Category Archives: Short Stories

Any story under 10,000 words I feel like sharing with the world for free.

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 #9: Superhero Switch and the Coming of Christmas Brings Snow in Miami

Welcome back to Drinking Café Latte at 1pm. As you’re aware, Christmas is coming fast and hot (well, depending on where you live, I guess), and that means eggnog, gingerbread coffees, cookies, and all sorts of goodies are on the way, and I’m here to let you know about some goodies that are coming your way from me.

Goodie #1:

For those of you who have been reading Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One this past year (the anniversary of its worldwide release is coming at the end of the month), I have great news. Its sequel, Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two, is now free for a limited time. How limited is this time? Hard to say, but I’ll keep it free throughout the holidays for sure. However, it’s best to pick it up while you can, before I put the price back on. You know what happens when you procrastinate? You forget. And then you lose. So, don’t procrastinate.

This freebie comes with a trade-off, however. My plan since day 1 has been to develop and release a bite-sized version of the series, where the Annual Editions are broken down into individual story units closer to the length of a traditional thriller or adventure novel. The individual stories would add up to the same universal conflict, but due to the way that conventions dictate how a story unfolds, the core story points would inevitably change. Essentially, A Modern-day Fantasy Annual Edition and A Modern-day Fantasy (Standard Edition) would develop at different speeds and in different ways, while keeping the story line roughly the same.

Because I don’t want to confuse readers with the option to choose the bulky Annual Edition over the easier-to-manage Standard Editions (which would take two or three books to equal the story of an Annual Edition entry), I want the pricing to make it easy. In short, I’d rather readers stick with the Standard Editions. The Annual Editions serve as my original vision for the story, but experience has since taught me that the Standard Editions make for a better fit (and more satisfying read). It doesn’t mean they will be over before they begin, but it does mean the story can be delivered at a more sensible pace.

So, the trade-off for Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two going free for the holiday season is that Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One will now cost you $4.95 to pick up. So, I hope you were one of the people who contributed to its 543 free downloads this year, and not one of the procrastinators who kept putting it off.

It should be noted that I don’t plan to make Cannonball City permafree again. It was free for a year to introduce readers to the character of Jimmy Knightly, but with the Standard Editions on the planner, I don’t see a reason to keep it free, as one of those books will surely come out with a free price tag. Likewise, Superheroes Anonymous will be free for a limited time, but limited times run out before you know it.

Moral of the story: Don’t put things off. You’ve got a good goodie to get, so get the goodie while the getting is good.

Goodie #2:

A year ago, I released an e-book called The Fountain of Truth, which is a collection of three holiday-themed fables, one of which is a revision to the classic tale of how Santa Claus began, one which teaches us to listen rather than to assume, and the titular title reintroducing a story I like to share on Facebook every Christmas Eve about speaking truth. This year, I am preparing another holiday-themed collection called Snow in Miami, which will feature an update to my flash fiction story “Unexpected Weather,” with two new stories, “A Black Friday Tale” and “The Pear Tree,” included. In this book, the three stories will be threaded together through the lens of a husband and father who must learn how to actually be a caring husband and father through his sharing of holiday stories with his wife and son. We get a sense early on that his wife and son are just people who live in his house and demand things from him that he doesn’t want to give. But throughout the course of telling and hearing these stories, he begins to understand just how lucky he is. So, you’ll actually get four stories for the price of three.

I don’t have an estimated release date for Snow in Miami, as I’m still having to split my time between work, CPT test prep, and other projects. But I do expect to upload it to Smashwords before Christmas. However long it takes to get through the channels to the other stores will depend on that upload date.

