Category Archives: Friday Update

November 2018 Round-up (and Catch-up)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on Drinking Café Latte at 1pm, and there have been many occasions on which I thought it was time to post something, but I didn’t. As I’ve reiterated in previous posts, I find that I’ve got so much to write about that I spend more time doing the thing I want to write about than I do writing about it, so I end up writing and blogging about nothing. That’s been the case for much of the time I’ve spent away from here since last summer. I suppose that’s the difficult trade-off with blogging: I can write about anything, but if I also want to experience the things worth writing about, I gotta make the time for both, and there isn’t that much time in the day, especially if I want to experience a lot, and so I end up writing about nothing.

I do have a series of articles in the waiting that I wrote last August, related to my “Adventures in Unity,” about my experiences learning C# on the Unity Engine and comparing it to the systems in place for the game engine I usually use to make games, the OHRRPGCE. I wrote four parts, but I never published any of them because I thought the OHRRPGCE audience was too small to warrant such devotion to the topic, and because I thought this blog has already dabbled in so many different topics that it’s essentially void of any topic, and no one’s going to read an article from a site that has no focus. So, I never finished the series, and I never published a single article from that series. I may decide differently when I’m further along in my “adventures.” We’ll see how it goes.

In September, I got new screen recording and editing software and started recording gameplay videos for Game Dev Tycoon by Greenheart Games, an indie game about developing for the gaming industry, to try my hand at episodic programming on YouTube. I probably devoted five or six hours to each episode on average, maybe more, and found my time for other important things slipping away. I thought I’d see if posting gameplay on a more popular game than the ones I play for developers using the OHRRPGCE would attract a bigger audience. It didn’t. I started posting the videos this month, and, as of this writing, all four episodes that are currently online have a combined total of eight views, with most of those views lasting just a few seconds. There are four live and four on schedule for release Mondays at 1pm EST until December 24th. I’ve got enough footage to make at least eight more. I doubt that will happen now. It’s too bad. I thought I had made a pretty good show.

In October, I spent a night in the hospital for severe pains I was having all over my body. That visit resulted in several follow-up visits with the doctor, one blood drawing with another on the way, and an upcoming appointment to receive an MRA scan (for arteries). October in general has been exhausting, the exhaustion has rolled over into November, and it looks to continue into December. That had its own impact on my desire to blog. I may still write a blog or two about the experience for those who are healthy and have no idea what they’re in for on the day that their body starts laughing at them. We’ll see.

In every month since the summer, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the news. It’s a drug these days. I rarely watch scripted television anymore. I can’t count how many days and nights I’ve wasted trying to find out what happened each day. Those were hours I didn’t spend writing or doing anything productive. A part of it I regret. The rest of me thinks the news these days is must-see TV.

I’ve been trying to get some momentum back into my fiction this month, and I will be talking more about that in the coming weeks, barring anything stupid getting any the way.

So, that’s what the last five months have been like. I also haven’t been posting because WordPress will no longer forward my posts to my personal Facebook page. I don’t like change.

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Friday Update #12: The Tale of an Entrepreneur: The Beginning

So, here’s the first Friday Update in four months. Are you surprised? Let’s just say news often happens in chunks, not spurts. You can watch the real news to see that that’s true. But you didn’t come here for real news, did you?

With that in mind, let’s begin our semi-occasional Friday Update for this week.

Book Review Blitz

In my previous post, about two months ago (sorry!), I said I was doing a review blitz on books I’ve read in the recent past, and I had planned to launch it soon. Well, I do have reviews queued up, and I think they’re pretty ready for public reading, but I don’t have nearly as many as I’d like for the blitz, so that’s still in progress. Much of the delay is due to distraction mainly, but also to quality of life. I do things based on whether I can do them well, and whether they’ll be worth my time and yours. Even as I write about the books I’ve read, I have to wonder how many of these books you would want to read, and whether the statements I might say about them would resonate in some profound way. When I review something, I want to give more than just my opinion. I want to give feedback, in case the author should ever stumble across my site. So, I’m checking for quality, of course, but I’m also checking for impact. I want to make sure I’m not wasting my time or the time of my readers. So, it’s been going slowly.

Therefore, I want to revise my previous title, “Book Review Blitz Coming” to a new title, “Book Review Blitz Coming Sometime.” Take note.

The Avengers: Infinity War

The new Avengers movie comes out today. I want to see it. I won’t likely get to go today. Probably not tomorrow, either. But, I want to see it. So, don’t spoil it. Seriously, hush on the spoilers, people. The Internet won’t break if you hold your “aw, dang!” tongues for a little while. That is all.

Oh, and if you liked The Avengers: Infinity War, don’t forget that I still have two massive Game of Thrones sized volumes of superhero fiction available at Barnes & Noble for $6.99 each. (I won’t be putting them on Amazon until I rewrite them as individual novels.) They’re also available on Apple iBooks and Kobo.

The first is Cannonball City: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year One.

The second is Superheroes Anonymous: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Two.

The third, Alpha Red: A Modern-day Fantasy, Year Three, won’t be released as an annual unless the first two get enough readers to justify me releasing it. So far, I’m nowhere near the readership that would make that decision reasonable. But that can change! It’s up to you to make that happen.

To be clear, these are e-books only. If you buy them, make sure you have a device you can read them on. Smashwords provides multiple formats if you aren’t sure what will work for you.

