NaNoWriMo 2017

 

Today (November 1) marks the beginning of that month-long insanity known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.

For the uninitiated, this is a challenge that happens every November to encourage writers to write a 50,000 word novel (or, at least, 50,000 words towards a novel) in 30 days. That sounds like a lot, and it is. But if you make writing a daily habit, that is actually a mere 1667 words per day, and that’s not that bad.

As usual, I’m participating. I nearly always participate. I have yet to actually complete the goal, but I always participate.

This year, I have a plan. I have a story in mind that is fairly well-formed living inside my head. (I really should write some of the details down, but, well, this is me. insert eye roll here) Weirdly, the story I have in mind is not in my usual genre. It’s a real-world, suspense-thriller in the style of something like Girl On A Train or Fatal Attraction.

Weird, right? But I’m running with it because my muse is excited about it. And I can’t help but think that since this isn’t a genre that I’m all that invested in, maybe I won’t get in my own way so much worrying about how terrible it is and actually get some writing done.

Here’s hoping anyway.

If you want to know more about my story… if you want to track my progress… or if you want to play along… come to NaNoWriMo and add me as a buddy! I’d love to see you there. 🙂

Sanctuary–Blog Hop October 2017

I actually wrote this story a couple of years ago. I had intended to find somewhere to submit it, but never did. So here it is for your creepy enjoyment.

Fair warning… it is considerably darker than my usual fare and some may find it unpleasant or offensive. It’s horror, after all. Sue me. 😉

Sanctuary

He pushed through the entryway, his face hot with exertion and fear. Dear God, he was getting too old for this. Already exhausted, he blinked sweat from his eyes as he struggled to swing the heavy oaken door closed behind him. The grate of the hinges belied the frequency with which the door’s mass was moved. When he finally turned the lock, he allowed himself to collapse against its reassuring, worn surface. His breath came in ragged gasps.

The dark of the night is when the affliction of this city was illuminated most clearly, the unholy dead rising from their graves. And he—he alone—must hold them at bay.

“Bishop?” His heart raced at the voice. He hadn’t realized he wasn’t alone. “Father, is something wrong?” The Abbess had always unsettled him, more so since the creatures had come. He wished he understood why.

He took a moment to compose himself; tugged his frock into place, wiped at his forehead before noticing the grime on his sleeve. “All is well.” He couldn’t bring himself to say more. Despite his unnatural dislike for the woman, he had no intention of subjecting her to his terrors. God gave him this burden. The visitation. The instruction. He would continue to bear it alone. He knew in his heart the dead could not harm him. Surely God would protect his chosen? He only wished his experience… well…. He shook his head. These past months had been a nightly trial.

And yet he stood. That was something.

She rose, gliding toward him across the ancient stones of the floor. “Come,” she said. “I will bear you up.” She maneuvered to his side. “My lord has strengthened me.” She gave him her arm which he accepted without thought, relaxing slightly onto her surprisingly sturdy form. She smelled of soap and orange blossoms, but that was overlaid with something more foul. The creatures, he thought. Have they followed me here? But, no. It had always been safe here.

The linen of her sleeve was rough against his fingertips—his long years had calloused neither heart nor hands. She brushed his hand with her own—he was glad to note he was not trembling overmuch as she guided him into the Nave, tracing steps he had taken countless times before. She guided him toward one of the long, hard pews that would be filled with supplicants come morning.

Discomfort pricked at him. Has God not set me apart? A voice full of certainty whispered in his mind, insisting that he must not acquiesce to this woman, no matter how slight the circumstances.

She grimaced as he dropped her hand and took a step back. “Not here!” he said too forcefully. He saw something in her eyes then that increased his disquiet. Frustration? Anger? His own anger flared then. After all his years of sacrifice, he would not be judged so casually. He pulled back his shoulders and stepped aside. If he could face the non-living, he could face this lone woman. “Give me the strength, Lord.” He whispered it quietly, not wanting her to hear his weakness.

A chill ran through him. The Presence. I still walk in favor. But what kind of favor leaves me battling the dead?

