Category Archives: Novellas

Any story between 10,000 and 25,000 words I feel like sharing with the world for free. (Note: This category probably won’t be updated too often.)

Friday Update #10: The Summer of Silence

It’s been a while since the last Friday Update, and any update for that matter, so I figure with summer ending soon, I should give a progress report about how things are going.

Drinking Café Latte at 1pm:

First of all, the site isn’t dead. It may look it, given that my last post was on May 3rd, but to be fair, my traffic here is so low that sometimes I think I’m wasting my time posting anything new. One of the important things about making the most of our time and resources is to feed the things that work and ignore the things that don’t, and this blog is ignored enough by others that I feel justified in minimizing my time keeping up with it.

But, that’s not the only reason my posts have become infrequent. Frankly, I’ve been preoccupied with other projects of the likes that can’t be posted here, at least not in a way that I’d consider interesting to anyone but me, so rather than bore what audience may happen across this site, I’d rather post nothing.

If you’re wondering, though, I’ve been spending a lot of time rewriting the “code” for a game I’ve been working on since 2009. More on that in a future post.

But, as I said, the site isn’t dead, and I do have some new posts planned for the coming weeks that you should keep an eye open for. I hope to post the release calendar for these posts in the next few days, so keep an eye open for that, too.

Writing, Authorship, etc.:

Even though I haven’t been posting anything on my blog the last few months, I have been picking at some old stories with the intention of rereleasing them with new content. This has been slow-going, with most of my focus on game design lately, but certainly not nonexistent. I’ve since scrapped the idea of releasing a new annual Zippywings title, as my 2016 titles are too few to justify making a new book, and my 2017 titles haven’t been in progress, period. But, I do plan to release a special edition volume that includes rewrites of my 2015 titles, print versions of my 2016 titles, and a handful of extras never before produced as an e-book. It may not be the only Zippywings master collection I produce, but it will be the first of the definitive editions, and hopefully the final short story/novella versions of these stories that date as far back as 1995. If I produce a second volume, I plan to include all new material for that. But that’ll be a while still.

Anyone who follows my e-books will know that Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern Day Fantasy, Year Two, is my most recent release, and is now 15 months online. After a year of releasing one title after another, it may seem like I’ve run out of juice. But that’s not the case.

For those who have not been keeping up with me the last year, I have spent much of the last 15 months relearning not only my craft, but also editing and marketing, and I’ve purposely held off on getting too deep into any new project without having a stronger foundation of professionalism, product value, and delivery.

To boost my chances at getting my voice heard by more ears (or seen by more eyes), in March I’d enrolled in an online course called Author Remake, by Alinka Rutkowska, which outlines step-by-step the process for reaching and retaining the most fans and for getting my work out to the most venues possible, and I’d also subscribed to a few programs, including, most recently, KDP Rocket, to increase my chances at gaining exposure for my books. I’m still figuring out how to make the most of these tools, but the good news is that by this time next week, I’ll be fully paid off on all of it and can start moving toward developing a better central hub and mailing list (and freebie incentives) for those who want to become fans. It should be noted that most of my online presence will likely transfer to that hub when the time comes.

Even though I’m still making updates to previously published stories (because, I can, so why not?), I have new ideas that I hope to break ground on soon. I don’t want to spoil any surprises, but let’s just say that one of my ideas may or may not include a couple of dumb teenagers who somehow save their town from destruction. More on that another time.

In-progress Projects:

In the last year, I’ve mentioned or posted details on future projects that still have not seen the light of day. Here’s a basic report on where everything is at the moment:

Gone from the Happy Place:

This is my rewrite/retitle of The Computer Nerd, which will address some of the story flaws I’d either ignored or didn’t think about when I was rushing to release it back in October 2015. I’ll write postmortem on that story at some point, but let’s just say some practices should not be done, regardless how many “experts” say that you should.

The story is still coming, and I hope to release it soon. But I won’t do so before my author hub is ready. For the time being, The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, depending on where you’re finding it), is still available for sale, and will probably remain on sale until Gone from the Happy Place is released. After that, I don’t know. I don’t really want to confuse readers, but I also don’t like the idea of making anything unavailable, especially for historical purposes. We’ll see.

Teenage American Dream:

The short story version will more than likely make an appearance in the next Zippywings title, but the novel is going poorly, in my opinion. I haven’t spent any length of time powering through it, and for good reason. I’m having trouble deciding if it even works. To be clear, I’m sure I can get it to work, but there are problems I have with it that I haven’t figured out how to fix, and because it’s like a bronco that I have to tame, and finish for that matter, I’ve made it easy on myself to find distractions in other things.

I do still pick at it, and at some point I’ll figure out what’s wrong with it and reshape it into something worth reading. But for now, it’s going to take a while for me to finish it. Don’t expect it before 2018.

Oh, and when I do release it, it will also have a different name. “Teenage American Dream” will remain as the title for the short story version, however.

Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios:

I haven’t really done anything with these stories yet. Like “Teenage American Dream,” the short story/novella versions will appear in an upcoming Zippywings anthology, but the novels will be further off. Can’t yet say when I’ll have more information. They’re still on the planner, though.

A Modern-day Fantasy Series:

The main hold-up on these books is in deciding how I want to block them. For the longest time, I had a clear vision about how I wanted this series to unfold, but after all that I’ve been learning this year about editing for genre, I’m starting to rethink this vision and how to restructure these stories to fit conventions better. I’m also giving thought to a prequel trilogy called Pawn of Justice, which follows series regular FBI Special Agent Thomas Sturgeon as the lead, and how it sets up the A Modern-day Fantasy story line. At some point, I’ll just need to dive in and write them. But, I want to make sure I don’t dive in blind. Again, this will be addressed in a future blog about The Computer Nerd (if I haven’t written it already and simply forgot).

