A Binge that Won’t Hurt Your Waistline – or Your Wallet

The Buffet opens today – the Booklovers’ Buffet, that is!

Nearly 100 authors of  Romance, Science Fiction and Fantasy, Historical Romance, Inspirational, Mystery, Suspense, Thrillers, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult fiction, and non-fiction team up to offer the Booklovers’ Buffet, the buffet where you can load up without gaining a pound! Even better, every ebook on the buffet is only $.99, so you can load up without hurting your wallet, either. A great way to find new (or new-to-you) authors! So stop by BookloversBuffet.com today and stock up!

If you’ve been thinking about giving Time’s Enemy a read, here’s your chance to do it on the cheap! Or, if you’re in the Dayton area, you can now check out the print version from Dayton Metro Library!

  • The sale price is for e-books – many are also available in print, at higher prices.
  • Most books are offered through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, so readers have a choice of retailers and formats.
  • The Buffet includes full-length novels, novellas, and short stories – most are novels.

This is a limited-time offer, so don’t wait too long!

Good Stories: “The Spelling Error” by Athena Grayson

I just finished re-reading another good short story: “The Spelling Error,” by Athena Grayson. Athena is a writer friend of mine, and “The Spelling Error” appeared in an anthology, Words of the Witches, several years ago.  It was as good last night as it was then!

What I really liked about “The Spelling Error” was how it breaks a stereotype held by many of us regarding people of pagan faiths. Many of us who grew up in conservative Christian homes probably have heard that pagans were “evil,” or at least, woo-woo new-agey types. While there may be some truth the later, the first couldn’t be further from it.

Lucy Dane is the 12-year-old daughter of a single dad – who also happens to practice pagan worship and the occasional bit of magick. So when her best friend blackmails her into casting a love spell for her, Lucy complies, even though her dad has warned her of the dangers of inexperience and magick, and forbidden its use until she’s older. For herself, Lucy wishes for someone to love her just the way she is.

Her dad, Paul, already does, which is why he’s determined to make his small coffee shop a success – or else Lucy will be sent to live with her grandparents. But things aren’t going so well, until business consultant Mira Taggart shows up to help Paul get his business on the right track. Things quickly heat up between them, and it’s up to Lucy to figure out if it’s the spell she miscast… or something more.

Rather than being the stereotypical expectation, Paul, Lucy, and Mira are well-drawn people so realistic it wouldn’t be a surprise to run into them at the grocery store, kids’ sports, or – of course! – at a coffee shop. Their values are the same as those practiced by those of more “mainstream” American faiths: family first, do no harm, and leave things as you found them – or better. Lucy’s point of view is exactly what we’d expect from an almost-thirteen-year-old who only wants to do what’s best for her friend and family, even if it means going behind Dad’s back.

As a side note, I designed the cover for Athena – a fun project, with the Egyptian influence! (Paul’s particular brand of paganism stems from ancient Egyptian deities and faith.)

If you’re looking for an entertaining and engaging way to spend a half hour or so, check out The Spelling Error! It’s available in e-book form from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords.

Read any good short stories lately? Let me know in the comments!

ROW80: Half Met, and a Good Book

I met half of my goals this week, and plan (hope) to hit the other two today. The fact that my husband is out hunting today helps. I love hunting season. 😀

Here’s a recap:

  • Edit Chapters 7 & 8 of my RIP (revision in progress) – Done
  • Format anthology for Kindle, for my copy editor – Done
  • Design book cover for my beta reader – halfway done
  • Critique a chapter for my critique partner – halfway done

The formatting threw me off the other two goals, as I’d forgotten several gotchas I encountered the last time I did formatting for Kindle (in August, with Time’s Enemy). This time I wrote up a cheat sheet, so I will have that to refer to, and next time formatting should go much more quickly! What annoys me the most is I am a technical person, I can write HTML in my sleep (literally!), and this stuff is supposed to be easy!

My editing was more a matter of getting to it – once I did that, it wasn’t that difficult.