She smiled at him, but he did not return it. Was there falsehood in her meekness? His own uncertainty rankled as much as anything. He drew a breath, flinching at the fetid scent that still lingered, and walked past her toward the front of the cathedral. Her footsteps echoed a few paces behind. Reaching the dais, he paused, not trusting his strength, but unwilling to be weak. He did manage the stairs, albeit slowly.

He trailed a finger along the edge of  the altar—the place he’d sacrificed so much. Finally he turned, leaning on the cold marble, and stared at the Abbess. She climbed toward him until she, too, leaned on his sacred table.

“Woman!” He gasped at her brazenness. “You presume too much.”

The corners of her mouth played into a cold smile. “You,” she said, “have no idea what you are dealing with.”

He growled. “You are the one who doesn’t know!”

“I know dead men walk.” She leaned closer. “I know not every resurrection is sacred.”

His head spun as realization crashed in on him. How long had she known? His prayers were what was important. His dedication. His authority. He would not tolerate her insolence.

“I WILL NOT BE OVERCOME!” he shouted. Spittle foamed at the corners of his mouth; his eyes wide. Wild. Staring.

He felt every one of his endless years in that moment. Tearing his eyes from her, he let his vision stray to the image of Adam holding an apple, the serpent coiled at the feet of his temptress.

He knew, then, the truth of it.

“You.” He jabbed a finger toward her even as his voice lowered. “You caused this. You brought in this evil.” The bitter taste of bile rose in his throat. Oh, God! Why did you not reveal your path sooner? A single bark of laughter escaped him, the sound entirely without mirth. “I will send you to settle your own kind.”

“Good.” The smile the Abbess showed him chilled him to the bone, even as he rounded the altar to settle his hands at her throat. “My Master will be happy to see us both.”

Insensate, he tightened his grip around her slender neck. Choked laughter rolled out of her.

The Bishop’s screams echoed in what was once his sanctuary.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Sanctuary by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Till Death Us by Fanni Sütő
  3. The Cloud by Karen Lynn
  4. Data Corruption by Barbara Lund
  5. Wish Granted by Kami Bataya
  6. The Witch of Wall Street by J. Q. Rose
  7. Grim Reapers on a Field Trip by J Lenni Dorner
  8. Unwelcome Vistors by Bill Bush
  9. A Writer’s Morning by Katharina Gerlach
  10. Unverified by Erica Damon
  11. Tito’s to the Max by Chris Makowski
  12. The Boon by Juneta Key
  13. Recommended Reading @ Raven O’Fiernan

 

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I’m really bad at updates…

In my last update I said I was almost done with my collection.

That was true.

I also said I’d update again when it was finished and “out.”

I feel like I should insert the Maury Povich “That Was A Lie” meme here. So I will.

Here’s the whole truth. I finished what needed finishing. I got everything all lovely and formatted in Vellum. I uploaded to Amazon, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, D2D, and Smashwords. (Along with uploading my previous titles to everyplace that isn’t Amazon.) Then I found additional errors, fixed them, and re-uploaded.

Twice. sigh

So my book has been widely available pretty much everywhere since the first week of October. And I was out of town for 2 weeks and didn’t actually tell anyone. Oops.

I was on cruise-ship time. That’s my excuse and I’m stickin’ to it.

I thought about scolding myself… Bad Author… but I don’t actually think I’m a bad author. Bad marketer, sure. But I’m pretty happy with I’ve written.

If you want to see if you agree, feel free to pick up a copy of my latest collection, Flashes of Splashes. All the available eBook sales outlets can be found on the Book2Read aggregator.

For those who prefer a print copy, you can buy one from Create Space or Amazon.

Soon. Very soon.

So much has happened since I last updated.

There’ve been fires.

There’ve been earthquakes.

There’ve been hurricanes.

Has anyone checked the volcanoes? I feel like someone should check the volcanoes.

That has been a whole lot of bad news.

The good news is that, while it has taken longer for me to get my act together than I’d hoped, I am finally on the verge of getting my new collection published! Woo hoo!

I’m using 23 of the 26 stories I wrote for this year’s AtoZ blogging challenge. They’ve all been fully edited and polished to a high shine.

