try to avoid sugar and alcohol, in whatever form. The liver converts surplus carbs, sugar and alcohol into fat very efficiently. Read the labels on the food that you buy, compare products to see how much energy they provide.
20. Build muscle. Even in rest, muscle burns calories! Muscular people can eat more without gaining weight.
Losing weight – it takes willpower and a change in lifestyle. Don’t listen too much to other people, as advice comes cheap.
Motivators. What did I gain during and after my weight loss period, and what could YOU gain?
1. Agility. Effectively I now carry 10kg less weight: that’s ten bottles of wate.
We had entered Arizona. An empty landscape covered by a high, cloudless sky, no movement visible, no birds or other animals. Derelict cars stood parked on the road, but in lower numbers than back east. My thoughts wandered off. I recalled how I had once traveled through this dessert before the epidemic.
I had attended a Keystone Conference on molecular biology in Taos, New Mexico. My plane had landed in San Francisco, where I had visited my friend Kenn Z. for a very rainy week. I had stayed in his apartment in Castro, most of his neighbors gays and lesbians. At night we could hear them having sex, and Kenn, embarrassed, kept on turning up the volume of his Rolling Stones records. One night we had watched the movie “A Kiss Before Dying”, and we smoked so much pot that the simple storyline turned into a weird and complex tale, causing endless interpretations. At the end of the week, Karel, a colleague from Czechoslovakia, picked me up and together we drove through Southern California, Arizona and New Mexico to Taos. It was early spring, and the weather had been cold and marvelous. We visited the Organ Pipe Cactus- and Saguaro-National Monuments, as well as a place where nuclear ballistic rockets had been based—which had tremendously intrigued Karel, who had been raised behind the Iron Curtain.
Memories flooded by, as I passed through the desert. It was a long and hot day, the air vibrating over the tarmac. My eyes kept falling shut. I was considering having another break, to stretch my legs and get my blood going again, when suddenly a load roar broke the silence. I ducked my head, expecting a blow. The dogs jumped up and barked loudly. Initially, I thought a plane had passed by. Then, as the sky remained empty, that my engine had exploded. I cursed in anticipation. However, the sound increased and changed into a high-pitched growl, as if a rocket was overtaking me.
The sound came from two motorbikes that passed by on my left side. They were squat and heavy, with roaring engines. The drivers were dressed almost identically, in black jeans, boots and heavy leather jackets with insignia on the backs. Due to their black helmets, I couldn’t see their faces.
I cursed again, looking in the mirrors and the surrounding landscape for an escape route. They swung their machines in front of my truck and one raised his hand, a signal for me to stop. They slowed down and I was forced to hit the brakes. Slowly we came to a halt. They looked at me through their mirrors and then they both climbed of their bikes. They stood in front of the truck, staring at me. I stared back at them.
After some hesitation, I switched off the engine, opened the door and got out. They didn’t carry any visible weapons and I decided to leave my own guns in the cab. This wasn’t a time for a shoot-out on a highway, which in any case I was bound to lose. Still, I left the door open. I cleared my throat. “How are you?” The question sounded inane, but I had to start the conversation somehow. The one on the left took off his helmet and walked up to me. “Fine. Thanks.”
He didn’t look fine, though. He was a young man, perhaps 25, tall and thin. His blond hair was long and straggly. He looked pale and distraught. The other man also took off his helmet. He had dirty black hair and a full beard. He too looked anxious and sweaty. The cooling engines pinged in the afternoon air, all sound slowly dying down. Before we could deepen our conversation, more vehicles came up from behind. I cursed softly and considered getting my guns. Looking back down the road, three more motorcycles appeared, followed by a pick-up. They moved up quickly and stopped next to the truck. The cyclists dismounted, and the door of the door of the truck opened.
Six men stood on the road and stared at me. One of them, an unusually big man, stepped forward. “Are you a doctor?”
The question got me by surprise. “Uh… no, I’m not.”
“Have any medical experience?”
“Well—no, very little.”
He fell silent and stared at me. Then he looked up and down the road, as if he was waiting for someone to arrive, or something to happen. After a few seconds, it seemed as if he made up his mind. “Get into the pick-up.”
It was an order, not a question. I considered getting back into my truck, start the engine and drive off. Why should I be ordered about? Nevertheless, his first question intrigued me. Highwaymen hardly ever ask you for your profession. “What do you guys want from me?”
The big man grimaced at me, as if I had hurt him. He had a flat, almost expressionless face, fat, sweaty and hairless. “There’s no time. We’re losing time. Come with us.”
I stared into his eyes. Fear moved in them, like a shark moving in the deep blue sea. I walked to the pickup, the big man following. He climbed behind the wheel, and I into the passenger seat, my two dogs at my feet. The other men got on their motorbikes.
The vehicles turned, leaving my truck parked on the side of the highway, and we thundered back, perhaps five or ten miles. We came to an intersection of sorts, a dusty trail leading north into the desert. We turned onto it and bounced along for several miles. I tried to start a conversation with the big man, but he signaled me to be quiet. Sweat covered his face, neck and arms.
