Tag Archives: ebooks

New Fiction – “Number Four” (and excerpt)

Cover image for the novel Number Four

I’m glad to finally announce that my second book, Number Four, is now available for Kindle.  Other formats are on their way.  If you’ve been keeping pace with my progress on MOROCCO, here it is at last.

And now, time for an excerpt:

* * * * *

Lin broke from a space-out session when the trucks pulled to a lurching halt. She’d been thinking about the orientation she was missing. Dorm room assignments. How the cafeteria account worked. That kind of stuff.

The soldiers keeping guard over them hopped out of the transport and gestured for them to do the same. Another pit stop.

What a shitty way to spend a Saturday.

Stops came infrequently, probably four or more hours apart. Time was hard to judge when she didn’t have a watch and all there was to do was stare at the metal floor of the transport, out the back of the vehicle at the endless spread of bright sand and rock. Or daydream. She hadn’t dared take Apollo out of her backpack for fear they’d take him. Each stop was a welcome chance to walk and stretch. Her butt hurt from hours on a hard bench and her back was sore from no support. Long sleeve shirt in hand, she shuffled along the bench to the back.

When she jumped out, she judged her exit from the truck a bit wrong. Her tank top caught on a bolt that protruded from the frame and tore.

Paul stood stretching a few steps away. Lin poked a finger through the hole in her favorite purple shirt and the flap of fabric that still remained. The shirt itself was old and faded and wasn’t fit for much other than the mall or hanging out around the house, so it wasn’t a great loss. Might even still be wearable—comfort was no slave to fashion.

As she came up next to Paul, she realized that she couldn’t even say where the nearest mall was. A hundred miles away? A thousand? Clothing stores and pretzel stands were another world away. If she hadn’t been so hell-bent on rocking the boat of life, she might have even been at the mall right then, spending early birthday money. Hell.

No chance yet to talk to Paul about tomorrow. Poor guy had looked so depressed in the last village that she couldn’t bring herself to mention it. A little late to say anything now. Pity would only make it worse.

The sun slipped lower in the sky. Bright blue began to fade to purple and red around the edges of the horizon. Looking at the sand was no longer excruciating due to glare, and so she stared down at the sand and rock beneath her feet. If she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend she was at the beach, if it weren’t for the state of her body and the foreign shouts of the men around her. Strange how sand could be the same so far away.

A breeze picked up, rippling goosebumps along her skin. She ignored the idea that the goosebumps were partly due to the vast emptiness that engulfed them. They were surrounded by nothing, but it hid them all the same. How would anyone ever find them out here?

She pulled her long sleeve shirt on. Earlier in the day, the shirt was protection against the sun that beat down relentlessly. As day slipped into evening, it was protection against the chill breezes that picked up. It’d also help cover the hole in her shirt.

The wad of rolled-up bills and Paul’s memory card were an itchy, sweaty mess between her breasts, but she dared not reach in to adjust them. She followed Paul’s gaze to a spot on the horizon but saw nothing. Maybe he wasn’t even actually looking.

A guard called to her and gestured. She followed.

Another reason for the stops were restroom breaks. If that was what they could be called. One guard would take her somewhere out of sight, then turn around while she dropped her pants and squatted as best as possible. There wasn’t too much need, considering the little they had to drink, but her body managed to produce some kind of moisture each time.

Lin was in the middle of just such a thing for the second time that day, more just in case than any real need—not like she could call out for a stop at the next highway exit—when she looked down and saw the tear in her shirt.

She didn’t have breadcrumbs, but she could leave something.

Her guard still had his back turned. Her current predicament probably meant he wouldn’t turn around until she signaled she was through. Still, she had to be careful. One hand grabbed the little flap of torn fabric, and with the other she grabbed the rest of her shirt. With a fit of fake coughing to hopefully provide some cover, she tore.

A quick toss sent the scrap flying into a nearby shrub. The faded purple fabric looked completely out of place and pretty pathetic, resting as it was in a snarl of brush twigs two inches above the sand, but at least it was something. Any victory was a victory, no matter how small.

She finished up and signaled the guard. Shirt crumbs had little use out here, especially when the first one started in the middle of nowhere, but hope was all she had, and as she climbed back into the truck, it felt good to have done something.

At each stop, she added another scrap.

