boundless

A sadistic serial killer. A young girl. A quick read. The flash fiction story boundless is now free.

Repetition

The horror novelette Repetition is now available.

Introducing Derrick and Max

This is from the first illustration I did for the first Derrick and Max book. Derrick the Dog was released June, 2013.

My first ArtRage drawing

This was the first original drawing I completed with my Wacom Bamboo tablet and ArtRage, done almost entirely in pencil. Just a little practice drawing, not related to any of the stories I'm working on.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions

2015 is almost in the bag.  This year has flown by for me.  However, most of the reason it flew by was because of the day job.  While there was a welcome promotion in January, my old position wasn't backfilled, so many of those duties followed me.  Then, one of my direct reports left, and I was back to doing my old job, plus his, plus the new job.  Eventually, the direct's position got filled.  I spent a couple of months training him, and then it was right into a big Office 365 migration.  All that has meant much unpaid overtime and little time and energy left to illustrate and write.  I only managed, not counting this piece, to squeeze out 12,649 words so far this year (as I write this, it's 12/09/2015) and 4 full-color illustrations.  Very sad.
English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards
English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
No, actually, that's not the way I want to look at it.  Despite everything that interfered with writing and drawing this year, I still managed to crank out almost 13,000 words.  I completed 4 illustrations and immediately jumped into a fifth, which means I'm roughly half-way done with the 2nd Derrick and Max book (and to be fair, it has probably double the number of illustrations of the 1st one).  I put out 2 new pieces of flash fiction and 7 blog posts on this site.  My Twitter followers count exceeded 1,000 for the first time this year.  That's 2 stories, 7 posts, and over 12,000 words that I produced that wouldn't have happened if I hadn't tried.  Hell yeah!  It wasn't a fail because I didn't hit the goals I set for myself; it's a success because I produced that much art, way more than most people I know.
All of which is a slow build to talking about my New Year's resolutions.  I don't typically make New Year's resolutions, mostly because I know most of them won't stick.  But I think this year I will.  So, in no particular order, let's hit it.

Read a bunch of books

This one's easy, because if there's one thing I like more than writing, it's reading.  I'm also going to try to keep a healthy mix of fiction and non-fiction in my reading list.  I've set a goal for myself in Goodreads for the past few years, and I'm going to do it again.  Speaking of which, I love Goodreads.  It's neck and neck with Twitter as my favorite social network.  In fact, if we haven't already, we should connect on Goodreads.  If we already did, and I ignored you, sorry about that.  I've not had much time for social media this year.  I'm going to try to do better this next year, but still not great because I should be writing or illustrating rather than spending too much time on social media.  Only so many hours in a day, you know, what are you going to do?

Lose some weight

Before I started working full-time in IT, the most I'd ever weighed was about 170-175 pounds.  Now, I'm between 220 and 230.  Very sad.  Last fall before Miranda's dad passed away and everything went to hell, we'd switched over to a mostly Paleo diet, and I'd gotten down to between 205 & 210 and was still dropping weight.  All my bloodwork was coming back good.  We need to get back there.  Neither IT work nor writing and illustrating are particularly good calorie burners, but we can certainly make healthier choices about what we put in our bodies.  We're planning to do a juice reboot over the winter break to jumpstart us back onto Paleo.  Wish us luck.*   

Master my email

I've implemented the Total Workday Control with Microsoft Outlook system at work.  It's been great and has saved me so much time and lost productivity.  I highly recommend you check it out.  I don't have quite the same situation in my writing/illustrating job:  no deadlines, no particular order things need to be completed (other than the natural flow an individual project moves through).  I'm still going to take some of the things I learned in that book, though, and see if I can't do a better job with my gmail, but probably sticking with Google Tasks since that already works for my workflow and with the excellent Rainlendar Pro on my desktops and GTasks on my Android devices.

Write and draw more

It's too easy to say that I'll do it later.  Before my father-in-law passed away and before the crazy work schedule at my day job, I was very disciplined about getting up at 5 AM, working for 30 to 45 minutes, and then getting ready for work.  I'm going to get back there.  No excuses.  I feel better and less guilty when I've done my work for the day. 
I'm also going to try to be more vigilant about using my Surface Pro 2 (a promotion present from my excellent wife) in the evenings when we sit to watch TV or read.  I've discovered that I don't do well working out the rough stages of an illustration on it because the screen's too small, but the portability of it is awesome.  So, I'm going to make sure I'm doing my roughs on the desktop PC with the big screen and Bamboo tablet in the early mornings, and then I can do the inks and colors on the Surface.

