Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back to submitting

It's been a while, but I've got something out on submission again. This one is a 680-worder that's in the hands of the editors at Shotgun Honey. Hope they like it, but, if they don't, I do. It's a piece that I wrote and edited over a couple of days. It got a bit of a revision in the writing. The initial idea was a good one, but a little too dark. I changed the end about halfway through. It's similar to what I had originally conceived, but this one seems truer to the characters I created.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not the Shotgun Honey folks say yes.

Submitting, in general, is something I intend to do more of as we spill on into the future. I read something on a blog that said the best thing a writer can do if he's wanting to build his audience is give them something to read. Made sense to me. That means I need to be doing more than writing novels/novellas for the e-bookstores. I need to be submitting short fiction. So that's what I'm going to try and do. Besides, submitting is kind of fun. Getting that email that your story has been accepted is very validating. Even rejection can be validating if the editor does it right.

Also wrote the beginning of something today that I like. Not sure where it's going, but I have an idea. Could be fun. Here's the start.

The corn spread out beyond the Ferris wheel, and when you were out a hundred yards deep in it all the sound from the carnival just faded away.

We’d been warned, once when we got into the fair gounds and once, again, when we asked to go off on our own to the midway, to be careful.

“I don’t want you getting into trouble,” mom said.

“Yes, ma’am,” we’d both shouted as we ran away.

The stalks now were tall and dry and they rustled in the wind that was beginning to pick up. We were both on our backs, Jake struggling for breath. We’d run hard and far, trying everything not to get caught. A long run in a straight line out into the corn was our last resort.

“Follow me,” Jake shouted and I ran after him, my feet falling just exactly where his had been.

That's it for today. Or for now. Who knows if I'll check in later. I could surprise you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My time at the top is done

Sorry it's been a week since I've said anything here. It's never my intention to be away that long. Seeing a tweet today about the weekly five minute fiction contest made me realize that I never told the blog how it all turned out. I won. So those of you who helped by voting, thanks. I appreciate it. But my weeklong reign as champion is over this afternoon. It's been a good run. I feel like I've made a difference with my platform encouraging literacy.

But my run is over. It's time to crown a new champion. I'm not going to be able to participate this week. Not enough time. So, to whoever wins, serve with honor.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I've dabbled

Leah Petersen hosts a 5 Minute Fiction writing contest on her blog each week. She posts a prompt at 12:30 and you get five minutes to write. I decided to try my hand at it this week. The prompt word was greed and after five minutes this is what I came up with. It's not great, but I like it.

UPDATE: I'm a finalist. You don't necessarily have to vote for me, but I'd sure appreciate it. Click here if you want to show some support.

“Want to know what’s good?” Jill asked, sliding closer to me.

I sat my drink on the bar, paused for a beat, and said, “What?”
“More.” She turned to face me.

I faked a laugh and looked her in the eye. “You’re never satisfied are you?”

“Why be satisfied?” She waved two fingers and called over the guy behind the bar. She needed a refill.

“Because this is stupid.” I was watching the door in the reflection from the mirror behind the bar. I was expecting muscled-up company. We were sloppy. Working too fast. Doing this too often. Leaving too much behind. Creating a trail. The bell above the door rang as a pair of college girls giggled their way through.

She took a sip of her new drink and started talking again. “It’s not stupid. It’s profitable.” She tapped the front of my jacket and I felt the jewels in the inside pocket shift.

“Careful,” I said.

“Awww, you and careful.” She dropped from her stool and turned to face the door. “You need to loosen up, Thomas. You’ll have much more fun.”

“I’m not in this for fun. This is a job.”

“Not a legitimate one,” she said.

“Not in traditional terms,” I said. “But it’s not a game either.”

I kept and eye on the mirror and the front. Waiting. She was having fun and we were getting sloppy. It wouldn’t be long before the bell rang for us.