Snow in Miami:

I got about halfway through this story last December and then stopped. I don’t remember why I stopped, but I think it had a lot to do with the season ending before I could finish, and my plans to release it as part of Zippywings 2016 also ending. Incidentally, that was about when I decided to give up on Zippywings 2016 even though I highly considered releasing it anyway as a June 2017 book. Sometimes deadlines approach faster than endings. They aren’t supposed to, but there are plenty of things in this world that aren’t supposed to happen. Anyway, my current plan is to finish and release it as part of a Christmas trilogy, which would include 2015’s The Fountain of Truth and whatever I write at the end of this year. Hopefully that’ll work.

Gutter Child:

Can’t remember if I’ve spoken about this online, but this remains my least popular story, and I’m sure it’s for good reason. I want to turn the existing story into a subplot for a greater story, and I’ve been reading a number of thrillers lately that have given me some ideas on how to make this better (and more commercial). Like The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream, this will get a name change when I’m finished. More on that another time.

Previous Titles:

As part of my plan to rebuild my platform on more solid footing, I’ve either rewritten, am in the middle of rewriting/revising, or plan to revise the following stories (by adding new content and deleting irrelevant content):

  • Shell Out – New chapters to better frame the character’s motivations. (to be done)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy – New chapters to add subtext to the story and provide a stronger ending. (done)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky – New chapters to make it less of a fable and more of a story with proper antagonists and goals. (in progress)
  • Cards in the Cloak – Rewritten scenes to keep the conflict front and center. (done)

I need to review The Fallen Footwear for content, but this, too, may get an update if I find one warranted.

It should also be noted that, due to length, I may spin Cards in the Cloak off to its own book and leave it out of the next Zippywings anthology. It’ll depend on how long it is with and without Cards.

If you want to keep up with progress on these existing stories, feel free to check out my page at FictionPress (my user name is zippywings), where I’ve been posting new chapters these last few weeks. They’ll appear there first. It’s the only place I’m getting proper feedback.

My First Mullet:

Stay tuned…. That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Life in General:

Other than that, I’ve been trying to keep from getting heat stroke this summer. I’ve read a few good novels, which I’ll likely reserve my reports on for a separate post, as this one is getting long. I’ve also seen just a handful of movies—Spider-Man: Homecoming was the only good one since my last post—and I’ve been watching a lot of news. I’ll keep my opinions to myself about current events, though. Socially, things are awful, but that’s nothing new. My car is making strange noises. My debt is less than it was a year ago, but still higher than I’d like. Work is work.

I guess that’s good for updates right now. Oh, I’ve spent a lot of money at Wawa this summer. They’re aggressively opening stores in my area, and I’ve made the mistake of giving them a chance. Now I seem to eat there every week. Sigh. This is why I can’t have nice things. I spend too much on temporary things. But it’s so good. And it’s a gas station. Sigh.

Don’t forget to check back here in a few days for the release calendar of upcoming posts. The future is exciting (unless you’re lame).

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Friday Update Bonus: Saturday Night Special – Happy End of the Year Report

So, 2016 is finally over. Hooray!

To celebrate the passing of one of my least favorite years in a long, long time, I would like to point you in the direction of the header where you might see the tab “My Books” awaiting your attention. Doesn’t that look nice and official up there?

Now, look a little closer. If you hover your mouse over the tab, you’ll see a dropdown menu cascade before you. In that tab, you’ll see a list of all of my currently available e-books. You may also notice that some of those titles have right-facing arrows beside them (looks a little like this > ). Note: For you phone readers, you may have to click on the three lines beside the magnifying glass to see what I’m talking about.

A couple of those title selections have had arrows there for months and months, but perhaps you haven’t noticed until now. Those arrows, if you see, point to sample chapters for the matching books. For nearly a year, the only books you could sample were The Computer Nerd and Teenage American Dream (in “Future Books”), and only the first six and five chapters respectively.

Well, as a belated Christmas present and in celebration of 2016’s much anticipated exit, I have not added anything to The Computer Nerd (sorry, keep reading to find out why), and Teenage American Dream remains unreleased, but I have added the entire stories of not one, not two, not three, but eight of my current e-books to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, each for free, and each completely. All you have to do is select the chapter or part you wish to read from the submenu marked “Read (Title),” or access the store page for that book and scroll down to the bottom, and follow the chapter links to read the stories in their entirety. If you’ve ever been on the fence about reading these books before, now you can test drive them to your house and back risk-free.

And, if you’d like to download the official e-books for your phone or e-reader from the store of your choice, you can still do that. Those links are open. Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, and Inktera have them available for free. Amazon Kindle has them for $.99 each, though I’m pretty sure it’ll price-match Apple, so I think you can get it free there, too, even if it doesn’t say you can (I’m basing this on recent sales reports). Basically, there’s no reason not to check them out, now that you can have free access to them whenever you want and wherever you are. Want to read at the beach this January? You can do that! (Yes, I know it’s not the right season for that, but I live in South Florida, so every day is a beach day for me.)

The titles you can now read for free in their entirety here at Drinking Café Latte at 1pm include:

  • Shell Out (2015)
  • Eleven Miles from Home (2015)
  • Amusement (2015)
  • When Cellphones Go Crazy (2015)
  • The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky (2015)
  • Lightstorm (2015)
  • The Fallen Footwear (2016)
  • Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge (2016, two stories in one)

I will also likely make Cards in the Cloak and The Fountain of Truth available here for free in the near future. But Cards in the Cloak is almost the length of a novel, with the first chapter in need of a slight rewrite, and The Fountain of Truth has one section that I’ll need to split into pieces, which I haven’t figured out yet, so it will take a little more time to get those online. Keep an eye open for them.