Finish what I start

I supposed everyone does this to some extent.  You lose steam as the story progresses, or you get stuck at a certain point, or you get tempted by some shiny new story idea.  I'm terrible about wanting to edit as I go along instead of getting the first draft out as quickly as I can.  Then, I get mired down and I lose my grip on the story.  No editing as I write the 1st draft this coming year!  I have a handful of stories in various stages of completion.  I need to plow through them, even if it turns out that I write crap to get through the sticking points.  I can always edit out the crap later after the story's done.
I do something similar with illustration work.  If I can't clearly see in my mind what an illustration should look like, I tend to get stuck.  I either don't want to pick up the work or I spend an enormous amount of time working out what should be there.  I tend to work through them in chronological order, but since the story's already written, it doesn't really matter the order in which the illustrations are completed.  I think I'm going to skip over the ones that I don't have a solid grasp of what they should look like to work on the ones that I do.  Maybe something in the later illustrations will inspire the missing ones.  If not, I'll just forge through what's left with their multitude of drafts until I get something workable.

I could probably go on, but I think 5 is a good number.  I hope everyone has a good holiday season.  May 2016 be a happy, productive, and blessed year for you.  If you have some inspiring resolutions, or thoughts on mine, please consider sharing below.  Until next time, peace!



* A quick note about eating Paleo.  It's not a diet; it's more a change in the way you eat and approach food.  I thought it was total BS when I first heard about it, and reading some of the message boards, I thought those people were crazy.  It totally flew in the face of everything I'd been taught about nutrition and the food pyramid.  Then, a couple of things happened.  My doctor told me what I should be eating was totally different than what I'd been taught.  When I went looking for a "diet" that corresponded to what he'd said, I rediscovered Paleo.  This time, I also found this great article at Nerd Fitness, which made a lot of sense.  Then, a guy at work told me about Paleo Plan.  We looked into it and discussed it.  The wife was on-board, so we started the Paleo Plan.  Once we got past the detox stage (I had the headaches and weird cravings; she had the flu-like symptoms and the cravings), we felt so much better and the weight started falling off.  Seriously, if you're overweight or on a bunch of medications, read the Nerd Fitness article, discuss it with your medical professional, and if he or she's on-board, get the free trial from Paleo Plan (read the comments on the recipe pages because sometimes their recipes are a bit off).  Try it for 30 days.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how much better you feel and how much better your numbers are.  Plus, it's kind of fun to watch the expression on cashiers' faces when they see all that produce they have to manually weigh and enter.  And in case you're curious, no, I don't have any relationship with Nerd Fitness or Paleo Plan except as a consumer, and I've been neither asked nor compensated to recommend them.  I just like them and so I am.  Actually, that's true of everything I've mentioned in here.  The only "compensation" would be if you followed the Amazon links and bought something, I’d get a small affiliate fee from Amazon.  It doesn’t change what you pay, but it helps pay for the upkeep of this site.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Easy Epubs with Scrivener & Sigil, Part 1

I make my own epubs because I like having control over the final product, I don’t find it terribly difficult or time-consuming to do, and I can update it whenever I want.  However, I find myself forgetting which settings to choose between sessions, so I thought it would be best if I wrote out the directions.  Thinking it might be useful for someone else, I thought I’d post it here.  If it’s useful to you, good deal.  If not, well at least the price is right.  Winking smile

 

Background:

I’m using Scrivener 1.x on Windows and Sigil 0.7.x.  Sigil is free.  Scrivener is not, but it’s well the worth the money, in my opinion.  If your time is worth anything, it’s worth moving up to Scrivener. 
To complete this guide, you should have a basic understanding of html or be willing to learn.  If that’s not you, then you should skip all this and hire a formatter.
The Windows version of Scrivener doesn’t quite have all the bells and whistles that the Mac version has.  For instance, in the Mac version, you can just point to where you have your front matter stored.  In Windows, we need to drag it into place.  Mac users may find some value here, but this is written for Windows users.

