Category Archives: Fiction

The living room for all of my stories, great and small.

I Be Winner. NaNoWriMo 2019 Winner.

I’ll list the stats in a few days, but I’m writing this post to announce that I’ve just crossed the 50,000-word mark for the 2019 National Novel Writing Month event, and let me tell you…

It’s a relief.

I don’t have much trouble with writing large chunks of text in short time, but keeping that chunk a piece of quality is a bit tougher. Spending a month writing a historical novel I’ve done hardly any research for is also a thing of toughness. But most challenging of all?

I still have to spend a big chunk of December plotting this story, as most novels typically run between 70,000 words and 90,000 words, with my novels hitting the high end of about 100,000 words, if I’m letting my whims get the better of me.

In short, it’s a relief to hit 50,000 words only in the respect that I’ve “won” NaNoWriMo. What I haven’t yet done is to write something you’d want to read…yet. That, hopefully, will happen in 2020.

At any rate, here’s the badge to prove that I didn’t sleep much this month.

NaNo-2019-Winner-Web-Badge

Let me know if you want a sample of the story.

Oh, actually, you can see my first eight days in action on my YouTube channel by clicking on this playlist.

Yes, I’ve actually recorded myself writing. In real time. You can watch me make typos and rationalize dumb decisions. It’s great fun. If you’re into that kind of thing.

The Coming of NaNoWriMo 2019

I just posted a video about NaNoWriMo 2019 and how we can prep for it with Scrivener. This comes with the idea that I may actually record my writing progress this month, for those of you who want to see a story written in real-time.

Will this likely end in disaster?

Probably! So, now you gotta watch, right?

In the video, I reveal two new templates I’ve developed this year: one for planning a story (and is still a work-in-progress), and the other a basic template for NaNoWriMo that includes options for journaling, tracking progress, and writing a postmortem when all is finished.

If you’d like to use either template for your own prep or writing adventure, you can find them both here.

If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, then comment below and talk about it.

Good luck!

October 2019 Update

It’s October, and you know what that means!

No, not Halloween. I mean, yeah, sure, it does mean that, but no, I’m not talking about that. And, no, not pumpkin spice lattes, either, even though those are awesome, and I don’t know why I’m not drinking one right now. But not that, either.

No, not scary movies. Not Oscar-bait films.

Why all of these off-topic guesses? Don’t you know me by now? You know what October really means! Right?

You do know what that means.

Right?!

Time for an update?

Familiar at all?

*blank stares*

Okay, yeah, I guess that was not at all obvious since I rarely post updates except for the exceedingly rare Friday update that I do every twentieth Friday or so in an even-numbered year, and my last monthly update was not in September or August. It may not have even been in 2019. I’d have to go back and check.

I really need to stay on top of this blog more often.

Okay, well, that all said and off-topic, I think it’s time to give you an update about all of the writing-related stuff you either missed or I didn’t share this past month (or year). Given that it’s not yet the end of the month, calling it the “October 2019 Update” is probably weird. If I do a “November 2019 Update,” then I’ll fill in the details that we missed in the weeks between now and November. I may post that update sometime in mid-December. We’ll see.

The point here is that it’s update time, regardless of what we call it, and if you’re a reader of this blog, then hopefully that means you’re interested in what I’ve been doing. And let me tell you, what I’ve been doing is playing lots of videogames.

Kidding. Most of my games are passive and don’t require me to interact with them that much.

Outside of that, I’ve been dealing with pain in my right arm for a number of weeks now. I haven’t gone to the doctor about it yet because I don’t want to deal with pain medication or any other quick fix that could potentially create new complications, nor do I want to deal with the issue that I’m supposed to see the doctor about but have been putting off because I’m tired of getting stuck with needles. But this is not a unique problem. Since about 2014, I’ve been dealing with occasional bouts of long-term muscle strain in both arms (not at the same time), usually brought on by thinking I can do more than 20 push-ups a day or more than one pull-up. This new pain is especially difficult because it’s primarily in my thumb joint, which can affect my typing, but it does seem to hurt less than it did a couple of months ago, so I may be doing better. Either that, or I’ve just gotten used to it by now. Fortunately, I have support gear to help me minimize further strain. So, as long as I remember to wear it, I’m fine. At the moment as I type, I’m not wearing any of it.

Anyway, this isn’t a medical blog, so you don’t care about any of that. You’re here for the writing updates. Or you’re here because you meant to click on something else and your aim is a bit off. Not sure which, so let’s assume you’re here for the writing updates.

