Saturday, December 28, 2013

Giveaway Running Now, and Best Wishes

On Goodreads, I've offered ten paperback copies of Freedom Does Matter. You still have ten days to sign up, until January 10. If you'd like a chance, at this writing about 1 in twenty, to get this book, click here for more info and to enter.

Of course, the odds of obtaining a copy in ebook format is 1 in 1 if you click the Buy Now link on Amazon or Smashwords. Or B&N, or Kobo, or Apple iBooks (search for "Freedom Does Matter"). For the paperback,  check CreateSpace. The Amazon link above can lead you there, too.

I wish for everyone the best in the New Year; that everything that you work for comes to pass.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Working with Smashwords

Probably most writers know this, but in case there are others, learning their way...

When I published Freedom Does Matter in September, I only uploaded an epub. I hadn't read the (not so) fine print... and didn't until last week. The fine print that says if you upload your own epub, that's all that will be available.

Specifically, no samples would be available.

There have been page views of the Freedom Does Matter page, but (obviously), no sample downloads. And no purchases, either, which makes sense; my two friends use Kindles! I hasten to add that the sample is available at Amazon, and sales have been... slow, so perhaps the story isn't as engaging as I hoped. However, Amazon doesn't provide any data on page views (I know; I asked and was politely told they'd consider giving that info up in future.) or on numbers of samples downloaded (if any), so it's hard to judge if potential customers are not visiting, are turned off by the cover image, or are turned off by the sample... Or just think the price is wrong.

In any event, this post is about Smashwords. I created a .doc file and put it through the process, keeping the epub that I uploaded, but generating all the other formats. That was yesterday, and today, according to SW statistics, the only apparent visitor downloaded the sample. So, maybe...

No matter, the upshot is, even if you want control over the look of the epub distributed by Smashwords -- sold by them, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple and the host of other retailers you might opt in for -- do the work to create a MeatGrinder ready Word file, and upload it as well.

At least, the sample will then be available.

Comments welcome, unless it's just to say "read the rules!"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It's December, so NaNoWriMo is Over

Yes, NaNoWriMo is history for another November. With 60K words validated, they declared me a Winner. So, good job, me. And Even Better Job to all the other NaNoWriMo’s who won, who came close, even those who wrote a word. Less of a better job to those who thought about it but didn’t actually get a word written. Better luck next time, which I think is in April, if enough people donate. Shameless plug: I gave to them, Not much, but what I could afford. If you can, throw something their way.

So what did that 60K words accomplish? Draft .7 of a front to back treatment of Coda?, the next story in the Mercenaries stories. There are rough spots—Hoo, boy, are there rough spots!— and the 60K will balloon to 85 or 90K by the time the pieces now marked with either an ^ or an … are added, and the roughness smoothed a little.

Description: Losses mount quickly as Beckie makes what she believes to be an unforgivable error, and has to live with the consequences. In that process, she meets an old friend, an acquaintance, and a new friend. Will her decisions lead to the life she’d hoping for?

 I’m having trouble putting any detail into the description, to avoid spoilers.

I will put Coda? aside for a while now, and work on (not necessarily in this order): Adapt the Past (the new title for Background Check), three different authors' stories I’m in various stages of critting, and trying to wrangle some reviews for Freedom Does Matter.

Another shameless plug: Edward L. Cote, one of the contributors to Twelve Worlds, has published his first book, a YA novella entitled Violet Skies. It’s available for Kindle and in paper at Amazon,  and at Smashwords in epub format. I liked it the first time I critiqued it, and it’s gotten better since. Disclaimer: I did the ebook formatting, so if you find a problem with the mobi or the epub versions, sing out to me. I’ve copied the description below for your enlightenment.

Taya Mindaerel and her mother, the Oracle of the Prairie Winds, must flee their home or face certain death at the hands of a dark hunter and his man-eating horse. Their journey takes them to Aurum, the City of Gold, where they seek the aid of the Great Magus Olbinaar.

On the way they meet three allies- Alex, a vagabond; Brand, a master swordsman, and Ogger, a wild creature. They will need all the help they can get to surmount all the obstacles in their path.

