Tag archive: short stories

White Metal

My short story, White Metal, took the cover of the Storyteller Magazine’s fall 2006 edition, but this is not that cover.  Because I can’t get the rights to the cover from Storyteller, even though it’s gone out of business, I had to do up my own cover.  It’s actually better.

I now have all six of the Sioux Rock Falls stories up on Amazon.  I’m working on two more shorts and I’ll launch the whole series as anthology in a couple of weeks.  What do you think of the title: Reckless in Sioux Rock?

At Ad Astra with the Stop Watch Gang

The Stop Watch Gang is a writers group that has already generated a lot of great published short stories.  I had a few beers with them last night at the Ad Astra SF convention and went to their reading , and I gotta say there’s a lot of talent in that group.

I’m betting there will be published novels from these writers in the near future.

But speaking of published: the second story I ever had published, Beer Truck, is now available for Kindle.  Take it for a spin, but keep in mind that the story is about people doing very dumb things, taking chances so huge that a Darwin Award is but one slippery grip away.  Don’t try this at home.

Railroaded with a New Cover

Railroaded tied for second in the 2005 Great Canadian story contest.  How three judges tied for their second place vote I’m not really sure, but hey, I’ll take it.

Why yellow for the titles?  Well red doesn’t reduce well to an Amazon thumbnail, so reading even the big title was a challenge.

I’m going out on a limb here, but I bet you’ll find that titles and author names in future books are going to get bigger and fatter as designers are ordered to create titles that look good both as full size and as thumbnails.

The title in red will be available for the Sony soon as e-pub, thanks to the open source software called Calibre.  On my Sony the red looks just fine, but hey, it’s being displayed full screen and gray scale.  I wonder what it looks like on a color Nook?

I promise to get that how-to menu item up there next week.  But for now: enjoy Railroaded.

Burning Moose

I’ve gone nuclear on my Microsoft Word document; I’ve loaded Mobipocket creator to the PC side of my MAC, since Mobi doesn’t make a MAC version.  Finally, I photoshopped  the spiffy new cover you see on the left.

Yup, I’m finally ready to re-launch my Sioux Rock Falls Short Story, Burning Moose.  This was the first of a series of stories that appeared in Storyteller Magazine between 2002 and 2006.

Yes, re-launch.  It’s been up there on Kindle for months, but friends and fellow authors who purchased it warned me that despite my best efforts, the formatting was corrupted.  There were no paragraph indents at all, which is really challenging when reading fiction.

This week I’m going to put up a detailed how-to menu item for those who want to e-publish well-formatted shorts or novels.  This may sound dull, but in the very crowded indie e-publishing industry, authors will need to stand out from the junk.  Just like with submissions to agents and publishers, the first thing that can get you tossed in the trash is a sloppily formatted story.

I certainly don’t want to lose sales because a reader checked out a sample on Kindle and then didn’t purchase my story because the formatting looked amateurish.

So enjoy the story!  Coming next: Railroaded, Beer Truck, Jumpin Jack, Fire Retardant and White Metal–the whole Sioux Rock Falls series.  I’m already working on a fake Sioux Rock Falls website, complete with ads for the True North Cafe, the Spin Cycle launderette and Elite Bar and Grill.

This is going to be fun!

Don’t Buy My Short Story — Yet

So I’ve been crushed by an old version of Microsoft Word.  I knew I had paragraph formatting issues with my short story, Burning Moose, when I first uploaded it for sale as an Amazon e-book, but I thought I’d solved the problem with the short story Railroaded by saving it as an .rtf and going back to a .doc before uploading.

It turns out that did nothing.  Railroaded was MS from 2004, the others–well, I think I wrote Burning Moose on a MAC SE that I bought used from CPused, a great store that has since gone under.  You get the idea.  Very old technology.

Luckily Smashwords has a 73 page manual on how to format your MS word document so that it will upload nicely as an e-book.   So here I go again.  I’ve uploaded a new version of Fire Retardant but it’ll take 24 hours to publish.  I’ll check it out when it’s up to make sure it’s good and then I’ll relaunch.

I’m pretty sure this is going to get easier to do as new programs are written to solve these little formatting issues.  In the meantime: at least I learned a lot about MS word today.