Regarding The Computer Nerd, I am still contemplating the possibility of changing its title and relaunching with a new cover, new first chapter, and a few other changes in 2017. So, I don’t foresee the Drinking Café Latte at 1pm version of the story (in its entirety) going live before then. Again, stay tuned for updates.

Finally, Christmas is over and I did not finish Snow in Miami in time. Rather than rush and release a terrible version of the story, I decided to hold it back for now, until I have a draft I’m happy with. I’ll release it as part of Zippywings 2016, hopefully at the end of February, and I’ll likely release the standalone version next Christmas, hopefully with a companion book. I was too swamped with other things this year to really focus on any one story for long. Plus, I want to launch books a little smarter in the future than the way I’ve been doing before. That said, 2017 will probably yield low in my slate of upcoming books, but I do hope to start releasing new titles after April (when I finish the CPT class I’m taking on Saturdays).

So, that’s your end of the year report. Hope you have a happy start to 2017. I know I will. Thanks for your readership. One of these days I’ll get my mailing list up and running so that you don’t have to stumble upon each update here. For now, keep watching Facebook or Twitter for updates, or, if you hit the subscribe button below, you can get updates in your mailbox. It’s the best way to find out what’s new. You can also send comments whenever you think I’m taking too long to do anything around here.

Happy New Year!

Friday Update #8: Quiet, yet Still Here, and Still Making Strides toward a Better Future

I’m looking at my update history, and I see that it’s been a couple of months since my last post. If you’re following my blog, I have likely given you enough time to forget that Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is a thing, so let me step back into the light for a moment to ensure you that it is still a thing.

But where have I been?

I’ll give you a quick summation of things, and then I’ll get to the stuff you’re probably on here to find out more about.

Hurricane Matthew

So, I live in South Florida, and one of the big issues that South Floridians had to face in early October was a little thing that could’ve been utterly disastrous called Hurricane Matthew. Even though the hurricane did some damage along the eastern seaboard, it didn’t do anything close to what meteorologists were promising us back on October 6th, which was essentially total devastation. A Cat 4 rolling in with a 15-foot storm surge in a place that rarely gets hit so hard is only manageable when the ground is higher than sea level. Where I live, we are pretty even with the sea, so a storm surge of 15 feet would bring the ocean into many of our neighborhoods, and even though I don’t live in a flood zone, a surge that high would possibly turn my neighborhood into a flood zone. So, I was understandably living on pins and needles that day.

Fortunately, the storm did not quite reach our coast—an act of God perhaps, as all the models were telling us that we were screwed, and even the weather reporters on the local stations were visibly nervous, and justifiably relieved when the storm took a new track in those final moments. The storm turned so early, in fact, that I didn’t even lose power.

But because it was forecast to bring doom to our town, I had to spend some time preparing for it, and writing and researching wasn’t really top on my mind.

A New Course

The following Monday, October 11, my manager pulled me into her office and handed me a sheet of paper, saying, “Here, I think you’d be good at this.” I looked at the flier and saw an invitation to sign up for a CPT certification course in manufacturing at the college I work at (different campus, though) for just $300, thanks to the school winning a science grant (normally a course like that would run for $1800). The benefit to signing up was that I could earn 15 credits toward an AS degree in engineering, should I ever elect to work toward one, and earn an extra $5000 a year in a related field. Because I make very little doing what I do for a living already, and because I make far less doing what I love on the side, I thought it was worth looking into. Of course, because I make so little doing what I do, and far less doing what I love on the side, spending $300 on anything these days is a luxury I often cannot afford.

However, this program was set to begin on October 15th, payments would’ve had to been submitted by the 14th (remember, I found out about this on the 11th), and if I were to sign up, I wouldn’t have had much time, if any, to really debate the pros and cons of changing my direction on the fly, to rededicating my time to something I didn’t even know if I wanted to do, or even to figure out if I could afford the cost. Whatever I’d decide would’ve been a snap decision that could ultimately change the course of my professional future, and making a choice for or against would’ve affected me for years to come, most likely.

Then I considered that the 14th was payday, and that I would’ve had just enough to cover the bill if I were to skim on a few others, and that I’d been praying for opportunities to embark on a more profitable life for a long time now, and I saw this as an answer to that prayer, so I took the chance on it.

November 5th was the day of our first exam—on OSHA standards and safety—and I passed. I’ve got three tests to go before I earn that certification. The class will continue off and on until April.

What that means for my writing and other projects is simple: I have to actually study something for school again—something I haven’t had to do in 12 years—so I’m relearning how to be a student, and doing so is cutting into much of the time that I had originally put into my other projects. So, I haven’t been doing much work outside of studying and game designing (one of my secondary hobbies) since my last Friday Update.

The Computer Nerd

But, I did make time to update the ending to The Computer Nerd. I still have a few changes to make before I can call myself satisfied with the story enough to push out a final revision (or at least final until I learn yet another important lesson about mysteries and thrillers), but I’m getting close to updating Amazon and Smashwords with the newest version. I won’t give an ETA because I haven’t made it priority since October 15th, but I do have a few holiday breaks coming up, so I foresee the possibility of an update happening in December sometime.

Zippywings 2016

Finally, because the end of the year is fast approaching, I feel it’s time to discuss the likelihood of a new collection of short stories appearing at various e-book retailers come the last days of 2016.

My original plan (as of last year) was to produce an annual collection of short stories (called Zippywings, which is based on my online presence) for the years 2015, 2016, and 2017, to supplement the forgotten volumes I had produced between 2004 – 2006 called The Collection of Junk. I had developed this plan based on the assumption that I would be producing revised editions of my existing short stories throughout these three years, with novelized versions of select stories appearing beside them.

However, this plan has been significantly altered thanks to the lack of sales I’ve made on Zippywings 2015, or anything really. Pretty much my entire e-book success has been based on the free short stories I released in a yearlong burst of productivity, and not one paid book has generated more than four or five sales. This greatly reduces my desire to even produce Zippywings 2016.