Gone from the Happy Place

I’ve resumed production on Gone from the Happy Place by adding a new first chapter, and I’ll keep adding new chapters until I’m satisfied with the story I want to tell. I don’t want to spoil anything at this time, but in the new version, we’ll get to spend more time with Anston and Alice in their respective elements before the explosive moment that their lives converge, giving us more time to appreciate them as individuals, and more time to dread what may follow. If you’re a thriller reader, this should sound like a positive. To all you romance readers who somehow found my site, well, people still kiss, so…

I have no ETA on when the book will be ready for the public, but I will likely release it in this order:

  • E-book (Amazon only)
  • Drinking Café Latte at 1pm (serial)
  • Ebook (Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo)
  • Paperback (through CreateSpace and Ingram Spark)
  • Audiobook (if sales on the other formats are significant enough to warrant it)

Normally I’d want to release the title on all formats at the same time. And, in a future time when I have lots and lots of money to roll around in like Scrooge McDuck, I will. But, in my efforts to rebrand myself with an actual brand, I need to lay some new tracks to give myself the opportunity to have better launches and better IPs, so until I can claim all of the resources I need to do this right, I’ll be staggering the release through specific channels that won’t complicate things for me or the book down the road.

The thing about Amazon’s e-books is that they don’t require an ISBN, so I can upload it without compromising my brand. Later, when I have the packaging the way I want (the cover I release with, shown below, will likely be temporary until I can afford a legit cover artist), I’ll rerelease it, and I’ll do so with the other formats. By that point, I should be able to afford my own ISBNs and not have to rely on the freebies that tie my book to the identity of the distributor rather than me. I want them related to me and my company.

gone from the happy place concept 3

Once I have the means to produce the other elements properly, I’ll do so. When this happens depends on how much and how quickly the money comes in. Again, readers can help speed up this process by voting with their wallets.

Regarding the Drinking Café Latte at 1pm serial, I’ve wanted to try releasing at least one of my books as a weekly serial, to see if I can get new readers, and this will be the book I do that for.

For those who haven’t been keeping up, Gone from the Happy Place is the book that will replace The Computer Nerd as the story I want to tell about a marriage gone wacky, not the story I did tell. When I wrote and released The Computer Nerd in 2015, I was racing a self-imposed deadline, and trying to maintain a book-a-month release cycle, which really isn’t my style, and one I’d ditched by mid-2016. I’d broken rules that I generally keep for myself in order to get it to the public in a timely manner, and even though it was fine, that’s all it was. When my first review came back with one star, I knew I’d made a mistake racing it out the gate. Sometimes you do want to take your time with a project before offering it to the world, which is what I usually do with my projects. It’s the reason you haven’t seen a new release out of me since 2016 and only three updates to stories I’d released back in 2015. All indie artists should take note that patience is worth it, as long as that patience produces results.

Entrepreneur: The Beginning

Okay, so that’s not the only reason you haven’t seen a new release out of me since 2016. As some of you may know, I also have a computer game I’ve been working on, on the side, called Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been putting a lot of work into it this past year. I may post a separate article about it soon, but the scope of my work since about this time last year has been to rewrite the handcrafted code I’d been using since 2009 to use templates and machine-thinking instead.

I’ve wanted to make my own games since I was a kid, but because I’d never learned programming properly, I had to find premade engines to help me along. The engine I use for this game, OHRRPGCE, is made by one developer, maintained by two, and in a constant state of catching up with other engines built by larger teams. I use it because the language is simple, and it is something that I, as a writer, can easily understand. However, because it’s written for accessibility, to simplify the coding process for non-programmers like me, much of the scripting language is built from the ground up and doesn’t yet include many of the conventions that proper programmers would use in their programs. This means that some of the shortcuts I’d need to build this game quickly aren’t there, and even if they were, I’d have to learn about them because I’m not a programmer, and good programming practice is something I hadn’t learned until about a year ago, eight years after I’d started the game.

So, I’ve been spending the last year trying to practice good programming etiquette, and that means rewriting all of the mess I’d made in the years before. It’s the programming equivalent of cleaning out or cleaning up a junkyard all by yourself. It takes time, patience, and a little bit of strategy. In a future article, I may talk more about the experience and how it relates to art, writing, etc., and how such practices could be adopted for all elements in life. We’ll see how that goes.

If you want to read more about this game and keep up with its progress, you can check out the series of posts I make about it here at “Entrepreneur Central.” One of these days I’ll give it a proper website with a proper online version of the journal I keep about it. Unlike this blog, I keep up with the journal, writing in it every day that I work on the game.

The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky

The novel-sized update for The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky is coming along well. The new opening sequence that takes place during Johnny’s childhood is nearly finished (or, at least the first draft is). I still have a few scenes to write for his teenage years, but I expect to have the new first act finished soon. In this section, we learn how Johnny gets the duck and why he’s so attached to it. We also get to spend time with his semi-dysfunctional family, and who doesn’t want that?

I’ll be keeping the original novelette online indefinitely, but for those who want the complete story of what happens to Johnny before and after the events in the current version, the novel should satisfy that itch.

I may post a clip from the rewrite soon. Stay tuned.

Snow in Miami

Yep, Snow in Miami is still under construction, four months after Christmas and eight months before next Christmas. It’s nearly finished though. I still expect to have it done and released by September. Did you forget I was writing it?

So, that should cover the latest updates on upcoming events and current delays. I’ll come back soon with more information as it develops. Keep reading, folks. Or start reading. Do whatever’s more relevant.

Please subscribe to my blog if you want to keep hearing stories like these. You might even learn something.

2018 New Year News

Happy New Year to each and every one who reads this update. Hope your year turns out great and that success finds you, whatever that may look like.

Now for some news, both book-related and life-related. Read to the end for the full picture.

E-book Updates:

I’ve been on Christmas break since December 18th, and I’ve been updating some e-books during my break. Three of my books now include a section for readers’ group discussion questions because I want to be pretentious and believe that people would want to talk about my stories. These books include Eleven Miles from Home, Cards in the Cloak, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy. Each of these also has a new cover and updated interior content for your packaging enjoyment. Cards in the Cloak has been revised from its earlier version, and When Cellphones Make Us Crazy is a remake of an earlier book I published in 2015 called When Cellphones Go Crazy. All of these have been updated on Amazon if you’d like to give them a look.