In the city, however, they learn that their journey has just begun.

Violet Skies is the first book in a YA series of the same name. Each book is a novella, short and easy to read. This is a fresh twist on classic fantasy, but it keeps its essential nature intact. The writing focuses on compelling characters first and appeals to fans and critics of the genre alike. Influences ranging from anime to Zelazny combine in a way familiar yet unique.

Comments are always welcome.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Hello, Saturday

If you follow my twitter, you'll know that I started NaNaWriMo really well, 5400 words in three days. Unfortunately, the next three days were pretty sucky; not even 1000 words combined. Can you say catch-up?

Fortunately, the tile laying is finally complete (pictures later) and yesterday and today--so far--I've put over 7500 words in the file; I'm at just over 14000 words total, which is only a thousand behind!

However, as I tweeted last night (or early today, I guess, to be accurate), I've come to the end of what my pre-planning covered; my characters are now staring into a very dark place, and they haven't figured out how to use their headlamps (figuratively), so I'm not sure exactly what they'll see once they recover from not one, but two important... That might be too much of a spoiler. No matter, they seem important to me; have to see what readers think.

Coda (working title) is an action story, and so far, I have too much exposition, I'm sure. But that's okay for the first draft, if I can bring out the garden shears and hedge trimmer when needed.

Monday, we crawl up the stairs (Kona is allegedly the only international airport that still uses portable stairways to debark/embark passengers) for the trip back home. Via LAX. Hopefully we won't encounter a tragedy similar to the one last week. Lots of work to do back home, too, so this has been fun, if tiring.

Time to add more words to today's total. Comments always welcome.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I Pulled the Trigger Today.

No, this isn’t a gun control rant.

Freedom Does Matter should be live at Amazon, Smashwords and Kobo as you read this. I have the paper version in process at CreateSpace, but due to proofing and shipping, that will be longer.

Now, on to complete the third Mercenaries book, Background Check, which I’m thinking of renaming Love, Consequences, Love, or Unintended Consequences, or something I’ve not yet considered.

Finally, to prepare for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been researching the story after BC; named Coda. I feel pretty confident in that name sticking, and hope to get more than half of it done in November.

Update October 5: Added the link for Kobo. I expect the paperback version to be available next month, due to my schedule.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fair Warning: A Political Post, on Syria

An open letter to my Senators and Representative concerning the upcoming vote on President Obama's request for military action in Syria.

Dear Senator/Representative;
As one of your constituents, I'd like to inform you of my position vis a vis President Obama's plan to punish Bashar al-Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons.

While the tragedy of the almost 1500 Syrian citizens cannot be denied, I doubt that those involved really discriminate between Sarin and incendiary bombs or gunfire. The hundred thousand plus other Syrian (and other) dead should have roused an equal outrage. Since they have not, I'm left to think the President would have me believe that the treaty -- to which Syria and other MidEastern countries are not signatories -- ranks higher than the offense to common human decency that the other killings fill us with.

That's a common enough argument, I suppose. I am confident in President Obama's record for doing what he says, and the record gives me confidence as well that, given authorization, he will not allow events to overcome him and us.

If you will read my suggestion: Listen carefully to every briefing. Discover the mission's goal, its definition and how we may recognize it. Discover the disengagement process. More importantly, find out what happens when the plan fails and chemical weapons are again used, because to me, it seems certain that they will be. I am not as confident as Secretary Kerry that the rebels are lily white in this matter, and our actions may well embolden them to attempt to frame al-Assad, intent on putting America in the position where we must increase our involvement to "punish" his "continuing" evil.

Understanding the goal is crucial, I believe, since I think none of the parties in the civil war particularly like America; President Obama and Secretary Kerry have the unenviable job of picking the least worst, and no matter what we do, I see a fundamentalist regime in Syria's near future, as much as I believe in secular government. The goal should be limited, clearly defined, and in your opinion if you vote Yea, achievable. It should be a better outcome for Syria and for the world than declining to act as the President believes necessary.

