Posts Tagged ‘writing’

tortoise baby

Since it’s been one month since I released The Only City Left, I thought I’d do a review of how things have gone.

Sales

Full disclosure. I didn’t set the world on fire with the release of The Only City Left. I sold 7 ebooks and 9 paperbacks in the first month. For all but a couple of these, I know to which friend or family member each copy went. So it goes.

Reviews

I’ve done two things to garner reviews. 1) I offered 100 ebook copies to LibraryThing members through their Member Giveaway, with a request that they provide honest reviews in exchange for the book. 77 people took me up on the offer by the end of the two-week giveaway period. It is not required that any of them actually provide a review, however. 2) I contacted book bloggers that review books in my genre and requested reviews from them in exchange for a copy of the book. (See end of post for two great lists of book reviewers.)

So far, 4 LibraryThing members have provided reviews. All 4 of them posted their reviews to LibraryThing, 3 copied their review to Amazon, 2 copied their review to Goodreads, and 1 copied the review to their personal blog. Since the LibraryThing members have only had the book available to them for two weeks, I am hopeful that more reviews will come of this.

Regarding book bloggers, I have contacted 48 reviewers so far. 8 bloggers have stated that they will read the book for a possible review, although timelines for the review may be months out due to their large reading queue. 2 more showed interest but have not confirmed their plans. 2 bloggers have declined to read the book, 1 offered an Author Spotlight feature in lieu of reading the book, and the rest have not responded. 1 in 6 bloggers showing interest is actually a positive ratio in my book, and I will continue to request reviews from new bloggers as I discover them.

Marketing

Other than a couple of mentions on my social media streams and the requests for reviews, I haven’t really had a marketing effort. This is a judgment call on my part. I don’t think I should put time and money into marketing one book. Once I have more books published, I will have to look more closely at book marketing efforts. I also haven’t inundated my social media stream with requests for people to buy my book. Again, with only one book out, I don’t feel it’s worth nagging my social media friends about my book over and over.

I did have some book business cards printed, for those times when I’m talking in person with someone and the subject comes up. This way, I can leave them with a physical reminder of the book. They were relatively low-cost, but time will tell if that expense was worth it.

toclcards

Thoughts

I appreciate all the friends and family who bought my book, but of course I have to reach farther afield if I ever want to supplement my family’s income by writing books. Since I’m not going all out trying to drum up sales on Book 1 of The Only City Left, I need to focus on writing Book 2, which is what I am doing. I also hope that after a certain number of reviews, Book 1 might gain some traction in and of itself. There’s a long road ahead and I’m only at the beginning, but I’m happy to finally be here, looking forward to the future again.

Links

The Only City Left on Amazon (Note: The ebook is free with purchase of a paperback. Also, the ebook is DRM-free.)

The Only City Left on Goodreads

The Only City Left on LibraryThing

Indie Reviewers on The Indie View (Note: Check back frequently and sort by date to see when new reviewers are added. Contact them quickly as I get the sense that reviewers become inundated with requests in a short amount of time.)

List of Online Reviewers Who Accept Self-Published Books (This is a great list that was published on 8/6/14. Thanks to Erica Verrillo for putting it together. There are no dates attached to the entries and I’m not sure it will be updated, so its long-term usefulness might be limited.)

Image of baby tortoise by Lies Van Rompaey.

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I have been researching SF/F/H webzines again, so today I have four more to share with you. I picked a recent short story from each one to read to get a feel for each webzine (I would of course read more stories before submitting one, to get a deeper sense of what the editors are looking for), and I will share my thoughts on those as well. Click here for my first post in this series, or check out my Links page for quick links to the webzines I have researched.

Abyss & Apex: Magazine of Speculative Fiction accepts a wide range of genres, but make sure to check out the Submissions page for the ones they are not looking for, such as horror. They are looking for short stories up to 10,000 words in length, and especially flash fiction up to 1,500 words. Payment is 5 cents a word up to 1,500 words or $75.00 for longer stories. As of the writing of this post, they are currently overstocked on stories, but their next reading period is open again starting 5/1/12, so now is a perfect time to read through the stories on the site and then have a story ready to submit on May 1st.

The story I read from Abyss & Apex was A Time to Weep by Daniel Huddleston. It is about humans doing business on an alien world, with human and aliens working together in the same office. One of the alien workers has a tragedy in his family that affects his work, and for good or ill, his human boss intervenes to try to help him out. Mr. Huddleston really gets across the future history in the story and the alien beliefs and behaviors in a remarkably short amount of time, so that even though I was dropped into the story with no reference points, I was able to appreciate the central conflict without needing a ton of exposition beforehand.

