Phase One Is Complete: My Results Using KDP Select

KDPS Logo

About two weeks ago I offered The Sins of Acheryn for free on Amazon, using three of my five “free days” through KDP Select (for an overview of that, see my previous post here). I decided on using only a portion of my free days as a test, so that I could try and glean some lessons that will help me more effectively use the last couple of days. As promised, here’s the outcome of this first phase of my experiment with Amazon’s program:

The Hope: by offering a story for free to the largest online retailer in the world, it will

The Sins of Acheryn

The Sins of Acheryn

introduce a significant number of new readers to my work. Assuming the book (or in my case, short story) is well received, then these new readers will potentially leave reviews on the work’s Amazon page (always something to be coveted) or, even better, will purchase other works.

The Reality: My experience pretty well lines up with the experiences of a number of other authors who have written about using KDP Select. I did see a good number of free “purchases” of TSOA. Over the course of the 3 day give-away, TSOA was downloaded 75 times. That was enough to place it as low as number 2818 on the Kindle Free Books list. But it made it as high as 43 on the Kindle Top 100 Free Short Stories list. I was pretty thrilled with that.

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It’s Here! The Sins of Acheryn fantasy short story is free through Wed on Amazon!

The Sins of Acheryn tells the tale of the cataclysmic fall of a vanished empire. As the legendary Kings of Acheryn moved to consume the nations of the ancient world, her pride and violence rose to the thrones of heaven. At the pinnacle of her power, three judgments would punish the greatest empire of a world now lost to myth and time.

The Sins of Acheryn

The Sins of Acheryn

It’s here! Today officially kicks off the first of my KDP Select free days for The Sins of Acheryn. I had originally planned this to be a two day event, but thanks to a mistake on my part, it is now a three day even… 18 Feb -20 Feb. So, if you haven’t yet read Acheryn, now is the time to check it out! And if you do read it, I would greatly appreciate a review or rating… good or bad. Believe it or not, a well written “I didn’t like it” does have tremendous value to indie authors.

Incidentally, like a good, social media conscious writer, I’ve been updating the various portals with this announcement. What that means is that Twitter, which my Facebook, blog, and G+ accounts all feed into, gets hit the hardest with repetition. So for those of you who follow me through Twitter only, I apologize for the concentrated repetitions of this.

Thank you all for your continuing support!

WE

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Sampler Sunday: Some fantasy, some scifi, and my absolute favorite photo (that I’ve ever taken)

I’ve got a lot going on now… sort of a creative maelstrom right before my classes start in two weeks. I thought I’d put out a couple of things for Sample Sunday while it’s all knocking around out in my head.

First, if you haven’t read it yet, I’ve recently published my first Science Fiction Short (flash fiction, actually), titled The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either.that I originally posted in last week on this blog. Since then, I’ve added this little lead in:

 The old adage only hints at the animosity between the primal elements of Creation. Tired of Nature’s hostility, Nothing decides that the time is right to end this feud. On his terms.

Vacuum2

You can still read the whole thing here on this blog.

However, I also published it as a free short story through Smashwords. If you like to keep all of your reading neatly in your ereader, then you can download Vacuum for whatever ereader format you desire here.

The Sins of Acheryn

The Sins of Acheryn

Also, starting tomorrow, and lasting through Tuesday, my newest fantasy short story, The Sins of Acheryn, will be free to Amazon Prime members as part of KDP Select. So if fantasy is more your thing, please check it out! You can follow the link here.

And finally, for no real reason I can think of, I thought I’d share a pic that I took many years ago… about 15 or 16, if my math isn’t too off. I took this in the late 1990s, while deployed in support of operations in Bosnia. That’s an MH-53 PAVE LOW, one of the more awesome rotary wing birds to ever grace the skies. I was privileged to ride along on this particular occasion, and was allowed to snap some pics. This is one of my all time favorites, and I was surprised to see it wasn’t already in my photo gallery. So I’ll be fixing that soon.

Low Level over Bosnia

Happy Sunday!

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My free Scifi short The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either, is now live on Smashwords!

Vacuum2For those who like to have all their stories on an ereader, I’ve now published my first science fiction story on Smashwords. I did this in order to try and get more exposure for the story., and maybe new readers And I must admit, I do like to have my work all on my Nook.

So, if you read (and enjoyed) The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either on this blog a few days ago, and would like it at your fingertips, then it’s waiting for you at Smashwords. Please stop by and leave a comment!