Also, it’s important to note that some of the prices on my other books have changed to reflect the times. You can still get a few freebies at Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, etc., and $.99 versions of those books on Amazon (the lowest I can set them without asking Amazon to price-match, which I WILL do once I’ve finished my rebranding process, but I think they price-match anyway because I have yet to see a dime from them). But, those that are still free won’t likely stay free forever, just FYI.

The updates still have to make their way to Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc., as the holidays tend to slow them down, but Amazon has them all. I expect everything to be up-to-date in the next few days.

I’m providing links to these stories to get you in the supportive spirit. I could use help getting the word out about When Cellphones Make Us Crazy, Cards in the Cloak, and Eleven Miles from Home in particular, but help supporting any and all of them would be awesome, as it would add some general momentum behind my writing career. If you do pick up any of my books at any time (now or in the future), please leave an HONEST review. Books that have no reviews also tend to have no sales. I’ve got 15 books on Amazon that prove this. The “biz” calls it “social proof.” Without it, an author’s career dies on arrival. That’s been my story so far.

Oh, and if you decide NOT to pick any of these books up for yourself for any reason, please tell me why. I’m curious about what prevents readers from getting certain books. Your info would be immensely helpful for the future, and you would have the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped out your fellow human being (and writer) without spending a dime!

Mailing List:

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears mentioning again: I’d like to start sending out some newsletters and special offers to my mailing list soon, but to do that, I need subscribers. I don’t have any fancy buttons to get your attention or landing pages to keep distraction at bay. I know how authors are supposed to invite subscribers to their list, but those methods cost money I neither have nor can get without an active readership, so rather than dazzle you with costly bells and whistles, I’ll just simply say I’d like to share with you exclusive news, information, offers, etc. about twice a month directly to your electronic mailbox, topics about reading, writing, characters, movies, useful things I’ve learned to better my life, exclusive and special offers, and so on. I’ll provide an opt-out button if it becomes something you no longer want to read, but I would still like your support during its launch and a fair chance during its development. Again, the plan is for two letters a month. Please subscribe and share!

If you would like to join the list and receive the newsletter, please message me at zippywings[at[hotmail[dot]com with the subject line “Sign Me Up,” or something that’ll alert me that you’re interested in joining, and I’ll put you on the list. Be sure to let me know inside the message that that’s what you want, just so there’s no confusion.

I want to start sending the letter out on the third Tuesday of this month (January 16th), but if I don’t get any subscribers by then (or too few), I’ll be pushing it back to the third Tuesday in February (February 20th). The first letter will be an inauguration letter, but the second (to be released on the first Tuesday in February or March, depending on how many subscribers I have by then) will cover our first discussion topic: Why fiction is an important part of life.

To join the discussion, or to simply read about why it’s important, join my mailing list as soon as possible!

2018: A Projection:

Because I’ve spent so much time relearning how to edit and market the last year and a half, my writing time since May 2016 has suffered. But, I’m steadily moving back into a rhythm, and I hope to start releasing new titles this year.

However, before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to point out the plans I have for the near future and whether or not they’re realistic.

Snow in Miami

I didn’t finish this in time for Christmas in 2016 (the original planned release date) or in 2017 (which was honestly unlikely to happen given certain conditions in my life, though I was optimistic), but I have gotten pretty close to finished. I still aim to finish the first draft either this week or next, and I’ll probably post it on FictionPress or some free reading service for feedback shortly after. But, I won’t likely post the e-book until September 2018 at the earliest. I want to make sure I have time to properly review and edit it, as well as create adequate packaging and release it when people are more likely to discover it (research shows that October through December is a bad time to release a book if you’re competing with commercial publishers; otherwise I’d just wait until December). I don’t think 2016 or 2017 was ever realistically on the table given all of the things I’ve been juggling behind the scenes. A 2018 release is extremely likely, though, so keep watch for it (or subscribe to my mailing list to find out when it goes live and where).

-My NaNoWriMo Novel-

The novel I worked on for National November Writing Month (the thriller involving two dumb high school kids uncovering a subversive plot to zombify their town and doing their part to stop it—basically if Bill & Ted were a crime thriller) will be picked at throughout 2018, but I don’t foresee releasing it before 2019. At some point I want to give Kindle Unlimited a try, and I think this will be the perfect story for that platform. If it’s successful, I’ll try it with other books. But, only if. I may finish it this year, but I think summer of 2019 is more likely. I’ll talk more about it the closer I get to finishing it. I’ve got 34,000 words devoted to it so far.

Pawn of Justice

On Christmas 2017, which was the ten-year anniversary of the day I started writing the A Modern-day Fantasy anthology, I began the first chapter of Pawn of Justice, the prequel to A Modern-day Fantasy. I will be putting most of my writing focus into finishing the trilogy by next Christmas, and start pushing them off to the public by May 2019.

This is realistic, as I plan to write it the same way I wrote the other A Modern-day Fantasy stories: as one singular story split into multiple parts, taking up about a year of the characters’ lives.

Unlike Cannonball City and Superheroes Anonymous (the currently released anthology entries), Pawn of Justice will not follow Jimmy Knightly as its main viewpoint character, but instead follow FBI agents Joyce McKinley (viewpoint) and Thomas Sturgeon (lead protagonist) as they uncover mysteries linking the underground mafia with a growing presence of superhumans, all leading up to the arrival of the Spotless Cowboy and an introduction to New Switzerland. The third book will provide a clean ending while opening the door to the Jimmy Knightly stories. And, I do not plan to add any fan service by projecting future events that current readers already know about. I hate it when movies do that, so I don’t plan to do that here.

I’ll talk more about this series the closer I get to finishing it.

Once they’re released, I’ll start releasing the official versions of the A Modern-day Fantasy books, beginning with Fallen Stars, Cannonball City, Risen Ordinaries, Rebellious Sidekick, and Superheroes Anonymous, which retell the stories presented in the first two Annual Editions (online now at Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, etc.), but in an even better way.