The way this works now is someone picks five finalists then it's up for a vote by readers. I'll let you know how it goes. You don't win anything but bragging rights.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dabbling in flash. Again

Everything I've been writing lately has been Chasing Filthy Lucre and two other stories in that world. One is the second book in the series. The other was going to be a stand-alone story. Got about 10,000 words into that one and realized that it's just not all that interesting. I may pick it up again later, but, for now, it's dead.

While I love writing these stories and spending time in New Eden, I need a break.  A little time away from New Eden and Berger and Rexall. That's why I think I'm going to dip a toe back in the waters of flash fiction. Chuck Wendig, over at his blog, Terrible Minds, has been running a flash fiction challenge for the last few weeks. This week's challenge is a five worder. He's given us a list of words and we must work them into a story. The list:

“Mobile Phone.”

You get 1,000 words and all of those items have to be in the story some how. I've got a little something bubbling in my head. It's just the start of something and it works in words one and two. It's not plotted and I don't know where there story will go. I typically write flash pieces from the seat of my pants. The only thing I know about the next word in the story is that there will be one. No clue what it will be.

The second flash piece I'm going to try and tackle is something for a new fiction blog called Shotgun Honey. Be careful if you click on that link. The language, in at least one of the stories, is muy, muy caliente. The maximum word limit on their submissions is 700 words. I've got an idea here too. It could be interesting and something easily told in 700 words. I just need to figure out my characters now. I have a few ideas, but nothing in stone yet.

Flash fiction is something I started writing about ten years ago when I started writing seriously. It was something I enjoyed doing quite a bit. It gives you an immediate sense of satisfaction. From start to finish in a  few hundred words. It takes a few hours to write and edit a flash piece, at least for me. Not saying they're perfect, but I'm happy with them after that time. I think these two stories could be fun to tackle and give my mind a break from New Eden.

If you're interested in reading some of my flash fiction back in the olden days of the late 1990s then click here.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thea Atkinson streaks by

For the month of April, fellow author, Thea Atkinson is streaking through 30 blogs and flashing us a piece of fiction. I generously offered her a space today so she could expose a piece. My blog will be back to normal tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy and follow the links at the end to see who she flashed yesterday and who she will flash tomorrow. Feel free to leave a comment to let me know if you enjoyed the streak, and you are welcome to tweet it or share it on Facebook. You can also follow the chain through twitter with the hashtag #blogstreak

Lights in a Blackened Sky
By Thea Atkinson
I see the fireflies first. They blip out Morse code to each other in the darkness: dot dot dash… dot dot. Then the stink of exhaust comes, the smell of fish. Rotten. Left in the hot sun and smeared like oil over cement. Wharf, I think. I'm at a wharf and I try to burn the thoughts into my cells in case my real memory isn't around to tattle when I'm found. Something tells me to scratch into the rug beneath me. The tender flesh beneath my nails clogs with fibre and dirt and rust. Rust. Would the original metal have been blue? Red?

"Get up," my captor says. I know he has a pimple on his chin -- I remember that. I'd seen his face before the hood came down over my eyes. "Get up," he says again, and I realise that if I don't make some move, I might die right here.

I roll away into the depths of the stinking trunk, my face shoved into the darkness, and run my tongue along the dirt caked along the sides. Engine oil. Fish. Don't gag. Just try to keep from swallowing down any evidence that might have collected in my mouth. Instead I scrape my tongue on the ridges of my back teeth.

"You don't listen so good," he says when I don't even try to get up; then he calls me a bitch. Says all women are bitches, why don't they ever mind? He grabs my arms as he says this. Yanks. Maybe I should say something, tell him I'm different. But he'll know better. He's been watching me. He said so when he bundled me into his trunk, when I'd snatched off the hood and my eyes went to that pimple on his chin. He’d touched it when he followed my gaze. His thumb had a bed of warts that formed the profile of an angel. Angel. Of mercy or of death? I wonder.

He muscles me out of the trunk. My legs forget how to stand.

