So I curated a story bundle at StoryBundle

 

I got approached a few months back to not only participate in a horror bundle but to curate it as well. Seeing as I’ve never done bundle curation before, I found the task somewhat daunting at first. Where do you even start? We received dozens of submissions, some of them amazing, many of them difficult to choose from. We managed to narrow it down to these nine books, some of them by authors you’ve no doubt heard of.

http://storybundle.com/horror

All Covers Large

A couple of great things about storybundle is that the books are all DRM free, meaning you’re free to move them from device to device, or share them with friends–though it would be awesome if they bought in as well. The bundle also gives you the option to donate a portion to charity, which makes everyone feel good about capitalism.

 

So swing by if you want to take advantage of it and get yourself some really great books.

STEAMPUNK EXTRAVAGANZA!

 

 

steampunklit

 

 

So there’s this thing going on this week, a steampunk fest, where a bunch of steampunk authors are going to tempt you with their steampunk books. It’s an impressive collection by plenty of solid authors. I had the opportunity to interview one of these authors.

Pauline Creeden is the author of ARMORED HEARTS,  a Victorian era steampunk novel. You can see it there on the graphic next to ALD.

 

1. First, who are you? Introduce yourself.

I’m Pauline Creeden ~ A horse trainer from Virginia who writes for therapy. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, because I have a degree in Creative Writing, and working with horses happens to be very stressful…but it gives me a unique level of expertise when dealing with the Victorian era of Steampunk.

2. As far back as you can remember, what were the first authors who inspired you to decide to become a writer?

The book that sparked my love for reading was Little Witch by Anna Elizabeth Bennett. When I finished that book, I was so enthralled, that I asked the librarian to recommend me another. She recommended The Secret Garden, which, I’m sad to say I found IMMENSELY boring. But this misfortune lead me to decide then, in the third or fourth grade that I wanted to be an author and write books that weren’t so boring. Through high school, I absorbed all things Poe and Stephen King, and in college, I loved Anne Rice and Oscar Wilde. Overall, I discovered that I enjoyed things dark and fanciful. And that is what I write.

3. Let’s talk process real fast. Would you say you’re more of a gardener or an architect when constructing a story?

Typically I’m a gardener. I nurture and pull weeds, but I hardly even plant what’s there. It just sprouts up and I keep the pretty bits.

4. Tell us a little about ARMORED HEARTS? What’s it about?

When Melissa Turner Lee and I got together to pen Armored Hearts, we wanted to create a Steampunk Fantasy that would introduce the genre to an audience who may not even know what it was. I have written short stories in the genre and have another completed novel that is undergoing edits, so Melissa came to me with her story ideas and we hashed things out together. In general, Armored Hearts is a romance – fae fantasy – set in a Victorian retrofuturistic parallel to our own history.

5. The hero of your story, Gareth, is disabled and faces certain physical and emotional challenges. What challenges as an author, did you find yourself running into, writing a main character in Gareth’s situation? 

Gareth is a sourpuss. He’s surly and spoiled, and tends to hate life and nearly everyone in it. The hardest thing to do? Make him likeable. We did our best…and according to the reviews, some felt we succeeded, others, failed.

6. How do you feel a steampunk setting affected decisions made in the story? Did you set out to write a “steampunk novel” or did the story simply demand that it exist in a steamdriven universe?

For the story to fit properly, it had to be right at the turn of the century. Gareth is a nobleman and needed to be in a time when nobleman mattered. Jessamine is a forward thinking American woman whose intelligence is only supported by her intellectually set parents. The characters demanded the time period, and the freedom added to the period by the use of steampunk technofantasy? Makes the genre unparalleled.

7. Of all the characters in this book, who would you most like to meet/least like to meet and why?

I’d want to meet Thompton. Because in our collective imaginations, he looks like David Tennant. And why? Two words. David Tennant.