 

Introduction:

You’ve written your masterpiece, edited it to within an inch of its life, and are ready to send your file out into the big, bright world (or cold, cruel world, for the cynical types).  Depending on where you want to send it, you’ll probably need 2 files:  a Word file for Smashwords and potentially for your POD printer (although if you want to go hardcore, you’ll send the POD folks a pdf made from InDesign; that’s what I did with the paper version of Derrick the Dog), and an epub for just about everybody else (even Amazon’s KDP will accept a good epub, so you don’t need to bother with a mobi file; I’ve not yet seen any problems with their conversion).  I’m not going to talk about Word here.  There are plenty of good templates out there and Smashwords has its own easy-to-follow guide.  I’m going to talk about producing a fair- to good-looking epub with a minimum amount of time and effort.  For this tutorial, I’m going to use my novelette Repetition.

 

Scrivener setup:

Here’s the setup of Repetition:
scriv-1
You can arrange your files and folders in any way that makes sense to you.  I chose to separate out my front and back matter from the rest of the text to make it easier for me to see.
You’ll note down under Research, I have a separate front/back matter folder.  This is where I can keep track of the different versions of my copyright page and, if there was going to be a print version, my newsletter page (I use different links/QR codes depending on the format so I know where users come from).  Then, I just drag the one I want up into the story when I’m ready to compile and drag the other out.
I also keep an orphaned scenes folder.  For the most part, I tend to write linearly, but sometimes I have a really strong idea for a scene and want to get it down.  I can stick it in here and then worry about where to put it later.  Alternately, if I don’t like a scene, I’ll stick the older version here and rewrite (if it’s just an edit, I use the snapshots feature).  That way, it’s always accessible to me later on.  In the case of Repetition, I had the idea to put a couple of these scenes that didn’t make the final cut at the end of the book.
Besides all that, I have the standard places to store my character and location sheets.  I didn’t do much with those here, as it’s pretty short.  I make more extensive use of the feature in longer works with more characters to help ensure I don’t forget details and have to go hunting through the text.
The point is, you can set this up in whatever way makes the most sense to you.  It won’t matter once we get into the business of compiling for epub, as I’m about to show.
One final note, I don’t get fancy with fonts, sizes, alignment, etc. in Scrivener.  I make sure my text is bolded or italicized where I want it, but that’s about it.




The compile screen:

image

Contents:

Here’s the first compile screen for an epub.  Notice there aren’t too many options on the Windows version.  That’s OK.  We have what we need.
This is what I was talking about with not worrying about the structure.  If we don’t want something to compile, like the folder names, we just uncheck Include and poof, they’re gone from the epub.
I start out with the Format As: E-book.  Once you change something, it will change to Custom.  Once you get it exactly the way you want, you can save it as a Preset.  I don’t, because chances are I’ll want to review each time to make sure it’s the way I want it to be, but it can speed things up if you’re consistent about your setup in Scrivener.

Separators:

image This defaults to Empty Line, Empty Line, Empty Line, and Page Break.  Look at your original setup.  I want page breaks between each of my scenes, as they’re each a chapter so I set mine to Page Break all the way down.  Yours may not be, though.  You may have multiple scenes per chapter.  If so, pick which works best for you.  The good news is, if you don’t go up and change the Format As and save before exiting the compile window, it will remember how you’ve set it for this book so you don’t have to start over again every time you want to recompile.

Cover:

image
To get your cover art in, you should place it somewhere in Scrivener.  I stick mine under Research.  Presumably, you could put it elsewhere.  Once you select it, it will fill that window and look awful.  That’s just a preview thing, though.  It still has its original dimensions when you compile it.

Formatting:

image
Here’s where you can really get in and make things fancy.  And where you can get in and screw things up.  I have not spent a great deal of time playing with this section, preferring to do my tweaking in Sigil.  If you want to see some of the power, you should check out Ed Ditto’s book.  In it, he talks about page padding, which you can get to by clicking the Modify button.  I do not recommend using page padding within Scrivener.  It produces ugly code, which I’ll show when we get to the epub in Sigil.

Transformations:

scrivener-transformations
I mostly just go with the defaults here.  Epubs should be able to handle ellipses, italics, and the like.  If I was using different colored text, I would have wanted to uncheck the Remove text color box, but I wasn’t.  By checking the box, I make sure that no unintended text color changes get introduced into my epub file.