The next few chapters of my RIP aren’t too badly wrecked, so hopefully they will go faster. I also want to get the first half of the book to betas, so they can get started. So this week’s goals are to get Chapters 9-11 marked up, which will be the first half of the book. Then I’ll need to do the type-in for all so far, and go over it a second time for style, typos, etc.

My copy editor’s book is a good one for this week! If you’d like a slightly-spooky read for Halloween, check out Ghostly Tales by Sheri L. McGathy. It’s also available at Smashwords, and will soon be on Barnes and Noble and Apple’s iBookstore.

If you’re a goal-setter, how did you do last week? And good luck this week!

Guest Blog: Jim Winter

First of all, thanks to Jim for joining us here, and helping to make the mundane magical! I’ve known Jim for a loooooong time – we met my freshman year in college, <cough> years ago, through a mutual friend. I served as an early sounding board for some of Jim’s early Star Trek fanfic (you knew I’d mention that, didn’t you?:)) and later, as a beta reader for his first efforts at publishing crime fiction. Jim returned the favor and gave me some good advice for Time’s Enemy, and assured me that, yes, Tony indeed thought and acted like a guy.

So let’s dig a little deeper, and take a look at what makes Jim – and his characters – tick:

Jim, you’ve been published before by a small press. Your novel, Northcoast Shakedown, was a crime fic piece that I really enjoyed, even though that’s not a genre I read a lot. Please share your publishing experience with us:

Well, when I signed, the publisher was full of energy, and everyone on the roster became everyone else’s cheerleader. There were some hiccups getting Northcoast out, but it was a fun ride. And at the time, I had some money to spend on travel, so I used that to beef up my networking and get to know authors and booksellers. That first year was fun.

The second year was not so fun, but when any business goes under, there’s no clean way to sever ties. It’s too bad, because I really thought they could do something or be a decent launchpad for a lot of the writers. I think that’s true of a lot of small presses when they overreach. I remember UglyTown did not go quietly, despite both the publishers’ and authors’ best efforts, and Point Blank just sort of faded away. But for a short time in the middle of the last decade, it was a wild ride.

There are two more books featuring Nick Kepler, the protagonist of NCS, both of which I also beta-read and really enjoyed. I remember reading Bad Religion at work during a slow period, and having to restrain myself from laughing out loud. IMO, these books deserve to see publication, and NCS deserves another chance. Now that you’ve gone indie, do you have any plans to (re)release them?

Northcoast will definitely be out later this year. Noir master Ken Bruen wrote me a very nice intro, and I found out it was sitting on a shelf he uses for quotes when he writes. So I was very touched by Ken’s intro. He’s been one of my mentors for years, and I have one project under wraps that will bear his name on the dedication page. I’m not saying which one.

The second book, aptly titled Second Hand Goods, is going to get a rewrite and a fresh edit. I’ve evolved as a writer, and since its collected cyberdust for the last five years, I can look at it a bit more objectively.

Bad Religion is just screaming for some fresh material based on my experiences since the early drafts. I’ll likely downplay Nick and Elaine somewhat to focus on some of the other characters.

Road Rules coverWhich brings me to your new release, Road Rules. This book has a history of its own, including snagging an agent’s interest. Can you share a bit of that with us?

The seeds of Road Rules have been around for some time. Tim Mason was the earliest. A mutual acquaintance of yours and mine introduced me to this weird coworker. I’d toyed with making him a lawyer in a standalone (picturing Seth Green in the part) and a thorn in Kepler’s side, a role eventually taken by the Eric Teasdale character.

A couple years later, my publisher and I kicked around the road trip idea. I wrote a short sketch about two guys in a stolen Cadillac trying to get to Miami. Tim Mason sort of attached himself to the story.

After I got orphaned, a few friends prodded me into doing NaNoWriMo in 2006. So I fleshed out the story, hit on the idea of the decadent, yet spiritual drug lord, Julian Franco as the cause of all this chaos, and boom! The story demanded to be written.