Similarly, you must believe if you vote Yea that the consequences of both success and failure are accurately described, and acceptable. Also, they must be more acceptable to the country than those of voting Nay, preventing the President and the United States from additional involvement.

Personally, I don't believe that intervention is a wise move. I believe our moral outrage is sadly misplaced. I'm not convinced al-Assad is the only culprit. I'm sure that our action will play into the hands of those in America who would have us at war for their profit, and I'm as certain as can be that without a full-fledged intervention, our actions will vanish like smoke. Except in the history books.

However, I also believe that the President, the Secretary and you as my representative, have more detailed, accurate and comprehensive information than I. I ask you to use that information to make the best decision you can on this crucial matter.
No matter how you feel about this, please take a few minutes to inform your Senators and Representative of your views. That's the way it works. And of course, vote when the time comes.

If you don't know your Congress-critters' email addresses, check this web page

Comments welcome.

Friday, August 30, 2013

A New Description for Freedom Does Matter

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I'd asked for an opinion of the then current description for Freedom Does Matter. While he prefers not to have our exchanges posted, I am going to post the before and after versions, since those are both public and while his efforts are certainly reflected in the work, there is nothing that's specific to him.

At the beginning, I had:

Beckie Sverdupe is relaxing mid-summer before her sophomore year at college when a peaceful riding session ends with a horrifying text message: her fiancé and mentor, mercenary Ian Jamse, has been shot.
Beckie’s efforts to complete his work won’t be halted by assassination attempts, natural disasters or heartache. Is it revenge or justice that drives her to pursue the assassin? Her quest reveals a terrorist plot to foment war by killing thousands at iconic Wembley Stadium. Thwarting the plot brings her head-to-head with one man’s closed-mind attempts to redefine freedom.

Freedom Does Matter, the second Mercenaries story, is an older YA or NA action adventure, and is recommended for readers 15+ due to language and adult situations.

Following the suggestions, it now reads:

Mid-summer before her sophomore year at college, Beckie Sverdupe is grooming her horse when she receives horrifying news: her fiancé Ian Jamse has been shot and may be dead.
Leader of a successful mercenary team, Ian’s not only Beckie’s fiancé; he’s her mentor, training her as a team member after she made it clear that, having fallen in love with him, she would make their group more than just “soldiers for hire;” they’d be more “socially conscious” mercenaries, with longer life expectancies. The current job, an Egyptian land dispute negotiation, supposedly filled that requirement to a tee. Except it hadn’t: Ian was dying! 
Instead of returning to campus for Engineering classes, Beckie kisses Ian’s insensate lips and heads to Cairo to complete the negotiations. It’s her first solo assignment, and she’s determined to finish despite her fears for Ian. Tracking the gunman will be an added challenge spurred by renewed assassination attempts targeting the new mediator: her!
Her quest to gain justice— or revenge—for Ian reveals a conspiracy to incite the final Mideast war by killing thousands at iconic Wembley Stadium in London. As she unravels the plot, she comes head-to-head with one man’s bitter, intransigent attempts to redefine freedom. Will Ian love her again? Can Beckie thwart the terrorist honcho before the attack and eliminate one hateful voice of irrationality?

While Freedom Does Matter is set in the Mercenaries world, it may be enjoyed on its own.
 I'd appreciate any thoughts you might be willing to share. I'm going through a similar exercise with the first chapter, having enjoyed Kristen Lamb's First Five Pages Seminar, so I have a couple of days before I push the button. All else is in readiness!

I'm excited to get Freedom Does Matter out there! I hope your aspirations are going as well; you can talk about that in the comments, too, if you like.

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Muse is Back and There’s Gonna be Trouble

(with apologies to The Angels and Robert Feldman, Gerald Goldstein and Richard Gottehre)

The muse flitted in during one of the wonderful summer days we had last week (that weather continues, yay!) and to say she was disappointed in my progress, or more accurately, the lack thereof, would be an epic understatement. First, she threatened to go on permanent vacation—something about going where her talents could be utilized—but then she said “Dummy! You wrote the story about Beckie and Amy and Ian because you know them. Don’t you think knowing Piero (he’s the villain of Background Check) would resolve your misunderstandings about where I’m trying to point you in this ending. Which sucks, by the way.”

