Tag Archives: AmWriting

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part V

Welcome to the 2017 #OctoberFrights blog tour. There’s a lot of great contributions this year, and a massive multi-author Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. We’re closing in on the finale tomorrow. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part IPart II, Part III and Part IV.

The unseasonably warm air buzzed with gnats and a john boat’s trolling motor navigating its way through the channel to the river. If whoever was in the boat didn’t get out on the water soon, the tide would be out and they’d spend most of the day stuck in the muck under the sun, Amber thought to herself.
A Sprinter van plastered with Thad’s face tinted with night vision green, and the ‘Haunted or Haint It?’ logo on the side rolled in, taking up three parking spots.
“Girl, keep that smile on, no matter what.” Derek squeezed Amber’s hand, and let go, pushing her out onto the porch. “I’ve got your back.”
She stumbled, and caught herself on the nearest column. “How sweet of you. Get out here.”
Thad slung a beaten leather bag over his shoulder, and waved on his way to the house. His producer Tricia, the short brunette crossfit junkie from New York, her mouth and legs running to keep pace with her meal ticket. Two more men unloaded gear out of the back of the van.
Thad whispered something to the producer, stopping the chatter. “Miss Simpson, you’ve already met Tricia Allison, my living and breathing calendar.”
“Mister Taylor.” Amber gave a curt nod. “Hi Tricia. Good to see you again. This is Derek Greene, my business partner and fellow medium.”
“That’s our camera crew Dave and Brad.” Thad halfheartedly pointed over his shoulder at the garden. Tricia whispered in his ear. “I mean, Dan and Steve.”
Amber chided, “Which is which?”
Thad looked over his shoulder, and realized he was pointing to the wrong spot.
“Green shirt is Juan, and the red shirt is Will.” Tricia nodded to the van and crew, cutting a look at Thad. “We’ll be filming B Roll most of the day, and scouting the location for tonight. We’ve brought the tables, chairs, candles and other props for the séance shoot, unless that’s a problem for you.”
“Not at all.” Amber held out with a map of the ground with numbers, and a stack of notes. “I would like a chance to look it over in the daylight though. Unless that’s a problem.”
Tricia shrugged, “Whatever. We do the walk and talk in the house at five once you’ve shut down for the day, set up the séance scene about seven and start the live feed promptly at nine. No cameras near or on your deal inside until they leave around ten-thirty. Is that acceptable?”
“That will be fine.” Amber shook hands with the producer. “Derek or I will be available should you need anything, but it is a busy day for us.”