The Future Fire describes itself as publishing social, political and progressive speculative fiction, and you can see the site for more examples of what they mean by that. 10,000 words is the upper limit of what they are looking for and they pay a flat rate of $35 per story. The next Call for Submissions is for the theme of Outlaw Bodies: “stories about the future of human bodies that break boundaries—legal, societal, [and] biological…,” and the deadline is 5/1/12.
From The Future Fire, I read Bilaadi by S. Ali, which is about a river god who is forced to change with the times. It has environmental and socio-political themes to it, as one would expect given the focus of the webzine, but it was touching and personal at the same time. A snapshot of our modern world as seen through the eyes of an ancient being.

Quantum Muse is interesting in that to submit stories, you have to first sign up to critique stories that other writers have submitted. To cut down on their workload, the editors rely on this method of peer review to weed out stories, with only the top-ranked stories being forwarded to the editors for possible inclusion in the magazine. Interesting. Registration is free although they do ask for your address and phone number. I signed up and there are currently three SF, five fantasy, and six alternative stories to critique. You have to critique three stories for each one story you want to submit. I will have to try this out and let you know how it goes. Note: Flash fiction stories of 1,000 words or less can be submitted without going through the whole process described above. The word limit for longer stories is 8,000 words. Payment appears to be publication only plus the chance that a reader might “tip” you through PayPal. If Quantum Muse itself pays for the story, I am somehow not seeing that on the Submissions page.

From Quantum Muse, I read The Zitzing Man by Harris Tobias, which is a very short story about a great invention that would have worked if only the mundane world hadn’t intruded.

Electric Spec focuses on science fiction, fantasy, and the macabre and accepts stories from 250-7,000 words. Their next reading period ends April 15 for the end of May issue. Payment is a flat $20 per story. Check out the Submissions page for full details.

From Electric Spec, I read Seasonal Fruit by Kathryn Board. It was a fun short story about modern mortals interacting with divine beings. At first I thought it was going to be a clichéd horror story but it took an unexpected and pleasant turn and actually sent me to Wikipedia to look up some background information (the story is self-contained, so you don’t need to do this, but it caught my interest and made me want to research further).

So there you have it, four more cool science-fiction, fantasy, and/or horror webzines to check out, either as a reader, a writer or both. Every time I research these webzines my mind kicks into high gear about stories I can write. Hopefully once I recover from my recent move from Southern to Northern California, I will be able to carve out more writing time!

Final note: I am using a new-to-me website called Readability to help me read stories and articles from the web more easily. I am using it to send stories to my Kindle and Android tablet for easier reading in more comfortable environments. It looks like it works for the iPad and iPhone, too. It is free and I have no stake in it, but I wanted to share because every time I get to read a story on my Kindle in a comfy chair or in bed rather than sitting in front of the computer, I think, “This is so great!”

Until next time, thank you for reading and please let me know what you like about my blog, what you don’t like, what you want to see more of, sites/books/comics I should check out, etc. Thanks again!

Welcome back to The Only City Left. Head back to Part Three first if you missed it. And here’s the Table of Contents.

The Only City Left: Part Four

I threw myself into the utility shaft and grabbed hold of the ladder. Above me, the shaft continued beyond the reach of my light, but the only way I could ascend would be to chimney-climb it, and big, blue, and ghosty was not going to give me the time to do that.

Snarhworgrowl!, came its howl as if in agreement. Time to go.

The nice thing about heading down-ladder, even though it was the opposite of the direction I wanted to be heading, is that it’s easier to climb down than up. I gripped the vertical poles of the metal ladder in my gloved hands and slid a few rungs at a time, keeping my descent controlled. As long as I was in the utility shaft, I was safe from the slavering ghost-beast above me, so I felt no need to rush. No need, that is, until the sound of howls and gnashing teeth from above me was joined by the sound of metal straining and tearing as the creature forced its bulk into the shaft. Just great.

I gave up on slowing my descent and just let myself slide down. I could feel my palms heating up through my gloves from the friction, but that was a small worry compared to what was coming after me. It continued to force its way down, buckling the metal walls of the utility shaft as it went. Meanwhile, I didn’t know at what point the shaft would dead-end, and I hadn’t seen any exits yet.

Splash! I hit water and was submerged before I knew what had happened. Air bubbles escaped my mouth as I gasped and clamped my mouth shut again. I twisted left and right to look around, trying to get my mind around the fact that the utility shaft was flooded. Water below, monster ghost above. My options were running out.