However, I am a perfectionist at heart, and I still like the idea of having the book exist, even if it exists only in my personal library. So, I will be putting it together. But I don’t think it will include much more than what I had already produced at the beginning of the year.

The stories that will be included in the volume:

  • Gutter Child (novella version)
  • The Fallen Footwear
  • Waterfall Junction
  • The Narrow Bridge
  • Teenage American Dream (short story version)

The stories I hope to revise in time for inclusion:

  • Sweat of the Nomad (novella version)
  • Zipwood Studios (novella version)
  • Snow in Miami (the Christmas special)

Of these stories, “Snow in Miami” is the only one I plan to also release as a freebie on Smashwords, if I finish it in time. Like I said, writing hasn’t been a priority with everything else coming at me this season.

The other three, which you’ll probably recognize as the titles of the next three novels I had planned, exist as short stories, and have for years, but I had wanted to rewrite them as longer form stories. Because that plan is on hold for now, I figure there’s no harm in releasing the original versions (with better writing) as part of Zippywings 2016, and then address their novel versions, which will likely endure different titles, later.

The Next Friday Update

Because I’m not writing as often as I’ve been in the recent past, I don’t expect to deliver a new Friday update each week like I had planned this past summer, but I will stay in touch as important developments arise, so do subscribe to my blog, or check back here often for new news. I expect to post at least one more by Christmas, maybe a couple, so don’t forget about Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. Updates will continue, even if they’re slow.

Post Script

Oh, and we elected a new president last week. That’s new, if you haven’t been keeping up. To quote a line from the 1996 film, My Fellow Americans: Hail to the chief, for he’s the chief and he needs hailing.

Friday Update #4: Market Research Continues and Other Book Updates

Short update this week. I’ve spent most of my free time ingesting more and more information about how to increase my readership and how to give readers what they want. Specifically, I’ve been watching videos from Your First 10,000 Readers creator Nick Stephenson and stocking up on relevant information about building an audience. I know the sales pitch is coming to my inbox very soon, and I’ll have to figure out what I can afford and what I can’t when the time comes. The short understanding is that to move my business forward (and we’ll have to call that what it is, won’t we?), I have to start investing in growth solutions, and that includes implementing the strategies necessary to grow and nurture an e-mail list. So, that’s what I’ve given most of my concentration to this week.

But, my research of indie trends and successful entrepreneurs doesn’t stop there. I also found out this week about an extremely useful resource called The Story Grid, both a blog and a book by highly respected book editor Shawn Coyne, which helps writers target their books with an editor’s eye. It’s in the same camp as Larry Brooks’s Story Fix, a book that I hope to review on this site in the near future, but goes even further down the editing path by identifying genre needs and expectations and providing helpful charts that measure out like a medical reading to diagnose the “works, doesn’t work” qualities of a book. Anyway, I’ve started reading the blogs associated with that site, and I hope to pick up the book (which is essentially an edited collection of these blogs, arranged in a teachable manner) sometime soon. It’s more expensive than most writing books out there, so it’s one I have to plan for. But I do hope to pick it up this summer.

The Computer Nerd

The first few blogs posted in The Story Grid (the early ones from October 2014) have already gotten me thinking about my currently released titles and whether or not they “work.” Some of them are just short stories and novellas, and have smaller structures with smaller needs, so I’m not too worried about where they stand at the moment.

But I am thinking more about The Computer Nerd (or, The Computer Nerd Scandal, if you’re coming here from Smashwords in July) and its climax, and I’m wondering if I’ve really given it all of the scenes it needs. I had this question back in April when I worked on its first post-release revision, but now I’m starting to think the resolution with the story’s villain isn’t quite what the convention needs, so I plan to write and release another small update this weekend addressing the villain’s exit from the story. I’ll be sure to announce its update when it becomes relevant, so check back here soon. But I’ve already gotten a clear idea what this resolution needs, so it won’t take me long to implement it. If you’ve already read the book, there’s probably no need to read it again—unless you want to. However, if you were unsatisfied with the way the villain exits the story, then I hope the next update will do more to please you.

Because I’m learning something new all the time, I cannot guarantee that the next update will be the absolute final. But I do know it’ll bring the story closer to its expected conventions, and that with each update I give it, I’ll feel more satisfied with the product and less certain how to improve it. So, eventually the updates will stop.

Other Books

In the coming week, I’ll likely be making changes to the status of my three novels that are up for preorder. Based on all that I’ve been learning for the last month or so, I’m finding it harder and harder to justify sticking to the schedule, or even to the plan that I’ve established for these books. In short, I’m planning on canceling the preorders for them soon, so apologies if you’ve preordered any of them since they went live last October, but based on the preorder counts of my other books that have since been released, my feeling is that I’m not sacrificing anything by making this decision. I’ll speak more to that thought next week though, as that will require a fuller announcement.

In the meantime, check out those sources I spoke about at the top of this post if you want to improve your writing and marketability, as well. They are very helpful, and I think anyone who’s serious about writing and publishing should give them a look.

 

 

 

Friday Update #3: Book Cover Changes and Smashwords Sale

So, this week I made some changes to my packaging for Gutter Child and The Computer Nerd, including genre classifications, keyword updates, and in the case of Gutter Child, modifications to the cover and description.

gutter child cover alt 10
Cover image for “Gutter Child”

Nice, right?

In both cases, I’ve changed the weaker performing genre categories to Fiction > Mystery > General (with The Computer Nerd no longer classified under Themes & Motifs > Psychological and Gutter Child no longer classified under Literature > Literary on Smashwords or General > Family on Amazon). I hope these minor changes will improve my exposure to potential readers, especially now that my keywords are much more focused than previously.

To give you an example of the kinds of keyword changes I’ve made, here is a list of my old keywords versus my new ones for Gutter Child. Feel free to skip ahead if keywords don’t excite you.