~

Viola guffawed, “I floated my eyeballs through the air. The little fellow kept pointing them out and calling them really big ‘spirit orbs.’ He even chased me into the poison sumac. He’s going to be itching for days.”
“That Miss Tricia is quite insistent.” Lula Rose folded her hands across her stomach. The others seemed to like the different floral scents I used on them, except for her. I suppose she is not one for the botanicals. I did go knocking on things, they seemed to get all excited over a little noise.”
“I’m glad you ladies had fun with them today.” Amber shook her head at the two old ladies. Even curmudgeonly Viola looked to be enjoying teasing the television crew. “Constance? “
“Oh my.” Constance looked almost solid, except for the sunlight shining through her. “I managed to show enough of myself today that they said something about getting a walking shadow on their device. Kept complaining about their batteries running dry.”
“Remember, we want them to get hints you’re real, and get it on tape.” Amber looked out of the window of the office. “But no harm I suppose. Any idea where they’re at right now?”
“Down at the old dock I suppose.” Lula Rose mused. “They were carrying furniture out there. I can only imagine being eaten alive out there by the no-seeums.”
“It’s about that time. All of you keep them on their toes until tonight.” Amber rifled through her desk drawer, pulling out a can. It was late in the season, but the insects were still pretty bad. “I’ll carry down a bottle of bug spray as a sign of good faith.”
“I’d have thought the little bloodsuckers would leave them alone out of professional courtesy.” Derek picked up a box full of candles. “I’m going to get the ballroom set up while you go see your boyfriend.”
Amber gave him the universal hand gesture, indicating he was number one in her book, and took off for the stairs. Walking into the parking lot, bickering sounds drew her attention to the back of the Haunted or Haint It? van.
Tricia and one of the cameramen were snapping at each other. She threw her navy crusher onto the ground in a fit.
“Everything okay?” Amber announced at a safe distance.
“Everything’s fine.” Tricia gave a dismissive wave, and picked up her discarded hat. “A small technical problem.”
“Since you mention it,” Juan held up a battery pack, “Got somewhere we could charge a couple of these? We’re about tapped out. This happens sometimes.”
Amber suppressed a little grin and motioned to the house. “Derek is inside. You can charge them in the office.”
The cameraman ambled towards the house, and Tricia kept pace with Amber en route to the dock. “How did your day go on the grounds?”
“Fine.” Tricia’s voice could shave ice into a mint julep. “Couldn’t have gone any smoother. Are you ready to do a quick shoot, out at the dock while we still have some sunlight?”
The floating dock rested just above the water with the tide just starting to roll back in. Small gusts of unseasonable wind tousled the taller clusters of cordgrass, sending birds nesting down for the night into tantrums.
Thad sat in a hardback wooden chair, the setting sun turning the bands of clouds into a mosaic of scarlet and crimson with violet accents as his backdrop. “…research into the plantation, I found my own – no, that still isn’t right.”
“Thad.” Tiffany waited for the cameraman to give the high sign to step onto the creaking boards. “Let’s do the quick five so Amber can do her thing.”
Thad rose, and held out a chair for Amber. “We’re going to just do a few quick Q and A’s for tonight’s lead in, if that’s okay with you.”
Amber shifted to half-face the camera. A shadow flitted nearby.
Thad settled into his chair, “We’re here with Miss Amber Simpson, the –“
“Wait.” The cameraman raised his hand. “That weird clicking, scratching sound is back again.”
Amber focused in on the shadow. In the sunlight, it was harder to pick out the details, but Viola came into focus, rubbing her fingers along the foam of the boom mike. She waved a quick finger at the spirit, who decided to shuffle further onto the dock, causing the boards to groan.
“It’s quit again.” The cameraman gave a thumbs up.
“We’re here-“
“Damnit.” Tiffany swiped her hand at her floating hat and missed. The merest outline of Lula Roses’ thin and nimble form had the Navy crusher in her hands, sending Tiffany into a less interpretive dance than a toddler trying to find their legs and swinging at the old aunt coming in for a mustached kiss. Ultimately, the hat swiveled into the marsh. Tiffany held onto the post, and tentatively moved to step onto the ground.
“I wouldn’t do that.” Amber nodded to her merry pranksters. “You won’t get that hat back, and you’re likely to lose a shoe, or worse.”
“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Tiffany hung from the wooden piling.
“The pluff mud giveth life, and beach winds take the odd sacrifice.” Amber lifted a pole used to pull in small boats off its hooks, and retrieved the lost clothing. Plucking the now muddy hat off the pole, she offered it back to its owner. “That’s one achievement unlocked to become a Carolina girl.”
“That’s supposed to be a good thing?” Tiffany sniffed the muddied hat, and shoved it into the camera bag.

~

“I’m going back to the van to splice to upload the video, and see what they can splice together out of this mess. The audio sucks, but it looked like your feed with Simpson was about the only clean shoot of the day.” Tiffany powered off the camera. “Can’t wait to get out of here.”
“Aw, you’re not buying into all this, are you?” Thad fired up his hand held night vision camera, doing a test sweep of the bay, still a sea of color from the warmth of the day against the chilled water.
“God no.” She scoffed. “Just some locations suck to shoot in, and this seems to be one. I’ll see you at the van in a half hour.”
“Sweet.” Thad gave the thumbs up. “I’m going to walk around a bit, and get a last lay of the land in the dark before we start the live feed.”
Thad pocketed the camera, and turned on a small red headlamp. Taking mental notes about spots to do live shoots, and figuring out the time he’d need to move between locations, something moving in the dark caught his eye.
A young woman followed him at enough of a distance, he didn’t hear her, and wouldn’t have even caught a glance if he hadn’t turned around at just the right time.
“Hi there.” She looked to be maybe twenty. Not old enough to take for a drink, but not that far out of his age range. The thin dress looked like it should be too light for the night air, but he figured she was staff. Or a lost tourist. “You here for the séance?”
“Oh no.” The girl edged closer, still half in the bushes.
“Are you staff here?” Thad palmed the camera. “You know we’re doing a TV shoot tonight.”
“I heard something about that.” She cocked her head to look around the bush. “You could say I help around here sometimes. When needed.”
“You know how I am? I’m the star of ‘Haunted or Haint It?.” Thad studied her movements. She seemed hesitant to leave, but fascinated at the same time. He wondered if she was part of how Amber pulled of her show. “Do you watch it?”
The girl twisted with a coy grin, her hands clutching the thin fabric of her dress. “Oh, I do not spend my time on such things.”
Thad paused, hoping she was start struck, or at least a fan. “Too bad. Here’s my card, and our usual show times, plus clips on the website. And here’s my cell number.” He jotted his cell down and put the card just out of the girl’s reach, then backed up a few steps.
She took the piece of paper, and tucked the memento into her dress. “How kind.”
“I’m Thad.” He reached out his hand. “Maybe I can see you later? We’ll be around all night.”
She shrugged. “I may be around. You can call me Constance.”
Gotcha, Thad grinned.

