Short Stories

This is for posts relating to my short stories

Why? Why is this happening?

Nothing is more frustrating than software that doesn’t work right all the sudden.

I’ve used WordPerfect, Word, and MobiPocket Creator to successfully make several Kindle-ready products. I personally put together all my novels from Terrorcruise to my latest, Witch Warden: The Ux-Blood Trilogy, Book III, into Kindle format. Most of these titles included links within the pages to the various chapters and such. And through them all, I had pretty much no problems. It’s not an easy thing, but the software made it less complicated.

Then today happened.

I decided to put together a small collection of short stories. Call it A Brass Quartet, because, you know, there’s four stories. Beginning at around 3:00am Tuesday morning, I went through, proofed everything, made them all look pretty. Made a Word document using nothing but styles to do the formatting as I have done many times before. Even spent a goodly amount of time throwing together a cover (which I’m not much liking now, several hours after the fact and may change, because I can). Everything looked to be on course. My last such project, Chainsaw, went off pretty much without a hitch.

Then I used MobiPocket Creator to create the file I needed for my Kindle, the .prc file. I have another program that can do that, Calibre, but it’s confusing and something of a mess. I guess maybe I need to use it more. Anyhoo, I created the .prc file I needed to throw up to Amazon to have my little Kindle book. Before I did so, I plugged my Kindle Paperwhite into my computer to check the supposed final product. And wouldn’t you know, there’s a big issue: the second story opened as a footnote when I clicked on the link in the table of contents. It looked fine when I scrolled to it. Just when I used the table of contents to jump to it.

Huh. Real strange. So I opened the html file MobiPocket creates in the process of making the .prc file. I know html pretty good, as demonstrated by my Russia Trip pages here on my blog site. Those pages were raw html pages I stitched together in Dreamweaver CS5. I looked through my new book’s html file, found a few minor things to fix, but nothing that might have told the Kindle to open the second story as a footnote.

Now, I refer to the problem child as the second story, because after much tinkering, deleting files, recreating the entire Word document, and changing the order of the four stories so a new story stood as the second one, the second story continually opened as a footnote when the link in the table of contents was used to jump there in the .prc file. Didn’t matter what the story was, if it was second, it opened as a footnote. Utterly ridiculous. Very rage inducing. Pretty much a whole day wasted trying to figure it out. Seems the MobiPocket Creator just wasn’t working.

I cannot express to you my anger and frustration. Why this? Why now? I should have been done with this spur-of-the-moment project hours ago. Should have finished it by sunrise. Instead, I was continually stymied by some little program that until now had worked just fine.

Eventually I decided to just use Amazon’s KDP to publish my little collection of short stories. As of right now, it’s still in the process of being published, but all indications are it’s looking good. I won’t know until I buy a copy and test the link to the second story myself. If it doesn’t work, I’ll know then the problem is with the Word document (which wouldn’t be a f**king surprise, given how suck-ass Word is). If it does work, I’ll have to assume MobiPocket Creator is the problem. If that’s the case, I think I’ll be learning more how Calibre works.

Right now I’ve calmed down. No longer feel like doing the Hulk smash thing. But for Christ’s sake! What an odd problem to run into trying to do something plain and simple using software I’ve used plenty of times without fail in the past. All I can say is what the hell? Really! What the ever-loving hell!

UPDATE: I was just able to purchase a copy from Amazon. It’s not all the way up, but as the author I had access to a link allowing me to do so. The book looks good! All of the styles I used in Word to streamline the appearance appear to be working as intended, with all the right indents, spacing, alignment, and bolding. Fabulous. What’s more, all of the links in the table of contents work as specified. That tells me with utter certainty the problem was not with the Word document, but with MobiPocket Creator. (There’s an outside chance it could be with the html file, but I have my doubts as I scoured the code and found nothing amiss in the tags.) I still think Word is suck-ass, but this time is performed as intended. So, I may be switching to Calibre down the road. Ugh. I’m too old to be learning new software. I suppose I could use the KDP functionality again for the next Kindle upload. That might be Dew Drops, unless I get a professional publisher working with me on that one. We’ll see. But anyway, I’ll soon have a blog post about my latest publication. Stay tuned!

Getting Back to Work

So, the Florida trip has come and gone. All things considered, it went very well. My friend got his surgery, got a good follow-up visit a week later, and I had several good dinners with his mother, who also came along. My car especially did its job. 4500 miles. To Florida and back, with some driving up and down the Florida coast in between visiting friends. Had to get an oil change while down in Florida, but that was expected. For its fourth long trip, I’d have to give my 2011 Buick Lacrosse a thumbs-up. I don’t foresee another long drive in the near or medium-term future. Give the wheels an extended break.