Smashwords Old Keyword List

drama, relationships, family, young adult, college, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies

Smashwords New Keyword List

family drama, famous relative, adoption mystery, teen young adult, college life, quirky, writer, teenager, truth and lies, obsession

Amazon Old Keyword List

adoption, college, relationships, family, writer, truth, lies

Amazon New Keyword List

family drama, adoption mystery, college life, quirky, teenage angst, truth and lies, obsession

If any of these changes improve sales or, at the very least, exposure, I’ll be sure to mention so in a future update. One of my current goals for Drinking Café Latte at 1pm is to take you guys on my self-publishing journey, experiences, and pitfalls with me. That way we can all learn what not to do together.

Book Title News:

I was talking about titles with a close friend last night and told her the names of my next three novels. She’s pretty good with labels, and I was paying attention to her reactions and suggestions for improvement regarding each one I mentioned. This conversation started because she’s not the biggest fan of the title The Computer Nerd.

So, even though I am not necessarily changing course at this stage, I am considering updating my future titles based on our conversation. She had some great ideas, and I think they’re worth experimenting with. Here’s what could happen in the coming months:

Teenage American Dream could be renamed something akin to Teenage Dilemma (or something of that nature—she likes the title; I don’t so much).

Sweat of the Nomad we didn’t talk much about, but I’m sure that will be addressed eventually.

Zipwood Studios may eventually become An Invitation to Nowhere. I really do like that title. I also like the original title, but she made a good point that the title is basically the name of a building. Like Walmart. My contention was that a book with the title Adventures in Walmart would sell. She didn’t disagree, but I’m pretty sure she’s right about a title like Zipwood Studios being less likely to sell.

Will I actually make these changes? I don’t know yet. Part of the reason these books even have these titles is because these are the titles I gave to their short story counterparts many years ago, and I like consistency between products and their upgraded versions. But I am considering it.

I’m testing the grounds with The Computer Nerd, which as of July 1st will be called The Computer Nerd Scandal (on Smashwords and its affiliates only, and only for the month of July). On August 1st, I’ll make a decision whether to keep the new title or to revert it back to its original name. It’ll depend on what kind of business the title change gives me.

In Other News:

A few days ago, Smashwords announced its Summer/Winter sale for 2016, to be held from July 1 to July 31, and I’ve decided to enroll my e-books in the promotion. So, even though I’ve already got a number of permafree titles available on my store page to choose from, you can get my other current, usually not-for-free titles either for free or at a fair discount throughout the month of July.

Participating titles include:

Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two (25% off) – $3.74

Zippywings 2015 (50% off) – $2.00

The Computer Nerd (50% off) – $1.50

Gutter Child (100% off) – free

So, if you’ve been waiting for a sale like this to check out any of these titles, now is a good time to get them. Be sure to leave me feedback after you’ve read your copies. As far as I know, the coupon codes for the discounts will be available at checkout.

And that’s it for this week’s updates.

Actually, no it’s not. I’ve spent much of this past week celebrating my 40th birthday. Here’s a picture of me pretending to blow out the candle on a vegan Oreo cupcake (made by my friend April, who’s vegan and good at it) in my new Marty McFly, Back to the Future 2 hat after I blew out the candle for real but my sister was too slow at taking the shot. This photo was taken at my celebration dinner at Mulligan’s Beach House last Saturday.

my 40th birthday
Celebrating my 40th with some 80’s nostalgia.

I’ve also spent part of the week updating a book of interactive fiction that I started about three years ago and then forgot about until recently. It’s called I Like Pigeons, and it’s very much a work-in-progress, but it’s fun to write and a nice distraction from the books I should be working on, like Teenage American Dream, for example.

So, that’s it for this week’s updates.

 

Friday Update #2: Adventures in Marketing Experimentation

I had planned on making this week’s update about Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two and its current rate of success on Smashwords and the affiliate sites, but there’s honestly not much to talk about at this time, so rather than talk about my disappointment in its current performance (okay, screw it, I will—I sold one copy so far, and it’s been out for a month, so now you’re updated :p ), I’d like to instead talk briefly about my plan to rework my marketing strategies for not just new, but existing titles.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened in on a webinar for Bryan Cohen’s Selling for Authors series and took to heart the lessons that he shared with attendees about how indie authors can increase book sales. For almost two hours, he and webinar cohost Kimberley Grabas discussed various strategies for hooking potential readers and gaining sales from people who might not otherwise care about or even find my book. Chief lesson in that series was to use copywriting to get readers’ attention. As a result of that webinar, I rewrote my description for The Computer Nerd to better entice readers to give it a chance. Here’s an example of what it used to say versus what it says now:

Old Description:

When Anston Michaels returns home from his stressful fishing trip weekend, he finds Rebecca, his latest would-be girlfriend, sitting on his porch. They have a date, which he’s forgotten about, and she’s here to collect. Sure, that morning he nearly lost his lucky fishing pole to a sea monster that would’ve taken it to the bottom of the sea had his friend, George, not been faster with the scissors. And sure, the thought of tangling with yet another adversary to his quiet livelihood before he even gets the chance to shower leaves him feeling anxious. But, he kinda likes her, so he’ll play her game.
While he gets ready for the date, however, he checks his answering machine to discover that someone more important called while he was away, and this person is someone he can’t ignore. Even though acknowledging the caller’s request means losing the date, and most likely the beautiful Rebecca with it, he has to take the meeting. It’s a matter concerning his ex-wife, who has just escaped from the mental hospital where Anston had her committed to a year ago. The caller is concerned she’s coming home to see him, and she may not be happy. [narrative story description]
What follows is a journey into the mind of woman who seeks murder or marriage, reconciliation or revenge, or something far more sinister than any of the above, and Anston must rescue her from her madness and stop her from ruining both of their lives before it’s too late. But is it actually madness that drives her? And is it really she who needs the rescuing? [story question]
The Computer Nerd is the suspenseful but quirky tale of a former married couple who seems to constantly walk out of step with each other, even when their love still lingers just beneath the surface, even when their livelihoods are at stake. Their journey is sometimes frightening and sometimes ridiculous, but no relationship is perfect, and they rediscover their range of feelings and their depth of understanding for each other while they work together to deal with a personal crisis that combines kidnap, conspiracy, and, worst of all, forced love into a tidy little demented weekend getaway package that neither is sure they’ll survive thanks to the sociopathic third party who’s tagged along for the ride. [sales pitch]
Also comes with a post-credits scene. [side note]