* * * * *

Number Four

Books and Guilt–Borders Declares Bankruptcy

Since I have an interest in the book industry (on account of liking books and writing my own), I’ve been following the news about Borders lately, and found the news that Borders filed Chapter 11 just a few minutes ago as I came back to the surface of the internet after a large push on MOROCCO.

Overall, I’m fairly sad about the whole thing.  I never like to see a business close, though I know it’s part of the law of the (consumer) jungle:  you eat or get eaten.  I mostly feel sorry for the employees who will have to go elsewhere for their work.  I’m sure the higher-ups will be fine.  Seems like they always are.

I’ve always liked going to their store–it felt the friendliest and calmest of places here on my side of town.  Yet as I think back, I haven’t bought anything from there in quite a while.  Part of the reason is due to finances. Part of it is catching up on a massive tbr pile that I already have, and yet a third part is no longer feeling like I need to own a copy of every single book I’ve ever read (thus borrowing or library-ing).

So I feel like I have a hand in their closing.  But I know it’s not my fault.  It’s a changing industry, is it not?

Yet that doesn’t really help the little flicker of guilt.  Plus, hey, I like books, so any excuse to buy some, right?

On the other hand, I’ve been meaning to go spend some time (and money) at my indie bookshop just a few blocks away, too, and haven’t.  So then it would become a choice: who to support?  While I’d love to have the cash on hand to do it, I can’t support both.

I need to stop by the store later today, buy something, and mention how much I appreciate the booksellers themselves.

Maybe today needs to be “Hug a Border’s Bookseller day.”

On The Fate of Paper Stories

Readers are passionate people who care about what they love. As such, the proliferation of ebook readers and ebooks has stirred up the readership side of the publishing industry as well.  People seem fairly divided along the spectrum: some have adopted ebooks whole-heartedly, others mix them in, and still others have drawn a line.  With the latter, the implication is that you can have their paperware books when you pry them from their cold, dead hands.

But what these people I think are missing–and like I’ve explained to people who have asked me about my Kindle and what I think of it–is that paper isn’t going anywhere. For some books, I read them and forget them, and they stay on my shelf, sometimes shoved into the back or with other, newer books stacked on top of them.  These are the books that I can’t remember when I read it last, only somewhat remember what the story was about, and can’t see myself reading again any time soon.  This is one of the sweet spots for ebooks: the joy of reading it, immediately and at hopefully lower cost (here’s looking at you, publishing industry), and then it doesn’t clog up your shelves.

Then there are the books that I remember very well:  those old friends who I’ve read time and time again.  These are the books that ebooks will never replace, the ones with dog-ears, underlined passages, scuffs and scrapes, and so on, memories of buying it in high school or as a gift from a college romance, books where I’ve taped up the spines just in hopes that they’ll last longer.

As the future grinds on, bookshelves will become a showcase.  Not like the ones like Michael Nye mentions (bookshelves for show, to project a cultivated image), but rather an honest showcase of the stories and authors we hold most dear.  Our homes are full of the things that matter to us and the space we give to our books no less so.  The same drive that motivates readers to drive hours to visit an author signing or to locate and buy an old first-edition copy is the same drive that will ensure the acquisition of a paper copy of our favorites.  I have books that I would never consider an ebook copy “enough” and will always keep a paper copy.  There will always be a market for these paper stories, and where there’s a market, there’s a profit to be made and a company to fill it.  Papers books might just be tomorrow’s collector’s edition.

After all, I don’t own every single movie I’ve ever watched.  But I do own a copy of my favorites.

Proofreading on the Kindle

I’ve had my new Kindle v3 for about two weeks now.  It’s my first Kindle, so I’m still getting used to the whole thing, but overall I love it so far.

About a week ago, I was due for a read-through of MOROCCO, yet I also wanted to read something on my shiny new toy.  Then bingo: I combined the two.

And I have to say that I think I’m going to make the Kindle a big part of my proofreading process.  Not in the beginning, when I have to scribble notes to myself and draw so many squiggles and arrows and boxes that my manuscript looks more like a football play sheet, but after a few revisions, most of that work has been done and then it’s a matter of finding smaller mistakes and things that need tuned a little more.

The Kindle makes this easy in a few ways.