I pulled myself back up the ladder and out of the water to get some air and to see if ghosty was still coming after me. Sure enough, his glow was getting stronger, his growls and the sounds of the shaft being destroyed getting louder. Well, not much of a choice then. I took a few quick breaths and then one deep one, blew it out, and dropped into the water.

With no air in my lungs, I started to sink, but not quickly enough for my tastes, so I flipped over and started pulling myself down the ladder as fast as I could. Even with my coil illuminating the water around me, it was still a dim, murky, and above all, freezing hell in there. My pulse pounded in my ears ever louder, and I already yearned for fresh air.

When a small cross-corridor showed up, I pushed off the ladder into it without a spare thought, even though the shaft also continued downward. If I didn’t get some air soon, I was going to open my mouth, gulp some water that my body only wished were air, and drown. The side corridor was the better bet to find a way out of the flood zone.

I seemed to kick and pull myself along that tighter corridor forever, in slow motion. The light of my coil dimmed until the world was only a thin tunnel in front of me, and I began to feel removed from the whole experience. The person being chased through the flooded ductwork by a monstrous ghost-beast was someone else. I watched him from a comfortable distance, pitying him.

I saw that person scrabbling against the ceiling of the duct and then falter when the space was unexpectedly empty. He looked up and saw a circular gap. With the last of his strength, he got his feet underneath him and pushed up into another vertical shaft. That shaft didn’t have any water in it, and there was a ladder heading up. He grabbed at it, sucking in great gasps of air, and I thought, Good for him. He made it. I closed my eyes and fell further back into the tunnel.

* * *

I remember when I was 15, that’s when I really started to question the life I was living with my parents. There were still a lot of communities around then, or at least there were in the parts of the city that we moved through, but my parents, my dad especially, refused to let us settle down with them.

“But Dad! It’s safe here,” I protested, upon hearing the news that we were moving on again. “They have light and food, heat, good air, clean water. They even have books!”

The encampment was called Glin’s Rising, for no reason that I could tell. It probably wasn’t as great as I was making it out to be to my father, but it was better than constantly tramping from community to community, never resting.

My father couldn’t look me in the eye, so he grabbed the lantern coil that hung on his chest and rolled it between his fingers.

“This is about a girl, isn’t it?” he asked, his voice sad.

“No!” Yes, of course it was about a girl.

“Look, Allin,” he said, letting the coil go and raising his head to look me in the eyes. “If we could stay, we would. I want you to be happy, but you know what’s even more important?”

I mumbled the answer, looking down. With a firm hand he grabbed my chin and forced me to look up at him.

“Louder.”

“Stay alive.” I spat the words at him. “Always. Stay. Alive.”

“That’s right. Now go find your mother and tell her we’re ready. If she still needs something, we’ll get it at the next town.”

I glared sullenly at my father for a moment and then turned to go find my mom.

“Yes, father. I’ll try to stay alive while I’m at it.”

If he heard my lip, he ignored it, and I’m pretty sure I heard a weary sigh as I stalked away.

Continue to Part Five.

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I enjoy fight scenes in movies, whether it is some gun-fu or a long martial arts battle or an awesome sword fight, which got me to thinking about how well I can pull off writing one of these scenes for a story. I would love to write a really cool sword fight, for instance, but I a) have never held a sword much less fought with one, and b) am not really familiar with sword terminology. Of course, as writers, we make stuff up all the time, but it is nice to at least sound like we know what we are talking about. So I turned to my pal Google for some help on the subject, and here is a round-up of what I found.

Martin Turner of martinturner.org.uk had two interesting posts, the first about the difficulties of writing a sword fight and how other writers have handled them, and the second a more hands-on how-to. The difficulties of writing a sword fight, per Mr. Turner, are that fights take much less time to occur than they do to describe, most readers don’t know the vocabulary of sword-fighting (so at least they’re in the same boat as I am), the fights are repetitive, and there must be real danger for the characters involved for the fight to be believable. Mr. Turner is a fencer, and in his second post he explains a lot of fencing terminology, but I like that he does not recommend using it. Instead he focuses on what can make a fight interesting to read, such as accidents and reversals, cheating, and crowd interactions. He also discusses the conditions that can lead to a fighter winning and losing. All in all, this is a great article with many inspirational tips.