Snow in Miami

For those of you who remember that I’m still working on my second series of Christmas fables, Snow in Miami, I’m happy to say that I’m almost finished with the first draft. Yes, after three years of working on it, I’m finally near the end. I think. I’m writing the final section this week, but it’s taken a turn I hadn’t anticipated, and I may end up with a lot more story by the time I finish than I originally planned to have. Hard to say. As of now, the story has over 43,000 words. I’d expected about 25,000 for the whole thing. Not sure why anymore, as it clearly needs every word it has and more.

I’ve also come to realize that the smaller stories that make up the larger tale are in need of details that I don’t yet have, so the final product will likely top 50,000 words, well over twice the length of its Christmas fable predecessor, The Fountain of Truth. Part of what I’m dealing with here is that the three fables are not separate stories like they are in the previous collection but interwoven tales that help form an outer narrative involving a storyteller who must learn from his family how to prioritize their needs better so he can become a better husband and stepfather. This story was always intended to frame the smaller tales, similar to Peter Falk reading The Princess Bride to a 12-year-old Fred Savage, but the story’s final act has taken a life of its own, thanks to the realization that the narrator’s story means nothing if he doesn’t have his own active arc to deal with. So now I’ve effectively turned Snow in Miami into four stories, not three. And because the three smaller stories need more details to really work (to the extent that they’re stories within a story), I know I’ve got a bit more to write before I can start the revision process.

That said, here’s what I have left to do:

The McCray Parables: This is the main story, the narrative hub for Snow in Miami. As of now, I’ve got the story’s narrator, Douglas McCray, wandering around downtown in the middle of the night, searching for a toy to give to his stepson before Christmas officially begins. I think I need a bit more story in the transitional sections to really land the change that he and his family make along the way, but most of what I have left to do is to simply finish it. I’m nearly there.

Unexpected Weather: This is the first fable (and the base story where the name “Snow in Miami” comes from). It’s basically finished, but it needs some continuity checks and possible transitional sections to keep it sensible. I haven’t yet read it from beginning to end, so I’m not completely sure it even works, but I’ll get it to work, even if I have my doubts that it works right now. I can say that it’s comfortably absurd at least. It’s partly about an unexpected change in weather patterns, but it’s also about one man’s adjustment to a new city as he vapes his way to happiness and Christmas.

A Black Friday Tale: This is the second fable and pretty much exactly as I want it. The only work I have left to do here is to edit and revise it. It’s a mashup of clichés in story form, involving a bet that two people make about who can score the best flatscreen television on Black Friday, using the classic clichés in motion: “The Early Bird Gets the Worm,” “Cheaters Never Prosper,” “Crime Doesn’t Pay,” and “Good Things Come to Those Who Wait.” There’s actually a fifth part to this tale, but that’s hidden until the great reveal at the end. Anyway, I’m happy with it.

The Pear Tree: This is the third fable, and I just finished the core story a week ago (finally!). This is the story that’s held up production for the last two years. I’ve always known what I wanted out of the first two fables, but I’ve had a much harder time thinking about the point of this story, especially since it’s not Douglas’s story, but his wife’s, so the heart of the fable had to come from a different place than the previous two. The story itself, I more or less knew what I wanted out of it since the beginning, but the theme has been elusive until fairly recently. I think I’ve got the angle now, so I’ll be spending the revision process making sure the details fit that angle. That said, I have more to do in the first draft, as the early sections of the story are vastly underwritten compared to the late section, and it’s clearly become more character-involved than I had originally intended.

So, what does this all mean? Will it be ready for Christmas?

Probably not. Even though I expect to have the first draft finished very soon, I don’t expect to have it ready for readers until sometime next year. The good news is that once the first draft is finished, I’ll be able to see the whole thing for what it really is, and then I can make sound decisions on how to shape it and make it better. But I won’t be racing through the process like I did for The Fountain of Truth. I want to make sure that every product I release from this point forward is actually ready for readers. Snow in Miami won’t be ready for readers until I get readers to tell me it’s ready. I can’t expect to finish, edit, revise, find cover art, and get several beta readers together before December, not if I want a strong first impression. So, this update is basically to let readers of this blog know that the story is nearly finished, but I probably won’t release it until sometime after September 2020. It doesn’t mean that it absolutely won’t make a 2019 debut, but the likelihood is so low at the moment that it’s probably not worth holding your breath for it. I do think 2020 will be the year it finally makes its debut. Four years after its target release ain’t bad!

Sigh.

What I may do if I can’t get the book done and ready by December is post the first section here for you all to read sometime in the days leading to Christmas. I think that’s reasonable.

