Thursday, July 17, 2014

New story - sneak peek!

It's been a quiet week.  Wasn't feeling too well over the weekend, and it carried over into Wednesday.  I think I feel human again.  

I haven't been entirely unproductive, though.  No, I've been busy.  Well, my delirious little mind has been.  What has my delirious little mind been up to, you ask?  Why, of course, I'd love to share!

Obviously, I knew sending The Shadow Watcher out there all by its little lonesome wasn't going to amount to a massive flow of sales.  I knew this before I wrote it.  Not because I don't believe one day it will, it's just all by itself right now, and needs some company.  Takes me awhile to get a novel right though.  

Oh, but wait!  Remember those side notes I talked about before?  

Yes, well, here's the latest.  Or part of it, anyway.  These short stories I plan on putting out for .99¢, or some for free, to help get more content out there faster.  A Shadow in Doubt is still planned for fall, but Fore Shadowing: Shadows on the Moon will be sooner, I think.  For now, please enjoy this entirely unedited excerpt :)  

08/05/2169 - Moon Colony - Gamma Structure

Paranoia is a mild state, relative to the one in which I lived after we administered the vaccination to the colony. Nearly two weeks have passed since the U.C.E. requested a sample of the compound we used.  I couldn't seem to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time. At two thirteen a.m., I sat up, feeling someone else was in my room, and saw the shadow pass before the clock.

My heart started pounding. My eyes adjusted to the darkness, and I saw a man, wearing what appeared to be a cloak and glasses, standing near the window to my right.

To my left, a woman whispered, "Samuel, we need to talk."

I wanted to cry out, my father might hear in his quarters next door. But not likely. 

She spoke again, "We mean you no harm, but they're coming."  This time I could see her.  She was wearing glasses too, with tinted lenses. 

I snapped on my bedside lamp. They were both strangers - I'd never seen either of them on the Moon before. I assumed the worst. "The U.C.E. sent you, didn't they."

He answered, "No. But like she said, they're coming."

"What do you want from me? Who are you?"

"The truth is often not expected." She smiled. Her eyes, still visible through the lenses she wore, were familiar to me, like I'd known them my whole life, but I couldn't place it. "We're here to help you. Telling you who we are doesn't help right now.  You'll understand, in time."

"Samuel, you have to escape now, you and anyone who helped you with the vaccine."

The story the lab gave the U.C.E. was they accidentally administered all of the vaccine, and they had not been able to replicate a new batch. Time was running out for them to send something back to the labs on Earth - probably Sky Geneva, otherwise Sky Milan - for testing. They won't replicate a new batch, because they didn't make it. My friends at the lab, Tollack, Voorhia and Marcus took a great risk in helping me distribute a juice from a fruit-bearing tree I created. They called it a vaccine, and when everyone one the moon was cured, we destroyed the rest.

I couldn't let the U.C.E. have the real thing, because then they would know about my project, my tree. We were not surprised when they designated me to the Time Travel project, as the U.C.E. considers it my sibling, my parents its parents. But my true love was bio-chemistry, and I couldn't stay away.

The quest for eternal youth from within, long linked to the fuel we put into our bodies, lead me down this path. It was an answer to a question, a problem I wanted to solve from the time I was a boy and read of quests to find the Fountain of Youth. I had no idea what I was creating, and had not thought of the implications - or possibilities - it truly meant for the future.

The UCE had, and they labeled their quest the Sovereign project. They believed if they could defy the aging process, they could rule the universe. Once they'd spread out to conquer it. Which they would do when they could live long enough to travel far enough to do it. Crazy, right? My father would say that's why he went with science, and not politics.

The man snapped me back to the present.  "Their representatives will be here in less than twenty-four hours. You have to execute your plan, and get the tree out of here now."