 

And we’ll see you tomorrow for the finale, Part IV!

 

The new Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3 is out, Spirits of the Season and Gnomebody’s Business are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. Sign up today!

A Longbow Initiative Story

 

The hard truth of the financials for authors…

 

Once again, the cycle has come around, and it’s come in full force.  It’s about supporting your favorite authors, buying their stuff, and not stealing it.

First, let me say, I believe the vast majority of people are good and well intentioned. It only takes a very few people to convince you though, the world needs a good cleansing zombie apocalypse.

I did X-Con at myrtle beach a couple of weeks back, and had a table talking about my books, and even selling a few. A girl in her late twenties walked over to the table and asked for one of the scattered candy bars on my table, and I told her to help herself. She did.

She wanted to know about the books, and we talked for about fifteen minutes, in which time she ate every one of the candy bars on my table (about 10) and then no so politely told me I needed to give her a free book because she couldn’t afford it. Not even the eBooks, but a paperback. I politely declined, she told me to “fuck off then” and left the pile of candy bar wrappers on my table.

I tossed the wrappers, had a small internal meltdown, wrote a few notes about how this self-entitled whiny bitch is going to wind up dying in a future book, and moved on. Never piss off a writer with a twisted sense of humor, miss going to die by starving to death while being dipped into a vat of molten chocolate, allowing it to harden, and watching you starve to death while ants eat the chocolate away. #RantOver #SanitizedVersion

At the same time, a very lovely young lady came to my table several times, a fellow writer, and we talked a lot through the weekend. She bought my eBook, and I gave her a print copy so she’d have a signed one.

I’m mostly a business and tech guy, and I’m using my knowledge and experience to write a 101 type guide about the business of being an author or artist. And yes, writers are a type of artists, but with key differences in the business models. I’m pulling a piece of that (draft) out to post here, because I think it’s relevant.

We now live in a world of open source, and where so many people think everything should be free, especially digital content. At a convention a while back, I had someone argue about why I was charging for books. Especially eBooks, because they don’t cost anything.

So let’s break down the numbers:

 

First, let’s assume I’m a traditionally published author.

My percentage of sales will be 7 – 15%. Let’s assume a blended rate of $4.99 a book between eBooks and print (Low by today’s trade pub standards, but roll with me over the life of the book). Based on this, the author will make .35 to .75 a book. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s take $.75 a book.

An average novel is @ 80,000 words. We won’t talk about my last 2 novels in the 105k range. What does it take to crank out that 80,000 words?

A productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so that’s 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. (And that’s fiction)

Depending on your style and productivity, editing, rewrites, and the stuff that just didn’t work? I’ve seen people estimate as little as another 30-50 of the original draft, but for a commercially published work, it’s easily equal to four or 5 times the original first draft for the author to review edits, do rewrites, proofreads, punctuation, and everything that goes along with the rest. Not to mention the editors from the publishing house side. Let’s split the difference, and call it 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, agents, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 40 hours.

So doing a little math, that’s 500 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 12.5 weeks, so let’s cut it to three months of working time, for 80,000 words.

Based on the proposed move to go to $15 an hour, and hopefully you think creative work is worth at least that, you have to sell… hmmmm carry the one, it’s $7,500, and at .75 a copy, you need to sell 10,000 books. High producers sell 50 – 100 a week, so let’s use the 100 a week, and so that’s 2 years of sales.

Not to mention all the hours of marketing, social media, and cultivating your fan base that aren’t in there.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s say you’re doing a self-published work.