Gone from the Happy Place

I’m still deciding whether I want to wait until I can afford my own ISBNs before moving forward on this one—I may just release the e-book on Amazon for now—but I’ve created a potential cover for it a couple of weeks ago (which can still change depending on feedback), and I pretty much know what I need to do to finish it. It really shouldn’t take me long. I might have it done as early as February, but I won’t be aiming to release it before June. If it gets released as early as February, it will be released to Amazon only, and for $4.99.

But don’t count on it coming out that soon. I want to avoid the mistakes I made with its earlier version, The Computer Nerd. I’ll update you when it’s near release, and I may provide a 40% discount to subscribers to my mailing list (preorder only).

I’ll have to work out the logistics with pricing, though.

gone from the happy place concept 3.png

The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky

As I think I’ve mentioned in an earlier announcement, The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky will be getting a novelized version sometime this year. Again, I’d like to release it by summer, but it depends on how quickly and efficiently I can get my other projects finished. But, either way, I think it deserves a full work devoted to it. The more I think about it, the more I like the story and want to expand on it. Again, the tracks are already in place, so I don’t foresee it taking long to develop. I’ve already got a new beginning written, and most of a new ending. The majority of work I’d still need to do is with structure and pacing, which will be the hardest part of the process.

-Other Books-

I know I still have some outstanding titles to work on, including Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, Zipwood Studios, Figments of the Imagination, and My First Mullet, along with other novels that I’ve written or started years ago (like Panhandler Underground and Botanical Rush to name a couple), and the more time that passes, the more it seems they’ll never make the light of day. Rest assured, though, these are still on the list for release.

Teenage American Dream, in particular, hit a development snag last year, and I’ve halted it for now until I can figure out how to correct it. One of the problems with writing “by the seat of one’s pants” is that snags happen, and even if you have a plan (as I did for this one), organic development can still sneak in and change the course of things while uncovering the secrets of others. I like what I have so far (which is almost 75% of the book, or nearly 70,000 words), but I’ve reached a point where I think I need more knowledge or understanding about a specific topic that I don’t yet have and would need time to research, which I think is important, to continue it, and making that time has been a challenge lately. But, I’ll get there. Also, the title will be replaced with something else, as “Teenage American Dream” was originally given to the 2006 short story I wrote for Seven-Sided Dice: The Collection of Junk, Volume 3, using the same character, and I’ll probably want to rerelease that story, with that title, as a side-chapter during its promotional phase.

Sweat of the Nomad and Zipwood Studios will eventually undergo the same decision: their short story versions will retain these titles and the novels based on these stories will have different titles. I have no idea when I’ll get around to updating these, though. Probably not before 2019.

Figments of the Imagination has actually undergone some development in 2017, but I stalled when NaNoWriMo started. I’ll be getting more of it done in 2018, but I have no idea when I’ll have it ready for release. I doubt it will be finished in 2018, and I wouldn’t even expect it for 2019. It’s going to be a big story with big world-building, and I want to get it right. I’m going to aim for 2020 for that one. It’ll be a lot fun, though. My plans for it are pretty awesome. The first chapter for it can be read at the end of Cards in the Cloak.

My First Mullet has stalled simply because it’s a niche product, and I don’t expect much of a market for it. It’s more of a passion project that I want to finish for myself and its cult followers, and I think I can take my time with it. It’ll be finished eventually. I haven’t been in a hurry, though. If you don’t know anything about it, it’s essentially a collection of poems and short stories about the war between man and his mullet. A few of its entries can be found on this blog. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

Panhandler Underground is a novel I wrote in 2005, but I never did anything with it because I needed to redevelop it to better fit the way government institutions would actually operate (albeit in a satirical way). Once I’m comfortable with the progress I’m making on Pawn of Justice, I plan to revisit this story by creating a trilogy out of it (well, an anthology where it would be the third book in a series but not the last). I’ve already outlined the two books that’ll come before it, more or less, so I don’t expect it to take long to develop once I get going on it. But, I can assure you that this will be a fun one. The current 12-year-old manuscript is a big hit with the people I allow to read it. I expect the update to be better and slightly more believable.

Botanical Rush is another passion project I started in 2007, but stopped when A Modern-day Fantasy took over my life for the next five years. I’ll get back to it one of these days. I did a lot of research for it, so I’d hate to waste it. I also stalled because I didn’t think the inciting incident was good enough, and I still haven’t thought of a way to improve it. I will. Eventually. I’ve got eleven chapters written for it already. Again, I’d hate to waste it.

So, these are my likely releases in the next couple of years, with a few maybe taking until 2020 to finish. I still want to update Gutter Child, too, so that may or may not happen before 2020. I think that’s plenty to think about, though. Oh, and I want to write and release one more Christmas story after Snow in Miami to round out my Christmas fable trilogy. That’ll likely happen in 2019, as I plan to write it now to make sure it gets done.

The Main Obstacle to These Goals:

My job has been emotionally challenging lately. I make about $15,000 a year doing it, even though I have a Bachelor’s degree in English and the degree is related to my field. The job is no longer what it was when I started, though, and I don’t know if it will ever go back to being the good thing that it was. I’m beginning to sense that my skills are going to waste and the money has been too low for me to really improve my life. I started publishing e-books as a way to supplement my annual income, but I haven’t really been selling any of those, either, so I’m still struggling financially, and, in turn, emotionally.

I’m looking to make a change in 2018 for the better, financially, socially, and even spiritually, and I don’t think it’s going to happen if I stay where I am. So, I’ll be devoting a good chunk of my time trying to also rebuild my career goals and hopefully find myself in a different and better place by this time next year. I don’t know how this will affect my writing or my story goals, but I wanted to alert my readers that this is something I’ll also be working on, and it may or may not shift some of my above goals around. That said, your support is appreciated in any form, including prayers, so if you’re still reading, thanks for coming with me this far.

Another Newsletter Reminder:

Again, I hope you all have a great 2018 ahead.