8. Tell us a little about the Steampunk Lit Extravaganza and what it means to readers?

Steampunk, like children’s literature, can be as wide and varying as Little Witch and The Secret Garden. Mind you, only one of these two books is considered a literary classic, and it wasn’t the one that I enjoyed reading. Tastes vary as much as there are tongues…or rather minds to do the tasting. So this Extravaganza, to me, was created to take the one genre we all enjoy and expose as many people to it as possible to create new fans of the period.

 

ARMORED HEARTS is available on Amazon.

 

Version

Flash fiction is a story told usually in 1000 words or less.

Version

© 2013 Martin Kee

1.1

And here we are. Jennings is still taking the condensers out of the back compartment, but once he gets those situated, I think we’ll be ready to check in with colony prime and have our first official meeting away from home.

Gotta go grab a shower before the meeting. I feel gross.

1.2

Meeting went well, but Jennings laid it on a little thick. I’m sure the supervisor wasn’t thrilled when he mentioned we’re a week off schedule. She made it clear we need to hustle now if we’re going to be ready for that supply drop. Those drones punch through the fabric of space pretty fast, and we’re easy to miss. Hopefully, we’ll have the beacon ready. Cracker rations only go so far. There isn’t enough mustard in the world…

1.3

As far as colonies go, Ragnarok is small, about three hundred folks, which is a good manageable number. I heard Beta-Nine was packed into their chambers like sardines when they colonized. We’ve come a long way.

Jennings is overseeing the comm deployment, which is good news. That beacon is key.

There are thirty-six human colonies, all founded within the last fifty years. I remember hearing that biological evolution moves in jumps, and I’m inclined to believe technology works the same. They’d only just found a way to punch through to another solar system, and a year later people were building ships. I think it’s fair to say nobody could fucking stand Earth anymore, and who could blame them?

We’d known about this place almost ten years before we could visit. Man, does it feel good to get away from all Earth’s problems.

Hold on, Jennings is here.

1.4

Slight hiccup in the comm array, but you know the saying: tell God your plans for a laugh. Jennings says it fell in the night, but I looked at the tower and there’s clearly some incompetence afoot. Thing was bent like a vine when I went out to it. Solar flares or not, it takes a lot more to bend plasteel than “a fall”. I’ll see if I can get to the bottom of it.

In the mean time, they’re throwing a meet-and-greet tonight with the rest of the rations. I’ve advised against it, but Jennings says, “With the beacon up and running, we’ll have more food than we can eat in our lifetimes this time tomorrow.”

Maybe I can sneak away during the dance and double-check that comm array…

1.5

I could only take a few minutes of that music. Ran off to check on the comm array on the hill. I’d asked if they’d scanned the strats before erecting it this time. Jennings confirmed that it’s solid.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“We looked,” he said. “Nothing but dirt and rock. It’s solid.”

So I figured everything was fine. Well, it’s not.

There’s a cable missing, the cable that connects the beacon to the comm array. Am I making sense now? Yes? The beacon was hooked up, but it was just talking to itself. I’m going to have to figure out how to break the news to everyone. Probably need to go tell them now before they eat all the rations. Then I need to wash up and talk to Jennings…

1.6

People are disappointed, but they understand. We’ll start from scratch with what we have now, maybe send out parties to find edible plants. The fauna here is scarce, and they assured us there’s nothing much bigger than a housecat out in those woods, but we’ll send weapons with them just the same.

In the meantime I’m going to discuss our situation with the supervisor tonight and hopefully they’ll send another supply drone.

Fucking Jennings…

1.7

Jennings was found dead today at the comm tower. We’re not sure what it is, but his hands are bleeding and covered in some kind of infection, small slivers of black can be seen under the nails, like he’s been clawing at something, but we aren’t sure what. Doctors should have an answer by the end of the day.

The scouting party returned and with good news. They brought some berries and fruit. We’ll have those tested asap.

I’m also getting a headache from all this stress. I could use a shower.

