Tag Archives: Authors

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part VI (The Finale)

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 sixth and final installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV and Part V.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little tale as much as I did bringing it to you!

Thad turned down the flame coming from a glass oil hurricane lamp, poking his head around the side. “And welcome back to our live Halloween special.” Thad sat down at the table on the wooden dock. The still air didn’t even bother the candles glowing on the table, or the ones carefully placed atop each wooden piling. Gentle waves licked the floating dock, not enough to rock anything, but giving a serene but eerie soundtrack to the night.
“So far tonight, we have seen and heard a few interesting things, but it’s been pretty quiet overall. “ The camera panned back to reveal those gathered around. “You met her earlier, but with me now is Miss Amber Simpson, and her partner in both the business and mediumship, Derek Greene. And in a rare event indeed, my producer Tiffany is rounding out our participants for the highly anticipated séance.”
Amber tugged her corset down to be able to breathe. She’d been in it for much longer than usual, and was ready for the evening to be over. “Happy to hear you’ve had a good evening around our little homestead.”
“Is there anything you would like to prepare us –“ Thad leaned into the camera, “and our audience at home to know about what’s about to happen. Who might we talk to tonight?”
“We have a couple of resident spirits, which if we’re lucky may stop by and say hello.” Amber glanced in the direction where she could feel the spirits waiting. “Lula Rose and Viola Todde who lived and died on the property. Beyond that, who knows? Is there anyone either of you might ask to come through?”
“It’s interesting you ask that.” Thad moved to take in some of the flickering light of the candles. “In doing research for the trip, I knew of course I had family from the area, but I found out I actually have a connection to the property. Earlier tonight, we explored a few of the odd happenings over the years, including the accident that claimed six people, and none of those bodies were recovered. One of them was a man by the name of Clarence Henry Wilkins. It turns out, he was my great, great, great, great uncle on my mother’s side of the family. And I’m to understand he disappeared with Constance Todde.”
“Constance. She has upon occasion made her presence known.” An ulcer endeavored to will itself to form in Amber’s stomach, and she tried to discretely rub away the twitch in her nose. “Thank you for sharing your family history. We’ve never had any of the young men lost that day come to visit, but we could surely offer an invitation.”
“Let’s do that when our last participant arrives. I met one of your performers earlier, the one who does Constance for you.” The cameraman zoomed in on Thad’s wry grin, and swung to Amber.
Amber’s mouth hung open wide enough to trap a bat.
“Problem, Miss Simpson?”
“No problem, Mister Taylor.” Amber locked eyes with the host. “At least not for me. I don’t have any performers, or actors, or cast. Other than Derek and myself, we have a few grounds people.”
“We can clear this up right now.” He pointed to the end of the dock. “Here she comes now.”
The cameraman swung around. “What are you talking about Thad? I don’t see anyone.”
Amber reached out for Thad’s arm, “You can see her?”
“So you’re related to dear Clarence.” Constance stalked forward. “Cousin Viola will be happy to hear that.”
“She’s right there.” Thad threw his hands out, almost brushing her. “Right in front of me.”
Tiffany stood up, “Are you high? Did you take something?”
Amber rose, edging her way around the dock, trying to get between Thad and the spirit. “Constance, what are you doing?”
“I slipped the oleander into your tea Viola, and Lula Rose’s for good measure so you wouldn’t want to go out on the boat.” Constance loosed the top button of her gown. “I slipped a few morning glory seeds into the pitcher of tea we took out on the water, you’d be surprised how attentive those boys were after that. All but Clarence.”
Entranced, Thad bit his lip.