She’s not much on mincing words. However, even I can see the light when the carbon-arc strikes and the harsh blue-white beam shines in my face. I’m writing a side story that won’t get directly included, but will inform me about the way Piero acts and the things he needs and wants. Before she left, the muse nodded sagely and said “That should solve that little problem. I’ll be back.” After a pause, “Probably.”

So far, about a thousand words done on “Piero’s Story”. I expect it to be five or so thousand. Since it’s not part of the book, some things can be hinted at or glossed over as long as I understand where his head’s at as a result. Since it is a reference, more telling is acceptable here than otherwise.

Do you find this type of exercise helpful to you as you create characters who, while not part of a continuing series cast, are still critical? As every character you introduce must be.

As usual, your comments are welcome.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

Second in an occasional series of questions that may well have no answer, or no reasonable or acceptable answer anyway.

Why do otherwise polite people, those who would never consider cutting in front of you at Starbucks, or the movie ticket line, feel that their time is significantly more valuable than other drivers', so much so that they will scoot up a vanishing lane (marked by a huge blinking arrow) and depend on a more polite person to allow them to cut in, saving perhaps thirty or forty seconds?

Bonus question: Why does it disturb me so much?

Comments welcome.

Check back later for the reutrn of the muse.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inquiring Minds Want to Know

An occasional series of question that may well have no answer, or no reasonable or acceptable answer anyway. Feel free to comment please.

The one for today: why are nicotine and THC legally different, aside from the fact that they're legally different? Both are addictive, with a preferred delivery system that damages the lungs of the users. Yet one is banned and the other, merely regulated.

Go at it!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's Been a While

That would be my fault. Between the heat and laying a new patio and critiquing three manuscripts as the parts become available and of course working on two of my own stories, well, I sloughed off writing for the blog.

According to Kristen Lamb, that’s a sign of indecision, or lack of sticktoitivness (spell check doesn't like that one) or something equally obnoxious. I have no problem with that assessment; unfortunately, it seems perfectly reasonable.

However, just because the muse flittered away for her holiday in the midst of Boston's heat wave, and I’m having trouble deciphering her notes, those aren’t good excuses. For neglecting either the blog or the ending of Background Check. So I’m going to work at both those things.

For the patio, shown in progress,
we selected Belgard's Urbana 3 Piece in Sable. To finish will take another week, weather permitting, of digging, spreading the base, laying the stones and then ’grouting’ the joints. A little clean-up around the edges and on to restaining the deck. Never ends, right?

I am trying an experiment with Freedom Does Matter, hopefully to go live in the next couple of weeks. Based on a perceived lack of interest in Mercenaries: A Love Story which i’m attributing to a combination of the description and the cover, I sent a candidate description to an editor, and am awaiting his feedback. While waiting, i’m doing yet another read-thru for typos and excess words. We’ve already shown the cover (top right), so we’ll see what difference these make. With the editor’s permission, when we finish  I’ll post the exchanges and results for your edification.

As I implied above, Background Check is nearly complete. However, the last scenes are giving me a fit. Too slow, and not enough action for the closure. But rather than navel-gazing, I need to look at the run-up to the end, and just go ahead and finish it. Then revise as necessary!

Comments are always welcome. More to come.

Friday, May 17, 2013

CreateSpace: Why would you not?

While e-books are likely the wave of the future, many people I know have no interest in adding a Kindle or Nook or whatever to their electronic library. Some don't like e-books for what are to them, perfectly valid reasons. And some reserve their savvy for other than computer-based work. Probably, you have friends in one or more of those categories. And there are potential readers out there who also fit. Given the small amount of additional work needed to create paperback copies of your wonderful novel, doesn't it make sense to do so? No, I'm not acting as a shill for Amazon; it just seems like a no-brainer to me.