With my return home comes my next big event. Earth Cell: The Ux-Blood Trilogy, Book I begins its book blog tour on May 12th. That’s this Monday. In preparation, I have read through the book again, corrected many of the additional typos I found, made some grammatical changes, and added a sneak peek of my next work, A Ghastly Gillion Stars, which I have mentioned a time or two on this blog o’ mine. More importantly, I plan to give away Earth Cell in pdf format for FREE! That’s right—I will give away Earth Cell for FREE! The whole novel! The idea is that readers will enjoy it so much, they’ll invest the paltry amount of dollars and cents it’ll take for them to enjoy the rest of the trilogy. That’s the hope, anyway.

I have also enrolled Earth Cell in Amazon’s Kindle Select and made the Kindle version available for FREE on Fridays for the four weeks of the tour. You can read both the pdf and Kindle versions on your Kindle. If you’re willing to wait, you can snag the Kindle version directly every Friday for four Fridays. Otherwise, the pdf version is available at any time for FREE!

Anyway, this will be my first book blog tour. I am curious as to how it’ll go. It runs from May 12th through June 12th. I plan to post here every time I experience an event. I anticipate those events to range from interviews to guest posts on other blogs to interviews with my characters from Earth Cell to other stuff. If everything goes swimmingly, I plan to repeat the process with my novella Closure. This supernatural thriller has garnered mostly positive reviews on amazon.com. I think it would do very well in a book tour on its own. And publicity like that would make my publisher, Terry Wright, very happy. Especially if the event generates a lot of sales. Which in the end is what this marketing part of the business is all about.

CHAINSAW Now on Sale

Chainsaw cover artSo, I finally did it!

I went ahead and formatted Chainsaw, my science-fiction/horror novelette, for the Kindle and uploaded it. Even did cover art for it and everything! Yeah, I know!

If you hurry, it will be available for free at amazon.com for the next five days. (I’m using my Kindle Select five days free advertising thing.) It starts tomorrow, Friday, the 24th of January, and runs through Tuesday the 28th. If you miss out it’s only $1.99. Either way, it’s well worth the price!

Designing the cover was fun, too!

So, there you have it. My first real full Kindle experience. And I am pleased to say it’s a great story. I think if you like Chainsaw, you’ll be back for more!

Trying Not to Think About It…

I’ve dedicated 2014 to writing shorter works. This has already paid off with the recent publication of my 28K word novella, Closure. When I first started writing I couldn’t write a short work (defined by me as something not novel-length, or below 65K words, more or less) to save my life. But as the novel-length manuscripts spilled out, shorter works of less than 7500 words just popped into my head. I began to write them out either between my longer works or even during my longer works, when I was between revisions. And to my surprise I’m satisfied with the vast majority of them. Then came a slew of novelette- and novella-length works. I have yet to sell a short work of 7500 words or less (my shortest sale is Nit and that’s at about 18K words), but I am sending them out and learning just how to structure them to make them marketable. (Building up rejections is just a rite of passage in this business.)

So this year is supposed to be all about works below 65K words. I have several in my mind right now that I really want to sit down and write. And re-write. Then re-write again. And I want to take the revision hammer hard to the short stuff I’ve already penned, and see if I can drum up some interest out there somewhere. I think a success with just one of those 7500-word stories would do me good in a huge way.

My problem is I just cannot stop thinking about my next novel-length manuscript.

I already have the title: Dew Drops. I have the main character’s name (Layq-Ellen, a Lady of the Leaves), a few other character names (Abbix, Sledg, Mawk, Brold), and a pretty basic plot outline. The stories behind the characters are coming into shape very well, providing me with a strong set of story-length arcs. The main character’s dilemma is also taking strong shape. The setting is generally already formed—just need to give places names and character. I’ve even narrowed down how the people in this fantasy story keep time to some degree of accuracy from town to town. I think this will be my strongest novel yet.

But I don’t want to think about Dew Drops. I don’t want Layq-Ellen’s story to keep me awake at night. I’d much rather dwell on the characters and plot behind a story that’s been brewing in my mind for a couple of days now. It’s set in the same world as my recent novella Closure and will let me explore a lot more about the overnormal abilities. It’s called Fracture and it might be about the same length as Closure. I think it would be a great story to try to have published this year.

So I’m really trying hard to not think about Dew Drops. But I think as any author will tell you, as soon as an idea takes hold, it can be very much like an incessant, demanding child: “Mommy… Mommy… Mommy… Mom… Mom… Mommy… Mom… Mom. Mommy. Mom. Mom. Mommy!” (Well, probably should be ‘Daddy” but you get the idea.) I forced myself to wait once when a short story took hold of me—during the finals revisions for Witchblood . So I know I can put an idea aside if I really want to. This one, though, really wants to be written. Right now.

Ugh.

The Idea Process

I am close to beginning a new short story. As I approach the point where I feel compelled to begin writing (yeah, it becomes a compulsion, and I have to write), I thought I would post a blog about how the idea has taken shape in my mind.