Rebecca Senese Seizes the Day

Rebecca Senese and I shared a strange place in the history of Storyteller Magazine before we even met. I’d finally snagged the cover of Storyteller in the winter 2006 edition after many attempts, so my mother proudly purchased a subscription for every member of the family, including my aunt.

Unfortunately, I had decided that for my story White Metal I’d let construction workers speak like construction workers.  The F-bomb fell more than a few times, and Storyteller chose to stick it right in one of the teaser lines.  My aunt, horrified by the profanity, refused to even read her nephew’s story and instead carried on to read the next story in the issue, Brother’s Under the Skin by Rebecca Senese.

It was like pouring gasoline on fire.  My aunt, the very committed Catholic anti-abortion activist, read a story about parents who clone their murdered son and try to relive his childhood through the clone.  Boom!

Terry Tyo, the owner of Storyteller, got a nasty phone call demanding that he cancel my aunt’s subscription and never send her a copy of his sick magazine again.  Terry was gun shy of controversial stories for months.  Between us, Rebecca and I had rocked Storyteller’s world.

Now Rebecca is out to rock your world.  She read my first post about planning to e-publish all my out of print short stories, but she ran where I walked.  I’m still trying to pull together the other stories, get them up with Smashwords for the Sony and Nook, and put together my anthology.  But in the last two months, while I was off in another world, Rebecca’s done it.

I’d better hurry.  A year ago I was in the middle of the e-book revolution, now I’m playing catch up.  So watch here for more announcements and e-publishing.  First my Storyteller stories, then my contest winners, then my novel and then…write till I die.  I finally have a market, however humble.  It’s there for the bold.

I Saw the Future — Yesterday

I chose physics as my major in university because it was my best subject in high school thanks to an excellent teacher, it seemed like an interesting field of study and I wanted to be a science fiction author and I thought it would help.

But by the time I graduated with a specialist in geophysics, I had stopped reading SF and was more interested in geo-politics than geophysics.

I think what turned me off SF was that as the moon launches faded and the baby boomers realized that they weren’t going to go to space, SF went distant, very distant.  Novels like Dune took us eons into the future and our planet had nothing to do with it anymore.  I loved Dune, but I missed the immediacy of Heinlein and the sense that this was all going to happen and very soon.

So I watched with fascination yesterday as history imitated fiction.  Elon Musk is the real life version of Heinlein’s D.D. Harriman, the fictional entrepreneur who started a rocket program to get people cheaply into orbit, not just to make money, but because he believed it was humanity’s destiny to go forth from this planet and explore.

Yesterday Musk’s company, SpaceX, became the first private company to launch a space capsule into orbit and return it safely to Earth, a feat previously accomplished only by countries, not companies.  Better yet, SpaceX intends to human rate their Dragon capsule.  Musk’s stated intention is to provide cheap access to space for anyone.

He’s the absolute opposite of the evil Hollywood capitalist.  He took the billion he made from Paypal to start a company to build electric cars and sunk everything else into SpaceX.  He wants to do things to make life better for humans, and he wants to make money doing it.  What a great combination!

So maybe I will write some sci-fi again one day, but my characters will be riding to space on SpaceX’s Falcon rockets, and they won’t be traveling through worm holes, or black holes.  I suspect I’ll be accused of having little imagination, but what I really see is the future.  I saw it yesterday.

The Politics of Writers Groups

Writers are human beings, so unfortunately when three or more are gathered together they will break into at least two factions.  I know this because I belonged to a writers group for a few years.

It was an exciting time.  Most of the group were younger than me and eager, and all of them were good writers.  We shared successes and failures, brutally honest critiques, and we even encouraged one another to compete in the same short story contests.  We became friends, attended weddings, and went on road trips to parties and conferences.

Then one day the fun ended.  I was pulled aside by one member and gently informed that a clique had decided that another member should be evicted from the group.  He wasn’t writing enough.  Someone didn’t like his critiques.  His worst crime seemed to be that he nodded off to sleep a couple of times during an excessively long critique (not of his story.)

This left me in a quandary.  I had nearly fallen asleep a couple of times myself during that critique, but apparently I had been better at hiding it.  Would I be the next writer forced to walk the plank?