We arrived at hills and the road dipped into a slight valley—out of sight and a good hiding place. Shortly, the valley turned into a gulch, only a few feet deep. We came to a flat area. Several motorbikes stood parked in a disorderly fashion. The big man stopped the car and we got out. The bikers also dismounted. The big man, obviously in a hurry, pushed me in the direction of a large square tent, the cloth dirty and soiled. They hustled me inside. I wasn’t prepared for what met me.
The tent was almost free of furniture, about ten by ten feet and eight feet high. Inside it was tremendously hot. Dark liquid had spilled on the desert sand and the imprints of many shoes were visible. People had been at work here.
There were two men in the tent. One of them was standing, a short black beard and seemingly intelligent eyes behind simple wire-framed spectacles. He was much shorter and younger than I was. His face was sweaty and his mouth stood ajar. At regular intervals, his tongue would sneak out and he would wet his chapped lips.
The other man was lying on his back on a simple wooden table, the only piece of furniture. He was asleep or unconscious. His face was red and surrounded by straggly hair: a full beard and long locks on his forehead. A white sheet, smeared with blood and dirt covered his body. The big man pushed by me from behind. He moved to the other side of the table and looked in my eyes. I stared back at him. He pulled away the sheet.
I cursed as I turned away. Some of the other men winced as well and two actually turned and walked out again. One of them started to throw up somewhere outside. I stared back at the big man. “What the fuck is this?”
The big man threw the sheet back. “An accident. He had an accident.”
I moved forward and lifted the sheet up again. I stared at the left leg of the man. Somebody had cut away his trousers, way up above the knee. They hadn’t removed his shoes and socks though.
Obviously, his lower leg had broken. More than that; it looked as if it had been smashed by a heavy object, a sledge-hammer or something. I could see pieces of bone sticking out of the red flesh. I recalled my days as an anatomy teacher and recognized the Os tibia and the Os fibula, and both were goners. The leg was at a weird angle because of it. The bleeding had stopped, but there was enough raw meat and bodily fluid to turn my stomach.
The big man cleared his throat. “Tom hit a rock in the desert and his motorbike landed on top of his leg. Question: can you fix it? None of us have any medical experience.”
I almost broke out laughing. I swallowed hard, trying to get some liquid in my mouth. “Fix it? This is a complex fracture. I can see three or four bone fragments sticking out. This can’t be set. When did it happen?”
“Two hours ago.”
“He’s been unconscious since then? How’s his blood pressure and heartbeat?”
“We didn’t check.”
“What have you been doing then?”
The big man looked at the ground, as if ashamed. “We went looking for help.”
I turned and left the tent and walked a few feet into the desert. Some of the men followed me. I turned to them. “Better if we talk here. Sometimes patients seem to sleep, but they hear every word you say.”
Some hope lighted up in the big man’s eyes. “You’re a doctor after all?”
We met in the lobby of the Aswan hotel at three in the morning. Outside it was dark, and not much cooler than during the day. “Hurry up, hurry up,” shouted the hotel manager. I think he had gotten out of bed especially for us, and wanted to go back to sleep. My wife (at that time my girlfriend) and I, together with three French tourists, piled into a taxi. The taxi driver gave gas, and off we went: to the temple of Abu Simbel. This was a five-hour drive through an unwelcoming, hot desert; and that was the reason why we had to leave so early. We would arrive at Abu Simbel at around seven, visit the famous UNESCO-protected Egyptian temple for two hours, and arrive back at the hotel before the hottest time of the day.
And Aswan was hot. We visited Egypt in late winter/early spring and had both brought a flu along, which quickly developed into bronchitis. In Luxor, famous for its many temples, we had to organize a home visit by an MD, who gave us a large array of drugs to get us walking again. I experienced the temples of Karnak and Luxor through a fever- and codeine-induced haze. We had arrived in Aswan by train from Luxor a few days before and had spent the afternoons in the Old Cataract Hotel, drinking tea and eating sandwiches, convalescing, and escaping from the oppressive heat.
Nevertheless, now we were reasonably fit and ready for adventure. The taxi driver drove like a madman, overtaking other taxis and tourist buses along the way. We had a short stop halfway, just after the sun had come up, which afterwards hung like a burning metal plate above an endless and completely flat desert. I found some dung and saw a few flies, and was surprised that anything could live in this place. Another taxi hiccupped towards us, and over the next half hour several taxi drivers tried to repair its accelerator, but if I recall correctly, they didn’t manage to fix it. I don’t think those tourists ever arrived in Abu Simbel.
We did arrive at the temple, which is both an impressive architectural feat by the pharaoh as well as modern man, since the temple was moved five hundred meters so that it wouldn’t be covered by the waters rising in the gigantic Aswan reservoir. I can’t remember the temple well, except that its back is covered by an ugly dome of modern concrete, and the presence of a large airfield for the richer tourists. We were poor students at the time, traveling with backpacks and staying at three dollar hotels in obscure sidestreets, cheap because they usually were located close to neighborhood mosques. This was Ramadan time, so we didn’t need to set an alarm; the recorded singing of the muazzin and 500 Watt loudspeakers took care of that.