Constance ran her icy finger down his face, wrapping her hand around his throat. “He denied me, whether it was the competition, or he really was that tied to courting you, he insisted we turn back.”
Excitement froze in Thad’s throat, his eyes going from slits to saucers in an instant as she swept him up and out of his chair with no more effort than plucking a flower. He managed to get out a small squeak as she continued her slow trek to the end of the pier.
Tiffany let out a gasp, “Tell me you’re getting this.”
Amber fingered the protective gemstone around her neck, “Release him, Constance.”
The specter’s had turned unnaturally to face her. “The tide ran out. Stranded us on the pluff mud. The sweltering heat got to us, and all the tea was gone. Clarence insisted he could lead us to dry land.”
Viola and Lula Rose swept in over the water.
“Free him, cousin.” Viola plead, “He’s done you no ill will.”
“We made it as far as the point down there.” She used her free hand to motion towards a large cluster of spartina. “That’s where the fool got stuck. The tide was coming in with a vengeance.”
“This is your last warning Constance.” Amber swallowed, hoping her plan would work. “Please put him down.”
“Got pulled into one of the deep patches. We tried to free Clarence, and instead, we all were pulled into that welcoming blanket of mud.” Constance flicker her wrist, sending Thad flying into the night and through the open arms and body of Viola, landing in an ungainly splash. “He’s free.”
“Don’t move,” Derek screamed. “Float on your back.”
Amber shook from head to toe, “Constance Todde, I hearby bind you to your bones until such time as they dissolve to dust or you’re ready to walk into the light.”
Constance’s spectral form jerked high into the air like shot from a catapult, shrieking a banshee’s curse until she disappeared into the night.
“I’m stuck.” Thad waved his arms frantically. “Help me.”
“Derek, get the skiff.” Amber grabbed the boat pole and ran to the end of the dock. Even as far as she could stretch, the feet between them may as well be miles. “Viola… Lula Rose… anything you can do?”
The specters reached down, pouring the little material power they help into trying to calm the man, his thrashing sending him deeper into the rich brown muck.
Derek paddled the flat bottom boat from the shore, stopping at the pier. Amber stepped into the aluminum boat, using the pole to pull them faster through the shallow waters.
Thad had sunk to his chest, Lula Rose and Viola failing to calm him.
Amber stuck the pole into the water in front of Thad, finding some purchase in the murky depth. “Grab hold and pull yourself up.”
He grabbed the pole with one hand, and the side of the wooden boat with the other, Amber trying to pull him in by his shirt with one hand, and keep them all balanced using the pole with the other. He worked himself loose against the vacuum of the mud below.
Halfway into the boat, he cut loose with a shrill cry, “Something’s got me. My leg.”
Amber reached under the water, finding his belt and dragging them both backwards into the boat. “Paddle Derek.”
A coffee colored skeletal hand, only visible by the bright lights the cameraman turned on and shone down upon them, held Thad’s leg in a death grip. Another hand, missing two fingers, grabbed the edge of the boat. A skull rose up, a few strands of hair still clinging on.
Amber kicked the skull, spinning the jaw back into the water.
“Dear Amber,” Constance’s form a thin sheen over the bones. “Is this what you had in mind?”
Viola swatted a hand at the skeleton, passing through bone and specter without effect. “Constance, this is not proper behavior for a lady of your stature.”
Thad whimpered, kicking his leg and trying to get free.
“And how should a second class haint behave cousin?” Constance pulled herself higher out of the water, rolling into the boat. “My father’s property is long turned underneath these monstrosities around us. I’ve had to spend my days with these rotting bones while you continue to relax in the family home.”
The boat bumped up against the dock. Amber pulled Thad onto the worn planks, nearly pushing a cameraman into the water.
Constance placed one foot on the dock to follow, “Derek, I see you thinking about paddling away. For your sake, I hope you reconsider.”
“Constance,” Amber shattered the hurricane lamp across the specter’s skull in a whoosh of flame. “It’s time for you to see the light.”