Our productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so we’ll still go with 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. Stuff those other people would help you with, you’re on the hook for.

Now you’re also entirely on the hook for editing, rewrites, etc., and I’m going to make the assumption you hire someone to edit, so you’re still at the same 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 100 hours. Why? You’re now doing it all.

So doing a little math, that’s 560 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 14 weeks, for 80,000 words.

Plus you have to pay for cover art – $100 – $250 (minimum)

Editing ($250 – $1,500) depending on the types of editing and level of polish you want to put on it. Or you have to put in the hours. Either way, you’re spending the time and money.

I’m going to use an even $1,000 to produce the work (on the low end of what you should budget)

Here’s the good news. Depending on how you structure yourself, Amazon is going to give you 35% – 70% of your sales. The down side, you probably are maxing out at $4.99, but we’ll stick with it for equivalency. That’s $1.75 to $3.50 a book. We’re rolling in the cash now!

You’ve laid out $1000 up front. So you need to sell 286 books to pay for that.

To sell those, you’re looking at advertising, and getting reviews, another $1000. Another 286 books.

So just to cover my outlay, I need to sell 582 books.

Show me the money!

At $3.50 a book to get minimum wage for my 560 hours, I need to sell another 2400 books! So let’s round up to 3,000 books!

High producing self-pubbed average 5-50 sales a week. Let’s say you are rocking it and doing 50 a week. That means I only need 60 weeks… at the same high pace to make my $15 an hour. Oh wait, now I don’t have a publisher, or anyone else to help promote me. And most self pubbed would be happy at 5 a week after a couple of weeks. And most books are $2.99. You’re looking at 3-4 years, unless you push really hard, and get a little lucky.

And let’s talk other opportunity costs. I work a full time gig. Much of my life, it’s been 60, 70 , 80 hours a week. I do all of this at lunch, and night when everyone else is asleep. Weekends. I’m behind on TV and movies. Most of what I read is research or doing stuff for fellow authors and friends.

So yeah, oh little miss self-important snowflake who is willing to drop $5 on a latte and come over and lecture me why you can’t spend a couple of bucks for a eBook, and tell me it doesn’t cost anything?

This one went a little long. I’ll save my piracy rant for next time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just because it’s Halloween, doesn’t mean you can be a troll

I’ve seen an extraordinary number of stories, reviews, articles, Facebook posts, and even a few talks with friends recently that all center around one thing. I’m not talking about constructive criticism or critical evaluation. I mean people being nasty, negative, and non-constructively critical, i.e., TROLLS.  And more importantly, people responding to them.

As I read this article ‘Am I being catfished?’ An author confronts her number one online critic I felt a mix of what might pass as emotions. Its easy to see all of the ownership that goes into any creative effort. In this case, an author producing her first work. And is often the case, she got a bad review. Unfortunately, she became obsessed with it. Despite warnings about engaging, she did.

I get it. When someone likes and appreciate your work, you want to thank them. Maybe even engage with them as positive reinforcement and encouragement. And by human nature, when someone is negative, you want to find out why, and possibly even try to change their mind. In this case, her pursuit revealed a lot of disturbing potentials, including revealing people using something other than their own identity. Well, it’s the internet. I could as easily by a hyper intelligent trained alien marmoset. My wife will just tell you I’m a smart ass. Some days, it’s just an ass, but I digress. And only possibly from another planet.

But when I read this, here is what I saw more of. A great draining waste of time, energy and resources that could have been spent improving her skills, creating more work, or even simply enjoying life. I wondered what this personal trial meant for her, her career, and life.

Another one, this time a restaurant review where someone threw a tantrum because the establishment stuck to their business practices, was short, and to the point. The response was well crafted, and undoubtedly drawing a lot of good attention, but there will always be someone who will take the side of the customer. But at least it was a quick and direct response. The review system is a system that can be gamed.

So why am I going off on this? Some other personal family and friends have been victims of various levels of trolldom. So here is my message for anyone stressing over it. And I’m trying to keep this fairly clean. Take feedback for what it’s worth. Haters can F*** Off.

When I pushed out my first self pub story, it had been through numerous self reviews and an external editor. Since then, its had a couple more external edits and reviews. And every time I flip back to it for something, I find something else. The good news with ebooks, I fix em when I find em. And if you have refresh turned on for kindle, you’ll get the updates. The first version version let a couple of things slip through that would have sent my English teacher mother into apoplexy. But, its getting cleaner.  And for the most part, reviews have been fair. And I’m happy that most of my readers have forgiven a few sins in favor of enjoying the story.