Road trip stories are always fun! I love your tagline, “The road to hell begins with a stolen car.” But what really pulled me in were the characters. Were there any particular events, places, things you saw/heard/read that inspired the overall premise of the book, its events, or any of the characters?

The route they took was once the “long way home” from Hilton Head, SC, over a few years last decade. And having visited Savannah a few times in the process left me longing to write something set in that city. I still wanted to write about Cleveland, where I-77 begins, so the setting fell together easily.

I saw a few shows on History about holy relics and one of those true crime things about the theft of one such relic. Put those together in a city with a large Slavic population and you get St. Jakob.

Mike is based on years of working in the insurance industry. Maybe too many years. And Cinnamon was part of my desire not to have a bunch of macho white guys hosing the freeway down with testosterone. Plus, instead of the angsty tarnished knight, she’s someone just trying to prove herself.

Back in May, you released your first indie title, a short story called “A Walk in the Rain” (also a good read). What made you decide to go indie?

Well, crime doesn’t really pay well. Of course, I’ve got a short story in West Coast Crime Wave coming out this month from Bstsllr.com, which I did get paid for, but the paying markets are few and far between. I decided to get paid for my short work. I also found out that 1.) It’s the cover, stupid (though content still rules), 2.) people don’t really buy a lot of short fiction on Amazon unless it’s a collection, and 3.) it might help if you actually market an ebook.

(Jennette: A Walk in the Rain is available at Amazon for $0.99.)

Now that you’ve tasted the control and flexibility that comes with indie publishing, are you still pursuing a traditional publishing contract, or perhaps another agent?

I think eventually, I’d like to go traditional, but only under certain circumstances. I’m in a position now where I don’t have to make this a career. So the terms have to be right, and I have to be able to keep control of material I’ve already published. But if the right deal can be worked out, sure, I’ll sign.

Are you planning to offer Road Rules in print?

If enough copies sell, I’ll put it on CreateSpace. If a publisher makes a sweet enough offer, I’ll seriously consider it.

Now that Road Rules is out, what’s next for Jim Winter?

Northcoast, as I said, will be coming out. And the other two Keplers will see revisions and fresh edits. Then there’s my “magnum opus,” which I’ve been reworking since the original draft checked in at 105,000 words.

 

Thanks again for being here, Jim! And to everyone else, Road Rules is a fantastic, fun read that you owe it to yourself to check out, even if you don’t normally read crime fiction. It’s a fast-paced caper that will keep you reading – and laughing – all the way from Ohio to Georgia, along with Mike, Stan, and Cinnamon. Road Rules is available in your choice of e-formats for a knockout price of $ .99 at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.

Jim keeps a fun, entertaining blog at http://eviljwinter.wordpress.com where he writes about books, publishing, sports, Cincinnati, technology, and whatever else strikes his fancy.

Anyone have questions for Jim? Feel free to ask, or just comment to say Hi!

Story: Does Size Matter?

I’m talking about word count, or length of a story. If you’re an author trying to sell to a traditional publisher, then yes, it matters quite a bit. Traditional publishers have guidelines, and most include a word-count range. Too short, and you’re not giving readers enough story for their money. Too long, and your book’s going to cost the publisher more to print and ship, and fewer will fit on the rack at the grocery store (or space allotted on a bookstore’s shelf).

image of books & ebook readerWith ebooks, printing, shipping and shelf space are no longer applicable. A longer book may take up a few more bytes of disk space, and a couple more seconds for the reader to download, but disk space is continually becoming cheaper, to the point that it’s negligible. With increasing bandwidth and cell phone network capacity and speeds, download speeds don’t matter so much either. Where most publishers of genre fiction hesitate to take on books much longer than 100,000 words (epic fantasy and historical fiction being the main exceptions), publishers and sellers of ebooks aren’t operating under the same constraints. Likewise, few readers will plunk down enough cash for it to be worthwhile for a publisher to print a single novella or short story, but with production and shipping not part of the equation, ebooks are a viable medium for short fiction. So does word count matter?