Okay, right? But not great? How about this:

New Description:

Complete safety in virtual isolation? Or likely destruction in a real romance? In the program of life, we must consider all of the variables. [hook]
Anston Michaels has spent the last year living quietly alone, content with his privacy and loving his slow-paced lifestyle. His is a life without drama. His days are filled with peace. He has two friends he spends once a month fishing with, and he goes on the occasional date to keep things from getting too lonely, but his social life is controlled to his liking, and he’s pretty sure he couldn’t be happier. So, when he returns home from his unexpectedly exciting fishing trip for a night of unwind, he is surprised to find Rebecca, his latest would-be girlfriend, sitting on his porch, collecting on a date that he’s forgotten about. And he’s definitely not ready for it. What’s worse, while he prepares to leave with her, he discovers that someone even more important has been calling while he was away, someone he can’t ignore. Even though acknowledging the caller’s request for a meeting means losing the date, and likely the beautiful Rebecca with it, he has to accept it. It’s a matter concerning his ex-wife: She has just escaped from the mental hospital that he committed her to a year ago, and now she may be looking for payback. [story introduction and emotional tie]
What follows is a journey into the mind of woman who seeks mutilation or marriage, reconciliation or revenge, or something far more sinister than anything Anston can imagine, and he must rescue her from her madness and stop her from ruining both of their lives before it’s too late. But is it actually madness that drives her? And is it really she who needs the rescuing? And does Anston truly know his ex-wife as well as he thinks he does? [story question]
The Computer Nerd is the suspenseful but quirky tale of a former married couple who seems to constantly walk out of step with each other, even when their love still lingers beneath the surface, even when their livelihoods are at stake. Their journey is sometimes frightening and sometimes ridiculous, but no relationship is perfect, and they rediscover their range for understanding each other as they work together to deal with a personal crisis that combines kidnap, conspiracy, and, worst of all, forced love into a tidy little demented weekend getaway package that neither is sure they’ll survive thanks to the sociopathic third party who’s tagged along for the ride. [sales pitch]
Also comes with a post-credits scene. [side note]
If you love human interest stories with unusual twists, and you’re wondering why your marriage isn’t great or if you’re dating the right person, then The Computer Nerd is right for you. [call to action]

[end descriptions]

I’ve tagged each paragraph according to its goal. The second example probably needs more work, but I think it does a better job hitting the primary notes needed to get a reader interested. According to Bryan Cohen, the four elements to a strong book description include:

  1. Tagline
  2. Synopsis
  3. Selling Paragraph
  4. Call to Action

It should be noted that in the two weeks since I’ve posted the new description, I haven’t gotten a single download. But to be fair, I released the thing back in October, so it’s probably not getting discovered as much as it used to, either.

But this is one of the places where I’m putting my focus at the moment.

It doesn’t mean I’m finished with this experimentation, however. Along with various copywriting techniques, I’m also working on new SEO techniques, which includes experimenting with genre listing. As of now, The Computer Nerd is listed as a Fiction > Thriller & Suspense > Psychological Thriller and Fiction > Literature > Literary on Smashwords, and Fiction > Psychological and Fiction > Thrillers > Suspense on Amazon. Even though it has had decent exposure on Smashwords once upon a time, and a couple of downloads on Amazon since its Amazon debut in December, I’ve also gotten only two reviews: one five-star and one one-star review. I’m pretty sure the one-star reviewer was expecting something other than what he actually got.

For reference, the keywords I have for it on Smashwords are suspense, programming, internet, marriage, relationships, quirky, humorous, marriage problems, mental issues, programming nightmare, and the ones I have on Amazon are marriage, quirky, programming, relationships, blackmail, sociopath, love potion.

So, in the coming week, I want to experiment with genre listings and keywords to see if I get an increase in traffic. According to all of the studies I’ve been reading and YouTube videos I’ve been watching these past few weeks, I should see some change in activity.

But, words alone won’t attract new readers to my words, and that’s what I’ve been studying this week. Yep, I’ve been learning more about appropriate cover design.

Now, I feel that cover design is worth talking about in a blog of its own, so I’ll save that discussion for later (maybe next Wednesday), but I did want to give you a preview of what I’m experimenting with in that regard.

As of now, my worst seller is the quirky adoption mystery, Gutter Child, and I have a feeling all of the ingredients to a first impression are at play ensuring that no one wants to take a chance on it. Even when I made it free for almost a month, I had gotten only seven downloads. The Fallen Footwear (my current best performer) still gets that many every 3-4 days. I think the copywriting for Gutter Child probably needs a stronger claw to the throat, as well, but I’m sure the cover is playing the primary reader repellant at the moment.

So, thanks to what I’ve been studying this week, I’ve been experimenting with new cover ideas, using techniques recommended by expert designers. As of now, I’ve got the old cover—

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

Looking like this:

gutter child cover alt 6
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

And this:

gutter child cover alt 7a
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”

I’m not yet finished, or satisfied, with these changes, but I’m interested to see whether these increase my views and downloads once I do finalize them. Hopefully they may even generate sales.

So, that’s what I’m doing this week. I hope to report the results of these changes for my next Friday Update.