WE

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Phase Two of My World Domination Plans: Free stuff

The Sins of Acheryn

The Sins of Acheryn

Okay. Perhaps world domination is a bit of a stretch.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago,  I’ve recently published a new short story to Amazon: The Sins of Acheryn is a fantasy tale set in the distant past of the world in which The Prince of Graves takes place. With this publication, I’m conducting a test of Amazon’s KDP Select Program.

My KDP Select experiment is now entering Phase Two. Phase One was simply to publish The Sins of Acheryn exclusively through Amazon so that I could enroll in KDP Select. Phase Two is exercising that tool that seems to offer so much promise, yet so often disappoints the Indie Author: the promotional free days.

For those of you now familiar with this, here’s the skinny: by enrolling your book (or short story, as in my case) in KDP Select, you are allowed to offer your work for free during 5 free days. This offer is only available to Amazon Prime members. These days can be used all together, or broken up, any time during the 90 day commitment you’ve given to Amazon (the time you can’t sell your work through another publisher).

I’ve decided to be cautious. I’m breaking my free days up into two chunks: the first for two days, to get a feel for it. Then, after I learn how it really works, I’ll use the other three somewhere down the road. So, my first two free days are scheduled for 18-19 Feb.

Once I see how successful (or unsuccessful) my free days are, I’ll figure out my next steps, and let you know what I learn.

Oh, and if you’re on Amazon Prime, please take a look at The Sins of Acheryn during this time!

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The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either – Science Fiction Flash Fiction

A couple of months ago, I was somehow reminded of the old axiom “nature abhors a vacuum.”  For some odd reason, the title of this short story popped into mind right afterwards. This below bit of flash fiction wasn’t far behind that. It’s a bit of nonsense that I enjoyed writing very much. I hope you enjoy it as well. When I get the patience, I’ll format this for Smashwords.

The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either

Image     Look at this mess, said Nothing. It’s complete anarchy, and it’s disgraceful. Only when the flotsam and jetsam of Creation are removed from existence will there be true order. Nothing was cold and calm as always, but he had decided that enough was finally enough. Right now, everything is chaos!

     Gravity, who was quite weak in this mostly empty pocket of the cosmos, gave a noncommittal shrug – an unusual stirring of subatomic particles that would fluster the juvenile scientists of the Universe had they instruments keen enough to pick up on it. No, at best the disturbance would be chocked up to “noise.” Gravity cast a slow, lazy glance to Time.

     You might want to consider your audience, said Time, gesturing back toward Gravity. After all, we’re the product of Creation too.

Nothing was silent for a while.

Look, said Nothing, testier than Gravity or Time had ever seen him. We all know how this is going to play out. All of these wild particles, all of this overzealous energy… they’re going to go cold. It’s all going to collapse back in itself eventually. But frankly, I’m sick of waiting for it.

Time chuckled. She did it because chuckling always provoked him. She could sense when Nothing was in one of his “moods,” but now she was irritated by his last quip. As if she was responsible for his melancholy.

I suppose it would be impossible to wait, if it weren’t for me, said Time.

Gravity let out a long, low sigh, enough to distort the view of deep space telescopes pointing their direction. What exactly are you getting at now? I rather like how things are going. I’m hurling galaxies so far out, there’s no telling when everything will go cold.

     I could tell you when, said Time, but that would take away the surprise.

Gravity guffawed, causing the closest star to collapse in on itself.

Nothing glowered as only Nothing could. Time almost regretted poking him. He was up to something.

Alright, she asked. What is it you want?

I would like you two, said Nothing after a time, to speed things up. Accelerate the expansion to criticality, then bring it all back together again. It’s time to clean up this mess.

     Time and Gravity looked at one another, then back to Nothing. Things were getting awkward. Nothing wasn’t asking for the impossible — after all, the Heat Death of the Universe was a certainty. The same went for Universal Collapse. But there were dynamics still unfolding, Laws that had to be followed.

Suddenly Time laughed. It wasn’t a cruel laugh, but Nothing cringed.

I know what this is about! said Time. You’re still mad at Nature!  

Nothing glowered even more, and shifted uncomfortably. What few loose particles flitted around him dashed away as quickly as the Laws allowed.

Gravity winked at Time. I’m all for it! But don’t think you’re fooling anyone, Nothing. Once we’re all packed back into Singularity, you’ve got everything else to yourself.

In a manner of speaking, mumbled Nothing. I’m just sick of all this chaos. He looked pleadingly at his companions. Do you think, next time, that you could think things through a little more before blowing it up again?