Plus, I wrote 3 entirely new stories to replace the ones that weren’t working for me.

Plus, I’m including a couple of stories that previously appeared on this blog that fit the watery theme.

Plus, I wrote 3 additional bonus stories, especially for this collection.

So this collection of flash fiction will be coming in at a whopping 31 stories! That’s one story a day for a month, regardless of the month!

And… I will also be putting out a print version! This will be my first title with a physical copy, so I’m pretty excited.

In conjunction with the new collection going up, I’ll also be posting my 2 previous collections at additional retailers instead of just Amazon. Nothin’ against the ‘Zon, but it hasn’t helped me to be exclusive so I taking the wide-market plunge. As soon as I have links for those, I’ll add them to my book pages. If you’ve been waiting with baited breath to buy on Nook, Kobo, iBooks or elsewhere… first, go brush your teeth. Then watch this space for information on when they’re available.

All these things should be happening within the next week or less. Potentially significantly less.

I’ll post again when it’s all out there.

Freeman–Blog Hop July 2017

It’s that time again! I hope you enjoy not just my story, but the stories of the other writers involved in the hop!

Freeman

Martin sat peeling the jenfruit, silently waiting for whatever would come next. People he didn’t know had been coming and going. He heard the commotion elsewhere in the house. He was told to wait.

He’d only been a freeman for a short time, but it was enough to know how these things worked. He wouldn’t interfere. He would only wait.

“Go outside. Take a walk.” Charel’s voice sounded stern, but her face held traces of a smile. “You do no good just sitting here. Your nerves may as well be poison in the air. Go. Go…”

Martin stood, gathered the sections of purple jenfruit, and went without a word. He knew better than to argue with Charel, even though he had no place to go.

Outside, Martin paused in front of the building. Charel told him to go, but as a bondman he’d never had the right to simply wander. Finally he chose a direction and began to walk, eating wedges of fruit as he did.

As he passed the park he heard children laughing. The sound drew him closer. He’d never been around children—not since the collective anyway, and that was not the same. It was so strange to see these little ones running and playing, their mothers watching close by.

A little one in a red romper ran up to him and squealed. At a nod from his mother, Martin handed over the last of his jenfruit. The boy stuck it in his mouth as he ran off, purple juices dripping down his chin.

They live their freedom not having earned it. I paid for mine, yet still I’m bound.

He started walking again, so caught in his own thoughts that he didn’t realize where he was until he looked up.

His bond yard looked as it always had. Bondmen lifted and worked and hurried. Some he recognized, but none paid him any attention. No bondman would look at a freeman unbidden. Certainly not during a laboring day.

Martin was surprised to feel emotion rising in his chest. He did not miss this labor. Those men were no longer his brothers. And yet…

He leaned forward, hands on the fence, as he watched a pair of grimy hands cutting a board held in place by strong arms dripping with sweat. Martin had known who he was in the bond yard.

He turned and walked quickly back the way he had come. He no longer belonged in this place. He suddenly wanted to be no place but back in that kitchen Charel had shooed him from.

He didn’t run. Freemen don’t run. But he wasted no time. If he was told to go again, he would refuse—that was his right, now.

The door opened to a silent room. It surprised him considering the earlier activity. Is something wrong, he wondered. He stood frozen, not knowing what to do.

Then Charel was there, tugging at his sleeve. “Where have you been, Martin? Gemma is asking for you.” The woman smiled now, showing every crease in her worn face. “It’s time for you to go in.”

Martin let himself be led to his wife and freeborn son.

Copyright Notice: Please note that I fully assert my right to be associated as the author of this story, and while it is complete, it may not be finished. This story may be subject to alteration at the author’s discretion. Please do not copy, quote, or post this story or excerpts anywhere in any format. You are, however, free to share the link with anyone who might be interested.

Links

perpetualbloghop

I hope you’ll take the time to read the other stories in this Hop. These are some great writers and wonderful people. And if you like what you read, I hope you’ll consider joining their lists too. The world is a richer place when there are more stories to tell.

Please note, if you find links that don’t work, try again later. Sometimes it takes a little time to get the gremlins worked out.