After visiting the temple, we arrived back at the taxi, the driver already impatiently pacing about. We waited and waited for the three other tourists. “Let’s sit in the front,” suggested my wife, “that will be bit cooler.” Finally, the three arrived and climbed into the back. The taxidriver cursed and cursed, but as they didn’t speak English, I don’t think they realized what was happening. He didn’t pay them much respect anyway, as the women wore skimpy dresses, showing a lot of leg and chest, which doesn’t resonate well in Muslim countries. Off we went, burning rubber! This time we had a few more stops as the heat began to take its toll on all of us. First, we paused for tea at a military post (at that time there was considerable tension with Sudan), where we had a chance to chat with the drivers.
A hundred miles north, we passed by an overturned taxi. It looked as if it had careened off the highway, hit the soft desert sand, and had gone topsy-turvy. There were many tracks and footsteps in the sand, but no humans. “Probably helicopter, bring to hospital,” shouted the driver over the hot wind, shaking his head. “Only for good driver. Desert danger!”
The three Frenchmen in the back had conked out from the heat; these taxis didn’t have any air conditioning, and we survived by the hot air that blew in through the the windows.
We arrived at a burnt-out ruin, and the driver let the taxi roll next to a few other parked cars. Tea time apparently. He got out, men hurried towards him. They spoke, and our driver started shouting and cursing. No tea this time, he immediately got back into the cab and we set off again. We continued to race north. “What happened?” I shouted at the driver, the wind blowing away my words.
“Whose father? How?” I thought I had misunderstood him.
“That taxi.” He pointed toward the back with his thumb.
“Is he in the hospital?” I shouted, afraid to press the point.
The taxi driver put his right thumb underneath his left ear and pretended to slit his throat. “Dead.”
“What’s he saying?” asked my wife. I repeated the conversation to her. “Jesus.” We didn’t know what to say, and stayed silent for a while, stealing occasional glances at the driver, who looked straight ahead, seemingly unperturbed, which made the entire affair even more unbelievable. As far as we could understand from the driver, the tourists had indeed been transported to Aswan by helicopter.
The issue is that a trip to and from Abu Simbel followed an extremely straight and tedious highway. There’s nothing to see but tarmac and flat sand. To make ends meet all taxi drivers held multiple jobs; they would drive a taxi in the morning, work in a garage during the day, and sell clothing in the Souk until ten in the evening. Due to exhaustion, accidents were bound to happen.
At the next military checkpoint, my wife and I swapped places. The soldiers already knew what had happened, and shook hands with our driver. He didn’t react much. Up to that point, the driver had occasionally already started to nod off, struggling to keep his eyes open. My wife began to ask him questions to keep him awake. I was struggling with sleep myself. The three tourists, deep asleep in the back, looked like pale meat overdone in a microwave.
Finally, the driver managed to pull open his eyes and sit up straight: Aswan came into sight. Taxis stood parked on the street, the drivers waving at our cab excitedly. News had spread fast. “I am sorry,” we said to the taxi driver, as we gave him a generous tip. He shrugged, and hurried across the street to his colleagues.
“What ‘ees ‘appening?” asked one of the French tourists.
“His father died in the accident in the desert. The overturned car we passed?”
“What? What ‘appended?” Obviously, they hadn’t seen or noticed anything. We didn’t hang around to explain, why spoil their vacation?
My wife and I returned to the Old Cataract Hotel for bitters tea, which no sugar in the world could cure.
Part two! These are the comments of the editor of Two Journeys – a great review, you will agree. “I almost wonder whether if in the promotional descriptions you may want to tone down any emphasis on a dystopian or post-apocalyptic society so that you do not alienate (no pun intended) readers who may not normally gravitate toward that genre, only because I truly believe that readers not typically interested in such topics will enjoy your book as much as someone who seeks them out. Your book was extremely engaging, intelligent, entertaining, and well-written. I thoroughly enjoyed editing it […] Overall, the writing was incredibly strong. This is a great book. I rarely cry at the end of books or movies, but I cried when he made it to Hansen’s…”
Get your copy of TWO JOURNEYS: how-to-order-the-books-by-clemens-suter/
High speed adventure novels – available today
Sample from Two Journeys
“Our route took us between hundreds of cars parked in the traffic jam. Most of the passengers had turned into skeletons with very little flesh on them. Due to the decaying process, the interiors of the cars were disgustingly dirty, and I realized that I couldn’t use any of them for transport.
Arriving at the head of the traffic jam, I turned around and looked back. For the first time in days, tears ran down my cheeks. Turning around, cursing, barefoot and dressed only in a blanket, I left the scene, almost delirious, hardly able to make a rational decision, just continuing, like an automaton.
The road went up and down slowly, crossing some minor hills. I vaguely remember passing through wooded areas, black birds singing obscenely loud from the branches. The rising sun stayed hidden behind the clouds and doused the landscape into gray depressing light. The road was mostly empty, although some debris had collected here and there: dust and ashes, leaves and dirt.
At some point, my feet started bleeding, but I can’t recall that I noticed any pain.