NaNoWriMo 2019:

NaNoWriMo is coming up in a couple of weeks, and though I’ve told myself to skip 2019 and focus on completing my second editions for current e-books, I do have a story in my head that needs to get out, and I would like to start it in November, if for no other reason but to get something on paper. But, I’ll talk more about that soon. Until I actually work on it, it’s probably not the right time to discuss it. The most I’ll say is that it may or may not be a pirate adventure in the same universe as A Modern-day Fantasy, and it’s possibly the first in a trilogy. Okay, that’s all you get.

Unless I record my progress for YouTube, in which case you may get to watch me write the thing …

No promises, though. Not unless you ask for one.

Second Editions:

Speaking of second editions, let’s talk about those for a spell, as I’m still putting a few of them together.

First of all, I’m still exploring a new angle for Cards in the Cloak that will leave me more satisfied with the final product than what I currently have. I’ve got one new chapter already written, and I know what I want to do with the rest. I just have to sit down and write it. Once it’s finished, I’ll likely discontinue the current version (on Amazon and the major retailers; Smashwords will continue to host all editions for anyone who really wants it), and make the next update the official story.

Gone from the Happy Place is still in a holding pattern. Because The Computer Nerd is fine as it is, I haven’t been in a hurry to “fix” it. The improved version will come eventually, but probably not before I invest in my own ISBNs. I would like to push out the newer story sooner than later, however. Not much has moved on it since 2018, unfortunately.

Shell Out has a new opening chapter, but I don’t think I’ll attach it to the current story that you can find online. I’m pretty sure it will be part of a from-scratch retelling of the current story, told as a novella, or even a novel, with new stakes, premise, and everything. It will likely endure the same treatment that Amusement and The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky are going through, with the same story receiving a much greater expansion into a much greater world. I’m still trying to figure out how to prioritize certain stories for the backlist so that they’ll be better prepared for my front list series releases.

The Fallen Footwear is probably the next story to receive an emergency update. Because the current e-book is a major update to the original short story that I wrote in college, and because I wrote that update during my ultra-prolific release period of May 2015 to May 2016, which meant I released it before really taking the time to decide if it was actually ready for release, including skipping the time I needed to set it aside and read it later to see if I even liked it, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s my worst public story, and I need to redo it (though I still really like Chapter 1—it’s that dang rest of the story I can’t stand at the moment). So, that’ll happen soon. I’ve actually begun the update already, but I hated so much of what I’ve read that I had to stop and take a break from it. That was about two months ago. It’s another reason why I won’t be doing any more release blitzes in the future. I can give better first impressions.

The Audiovisual Book Experience:

In other news, last month I recorded myself reading Amusement off of Scrivener and uploaded the video series to YouTube. As of now, each episode has views in the low single digits. Basically, it wasn’t a successful experiment, so I probably won’t do another for a while, but I might if more people discover it. If you’re reading this blog, you can jumpstart the Audiovisual Book Experience series by checking out the videos. The playlist for Amusement contains nine videos, including one overview and one introduction that includes legal information (which I read in a funny voice because legal information is lame otherwise).

If you want to see more of these, please leave me comments and feedback, and maybe vote for the story you’d like to see me read in public next.

Writing a Scene in yWriter6:

As of this writing, my YouTube video “Writing a Scene in yWriter6 (yWriter vs Scrivener Part 7)” has 164 views, the third highest in the series, in spite of it being over an hour long. Its total retention rate is at 6.3%, which is pretty amazing given the type of video it is. One commenter liked it so much that he wanted to see more. I don’t know if he’s ever come back to my channel to see if I actually did make more “Writing a Scene in yWriter6” videos, but he did get me thinking that it’s a good series worth continuing, so I’m probably going to make more of them in the near future. So, if you like the video and want to see more of that series, let me know in the comments either here or on the video’s page. It would also be useful to let me know if you want to see the outlining process included or just the scene writing.

Either way, the scene series will continue with Pop Goes the Waterbed.

Conclusion:

So, that’s what’s going on in writer’s world at the moment. Keep checking this blog for new updates about the stories you care about and the life events that you don’t. Leave a comment if you have anything that you want to ask that I can answer and won’t feel shame about later. As always, click the blue button at the bottom of the page to subscribe to this blog.

And while we’re at it, let me know if you’d like these updates split up into multiple releases. Looking at the word count, I can see I’ve given you a lot of information today. Raise your hand if you’ve read this far.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Fun with Cover Design Using PaintShop Pro 2020, Corel Painter 2019, and GRFX Studio Corel Edition on My Ebook “Lightstorm”

This weekend, as the title implies, I ran my concept cover for Lightstorm through another round of edits, this time by employing the services of a few new programs that I picked up in the Painter: Create with Confidence Bundle over at Humble Bundle (available until Wednesday at 1pm EST).