I was dubious. The fact that I had only just discovered the healing properties of the fruit a week before patient zero booked his flight for the Moon, and brought the Antarctic flu to our virus free colony, was only too convenient. I made my father eat it the minute he showed symptoms of the Antarctic flu, but within minutes of biting into the core, his hair thickened and darkened, and the wrinkles in his face began to smooth. I shrieked out loud, startling him because it was not a manly sound, and all I could do was point to a mirror across the room. 

The age-reversing effects of the fruit were not as apparent in a cat as they are in a human, but I realized what happened the instant it happened. My experiment was a success. I could save the colony. But I had to conceal it from the U.C.E., because otherwise they would take it from me, before I could even study it. I filled a sack with the fruit, and ran called my friend, who worked at the lab. He was sick too, but when he drank some of the juice from just the flesh of the fruit, he felt fully recovered. His fever was gone. We headed to the lab, and called two more of his associates. I couldn't enter, without record of my being there, so I stayed outside.

"I still don't know if it's a good idea." I went on the assumption they already knew my plan. 

"Going back that far, it poses too many risks."

The man handed me an envelope, "Which is why you'll need this."

"What is it?"



The woman sighed, "How to make it all work."

"From who?"

They looked at each other, moments passing that seemed like hours. Hours I apparently no longer had to waste. I could tell they were weighing the outcome of what they told me. She shook her head, he answered. "My instructions were to deliver you the coordinates you need to set the time machine for, and other notes attached. I think you'll know who they're from when you read them."

I opened the envelope, the contents of which consisted of several aged leaves of paper, scratched and scrawled upon in a hand I knew - unmistakably - was my own. 

And, the rest is coming soon to an e-reader (hopefully) in your hands!  

I hope you're having a beautiful day!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

6 Observations on Self-Publishing (So Far)

"What advice can you give new authors?"  I read this interview question on Goodreads and laughed.  Advice?  Am I qualified to give it?  Considering I'm a newly self-published author (I'm not counting the poetry), getting my second novel ready for publication before my first book even reaches XX in sales, I really don't think so.
Photo by Steve Linster from

Then again, I've read an awful lot in the last dozen years or so since I decided I would be a published author one day.  Some of what I've read is garbage - a lot of it actually.  Here and there, though, I've found bits of wisdom, so I've decided to share some of what I've learned, and how it pertains to me on my self-publishing journey.

If you're thinking about self-publishing (or being a published author in any form), you have to be realistic about your expectations. Otherwise you're just setting yourself up for disappointment, and ultimately failure.  What defines success?  As with most things, it depends on who you ask.  Forbes put out an article in December with some figures that give a real income reality check for indie authors. (Read it here.)

I would be ecstatic, truly, with replacing my previous income.  It was modest, honestly, especially for Southern California.  Will it happen?  I'm not hanging my hopes on it, but I'll keep trying.  That's what I do, chase dreams.  I don't know any other way to live.

Self-publishing isn't as easy as it sounds.  I mean, yes, you need nothing more than a computer, the ability to create a .doc or .pdf file, and an internet connection. KDP will help design a basic cover.  Any idiot can do it.  Well, most of them.  Myself included.  But there's a little more to it than that.

Assuming you've written a complete book, and edited thoroughly, which is a huge undertaking in itself, you now have to format it. I highly recommend reading, and learning, Mark Coker's Nuclear Method on formatting in his Smashwords Style Guide.  When he says "Hug a loved one," I would listen.  It helped, a little.

Then comes proofing, because, yes, even with professional editing, you're likely to find something amiss.  My book still has some minor errors, I think, but I hope they aren't worth noticing at this point.  The most recent release by a formerly self-published author (i.e. it was published through one of the big houses) had three pretty noticeable errors (that I found) in the e-book version I bought.  I'm not the grammar police, and am in serious need of my own editor, but they were there.  It didn't take away from the story, I just thought it was funny that even after she went with the "pros" the mistakes were there.  I'm still looking forward to the next adventure she takes me on.