Remember, I’m looking for new subscribers. As I slowly phase Drinking Café Latte at 1pm out from being my primary news source, the best way to get updates and exclusive offers from here on out is to subscribe to my mailing list. Message me at zippywings[at[hotmail[dot]com with the subject line “Sign Me Up” to get on the list to join. Don’t wait for the fancy buttons to be incentivized! Remember, joining will give you access to exclusive newsletters about reading, writing, things I’ve discovered that you should know about, free offers, etc. If all that sounds questionable, remember, it’s a newsletter I’ll send out approximately twice a month and it won’t take up much of your time, so there’s no reason not to join. Again, contact me at zippywings[at[hotmail[dot]com with the subject line “Sign Me Up” to get on the list to join. It’ll be fun.

Take care and until next time….

 

Friday Update #11: NaNoWriMo, Christmas, and the Cover Story

The end of the year is coming, and with it, some news. Let’s dive in, shall we?

NaNoWriMo

Every November, writers and aspiring writers set aside time to pen their masterpieces-in-the-making, committing to writing as much as 50,000 words or more by the end of the month. Each year, I say that I’m going to participate, and each year I let other things get in the way. Well, not this time. This year, I joined the party, and I knocked out a cool 34,000 words on a novel that combines thriller and coming of age genres together with kind of a Bill & Ted vibe. Now, the work I’ve done was for a first act only, and 34,000 words is a large chunk of work for just one act, so I’ll likely be cutting much of what I wrote from the final draft or move it if I determine that’s necessary. But that’s what I managed to accomplish this November. I’ll announce the book another time, as the additional work I put into it will also come at another time, but I do hope to have the first draft finished by summer and a release sometime by the end of 2018 or mid-2019.

Christmas

Now that I’m on vacation, I have more time to focus on marketing, revisions, and even new work. I’ll talk more about that stuff in a moment, but I wanted to talk about Christmas first.

Two years ago, I released my Christmas fable “The Fountain of Truth” as an e-book and packaged it with two new Christmas stories, “Christmas Log” and “St. Nick’s Gym.” Last year, I started working on a new Christmas story and got about halfway through when the season ended and there was no more point to release it.

This year, I’ve gone back to that story, Snow in Miami, and there’s a good chance I’ll have it ready in time for Christmas. As of this writing, I have just a few more scenes to write.

Snow in Miami follows the tradition of The Fountain of Truth by telling three stories in one, but it goes the extra mile by tying all three stories into a single story about addiction, family, and, well, Christmas. The stories inside include:

Unexpected Weather: The story of how climate change and the creation of the first Christmas tree are related, and how addiction has a hand in both.

A Black Friday Tale: The story of how the early bird gets the worm, while cheaters never prosper, and crime doesn’t pay, and good things come to those who wait.

The Pear Tree: A police procedural about the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Development on this story has been slow, and I certainly haven’t had much time to review or edit what’s already been written, so I don’t know with 100% certainty that I’ll release it before Christmas, or if I’ll release it at all in 2017. But, it is a goal. As of now, I’ve got about 14,000 words written for it. I expect the final version to come in somewhere between 18,000 – 20,000 words.

If I don’t have it ready in time for Christmas, I will be releasing it next year, in which case I’ll have to remind you about it then.

When it does go live, it will be sent to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and most other major e-book retailers (though, because most of them receive e-books through a distributer and the blackout dates for those stores are already passed, only Amazon is likely to have it before Christmas). It’ll retail for $1.99.

In other news, I’m coming up on the 10th anniversary of writing the first chapter for the A Modern-day Fantasy series (then called Modern Day Fantasy: Cannonball City). For five years straight (2007-2011 inclusive), I started a new A Modern-day Fantasy story on Christmas Day, and this year I’ll be doing it again by writing the first chapter for the prequel series Pawn of Justice. I will be spending much of 2018 writing a Pawn of Justice trilogy (probably as one megabook that I’ll split into three parts next year), and I hope to start releasing them by next Christmas, or by May 2019 (in time for Avengers 4). Expect more news on that as it develops.

New Covers and E-book Versions:

Perhaps the biggest news to come from my side of the world in 2017 is the rebuilding of my author brand, and I’m happy to say that the tracks are now finally being laid.

Kicking off the journey is the redistribution of Eleven Miles from Home and Cards in the Cloak with new covers, new supplements, and in the case of Cards in the Cloak, new scenes. Both stories now come with a “Readers’ Group Discussion Questions” section, a feature I’ll be including in my other books throughout the rebranding period, and a redesign of front and back matter elements. Most readers won’t care about this, but it will do more to inform readers how to help me keep my author brand alive, so they should care.

Old Covers:

New Covers:

One factor here in this rebranding effort is the inclusion of e-mail list information. I still don’t have an official website (outside of Drinking Café Latte at 1pm) to advertise my books, so I don’t have any fancy buttons for e-mail collection yet. However, the books will now come with information about how to connect with me and how to join my list in the meantime, which I hope will be good enough for those who want to help me launch my January 2018 newsletter and keep in touch with me about news and offers, as well as to support me during book launches.

For anyone reading this update, I’m encouraging people to email me directly at zippywings[at[hotmail[dot]com with the subject line “Sign Me Up” or some derivative that will let me know of the reader’s interest, along with a quick note verifying that interest.

Unless I get no signups between now and then, I plan to launch the email newsletter on the third Tuesday in January, with two letters a month to follow.

But, that’s what’s happening with my current books. As of now, the updated versions are available at Smashwords, and I expect to have them up at Amazon this weekend. Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and others will probably receive these updates after Christmas. It depends on when Smashwords sends them the updates.

I will also be updating and releasing When Cellphones Go Crazy with new scenes, deeper themes, tighter organization, and a new title before 2017 ends. When Cellphones Make Us Crazy (new title) will be released with a Readers’ Group Discussion Questions section, most likely by middle of next week (December 27th or 28th). The work I need to do for it is mostly finished. I’m just working through the loose ends.