Stay tuned.

May Updates and Freebies

May 2, 2016:

Just a quick announcement regarding the status of things existing and things coming.

  1. The Computer Nerd has been officially updated with a new revision on Smashwords and Amazon (with the adjacent distributors getting theirs any day now). If you haven’t read it yet, this is the perfect time, because, well, it’s always the perfect time for a great book, and I’m particularly happy with the update. Note: Update applies to e-book only. I’ll be adapting my revisions to the paperback version soon. Look for another announcement once that’s up and running.
  2. Until May 25, 2016, The Computer Nerd and Gutter Child will be available for free at Smashwords and its distribution stores (Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc.). If you’ve been hesitating to check either one out, this is the month to do it (if you don’t want to support my efforts with money). You can still purchase them at Amazon for the regular price if you are feeling generous, and as always, I appreciate your support.
  3. Unless something gets in the way, I will be launching the month-long promo for Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two at 1pm EST on May 6, 2016, partly in honor of its upcoming release, but also to honor the release of Captain America: Civil War and the 2016 blockbuster movie season. The party will begin with the full release of Chapter 1 (with other chapters to follow each Friday until the e-book releases on May 27, 2016, or the day that X-Men: Apocalypse opens). If you haven’t caught up yet, get the first year book for free here. Keep in mind that Year One covers the abridged version of three books (so it is quite a long read) and Year Two will cover the abridged version of two books (also a long read).

So, don’t delay. Get these hot items while they’re…er…hot! And leave a review, especially if it’s positive. I don’t have enough of any kind of review, and I’d like more. More reviews!

Thanks.

March Update

March 11, 2016:

It’s Friday, the last day of my vacation, and my attempt to break in my new debit card after discovering some fraudulent charges on my previous one (that I had for less than a month), which resulted in me having to shut myself out of my own checking account for a week (conveniently at the start of my vacation), has been interrupted by what sounds like another expensive car repair bill. So, needless to say, my plans have changed yet again, so I figure while I’m essentially immobilized, I may as well drop some news for March.

For starters, my short story collection, Zippywings 2015, was released as an ebook to Smashwords and its affiliates last month for $3.99. Even though each story can be downloaded individually for free on those sites, I set the price tag to reflect its true value, and to give those who’d rather pay for my efforts a chance to do so.

As of this week, you can also find it on Amazon. Same price, but the difference here is that the individual stories cost $.99 each (the minimum that Amazon allows), so you’re getting all the stories for half the cost there.

The advantage of going through Amazon is that if you buy the paperback version, you can get the ebook version for free. Something to consider if you enjoy reading things in multiple platforms. But you should get it. It comes with seven stories of fun, adventure, crises, quirkiness, and so forth (short, novelette, and novellas), one mini-collection of three Christmas fables, multiple excerpts from my upcoming titles, and the short story version of “The Computer Nerd.” Note: The bonus short story applies to the ebook only. Not featured in the print version.

zippywings 2015 title 2
Cover Image for “Zippywings 2015”

I’ve also released Gutter Child and The Fallen Footwear on Amazon this week. Both retail for $.99 (The Fallen Footwear is a free title at Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc.), and both are worth your time. Gutter Child is a 13-chapter novella that runs at just over 32,000 words, or the equivalent of 128 pages. The Fallen Footwear is an 8-chapter novelette about 19,000 words, or the equivalent of 76 pages. Both have quirky elements grounded in serious themes about families and relationships. I’m proud about how they both turned out, especially when you consider what they were 17 years ago in their first drafts.

gutter child cover alt 4
Cover Image for “Gutter Child”
fallen footwear cover 1b
Cover Image for “The Fallen Footwear”

Finally, this week I jumped the gun a bit early, but I released the last of my smaller free works, Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge, prior to the incoming tide of larger priced titles that I have for the rest of 2016. I had planned to release it on March 25th, for Good Friday and the Easter weekend, but realized I’d rather have it available at all the retailers by then, which wouldn’t happen until the following week, so I figured that because it was ready, and it would be just as available on Good Friday if I released now as it would be if I released then, I went ahead and dropped it this week. It’s two short stories about faith and redemption, set in a fantastical world, and filled with adventure. Neither story takes long to read, and both will inspire you. Hopefully. It can be found at all of the retailers, including Amazon.

waterfall junction cover 2c
Cover Image for “Waterfall Junction and The Narrow Bridge”

Finally, with all of these other titles done and out the door, I’m back to work on Teenage American Dream, with a first act finished and a second act partially finished yet fully charted. It’ll be a race to finish it on time, I admit, and I’m beginning to worry about the deadlines I’ve set for myself. Unfortunately, Cards in the Cloak and Gutter Child required a much heftier rewrite than I had anticipated when I began readying them for ebooks, so they both ate into the two months I thought I’d be spending catching up on my 2016 novels. But I still see the April 30th release date as feasible, as I wrote The Computer Nerd in an even shorter time span, and this story isn’t any harder.

However, I have a feeling I’ll be pushing Sweat of the Nomad back to the end of July and Zipwood Studios to the end of October to account for the extra time I needed on Cards in the Cloak and Gutter Child. Stay tuned for those updates. I won’t actively make a decision to move the dates until I have a better idea what kind of timeline I’m working with. But I’m expecting the possibility.

Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two won’t be affected. That story has been finished for years. I just need to spot edit a few things and make sure all the pieces fit where they belong to account for the changes made in the first book. So, unless something ridiculous happens, that’s still scheduled for release on May 27th. And if you’re debating on whether to get your copy, let me just say that it’s made of the same quality as Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One, and as of this writing, that one is a five-star book at Barnes & Noble. Just saying.