1.8

The fibers found under Jennings’s fingernails seems to be a kind of fungus. It’s not from Earth. Definitely from here, but they can’t figure out where. Maybe I need to head back to the comm array again.

The good news is that the fruit checks out. People are eating and happy, so that’s good.

Still, I hate the air here. Sticks to you.

1.9

The array is broken again. This time twisted and laying in pieces. There’s no way we’ll get it repaired now. I explained to Phillips, who took over after Jennings.

He just gave me this look. Not sure what that meant.

I washed up and… here’s the thing…

My shower head is filthy, black mold coming off the nozzle in long strands. Also, I found marks after I shaved my head this morning, like someone was clawing at the back of my head. The hairs look an awful lot like those tendrils under Jennings’s nails. Dark. Wiry. I think I’ll take them in to the doc in the morning… on second thought, better not.

2.0

I found the body today, crammed into the cooling duct above my bunk.

I’ve suspected most of the night, and I imagine the crew has too, otherwise they wouldn’t have locked me in my room. But they’re in for a treat once it takes them too. There’s no way to tell when it’s happening. None. Hell, I didn’t even know until I found my own face, staring back at me from this cooling duct.

It’s fine though. We’ll all be better adapted to life here in the end.

For now I’ll just wait.

A new review for A LATENT DARK

Patricia Eddy of Author Alliance gave ALD a 4.5 star review, which makes me feel all fuzzy inside. Or it could be the whiskey.

Read it here if you like.

In other news, things are moving along. The space opera novella (currently titled PATCHER) is due to be back from beta readers and into the hands of editors in the next few weeks, and ALD2 is heading off to an editor hopefully by the end of the month.

In other other news, this current project is killing me. KILLING. ME. I am at the point now where I see very clearly that I will need to once again, re-outline and rewrite from the beginning, perhaps throw out the current world as well, just like I did with BLOOM at around revision 8.  I’m on the third revision of this one, and yeah, I can see the signs. So no I’m torn between the feelings of “I have to finish this no matter what” and “I know now what I have to do to make it better, so do it.” And it’s not a fun place to be.

This book also covers a lot of familiar tropes as well, which I think, is part of the problem. I don’t want this to be “another science fiction book about X that reminds you of that other book that did it better.” I want to break some new ground on this, and that birthing process is often painful and destructive. But my wife is gone all this week, so I might find myself with nothing to do but write. Which could be fun, assuming I can stay away from the video games. Maybe I’ll play DISGAEA and just call it research.

Misadventures in social network PR

 

 

There’s a misconception among non-writers, that we writers simply make a book, put it up there on Amazon and watch the millions roll in. Now with the AuthorEarnings site up, there’s even more speculation over numbers. I’ve posted before about how there is no one path and that even if you write a great book, nobody may ever read it. That’s where social network marketing comes in, and there’s a lot of it.

So I decided after flailing a little on this one novel I am in the middle of, that I would bite, and check out some of these social media services, since I myself, am not nearly as gifted at gaining a following on Twitter as most people, and that seems to be the one thing all authors need to do these days. And don’t get me wrong, even if you are a traditionally published author, they still expect you to do this, promote yourself on the Twitters and Facebooks.

Now granted, I understand, and believe in the capitalist law that you have to spend money to make money. That being said, I tried two small experiments (now, keep in mind that with my lack of experience, I could have possibly done these better).

The first was a Twitter shotgunning site. These are where a twitter user has thousands of followers, who you can reach by paying them to tweet your book. In this case, it was a bargain for my shoestring budget. 500 tweats for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10, which for a starving, obscure author, seems like a deal and a half. So I signed up. It was pretty much as easy as a paypal signature and linking my book. They aggregated everything else from the link and my author profile alone. Easy!

Within a day I had an author page up on the site, linking to BLOOM, and I decided to try a second approach as well. I posted a link to the author page on Facebook, then decided to boost it using Facebook’s ad engine. Again, I went cheap, and maybe that’s part of my naivete here. I paid for a boost of about 10,000 views, which, to me seems like a lot. Again, this was all very tentative on my part. For the next 24 hours I watched my page views go from the tens to the tens of thousands. Yay me!