Replacements:

My replacements screen is blank, so I’ll not add a screenshot here.  If for whatever reasons you wanted to define words and phrases that should be replaced in the text during compile, you can do that on this screen.

Footnotes/Comments:

scrivener-footnotesScrivener lets you insert notes to yourself as comments and annotations.  Unless perhaps you were sending this out to an editor, you likely don’t want those in your final epub, so you’ll want to check them.  If you were using footnotes in a similar way, you might also want to remove them.  I’m not using them, so no need to uncheck the box.

Meta-Data:scrivener-metadata

Here, I’m switching to the flash fiction story Pink, since I hadn’t set this up for Repetition.  Here’s the behind the scenes details.  This is where you can put in the credits:  the author, contributors, subject, descriptions, publisher, and rights.  This will then get built into the epub file and you’ll be able to see, and later edit if necessary, in the final epub file.  This stuff shows up if you import the file into Calibre.

Once you have everything set to your liking, you probably want to save your own preset so the next time, you only have to tweak things like the meta-data.  When it all looks good, click the Compile button, pick your file name, and you now have a pretty good epub file.  But we’re going to use Sigil to make it even better, which we’ll talk about next time.  If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review Etiquette for Authors

I’ve been thinking about book reviews lately.  I use them when I’m deciding whether a book might be worth my time (along with the description, genre, etc.).  I’ve even written some.  Now I find myself on the receiving end of book reviews.  So, what’s an author to do about reviews of his or her books?
English: Open book icon
English: Open book icon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That’s kind of an important question.  Pick any random book from your favorite online bookstore.  See those reviews?  Except for the ones who have but a few or the sad ones without any, those reviews and ratings run the gamut.  Some readers love the book, some hate it, some more are indifferent.  And that’s ok.  In fact, in time, I hope to have enough to run the gamut myself.  How’s that saying go?  You can’t please everyone all the time, etc., etc.  I’ve yet to find a widely read book that was beloved by everyone.  Even some classics.

So, again, what’s an author to do?  I’ve got some ideas.
  1. I’m not going to read the reviews of my books.  Well, not all of them anyway.  Perhaps the ones that have been voted up as the most useful.  And I always need a few positive ones to put on my Library page, so I have to look at the first few of those at a minimum.  Is this blasphemy?  I don’t actually think so.  Here’s why:
    1. I don’t think reviews are actually meant for the author.  I think book reviews are meant for other readers.  That’s how I tend to write a review.  That’s how most of the reviews I’ve seen read.  I think if someone really wants to give me feedback, personally, they’ll seek me out.  I would. 
    2. Keeping up with reviews can be a time suck.  With everything else we need to do, do we really need to waste time searching out and poring over reviews?  What’s to be gained from that?
    3. What’s the benefit?  Or to put it another way, how’s your ego?  Do you require the good reviews to motivate you to write?  Can you take the abuse from the haters?  The apathetic? 
    4. Would it change anything?  I know when I hit publish that I’ve done the best job I can reasonably do in a respectable amount of time.  It’s passed by multiple pairs of eyes and has gone through multiple edits.  At that point, it is what it is, and I’m not going to do a complete overhaul of it or destroy it entirely; someone somewhere might like it.  I might tinker with it, fixing little problems that are found, but that’s about it.  Are reviews likely to be so granular as to point out the specific items that need fixing?  Maybe.  How much time do I want to invest going through those to find the pearls?
  2. I’m not going to respond to my reviews.  Not on a bookstore’s site anyway.  That could be awkward for the reviewer.  Now, if it was positive and on a blog, Facebook, etc., I could see maybe saying thanks.  Those are social. I think that would be acceptable.  What about less than stellar reviews?  No.  Never.  That is a guaranteed loss situation.   It doesn’t matter if the reviewer is an idiot (actually, never argue with an idiot; that is always a losing proposition).  It doesn’t matter how clearly and cleverly you support your stance.  You will not come out on top.  It’s art.  Not everyone will like or get your art.  Accept it and move on.
  3. When I write reviews, I keep in mind the old adage about glass houses.  Or maybe that whole do unto others as you’d have them do unto you fits better here.  I’ve come up with my own reviewing policy on my Misc page.  It takes a lot of effort and time to write a book.  Why would I want to spread bad karma around by trashing my peers.  Better to remember if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.
And that’s about it.  Short, sweet, and simple.  Plus, I’m running out of clich├ęs.  Smile 

It’s not complicated.  Leave the reviewers alone.  Be nice*.  Be honest.  If you can’t do both, then be quiet.  Think how much better the Internet as a whole would be if everybody stuck to those?

