Multi-passionate writer, author and solo-preneur

Month: August 2013

Sneak Peek – Untitled Steampunk Cyborg Pixie Story

steampunk-fairy--large-msg-129989045703Happy prelude to a long weekend! Here’s a brief (and rough) excerpt of the short story I’m currently working on for submission to yet another anthology.

***

He was shiny.

That’s what first drew her notice. Other men were bland and monochrome and hardly worthy of attention. But this one, he gleamed. He tried to hide it under a hat and dark glasses and gloves and other human trappings, keeping his head down and avoiding other human eyes, but she saw. That first glimmer of light drew her to him as the sunlight glinted off his cheek, and as she watched him, his sleeve rode up and exposed shiny brass skin. He was a curiosity, and the elders had always said that she was a dangerously curious thing. So of course she followed him.

He lived in a small cottage at the edge of the wood, well outside of town. The house had a lovely garden, but it was the things inside that held her interest. Through the window she spied even more curiosities and wonders: birds and butterflies and mice and other small, delicate creatures made of the same shiny stuff that the man was made of — at least partly.

For once inside, he stopped hiding, and she could see him truly. He removed his hat and glasses and revealed a head and half a face covered in plates of polished brass. Where his left eye should have been, there was a socket filled with cogs and gears and other parts she had seen on the machines of men. He removed his coat and gloves and rolled up his sleeves, revealing an arm made of polished wood and brass, and a hand with coppery joints that could flex and grasp as well as his pale, fleshy hand.

He went to the table where his brass menagerie lay dormant, picked up something that looked like a spy glass and affixed it to the empty eye socket. Then he took a key from his vest pocket and began winding each small creature, one by one, bringing them to life.

She hovered at the window and watched, delighted and mesmerized by this clever man and his creations, as copper butterfly wings fluttered and brass birds sang and flew and mock mice raced around the surface of the table. The butterfly came near the window, and the wings were a sight to behold, covered with intricate scroll work, gleaming and delicate. A pang of envy shot through her as she glanced back at her own wings, wishing they were even half as splendid.

The butterfly shot away from the window and she found herself pressed up against the glass, gazing after it with longing, wanting only to go inside and have a closer look.

She never saw the cat.

***

Editing the Heck out of Your Indie Novel – Part One: The Extra Mile

2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 31

If there is one professional service that indie authors should be spending their money on prior to publishing their books, it’s editing. Unfortunately, many (too many) self-published authors don’t do this. Some think they don’t need to. But many of them, especially in the beginning, simply can’t afford to.

If you fall into the latter camp, does that mean you shouldn’t publish your book? No. But it does mean that you shouldn’t publish your book until you’ve gone the extra mile (or five) in the editing process. It means you shouldn’t be in a such rush to share your story with the world that you neglect these steps, and it means you should NEVER shrug off manuscript problems thinking that if the story is good enough nobody will care. Because let me tell you something about mistakes in indie books:

PEOPLE CARE.

Sure, I have yet to read a book from a major publishing house that didn’t have its fair share of typos or other errors. I also have yet to read a review of any of these books that mentions said errors. But for some reason, reviewers tend to hold self-published books to a higher standard, and no matter how much they love your story, they will mention errors in their reviews. Some will even deduct points, or those coveted stars, because of them. A bad edit, or no edit at all, can hurt sales and harm your reputation as a writer.

Worse yet, it contributes to the perception that indies are basically one big slush pile unleashed on the masses and that only books that have been vetted by a major New York publishing house are truly worthy. So please: do us all a favor and GET YOUR BOOK EDITED.

So back to what to do if you can’t afford a professional edit. I’ve been there with both of my novels, so I’ve got some experience in this — and overall it’s been a good experience. Not to say that either of my books were perfect the first time I put them on the market, but what errors were pointed out in reviews were few enough and minor enough that I’m pretty confident my self-editing method is about as effective as it gets (oh, and as soon as I notice a reviewer point out an error, I immediately FIX it, then republished the book — that’s not something traditionally published authors get to do). Hopefully, by sharing my method here we’ll have fewer barely-edited and rushed-to-publication books winding up on the market.

There is a lot of great advice out there already about how to edit your manuscript. The thing is, most of it is by established authors, most of whom either are or have been traditionally published. They are primarily concerned with getting your manuscript to a point that an agent or editor will want to read it, presuming that if it gets accepted by one or both of those then it’s going to go through another round of editing (or several) with the publisher.

But as an indie author, you ARE the publisher. That means that you’ve got to go through the whole process as a writer–and then go through it all AGAIN as a publisher.

This means a lot of drafts. It takes a lot of time and there’s going to come a point where your eyes feel like they’re going to melt and leak out of their sockets if you have to look at that blasted manuscript one more time. But stick with it, because I promise, it will be worth the extra effort.

This is turning into a monster of a post, so I’m going to stop here and split it into three parts. Next week, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty as I start going step by step through my editing process.