The bundle, which includes a number of designer products, including PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate, Corel Painter 2019, and Pinnacle Studio 23 Ultimate, cost me just $25. Individually, I would’ve spent over $250 for them, maybe much more, and finding the bundle was perfect timing, as my copy of Paintshop Pro 2019 (normal edition) kept bugging me to upgrade to 2020 for just $47.99 (a 70% discount!), which I was planning to do anyway until I found the bundle, but now I don’t have to, though doing so would’ve meant I would also get a video editor program, VideoStudio Pro 2019 (noticeably absent from the bundle, but hopefully Pinnacle Studio will work just fine), which probably would’ve been nice. But I ended up getting a lot more for a lot less, and I’m typically fine with that.

So, just to give a little backstory, I released Lightstorm in September 2015 with this cover (created with my old copy of PaintShop Pro 9, which is probably 14 iterations of PaintShop Pro ago):

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

As you can see, it isn’t very good. I needed to upgrade it, but I didn’t have any software that would be particularly useful for the job.

Then last year I found another photography bundle at Humble Bundle that included PaintShop Pro 2019, and I thought, Yeah, I’ll buy that for a dollar! I think I actually paid $25 for that bundle, (a dollar would’ve gotten me just the cheap stuff) and I got a load of decent software for designers that I haven’t really used yet outside of PaintShop Pro 2019. I plan to use them eventually. Maybe.

A few months after getting that bundle and practicing my cover design on other covers, particularly Eleven Miles from Home, by locating free stock photos and manipulating and combining them for effect, I decided it was time to upgrade Lightstorm. This is what I made:

lightstorm new background 8

And when I wasn’t fully satisfied with that version, I kept toying with it until I got this:

lightstorm new background 10a

So, that’s the version I have online at the moment. I thought it was pretty good. But I still had my doubts. Compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece. But compared to other book covers, it’s meh. I figured I could do better, but I didn’t know how if all I had at my disposal was PaintShop Pro 2019 and other painting programs I hadn’t actually used yet but probably should’ve looked into. Oops.

So, then came along the Painter Bundle, and now I’ve got programs that can do more than simply adjust the visuals of an already assembled composite photo (I used four different images and a lot of blurring to make the above image). With Corel Painter, I was able to add particles, including glow brushes, make my title font (Vallen) much better detailed, and I ended up with this:

lightstorm new background 12.png

Now it’s looking more thematic, but I admit I wasn’t fully satisfied. As much as I liked the new particle effects, I worried they were cluttering the image too much.

So, I doubled-down and opened up GRFX Studio Corel Edition (included with PaintShop Pro 2020 Ultimate) and added a bunch of light flares:

lightstorm new background 13a.png

So, that’s the state of Lightstorm‘s cover and what I did this weekend with my new design programs. Just to recap, I went from this:

lightstorm cover (title 4)
Lightstorm Cover Image

to this:

lightstorm new background 13a

I’m sure PhotoShop and a proper graphics designer would’ve made this cover even better, but as I say on this blog from time to time, I’m not rich, and while that remains true, I won’t throw money at high-priced subscription software or someone I can’t afford.

For the resources and skills that I have, I think I did pretty well. What do you think? Can you do better? Hopefully the answer is yes. Comment below if you have an opinion!

The Audiovisual Book Experience, an Experiment

Today on YouTube, I launched the beginning of what could become my next big feature: “The Audiovisual Book Experience.” The premise behind it is that people don’t read anymore, but they do listen. At least, that’s what I’ve heard from people who listen exclusively to audiobooks and podcasts and can’t be bothered with an actual book or blog post. I think these same people watch YouTube videos on occasion.

I confess that I don’t get it. And, I do think the information is a little suspect. Of course people still read. I’m a person, and I read! I read books and blogs. I also write both. If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a reader, too. Already, you’re proving them wrong.

But, I also see the point they make. The people who prefer audio text to visual text are the people who are too busy to sit down with a good book; they probably spend more time looking through their windshields, making sure they don’t hit something or someone than they do staring at the pages of a paperback or the screen of an e-reader. Of course, they still stare at their phones for some reason, on the road and off. But it makes you wonder: Has no one told them they can read a book on their phone? What else are they going to do at a red light?

Okay, they shouldn’t read a book while driving. Point made. Audiobooks are much better for that. And they’re also much better for running. I’ve tried reading a book while running a few times. It’s definitely too shaky to concentrate. An audiobook would’ve been nicer for that scenario. If these people are so active that they can’t even spend a few minutes in bed with a good book, then perhaps the audio version is necessary.

