Come Fly with Me!

Today it is my pleasure to make the official announcement that the Kindle versions of my entire catalog are now, and will permanently remain on sale for 99¢ each.  This will include all future works, of which several are under consideration, and one is making good headway.  The Beyond the Rails trilogy (so far; more is planned!) is a series of steampunk novellas set in colonial Kenya in the 1880s.  One reviewer described it as “Jules Verne meets Firefly.”  The Stone Seekers is a cozy sword and sorcery story that hasn’t received much attention yet, but has been praised by those who have read it as being “epic fantasy without a hint of Tolkien.”  All are available now and forever on Amazon for 99¢ each.  I also have a short story in Den of Antiquity, a wonderful anthology of steampunk goodness that still sells for $2.99.  I recommend it as a primer for readers curious about steampunk, as it contains a dozen stories from the far-ranging pens of innovative writers in the genre.  My contribution, Brass & Coal, is offered as a free sample among the tabs above; the rest you’ll have to pay for, and I highly recommend it!

And what is the philosophy behind this price reduction?  It’s simple.  I don’t have many sales, and that’s a shame, because I’m good.  Immodest, you say?  Maybe, but it’s true, and so are most of my writing acquaintances.  I once harbored that nebulous dream of all writers, that I would become rich and famous while working in the middle of the night in my robe and slippers.  I gave that up years ago, decades!  We now live in a world where everything becomes more expensive by the day, and I want to say to you, “Here is a product where you can spend a dollar, and get many times that dollar’s worth of entertainment value.”  I’m not getting rich from writing books, and I’ve long-since come to terms with the notion that I never will.  Let me see if I can at least become widely-read.  Free samples of all my works are in the tabs above, so check out one or two, and see whether you think that dollar might buy you an enjoyable ride.

Allow me to continue this train of though by commenting on a trend I’ve observed.  This was first placed on my radar by fellow indie C.W. Hawes, who tends to be deep around the insights, and is very much worth adding to your reading list.  The subject is the creeping up of book prices on Kindle.  As C.W. points out, e-books used to range from 99¢ to $2.99, which is reasonable.  As a Kindle author, I know that $2.99 pays a reasonable royalty to the author, and 99¢, while the royalty is lower, will generally sell  more books.  I also know that there are no truckloads of paper to buy, no 55-gallon drums of ink.  There is no requirement for enough power to light up Chicago to run printing presses and binding machines.  There is no postage to be paid to deliver heavy books.  The “book” exists as an electronic file.  When a customer orders that book, a copy of that file is sent to a reading device that translates the ones and zeros into a human language on a screen.  That’s it.

So, what’s driving these price increases?  Well, let’s look at the process.  When a Kindle book is sold, Amazon.com keeps a portion of the price to pay workers, maintain infrastructure, and earn a profit, which is completely reasonable.  It’s how business works.  The remainder after those charges goes to the author as a royalty.  As a Kindle author, I post a formatted file which is, in essence, my book.  After I’ve set the cover art, the typeface, and all that, I am shown the pricing screen.  It shows a minimum price, usually 99¢, a recommended price, usually $2.99, and there is a blank where I fill in the price I want to charge.  C.W. pointed out that e-books are often selling for $3.99 or $4.99 these days.  I saw one the other day for $11.00.  There is no inflation in e-books, or if there is, it’s measured in fractions of pennies, so what is the mechanism that keeps these prices rising?

I have no idea.  I am a Kindle author, affected, I assume by the same market forces as all the others, and have observed nothing that warrants a continuum of ever-escalating prices.  What have the others seen that I haven’t?  I have no idea, nor any intention of telling them how to run their business; all I can do is run mine.  What I am going to do is to make two separate but related pledges:

First, as an author, I will never sell an e-book whose price I control for more than 99¢ (or the minimum price, should Kindle raise it).

Second, as a reader, I will never pay more than $3.00 for an e-book.