The road climbed another hill, and I walked towards the top. I was dead tired, so much so that I was actually just shuffling along. The dogs were far ahead of me. The air was cold, and I had to pull the rough blanket closely around my shoulders.
A parked car stood just over the apex of the hill. I looked inside. It was empty. I tried the door. It was open.
I let myself down onto the driver seat. I almost fell asleep as I sat there, but my hand found the keys in the ignition and I started the motor. It kicked into action right away. I stumbled out again and opened the passenger door for the dogs.
The car was of a make that I had never seen. It wasn’t very big, but the tank was half full. I gave it gas and steered it onto the middle of the road.”
The adventure novel TWO JOURNEYS tells the story of a man who is the sole survivor of a post-apocalyptic event.
How is it possible to survive as the last man on earth? In adventure literature, Robinson Crusoe is probably the most famous imaginary character in such a situation. But real-life people have been separated from humanity for extended periods of time – if not the remainder of their life. These include the likes of Thorgisl, Grettir Ásmundarson, Fernão Lopez, Juan de Cartagena and Pedro Sánchez Reina, Gonzalo de Vigo, Marguerite de La Rocque, Jan Pelgrom and Wouter Loos(the first westerners to set foot in Australia), Miskito Will, Alexander Selkirk, Philip Ashton, Pedro Serrano, Ada Blackjack, Jesus Vidana, Salvador Ordoñez, Lucio Rendo, Leendert Hasenbosch, Chunosuke Matsuyama and Charles Barnard – and there are many more names of people that were forced to live in isolation over extended time periods. Some lived isolated for a few months, others for years… What unites these involuntarily castaways is their tremendous drive to return to humanity.
Some also select to be alone for extended periods of time, such as Gerald Kingsland and Lucy Irvine or Tom Neale (the latter spent 16 lonely years in solitude on the Cook Islands – by his own choice).
Survival is possible, and depending on the character of the castaway, might even be seen as enjoyable … one of the reasons why I selected this theme for my novel Two Journeys: how does an individual thrown from modern society, deal with the prospect of being alone…perhaps for the rest of his or her life?
In my novels Two Journeys and Fields of Fire, this shocking situation is caused by a global epidemic. Humanity has gone a long time without a major pandemic. But recent outbreaks of viruses such as SARS, corona or influenza (e.g. H2N2 or the Asian Flu H3N2; or bird flu) have occurred again and again in the past years. Is humanity prepared? In my books, I show a different path than what some so-called “preppers” or the “prepper movement” appears to advocate. If catastrophe strikes, keeping to the higher ground morally shows that we are human.
Learn more about the adventure books by Clemens P. Suter here.
„Bonjour Max,“ said the man behind the bar. “Salut Pierre,” he answered. It had been raining since daybreak, and Max was happy to be inside and to enjoy a small, hot café. On his way in, he had picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. Pierre brought him his coffee and a croissant. Pierre’s wasn’t very busy this morning, only a few workmen and pensioners at the tables. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual place; although Max didn’t know her name, he knew that her husband would join her for lunch, he always did when she was here. He started reading a more detailed political analysis on page three.
“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max looked up from his newspaper. Time had progressed and the place was almost empty now.
“Yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. It was rainy and quite slippery.”
“Better be careful, some of those paths are steep, and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?” Max knew that Pierre was a keen hunter. “No, none. I hardly ever see any deer in the forest, or foxes or boars. Only birds. A lot of birds. I hardly ever meet people.”
“Not many hikers or people visit the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. You never know what may happen; in that forest.” Pierre’s face had darkened, and he looked Max deep in the eyes.
Max hesitated. Ever since he had moved into the area and started his walks in the forest, something had been puzzling him. “Perhaps you can help me, as you are a hunter and probably know the forest better than most…”
Pierre looked at him quizzically. The last patron exited the bar, leaving it empty until lunchtime.
“I have noticed that someone is digging in the woods. I’ve come across dozens of pits, some deep, others only superficial. Then, a few weeks back, I came across this woman, skinny, long hair. She came towards me with a shovel over her shoulder, a shovel with a broad blade and a long handle, almost like a coal shovel. I greeted her in passing, but she didn’t greet back. I stared after her until she disappeared in a turn of the track.”
Pierre’s cloth went over the top of bar in slow circles. His face had a serious expression. “Ah. You met her then. Marie.”
“Who is she? Is Marie the person who digs these holes?”
Pierre glanced first at the window to the kitchen, behind which Pierre’s wife could be heard preparing lunch, then at the clock. Pierre put down his cloth. He moved closer to Max, rested his elbows on the top of the bar, and lowered his voice. “Let me tell you. This is a fascinating story.”
It was a Saturday, the day on which Marie always slept in. She got up around nine, took a shower, then dried her hair as she looked out of the kitchen window. A beautiful summer day lay ahead. She fed her two dogs, dressed, and soon the three of them left the house, followed the field and entered the forest.
Marie was secretary in the hôtel de ville and single. She had been born in the area. Her parents had died in an accident, leaving her an inheritance that had allowed her to buy her small house.