But what of the people who want both, the reading and the listening experience? Haven’t we all started our reading lives by reading with an adult, where the adult reads out loud while we follow along and try to understand each word? Would it be so odd if we were to read along with someone else again, but as adults?

Maybe. Probably. But we’re going to try it anyway!

And that’s the point of the Audiovisual Book Experience, to allow YouTube users to read a book while someone else narrates it to them. That way, if they need to, they can do other things while the book is “playing.” Or, if they’d rather follow along, they can see each word in its book form. This gives each reader the option of reading the book however he or she wants. For free!

Is it a good idea? I don’t know. That’s why it’s an experiment. But, if it does generate interest, I’ll likely do another. If not, then I’ll commit my time and energy to something else.

I do wonder, though, how other authors with better voices than mine could make use of an audiovisual book experience. It might be worth it for them to give it a try for their own books.

That said, I’m launching my own experience with Amusement, a short story about a businessman who must confront the corporate entity responsible for the faulty product that ruined his life.

The overview video has already launched. The introduction and legal information video will launch at 1 p.m. tomorrow (Monday, September 23, 2019), and “Part 1: Professionalism” will launch immediately after, at 1:15 p.m., both Eastern Standard Time. Each additional episode will launch on consecutive days at 1 p.m. until next Sunday when the final episode, “Part 7: Crash,” airs.

The entire audiovisual book will be curated into a playlist that you can run at your leisure.

If you decide to check it out, please let me know what you think, either here or on YouTube. Hope you’ll enjoy it.

Now Incorporating Draft2Digital and the Books2Read Platform

Remember when I had exciting news last week about my various book updates? Well, now I have even more exciting news to share with you!

And when I say exciting, I mean exciting for book nerds! The rest of you probably won’t care that much.

A few nights ago, I began porting my recently updated e-books to the Draft2Digital platform. For those who don’t know Draft2Digital, it’s a distribution platform like Smashwords, but much nicer looking and reaches a few international markets that Smashwords doesn’t yet reach, specifically !ndigo (Canada), Angus & Robertson (Australia), and Mondadori Store (Italy). Pretty much all of Rakuten Kobo’s international partners. It also connects to subscription services 24 Symbols and Playster, but as of this writing, these platforms have not yet received my books. Soon. Hopefully. Maybe.

I’ve spent a couple of evenings modifying and uploading six of my current e-books to the Draft2Digital platform, and the result is that these e-book versions are the most attractive yet.

Draft2Digital Amusement InteriorDraft2Digital Waterfall Junction Interior

Now, I haven’t yet ported them to the usual retailers (Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo) because they’re already opted-in through Smashwords, and to get them connected through Draft2Digital, I’d have to opt them out first, which could mess up their rankings (especially since they’d be listed under a new ISBN). Not sure I want to go through all of that, so for now, this update is limited to the newer storefronts. But I may test the new format with my next release (Snow in Miami).

But, that’s not even the best news. The best news is that my books now use the Books2Read platform to connect readers to all relevant storefronts. That means one link can take you to a hub where all active storefronts are listed.

Check out the link to Eleven Miles from Home for an example.

Books2Read also has a sign-up option for readers to receive notifications every time I submit a new release. It’s a mailing list without all of the fluff! Now you don’t have to miss a single story! (And why would you even want to?) If you haven’t yet used Books2Read, as an author or a reader, you’re missing out. It’s really convenient.

Oh, and if you check out my new Draft2Digital author page, you can also see which books are in the system. See how nice it looks? Yep, it’s a booty! Er, beauty.

It’s also worth noting that I’ve updated the description pages for each of these books right here on Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm. The description pages now include the abovementioned universal links and relevant descriptive information including genre, literary style, characters, settings, store descriptions, formats, copyrights, book reading stats, prices, media galleries, and links to Wattpad samples and Goodreads reviews. If you’re still not sure whether you want to read these books, hopefully the new description pages will make your decision easier.

The books that currently apply the new format are Amusement, Eleven Miles from Home, The Fountain of Truth, Gutter Child, Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy. During the month of August (and maybe September), I’ll be working on getting Cards in the Cloak, Shell Out, and The Fallen Footwear up to speed. Subscribe to the Draft2Digital email alerts to find out when they’re live.

And that’s all for now. Hope you like the changes!

You did notice, right?

Cover Image: Pixabay

 

End of July 2019 Update: Book Stuff!

Welcome back.

In today’s episode of Drinking Café Latte at 1pm in the evening, we discuss books. Specifically, we discuss updated books. My updated books. Specifically.