     Time moved around Gravity and Nothing. She looked down through the Void, past the stars, past the galaxies, past the epochs.

It is kind of a mess, isn’t it? she said at last. I mean, it started so well. But it’s still a mess. I blame it on the antiquark ratios. 

Nothing brightened. So you’ll do it?

     She looked at Gravity. He was already flexing, and doing some practice pulls on a young solar system moving away from him.

Fine, said Time. We’ll do it. But you have to promise that the next go around you won’t complain so much.

Nothing was ecstatic as Time drew closer to Gravity. She smiled, stretched herself around him, and started reaching through the Void. Gravity groaned. Between the two of them, the near limitless quantities of created matter started to halt outward expansion.

Nothing bade his companions farewell, and withdrew to the edge of Creation. In silence he watched as every particle in the Universe first slowed, and then grew cold. Some time later (it was difficult to tell how long, with Time collapsing in on herself), the matter began moving again. This time, it zipped faster and faster away from Nothing, and toward the single point where Gravity and Time were calling, growing hotter and hotter as it did so. Why, in no time (ha!), everything that ever was would return to Singularity. Everything, that is, except for Nothing.

Who’s the big shot now, Nature? called Nothing to the rivers of atoms and subatomic particles as they raced away at speeds many in the Universe would have been surprised to have seen.  Maybe next time around, you’ll be a little more pleasant. 

 

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Just Released: The Sins of Acheryn fantasy short story

The Sins of Acheryn

The Sins of Acheryn

As promised, I’ve just released a new short story through Amazon! The Sins of Acheryn is now live. Here’s the description of my latest fantasy story:

The Sins of Acheryn tells the tale of the cataclysmic fall of a vanished empire. As the legendary Kings of Acheryn moved to consume the nations of the ancient world, her pride and violence rose to the thrones of heaven. At the pinnacle of her power, three judgments would punish the greatest empire of a world now lost to myth and time.

After the ending, I add the following in an author’s note:

The empire ruled by the High City of Acheryn, the bed of demons and debauchery, occurs in the distant past of the world of Maladine. Millennia later, and a continent away, The Prince of Graves tells the tale of the Sixth War between the last survivors of the mortal kingdoms and the Necromancers who poisoned the minds of the kings of Acheryn. This war sets the stage for the greater Desolation War series, to be published some time in the future.

I hope that you’ll give it a look. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can check it out for free. Which leads me to this: I’m embarking on an experiment. I’ve never been keen on the idea of restricting my work to a single outlet, which is something that Amazon requires while you use KDP Select. Plus, I’ve heard mixed reviews about using this service. The most common of these from independent authors seems to be that, although they did see a significant number of downloads of their work during their “free days,” these surges rarely translated into reviews or sales of their other works. So at the end of the day, there was little evidence that anyone even read their work.

But I have a couple of reasons to give KDP Select a try. First, the service has been around a while now, so has had time to mature. Perhaps there has developed a more responsive audience since the program took off. Second, I feel I need to experience it first hand, in large part because of my plans to restart my Sojourner Mountain web site. Sojourner Mountain was (is) an initiative of mine to create tools for writers just getting started in the writing world. I feel I need to experience what Amazon has to offer so that I can give a more informed opinion of the pros and cons of using this tool of the world’s largest online retailer. Once the experiment if over, I’m sure to expand to Nook and other platforms.

Thank you all for your continued support! And as I mentioned last week, I’ll be posting a new work of flash fiction on this site in the near future. Keep an eye out for my first piece of science fiction, The Vacuum Isn’t Crazy About Nature, Either.

WE

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Delving into the mists of time – in fantasy, and in reality

How important is history to a fantasy world?

Some of you may have noticed my absence from the blogging world over the past two months. Of course you did. You’ve just forgotten.

Over the autumn months, I was quite prolific. I have five short stories that I really enjoyed writing. Some of these I’m sending out to various markets to try my hand at getting them published. But I think I’m going to self publish a couple as well. One, a piece of flash fiction, will be out on this site in the near future. Another, a fantasy short titled The Sins of Acheryn, I plan on publishing as soon as I get the time to format and to design a decent cover. That leaves a horror story (a novelette), and two science fiction short stories that I’ll float out there in the magazine world.

After I completed the last of these short stories, it occurred to me that I needed to return to a commitment I made to myself years ago in college. I decided back then that, at a minimum, I would complete graduate school. Well, for some reason, I’ve decided to get off my lazy behind and start work on my master’s degree. I’ve also decided to veer a bit from my bachelor’s degree, which was in Political Science, and to instead indulge my passion for history. Military history, in fact.