The track that she followed went up steeply beneath pine trees. There were many paths in the forest and she still hadn’t explored all of them. She wasn’t afraid to get lost; the two dogs always helped her find the shortest route home. Today, the ethereal smell of the trees pulled her deeper and deeper into the woods. The dogs moved about swiftly, sniffing traces left by wild animals.
Suddenly, the path ended at a clearing. Not really a clearing: weeds covered it hip-high. It had been a long time since anyone had been here; young trees had started to sprout up. She walked across the open circle, butterflies escaping her approach. On the other side, the ground rose steeply and in this natural wall was an opening that let down into the ground. A red boulder rested next to it. The opening was breast-high and allowed a single person to enter the tunnel beyond. She called back the dogs as they started to walk in, sniffing left and right. Who had created this tunnel? Its walls were made of sand, no special construction was visible. Should she enter to explore? No way! The roof might collapse onto her, or she might get stuck. Exploring a tunnel on your own, a single person, would be very foolhardy. No, she decided to turn back.
She turned around and started walking. However, soon she recalled that this path continued for about twenty minutes until the next intersection. Forty minutes lost in total… without seeing anything new. She looked at the sun and her watch, and after only the slightest hesitation she returned to the clearing and the entrance.
The dogs entered the tunnel unconcerned and without delay, and now Marie followed. The ground was flat and without obstructions. After a minute it became very dark, and she was forced to slow down. The dogs apparently were fearless, and by following their sound, she could still move relatively quickly, holding her hands in front and above her face, to make sure that she didn’t hit her head against any obstruction.
After a while, Marie stopped and looked back. She couldn’t see the entrance anymore, and doubt came over her. She felt the walls. Rock had replaced sand. This seemed to be a natural tunnel, perhaps a river in prehistoric times? What to do next, press on, or return?
What if this cave had bifurcations or even junctions? Unexpectedly, a sense of panic came over her; if this was an underground maze of connected caverns, she could get lost quickly. Even turning back might cause her to take a wrong route, a side tunnel that she had missed on her way in. The tunnel suddenly felt damp and claustrophobic, she could practically feel the weight of the heavy, impenetrable earth pressing down on its roof. She had to breathe deeply to regain composure. Slowly her heavy heartbeat quieted down again. She realized that the dogs could help her. She bent forward, and felt their cold wet noses pushing against her arm.
She removed a line from her waist and clipped it on a neckband. “Search, search,” she said. After some hesitation, the dog pulled on the line and started to hurry forward. For an instance she was alarmed, as the dog started to move deeper into the tunnel, but then she decided to trust its instincts, especially as the other dog was already ahead and barking.
After a few minutes, light appeared. The tunnel made a slight turn to the left and the light grew brighter. She could see the outside world. After a minute, the three of them reached the end of the tunnel and hurried out into daylight.
The sudden brightness overwhelmed her, and she had to shade her eyes with her hand. Drops of moisture and insects lighted up in the bright and yellowish light. The world looked different; strong mosaics of black shade and patches of color; yet tranquil and welcoming. The air was filled with honey sweet scents. She sat down on the ground, and for a while simply enjoined her surroundings. The songs of the birds and the buzz of the insects were surprisingly loud. Did she just imagine that the light and sounds were much more intensive this side of the tunnel? The petted the dogs, who lay close by, panting in the warm sunlight.
Again, she used her watch and the position of the sun to find the approximate direction of her house. She followed the path downhill, which after ten minutes hit upon a broader track. The dogs turned left, and she followed.
A big man with short black hair sat in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards her. A hiker’s backpack and a bottle of water rested next to him. She stopped and inspected the figure; it wasn’t clear what he was doing. The man didn’t move. She looked back and to the left and right: only forest.
Picking up her courage, she moved forward. The man heard her coming, turned and looked at her over his shoulder. The pain that the movement caused was visible in his face. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.
“Can I help you?” she stood in front of him. He had untied his left boot, and she could see a red sock. His foot was swollen badly.
“I’m grateful that you are here. I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken but I need to get off this bloody mountain.”
They considered the options. Marie looked at her watch; the afternoon was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if he would lean on Marie, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. She helped him up, and he put his arm around her shoulder. He was heavy and strong, and for a moment she was worried. But he was friendly and kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. He introduced himself as Yves.
They stumbled down the path. Sooner than Marie had expected, they came to a road. They waited for ten minutes for a car to come; they waived it down. The driver was an elderly man, who looked skeptical at first, but after their explanation he agreed to take Yves to the next village and a doctor. It didn’t cross Marie’s mind to join them, and she stared after the car that took Yves away.
As the sound of the engine dwindled, she again became aware of the loudness of the singing birds. She had no idea where she was, so she had to rely on her dogs to guide her home. The animals didn’t take the route through the tunnel.
Patrons came in, and Pierre excused himself to take the couples order. Pierre assembled glasses of water, plates with croissants and coffee cups on a tablet and served them. After ten minutes or so, he came over to the bar again.
“Curious story! What happened next?” asked Max, rather impatiently.