Books do not sell themselves.  Unless you have money to throw into advertising, it's a grassroots word-of-mouth marketing campaign.  That can take time - I'm talking years - to build up.  The best angle I've found to work - readers want to get to know the writers behind their favorite books, and the internet provides the tools to connect for free.

Social networks only help if you interact with others; you have to build a following.  Don't expect others to "like" your page because you liked theirs, but the more you "like" others, the better chance someone else will come back to "like" you.  Do exercise good etiquette, and try to share another author's post if they share yours.  (I feel like I'm reciting "The Golden Rule.")

Little by little, I see more results from Facebook.  I've still not started with Twitter - I'm scared of getting sucked into it, as I do with everything else - but I keep reading that it can be an indie (or any) author's best friend, so I'm inclined to believe it. (Update 10/20/15: Twitter still scares me, but I've seen more results in the last six months than I did in two years on Facebook. So, if I have to choose one now, I'd probably keep tweeting. )

Write your first draft for you.  Edit for the reader.  I toiled for years over my first two novels - both of which are in need of serious overhaul before I publish them - because I was so concerned with who I was writing for, it dammed the creative flow.  With The Shadow Watcher, it started the same, but last year, when I really set out to do it, I wrote the first draft for me.  It was ugly, but it was something to work with.  That's the only way I was able to finish, and have it published in nine months.  I wrote the first draft of the sequel, A Shadow in Doubt, last November, during NaNoWriMo, but didn't even really start working with it again until mid-April.  If I have it out by October, as planned, that'll be about seven months on that one. (Okay, it actually took a lot longer. Life happens.) 

Not every book is for everyone.  It doesn't mean you quit.  It's a fact we're better off accepting early on.  Not all of us like the same thing - that's the beauty of diversity.  I can't confirm the number of people who've read The Shadow Watcher in it's entirety, only the number of downloads. While I wish everyone in the world would read it, I know it won't appeal to everyone.  Reaching just a thousand readers in a year or two, to me, would be impressive.

More books = more sales.  Simple math, right?  As a reader, I don't like to let go of characters, I like to read series novels.  I'm also more likely to read an author who has written more than one book.  So, I challenge you not to be discouraged if your debut novel isn't flying off the shelves, so to speak.  Focus on the book after the next.  

You don't have to write a series, but having multiple titles available makes you more credible to your potential reader.  Build your brand.  Keep looking ahead.  Plan, be ready for the day your dreams do come true, and they just might.  That's what I'm working on now.

Guess I had something to say after all.... Hopefully, you'll find some of this helpful, or maybe it's just more of the garbage out there - I'd love to read your comments below ;)  Either way, I hope you're having a beautiful day!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Sometimes you just have to listen.

This one is for the woman I met in the bookstore yesterday.  A book triggered her grief, and she needed someone to listen.  I'm glad I was there.

To K-
The sadness was plain in your eyes.
I wondered, "What causes the tears she cries?"
Weary wells, windows of your soul,
They poured it all out.
A stranger, I might walk away,
The choice to stay was just as simple.
Could I not lend my ear? 
You didn't expect me to listen,
Much less respond, sharing in kind.
But, I had to.  Someone did.
You needed a tether to the world,
And I let my own fall away,
That afternoon, I needed to hear what you needed to say.
I didn't have the answers you sought to find,
But, I hope it gave you some small comfort,
Knowing I am just as unknowing.

One thing I've learned about grieving, everyone does it their own way, in their own time.  She thanked me as we parted, for taking the time to listen, but I should be thanking her.  It was a reminder of what is important - how we treat those around us.  We share this world together, for the little time we have on it.  Small acts of kindness cost nothing, and are more rewarding than you think.  When others have shown me kindness, I appreciated it more than they probably know.  I do believe things happen for a reason, even if we never understand why in this life.     

K-, this rose is for your mother.  I hope you and I meet again one day.  Even more, I hope your heart finds peace.

I hope you all have a beautiful day!