Of course, the decision is yours. I'm relating my experience to give you an idea about the effort needed to take a book already available in e-book format to CreateSpace. If you do it, and sell enough to clear the (low) royalty hurdle, congratulations! If not, at least you didn't close off the path.

I spent about ten hours over the past several weeks formatting and proofing Mercenaries; A Love Story for the print on demand service CreateSpace. Most of that time was spent on learning the (admittedly few) ropes needed to select a trim size - I based my selection on a survey of the paperback books in my library and the page count estimates from the processor. That was probably the most difficult task.

For printing, the things you need to choose are the trim size (the actual page size) of the book, the font and size of the interior text, and the line spacing. Assuming you are not planning a different edit for print, these are the major determiners of the page count, which drives the cost, and therefore the sell price.

I went back and forth a few times in making these choices for my book, and I plan to keep them for other books in the series, to keep them cosmetically the same.

I asked my wife, an avid reader,  for input on the font and size by printing a few pages in the same size and layout as the book in different fonts and sizes, and having her review them. Between us we selected Georgia in 10 pt for the font, with 1.1 x line spacing.

CreateSpace takes PDF files for the internal text. I created these directly from Scrivener, using their compile option to override the project page set-up with a specific one for pdf. Along with the page size, I set up the headers and footers as I wanted and ’pressed the button, Max!’ (Apologies to Dr. Fate.)

After a review of the resulting PDF file, I selected it in the internal file section of the CreateSpace process. It was then a matter of waiting until their review process ground its wheels. Any errors are flagged. The first time I tried this, I didn’t understand the requirement that the size of the pages in the PDF file had to match the page size selected in CreateSpace. I know, I know, it's obvious, right?

I fixed that in the Scrivener options by choosing the 6 x 9 page size with margins* to fit CreateSpace suggestions, and lo, my file came back error free!

I would note that while Scrivener makes the process of changing the page set-up easy, your own experience may vary. I believe that it would be as simple if using Word, but my experience with Word is several years old. I have been unable to accomplish this with Open Office, since they tie the page size to Styles, and I haven't ever figured out how to use Styles. My guess is that LibreOffice is the same as OO. To be fair, since Scrivener does the job, I've spent very little time on it.

Other choices affecting page count are requiring chapters to begin on "a recto page" (the right hand side), the font size of the Chapter headings and the padding used to lower the Chapter heading toward the center of the page. These, however, won't affect the page count by more than five percent, in my experience, if you make reasonable choices. Starting on a recto page will have the biggest effect; with optimal bad luck, it could amount to an extra page per chapter. Plan on half that.

Here are photos of the interior, showing a chapter opening, and a two page spread. Focus isn't too good, sorry.

The second hurdle was creating a table of contents. In the ebook version, I had entries only for  individual sections, but I wanted to add the chapters in the print version. This was more trouble, because of the various options for TOC creation in Scrivener, and rather than detail it here, if you need or want more detail on that, contact me.

The last item is the cover. Once you've chosen a trim size, it also defines the cover size, and therefore the requirements for the image. For the 6x9 trim size, the image you select must be 6.25" x 9.5" with a resolution of 300 DPI. Another requirement is that there be no useful information within a quarter-inch of the edge. This typically means the title and the author's name must be well within the finished printed area. Other trim sizes will have their own requirements, determined when you begin the process. You will select one of the templates that allow you to add your own cover image.

An Author photo is nice to include, but not required. The image should be 1.5" x 1.5", again with a 300 DPI resolution. I haven't checked, but this requirement probably fits all trim sizes.

You'll need the text for the back cover (the book description may be what you want), and if you choose, an author biography to go with the picture.

That's really about it. The CreateSpace process is dead easy to follow, and it gives you feedback at every step to keep you headed true.

Once everything's been approved, proof the result. I suggest you order the physical book at least once. When you receive it, make sure it's what you expect. Check the cover: front, back and spine. Check the front material to make sure you got the one for the printed version! Inside, make sure the chapter first pages look the way you want, including whether they start correctly, and have the font and size you expect. Make sure the padding is the same from chapter to chapter. Several places through the text, check the page numbers and the other header/footer text you added. Make sure it doesn't overrun the text.