In the meantime, enjoy this opening sample from “Unexpected Weather”:

Mr. Carson propped his feet on his desk and lit the cigar he had been waiting all day to smoke. Chicago’s temperatures were falling by the minute, and the muzak filling the room was gradually integrating bells and chimes into its drowsy score. Christmas was coming soon, and the bonus he was sure to get from his most recent mega-sale would pay for gifts for the entire family, the neighbor’s family, and even the meter reader who occasionally showed up on his property to gauge him for his utility usage. It would be a Christmas like no other. He’d finally have the means to stock his yard with a holiday scene so spectacular that he would surely win the neighborhood decoration contest this year. He’d even hire that ice sculptor to carve out the outdoor ice bench he had always wanted to sit on, on Christmas day.

His success was a long time coming. Months of proving to the boss that he was capable of leading his office would have to pay off now. Months of top-level ignorance would have to come to an end.

He puffed on his cigar and let the smoke fill his mouth. He was forming cloud nine between his cheeks.

His chair started its backward arc toward the cubicle wall when his boss, Mr. Rivers, popped into view. He had snuck up on Mr. Carson wearing those dang moccasins again.

“Carson,” he said, “how many times I gotta tell you not to smoke in the building?”

Mr. Carson pulled the cigar from his mouth and dangled it over the edge of his desk, just above the trashcan. He wasn’t permitted an ashtray, so he made it his habit to catch the ash in the can. He kept a separate can for paper to the right of the desk to prevent accidental fires. This one just held a single plastic bag.

Mr. Rivers shrugged. Then he handed him a narrow, gift-wrapped package.

“Here, no need to apologize. I decided to make your life easier.”

Mr. Carson took the package, flipped it over and under, listening for something to rattle inside.

“Open it,” Mr. Rivers said. “Early Christmas present.”

Mr. Carson was a little suspicious. He knew Rivers had heard about the mega-sale, and per the standards of the company, sales that large warranted bonuses. Mr. Carson hoped that this wasn’t his bonus. He had been counting on a large check.

But he obliged his boss. He pulled off the wrapper and tossed it in the can to his left. A narrow green box was exposed. He opened it. Inside was a skinny electronic device.

“E-cigarette,” Mr. Rivers said. “Or vape, as they’re calling it now. Unobtrusive and mostly safe for indoors.”

Mr. Carson opened the battery hatch to find it empty.

“Sorry, batteries not included. Figured you could try it at home first, in case it’s not as safe as I assumed.”

Mr. Carson looked up at his boss, but didn’t say anything. He wasn’t sure what to think about this gift. He was an authentic smoker, proud to carry around his packs of real nicotine darts with the silver lighter that had the naked woman silhouette he was so fond of. Gift from his dad on his eighteenth birthday. Refillable fluid. A real gift from a real man.

“No need to thank me,” Mr. Rivers said. “I should be thanking you for nailing the Trifecta Account today. In fact, I am.” He gestured at the e-cigarette. “Stroke of genius.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. No big deal.

Okay, it was a real big deal, but he didn’t like to brag in front of people who cut his checks. They were a notoriously humbling lot, positioned to strike down anyone who displayed too much pride for a job that was somehow enhanced by the assistance of a team, which this particular sale was not: he certainly had a right to say it was all on him, because it was. But Mr. Rivers didn’t like braggarts, so he kept his mouth shut.

“Anyway, I had a talk with the bigwigs upstairs, and they agree that your work on this account was of stellar performance, and they think you would be perfect for their starter office in Miami.” A wide smile formed on Mr. Rivers’s lips. “You start in two weeks. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson finally opened his mouth. The smoke he had been savoring finally blew out into the opening and evaporated. The space between his cheeks was now nothing more than a tongue that had lost its taste for change.

“In lieu of a bonus, the board has agreed to pay for your moving fees instead.”

Mr. Rivers leaned over the desk and patted Mr. Carson on the shoulder.

“I’ve already asked Mrs. Williams to set up the conference room with finger foods for your going away party. You like bologna sandwiches, right?”

Mr. Carson was partial to turkey, but his boss never paid attention.

“Anyway, you’ll like Miami. Never gets cold there. Just think, you’ll get to spend Christmas at the beach. Isn’t that exciting?”