*Nice doesn’t mean sugar-coating everything.  It’s great when it’s positive, but it can be negative.  Then it’s constructive criticism versus destructive criticism.  It’s choosing words carefully to help instead of hurt.  Hopefully, you get the idea.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

DIY Book Covers Review

I am a diy’er:  auto maintenance, home repair, lawn care.  I even built my own desk and bookshelves for my office.  And when it came to my writing career, I planned to do as much of it as I could on my own.  Of course, the conventional wisdom is that you need an editor, and I lucked out early on with finding Victoria.  I did my own formatting and was happy enough with how that came out.  I then tried to make my own book cover.  It was bad.  I mean, it was embarrassing, so much so that I destroyed it without having shown it to anyone.  Thus, I resigned myself to finding a cover designer.  And after some trial and error and a lot of time looking at portfolios, I stumbled across Karri, and I’m very glad I did.  Here’s the cover she made for Repetition:

Suffice it to say, I’m quite happy with my editing and cover design team.

Recently, I’ve been dabbling in shorter works, too short in my opinion to charge for.  I’d originally planned to save them up for a collection, but thought it might be valuable to give them away by themselves, like free samples at the grocery store.  For such short works that I’m giving away, I couldn’t really justify the time or cost of passing these by my team.  With the help of my beta readers, I’ve worked through the editing as best I can.  But I still had to have a cover.  For my first piece of flash fiction, I ran Of Christmases Past by the good folks at Fiverr and got back this:

 

Not too shabby for $5.  It got me thinking, though, “I can draw, arguably so anyway.  Why can’t I design something fairly simple like this?”  So, I went on a search for templates, info, advice, whatever I could find.  Along the way, I stumbled upon DIY Book Covers.  I am so glad that I did.

I got access to DIY Book Covers last year when it was centered around Microsoft Word templates.  I wanted to get a couple of covers under my belt, see if I could do it, before writing this review.  Since then, Derek has expanded the offering to include an online designer and additional templates for it.  I’ve not had a chance to play with those, but I’m so pleased with just the original offerings, that I’d recommend it based solely on those.  Plus, if I wait to write this until I’ve tested the new features, I may never get this done.  So, let’s talk about the offerings sans the online designer.

At the time I got the Word templates package, the cost was $87.  Just for what it came with last Fall, it’s a steal.  And at the time of this writing, he’s still offering all that plus the new stuff for the same price.  For less than $100, I got:

  • 150 Word templates
  • full-print cover templates
  • templates for business cards, bookmarks, etc.
  • a handful of useful and informative books written by Derek
  • lists of genre-appropriate fonts
  • instructions
  • design guides
  • interior layout templates

This is more than just a collection of high-quality templates.  And they are high-quality:  Derek is a highly sought out cover designer; his stuff looks incredible.  The real value is in the knowledge that he imparts:  how to design a quality cover.  He talks about color theory and where to get stock photographs.  There’s even a sample cover that he walks you through on the creation process from start to finish, and you can see how he adjusts and tweaks the design as he goes along, all while using a tool that most of us have in our tool belt:  Microsoft Word.  With DIY Book Covers, you won’t have to delve into the complexity (or cost) of Photoshop to get a good-looking cover.