I say it does, but for different reasons. When a reader buys a book from a physical bookstore, s/he can pick it up, flip through the pages, and judge by the thickness of the book, the size of the print, and the amount of white space on the pages how long this book will take to read – or more importantly, how good an entertainment (or informational) value the book is for the asking price.

The reader has no way of telling this for ebooks, unless the online retailer or publisher includes it in the book’s product description. Often, a reader shops with a goal in mind – not necessarily of a specific book, but for something to read while waiting at the kids’ sports practice, or while walking on the treadmill, on vacation, etc. – and might want a story to fit the amount of time available to read. If the reader was expecting a novella she could read in an hour, only to find when the hour’s up that she’s only halfway through it, that could be a bit jarring. Or worse, when the reader’s looking to be entertained during a long flight, only to have the story run out halfway through it, with nothing new to read and no wifi/cell connection with which to download something else.

The main situation where this is a problem is when the reader feels s/he hasn’t gotten a good value for his/her money – for example, many readers consider $2.99 a fair price for a novella, but would feel ripped off if they expected a full novel or novella, only to get a short story a fraction. In fact, I’ve read of many an ebook author getting dinged with 1-star reviews for this very reason – the reader expected a full novel, but got a novella. Sadly, in some cases, this was clearly spelled out in the book’s description, and either the reader failed to notice, or didn’t even read the description. In other cases, it wasn’t noted – and IMO the reader is justified for feeling cheated.

So what do you think – does size matter with ebooks? Or does it only matter in relation to price and value? I normally prefer longer books, but lately I’ve been enjoying some darned good novellas while on the treadmill. What about you?

Good Stories: “Promises,” by Sheri McGathy

Promises coverI’ll admit it, I’m not a big fan of short stories, and I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if not for the fact that (disclosure) Sheri McGathy is my cousin. Or maybe I would have, if I saw past the length and read the book description:

Shay, a Blade Whisperer, has made a promise. A promise she is determined to keep, no matter the consequences or the pain that promise might cause. She has searched long, following the countless whispers of forgotten blades, until one quiet whisper reveals the blade she seeks. And now that she’s found the bewitched dagger, she must fulfill her promise to set her lover free…by killing him.

Kill her lover to keep her promise to him? I’m so there! A buck-fifty on Smashwords, and “Promises” is on my netbook, ready to keep me from getting bored on the treadmill.

Probably the main reason I’m not big on short stories is because I prefer longer works, that can pull me into a complex plot with well-drawn characters I have plenty of time to get to know and love. So often, there just isn’t room in a short story to dig deep enough, and the conflicts stay small out of necessity to fit the length. Worldbuilding is often sparse.

“Promises” proved to be a great exception. Although there isn’t room to really plumb the depths of the main character, a swordswoman named Shay, we do get a full sense of her motivation and what compels her to go places, and do things, few women would in her world. Her emotions are well-drawn, and we quickly care about her and want to see her succeed, while making a terrible choice. McGathy excels at worldbuilding – despite the short space, the reader can easily get a picture of her world that’s torn apart by magic and continues to decay. Background information is dropped into the story in small bits, just enough to build on that picture and enhance the experience.

Best of all, the conflict, while simple, is not small (see story description), and the end ties in nicely with the worldbuilding, its background, and Shay’s past.

As a bonus, the ebook download includes another short story: “The Gift,” a very short (almost flash fiction), sleeping-beauty-esque tale.

So if you’re looking for something to occupy twenty minutes or so, and you enjoy a good fantasy story, check out “Promises,” available on Smashwords and B&N, and coming to Amazon’s Kindle soon.

Do you like short stories, or do you prefer longer works? I read mostly romance novels, but when it comes to shorts, I find the format works better – for me, at least – for fantasy, mainstream, or crime fic. Do you enjoy reading some genres more than others in short form? And would you recommend any specific stories for my next workout?