Yes, my books are updated. Not all of them. But some.

Perhaps you’ve read them?

If not, now’s a good time to start. I’ve got free books and cheap books and funny books and happy books and, well, okay, my inventory is limited, so I don’t have much more than that. But what I have is great…if you’re the kind of person who finds books like mine great. Hopefully you are. There is, of course, one way to find out.

Over on the right, you may have seen a long column of strange photos with words on them. Those are book covers. Book covers for my books. Some of them have been updated. Not all of them. But some. Just click on the title(s) you want to find out more about them. Once on the respective book page, you’ll be shown how to download them (or buy them if you’re feeling generous). Again, they’re over there. —>

But, enough sales talk! You didn’t come here for that.

Actually, I don’t know why you’ve come here. But I’m glad you did!

Anyway, here are the updates.

The Updates:

Amusement and Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge have been given the revision and “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” section treatment. They also have new page descriptions and, in the case of Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, a new cover.

waterfall junction new base title 3b
Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge cover

I’ve also updated the interior formatting for the above mentioned books, as well as for Eleven Miles from Home, Gutter Child, When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, and The Fountain of Truth. Amazon does the best job showing off the new formatting, for the record.

amusment tablet example.png
Amusement tablet interior

It should also be noted that Eleven Miles from Home and The Fountain of Truth have undergone slight cover modifications, even though neither one has gotten an actual new cover. Eleven Miles from Home in particular is now more genre-appropriate. We’ll see if that increases its downloads at all.

Sales and Price Changes:

For those of you who missed my announcement at the beginning of the month, Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One, Gutter Child, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy are available for free on Smashwords until midnight EST, July 31st. On a related note, Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two is 50% off (or $3.99) also until July 31st. Don’t miss out.

I’m also temporarily lowering the prices for Gutter Child and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy to $.99 beginning on August 1st (Cellpones has already been lowered on Amazon), so if you don’t get them at Smashwords during the sale, I’d get them at Amazon as soon as possible. I don’t yet know how long I’ll keep them priced this low, so act soon.

Keywords and Categories:

Two years ago, I purchased a copy of KDP Rocket to help me categorize my books more effectively. I hadn’t really used it much since I was stocking up on resources without doing much with those resources. I’d dabbled with it a little, to see how effective it is at tracking the success potential for keywords. It seemed fine, but it had flaws.

Recently, the program was upgraded to 2.0 and renamed “Publisher Rocket.” With its newest update, it now does a better job tracking all of the various scores and statistics that it was built to track, and its user-interface is much cleaner. In short, I’ve been using it the last couple of weeks to recategorize the abovementioned books. Hopefully, as I continue to tweak and tool the books’ metadata, I’ll be able to figure out how to get each book in front of more readers.

Why should you care about that? Well, 1.) Publisher Rocket is a great program to use for market research if you’re an indie author, and if you’re an indie author, you’ll want to know about it. But also 2.) the more readers I have, the more I’ll stick to writing books and the less I’ll stick to playing video games. That means more books for you. You are reading them, right?

Upcoming Updates:

So, that’s the state of what’s going on right now. Sometime in the next week or two, I’ll also, hopefully, be adding an audio version of Amusement to my YouTube channel, which you can follow along with as I post each chapter right here on Drinking Café Latte at 1pm at the same time!

Lastly, I’ll be working on improved versions of Cards and the Cloak, The Fallen Footwear, and Shell Out as we move into the fall season, and I’ll be including the “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” for them also. I also, hopefully, will get Snow in Miami finished in the coming weeks. I know I’ve been promising that one for much too long. Have you already forgotten that you’re waiting for it?

Super Smashwords Summer Sale (2019 Edition)

Aloha, hola, and hello. Happy July and summer sale to all.

Happy summer sale?

Yep, happy summer sale. Happy Super Smashwords Summer Sale, 2019 Edition.

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Okay, you have no idea what I’m talking about. Fair enough. Today marks the beginning of the Smashwords Summer Winter Sale (it’s winter in the deep, deep south), and the sale will continue until the end of the month. It’s the time of year in which you can get a host of trashy novels for free or cheap. It’s also a good time to get some of my usually-priced-above-free books for the lower price of actually free.

These books include Cannonball City, Gutter Child, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy.

You can also get Superheroes Anonymous for 50% off.

So, if you’ve spent the last three years sitting on the fence trying to decide whether to get these, maybe it’s time to say your butt is tired and get off the fence!

Please remember to leave a review when you’re done reading.