~

“It’s time.” Derek shouted from the office. “We get to see how they spun the evening.”
Amber put a plate of snacks on his desk and rolled her chair beside him, the laptop already streaming the feed from the ‘Haunted or Haint It? website.
“Good evening to all our loyal fans.” Tiffany sat in Thad’s leather chair, surrounded by memorabilia. “And welcome to the ‘Haunted or Haint It? recap from our live Halloween episode. As you can see, I’m in the driver’s seat. Have no fear, Thad will be back next week, he’s just on assignment.”
Derek chided, “Is that what the kids call it these days?”
“For all of you that tuned in on Halloween night, or have caught the replays, it was quite an experience. I want to say we’re still working through all the evidence, but spoiler alert, we’re giving Sand Crane Hall a solid seven out of ten that some degree of unknown, possibly-“
“Turn it off.” Amber closed the laptop. “What would it have taken for them to admit there was real proof of something besides this life?”
Lula Rose clasped her hands in front of her. She and Viola had taken their own advice, and now cast the visage of themselves from their early twenties. “That was kind of them to not totally… what’s the word…”
“Shaft us, Lula Rose. The words you’re looking for are screwing us over.” Amber reached for her vibrating mobile. “Hello?”
“Miss Simpson. Amber.” She knew the voice in an instant. “This is Tiffany-“
“Seven out of ten?” Amber fired back, “Really?”
The line was silent for several seconds. “Look, the network execs were pretty freaked out by what happened. It was a compromise. I’m sorry.”
“It’s fine. Besides, business has quadrupled during the day, and nighttime events are booked solid for the next six months out.” Amber chuckled, “How’s your boss?”
“They’ve completed all the tests, and found no drugs in his system. A miracle in and of itself. The psych ward should be cutting him loose in a day or two.” Tiffany took a deep breath, “The bones, Constance, you said you’re going to bury them in the family plot?”
“As soon as the police are done with them.”
“I’d like to come for the ceremony.” Tiffany coughed, “If that’s okay. No cameras, just to pay our respects.”
“That should be fine.” Amber looked at the spirit standing in the corner. “Constance seems fine with it. You can even bring a camera or two, if you like.”
“She’s there?”
“Yeah.” Amber nodded to the spirit. “She’s a whole lot nicer now that she’s seen the light.”

 

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this, and all the other 2017 #OctoberFrights entries!

 

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

 

#OctoberFrights – The Pluff Mud Seance Part IV

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

Welcome to the fourth installment of The Pluff Mud Seance. If you missed any of them to date, here’s Part IPart IIand Part III.

 

“What were you thinking?” Derek paced between the pair of workspaces in a back bedroom they used as a shared office. “Have you even informed the ladies yet?”
Amber stared out the window. For a mid-week day, they had good tourist traffic, and Harvey her groundskeeper was working double time to prepare for their big night. “I screwed up getting into bed with them to start with. But the cash flow will keep us going for months. And the publicity – the only reason I talked to them was what they’ve done for the Cistern Inn. They’re packed every day and night. Bobbi introduced me to the producer. It was a weak moment during a long boring day. “
“Thad Taylor loves nothing more than to tear a new one in any poor soul that doesn’t worship the ground he defiles.” He perched himself on the worn oak of his own desk. “You remember Cissi over at the Old Jail? They destroyed her career.”
“She was a hack.” Amber refused to look back at her business partner. “She deserved to get blacklisted after the way she behaved.”
“And more people he ruined just for sport.” He ticked off on his fingers. “The Sable Stable? The Westerly? Madame Anna Richardson? Marie Doubloon? Mohawk girl from the square?”
“Marie? Really? She pulled gauze dipped in yogurt out of her size EEE over the shoulder boulder holders as ectoplasm during her stage bit.” She shuddered. “That was just nasty.”
“You’re just jealous. And she had skills.” He slid to block her view of the outside. “The girls love her, and she’s legit. And can’t get a gig. That’s who you’re letting in here is the man who loves to tear down any spiritualist. He’s worse than Houdini, and believes even less. He is from around here, which is why he sees it as his mission to bust frauds.”
“We’re not frauds.” She threw her hands in the air, knowing that wasn’t the point. “We’re locked in now, so what do you propose?”
“I could take the day off.” Derek picked at a chip in his manicured nails. “That way I don’t go down with the ship.”
“Or?”
“We ask the ladies to put on one hell of a show for the non-believer.”