Mr. Carson thought about the ice bench he would not get to sit on, on Christmas day.

“Anyway, enjoy your last day. Again, sorry about the batteries. I was thinking I’d let you wait for the party in the observatory. I know you often talk about the big window overlooking the lake. Thought you might want to remember the view.”

Mr. Carson’s sister’s apartment overlooked the lake. They were just over there for Thanksgiving. Mr. Rivers was thinking about someone else.

Mr. Rivers’s eyes drifted down toward the trashcan to Mr. Carson’s left. He reached in it and pulled out the gift wrapping.

“Here, don’t want to cause a fire, right?” Then he found the small plant that Mr. Carson had bought a few months ago to liven up the cubicle. He snuffed out the cigar in the soil. Then he tossed the cigar in the trash. “Housekeeping will take care of your garbage today.”

Mr. Rivers paused at the opening as he headed out to the walkway outside the cubicle. He tried to look at Mr. Carson from over his shoulder.

“Good luck in Miami, Carson,” he said. “You’re going to do amazing things there.”

Mr. Carson was barren of thought by that point. The world stopped making sense to him.

***

            At home, Mr. Carson didn’t know how to tell his wife that the money in Chicago was coming to an end, and that to keep the money flowing, they would have to fly south with the birds. As he rehearsed his speech in his mind, and subsequently shot each version down as ridiculous and an invitation to make Mrs. Carson cry, he took the carton of cigarettes from his trusty brand out to the front porch and lit one stick after another. By the fifth smoke, he was feeling a bit more relaxed. The chill in the air was giving him goosebumps, and the night was steadily growing comfortable.

By the time he had stubbed out half the pack, he was feeling pretty confident in his speech. She would understand. She would have to.

***

            Mrs. Carson didn’t understand.

“Who does he think he is?” she asked, when Mr. Carson told her the news.

“The Great and Powerful Mr. Rivers,” Mr. Carson said.

“We have a life here, John. A life.”

“Yes, I know that, and you know that. But knowledge hasn’t had much power around here lately.”

They were sitting at the dinner table, and Mrs. Carson was just about to pour the wine when Mr. Carson got to the dark side of his speech. It had begun beautifully, with the news that he had succeeded at his big sale. Mrs. Carson was so happy for him that she retrieved the bottle of Chianti from the rack to celebrate. But Mr. Carson didn’t want to lose his place from what he had practiced, so he continued talking. Mrs. Carson put the cork back into the bottle before the first drop hit the glass. Uprooting everything she knew to start over in some gaudy place where the natives walked around half-naked in their front yards at Christmas time was no cause for celebration.

“I just wish you’d stand up for yourself every once in a while,” she said.

“I do. But they don’t listen.”

“Standing up for yourself requires getting them to listen.”

Mr. Carson shrugged. He knew she was right. It wasn’t like him to marry someone who didn’t see the truth in things, and she could see the truth in anything. He liked that about her, even though it caused him stress most of the time.

“Maggie, here’s the thing. The door here is closed. Once they close it, they close it. I know this isn’t ideal, especially with Christmas coming up. But it’s a great opportunity to—”

“Great opportunity? You’re already sounding like them. Have you really thrown in the towel that fast? Without consulting me first?”

Mr. Carson set his fork down. He could sense the conversation was going to interrupt his eating rhythm for a few minutes.

“This isn’t a matter for consultation. They didn’t ask me if I wanted to go. They told me I’m going. Even if we don’t go, I can’t go back to that office, not for anything other than to throw my stuff into an empty box.”

Mrs. Carson’s eyes began to tear up.

“I don’t understand why they won’t give you a choice,” she said.

“It’s called business, Maggie. Relocation was always a possibility. Said so on my contract. I just didn’t think they’d ever call on it.”

Mrs. Carson pushed her plate away and stared off to the side for nearly a minute.