Examples

I set to work going through all the tutorials and reading the books he includes.  Using Word 2010, his templates, and the knowledge he imparts, I was able to create the covers shown below on my own at zero cost (I used public domain pictures and free fonts).  First, is the template I worked from through to the end product.

sleep

 

I kept it real simple on Sleep, same fonts and colors as the template.  I just swapped out the background image, played a little with visual effects, moved text around a bit, and did a color wash.  If I had it to do again, I’d play more with the font and positioning of the title, maybe put it on a little off kilter or at an angle to coincide with the fan blades.

pink

For Pink, I changed up quite a bit from the source.  I swapped out fonts, going for a more genre specific one for the title.  I again played with font positioning and added a color wash and a little bit of texture.  On retrospect, I should have made the title larger.  I also don’t love the font for this cover.  I wish I had the skills to make the title ripple with the water, but I’m not there (and rather doubt I could achieve that in Word, anyway).

boundless

For the third go around, I used a texture image from deviantART (not public domain but the artist allows free use of this texture) for the cover of Boundless.  I liked the texture so well, I decided to use it as is.  I really like the way this one came together and think it’s the strongest cover of the three.  Maybe I’m getting better.  I felt like the title font really lent itself well to all lower-case, so that’s the way this went, and it’s a nice contrast to the all caps of the author name.  The guy’s face actually blended really well into the image, and I almost kept it, but then it made the whole thing feel off a bit, with everything else nicely centered.  In the end, I dropped it.

It feels really well balanced.  At least I hope it is.  The only way I’ve found to center things in these templates is by eye.  Perhaps if I spent a bit more time with positioning of the text boxes and pulling them out to the edges, that might prove to more exact.

Update:  Since I published Boundless, it’s moved far faster than anything else I’ve put out there.  It took a couple of months to move as many copies of Pink as I did in just a few days with Boundless.  Since none of my descriptions for the flash fictions stories are particularly earth-shaking, I have to give credit to the cover.  It even got a review on the day of release, far sooner than with any other title.  Yay for good covers!

Summary

This is a fantastic package.  The templates themselves are great but the extras are what really make this valuable.  Instead of just giving you a bunch of templates you can modify, Derek teaches you how to design a quality cover and then provides a lot of great starting points with his templates.  I can see a progression of improvement in the covers I’ve created.  I think the DIY Book Covers would make a great starting off point for someone who wants to design their own covers with software they likely already own.  It might even be all you ever need, but I could see this serving as a launching point to teach someone the skills and give the experience to move onto more advanced tools, like Photoshop or Gimp, and really take it to a level beyond what Word can do.  However, even if someone doesn’t get that far, Derek has shown that with the right knowhow, someone can make a damn fine cover using nothing more than a tool like Word.

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Precious

Recently, I received a welcome promotion at the ol’ day job.  Shortly thereafter, the following dramatized, condensed conversation between me and my wonderful, beautiful, understanding wife took place:



Miranda looked at me with big eyes and said, “Congratulations, Brian!  You’re awesome!”

WELCOME TO Microsoft®
WELCOME TO Microsoft® (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Twirling my equally awesome, albeit imaginary, mustache, I replied, “Yes, I know.”

“It’s not every day you get a promotion.  We should get you something special.”

My ears perked up.  I made an inquisitive sound akin to Scooby Doo.

“What would you like?”

Ah ha!  This was my opportunity to take one for the team.  I could ask for something that would benefit the entire family, but what?  A nice vacation to somewhere the kids wanted to go?  A night on the town with my lovely better half?  Perhaps something for the house? 

Having actually thought of none of that, I cautiously replied, “A Surface Pro 2?”

“Are you sure?”

Here was my chance at redemption.  “Yes?”

Dammit.  I forged on, “Then, I could be more productive while still spending quality time with the family, like being able to draw while we relax in front of the TV or taking it with us when we go camping.”  Yes, I could work more and pay attention to my family less, even on vacation!

“OK.  Which model?”

Which model?  My wife knows there are multiple models!

“One of the 8GB (RAM) models would perform better than one of the 4GB models.  I’ve been watching them on eBay for awhile, and it looks like most of them are going in the $600-$800 range.”
And by $600-$800, I meant more like $650-$1000.

“If we’re going to spend that much money, you should get it new with a  warranty.”

She clicked away at her keyboard.

“Amazon has the 8GB/256GB version new for $865.  We can get it from there when our income tax refund comes in.”

Much squealing and jumping around like a 12-year-old girl at a Bieber concert ensued.  My wife rolled her eyes and walked away.



Not only did I get the Surface Pro 2 (which had dropped to $749 by the time we got our refund), but the missus also let me get the Type Cover 2, a Bamboo Feel Stylus, a SmudgeGuard 2, and a Manvex leather case.  Although “let” might be a strong word as she didn’t technically know about all of those before I bought them.  Did I mention how wonderful, beautiful, and understanding she is?