  1. Freeman by Elizabeth McCleary **YOU ARE HERE**
  2. Hell’s Play by Juneta Key
  3. The Token by Eli Winfield
  4. Moshe by Chris Makowski
  5. To The Moon And Beyond by Fanni Sütő
  6. Surprise by Katharinia Gerlach
  7. In A Picture by Erica Damon
  8. The Past Tastes Better by Karen Lynn
  9. Revealing Space by Barbara Lund
  10. The Rose Tender by Raven O’Fiernan
  11. The Last Sleeping Beauty by Tamara Ruth

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New Covers, Old Books

I promised a post with the new covers I decided on for my already-published collections. With the new collection coming out I wanted to re-brand these so they look like they belong together.

Feel free to comment–I’ll be making final tweaks and uploading the new covers within the next week or so. I’d love to get your feedback. Let me know what you think!

Here are the original and the new cover for Flashes of Magic.

And here are the original and new covers for New Skin.

 

Cover Poll–Flashes of Splashes

I am finally getting to the “almost done” stage of my new flash fiction collection, and I realize I haven’t mentioned it much here.

It’s mostly based on the stories I wrote in April for the AtoZ Challenge, but everything has been edited and cleaned up, and a few of those stories have been tossed out entirely. The title I finally landed on is Flashes of Splashes, referencing the water theme running throughout the book.

Here’s where I need your help… I’ve been messing with cover designs for about 3 weeks, and I almost can’t think anymore. So, here are 6 covers currently in the running (5 that I like, one I’m less thrilled with). Please indicate which ones you love and/or which ones you hate. What would make you pick up the book? What would make you avoid it entirely and why? Feel free to give your opinions in the comments, or shoot me a private message if you don’t want to leave one publicly. Image names are beneath the images. And I just realized I didn’t update the title style on the Dancer image, so consider the two different title/subtitle styles as options on any of these, if you wish.

To inspire you, I’ll post the final-ish versions of the re-covers for New Skin and Flashes of Magic in another post.

Dancer

Mermaid

Rain Girl

Umbrella Man

Umbrella Bricks

Umbrella Yellow

Housekeeping

Well, shoot. I said I was going to post roughly once a week.

About a month ago.

Haven’t done it.

Oops.

What I have done…

The good news is, it’s because I’ve been busy. I almost (but not quite!) have my next collection ready. I’m fiddling with cover designs, final edits, and adding in a couple of bonus stories for your enjoyment. I’d be surprised if it’s more than a couple of weeks before I get things wrapped up and can announce my launch. But you never know. Don’t hold me to it.

(But seriously, this is taking way too long and I wanted to be done, like, two months ago. So feel free to bug me if I’m not launched by the end of the month.)

Related to that, I’m going to be re-branding my two old collections (New Skin and Flashes of Magic) with new covers at the same time. AND I’m going to be making all three collections available in all the major ebook stores (Kobo, B&N, iBooks) rather than just being on Amazon.

I’m not currently planning anything with my short story, Finding Light, and may end up pulling it completely. I have some ideas for revamping it (never really been entirely happy with it) but I have to decide if it’s worth my time. I’ll say this, though, if I do end up giving it a spit-polish, I will probably just make it a newsletter exclusive, available only to members of my mailing list. Sadly, it likely won’t be ready by the time I switch my list host (keep reading to find out what I’m talking about).

What I’m still doing…

I am working on (by which, at this moment, I mostly mean thinking about) a story that I want to write for Camp NaNoWriMo. Which is happening now. So, yeah… I need to get moving on that pretty much right now.

I’m shooting to get at least 20,000 words written before the end of July. I want to have the whole thing finished and ready for editing by the end of August. I think it will be roughly 40,000 to 50,000 altogether, but one never knows with these things. Might be a little less. Might be a little more. I’ll let y’all know when I get there. 🙂

That’s all I’m announcing about that right now. NaNo-type projects change so much that I don’t want to say anything decisive until I’m more certain of what it’s going to look like. That said, if you actually want more info you can check it out on my NaNoWriMo profile. I accept friend requests there, so if you’re a Wrimo too, feel free to connect! You’ll know you’re in the right place if you see the orange version of my logo, like the one you see here, on the profile.