“You know,” he said, “you’ve been wanting a tan for a long time. This could be your chance.”

She rolled her eyes. He noticed the corner of her lips turning upward slightly.

“Your dream body will follow. Imagine the influence of all those bikini-clad beach bunnies turning you to an obsessive fitness and diet fiend. For the holidays no less. Make all your friends up here jealous of your luscious figure.”

Mrs. Carson’s expression lightened. She was considering it now.

“Think of Nancy and her big butt. Then think of you and your smaller butt.” He brought his palms close together to signify the differences in the two butt sizes after hers would shrink.

Mrs. Carson pulled her plate in front of her and started eating.

“I should probably enjoy this dinner while it lasts then,” she said.

Mr. Carson leaned over the table, angling as close to her as he could.

“It’ll be okay, I promise.”

He wasn’t sure it would be okay. He knew nothing about Miami, except that it was hot, crowded, and the music was bad.

Mrs. Carson nodded. “Okay. If we’re stuck, I guess we have to go where the money is.” Her face was still solemn, but not like it was when he had broken the news.

“We’re not stuck. We’re going to be better off than we are here. Richer and happier. And thinner.”

She put her hand up.

“Fine,” she said. “We’ll make it work, I guess.”

After dinner, Mr. Carson retrieved the box that Mr. Rivers had given him earlier and took out the vape. He found a box of batteries in the refrigerator and popped one into the compartment. He wasn’t sure what to do with it exactly, but he started with the button on the side. The thing began to smoke almost immediately. It was as if he had put a thermometer in his mouth and a fever had set it on fire.

“What’s that thing?” Mrs. Carson asked him, when she returned to the table after clearing it.

“Gift from the boss. It’s one of those electronic cigarette things.”

“How is it?”

Mr. Carson thought about it for a moment. It was considerably weaker than his normal cigarettes. And yet, it had a certain flavor to it that he found pleasant. Even fragrant.

“Weird,” he said. “Well, different.”

He pulled the device out of his mouth and stared at it.

“It makes me feel different.”

He put it back in his mouth.

“But in a good way, I think.”
 

(end sample)

Have a good week.

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.

April Update

April 12, 2016

So, as I hinted at a month ago, the ripple effects of Cards in the Cloak and Gutter Child expanding to lengths well beyond my original plan have filtered into my upcoming slate of books, so I think it’s time to share the latest updates on where those are, as well as inform you on other things coming down the line.

Teenage American Dream release status, and the future of my upcoming slate of e-books:

My upcoming novel, Teenage American Dream, is still under construction. I had written most of Act 1 last summer, and because of the momentum I’ve been having with other books, I figured I could’ve definitely had a first draft finished by February. This was assuming that I would have pockets of time available between monthly releases of other books. As of The Computer Nerd‘s release last October, I was still on track. But then Cards in the Cloak was next on my slate, and I ended up doubling its size in the month I’d worked on it. I had expected to spend maybe a week or two updating it. I’d spent nearly six weeks on it. Then came The Fountain of Truth. That was originally going to be a direct import of the original version, which was a 1,000-word fable. I ended up adding two additional stories to supplement it, so I devoted another week to that one. Then there was the Cannonball City release to prepare for, and that’s just a huge chunk of story to read through that had taken me about 10 days just to validate. Because I wanted Gutter Child ready for January, I went right into working on that after I had finished my Amazon and CreateSpace paperback ports of my 2015 stories. And that story ended up stealing an additional month from my planned development schedule.

With the slate constantly backing up, I couldn’t actually get to Teenage American Dream Act 2 until early March, which meant I would have to crank out the chapters double-time just to get a rough draft done by the April 20th deadline necessary to release it on the original preorder date. Thanks to various issues I’ve had with The Computer Nerd’s level of quality (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided I didn’t want to do that, as I don’t want to release anything rushed out the door, so I’ve finally made the decision to push the date back from April 30, 2016, to June 30, 2016. And even this is subject to change, as I want to give myself time to read the story with fresh eyes, which until I started making e-books, was my practice.