I suggested a better solution would be to limit the length of critiques to five minutes.  Only a few weeks before, one member had a valid complaint about one technical point in my story, but she went on about it for twenty minutes.  I had it solved in my head in two minutes, but the rules of our group were that I had to keep my mouth shut until she was done.  Surely a time limit would solve everything.

Nope.  Unlimited critique lengths were required.

Now I could have polled the other members of the group and put it to a vote.  I could have approached one or another member, using backroom politics to get my way, sort of what I saw going on already.  Instead I resigned from the group.  If I want politics I’ll pick up a paper.

It’s been years, but I miss my writers group.  We bonded over a common cause, shared the same dreams, and they understood me better than many of my university friends.  Most of us are still friends, of course, but its not the same as meeting once a month, bracing yourself for the round of criticism that will be unleashed on you in the politest manner.  I even miss the dreaded “but”  as in, “This was a great story, but…”

So I have to ask myself: would I join another writers group?  I think there is always more to learn, but I’ve never been much of a group person.  Even traveling I developed a preference early in my adulthood of venturing to very strange places by myself.  I’m not a loner, but I’m not a team player.  I like running, but not runners groups.  I like writing, and for a time I liked my writers group.

Perhaps that’s it.  Start a writers group with an expiration date, say one year.  Just enough time to get to know one another but not enough time for factions to develop.

After all, we’re only human.

You Don’t Need A Kindle To Buy E-books

Amazon’s Kindle e-readers may cost you some bucks, but the Kindle reader software is free to download onto your computer.  So you can start reading e-books without buying the Kindle, dipping your toe into the e-reading water at no cost.

I  had trouble finding the link for the free download, but it’s here.  I got there through Kindle, e-books, Kindle Support.  The great thing is you can get it for your Mac, PC, Blackberry, i-phone or any smart phone with Google’s Android operating system.

Besides the obvious advantage that you can immediately purchase and read my short stories Railroaded or Burning Moose, it also means you can buy any book you want to read  on your computer or mobile device.

But free stuff is why I prefer the Kindle over the Sony e-reader.  Amazon has put up a bunch of content for your reading pleasure that won’t cost you a dime.  Never got around to reading the original Sherlock Holmes short stories?  Now you can.

Worried about losing your book if your computer crashes?  No problem.  Once you buy it, the book goes onto your bookshelf in your Amazon account so that you can recover it for free.

So download that free Kindle software.  Save some trees.  Buy my short stories.  Make me rich!  Actually, at 99 cents per story, it’s more like contributing to a cup of coffee.  But thanks!

H/t to Kim for pointing out that I’d never explained how to buy my stuff.  I’m going to make a new menu item for this tip.

Record Sales Numbers

I’ve been carrying out an internet experiment over the last month.  I put two short stories up for sale on Amazon for Kindle downloads and waited to see how many random purchases might occur.  The results were pretty much what you’d expect: none.

Oh, the Amazon sales report says that I’ve sold two copies of each, but that’s just me testing out two different platforms to see how the formatting carries through.  Somehow that has netted me $1.40 US hard cash in royalties.  Yippee!  That only cost me $4.00 to acquire.

Since I’ve never sold anything before I guess I can call this a record for sales of my shorts, at least the electronic version.  I have no idea what Storyteller Magazine’s sales figures were like back when these stories were first published.

The lesson I take from this is that the internet is very crowded, and if you’re just standing back in a corner waiting to be discovered–well, you’d have a better chance of being noticed in a football stadium at the Super Bowl with two minutes left in a tie game and a field goal in the offing.

So now to part two of the plan: e-pub the rest of the Sioux Rock Falls short stories, add some new ones that have never been published and package it into an anthology.  Then I’ll put that up for sale and the true test begins: marketing.

Now I wouldn’t risk an anthology if we were talking about traditional publishing.  An author once warned me that the big book chains have programs that check the sales of your previous book before ordering your most recent.  So if you only sold five per store at the chain last time, they’ll only order five per store this time, and unless they get repeated requests they won’t reorder.  Bummer.  An author can’t break out unless, like Yann Martel, you win the Mann Booker prize for your second novel.

The problem with anthologies is they don’t sell well–see my previous post about short stories for my theory as to why–so by putting out an anthology you risk killing the sales of your NEXT book.

But e-publishing gets around that.  No sales record at the big chains to worry about.

So let’s see if I can set a new sales record!