P.S. If you read one of my books for free and decide they’re worth a little bit more than free, please check out my Amazon page where you can find all* of the same titles for $.99 or more.

*“All” doesn’t include Cannonball City or Superheroes Anonymous.

Note: Gutter Child has a very slight revision to its first chapter to lighten some of the foreshadowing. This should now be the definitive version. I’ll be posting an audio version of Chapter 1 on YouTube very soon. Subscribe to receive official announcements.

Quality Products and Ethical Practices

Every so often I like to visit The Book Designer to find out what’s new in the world of indie publishing because trends change, people change, yet books are forever, except for when they’re banned, and it’s important to keep up with it all. It is through this channel that I discover not only ways to maximize my social media outreach, but also how to avoid or address problems like predator publishers, “Cockygate,” or anything that convinces me that no one is looking out for my best interest.

Yesterday, I read an article through The Book Designer’s weekly wrap-up about Amazon’s new terms on content-stuffing, or the practice of packing e-books with “bonus materials” that equate to having multiple books in one in an effort to game Kindle Unlimited’s system that pays according to pages read, a practice which may ultimately result in “authors” directing readers to click to the end of the digital brick for some kind of bonus item (and force Amazon to pay the author as much as $15 for the click1, per the policies on pages read, or credited as read, and subsequent payment), and it left me with some opinions. In short, it’s a smart system for lazy people, and one can hardly fault the scammers who figured that out, but it’s also a harmful system for those who are actually trying to make a living on their art. The end result is that Amazon has finally banned this practice, after numerous complaints2, as it is unfair to other, more legitimate authors who want to make an honest buck.

Of course, I doubt fairness is the real reason they banned the practice. At best, responding in fairness may be counted as a positive side effect to the solution to a greater business problem. No, we’re talking about Amazon here. Prevention of bad practices, it seems, stems first from a loss, and losing authors is not the sort of thing Amazon would ever need to worry about. I have a feeling the change in Amazon’s Terms of Service for Kindle products is related more to money than to author servicing, and, in this case, authors are there to make them money (while trying to also make themselves money, which is admittedly harder to do). How well authors make Amazon money is the topic of another discussion, and, well, money in general is the topic of another discussion. What I do want to talk about, however, is service, and, in this case, the product is the service.

When we buy a book, we usually buy it to read it. Sometimes we’ll buy a paperback because we need something for the bus or the beach, and sometimes we’ll buy a hardcover because we need something to keep the door open. But, we buy electronic books, or e-books, because we need something to occupy our time without taking up much of our space. And, Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s exclusive subscription site for indie authors and readers, is a purveyor of electronic books large and small (more large than small) that readers can consume quickly and cheaply without any bookshelf clutter whatsoever, and it provides these books on an exclusive basis, exclusive in the sense that these books are available only on the Kindle platform. For readers who don’t mind reading books by unknowns for a monthly fee (so, not exactly free but close to it), Kindle Unlimited is a great platform. For authors whom these readers read, Kindle Unlimited is an okay platform (if they don’t mind getting paid by the page read, which can be very, very little3).

I understand why someone would want to game a pay-by-pages-read system. It changes the value of the book from a standard cost of purchase regardless of quality to cost of purchase or borrow (and worth) based on quality. Not everyone will have that book that everyone will want to read until the end, as much as we may want to believe the opposite. For me, I’m the type of reader who will generally read a bad book to the end to find out if it gets any better, and because I paid for it, I’m gonna finish what I paid for, dangit. But, if I’m not paying anything but a monthly service, then I’m much more likely to abandon a bad book in favor of searching for a better book, and if I get a bad book for free, well, I’m not reading that one, either. So, if I’ve written a bad book, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve spent precious time writing that bad book, and I’d still want to get paid for it. Gaming the system to get something for that book is certainly tempting.

But, it’s not ethical, especially if the money is coming out of a pool4 set aside for all authors enrolled in the KU program, especially if those authors are writing good books that deserve to be read and deserve adequate compensation for each page read. If we were to consider the proverb, “Do unto others as we’d do onto ourselves,” then we shouldn’t even be tempted by this practice of tricking readers to click to the end of the overstuffed book, especially if the book is larger than The Lord of the Rings Trilogy because it includes content that can also be bought separately from the tome in question. But, apparently some fake authors haven’t gotten that memo.

My argument goes beyond the ethical issue, however. In fact, I shouldn’t have to explain why this behavior is unethical, or justify any time spent discussing it. The facts speak for themselves. Cheating legitimate authors out of fair compensation by tricking readers to click on a link that takes them to something else lame is just bad all around. No, my issue is with these fake authors’ unwillingness to present a quality book, both in appearance and in content. That’s the real crime. Well, it’s kind of a crime. The fraudulent practice of gaming a system for money is still the worst. But a bad book…that’s nothing to slouch at.