What I have planned…

Most people don’t pay much attention to what software someone like me uses. Unless something changes, there’s usually no need.

Just note… something will probably be changing soon.

I’ve been using AWeber for my mailing list. That’s all fine and good… it has been the industry standard for a loooong time. It’s a fantastic and powerful piece of software. Except, it’s expensive. And it’s somewhat hard to use. And it’s serious overkill for my tiny list.

So within the next week or two, I am planning to switch to Mailer Lite.

Reasons? First and foremost, it will be free until I get to 1000 followers. Here’s hoping I have to start paying really soon… but if hoards of fans don’t suddenly show up, I won’t be paying to not send them emails. So, that’s good.

Also, it’s cheaper than the other alternative, Mail Chimp. I’ve used Mail Chimp before and it’s great software. But again, I’m a writer on a budget. If those hoards do show up, I’d still rather pay $20 to send them email than $50.

Stay tuned for more details… list members will get an email with the full explanation, but I’ll also make sure to post something here so anyone who isn’t on the list can choose to opt-in too.

That’s all for now…

I will give you more information when I have it. Meanwhile, enjoy your summer! (Or winter, if you happen to be down-under!)

The Month Ahead – June 2017

May has been a little bit hit and miss as far as getting the things done that I wanted to get done.

I’m actually OK with that. I’ve had a lot of months that were all miss and no hit, so this is actually an improvement.

What I did

I’ve been pretty faithful about keeping up with the reading for the 1000 Day MFA. I’ve taken a day off, here and there. Mostly, like, weekends–though I haven’t even taken every weekend off. I’m at the very beginning of this intentional plan to read more across more genres so I still have lots of time to fall off the wagon, but for now things are looking pretty good.

I haven’t kept up as well with the short story writing. I’ve written one story, and it’s one I need for a collection.

I really want to get back to that and use those stories to restart the weekly fiction posting I was doing on the blog for a while. Stories for the blog will always come second to stories that I intend for publication. But if I can get the juices flowing by writing and posting short pieces here, I believe it will help with my overall word output.

What’s on deck

June is going to get busy for me.

Here’s what I have planned (keeping in mind that by “planned” I mean “I intend to do these things but haven’t created any kind of firm schedule to actually get them done.”)

  • The Water Collection (these are the stories I wrote for AtoZ in April)
    • Write a few “bonus” stories (2 replacement stories–1 of which is done, plus 3-5 originals that have never been seen before)
    • Polishing, editing, and proofreading
    • Cover design and back cover/marketing copy
    • Formatting and publication
  • Advance planning and simple outlining for my July Camp NaNoWriMo project.
  • Return to and complete the revision analysis of my Android story and decide if I’m going to try to revise or if I’d be better off completely redrafting the thing

That doesn’t look like much. On the other hand, it looks overwhelming. Gah!

Even though it looks like a lot of steps, I don’t think I’ll have any problem knocking out the Water collection–it’s the other stuff that has me worried. My biggest issues have always been with outlining and completing longer-format stories. Here I have one that’s begging to be completed, and another one waiting to be told.

I believe I can do it, but it’s going to take a lot of focus. Maybe I need to get brain glasses.

Booky Little Lies

Pardon me while I rant for a minute.

I keep seeing articles claiming that eBook sales are down, that print sales are up, and that the trends apparent over the last several years in the publishing industry are reversing.

Frankly, I don’t believe it.

Articles that say things like Real Books Have Trumped Ebooks, or Ebook Sales Plunge. Even those news outlets that aren’t crying doom for eBooks aren’t exactly being positive about the changes in the publishing industry.

All these articles have one thing in common. They’re claiming a decline of eBook sales by something between 17% and 21%.

It sounds bad. Really bad.

But it’s not true.

If you look closely, you’ll see that these numbers come from the same source: The Publishers’ Association.

Here’s the thing about that. They track book sales by publishers. We’re talking the big boys who have dominated the industry for decades, as well as smaller presses that follow established industry standards.

What don’t they track? Independent author sales and sales by non-conforming small presses.

