Of monsters and love

There’s a story in this upcoming collection I keep going round and round with in my head. It’s called Pumpkin, and it’s a relatively simple short story I won’t spoil here, because I’m drawing closer and closer to the release. But I’m comfortable saying this – it’s not so much an actual horror story as it is a story about fear. Not fear of monsters (though there is one), but of putting yourself out there and trusting someone with who you are. It’s not a terribly complex story, but it’s a good one.

And that’s something I’m struggling with, weird as it sounds. My brain tells me it needs to fit better with the collection thematically, but my heart is telling me it’s the perfect go-home story, and that’s probably where it will land (I’ll want some reader opinions on the order first, as I have ideas but it’s not set in stone).

End Pieces will be a strange collection. The title will be deceptive, but there’s a purpose to that, I think. Right now, it’s looking like three novellas and two short stories.

After that, I don’t know what comes next, except that I’m really itching to try my hand again at the story I used to call the Extraordinary Ordinary until I realized someone had a novel already titled that. It’ll be written under a pseudonym but I won’t hide who it is. I just think it’s the sort of thing that is different enough to garner a whole different audience, and I don’t want them to confuse the good nature of that book with my more adult work.

Forever Lands forever gone?

I keep thinking about removing Forever Lands from being offered on Amazon. I don’t know why, except all the times I roll over that novel when I’m looking through my sales figures, it sorta depresses me. I think that book and its failure to invite any readership whatsoever was the start of my current two-year long bad mojo.

I don’t know. It doesn’t really hurt anything being in circulation, but I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Let’s face it starting off a book with a child being transformed into a monster probably wasn’t the smartest move. And I seriously misjudged people’s desire to read a fantasy novel that was both a little different and a whole hell of a lot slimmer. Plus, it’s also just kind of bad.

In any case, if you want it, grab it now. I keep leaning in the direction of taking it down, and I think I’m one bad mood from doing it.

Second why of the day

Why oh why in Mare of Easttown are the chief and the sergeant sitting around talking about details of the case like the other wouldn’t know the missing victim was a drug addict? They’re both obviously very well aware of the specifics.

Just start the show from an earlier point. Or have this conversation with someone who is new to the case. Or… literally anything other than this strange exposition dump.

I’m off Twitter and Facebook so… hello!

The title pretty much spells out the bulk of this post. I’ve left Facebook and Twitter (and am in the long, tedious process of cleaning out those dead links from my ebooks, so apologies for that). There’s no real drama to the decision. I just hate logging in and being miserable for the time I’d spend browsing. There’s only so much deliberate ignorance I can stand, and boy, it’s been layered on pretty thick over the last five years or so.

That said, you’re probably going to see more of me here. Follow along, if you like. It’s probably going to devolve into a blog about what I’m watching and reading, which is pretty much what I used Twitter and Facebook for in the first place.

As for the books, Break the Castle is coming along slowly, and my horror collection End Pieces slightly less so. I seem to have lost some mojo in the last year and change, but it’s coming back. Hopefully I’ll have more to share about both soon! Until then, high five, cool person.

On Hallowed Lanes, Chapter 13

Short one today. Enjoy!

Chapter 13

Brianna expected the call days later, perhaps when one of the couple was emptying their pockets while doing laundry. But they were only an hour away from Calgary, Garrett’s mood still fixated on the fast-coming future.

“Hello?” Brianna said, tucking her book under her armpit.

“How did you know?” Jenna asked, her voice thick as syrup. Crying. She was crying.

“Know what?”

“Don’t tell me this wasn’t you. You snuck us the cash when we took the photograph, right?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

There was a long pause, and Jenna breathed so quietly she could hardly hear, “We were going to have to go to a shelter. Just for a little while, until Lorne could land on his feet or I could find something better than temp work.”

Garrett glanced at Brianna and she nodded imperceptibly. He focused back on the road again, though his eyes flickered occasionally to the back seat. His hallucinations, she thought. “I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

“I know what it must seem like, us going to the park like that-”

“No. You don’t explain anything to me. Your lives are your lives. You gave your kids a good memory to hang onto. That’s not…” Brianna was crying now. “You just don’t explain yourself to me, that’s all.”

Jenna was silent for a much longer period of time, and Brianna thought she’d hung up. “If you’re really serious about heading for Drumheller, will you do it? Send our kids a picture of you with the dinos? When we’re okay again, I want to have it developed. So they have something to remember you by.”

“Of course,” Brianna whispered. “Goodbye, Jenna. God bless.”

* * *

Among the hills of Drumheller, Brianna and Garrett cozied up under an enormous dinosaur, its jaws wide. Together, they smiled at the camera as though the world wasn’t a broken place, as though the kids they were posing for would live beautiful, rich lives full of happiness, never wanting for anything, that the cash they gave their parents would sprout and grow and solve all their problems. They smiled for the lie all youth are told – that kindness and goodness are enough to change the world. Five minutes later, as they held each other sitting on the edge of a nearby fountain, a text came through, the last one they’d ever get from Lorne or Jenna. “Angels.”