Meanwhile the twitter shotgun was firing every day, perhaps several times an hour, “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” with my tag, and the link to the book. People retweeted, people tagged me, people posted this over and over… until I realized that they were all pretty much tweeting the same thing, all of them “Magnificent Fantasy Dystopia!” Every one of them. Word for word. It was, in essence, an echo chamber, all of the twitter accounts following one another, all of them giving the impression that they had thousands of followers, when in fact, they were the followers.

End result? One sale.

That’s it.

One.

I gained maybe 5 twitter followers, but there’s no direct correlation there. Now, this isn’t really a cautionary tale, or a warning or any of that. Maybe with a wider net, it’s possible I could have sold as many as TWO copies of BLOOM. That’s almost a latte at Starbucks worth of profit!

All this being said, and all joking aside, the thing that sells books is word of mouth. If you love a book, you tell people about it. I buy books because people reference them on Reddit, or they tell me about them, or they buy me that book. For indie authors it’s the same thing. And this all goes back to the same old saying again and again: word of mouth is king. Because books are a commitment, and nobody wants to waste their time.

It also makes a good case for traditional publishing houses. Why? Because like it or not, they vet their books. You can argue till you’re blue in the face about “But TWilight!!  BuT FIFttY SHADES OF GREAYYY!!!” all you want. Fact is, trad-publishing houses know how to market. Most of us don’t. It’s still by and far the one reason I will never stop sending queries to agents and publishers as my first choice.

I’m proud of my books. I treat them with all the professionalism I can. I invest in them, but nobody is going to read your book if they don’t know it exists.

Oh, and the shotgunning site is still tweeting me, by the way.

It ain’t all bad and it ain’t all good…

As I sit here procrastinating revision of a new book, I find myself looking through my favorite guilty pleasure.

You see, there is this website called Reddit, and in this website, there are a number of what are called subreddits, little mini forums where people vent, share and generally contribute to the community of heir choice in the way of their choosing. My two favorite subreddits (when I am feeling particularly self-indulgent) are /r/writing and /r/writingcirclejerk. I won’t give direct links to these, because, well, it’s like jazz–if you have to ask, you don’t get it.

/r/writing has been through a lot of changes over the years. When I began work on my first novel, I found the subreddit to be a font of useful links (I discovered Chuck Wendig’s site this way), clever insights (Oh! Show, don’t tell), and generous advice for new writers. Maybe it still is. Honestly, writing is like that. After a while you don’t need to hear “show don’t tell” or “remove your passive voice” over and over. And for some people, this is still valuable information, and I love that about the subreddit. Somewhere down the road however, there came a point where /r/writing became silly. I don’t mean this in a bad way… or maybe I do… maybe it’s the whiskey. Let me explain.

Writers love to talk about writing. I mean, we fucking LOVE it. WE. FUCKING. LOVE. IT. Don’t believe me? Ask any writing question to any writer in any venue and you’d better have a comfortable chair handy, because we will talk your fucking ears off like a rat on a corncob about whether we are pantzers or plotters, morning or evening, drunk or sober. ASK ME ABOUT MY PROCESS! DO IT! ASK ME!

I am guilty of this, as are all writers. Please, for the sake of our friendship, don’t ask me about my process, because I think there are few authors out there who love anything more than talking about writing. And it’s only interesting to us. And therein lies the problem.

/r/writing has become this: writers talking about writing. And it’s fucking addictive to writers. We’re like little bees, buzzing around our little hive, shaking our stingered asses to show everyone how WE found the nectar and how to make the best fucking honey money can buy. It is a downward spiral of self-indulgence that I think, sucks almost very writer down into its nether-realm, myself included. Why else would I be venting about this instead of revising this book?