They say right on their website that they’re tracking “publisher revenue.” That’s a different thing than actual book sales.

I can’t swear to exactly which sales they are or aren’t tracking. I don’t have the nitty gritty details. But I’d virtually guarantee this: it absolutely doesn’t take into account books that are independently published by authors who choose not to use ISBNs for their ebooks.

By their standards, these people aren’t publishers. Those sales don’t count.

And even when you look at the sales that do count, they aren’t telling the whole story.

Like, a bunch of traditional publisher have pushed their eBook prices up to $12 or $13, while their mass-market paperbacks are still well under $10. So, yeah, their print books are selling better than their eBooks. Because of price.

But not one of those publishers is talking about revenue per sale. They don’t talk about how much money they’re making when an individual book is purchased  by an individual consumer.

Why? Because that $12 eBook that has virtually no overhead associated with it is actually supporting their print sales.

There are certain costs associated with all books. Cover design. Editing. Formatting. Marketing.

For an indie, those costs will run anywhere from $0 up to several thousand dollars, depending how they’re sourcing things and how much advertising they’re doing.

For a traditional publisher, those costs will be more predictable. They’ll contract with an artist and a cover designer. They have to edit, typeset, and format for publication. Those costs are basically the same for both print and digital books. I can’t tell you exactly what traditional publishers budget for those costs, especially since, except for original cover art, most of those services will be handled entirely in-house by people who are drawing salaries rather than getting paid for working on specific projects. But let’s be really generous and say that they’re budgeting roughly $5000 per book for those things to happen. Some of the best original art may actually cost more. But overall, I’d guess that the actual cost of these services isn’t more than the top-end of what an indie would pay, so maybe a couple thousand dollars.

Also, with the exception of a few top-tier authors, there is very little budget being spent on marketing for most traditionally published books. The books get listed in distribution catalogs. Maybe a few ARCs get sent out. That’s probably mostly it.

But print books have some extra costs involved. Like, you know, printing. And warehousing. And shipping those physical books from place to place. And, while the cover price of a book will probably be anywhere from about $5.99 for a slim mass market paperback, to maybe $29.99 for a hefty hardcover, those books are all sold to retailers at a discount which allows the retailer, the distributor, the trucking company, the sales clerk, etc. to get paid their share as those books get shuffled from place to place.

Take into account discounts, remainders, and shrinkage, and the actual income a publisher can expect from a print book is pretty nebulous.

Ebooks, on the other hand, have a guaranteed return. Yes, there are digital hosting costs and a cut of sales is taken by the distributor (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc.). But if you list a book for $9.99, you have a pretty good guarantee that you’re going to get $6.99 in revenue. Every time. Every copy. There are no remainders. There are no additional shipping costs. There might be occasional discounts to the buyer that will affect the income, but that would be a marketing decision that the publisher can control.

So, chances are the publisher is getting more for each eBook they sell, with less that they owe in real expenses.

Including the fact that traditional publishers often pay the author lower royalties for eBooks than they do for print.

So, yeah. I call BS on the ongoing insistence that eBooks are in trouble.

And even the statistics that say e-reader sales are down? So what? An e-reader is not the kind of thing most users will replace on a yearly basis. Plus, ownership of smartphones and tablets is way, way up, and all the major eBook platforms have apps that run on iOS, Android, and Windows. Lots of consumers will opt to use a device they already own rather than purchasing a dedicated e-reader. Especially if they are only occasional readers (say 1 book or less per month) rather than avid readers (say 1 book or more per week).

So, yeah. I’m not panicking over the alleged drop in eBook sales. And as an indie, I’m not worried about the future. Not even a little bit.

And as a reader and lover of books and stories? I do still love actual, physical books. I still buy some, especially when something I want is not available digitally, or if I’m collecting the works of a particular author. But more and more often I’m downloading eBooks or audio books. And I have them available on my Kindle Fire. And my iPhone. And my iPad. I could even have them on my desktop computer if I wanted to, but I don’t.

Remember when you see these stories popping up all over the place, you’re probably not really hearing the whole story. Not even close.

I’ll end my rant here.