Do you have any questions for me about the editing process? If so, leave it in a comment. If it’s not already addressed in the next two parts of this series, I’ll do a follow-up Q&A post at the end. Also, I’d LOVE to hear any editing tips you have to offer.

Ready to start editing? Proceed to Part Two.

A List O’ Updates

Bullet list style!

  • The job hunt is still on. I’m hoping to have some good news by the end of this week. But I’ve been hoping that every week for a while now, so….
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  • The flash fiction I submitted to the local publisher has been accepted… except that I haven’t been given a contract or anything yet, so I’m going to call the acceptance tentative until something more official happens.
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  • Eucha Falls is still under submission to the horror anthology. The latest update is that so far they’ve rejected about 40% of submissions and passed about 6% on to the head editor for consideration. Supposedly they started sending out rejections and notifications last week. I’m choosing to interpret the fact that I haven’t gotten anything yet as a hopeful sign.
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  • This week I started another short story to submit for another anthology. The anthology is about cyborgs. My story is about a steampunk cyborg pixie. I’m not sure if that’s quite what they have in mind, but I’m going for it anyway. My short stories usually end up either super-short flash fics or novelettes that are too long for anyone to want to publish. I think this time I’m going to manage to strike a happy medium.
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  • I think I’ll continue to focus on short stories and flash fiction until I’m ready to get back to noveling, which will probably happen in November with NaNoWriMo. When that happens I’ll most likely be writing the sequel to Dominion of the Damned. I feel bad about keeping Radium Town on the back burner, but really, I think the smartest business decision I can make as an indie is to finish the series I started and focus on generating a fan base before I branch out. For now I can look to short stories for spreading my writer wings to other sub-genres.
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  • I went for a walk today, which is worth mentioning because, other than yard work, it’s the most exercise I’ve gotten in probably two months. I’ve been feeling sick and sore all over from all the physical inactivity. One walk isn’t enough to fix me, but it’s a start.

Free Story: Food Scarcity

Sorry for the blog silence. Lately my life has been split pretty evenly between doing the job hunt mambo and writing content for Demand Studios and spending what little free time I do have just trying to rest and recharge my batteries so I can do it all over again. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for blogging. Or unpaid writing of any sort, really.

So since the flash fiction project is on hold I decided to go ahead and share one of the two I’ve actually managed to finish (the other one is still under submission with a local e-zine). It’s only 500 words long, so grab a cuppa and settle in for a quick read. The title isn’t final, but for now I’m calling it…

 

FOOD SCARCITY

 

The lights still came on at night in the city. The girl wondered how long they would keep doing that, without anyone around to turn them on. The screens and news tickers in Times Square had been broadcasting the same warnings to stay inside and lock your doors for two weeks now. She didn’t think there was anyone left in the city still capable of heeding the warnings.

But she kept looking, just in case.

She stuck to the shadows and avoided streets where she could hear the tell-tale moans. She wasn’t afraid of those things. They weren’t that hard to kill, one on one. But swarms were a different story, and she couldn’t afford to get injured. Too many depended on her to lead them. To feed them.

So she hunted, even though it seemed more useless with each passing night.

A scream pierced the silence, filling the girl with hope. Only the living screamed like that. She scanned the street, the shops and restaurants. The living tended to show up where there might be food.

But the unliving tended to show up where there was screaming, so she had to hurry. The woman screamed again, and the girl raced toward the sound. There, up ahead. The Starbucks on Eighth Street. The windows were broken. A woman backed out of the door, clutching a broken and bloody two-by-four like a club. A shopping bag hung over her shoulder.

The girl came up from behind. Peering over the woman’s shoulder, she saw a man lying on the floor, swarmed by the unliving. They were devouring him. The woman sobbed. For now, they were too distracted to hear her.

The girl spun her around. She screamed and raised her weapon, but didn’t swing. “Are you bit?”

Dazedly, the woman shook her head. “My husband.” She looked back at the man on the floor… what was left of him. “David…”

“We can’t help him. Come with me.”

“Where?”

“Away from them.” Inside, the ones who couldn’t get their fill were starting to take notice of them. “Now.” She grabbed the woman’s hand, and pulled. The swarm filed out through the door behind them. They ran together down the street, turning here and there, tracing a path through a maze the girl knew well. The woman kept sobbing as they went. “Be quiet!” the girl commanded.

They ran down an alley, to a dead end. They turned around. The woman screamed again as the swarm followed them, blocking the entrance. There was nowhere to go.

The others emerged from the shadows. Her children. Together, they fought the oncoming horde. It was easy, together. When they were finished, covered in gore and surrounded by squirming pieces of the unliving, they turned to the woman as one.

She looked confused, and terrified. “M… my name is Sheila.” She held out the grocery bag with a trembling hand. “I have food.”

“We know,” said the girl, her fangs descending. “And we’re so hungry.”

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