Old Cover:

when cellphones go crazy cover
When Cellphones Go Crazy Cover Image

New Cover:

when cellphones go crazy v2b

Again, like the abovementioned stories, each of the following stories is getting a new cover and description, as well as new interior elements. Expected updates include:

Shell Out (January or February, with new scenes)

The Celebration of Johnny’s Yellow Rubber Ducky (summer, upgrade to novel length)

The Computer Nerd (summer, new scenes and characters, under the title Gone from the Happy Place)

I will also be updating Gutter Child to a full novel, with the current story serving as a subplot, and changing the title, but I don’t know yet when that will happen. Probably not before 2019.

Lastly, I’m toying with the possibility of extending Lightstorm to a full-length superhero mystery novel. Not sure when that will happen, either, but I am thinking more and more about it.

E-book Prices:

I’ve got more to talk about regarding my new brand, which I’ll likely save for next week as a farewell to 2017 or the following week as an introduction to 2018, but I wanted to mention now that most of my free e-books will no longer be free after Christmas. I’ve already attached a $3.99 price tag to Cards in the Cloak to match its new content, as well as raised the prices of The Computer Nerd (now $3.99), Zippywings 2015: A Short Story Collection (now $6.99), and both annuals for the A Modern-day Fantasy series (now $7.99 each). Eleven Miles from Home and Amusement will both (likely) remain free, and Shell Out will remain free at least until I add its new content. Everything else will go up to at least $1.99 after Christmas, so if you wanted any of these stories for free, now is the time to get them. I’ll explain my reasons for the price change in my next update.

So, I do have more to talk about regarding production and other things, and I’ll likely be giving a postmortem on 2017 after the New Year. But, for now I wanted to say thanks for your support, and to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and let all be well with you and your families.

P.S. I’m creating my mailing list, with or without an official website, so if you would like to receive a more focused letter about writing topics, book topics, reviews, and offers, including freebies and exclusive freebies, please send me a private message at zippywings[at]hotmail[dot]com with the subject line “Put me on your mailing list, please,” “Sign Me Up,” or something similar, and I’ll add you to the list. I want to send the first newsletter out around the third week in January. The free stuff will have to come later, as I still need to create a delivery system and a plan. Again, more on that later.

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).

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 #7: A Primate Mailman and Other Marketing News

Since my last update, I’ve written part of a new prologue to The Computer Nerd, in an effort to raise the stakes of the story a little sooner. I still have to finish it and clean it up, but it’s there and in progress. Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

            Something in the dark slammed against the handle to her locked bedroom door, and she shot forward out of her restless sleep. The ringing echo of clanging metal had barely died when the unknown force hit the handle again. This wasn’t the usual wakeup call she had every morning. If it was even morning.

A pair of stem-shaped shadows divided the dim light shining through the crack under the door and stretched across the floor toward her. They didn’t shake, just remained stock still as the source of the shadows jostled the handle, cursed, and jostled the handle again.

The woman slid her feet out from under the sheets and reached for the table near her bedside. Her robe was folded on the tabletop. She had asked the assistant who placed it there to keep it neat, but now that she needed it, she wished she had left it near her pillow where she could reach it.

“Come on, you useless tool,” said the gruff voice on the other side of the door.

The woman felt anxiety creeping up on her. She expected someone to unlock her door as they always did first thing in the morning, but they usually had keys. And they rarely cursed at the door. She didn’t know who was trying to break in, but the last thing she wanted was for the impatient man to see her undressed. In spite of her circumstances, she still wanted to look classy.

She stretched toward the table again, but the handcuffs locking her to the opposite rail prevented her from reaching all the way.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” said the man on the other side.

The woman was given one pillow. It was hardly big enough for her head. She tried batting at her robes with it, but she merely brushed the edge of the table.

The shadows finally shifted to the side. The man on the other side of the door was changing his entrance strategy. She had no idea how long it would take him to enter, or what he would do once he finally broke in. In spite of the near frigid temperature of her room, she began to sweat.

And that’s just the beginning. I hope to upload a new version of The Computer Nerd in time for the first-year anniversary of its worldwide debut on October 20th. Keep an eye on the news.

Time for MailChimp

After an unnecessarily stressful time at my job this week, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on setting my marketing strategies to get more attention on my books, as a way to bring me closer to financial independence. Seminar after seminar I’ve been listening to this summer has universally agreed that the mailing list is the way to go, and that MailChimp is the best site for beginners to use. So, that’s what I did this week. I signed up for the service.

Now, I haven’t done anything with it yet. And I probably won’t for a while still. But what I think I’ll aim to do is to write a pseudo sequel to The Computer Nerd (more like a side story involving the bounty hunter Mr. Sanders) and make it free. Then anyone who subscribes to the mailing list through the second book can get the first one free. Then I can resume marketing strategies as usual for the third and, if I deem it necessary, fourth books.

If you’ve read The Computer Nerd and you’re wondering how on earth I would pull a trilogy or tetralogy out of that story, then I would say think of Mr. Sanders as a potential protagonist, and you might figure it out.

Anyway, I’ll be spending some time figuring out how I want to set up my first marketing campaign. It’ll be a while still before I do that though.

The Cost of Marketing

Which brings me to my other eye-opening point. I’ve listened to several of Nick Stephenson’s freebie seminars since June, and garnered a lot of information and tips on how to grow my audience. Obviously, without spending the $600 necessary to get his whole course, I can’t find out all the details, not without extensive independent research. Even though I would like to enroll, I can’t afford that right now. Too many bills and too little income.

But, this week, he sponsored the release of a new book called Broken by author Gordon Hopkins, based on Stephenson’s Leopold Blake character, and offered a 75% launch week discount on the title. Anyone who bought the book between September 10th and September 14th (his traditional five-day window) would gain free access to a new course he’s designed called Your First Six Figure Launch, as well as all six of his earlier Leopold Blake novels.