Marie returned home after dark. The day had been exhausting and she went to bed early. The next day, a great unrest came over her. She recalled the heaviness of Yves’ body, the scent of his aftershave, his black hair. She tried to shake off the feeling, but to her own surprise, she continued to feel a need to find out what had happened at the doctor, yes to meet him again. She found an excuse: she would inquire about him in the village and see whether he was ok. A civilized thing to do.
She packed the dogs into her car and drove around the mountain. She came to the road that the elderly man and Yves had taken. Soon afterwards, she arrived at a small medical practice, directly at the entrance of the first village. It was a Sunday, and the clinic was closed, but just as Marie parked her car, a woman came out of the building and started to lock the door from the outside. She was a nurse and had been there the whole of Saturday, but no one with an injured foot had turned up, no one with Yves description. The nurse mentioned a few medical practices and hospitals in the area where Yves could have gone for treatment – there weren’t many, only four.
Over the next days, Marie visited all four, but Yves hadn’t turned up in any of them. Marie was puzzled. She couldn’t imagine that the driver would have taken Yves to the next larger town, which after all was quite far away. Or had Yves asked the driver to take him home instead? Perhaps Yves had concluded that a strained ankle could be cured with an icepack and a few days on a sofa…
She realized there was little that she could do. Over the following weeks, she explored some other ideas, such as asking her colleagues at the city halls of the neighboring villages. She also discussed with a few friends. Nobody could help her. She also talked to the police, but the conversation was discouraging; the woman pointed out that Yves wasn’t her relative, he might have taken a bus to another town, or have been picked up by a friend of family member… She promised to make a note of it, but here really was no reason for the police to become involved, the woman stated.
Weeks turned into months and Marie forced herself to forget about Yves. She had to stop chasing this dream.
And she would have given up, but a few unexpected observations threw her back. Marie continued to spend most of her free time outdoors, and during her walks with the dogs, she continued to roam the forest. Unsurprisingly, she was still intrigued by the open enclosure with its red boulder and the entrance to the tunnel. But to her initial amusement, and later wonder and then frustration, she did manage to find the start of the route to the enclosure, but she remained unable to find tunnel itself. It turned into a frustration: she spent weeks trying to locate the tunnel, but she never succeeded to find its entrance, or for that matter the exit.
In addition, she also observed that the feeling of elation, which by now she associated with her passing through the tunnel, was beginning to fade. She didn’t read too much in both observations at first, but when, in addition, nobody could confirm to her that a tunnel existed in the forest, she felt anger growing within her.
One night the anger and frustration exploded, and she grabbed a shovel and started to dig for the tunnel.
Pierre fell silent. The door opened and some regulars entered. “Ca va?” called Pierre and raised his hand in greeting.
“What happened then?” asked Max.
Pierre’s face lost all expression. “Nothing. She is still digging.”
Pierre walked over to the newcomers and started to take care of their order.
After a while, Max ordered another coffee. He sipped it, deep in thought. Not much later, he left the bar, and, taking the shortest route through the forest, returned home.
Max got up early the next day. He packed a small backpack with some essentials; a bottle of water, a few sandwiches, a torch. He put on his hiking boots and selected a robust jacket. Entering the forest, he selected his route with determination. It was leisurely walking at first, but soon it became steep climbing. Max started sweating.
Not many people had traveled this route. Ignoring all crossing paths and bifurcations, Max progressed rapidly. He arrived at a clearing in the forest and walked across it. He set down his backpack on top of the red boulder and inspected his surroundings and the entrance of the tunnel. A raven flapped through the sky, landed on a branch of a large pine and shouted gleefully. It was cloudy and the air was frech. Max was pleased that he had brought a jacket.
He knew this place but had never entered the tunnel. He rummaged through his backpack and grabbed for the torch. Turning it on, he entered the dark hole.
The air was damp and cold. A slight breeze continued to touch his face and hands. With the help if the artificial he managed to progress rapidly. He couldn’t see any traces of anyone having passed through here; neither footsteps nor paws, but he realized that didn’t mean much.
The walls did indeed turn from sand into rock. He could see traces of water erosion in the stone. He hurried along and after fifteen minutes or so, he the exit became visible in the distance.
Shortly thereafter, Max exited the tunnel. The brightness of the sun hit him hard and instinctively he moved his hand above his squinting eyes. He had to wait a few seconds to allow them to adjust to the light.
The air was filled with sounds of insects, that buzzed by at determined speeds. A sparrow swept down and snapped a butterfly, right in front to Max’s face. The suddenness of the movement surprised him, and he took a shocked step back. The sky was blue and most of the clouds had been blown away. Max took off his coat, rolled it up and stored it, together with the torch, in his backpack. He wept the sweat off his face.
Max inspected his surroundings. The forest was quiet and looked slightly different this side of the tunnel. Fewer pines, but more sycamore and eucalyptus trees. It looked more friendly, something to do with the light… he couldn’t put his finger on it. He took a deep breath; the air was invigorating, fresh.
Max started down the path. After a while, he hit upon a broader track.
He came upon a man, sitting in the middle of the track, his legs spread wide and his back towards him. The man had short black hair. A backpack rested on the ground next to the man and he held a bottle of water in his hand.