Enter /r/writingcirclejerk, the irreverent silent goth kid in the back row, who loves nothing more than to make fun of the English majors sitting at the front of the class, trying to be Hemingway.  /r/writingcirclejerk is hilarious, and cruel, and clever all at the same time, and it has been a saving grace for me during times when the drain-spiral of self-indulgent writers has become too much to bare.

So it is with this post that I salute you, /r/writingcirclejerk, for making me remember to stop talking about writing and just fucking write this damned thing, because that’s what writers do. We fucking write.

 

 

Space ain’t for everyone…

A writing prompt on Reddit caught my eye, so I wrote a thing. Here’s the link to the post and below is the prompt and story. I figure this is at least a productive way to procrastinate on my revision. Mind you ,I am still making progress. I think I can see the light at the end of the tunnel… or maybe it’s just a near death experience.

The first human crew is on their way to Mars. Instead of being excited about Mars, the Commander is being driven to madness by minor annoyances from his crew.

 

VIDEO LOG ENABLED… VOICE2TXT v2.5.2…

RECOVERED ENTRY: CAPTAIN JAMES MILLROY – USCS ELON MUSK

BEGIN PLAYBACK…

2023.4.5 – Captain’s Personal Log

We’ve just become the first corporate vessel to leave Earth orbit, and the first manned mission to Mars. It’s an honor to be here to help prove that there’s nothing government can do that the private sector can’t do better.

I’m happy to report that our systems diagnostic came back with a clean bill of health. Jennings tells me that the seedlings are all doing well in BioTech, and Roberts in Engineering says that there are no noticeable changes in pressure or abnormal spikes. Looks like we’re on our way… What’s that? Yes, this is my personal journal, Edmonds… sure… sure that’s very clever…

Edmonds, our junior technician wanted me to point out that today’s date is 2345, which I suppose it is if you don’t count the 2 and 0 before it, but he’s a spunky kid and we’re happy to have him on board.

2023.4.6 – Captain’s Personal Log

As I look out to my left, I can almost see the moonrise over the Earth. The stars are more visible than I imagined and… just a second… What is it Jennings?… The seedlings? What’s wrong?… oh… okay, sure…. no, that’s cute.

Jennings just stated that the biometrics for the seedlings are showing an unusually high level of chemicals associated with relaxation, which is encouraging. We’re relying on these hybrid plants to boost oxygen levels once we arrive, not to mention as a viable food source… Oh, and Edmonds wanted to point out that the date is no longer sequential. Thanks Edmonds. Very observant.

2023.4.10 – Captain’s Personal Log

Edmonds has apparently named the seedlings in his spare time. I checked in at BioTech and there are neat little signs with names like “Penelope” and “Margaret”. I asked Jennings about it and she just rolled her eyes. Not sure where Edmonds is getting all this spare time, considering the amount of work we have to do. I asked him and he said he’s done it all. Roberts also told me that Edmonds has reorganized the tool cabinet about five times so far. So, good on him… I guess.

2023.4.15 – Captain’s Personal Log

We had an incident. I guess while the rest of the crew was sleeping, Jennings went and renamed all the plants to male names: Jim, Phil, Edward… Edmonds became hurt, and apparently felt that the carrots were female and should be named accordingly. Jennings explained that plants don’t identify that way, and now neither will talk to one another. Personally, I don’t mind the quiet.

2023.4.20 – Captain’s Personal Log

Roberts came to me today. It seems Edmonds has not only been reorganizing the tool cabinet, but has also been organizing other storage bins. I just spent fifteen minutes trying to find a damn pen. I might have to have a talk with the kid about personal property. I can’t believe I am having this conversation in space.

Just got back from talking to Edmonds. Did you know that there are ten different settings on a standard socket wrench? I sure do now. Apparently everyone on board does as well. I told him that I’d prefer if he left my things alone. He said “Speaking of alone, did you know that seedlings feel pain?” I spoke to Jennings about this and she agrees that the BioTech should be locked down from now on.