Legally Blind – Shopping: The Sequel!

I’m not writing this to gain sympathy or anything like that. I’m fine. And this really isn’t about the shopping aspect at all, but something far flung I probably don’t even need to worry about. But I mentioned the difficulties of shopping when blind or low-vision in a blog a few months back, and it’s finally time for me to admit to myself – at least until I get my new glasses – I need help shopping. It’s not really an option anymore.

And that’s fine! It’s manageable. I have a cool mom who I’m with most the time when I’m out and about anyways, and she’s great about helping me. But long-term, I’m unsettled, and not really because of shopping.

But here’s the thing. Professionally, one of the most important aspects of my job is editing. I’ve never made anything remotely close to what I’d need to hire a professional editor, or even a halfway competent hack who slept through half their English courses in college (cough, me, cough). So far, my editing has been done by me, with the aid eventually of whatever beta readers I can wrangle into helping me out. I’ve been blessed to know many great creative minds, all of whom have terrific insight and have helped me clean up a lot of errors in my books. But by and large, the editing falls on my shoulders.

So, as my reading vision continues to deteriorate past the point where I can no longer actually read without the aid of super magnifiers and high contrast text and all that, what happens?

I don’t have an answer to this. I could pick up a lot of mistakes with a text to speech program, but that’s not a guarantee. And readers would expect quality, as I would in their shoes. So what happens? It bears researching. It’s the one aspect of this I don’t know I’ve ever thought about before. It’s not frightening, not exactly, but it’s something I need to plan for.

Anyways. World’s burning, so this all seems sort of petty. But it’s on my mind, and writing about it helps me think out loud. Hope everybody is well. Or as well as they can be. Just… give yourself a high five today.

Legally Blind – Shopping

It’s been a while since I wrote one of these. Nearly three years, which seems wrong. In any case, I had a disappointing experience I thought I’d turn into a positive and talk some about the quirks of shopping while legally blind.

I’m getting a new washer and dryer next week. It’s been ten long years since I’ve had a set of my own. The plan was originally for me to buy the set, but my folks, bless them, decided to surprise me and took care of it. Which is awesome, and it allows me to move ahead and buy a pair of glasses whenever it’s safe for me to go visit my eye doctor and get a new prescription.

I say all that because I was pretty excited to buy some laundry soap from Amazon, as well as some dryer sheets. Sounds boring, I know, but it’s something little I haven’t needed to buy in just as long. I kept a few Tide pods around – not for snacking, I’m not a maniac – but that’s about it. To save me money, as embarrassing as it might be, my mom has graciously been doing my laundry for a while now, so the thought of being able to take care of this myself has been a huge morale boost.

Anyways, the point is, I ordered some laundry soap and two boxes of dryer sheets. One was scented like sage, the other mangoes – dryer sheets got weird, and I love it. I like to do my dry goods shopping through Amazon Prime – more on that in a second – so that’s what I went with, throwing in a few other essentials like carpet cleaner and some assorted groceries.

Everything seemed to be fine. The box did its usual seven or so stops along the way, with two alone in Montana, one in Butte, the other Helena. On its last leg of the journey, the box never arrived, and late last night, I got an “undeliverable” message, which usually means something broke in transit or the box was too damaged to deliver.

Disappointing, but not a huge deal. Like I say, I do have some laundry soap, so it’s not like I was in a rush for this. But it makes for a good conversation piece on shopping while blind and some of the pride that comes with it.

As I mentioned, I like Prime Pantry, and it’s not just for the convenience. When I go to the store, I’m being driven. Usually that comes with an unwarranted feeling of guilt on my part, the idea that me browsing the store shelves is taking up someone else’s time. Rarely have I ever actually been rushed, but it feels like I need to hurry or else face the aggravation of people who have better things to do with their time. Again, I reiterate, this is all in my head. With Amazon Prime, I can take my time. I can browse for an hour or two. I can leave things in my cart, think about them, and come back later if I want them or not (well, generally – lately there’s been a lot of stuff selling out fast).

There’s also a more practical aspect too – a lot of times, I can’t see what’s on the bottom shelf of stores. In some ideal low vision world, stores would stack their items vertically as opposed to horizontally, so you could get a sampling of everything right at your face without kneeling down to grab five or six cans off the bottom shelf to see if they’re the ones without sodium, or whatever the case happens to be. But that’s not the world we live in and it makes far more sense to have the best sellers at face height anyways. That’s just wishful thinking.