The core snippet of the idea came into being when I revised The Arch of Peresephalon sometime in 2012. In it, I wrote: At least he had decent boots. For the moment, anyway—he didn’t look too long for this world, and they’d surely disappear as quickly as his need for them. This was an off-the-cuff bit of writing, intending for humor. But it sparked something. I didn’t know what, exactly; all I knew, somehow, was there was an idea here for another story.

I let the snippet settle at the back of my mind, where I promptly forgot about it. Until in a moment of distraction (I might have been folding clothes or cooking or some other mindless task) the idea returned with a bit more shape: What if the boots made it back to the old man? At first it was the old man himself who reclaimed the boots. In a field. I saw corn stalks all around him, green and vibrant. He stepped into a clearing, and there on a tree stump were the boots, looking clean and fresh themselves. No real context, just an image that popped into my mind out of the blue.

So I now let the idea brew in my consciousness. It wasn’t there all the time, but in odd moments I would find myself dwelling on it. Where was he? How did the boots essentially go back in time—he knows they are his somehow. I didn’t have the answers but I really liked the core idea of him getting his own boots back. I needed to let the idea simmer a lot more…

And time passed. I wrote a couple of novellas, a book, then another novella. Then I dusted off The Arch of Peresephalon again intending to put it through another rewrite. The motivation for the main character just wasn’t up to snuff. I read through it, made changes, read through it again, did more tweaking. It was on yet another read-through that another snippet from the prose lodged in my mind: The god keeps her on. To have his way with her as he chooses. She’s the only human a god’ll ever trust. This is the old man himself speaking, talking about the women gods chose to bear them. For some reason, this idea also jumped out at me with strong appeal. It, too, offered the core of an idea.

And then it fell into place in one huge rush (which is typical for my story ideas, to be honest). The mother of a god will deliver the boots to the old man. Only he won’t be too old. And to go through time, she’ll walk through the shadow fields of Peresephalon. The shadow fields is the shadow of a tremendous tree with a sprawl of branches and leaves that covers square miles. The tree stands on an alien world—a world of the gods—its shadow cast by an alien sun. The roots might lie across the Chasm, the great crack in the earth spanned by the Arch of Peresephalon. The leaves spread over the Tower of Peresephalon, or perhaps not. But the Tower is dangerously close.

Like the Arch, people can venture in the shadow fields to find treasure, or become sacrifice. All those who go into the shadows do not necessarily return. And of those that do, while they do emerge with a prize, a small percentage also emerge changed somehow. There is a cost to entering the shadows.

The power of the shadows waxes and wanes with the movement of the sun. It’s never all the way quite night, but never all the way full noon, either. And sometimes, clouds can alter the shadows’ strength as they cross before this unseen alien sun on the world where the tree has rooted. So one can enter the fields at a safe time, only to be trapped when the unseen clouds shift. Plenty of risk, but plenty of reward—entire kingdoms can be won and lost within the shadow fields.

And the person who goes into these shadow fields, carrying the boots of the old man to give them back to him within the fields, is the Grub God’s mother. That was the initial title: The Grub God’s Mother.

The plot looked essentially like this: The GG’s mother wakes to her child calling to her. It has grown too helpless and weak to make to back to the Tower and needs her help. She immediately goes to rescue it. On the way out, she hears the cries of pain from the mother of the god Stomp. When it was born, Stomp crushed its mother’s knee. Utterly flattened it. The leg above and below the shattered joint remains alive and well. But she remains in pain. Then, outside a service entrance to the Tower complex, she meets the old man breathing his last breaths. (As mentioned in The Arch of Peresephalon, when he delivers the next mother to the next god, he is finally allowed to die.) She takes his boots and the waiting donkey and heads into the shadow fields.

The GG gives another cry for help, as Stomp is on the prowl. Stomp intends to smash the Grub God, whether it is in the ground still, near the surface waiting to be rescued, or in its mother. In eating through the dirt, the Grub God has accumulated knowledge about the shadow fields. Stomp is jealous and wants the knowledge destroyed, and a god can kill a god.

Weaving through the fields, the mother comes across the small clearing where she is to leave the boots. Along the way she has been cleaning them. Before she can leave, she meets the old man. This is not the first time they have met, as the Grub God has called for his mother’s help five times before now. She and the old man have a conversation about choices. He leaves with the boots and she moves off with the donkey still. At random spots, she stops and digs down into the soil, and stuffs small handfuls of dirt into her vagina. Her child will need it for its own safety, and to take root within her again.