So, there’s your March update. Please consider buying, reading, and reviewing any of these books. I have a big car repair bill coming this weekend and no great way to pay for it. Supporting my books helps me! Thanks. 😉

 

Release Update – February Stories

February 11, 2016:

Just to piggyback off of the post I had written a few days ago, I’m taking a little longer wrapping up Gutter Child than I had first thought. Part of it is due to busyness with other things, part is due to a general slowdown in writing pace, and part of it is due to ensuring that everything I’m writing is necessary. So, obviously I didn’t have it ready by the 9th, as I had predicted.

Here’s the thing: I want to get this one right, and I think it’ll take a bit more time to “feel” it than I normally expect. So, even though I’m writing the final scene now, I’m probably going to let it stew for a week before I actually release it. In the past, when I’d write a story, I’d let it sit for weeks, or even months, before going back to evaluate it for changes. That was back when I knew I was the only one who’d read it. Now that I’m trying to make these stories public, I find that delaying them for months doesn’t work as well as it once had. So, the perspective of time plays less of a role in my revisions than it used to. However, I still want to take advantage of it in some form, so even though I expect to have a complete version of Gutter Child finished this weekend, I probably won’t be releasing it until next weekend, as it will give me time to decide if it’s the best it can be.

So, the new tentative release date for Gutter Child will be either February 18th or 19th, and The Fallen Footwear will likely surface the weekend after that.

Unless I hit a snag along the way, you should be able to read both of these stories in the next couple of weeks.

My plans for the March story pair of “Waterfall Junction” and “The Narrow Bridge” will stay on course, as far as I can tell. I’ll likely be releasing them together as a single e-book on Good Friday. Teenage American Dream, which I am still picking at, is still on schedule for April 30th, and the sequel to Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One, titled Superheroes Anonymous, is still on track for its May 27th release. After that, I may be shifting some dates around. It’s looking more and more likely that my dates for Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios will approach before I’m ready, so there’s a good chance I’ll be pushing them back to August and December respectively. But we’ll see how progress goes. I tend to get surges in prolificity at weird times. It’s why I was able to write and revise The Computer Nerd in less than two months. It could be that once the cold state of my bedroom passes back into warmth and my typing fingers no longer freeze at the keyboard, I may get more work done at a faster rate.

Anyway, stay tuned. I’ve got a Valentine’s Day appropriate essay coming to Drinking Cafe Latte at 1pm in the next couple of days that you won’t want to miss.

New Stories in February

February 6, 2016:

Now that the buzz for Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One is fading and the lack of Christmas this time of year makes The Fountain of Truth basically irrelevant for the next ten months (unless you’re looking for a good fable!), it’s time to set our sights on the future. And when I say the future, I mean in the next few weeks.

I’ve been “hard at work” on my revision for a short story I had written back in Spring 1999 called “Gutter Child,” which I wrote for a college fiction class for a grade (I want to say a B) but always believed could be better. In 2004, I took the original story and built a framing device around it, essentially changing who the main character was, and published it as the final short story entry in my personal anthology, Nomadic Souls: The Collection of Junk, Vol. 1. It was a little better than the original version, but I still wasn’t happy with it.

Now, in 2016, with the growing popularity of e-books and the higher quality nature of print on demand (POD) making updates to my older stories more attractive, I’m giving it a third go, and this time I’m ripping the guts out of the old frame and building a far more compelling story around the original, which is now the catalyst for the events that rock the main character’s world (and causes him plenty of trouble) rather than the complete story it once was. Essentially, I’m rewriting “Gutter Child” as a new story altogether, and the results are looking good. I’m still finishing up the story’s third act, and then I need to go back and fill in the missing pieces. But I expect to be finished and ready to polish in the next day or two.

But that’s not all. I’m also putting in some additional hours reforming the story I had written before “Gutter Child” for the same class in 1999, called “The Fallen Footwear.” Like “Gutter Child,” the core story will remain, but serve more as a supporting sequence than as the complete story it was seventeen years ago. Neither story was particularly long initially, but both are now over 10,000 words (“Gutter Child” is now over 20,000 words, whereas the original story was less than 4,000 words). When all is said and done, the month of February will see about 40,000 new words added to my growing archive of e-books.

So, what are they exactly?

“Gutter Child,” which will be a novella by the time it’s finished, is the story of a teenager who, while getting ready to head off to college (the only one he could get into, and definitely not his first choice), discovers by reading his sister’s autobiography that they were adopted–a fact that neither parent has ever shared with him–and as a result falls into a headlong spiral of doubt and betrayal as he looks for the truth behind his origin.

“The Fallen Footwear” is the product of a twenty-something version of me writing about heartbreak and recovery within a symbolic frame of a favorite gift gone tainted, then passing it off to the wiser thirty-something version of me who thinks the old story is too artsy and says too little and needs a clearer story about the dangers of falling in love with someone who probably doesn’t deserve us. It’s about meeting the person of your dreams, finding out that person sucks, and trying to figure out how to move on when that person leaves your heart in a puddle by the side of the road as she drives off into the dark. It’s at times a comedy.

I expect both to be ready in February, with “Gutter Child” likely heading to Smashwords on or around February 9th, with Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo getting their copies throughout the week, and “The Fallen Footwear” sometime between the 17th and the 26th to Smashwords and the steady trickle to the other retailers after that.

“Gutter Child” will more than likely break my 25,000-word threshold for determining price, so, unless I get it under the wire, it’ll retail for $.99 on release day. However, I will also supply a coupon for a free copy downloadable at Smashwords for readers of this blog, so look for yours when you find the book. “The Fallen Footwear” will most likely be one of the few freebies I’ll be releasing in 2016. And yes, I will not be posting as many freebies this year as I did in 2015. If you enjoy my work, please consider supporting me by purchasing my upcoming priced titles. I’m sure you’ll love reading them.

So with that, keep an eye open for these titles in the coming weeks. I’ll talk more about my 2016 progress as a whole in a later post. Thanks.