Before finishing the process for Mercenaries, I did the same process for an editing copy of my WIP, Freedom Does Matter. For this copy, I printed it myself, on my overworked HP inkjet printer.

Because I didn't want to cut the sheets down, I bought a ream of legal paper and set Scrivener for a trim size of 7" x 8.5", half a sheet. I used Cheap Impostor to do the imposting (the re-ordering of pages into signatures). It makes a nice package... especially if a duplex printer is available. For Freedom, 292 pages the way I printed it, I had 73 sheets of paper (four pages per sheet) to fold, which took something over an hour.

Because my printer is not duplex, I first printed the even pages, then turned them over and printed the odd pages. For whatever reason, the HP printer doesn't pick up freshly printed pages as well as it does unprinted sheets; I had to help the printer pick up each of the sheets when printing the odd sheets. That added about an hour, so the marked-up copy in the photo required three plus hours to put together. You can tell that it is not glued--much better for editing.

I was glad I went through the exercise. Not only did I get a different format (making editing easier for me), I got additional experience in the process of making input files for CreateSpace.
If this seems like it would be useful to you, feel free to experiment. At the least, if you decide to have someone else do this work, I hope you'll have some insight into the work they will be doing for you. If you’d like more details on any part of the process, contact me. And as usual, comments are welcome!

*The inside margin (the left in Scrivener) is determined by the page count, to allow the text to be read when the book is bound. As the page count increases, so does the depth of the inside margin.

Photos of Freedom Does Matter editing copy:

Binder Clips. That's what they're for, right?
With the beat-up cover-don't mind where the cat licked!

Two piles of folded signatures. I did edit, see!

One of the signatures, open

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It's not ignoring you if I'm working... Right?

It's been a while since I posted anything here. If you've been waiting with bated breath, I apologize. I've been busy, not only with householdy kinds of tasks--as all us househusbands, and virtually all women, are aware--but some writing related ones as well.

I'm doing a couple of dedicated reader critiques for Critters, and another review for one of my beta readers, whose story is moving along with only a couple of minor adjustments needed... in my opinion! It's all my opinion!

In the past week, I've been working on formatting Becka Sutton's The Storm Child for e-book delivery. It's the second book in her series, The Dragon Wars, and like Land of Myth, the premier one, it reads well. I'll be able to recommend it... once I've delivered the files back to her and it's available. Watch her web site for news. Note, Land of Myth is available other places; check Becka's Books page for details.

I set a pretty low goal for the year, word count wise, 15Kwords per month, except 30K for April (Camp NaNo) and 50K for November (NaNoWriMo). That adds to 230K words. Even with that low target, I missed February and March. However, April went over enough to cover March's shortage.

The target for April was set to finish the first 'vomit' draft of Background Check. While I got just over 30k words into it, it's not quite finished, but the draft is at 108K words now, and I really thought I should be done at 100K. Oh well. Start at the beginning and write to the end. It will be what it will be. Or possibly, there's room to cut!

However, I set BC aside because one of my beta readers finally gave me the complaint that's bothered all the critters who've read Freedom No More--and that just before I built the ebook to send it to Amazon! Importantly, he used the words I needed to hear to recognize what the issue was. Since then, I've been rewriting the first arc of the story. It's certainly different; I hope people think it better.

He also thought it could do with more cutting. At 116K, I'm inclined to agree, but I'd taken 4 or 5Kwords out of it to get to 116. I've not checked it with the new first arc, but it doesn't feel any shorter.

The last thing--that I'm going to talk about, anyway--is that I finally got off my duff and used the CreateSpace account I'd set up almost a year ago to publish Mercnearies: A Love Story in paper. My 12Worlds friend Brian Drake blogged about his experience, and mine mirrored it. It is unbelievably easy! I'll do a separate post on the process, but this is the result:

Front and back. This version's available at both CreateSpace and Amazon.