That said, I’m still working hard to get the book done. But it’s just not happening at the speed I’d like. I’m currently in the middle of Act 3, with a fairly solid plan for the rest of the story. Finding the time to finish it has been tricky, but I am picking away at it. Of course, now I’ve got Superheroes Anonymous‘s release date looming, and that’s the one book that won’t slip out of date. Because it’s such a large book, I feel like I need to start prepping it for release, and if it’s anything like Cannonball City, that means I need to give myself at least two weeks to get it in its proper state.

The ripple effects continue, of course, as moving Teenage American Dream back by two months inevitably means that I’ll have to push Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios back also. Even though the new dates are set, they’re still essentially TBD, as I have made very little progress on either of them.

I think given the low success rate of my pay-for books, and the poor rating that The Computer Nerd had gotten on its Amazon debut, I want to restructure how I handle not just the rest of my 2016 slate, but also my plans for 2017. I still have two more non-novels in mind for 2016, plus the Christmas e-book, but I think come 2017, I’m going to focus less on monthly shorts and more on two or three larger releases. I still want to have a Zippywings collection for the end of that year, but I think the stories that go into it will be available only in that collection. I think this will alleviate some pressure to rush things out for the sake of deadlines. I believe in quality, and I want to make sure that  that’s what I’m supplying.

To make up for the shift in dates, I’ve decided to release the first five chapters of Teenage American Dream on this blog. If you would like to preview it, just select “Future Books” from the header above, hover over “Teenage American Dream,” and you’ll find the chapter selections unfurl. Keep in mind that these are still rough draft versions and are subject to change somewhat. But at least you can see where it’s going.

Or you can just click here to jump right to Chapter 1.

Updates to Past Releases:

The other big news item for April is that updates to my older releases are coming soon. Most of these updates are cosmetic and shouldn’t affect those who have already read them, but for new readers, these changes will mean greater navigational flexibility, as well as an easier time locating all of my current and upcoming books.

Shell Out will also receive a slight update to Part One, which has already been changed in Zippywings 2015, but not in its individual version. This change is extremely minor and does not warrant a fresh download if you’ve already read it. In fact, I’ll save you the mystery. It adds these lines to the end of the chapter (first two paragraphs are the same; the third is changed, and the rest are new):

After delivering a successful interview through the use of fake smiles, he landed his first telemarketing job with a local phone company.

At first he assumed he could advance the ranks to become CEO of the corporation. Then reality hit him when he failed to make a sale during his first month. His employers furthered his understanding when they assured him he would go far–very far–as long as it was with a different company.

When another rent’s due date reached the horizon, Greg returned to the Classifieds. There he circled a job that didn’t require so many sales demands. When he told his friend about the job he’d found, he scoffed at him.

“Dude, I’ve found you one better,” his friend said. “Pays by the hour, but it’s generous. You just gotta be able to talk to idiots.”

Greg thought about the requirement. Then he nodded.

“I have plenty of experience in that,” he said.

The Computer Nerd is also undergoing a change, but this one is much larger. After reading through the first chapter of the paperback version, months after I had last looked at the story, I started finding a number of things that I knew I could’ve done much better with. I still don’t think it deserved a poor rating on Amazon, but the little bit I looked at convinced me that it would never reach five stars. So, I’m revisiting that story in my spare time and fixing the problems that I find along the way. To give you an idea on where I am with that, I spent most of my night last night fixing Chapter 1. Here’s a picture of me wrapping up my revision session last night:

portrait revising novels
Revision Face

Content changes will happen across the board, from Smashwords, to Amazon, to the paperback editions.

Of course, all of these things are happening amid my need to take on a second job (or better yet, find a full-time job), as my current job of the last six years is dishing out some horrendous scheduling cuts for the summer that I won’t be able to live off. All I can say at this point is that I hope I don’t have to alter my release schedule again.