Why military history, you may ask? Well, it may have the promise of great wealth (historians are paid a lot, right?), or possibly the massive sex appeal associated with the field of history. But I must admit, I’m harboring thoughts of writing some nonfiction some time in the not too distant future.

So that means I’ll have a lot less time for writing and reading for me. I still intend to work on The Desolation War, and to write the occasional short story and regular blog posts. I’m still a fantasy writer at heart, after all. But if I vanish off the grid again in the near future, you’ll know why.

Thanks to all for your continued support!

WE

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Classic Fantasy Book Review: The Queen of the Black Coast, by Robert E. Howard

QOTBCThis short story/novella falls about in the middle of the series of Conan adventures published by Robert E. Howard from 1932 – 1934. Based on my extensive research (meaning after a couple of Wikipedia searches), I learned that Howard was looking for an “epic” tone to this particular story, and apparently The Queen of the Black Coast is a favorite among Howard’s fans. I was surprised to see certain key elements, including a few snippets of dialogue, were borrowed from this story and included in the big-screen adaption of Conan the Barbarian (1982). So clearly this particular story is essential reading for Conan fans.

Having said that, I didn’t enjoy this story as much as I did The Hour of the Dragon. The story starts strong, but the relationship between Conan and Bêlit, the pirate dubbed the Queen of the Black Coast, demands a lot of indulgence from the reader. Just to be clear: I’m not Roger Ebert…I don’t expect or particularly want strong romance in the stories I read. But if the romance forms a central pillar of your story, then it needs to be believable on some level. But we essentially see Conan impress Bêlit after handily defending himself from her pirates, and then bam! They’re in love. And since I didn’t buy into the relationship, I didn’t experience the reaction from the fate of Bêlit that Howard likely intended.

The action is certainly there. In this respect, The Queen of the Black Coast delivers handily. In addition, Howard displays his skill at world building here. Personally, I think Robert E. Howard is particularly gifted at this, as the Hyborian Age setting feels so authentic.

So while this particular story may not have rated as highly with me as with Howard’s more dedicated fans, I would still recommend it to fantasy fans. As additional motivation, if you’re a fan of the movie, you can see who Valeria was partly based on.

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Compelling and Thought Provoking Science Fiction: The Artemis Effect, by Kasia James

PrintThis book is one of few this year that I waited intently for the release, and then purchased as soon as I saw it available. I follow Kasia James’ blog, Writer’s Block, and I had become familiar with her impressive poetry. So as I learned of the plot and impending release of The Artemis Effect, I promptly put it on my To Read list. I wasn’t disappointed. Please note, as always, that this review does not contain spoilers.

The Artemis Effect tells the story of a confounding celestial event that rapidly throws the entire planet into crisis. Although global in scope, the story is told to us across three locations: Australia, England, and the United States. The characters in each location have their personal and environmental struggles as the world they know crumbles around them. The human responses to the growing crisis are unsettlingly realistic, despite the surreal circumstances. The unfolding breakdown is dramatic in some instances (e.g. riots), and much more subtle in others (e.g. unexplained disruptions to communications). As the modern world reels under the mysterious event in the heavens, the characters must learn how to protect themselves and their loved ones in an increasingly hostile and primal world.

Kasia James has a wonderful command of language. The prologue is poetically written, bringing to mind (despite the complete difference of genre) Terry Pratchett’s engaging style. The character development is well done. I particularly liked the story that plays out in Britain. The characters are complex and I think some of the more exciting scenes play out there.

The Artemis Effect succeeds on a level that few other books I’ve read recently have been able to.  James lays out for us an unfolding mystery that baffles the main characters, as well as the reader, throughout most of the story. There is something happening that has impacted the entire planet, and yet the best any of the characters can do is hypothesize as to what is going on. There is a tantalizing aura of mystery that permeates the book, and the author does a masterful job of leading the readers along without providing ultimate answers to the mystery until the very end (if indeed the observations given are wholly accurate). In my opinion, the climactic resolution of many a novel often goes too far, too fast, in providing answers. This is a problem when the primary entertainment is reading how the characters have to deal with the mystery. Take away the mystery too quickly, and you take away a big part of the reason to continue investing time in the story. The Artemis Effect kept me intrigued from beginning to end, and I recommend it to any who enjoy science fiction and mystery. I am very much looking forward to Kasia James’ future works.

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