Max stopped abruptly and stared at the figure. The man, obviously unaware of Max’ presence, didn’t move. Max looked back, and then left and right: the two of them were surrounded by vast, empty forest. The insects lighted up as they passed through beams of sunlight, some fast and hurried, others leisurely, each at its own pace.
Frowning, Max moved forward. The man heard him coming, turned and looked at him over his shoulder. He grimaced with pain. “Thank God, a human,” he grumbled.
Max stopped in front of him. He noticed that the man’s left boot was untied, and he could see a red sock.
“I’m grateful you are here,” said the man. “I slipped on the bank and sprained my ankle. I am reduced to a blasted limp! I don’t think it is broken… nevertheless I need to get off this bloody mountain.”
Max didn’t answer, thoughts racing through his head. He continued to stare at the man. “What’s up?” asked the man, staring up at Max. “Think you can help me?”
Max cleared his throat. “Well… yes, I think so.” He tried to shake off his confusion.
“Great!” said the man, enthusiastically. “By the way, my name is Yves.” He stuck out a big hand. Max stuck out his hand too, and they shook. “I’m Max.”
The man continued chatting. Max hesitated in his answers at first, but after a while the apparent honesty of the man somehow managed to reduce Max’s feeling of apprehension. Max looked at his watch; the day was progressing. After a while they agreed it would be best if Yves would lean on Max, so that they could try reach a road in the valley. Max helped him up, and Yves put his arm around Max’s shoulder. Yves wasn’t very heavy, so walking down the hill wasn’t too much of a challenge. Yves kept on talking; about his love for hiking and the forest, his job, his family. They came to a road, sooner than Max had expected.
They waited for a car to turn up. Yves sat down on the shoulder of the road. Max decided that whatever happened next, he would get in the car with the man and find out where he was going. Max felt that he needed to interview the man more, to better understand what was going on. But either the right questions didn’t enter his head, or Yves’ answers were blatantly simple.
A small truck came into view, and Max waved it down. The driver, and elderly man, was skeptical at first, but after some discussion willing to take Yves to the next town and a doctor. The driver waved at his truck and it contents; he apologized to Max that, with Yves in the passenger seat, there obviously was no room for him. Max nodded in understanding.
The doors slammed shut, and the driver started the engine.
Max stared after the truck as it disappeared. He shook his head. Then, he took a sandwich from his backpack and munched it slowly, trying to decide what to do next.
After some more time, he crossed the road and found a path that lead downhill. After half an hour he could see the first houses of a village.
He hit the high street, took a turn to the right. He entered the bar. The high school teacher was correcting exams at her usual table. Max looked at his watch and concluded that her husband had most likely already left.
„Bonjour Max, ca va?“ said Pierre from behind the bar. Max hesitated for a second, but then answered: “Salut Pierre.” On his way in, he had automatically picked up a newspaper from one of the tables. The place wasn’t very busy, only a few workmen and pensioners. After a while, Pierre brought him a coffee and a croissant.
“Been out for a walk?” asked Pierre, wiping the top of the bar with a dirty cloth. Max inspected Pierre’s face, not exactly sure what to say. “Well… yes, the usual. I walked over through the forêt. Beautiful weather… better than yesterday?” Max turned his last statement into a question.
A serious expression came over Pierre’s face. “Better be careful in the forest, some of the paths are steep and the rain erodes them away. Seen any deer?”
Max shook his head slowly. “No, none. Only birds. A lot of birds, and insects. No humans either.”
A cloud moved in front of the sun, and the interior of the bar turned dark. Somehow, Max felt that he could guess what Pierre would say next. He felt his skin starting to crawl.
Pierre continued to wipe the top of the bar, in exaggeratedly slow, circular movements. He stopped, moved his head towards Max and looked him deep in the eyes. His face darkened and he spoke slowly. “Not many enter the forest. An additional reason to be prudent, especially if you are on your own. In that forest, you never know what may happen.”
Interested in more? Click here for the short story THE TUNNEL.
Many thanks to these fans that left sound comments and reviews about my books at APPLE BOOKS. Read the full comments HERE.
I especially appreciate this reader comment: “[…] I love the depth of the main character. I love that he is not a special forces green beret rough hewn survivalist sniper with limitless ammunition who’s invisible skydaddy sitting on a golden throne somewhere in the clouds, who teaches eternal and endless love, guides the survivalist’s bullets and enables him to make a footstool of the skulls of his enemies. Thank you for not going there.[…]”
—> exactly the intention of TWO JOURNEYS and FIELDS OF FIRE.
After my last conversation with an aspiring author, I’ve summarized some ideas in this short FAQ, based on the re-occurring questions that I get asked. Naturally, this doesn’t cover all the details of the path I have chosen, so if you would like more advice, contact me, I will gladly answer any questions, also by phone.
Frequently Asked Questions about self-publishing
Should I self-publish or find a publisher?