So, there’s your April update. If you have questions, feel free to ask. Also, I haven’t made an absolute decision on this yet, but I may be giving Gutter Child a free week soon. As of now, I’ve made two sales on that book, and it’s been out since February. I’d like more people to read it.

Okay, see you next time.

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.

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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.

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Cover Image for “Gutter Child”
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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.

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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.

A Recap of Important Events: Amazon Edition!

January 2, 2016:

So, if you’ve been paying attention to this blog in the last week, you may have noticed some subtle updates or mentions about the work I’ve been doing over my Christmas vacation. If you haven’t been paying attention, then let me catch you up on some things:

1) The day after Christmas, I finally released my long-in-production series starter for A Modern-day Fantasy, called Cannonball City. Or, to put it more realistically, I released the introductory version of the story, which takes the core elements of the first three books and combines them into a single yearlong tale. It’s about a tennis star who must undergo an identity shift to keep one step ahead of the murderous stalker who’s hunting him and people like him down like dogs. It’s a free e-book at Smashwords and its distribution channels (Barnes & Noble, et al.) and clocks in at a whopping 270,000+ words. It’ll take a while to finish it, but it’s a fun journey I’ve been told. Click on its store page to check it out. The trilogy of books it’s based on will be released at a later date.

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Cover Image for “Cannonball City: AMDF, Year One”

2) After seven months of e-book publishing, I’ve finally ported all of my existing titles to Amazon. Each book has its respective link already listed on its page. Click your book of preference to check it out. Note: Amazon does not allow authors to set their prices at “free,” so each free book on Smashwords costs $.99 at Amazon.

3) Not only have I ported all of my e-books to Amazon, but I’ve also made paperback editions of them. More specifically, I’ve made a paperback edition of The Computer Nerd (354 pages), retailing at $14.99, and a paperback collection of the shorter stories in a single volume called Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection (644 pages), retailing at $21,99. Why should you buy these instead of the cheaper e-book versions? Well, because they’re actual books you can hold and flip pages and smell and stuff. I’m still waiting for my copies, so I can’t yet vouch for the print quality, but I know they’re the best we’ll have until I gain the interest of a traditional publisher. As of now, each book can be bought at Amazon or CreateSpace. I’ve selected “Expanded Distribution” as an option, so other online retailers should have them in the next six to eight weeks. It’s why I can’t price either book any cheaper, otherwise I would. Both books can be purchased through the links provided at their respective store pages.

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Cover Image for “Cannonball City: AMDF, Year One”

If you purchase any of my books, please leave a review. The more feedback I hear, the more I learn, and the better I can make my next book(s).

If you’re not sure whether to buy from Amazon or CreateSpace, let me give you a couple of facts:

Buying from Amazon will better improve my market sales rating, and will allow you to review directly on the site (something of which I need a lot of, whether positive or negative–because a comprehensive review is better than one man’s opinion). Buying from CreateSpace will give me a higher royalty. So, before you buy, decide which bonus you’d rather bestow on me (the author), publicity or royalty.

Option #3, of course, is to save your money for something you actually need.

4) I made the announcement for it yesterday, but in case you missed it, I now have a header page for “Promotions,” which will keep you informed of any specials I’m running on my books, including coupon codes. Check it out if you want to pick up my books and save money doing it.

5) I finally released the cover for my upcoming novel, Teenage American Dream. Actually, I’ve attached covers to all of the books listed in the “Future Stories” category, but the other two have already gotten covers attached to their store pages at Smashwords. As of now, Teenage American Dream is the only one that will release with its existing cover. The other two have temporary covers. They will become permanent only if my actual plans for their covers fall through.

So, that’s the summation of my busy holiday break. If I have time tomorrow, I’ll talk about my goals for 2016. Hope your New Year is off to a good start.