Comments and questions are welcome.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Still, No Updates Missed

Becka Sutton has continued the unbroken string of twice weekly updates to her web-serial, Dragon Wars, with hundreds of updates to her excellent story. From her web site:
Dragon Wars: Young Adult Fantasy. Three British teenagers are dragged into another world to be warriors in its millennia long conflict with the dragons.  This ongoing Fantasy series will span several sub-genres.
She updates Friday and Monday at Dragon Wars.

She has been collecting the arcs of Dragon Wars in both e-book and physical form. The first in the series, Land of Myth, has been available since last summer, and the second, The Storm Child, is being prepared for a spring release.

I'm bragging on Becka's story and ethic because she's in the middle of an IndiGoGo Campaign to fund a portion of the pre-production costs. Click the link and check out the current status. As I write this, twenty-six days remain in the campaign. The perks are described along with the work to be funded; if you can, adding your two cents (or whatever) to the pot would be appreciated.

Disclaimer: While I'm happily doing the e-book formatting for the series, it is gratis, because I can. My interest is in helping Becka get the best version possible of her brilliant story in front of people.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Pricing, in Anticipation

I'm planning to publish Freedom Does Matter by February 20, so I've dropped the price of Mercenaries: A Love Story to $2.99.

The new price is active at Amazon (click the cover in the sidebar), Smashwords and Kobo. Through Smashwords, it's available at Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. A warning: B&N hasn't caught up to the price reduction as of January 22, '13.

I dropped the price of Book One, also. It's only available at Amazon (sidebar). If you purchase it and email me, I'll get you a discounted price on the whole book so you won't get stiffed on it if (as I hope!) you want to read it all.

I'm planning to have the third Beckie and Ian story, Background Check (unless I change the name) out before NaNo. We'll see how that goes. NaNo will be for the fourth and perhaps last volume in that series.

Comments welcome.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Some Catch-up

While I'm in the midst of editing Freedom Does Matter and working out a plot detail in Background Check that research proved isn't likely to happen the way I had written (damned research!) I thought I'd share some reviews that I've posted since the last time I did this. Again, these are in the order posted to Amazon.

Let It Snow by Red Tash and others

Let it Snow! Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule! (Christmas book 2012) is an interesting, not quite eclectic, group of ten stories in the spec fiction genre. If you're familiar with these authors, this will be a welcome visit to their worlds and characters at this special time of year. If they are new to you, these stories provide a mostly fun, sometimes touching introduction to the unique worlds these authors have created.

While to me these all fit well under the spec fiction umbrella, that's not to say that they are all similar; they are assuredly not. The common thread is the Holiday Season, as the Foreward begins:
"Happy holidays and welcome to our quaint little holiday collection of zombies, crazies, fairies and treasure-hunters (and more)!" And snow, because here in the northern hemisphere, Holiday Season comes with snow... or the thought of it. The quote should give you an idea of the breadth good spec fiction can encompass.

For me, I hadn't heard of any of these authors, and I was happy to have a chance to expand my experience. Of the ten stories, nine were what I'd hoped for in opening this file. While the tenth story fit the collection: a story in the author's world set at a holiday dinner party, it was out of my comfort zone. Even at that, I think, for readers familiar with the world it is set in, it will add to their understanding and answer questions so far unanswered.

In the other nine stories, the characters brought me into their authors' worlds, whether a landfill, a mental "hospital" (it seemed that insane asylum would be a more appropriate, though non-PC, nomenclature), a parking lot in Arizona or a research lab in Southern California, and made the experience wonderful. Add to those an egotistical, arrogant dragon; how can you go wrong?

I started the book and for the first couple of pages, I worried that I didn't know enough about the back story to enjoy the stories. By the time I read another four pages, that fear was gone; I was thoroughly into the Landfill in Laurents County. I read straight through the collection--I did take a break to get a glass of water--and was sorry when 100% showed up at the bottom of the window. I wish I had sufficient funds to buy everything these guys write; it is good, with brilliant characters and clear settings.