I bought the book, got the freebies, and listened to the course. And I finally learned of a detail I’ve been trying to figure out since June. Turns out, to get a really good, consistent marketing campaign going, I would need to set aside about $230 a month or so, minimum. And I think that’s before the free 2000-subscriber limit on MailChimp kicks in.

So, for someone whose bills constantly flirt with his matching line of income, I think that’s going to be a huge challenge for me. So, I don’t actually want to get the mailing list active until I’m close to launching the third book (but I’ll start it with the second).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Oh, and I’m back to eating healthier. I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the month. Cutting way down on the carbs to get that weight loss.

End-of-the Month Roundup: August 2016

My Friday Updates started off with a bang, and then they tapered off, and most of August has been without. “Why?” you may ask. Well, the simple reason is that I haven’t had much to talk about in August.

But, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I have actually done a lot of work, but not on my writing. I’ve been spending much of August studying, marketing in particular, but also editing. It’s the editing I’ve been learning that’s stalled my free-flow of writing. In short, I want to get my stories right, and to do so, I have to better understand the genres they fit in.

I’ve always had a problem with genre classification. I get the general genres like action and drama. But I’ve never been taught the conventions of these global genres, nor the conventions or obligatory scenes of their more defined parts (like action adventure, for example). Thanks to The Story Grid, I’ve been learning more about the genre types, and to some extent the conventions that make them work. More importantly, I’ve been giving more thought to what defines certain stories within their chosen genres, including my own stories. Especially my own stories.

I’ve been wanting to write an update to The Computer Nerd for a while, but I’ve been holding off because I want to attempt to run it through the grid (as outlined at The Story Grid website), and I want to be sure I fully understand how the grid works, and in turn figure out what I still need to do to make The Computer Nerd work. I also want to pick up Shawn Coyne’s book so that I have some kind of textbook to refer to when I give storygridding (a term Shawn Coyne coined) a try. I think it’ll be easier to graph once I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.

To be clear, I do think the story works based on the genre I’ve established. But now I’m wondering if I’ve picked the right genre. And I also think I can make it better. Even still, I have pictures in my head for improving it.

But, of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been studying, nor the only thing keeping me up late at night.

When I do put it through a new rewrite, and eventually rerelease it, I also need to consider the cover image. I like what I have, but I don’t know that it’s appropriate for the genre. So much to consider, and I feel like no matter how much I learn about my craft, my awaiting knowledge seems to stack and stack.

There’s also the secondary concern about marketing. Whenever I do reedit and repost the story, I’ll want to do so with a change to the metadata. In short, I want this thing primed for marketing, and that means stripping out much of what’s already in there and replacing it with a more direct (and beneficial) link.

But how do I follow that?

The primary marketing tactic I see and hear all over the Internet is that the mailing list remains king. And guess what. I don’t have one. Nope, no mailing list. My blog subscription option is the best source I have for sending out new information, and most of the people who come here come to read my one comedic post about hoverboards, so they’re not going to subscribe. Clearly, that needs to change. So, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to the mailing list and when to start it. But, I don’t want to really push the thing until I have what Nick Stephenson calls a “reader magnet” ready, and I’m starting to think that moving the post-credits scene to a mailing list exclusively is a bad idea. That scene is really part of the book, and should remain with the book. So, I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a novella about the bounty hunter who’s searching for our mental institution escapees (spoiler alert if you haven’t read The Computer Nerd) and using that as my subscription incentive.

Would you be interested in reading the story of Mr. Sanders’s pursuit of our escapees?

Of course, getting people to subscribe means giving them something else to buy down the road, and The Computer Nerd is not something I plan to make a sequel or an entire series out of. It’s supposed to be standalone. Assuming they want something in the same genre, what do I give them?

I’ve been giving more thought to other stories I’ve posted or have planned to post by now–Gutter Child and Teenage American Dream specifically–and considered that maybe their stories could fit more into a mystery or thriller convention, and less in the convention they already have. So, among all of my other stray thoughts, I’m wondering if I should expand Gutter Child and turn the current plot into a subplot, and give Teenage American Dream a darker problem. I have some ideas on how I can expand them, but that will undoubtedly hold up my current plans of the other stories I’ve mentioned on this blog. I feel like I’ve been ignoring them long enough.

So, that’s how my month has been. No progress, just a lot of studying.

I also host a biannual game-making contest, which had a deadline this month, so I’ve been giving that a lot of my attention. But you came here to find out about my writing, didn’t you?

Friday Update #6: The Branding Betrayal and Other Briefs

I haven’t posted to the Friday Updates in a couple of weeks, mainly because I haven’t had much to say since my last post, but also because I’ve had other commitments and time got away from me. More on that later.

In Support of Branding

I wanted to kick off this post with a slight nitpick. As some of you may know (if you know me personally), I’m a fan of movies. I enjoy a good movie as much if not more than a good book. I enjoy them for the stories, sure, but I especially enjoy them for the experience they provide. And I’m especially a fan of movie franchises, as I can continue to reenter the worlds of my favorite characters and experience something new while hanging on the edge of my seat to the exploits of people old (but not necessarily those of old people, except for maybe Clint Eastwood, and only if he does another Dirty Harry, which I guess would be hard to watch nowadays given that he’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—more on that later).

However, one of the things I depend on in my movie experiences is continuity, and that’s especially true of those that actually continue into sequels and more sequels. Franchises like James Bond can get away with actor changes because there are so many of them that eventually the actors will get too old to play the part, like Sean Connery, who’s the same age as my grandmother, who just recently passed away—still, more on that later). The only thing we really must have in a James Bond movie consistently is the tracking gun barrel sequence at the start of each movie, and the opening credits sequence with the dramatic song and the nearly naked women superimposing the movie’s weapon of choice. There are story points that must be addressed, too, but those are related more to the genre than to the franchise itself. At any rate, James Bond has a specific brand we expect each film to adopt, and those are the things we expect—oh, and of course the James Bond theme song by Monty Norman. Other movie franchises like Mission: Impossible also have an expected brand, with the lit fuse marching toward an explosion and the classic theme by Lalo Schifrin (I almost mixed the two composers up—I’ve watched these franchises so many times that they sometimes run together on details like that). It’s also well-known for its anti-brand of style by changing directors and storylines so much that each movie barely resembles the one before it, and really only has Tom Cruise and the opening fuse to bind all five together. Weirdly, this works out great for that series.