I’ve gotten a few messages baiting contention. I deal with enough of that in the rest of my working life. I ignored them. On the other side, I’ve gotten more encouraging messages, and even questions about where my work is going. Those I’ll respond to.

I write because I enjoy it. It’s cathartic. I’ve written for most of my life, mostly to get stuff out of my head, and it lets me work through other events in my personal and professional life. I write for me. The fact that others are enjoying it is a bonus. And the idea that there are some haters out there? I have no expectation that everyone will love, or even like my work. No creative person should. Creativity is a drive to produce something of yourself. Most creative people are unwilling or unable to expose that part of themselves to the world at large. It is the few of that crowd that are willing to risk or tolerate the criticism that inevitably comes with opening yourself to the public, whether on an individual basis or in the greater electronic world.

I wrote this to give a little encouragement for everyone who is trying to bring life to their creative pursuits, whether personally, or because you are trying to make it part of your creative life. Take positive and negative commentary for what it is. Feedback. Use it to improve your skills, but don’t lose who you are, or your style. Be true to yourself.

And a message to any of you out there whose only creative outlet is being destructive to others. Make your criticism’s constructive. If you are going to take the time and effort to be critical of the work of others, do it with the nature of informing the creator, and their consumers. People are smart enough to recognize haters. And trolls.

And in the worst case, writers can kill you off in really embarrassing, creative ways. Or even worse, keep you alive.

An addendum from one of my favorites, Harlan Ellison.

New stuff! New Projects!

Hello all,

I’ve had a busy month, and realized how long it had been since I got out here with an update. Several new projects are in flight, and should be ready to announce them shortly.

I have a new short story from the Longbow Initiative, and it’s a #Halloween story! I’m shooting to have it up on Amazon by the 18th, assuming #Eris stops giving me little challenges.Featured image

I had a great event at the Charleston Scottish Highland Games in September, signed a few books, and had some heavy objects thrown!

I’ve also gotten some more new artwork coming, the first of which is the Longbow Initiative emblem which will be rolled out in Spirits of the Season, and also will be in the next newsletter. It’s coming, really.

For those out there who are also of a creative bent, I’m working on a book project with a working title of The Business of Creativity. I have a lot of friends and contacts who endeavor in all sorts of creative enterprises, from hobbyists to people who pursue their creative arts for a living.

As of late, several of these friends seem to be going through a couple of similar challenges, and they all revolve around the business side of their creative arts, including two artists and an author. I’ve had this project bubbling for years, and it seems like the time to tackle it, among everything else I’ve got working. But a couple of primers.

#1 – The starving artist – making a living from your art is a lot of hard work, and usually is much harder than the creative process. It’s also OK to make a living from your art. I’ve had a few people tell me over the years that if you make too much from your art, you’re selling out, and you lose that creative spirit.

Well, you’re right. It’s much better for others to profit from your work and creative efforts while you struggle to get the materials for your art, invest the time, bring it to market, and make just enough profit for a case of Ramen Noodles. Get over it. If you can make a good living from your art, then the universe is rewarding you for your efforts! And if it’s just a side hobby and it pays your bar tab, that’s great too! It’s okay to profit from creativity!

#2 – Now that you’re over #1, and the Ramen Noodles aren’t cutting it, how do you turn an art into a business? Unless you are very lucky, it’s about time, patience, and discipline. Hugh Howey graciously held a lunch meet and greet at Dragon Con this year. I had read Wool when it was just starting to pick up speed, and I think this interview is a great resource. He credits luck and timing for being ‘discovered,’ and then navigating the trials of success.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-hugh-howey-turned-his-self-published-story-wool-into-a-success-a-book-deal

#3 – And I’ll be writing more about this, but your art is about you. Marketing people would call it ‘building your brand.’ No matter your art, you need to find the people who connect with you and your work. And a big part of that is that people want to know and understand you. Don’t be needy. Don’t be whiny. But be you.

As I start outlining the book, I’ll post more of it here, and if you think you have a story you want to share, let me know!

PS – to all of the rest of you who aren’t using some talent to be creative – quit watching reality TV and give whatever it is you always really wanted to do a try.