Sounds of waves lapping at rocks and it's the only noise for a moment. He's a thick blur beside me in the dark. Fiddling with something. Bent over. Coming up with a long snake. Rope. Must be.

"You don't have to do this," I say as he drags me, stumbling, from the cement to the breakwater boulders that protect the wharf from invasive waves.

"Shut up."

He wraps lengths of hemp around my wrists. The rope cuts me. I don't bother to struggle. The ropes will still be there tomorrow; the authorities won't need to search for fibres.

He doesn't pull at my clothes when he pushes me down, doesn't force himself on me. No DNA, then. Just the rug under my nails, the oil on my teeth. But I know -- know -- I won't live to tell. And it will be just some mute bit of me in the end, left with the tale.

I close my eyes as I lie there, bits of debris sticking into my back. I feel him heft something (a rock, an axe, maybe) above my face and despite my resolve, I panic.

"At least kiss me," I say, and he pauses. "No one should die without comfort."

I worry he won't care how I die except that I should feel pain, but he shifts his weight and lowers the object to my side. I feel it pressing into my ribs, a solid mass with no jagged edges. Even though I open my eyes, he's still a bulky shadow that lowers inch by inch until I smell the onions on his breath. His lips are soft. Babyish. His tongue a butterfly in my mouth.

I bite down hard, tasting his scream. Chunks of his skin and the rusty tang of his blood fills my mouth. Was the rusty car red once?

Now there's fireflies again. Dot dot dash…


Where Thea was April 14

Where Thea will be April 16 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Another nice review of Chasing Filthy Lucre

Steve Umstead has some nice things about Chasing Filthy Lucre over at his blog. You can read the whole thing here, but here's an excerpt.

"The story is fast-paced and progresses logically, with a couple of twists, and an exciting climax, then easily feeds into the next novella in the series. Definitely a page-turner ..."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

We'll be having a guest

I know I haven't been around much. Not living up to my promise of three posts a week. I'll try to do better, but for today this will have to be enough. Wanted to let everyone know that we'll be having a guest on Friday. That's the day we are hosting author Thea Atkinson on her #blogstreak blog tour.

She's a Canadian author of psychological and historical fiction. She's written a dark bit of flash for us that I'll post on Friday.

So, pleas, be on your best behavior and make her feel welcome.

Want to know a little more about her? Check out her site here.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where I ask again for help.

I did this before and gave away a few copies Chasing Filthy Lucre. Got one very nice review and I know others are reading it. But, I'm going to ask again for help in getting the word out about Chasing Filthy Lucre. I think I've written a good story. I think many people will like it, whether they are a sci-fi fan or not. So why aren't people buying it? Because they don't know it's there. That's why I need your help.

If you will agree to read my novella and, if you like it, tell folks about it, then I'll give you a coupon for a free copy at Smashwords. Telling people may mean a review at Amazon or Smashwords. It may mean posting something on a message board, Twitter, or a blog. It may mean just talking with friends and mentioning you liked it. But tell someone.

So if you agree to help, leave me a comment with your email address and I'll send you a coupon code.

Thanks in advance.

No killed little darlings, just stored away

Aaron Polson wrote on his blog yesterday about killing your darlings, not being afraid to take things out of your story that just aren't working. It can be hard to do. You struggle with a phrase and finally nail it. A certain paragraph is just so perfectly written. But they don't work in the story. They don't add anything of advance anything. They've got to go. You have to kill your darlings. Except you don't.

They may not work in that story, but they could work in others. That's why I don't kill mine. I shove them into a very crowded box on my computer and store them there until I can use them again. Several times I've been writing something. I get to a certain point and realize that I've already written something that would work perfectly in that spot. So I go to the box, dig around, and boom. No effort wasted. No darlings killed no effort wasted. Now those bits of writing may never leave the box. And, from time to time, I do go through the box and delete the stuff that is truly bad or just won't work anywhere. But I like that I have them to pull from. To use again if I want to.+

I have an idea for a superhero story that has been with me for a couple of years. It's a big story. It'll be one of those doorstop novels. Multiple generations. A family history as circus performers. I love the idea, but it'll be a tough write. I know because I've tried to start it multiple times. All of my attempts have either flamed out or just crawled to a stop. But I've got all of them. There are some good bits in each, and once I actually start writing the thing I want to make sure that I have every one of the attempts to draw from.