2023.4.21 – Captain’s Personal Log

Well that didn’t work. Edmonds has started sleeping in front of the BioTech door. Now when Jennings tries to enter he sits up in his sleeping bag and demands a password. We’ve all tried and no one can figure out the password. We’re good on regular food, and we can watch the plants from the cameras. I told Jennings it’s probably best that nobody goes in.

Jennings has just told me she needs to do her report. I explained that we’re far enough from earth I doubt anyone will write her up. She huffed, but I think she’ll be fine. She wanted me to know that the plants shouldn’t have names. I agreed.

2023.4.22 – Captain’s Personal Log

So now it’s Roberts. He’s a quiet guy, keeps to himself. I just found out that he’s actually been the one rearranging the cabinets. I apologized to Edmonds and… I’m almost too angry to really discuss it, but this is a personal log for a reason…

They were both in on it. Thought it would be funny to confuse me… I have no idea why they thought it would be funny since it seems they are the only ones in on the joke. They giggle now when they think I’m not around. I have no idea how they could have assigned me these two.

Oh, apparently Jennings threatened Edmonds and got the password, broke into BioTech and has locked herself inside. I asked her on the com and she said something about not coming out until her reports are done. So that’s great.

2023.4.24 – Captain’s Personal Log

I offered to deliver food to Jennings if she would open the door, but was presented with a few problems. 1. I can’t find the food, because apparently tweedle dee and tweedle dumb thought it would be funny to move the food for a day. I’d be surprised if they didn’t name them too. and 2. Apparently Jennings has been nibbling at the BioTech. I’m not sure how many carrots and potatoes she can eat, but she says the impact will be minimal and she’ll include results on her report.

I told her to fuck her report and to stop eating the ONE THING SHE WAS SUPPOSED TO BE LOOKING OUT FOR. She started crying. I would have said something comforting but instead she killed the com. Not like I could have gone in to comfort her anyway. Idiot.

I’m surrounded by idiots. This is what happens when you privatize space exploration. Fucking cost cutters, hiring this crew like they were contract-hunting for dry-wall installers. Roberts isn’t talking to anyone but Edmonds now, and I can hear them whispering through the capsule. I’m pretty sure I heard my name a few times, but when I said something they looked all innocent. Well two can play at that game.

2023.4.27 – Captain’s Personal Log

We’ve officially passed our halfway point, and I’m feeling better about this mission now. I’m taking the day off, locked myself in my quarters. Let’s see how those assholes like that. Instead I am going to just kick it with my iPod7 and listen to some classics. Man, Dave Matthews was a genius before he started that cult…

I could hear them banging on my door even over ANTS MARCHING. I looked up and they are all glaring at me, like I’mthe one who’s been acting crazy. I gave them the bird and turned up the volume. That harmonica player is just amazing…

2023.4.28 – Captain’s Personal Log

I must have dozed off.

There’s no one outside my quarters that I can see, and when I look it seems that the ship is dark. Instruments show a loss of pressure, so I can only imagine that we had a collision. The klaxons weren’t audible through my earphones… so that’s my bad. Now it’s just a glowing red as the emergency lights flash. I can see the bridge from here and I’m not sure if it’s just the emergency lights or if there is blood on the panel. Every time I look it seems different.

I tried contacting Jennings, Roberts, even Edmonds… nothing so far, but I haven’t given up. Pretty soon the automated systems will kick in and we’ll cease accelerating. I’m pretty sure we’ll be too late though. One things for certain, this ship can pretty much land itself. I might just wait in here until…

I just heard something. Sounds like a heavy tool being dragged across the wall… Could be in freefall, but I can’t see for sure…

No, it’s definitely someone, but they’re staying out of view. If I had to guess, it’s Edmonds with that socket wrench. Did you know it has ten settings? Apparently more than one use… I still can’t reach the rest of the crew, but I’m going to have to go out there anyway and talk to him. All I have is an emergency crowbar, but it will have to do….

END TRANSMISSION