I read this both on the Kindle for Mac app, and on the Kindle. In the desktop app, the cover looks quite nice; on the greyscale Kindle, almost as good. In the copy I read, there were a few typos and such; I marked the ones I noticed and put them in an email. A pleasant response came back, along with a note that they had been corrected, so you won't have to worry about those! I would have liked the table of contents to have entries for each of the stories, rather than just the midpoint, but not enough to mark it down.

I recommend this collection heartily to those who have read one or more of the authors, and even more willingly to adult fans of spec fiction who want to find new worlds. Buy it, read it. You'll laugh, and you'll cry.

Five Stars

Youth by JE Medrick

I was a little unsure about Youth. The main character, Louise, is even older than I, so I was leery. If that's also you, rest assured that this is a well-paced, moving story, with conflict aplenty. Most but not all of the conflict is based in Louise's family relationships, with her husband, with her children and their relationships with her and, to a lesser extent, each other.

Don't be confused; this is Louise's story, and I found it heartbreaking, uplifting and probably more true to life than I'd like to imagine.

Other than being a love story, I'm unsure of the genre. It could be considered science-fiction, in that the necessary things could exist, though they don't yet. Or fantasy, if you believe they can't exist, have no scientific basis. Let's call it speculative fiction and say it is an excellent example.

Ms Medrick's descriptions are not lush; they are just right, not slowing the necessarily measured pace of the story, but providing sufficient clues that the reader's imagination can fill details in.

I won't spoil the conclusions. I'll just say that Medrick has enlivened the whole story with interleaved questions (I'm loath to call it a mystery), and the answers will hopefully surprise and please the reader. They did me.

I read Youth on a Kindle; there were a few formatting errors which did not take me out of the story. It's a small thing, but there is no table of contents. When I opened it on my Kindle for Mac, it was as good as the Kindle, except that the cover looked very good in color. However, on the Kindle, one chapter's formatting is quite difficult to read, and I've taken one star for that. In the desktop app, that same chapter is formatted the way I assume it was intended. Even with that problem on the Kindle, it is a wonderful read, and I recommend it highly.

Four Stars

The Puppet Master by Jessie Sturman-Coombs

This is the second book in the Poker Face Series, the first is Poker Face. Ms Sturman has created a little piece of her own world in a British setting, and the results are incredible. Unlike the first, this story plays more to Ruby's internal struggles, making it wildly different from the first one. I'm not sure what's left for Ruby to explore, though I'm sure Ms Sturman is!

This book has as much conflict as you could ever want in a thriller, legal or not. In The Puppet Master (Poker Face), there's little of the legal, but a boatload of conflict, almost all due to Ruby herself, though there are villains, more easily despised than dealt with, to spice up the mix. I found myself quite anxious through the middle of the book as Ruby, Danny and Alessi work through a major course correction for her, largely because I couldn't figure out how she would get through it. Also, I wondered what would happen next, since it was too early in the book for this to be anything but the appetizer.

The main course, so to speak, was fully satisfying, and relieved almost all my tensions, and the dessert was a wonderful strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whipped cream atop. You may substitute your own favorite; it will be as satisfying to you.

The cover by Ivan Waldock is great and helps tie the series together.

I read Puppet Master on my Kindle, where it was easy to read. Like Poker Face, there are British phrasings and word choices, hardly surprising given Ms Sturman's British heritage, but none of them were more than a small bump in the road, so to speak. There are some grammar issues, mostly missing commas, that may cause someone like me to notice them, but should not interfere with enjoying the story. I opened it using Kindle for Mac; it was fine there as well.

I recommend Puppet Master to any reader looking for an intriguing thriller. If you're looking at this after having read Poker Face, what are you waiting for? If you haven't read Poker Face, this story will still work, but references may not make as much sense, and the relationships will be murky, I think.

Five Stars

Of course, you don't need to take my word for it, read these yourself and come to your own opinion. But I hope these comments intrigue you enough to look at these and perhaps purchase them your self... or something else by these authors.

The links are for the Kindle editions; if you are not a Kindle person, have no fear, just drop a note in the comments section and I'll find an alternate option for you. Any other comments are welcome as well.