As a consumer of literature, both fiction and nonfiction alike, I want to enjoy the experience of reading as much as I want to enjoy the story itself. This means I want to appreciate the feel of the book in my hands (so, no crappy paper textures, please). I want to find the textual layout pleasing to the eye. Even the typography should leave me with a positive feeling. I’m a fan of the Garamond font, just as I’m a fan of matte covers and embossed titles. I like chapter headings that punctuate the story. I even like chapters that add something extra, like famous quotes, illustrations, or even in the case of The Impossible Fortress, lines of computer code that not only combine to make a functional game but also summarize the plot points of the chapter for a truly complex approach to storytelling. As a reader, I want to like the book I’m reading. As a writer, this means I want to deliver a positive customer experience, too.

When I wrote The Computer Nerd three years ago, I had what I thought were three great ideas: A homemade cover featuring my real-life desk and coffee cup, a computer-based font for the title and chapter headings, and a “post-credits scene” to give voracious readers a special surprise for reading the entire book. As it turned out, my cover was too dark for print and a bit out of standard for a thriller, and the font was way out of standard for a thriller. And that last scene? I never did get feedback on it, which makes me wonder if anyone ever saw it. My first review, most likely from a reader looking for a book on programming, not a marital thriller, came back with a single star. It was nearly the reason why I rethought the story’s entire premise and every “wise” decision I thought I had made about it. The stuff I learned afterward is what convinced me to rewrite the book under the title Gone from the Happy Place. I thought it was time to brand it as a new product. I even want to change the publishing elements to match the professionals closer. I care about my books. I care about my products. I want readers to like them as much as I do, and I want to like them, too. I rushed The Computer Nerd out the door, and the quality, while not awful, still kinda shows. I definitely would’ve done things differently in retrospect. It’s the reason that Gone from the Happy Place is even in-production.

Personally, I think these book-stuffers and Kindle-gamers are hacks. These are not the kinds of people who care about products. They’re driven by the money, but they don’t realize that the money is only as good as the customers’ tastes, and a bad product will lose the customer. It’s too bad that e-books don’t come with return policies, especially in Kindle Unlimited, because return policies force proper customer targeting and the creation of competitive products. This isn’t to say that I like return policies for my products, and I certainly don’t love the idea of including one, but I still think they’re necessary for all content producers, as return policies keep us accountable to our work. If enough people return my books, I’d know there’s a problem with them. Either that, or readers think a store is a library and are basically jerks, too. But, I wouldn’t expect that from my readers. My readers are good people, wink wink.

To get notifications on more articles like this one, please hit the blue “follow” button at the bottom of this page. I try to post a new article at least once a year. Maybe twice in a leap year, if there’s also a full moon.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Footnotes:

1. Nate Hoffelder. “Amazon Updates KDP Rules to Discourage Book-Stuffing.The Digital Reader. July 12, 2018.

2. This is a guess, but probably true, as it wouldn’t be much of a story otherwise.

3. Derek Haines. “Is Kindle Unlimited Pay Per Page Read Fair For Authors?Just Publishing Advice. June 21, 2018.

4. Nate Hoffelder. “Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate, Funding Pool Up in September 2017.” The Digital Reader. October 15, 2017.

New Update: Gutter Child

gutter child cover alt 4
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

Hello Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm readers, visitors, lurkers, and boycotters! (I don’t suppose the last group is paying much attention.) I’m sending out a quick announcement that my novella Gutter Child has received a major update this weekend and is now live at most retailers (e-book only). This will be the definitive version of the novella. If the story receives another update (beyond typos or grammatical issues that may surface in spite of my thorough checks for both), it will do so as a novel under a different name and a different A plot. I don’t foresee that happening too soon, so if you want to read the story of a young man trying to solve the mystery of his heritage while attending the worst university in the country and filtering out lies along the way, then give Gutter Child a try today. It currently stands at 40,000 words (about 160 pages) and retails for $2.99. From July 1 – July 31, it will also be available at Smashwords for 50% off the retail price.

If you get your copy, please leave a review at your preferred retailer and/or on Goodreads. You may also comment your feedback here or on the book’s dedicated hub page for additional support.

Thanks and enjoy.

–Jeremy

Note: Updated version contains a mix of new and rewritten scenes, better balanced emotional arcs, improved descriptions, fixes to overlooked typos and errors, and a new section for Readers’ Group Discussion Questions. Changes to story amount to roughly 8000 new words.