Lightstorm and Goodreads

September 24, 2015

So, I released my latest novella, Lightstorm, earlier this week, and while I’m patiently waiting for all of the distributors to get their versions of the story (Barnes & Noble is dead last as usual), I find myself obsessively checking my download stats for the e-book (when I’m not writing/updating the next story I have on my 2015 roster, The Evil Clone of Michael Keaton–more on that another time) to see if I’m pulling in any significantly weighted numbers. Every time I post a new e-book to Smashwords, which I admit is probably the best platform I have for getting obscure stories out to the public, stories I know the traditional publishers would never take a risk on (I’m pretty sure), I keep thinking, This is the one that will turn the tide. This is the one that the people will discover, share, and lead me to that coveted breakout status. And then I see the numbers on those low-count masses who actually view the book, and the much lower turnout (well, 10% isn’t that bad actually) who choose to download it, and I start wondering if my platform is just too dang small.

Note: As of now, I’ve got about 300 views and 40 downloads for Lightstorm since I released it four days ago. If you’re a stats hound like I am, this might be important info. If you just like a good story, then keep reading (or download Lightstorm from your favorite indie e-book retailer!).

This leads me to that philosophical question that has plagued man since the dawn of time, or at least since entertainment and business had first collided: How does one increase his platform when he’s just a fiction writer who’s got only characters and situations to write about, not important stuff like self-improvement and diet fads?

Well, the obvious answer is to write the kind of story that people want to share. But even that is a tricky beast because all art is subjective, right? I can write only those works that interest me as a reader. I could certainly write for an expanded audience if I wanted to, but I do so at the risk of neutering my feelings or convictions. Not always, of course. But the risk is there.

Take the Romance genre, for example. Big market! I can’t read it, much less write it. I just lost about 80% of the e-book market. Dang it.

But does this mean that readers of other genres shouldn’t find and enjoy the stuff I can read and write?

Tonight I was looking up sites like Reddit and Goodreads, and I kept thinking that these would be great platforms for finding out what people are actually interested in. I was also watching a video where the marketing expert swears by Facebook as the best social media resource that any person seeking promotion can use. I don’t know–I use Facebook, and the hardest job I have with it is convincing my friends to read something, anything. I mean, I’ve posted poems about mullets on there, and I’ve gotten mostly just the crickets chirping in response. Poetry about mullets! It doesn’t get better than that (more on that another time)! In short, I know that there are plenty of valuable resources on hand, but for the life of me I feel like a monkey when I use them. Maybe there’s a trick to it. Maybe it’s all entirely run by luck. Maybe developing a platform is nothing more than a catch-22: you need a platform to develop a platform. Actually, that sounds about right. You can’t fill your cup to the brim with coffee if you don’t have the cup or the coffee.

With that said, writing is still the greatest source of expression I have, and I get a kick out of doing it. But part of the thrill of expressing is knowing that somehow my message will get out and people will talk about it and my ideas might actually set interesting things into motion. Obviously, I haven’t done that yet, or this blog would be about something else. But I’m still hoping that one of these books (which can be explored along the right margin if you click any of their images) will find its audience, and that maybe that audience will begin exploring other books past, present, and future, and maybe that audience will even dare to sign into Goodreads and leave a review or start a discussion that would help me, as a writer, know if I should keep trying to hand these things off to the public or if I should just keep them to myself.

And a quick note to those who ever thought about writing a book but were afraid to start: Just do it anyway. I’m part of the heavy population of low sales / downloads rankings at the moment (trying hard to reverse that!), but I know that the only thing that guarantees me a dead readership is not to write anything. Seeing the numbers in my stats climb by even one download a day can be pretty exciting. Now if I can just convince the people who downloaded it to give some feedback. Ah, now that would be awesome.

P.S. I know this is kind of an introspective and whiny blog, but you know, stats! Had to write something if I’m to have more than just one post in September. Why not this?

Feel free to leave a comment if you want to discuss this topic further.