In a future post, I’ll break in the new Surface Pro 2 and talk about some of the accessories.  I’ll also do a comparison between the Pro 2 and the Pro 3 (which I have at work) from an artist’s perspective.  It’s going to be great.  If you have any questions, please throw them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Amazon, Pricing, and KDP Select

Something’s been on my mind for awhile, and after discussing it with my wife, I’ve come to a decision.  If you look in the Library, you’ll see some free ebooks.  I made the decision some time back not to charge for individual flash fiction and short stories.  I just feel like they’re too short to justify charging anything for them.  Through Smashwords, I can distribute to almost every ebook retailer you can think of except for Amazon and Google Play, and I can mark the price as free.  For Google Play and Amazon, I have to publish direct.  Google will let me mark the price as free, but Amazon requires a minimum price of 99 cents.  Since I feel like these are too short to charge for, this presents a problem with publishing to Amazon.

Third generation Amazon Kindle, showing text f...
Third generation Amazon Kindle, showing text from the novel Moby-Dick. Esperanto: Amazon Kindle de la tria generacio, montranta originan tekston el la romano Moby-Dick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I could put up these stories for 99 cents and wait for Amazon to price match, but I’d feel bad if somebody paid for them in the interim, and there’s no guarantee that Amazon will price match at all, let alone in a timely fashion.  I thought about putting a link in the description, telling people not to pay, but didn’t figure Amazon would appreciate that too much.  So, we went with choice number three:  I’m going to wait until I have a handful of these short tales and then package them together into collections.  I’ll add the collections to Amazon along with the other retailers.  I’ll keep the prices low, commensurate with what’s included in the collection (I charge for novelettes and novellas). 

Why not KDP select, where I can have free giveaway days every quarter and Prime members and Kindle Unlimited members can borrow them for free?  Even if I only released the collections on Amazon, their TOS is pretty clear that if the individual components are available elsewhere, the collection can’t be in KDP Select.  I know there are some who are able to get away with it, but I’m not going to chance it.

It’s not the best solution.  Kindle members who don’t want to bother with Smashwords will have to wait to get the shorter stories (although to be fair, when I release a new book in KDP Select for its first 90 days, everybody else has to wait).  But to make it easier for the less technically savvy readers, until such time as Amazon allows free as an option, I think it’s the best option.  Do you agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Derrick the Dog Paperback Sale!

Hello Dear Readers,

I was scheduling some posts this morning when I happened to notice that the good folks at Amazon have put the paperback version of Derrick the Dog on sale. Normally $6.99, they've shaved $2.44 off the price to drop it down to $4.55. That's a 35% savings!

I don't know when they put it on sale or when they'll raise the price back up (they don't tell me these things), so act quickly to save a couple of bucks. Oh, and everybody who buys the paperback also gets the Kindle version for free! How's that for a deal? Click here to see the savings and pick up a copy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now on Google Play

It took me awhile to get around to it, but I’ve finally started putting the books up on the Google Play store.  They’re not all up there, but I have titles from both BD Crowell and D Lee Warren up, and I’m working on the rest, updating the back matter as I go.  I’m updating the Library with links as they go live in the store.  Just in the short time they’ve been up, with no advertising or fanfare from my camp, Google has already moved several copies.  I’m excited and looking forward to what we’re going to accomplish together.
English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...
English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In other news, Pink is back from beta reading and Boundless just went out for beta reading.  With any luck, I can get Pink finalized and published this weekend and maybe get Boundless out early next month.  I’m also making good progress on Bound and slow but steady progress on A Christmas Tale.  I’ve resumed work on Parts.  It’s been a challenging piece and isn’t coming easily, but I’m still plugging away at it and hope to see it through to completion one of these days.  I’ve limited myself to 4 active writing projects at a time so I don’t get spread too thinly but always have something in the pipe.  I’m trying to stick to 80% writing projects, 20% blog posts during my writing time.  And I work on illustrations whenever I can (which I plan to ramp up soon, but I’ll discuss that in another blog post).  You can always see where I’m at in the queue by visiting the Works in Progress (WIP) section of the Library.

That’s it for now.  I hope the rest of your winter isn’t too cold.