This interview with R.A. Salvatore also has some helpful tips. He says that fight scenes are about the dance between the characters and also having an interesting environment for them to fight in. Like many others, he references the Inigo Montoya/Man in Black sword fight from The Princess Bride as an inspiration. His final piece of advice in the interview is “And most of all, make sure that the first fatality in any fight scene is the verb ‘to be.’ If you’re using ‘was’ and ‘were’ and ‘had been,’ well, the first fatality will be your reader’s interest.” Duly noted!

Over on kimkouski.com, I found an interview with Darrin Zielinski titled “How to Write Sword Fighting Scenes.” I liked his ideas about how weapon types can be used to define a character. (Mr. Salvatore also discusses his different characters and matching their weapons and fighting styles to the characters. I liked his description of the dwarf with spiked armor who charges into battle head-first: “How can you not love a furious dwarf hopping around with a dead goblin flopping around dead on his helmet spike?”)

I found this list of the parts of a sword and types of swords at the My Literary Quest blog. While I might not go into detail on all this in a story, it is handy to know and a nice, quick reference.

Now I want to write a cool sword fight scene more than ever, and I got some great ideas from these sites. I hope this post points one or two other people toward some helpful advice as well, and if you want to recommend any other sites or books, feel free!

So far on Lithicbee I have been reviewing webcomics, searching for e-books from some of my favorite authors, waxing philosophical, and sharing pieces of a rough draft end-of-the-world story. With today’s post I am going to add another topic I am interested in finding more information about: webzine/e-zines. Specifically, science-fiction/fantasy/horror webzines. For all the posts in this series, click here.

As an aspiring writer, I really need to see what other writers are doing to get their name and stories out there, so I am going to make a concerted effort to find new (to me) markets and start reading a lot more short fiction. I have to admit, I am not always fond of short fiction. Perhaps as Stephen King speculates, I have fallen out of love with the short story. Well, this is me trying to rekindle the romance. Just as I search for and talk about webcomics on this blog, I am going to do the same with SF/F/Horror (aka speculative fiction) webzines/e-zines. I will add them to my Links page as I go along, in case anyone else might find a list of genre markets useful as well.

I’ll start with OG’s Speculative Fiction. According to the site, “Our goal is to eventually be considered a professional market by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, which means we need a circulation of at least 1,000 and we need to pay 5 cents a word. In the future we might look to add an editorial, book reviews, and author interviews every month. We want to grow!”

I picked up Issue 34 on Amazon for 99 cents. (I guess I could have gotten it for free as a Prime member, but, c’mon, 99 cents!) It included two stories, an Editor’s Letter, and a poem. While the goal might be to pay 5 cents a word, right now they pay $35 per story for one-time and some reprint rights. Stories should be less than 8,000 words, preferably less than 5,000 words. It looks like they have a new issue every two months.

Schlock! Webzine is a weekly zine that just put out its 46th edition. According to the site, “Schlock! is an exciting new weekly webzine dedicated to short stories, flash fiction, serialised novels and novellas within the genres of science fiction, fantasy and horror. We publish new and old works of pulp sword and sorcery, urban fantasy, dark fantasy and gothic horror. If you want to read quality works of schlock fantasy, science fiction or horror, Schlock! is the webzine for you!”

Shlock! publishes weekly and include several stories in each issue. Payment is publication of your work. You retain all rights to your work and they are currently accepting submissions. There is also a very comprehensive Webzine Links page that I am sure I will be making use of in the coming months.

The Were-Traveler has four volumes a year on a specific theme. From the site: “The Were-Traveler is an online webzine dedicated to really short fiction. When I say really short fiction, I mean REALLY short. Drabbles and micro-fic mostly, with the occasional flash piece or short story (up to 2000 words) thrown in whenever I have time to read longer pieces. What I’m looking for here is speculative fiction. It’s what I write, it’s what I enjoy reading. Fantasy, science fiction, horror and any combination of the three have a good chance of getting published here.” Drabbles are 100-word stories, for those who don’t know. (I didn’t.)

The next call for submissions is for innovative vampire revenge stories, due by April 30th. Payment is publication of your work.

Ray Gun Revival focuses on space opera stories of no more than 4,000 words. It pays $0.01-$0.05 per word up to 4,000 words, to be paid via PayPal. It asks for “First Rights and specifically First Internet Publication, with an option on First Anthology Rights for 18 months.” It also recommends reading the contract that you agree to when you submit “very carefully.” At first this kind of scared me, but it is actually what one should be doing anyway, so at least they make an effort to point it out.

So, there you have it, the first in a series of my research into webzine SF/F/Horror markets. Just checking these zines out and reading the stories on them really gets me wanting to submit stories again. If you know of a zine you think I should check out, please feel free to drop me a line.