If you’re paying attention, then you’ve noticed that I’ve addressed two of the top three blockbuster spy movie franchises currently running. The third franchise, the Bourne series, also has a brand, with each film taking the exact title from the book that corresponds with its entry number (The Bourne Identity is the name of the first book and movie, The Bourne Supremacy the second, and so on through The Bourne Legacy, which changes the lead character but stays firmly in the established cinematic universe), and this keeps them all in the same family.

Or, at least this is true of the first four films.

Now, I just saw the latest Bourne film, Jason Bourne, on Wednesday, and even though I enjoyed it, there are a few things about it that annoyed me. And it all has to do with its branding.

Movies like this remind me why branding in a series is so important. On the outside, novels in a series establish brands by having similar covers and similar fonts from one installment to the next. Their internal content can also establish brands, with recurring themes and recurring popular characters populating them. But they also form brands by the titles they use. Novels do this. Movies do this. Even the names of television episodes (something many audiences will never even see) do this. The show Scrubs, for example, would title each episode as “My [Something].” That puts every episode into a family. My favorite show, Community, would title each episode after a fake and ridiculous course title (“Advanced Complaining,” for example, was never a Community title, but it could’ve been because each episode was titled something like that). I think branding among titles is a good idea, but keeping a continuity among titles to establish that brand is vital if the series has three or more installments and the first two are of the same style.

Before I saw Jason Bourne, I watched the Honest Trailer for the original Bourne film trilogy, and I think it does a fine job highlighting many of the trilogy’s repeat items, enough for me to recognize them when I see them in new installments. I must also say that plenty of elements within the newest movie match those of the older films (the use of the word asset, for example) quite faithfully. And I was pleased to see that the end title song, “Extreme Ways” by Moby, makes its fifth appearance in the series, over the usual hi-tech background graphic where the credits flash, with its expected differences in style from its previous incarnations. And, of course, the story is basically the same as it is in the first four movies. Even though it brings nothing new, it’s still most everything I expect from a Bourne film. Well, almost everything.

Going back to the title, there are two expectations that people like me will have whenever a new entry into the series is released: 1. The title will be The Bourne [Something]. This is how it’s lain out in the previous four films. It’s how the fifth movie should’ve been presented. It’s what we expect when we set up our DVDs and Blu-rays beside each other on the franchises shelf. 2. The title should coincide with the book that matches its installment number. In this case, the fifth book is called The Bourne Betrayal, so the movie should’ve been called The Bourne Betrayal. Even its IMDB entry mentions this inconsistency in the trivia section. What’s worse is that the movie’s plot actually supports this title.

So why change the name? I don’t know. I suspect that the studio dipped its hand where it shouldn’t have, as it often does, and decided that it would make more money or be more appealing to feature the main character’s name instead of what audiences actually expect. I mean, it worked for Jack Reacher, right?

Here’s the thing. The movie is the same regardless of what title it’s given. My complaint is about as OCD and nit-picky as OCD and nit-picky get. But I also think this inconsistency is as annoying as snot. Just give it the expected title. As long as it has the name Bourne in the title, we’ll know it belongs to that franchise. The title change has single-handedly taken a franchise I love and made it into something I love a little less. It just feels like a detached entry now. Being that it takes place 12 years after the previous three just isolates it even more.

Now, if the next Bourne movie is called Jason Bourne 6, and not The Bourne Sanction (the sixth book’s title, and the sixth title to maintain consistency), then I’ll have to stop caring what decisions the studio makes for this franchise. Seeing as how they aren’t changing the formula a lick from movie to movie, either, I’m guessing the series has had its heyday and is ready to take another long nap. I don’t know. Makes me sad, though. This really was one of my favorites for the longest time.

For those of you who write series books or make series movies, please stick to your established brands. Changing them by even the slightest angles derails the momentum you’ve created. Don’t do it. Change the stories instead. That’s what we care about being new.

Other Non-Writing Things

So, I missed last week’s post because I was distracted. We had my grandmother’s memorial the following day, and I was mentally checked out from doing anything creative or informative in the hours leading up to it. I was also exhausted from two straight days of walking several miles on the soggy beach during the hottest time of the day, so I ended up sleeping through most of it. So, sorry if you were expecting news. But I really didn’t have any.

The week before, I was supporting a friend at a cocktail party on the 29th floor of a beachfront condo about an hour from where I live. I was tired when I got home. Plus, I didn’t have any news. I did have fun though. I don’t get invited to cocktail parties like that too often.

Smashwords Sale

For those of you who might’ve been interested in buying my e-books during the Smashwords sale, the sale is over, and everything is back to full price. But, you can still find coupons for discounts and freebies in the Promotions sections in the header, so don’t worry about it. Thanks to those of you who bought something, or will buy something.

(I just noticed that most of the existing coupons are expired or soon to expire. I’ll generate a new batch at some point soon. Keep checking back.)

And that’s it for this week. I’ve spent the last few days working on my computer game, Entrepreneur: The Beginning, and I’ve been reading a lot on the Story Grid website, catching up my knowledge on how to edit, so I haven’t been writing much lately. I will soon, though. Don’t worry. I did write a poem called “My Fading Silence” a couple of nights ago, however. You can read it in my previous post. I don’t write poetry often, so it’s a rare treat.

Oh, and I’ve officially cancelled my preorders for Teenage American Dream, Sweat of the Nomad, and Zipwood Studios until further notice. I will be reinstating them at some point, but not before I get an email list together or something substantial toward their development. I also need to figure out if I want to release their original short story versions under their existing titles and their novel versions under new titles. Check back here often for new information.