The point being, finding specifics is hard. When it’s combined with that sense of “i need to get this done as fast as possible,” I’m often just grabbing things that approximate what I need. That’s not always ideal, but it’s generally okay. Online shopping helps alleviate that.

In bigger cities, upon request from the customer service area, you can generally ask for a shopping assistant. This is good to know not just for the blind, but for the elderly or otherly abled who might need the service. It’s a great idea, and it’s particularly ideal when it comes to bread, fruits, and vegetables. I’ve come home often with stale or moldy bread, and having another set of eyes on that sort of thing helps immensely. In my small town and in Montana in general, that’s not really an option. Employees are spread thin, and if I’m out and about, I’m generally with family anyways. Even if I mean it with the best of intentions, asking a store employee for help would generally seem rude to my family when they’re with me, as they tend to have just as much pride in helping me as I do in having pride about not being helped. It’s a vicious circle.

None of this is to complain. I’ve said this before, but apart from the hardships of this year, it’s a good time in general to be blind. People are starting to strive for accessibility, or at least realize its importance as issues like these come to light. So how can you help? Volunteering your time and assistance in driving around a blind person to run errands is a great start. Both having the patience and telling us it’s okay to take our time – and mean it – is just as uplifting. Don’t be offended if we seek help in other ways. There may be more under the surface than you.

Thanks for reading! And those of you who bear with us, thank you for your patience and care.

Square One

I have a new book launching in ten days. If you keep up with me at all, you know what it is, because God knows I advertise it every five minutes on social media. The book is going to be divisive, if beta readers are anything to go by. Two seem to like it. Two don’t. That’s fine. I very rarely split things down the middle with readers anyways – people either seem to love my writing or royally dislike it.

I wasn’t particularly nervous about Savor the Wicked throughout most of the first half of the year. The world’s troubles and issues of a personal nature have taken my attention away from my new series. But now that the release date is right around the corner, I’m starting to realize I’m coming up against this one in much the same manner as I did The Ghost at His Back. Back then, I think I could afford about fifty dollars worth of advertising for that book. I advertised it locally through a small county newspaper and through Bknights, a discount advertiser that has gone on to become a staple of my advertising, since I still work on a shoestring budget.

This time around, I’m not even working with that, not yet. I’m looking at buying a washer and dryer next month, glasses the month after that, and soon a freezer for the winter months. All of these are necessities – not urgent ones, but they have to take priority over my business expenses. I’m excited. It’s the first time I will have had a washer and a dryer for over ten years.

But from a business perspective, it’s insane. When I set the preorder date, there was no way to expect this. I am releasing a book with no advertising save for what I can scrounge up on social media. My mailing list might as well be non-existent. Most the people registered to it signed up when I first started (and before laws changed for this sort of thing) to be entered in a Kindle giveaway. The people who actually open the newsletter are largely family. That’s… pretty much it. It’s why I pulled Beast as a freebie from the newsletter and sold it on Amazon instead. In its short lifetime, it’s already sold more copies than people who have signed up for the newsletter.

Turnaround from the newsletter is also atrocious. Same with my social media advertising. I see more sales when my brother says something flippant about one of my books being out than I do with months of chapter teases, pre-order announcements, and all that nonsense. I can’t sell a book for shit. It’s easier in person with paperbacks, which has always surprised me. Generally, there, if people pick up the books, they buy a copy. I did some mental math one day during a sale and figured it came out to about 8 in 10 people buying books who read the back matter.

So why there and not online? Your guess is as good as mine. No traditional means of author magnets has ever worked for me the way it has for other writers. Part of it I know is not writing to market, but even there, you’d think I’d get SOME people reading the first chapter of a new book online or at least giving the posts some likes or shares. But apart from a couple close friends, I can’t even get that. That’s not me whining. That’s me saying things need to change.

And they will. Eventually. I’m working on something massively stupid at the moment, so stupid it should get more eyes on my work, or so I hope. And financially, things are looking up. I have some big expenses on the way, but once I’m over that hurdle, I should be able to advertise future books in a bigger way.

In the meantime, I do what I did back then. with The Ghost at His Back. I ask people to share, much as that sucks to have to do. I try to write the next two novels, which is secretly where the real money will come from (buy-throughs are my bread and butter). I continue to look forward to the day when I’ve ground out enough stories that I can eventually turn advertising into a major cornerstone, not just a “when and where I can” opportunity.

And maybe by this time next year, I can start looking at in-person sales again. Maybe. We’ll see if Godzilla doesn’t come destroy the earth or whatever the hell else 2020 has in store for us.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, whoever you are stumbling across this blog. I have maybe two visitors a month here, so if you’re one of them, much love. And please, don’t be shy. Some days it feels like I’m drowning out here. You have no idea how much a comment or a like means.

Or, God forbid, a book purchase and a review.

Okay, whining’s done. Back to work.