~

Amber gathered her family, both corporeal and not in the parlor.
Viola made a show, plucked each of her eyes from their sockets, and set them in a saucer on a tatted doily.
Amber tried to rub away her budding migraine, knowing they all had a long evening ahead. “Now what was that for?”
Viola looked back at her from two deep dark holes in her head. “Because I don’t see how this is going to happen.”
“That man was… disagreeable the other evening. I did not mean to eavesdrop, but you know how these walls echo.” Lula Rose pursed her lips, shuffling away from her sister on the settee. “He does favor someone, but for the life of me I cannot remember who.”
“Reminds me of Uncle Junior.” Viola huffed, “If you could buy the man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he is…”
Amber stood up and waved at Derek. “You try.”
“Miss Viola, that is inappropriate. And a little creepy. Please put those things back in your head.” He hissed, “We’re all family here, and you might need that trick for tomorrow night.”
Viola blinked, and the milky balls were back where they belonged. “I may be caged, but I do not perform tricks for treats.”
Lula Rose turned, “It could be f-“
“Don’t you dare say it.” Viola poked her sister. “This will not be fun.”
Lula Rose looked at Derek, “I believe it could be a lively evening.”
“Viola?” Amber plead, “Please?”
“Fine. But if I do this, I want a week without disturbance. From any of you.” The ghost rocked back and forth, like she was making an effort to get out of her seat. She spun around to loom over Lula Rose. “Especially you.”
Derek swung an excited thumbs up. “Thank you ladies so much.”
Viola pivoted on a point in space, glaring at his gesture. “What about Constance? Has anyone thought about her?”
“Did someone call?” Constance’s head rose out from the potted ficus tree. Her body took form as she sauntered out of the bush. “How may I be of service to the family in its time of need?”
Amber flashed an ignored glare at Viola before turning to the spectral teen, “Tomorrow night, Halloween, we’re going to have a television crew here looking to prove you don’t exist.”
“My, what a quandary.” Constance made a scene of wedging herself between her cousins, false innocence flavoring her tone. “Are we looking to give them evidence to the contrary?”
“Maybe Constance. We want to give them enough to prove there may be something on the other side.” Amber rubbed the sudden perspiration coating her hands on her jeans. “But nothing harmful or destructive.”
“It would be my pleasure to do my small part with my cousins.” Constance reached out to grab her cousin’s hands.
Viola pulled her arms inside her girth like a vacuum was pulling her inside out. Lula Rose squirmed, but took the specter’s gesture.
Constance looked up as oblivious to Viola’s slight. “What is it you ask of us poor lost souls?”
Amber’s head throbbed, almost enough for her to lose the ability to focus on the spirits. “They want to have a séance on the dock near where you and your suitors took to the water on that unfortunate day. I think they might be interested in even doing an interview.”
“If you are willing to allow me, dear Amber, it would be my pleasure.”

 

And we’ll see you tomorrow for Part V!

The new <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Home-Summonings-Winter-Trilogy-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B072JMRCZ1/”>Omnibus of Home Summonings 1-3</a> is out, <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Spirits-Season-Longbow-Initiative-Short-ebook/dp/B00OP1XKIY/”>Spirits of the Season</a> and <a href=”https://www.amazon.com/Gnomebodys-Business-Longbow-Initiative-Novella-ebook/dp/B016XI574G/”>Gnomebody’s Business</a> are in paperback, some lucky person on my mailing list will will a full autographed set. <a href=”http://eepurl.com/S9uGL” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Sign up today</a>!

<a href=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Winter-Trilogy.jpg”><img class=”size-medium wp-image-555 alignleft” src=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Winter-Trilogy-200×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”200″ height=”300″ /></a><a href=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/cover.jpg”><img class=”aligncenter wp-image-559″ src=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/cover.jpg” alt=”” width=”126″ height=”190″ /></a>

<a href=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/cover_walshes.jpg”><img class=” wp-image-200″ src=”http://www.jim-mcdonald.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/cover_walshes-199×300.jpg” alt=”” width=”149″ height=”224″ /></a> 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the real world!

I’m working on the next newsletter, and I’ve been slack with all of the business of the last couple of months.

The good news is Book 2 is making its way through the test reviews.  For a taste, Rick Gualtieri posted a challenge this morning on Facebook.  Here is the little snipped I posted in response:

MY MIND REELED at the revelation. I had only met Betty and Dick briefly once in LA. In fact, it was just as a fight broke out in a little café with a group of Fomorians, a couple of starlet woodland elves, and a mating pair of geeky werewolves on their honeymoon. I introduced myself just long enough to escort them out of the combat zone to the safety of Longbow Initiative forces.
Hip-hop had gotten up and stood beside me. He asked, “Are you staying for dinner after the show?”
I said, “I doubt it. Long drive ahead and all.”
Hip-hop snickered. “I wouldn’t recommend it anyway. I’m not sure who the meatloaf is made of.”