This weekend I will be releasing the Kindle version of my mystery novel, Hard Cider Abbey (the paperback is still caught up in production, but should be out next week some time). I’m doing this in a very relaxed way, a kind of “soft” release, since it will be on Amazon forever, and joined eventually with additional books in the ‘Barefoot Monk’ series. But I’m hoping to snag a few ‘beach’ readers, and also capture some of the reviews that are filtering in from NetGalley, which seem generally positive. Some seem not to understand the nature of the book, that’s it’s not a typical genre mystery or suspense thriller, but that’s okay. I know who my audience is. I do apologize in advance for the odd formatting of the chapter numbers, but that’s what happens when you let CreateSpace format your ebook from the printed version; still working on a fix for that.
I wrote most of Hard Cider when I was writing and researching my biography of Father Irenaeus—who was a Franciscan friar, not really a monk, although friaries are actually monasteries too--confusing, I know. When I visited the monasteries and talked with the monks there, and was genuinely surprised by their warmth and friendliness and sheer normalcy. They are simply men who have taken a different path, perhaps with more of an inclination toward the spiritual than the average guy. Yet they are an endangered species: A few young men enter each year, but I would say the general average age of an American monastic today is well over 50. This seems to reflect not only our modern high-tech times, but also the shift within the Church from clergy and hierarchy back towards the laity, both men and women. Still, I hate to see our monastic traditions fade away; I loved my stays at the abbeys, so peaceful and quiet and emotionally soothing. Also got a lot of writing done, and much of Hard Cider was indeed written within silent, cloistered (well, within the retreat houses) walls
The order to which my fictional monks belong to is inspired by the Rule of St. Benedict, but they are less strict than the Trappists and Cistercians, and perhaps have more in common with the mendicant orders, such as the Franciscans. Their motto is the same: Ora et Labora, prayer and work. I went back and forth on whether to make them take vows of silence, but this is a hard thing to pull off in a mystery novel, where interaction between characters is so necessary in pushing forth the plot. I decided that the Philbertines were not a ‘silent’ order. However, they are discalced (without shoes), a requirement you’ll notice that most of the book-monks ignore, except for my young (and hard-soled) protagonists.
Also thrilled, with this release, to promote the marvelous cover art by regional artist Will Harmuth, whose blue sky on my cover is the perfect metaphor for Heaven. You can see more of Will’s work at willharmuth.com. I’ve known Will and his equally talented wife Lisa forever—several decades, at least, and their commitment to their art is extraordinary.