So, by all means, pull stuff from a story if it's not working. Being objective enough about a story and to be able to tell when something's not working is tough. Be glad it's a skill you develop(ed). It's a necessary one. But, kill your darlings? No, at least not for me. Just cram them away into a tiny box so you can pull them out later and dust them off.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

A Consider Us Even update

Smashwords just reported the numbers from some of the sites to which they distribute. Something surprising, at least to me. On Barnes and Noble there were 26 downloads since the story went live on their site. Not bad. I figured I had a few there. The story's rank has been in the 30k range for quite a while. But the surprising thing was that in the same time frame at the Sony e-bookstore there were 27 downloads. Never expected that. Honestly, I'd forgotten about the Sony site.

Overall, since the story went up on Smashwords there have been 350 downloads of the story across all sites. Those aren't world-beating, bestseller numbers but I'm pleased. Now if I could just translate those numbers to Chasing Filthy Lucre sales. Especially at the Sony site where apparently I'm doing better than expected.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Ebook pricing and loss leaders

There was a debate a week or two ago on Twitter and a few blogs about pricing and the insult that is the 99 cent price point for ebooks. I stayed out of the debate because I figure that each author is essentially his or her own small business. A business is welcome to price its product however it wants to.

There are two arguments against 99 cents as the price of a novel in e-form. The first is that a writer's time and effort should be worth more than that. It takes quite a bit to actually get 75,000 or so words onto a page. Then to revise and rework. It's a lot of effort. In that case, I understand the argument. The other argument is that if readers get used to and expect 99 cents to be the price of an ebook it hurts everyone. Once anything more than that is seen as "expensive" then it's going to be tough to price anything higher than that. Again, I kind of understand that argument. It goes hand in hand with argument number one.

But like I said before, price your book wherever you want to price it. There are people making a good amount of money from 99 cent books.

If you haven't noticed, Chasing Filthy Lucre is 99 cents. A more than fair price in my eyes. For less than a dollar, you get roughly 80 pages of, at least in my eyes, a fun story. It's fast-paced, has lots of action, and a satisfying ending that also leads you into the next book.

For 99 cents, it's a great deal. I wish I could charge more, and I suppose I could. But I didn't feel comfortable charging $2.99 for it. It's a novella, just over 21,000 words. What I had originally wanted to price it at was $1.99, but that seems like a dead zone in ebook pricing. So, if $2.99 seemed too high I wasn't left with much choice. It was 99 cents or nothing.

And now, to get to the point I was really wanting to make. Wow, I'm long-winded on this blog sometimes. One thing you won't ever hear me call Chasing Filthy Lucre is my loss leader. I hear lots of authors calling their 99 cent book their loss leader. Except it's not, at least not by any definition I've ever heard of the term. A loss leader is a product you take a loss on as a way to introduce a consumer to other products you have available. That's not what these authors are doing at 99 cents. They are still making a profit of 35 cents on every sale through Amazon, and more when sold through other sites. That's a 35 percent profit margin. Are they making a killing per sale? No, believe me, they're not. But they are making money. Will it mean they have to wait a little longer to pay for whatever personal funds they sunk into the book's production? Yes. It's an introductory price. It's a smaller profit. It's a way of making less, hoping you'll make more later. But it's not a loss.

So are 99 cent novels hurting ebook authors in the long run? No, I don't think so, but it's a discussion worth having. Maybe my mind can be changed. But one thing we do need to do with 99 cent books is stop calling them a loss leader, because they're not.