These two approaches aren’t mutually exclusive, you could do both. Working together with a publisher has the benefit that your reach may be bigger, as you can rely on a professional marketing machine, the book may reach a better quality (as you will get a professional editor to help you) and your prestige may be enhanced. Self-publishing has the advantage that you are in control, you decide on the cover, the text, the price, and the marketing – you will however need to have a certain affinity for all these aspects. The biggest disadvantage of going through a publisher is that getting a manuscript accepted takes ages (if it happens at all), whereas publishing a book by yourself can be a reality within hours after submitting the manuscript. For these reasons, I selected self-publishing for my works of fiction. And, as I plan to write five books in the next five years, I will probably also choose this path for those upcoming novels.
OK, I get that. But how did you self-publish?
Back in 2010, self-publishing and eBooks were relatively new in the book market. I selected the following options for my initial novel TWO JOURNEYS: Smashwords.com and Amazon’s Kindle and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (there are many more providers in this space, like LULU, I haven’t checked those out for some time). Smashwords is a very easy, efficient channel: once you have finished your manuscript, you can set up a Smashwords account, upload your book, and be done within a few hours (I am NOT kidding). Smashwords then kicks into action: they automatically transform your eBook into half a dozen formats, which they distribute to all the major ebook stores globally, e.g. Apple, Barnes & Noble, Thalia, and many others. If somebody on the globe is using an electronic device for reading, I am sure they will be able to find and buy your Smashwords’ book. Since Smashwords and Kindle are competitors that do not work in concert (to put it mildly), I was forced to also open a KDP account with Amazon to make my ebooks available for Kindle.
You have been talking about ebooks. How about publishing a paperback?
Here I selected KDP. Amazon offers a service that allows the creation of a paperback, which is then printed on demand (PoD). I delivered the texts and asked Amazon for an editor and a cover designer. In the past, you paid a fee for all kinds of services that you would like to add. Today, Amazon relies on many third parties to offer these services. By the way, you can get the ISBN numbers for your work for free from such companies, this is straightforward. Intriguingly, I sell 95% of my work as eBook and not as paperback, and almost all eBooks that I sell are through Apple Books. Apparently, readers that like my genre of stories are, by coincidence, also owners of Apple devices. But this does not need to apply to your work, which may find an audience that prefers paperbacks, or Kindle.
How complex is the formatting?
Prior to uploading your manuscript, you will need to make sure that the word document is formatted correctly. I write novels, without a table of contents, photos or pictures, and no chapter titles. This means that I am lucky, as I have very little formatting work. More complex features in your text mean more formatting effort. This can be a hassle, but all these publishers provide manuals that help you do this correctly. The key thing is, that the publisher takes care of fonts, margins, page breaks, start and end pages, and all that stuff; don’t worry about those.
Do I need an editor then? What for?
Your manuscript will need a good spelling and grammar check. Nowadays, readers are critical of the slightest error (readers are spoiled, as good editing is much easier to achieve today than a hundred years ago. In those days, with each edition, reported mistakes were corrected. interestingly, a book by Dickens with many spelling errors has a higher market value today, as it obviously is an earlier edition!). In addition, you may need an editor that can help you finetune your story or to detect plot or story mistakes that you missed. These people are usually paid per word – from 0.01$ to 0.08$, depending on the level of service. By the way, a nice cover may cost a few hundred too, but you can use that cover for any eBook, it is your property.
How about setting the price?
Books that are cheaply priced may be perceived as badly written. On the other hand, you must decide whether you want to sell many (low priced) books versus a few (expensive ones). The best is to regularly compare your book price to similar books in your genre and to adjust your pricing once a year. Always consider that only very few authors can live from writing alone, so again you will need to decide on your personal publishing purpose.
How about taxes?
I am in Europe, and Smashwords and Amazon are in the USA. In the past, these companies withheld the USA tax according to the USA tax laws. That has been changed now. You should investigate how this is handled in your case; it may mean that no further tax needs to be paid in your country (due to a tax treaty with the USA). If you sell copies yourself (e.g. through a website or at events) you will need to have that revenue taxed; after all it is additional income. In many countries, you may be able to deduct some of the publishing or marketing costs from your taxes as an expense, which can be a nice benefit.
I am sure Smashwords and Amazon will help me market my book?
Short answer: they do exactly zilch, zero, nothing. Many books are published every minute with these companies, and thus they only focus on a few winners. These companies mostly live from scale: from each eBook sale, they take anywhere between 15% (Smashwords) and 35% to 65% (Amazon) from your profits. For paperbacks, some may take a considerable share for production. Independent of format, you will make about $1 profit from each book, prior to tax. Smashwords offers some promotional activities over the year that you can register to (which never worked well for me), and Amazon has an exclusivity program where they may support you a bit – but then your books should be either mainstream or about a hot topic.
So how do you boost your sales then?
It took me about ten years to build up the marketing machine for my work. First, I use the website clemenssuter.com to create attention. In addition, I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Xing, Youtube, and other channels (click on the links to see my personal pages). It pays off to invest time into Goodreads, as many readers find new books on this social reading site. All of this needs hard work and constant care. Naturally, you will need good reviews on those sites, I am privileged with some excellent reviews and ratings (e.g. at Goodreads). In the end, the true magic is to write good books, and you will find an audience. Write many good books, and you will get many readers.