  1. the screen is an awful lot like paper, and I found that I caught mistakes on it that I missed when reading on my computer screen.
  2. I don’t have to print as many copies of my story.  This saves paper and waste and suchlike.  All I do is delete the copy on the kindle and email myself the new one.
  3. the notes feature.  As I’m reading, I still get the benefit of being able to “scribble” notes to myself via the notes interface on the kindle.  The bonus here is using the “My notes” feature:  It gives me a list of all the annotations that I’ve made, three per “screen page,” and includes both the surrounding text and the actual note.  This made it ridiculously easy to go back through my manuscript on the computer (via Scrivener), find the places, and make my changes/rewrites.  Then I deleted all the notes since I don’t need to save my mistakes for posterity.

It’s Not About Sides–Until You Make It So

The world of publishing is in turmoil.  In the upheaval, two different and fairly antagonistic factions have come about: the New York publishing houses (referred to as “traditional publishing”) and the independent/self-published authors.

Both have their benefits and their drawbacks.  Both also have their fierce proponents.

But it’s not about sides.  Nor should it be.

I’m an “indie” author only because I have a book that I published myself.   Yet I haven’t joined the Association of Independent Authors or planted my flag in the indie soil.  I’ve refused to come down on one side or the other for one simple reason: my writing is a business.

I’m trying to build a career.  To do that, I’ll do whatever I think is best for both my career in general and each specific work in particular.  I published Norton’s Ghost myself because it was an overly long first novel with a strange premise by an author with zero publishing credits to his name.  Odds of it being picked up?  Slim at best.  The nature of the story also suggested a more DIY approach, but I digress.

Is the independent route the best for my next work (which, shameless plug, will likely be MOROCCO)?  Who knows.  Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Maybe I’ll shop the next one around.  Who knows?

But it’s not about sides.  Independent authors need to remember this because they’re railing against a huge industry, one that has far more money, power, reach and experience.  It’s also comprised–at least on some level–of people who like and love books.  People just like you and me.  Maybe even people who will buy, read, edit or design your next book.  Burning your bridges over ideology or because you had one too many manuscript rejections does no one any favors.  It reinforces too many stereotypes.

Also, when we see headlines like “Author X moves away from Traditional publishing and goes indie!,” everyone points to them as proof of concept, as an example that they so desperately want, to show that this works.  This puppeteering is also a mistake.  It hurts the independent movement and it’s based on false grounds.   It’s often the traditional industry they eschew that got them their start in the first place.  Of course you’re going to do well when you already have an audience.

I also ask myself: “Who cares?”  Good for them.

You should go the indie route because you feel the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.  I don’t care if you’re a beginner with a *.mobi file or someone with a back catalog 20 pages long.  Just spare me the flag-planting and name-calling.

To the publishing industry, I ask:  What in the hell are you doing?  Self-published authors have long labored under a yoke of demonization by the traditional industry: the idea was that if someone self-published, it was slop that they paid someone to print because no one wanted to buy it.  The same thing happened when Print On Demand technology became widely available: the industry turned its nose up at those authors.  Self-published books are still often rejected by reviewers and booksellers.

Yet look who’s coming late to the party and desperately trying to find a date?  It used to be the traditional publishers were on one side and the scuzzy “vanity” and “author services” companies were on the other.  Sandwiched between them were the authors.  The goal was the former, but the temptation of the latter was undeniable. Now, though, the traditional industry continues to turn its nose up at independent authors while using more and more of their techniques and technologies and adapting many pages from the books* of author service companies.  Some examples**:

  • Harlequin implemented their POD sister company for their slush pile hopefuls
  • There was that (sci-fi?) press that recently announced they were going to a POD model instead of offset print***
  • Now Publisher’s Weekly wants to charge independent authors $150 for inclusion in a list  separate from the rest of their publication

And so on.

What’s it going to be, industry?  Either you admit that self- or independent-publishing is a viable option, no less equal than the traditional (a you do your thing and we’ll do ours situation), or else you continue to hold yourself above it.  But don’t you dare try to do both at the same time as some of these companies are doing.  Don’t you dare tell me my independent work isn’t good enough and then offer me a spot in a separate publication if I’ll write you a check.

Remember: it’s not about sides.  It’s about making books and getting them to the people who want to read them.

  • *: pun only slightly intended
  • **: I can’t link or double-check names because I’m on lunch at work
  • ***: POD is a good business model as it cuts cost and waste; first example of traditional industry embracing a piece from the realm of the self-pubbed “wanna-be”.  Yet many people said out loud, “well now getting a book out through them is worthless.”