Finally, after dodging Stomp, she comes to the place where her child waits. She stuff it and more dirt into herself. With cramps beginning to pulse in her low belly, she begins the dangerous trek back to the Tower. Before, this has all been simple enough. But now, Stomp is searching for the Grub God. In her flight, she takes a different route back than before, and stumbles upon herself as a younger woman before she’s given birth to the Grub God. She and her husband are in the shadow fields looking for their prizes. They have decide to risk everything. And for the first time, the older mother faces a choice: she can warn herself about her fate, all the pain and suffering she’ll endure; that she needs to re-consider her prize. She might earn a greater prize by simply walking away. But she knows her own answer: her life with her husband is not what she desires, and it is tearing her apart. She cannot bear the thought of having child, toiling in trudgery like her parents and those of her village. That life would be a much worse fate. So, watching from behind tall plants, she keeps silent as her old self and her husband (who disappears in the shadow fields) move off, searching for what they think is their prize. (It is during this search the Grub God calls to her and she packs soil into her vagina for the first time.) She makes her choice.

She sacrifices the donkey to Stomp as she rushes back to the Tower, the different batches of soil in her vagina throwing Stomp off in his pursuit. It’s close, but she reaches the Tower; the entrance she uses lies just outside a section of the shadow fields. Enraged, Stomp enters the Tower. As she returns to her room, where the Grub God will feed off the soil within her and grow thick and fat, about the size of her forearm, before compelling her to go outside, where it will wriggle out and back into the ground, she hears the terrible cries of Stomp’s mother. In passing, she sees that her other knee has been crushed to pulp, along with one of her elbows. Her anguish pursues the Grub God’s mother down the hall and into her room, where she cowers beneath the sheets of her bed, wondering about her choice to not warn herself in the shadow fields, afraid she won’t get another such chance, but knowing she’d make the same decision.

So there’s the story in a nutshell. The main character will face the consequences of her choices, and will stand at a crossroad: knowing what she now does, does she warn her younger self off? Or is the life she’s chosen the only one she could live? And once accepted, can she keep living it?

I’ll fill in a lot of the small details once I finally sit down to write it. I don’t see it being all that large, maybe six to eight thousand words—a typical size for a short story. (It might border on novelette land, but I’m not going to worry about it right now.) Once I am done, I intend to return to The Arch of Peresephalon and change it accordingly, particularly the landscape around the Tower, including the roads people travel to avoid the shadow fields. And I may change the title. The Grub God’s Mother doesn’t connect this to The Arch of Peresephalon by title and I would like it to. I’m leaning toward The Shadow Fields of Peresephalon, but as I write the story, I might jot down a different word, and it might inspire me. Or I might just bundle the two into a Peresephalon container. We’ll see.

For now, I’m just letting the idea finish cooking. Then one night at work I’ll probably crack open WordPerfect (the word processor for people who process words) and begin writing. I’ll keep you posted.

Guess It’s Update Time…

Been a while. I have been neglecting things. Not a good idea if I want to keep up appearences.

Went through the author’s proof for Witch Warden: The Ux-Blood Trilogy, Book III. (Yeah, I finally got it.) Found a ton of typos. Fixed them up and sent the revised manuscript off. Now just waiting for word that it’s been uploaded and softcover copies are ready for sale. The Kindle version is out (and the corrected upload has been put in place, too, I hope). So by the end of the year it’s my wish that the series can be put behind me, save for marketing the shit out of it all. I have an idea for one more short story, but that’s low on the to-do list.

Closure has been accepted for publication by Terry Wright, of TWB Press, who published Nit. There’s a lot of work to be done still. Don’t expect it up and out by Christmas. But early next year will work just as well. I’m pretty happy. I thought this new version came out a lot better than the previous (but that’s the hope for huge revisions, isn’t it?) and think it will make a very good read. I will be curious to see the final cover that we end up with. We’re still considering ideas. It’s kind of a hard story to pin down in a cover.

There is some bad news. I am typing this on my old HP HDX Dragon. The hard drive on my newer laptop, the dv7t, just decided to quit. I ran some tests and it looks like the entire file system for the main partition has been wiped clean. It says there are no files on the drive, anyway. Needless to say, that’s not good. Second computer this year- and bothr un Windows 7. Good thing I have my Windows Vista backup desktop and laptop still working. Expecting a box to ship off the laptop next week. Expect the laptop back in about a month. Then it’ll probably be another month before I have all the software loaded again. What a pain.

Anyway, I will try to keep posting a lot more regularly. I’ve been in a funk lately. Just not motivated to do much of anything. Even my reviews at the Next Big Writer have stopped. That is not good. So, somewhere, I’ll find the motivation to get back into things. Not sure why I’m slacking, but it’s been going on now far longer than normal. And I don’t think it’s just that time of year. I can say that I worked hard on the Ux-Blood portion of this website. If you look on those pages, you’ll see I’ve added book information, links to buy, and generally cleaned things up. One final thing to have gotten done before putting the series to rest, I guess.

See you next week!