Furthermore, that’s $3.00 for a full-size book, as I must point out here that, given the nature of e-publishing, it is quite possible to publish a novella or even a short story as a stand-alone work, and put any price you want on it.  Bottom line, if you’re going to price your e-book at $3.99, $4.99, or $11.00, don’t look for me to read it.  I urge you to consider adopting my reader’s pledge in your own life, and to discuss it with your reading friends, because if we continue to reward this behavior, it’s only going to get worse.  ‘Nuff said!  On with the show…

Interesting Reads

SciFiGenres

Author B.K. Bass has begun a series on Sci-Fi Genres, their history and development into all the wonderful and varied styles and formats we enjoy today.  Definitely worth a look!

TalesFromForest

Tales from the Forest by Johanna Sarah Aldridge.  The Forest Realm is a magical world within our own.  You cannot see it, nor can you hear it, and only very few might be able to feel it.  The realm feeds the hungry, shelters the homeless, and protects the hunted… so long as their hearts are pure.  Recently orphaned, two heartbroken brothers are at risk of separation by the government…  A black Labrador leads a colony of rabbits away from danger…  A destitute family of rats seek a new life away from the pollution of the big city…  All have been rescued by the realm of magic, and their lives are truly about to change.  Come and join us in The Forest where magic thrives, adventures are rife, and friendships last forever.  £5.99 on Amazon UK.

StoriesLastSafePort

Stories from the Last Safe Port by John and Carine Freeman.  Can you tell much of a story in just 101 words?  Each of the stories in this collection does just that:  We find out why the Elves really left, follow the pranks of a little girl stranded on the last Moonbase, learn why magic mirrors should beware Snow White, and a lot more.  It’s fiction-as-tapas and, yes, there’s a slightly strange seafood dish (Cthulhu gets lonely don’t you know).  There are a hundred of these tiny tales inside, and if you don’t like one… well, hey, it’s cost you less than a minute of your time.  So why not take a look?  Between neurotic angels, giant slugs, drug dealing fairies, and all the rest we’re sure you’ll find something here to entertain you…  99¢ on Kindle.

CherylLawson

Like most authors, Tom Johnson maintains a blog, and his subject on this outing is a promotion of the work of one of his own favorite writers, Canadian Cheryl Lawson [left], author of We Are Mars, which looks to be a hard sci-fi work.  Whether you’re into that or not, be sure to check out his blog, Pulp Den, because he does a lot of this sort of promoting across genres, and there are some excellent reads waiting to be discovered there.

And that’s 30 for today.  I’ll see you Friday with a featured blog headlining another edition of Blimprider Times.  Until then, read well, and write better!

What’s Your Pleasure?

“Almost anyone can be an author; the business is to collect money and fame from this state of being.”

~ A. A. MILNE

Good morning, friends and followers!  Here we are again on another beautiful Wednesday morning, and once again I have to find something to write about; one must keep current if one wants to attract readers, you know!  I have decided to update and reprint an old post from a long-defunct blog that asks you to think about your place in this big, wonderful world of writers.  We’re all in it.  We all love it.  What do we do in it?

A number of events have transpired since I’ve been retired to impress upon me just what a hobbyist author I am…  Not that my sales figures don’t keep that fact firmly in front of my eyes!  But no, I speak of other things.  I have a friend and fellow author who told me that he is so thoroughly immersed in writing that he left the work force in order to follow that pursuit 8-12 hours a day.  Several people have informed me that a true writer can sit down and crank out 10,000 words at will, regardless of mood, illness, pain, surrounding aggravation, or whatever.  Last year I was approached for an interview by a host from an internet radio show who said I had been recommended to him by a mutual friend, and that was the catalyst that got me thinking about all this as a whole.

Basically, I had to ask myself what I have to say to an audience expecting a guest to provide them with some profound insight into the life and philosophy of a writer.  My honest answer has to be not much!  The last time something like this happened to me was in January of 2014.  Beyond the Rails had just been released, and I was offered a signing (not out of the blue; I had been talking with them before) at a local shop called Mysterious Galaxy, a San Diego bookstore specializing in fantasy and scifi.  I thought this was cool as all get out until I looked at their calendar.  In the month of January alone, they had scheduled a who’s who of the genres that included award-winners and best-sellers, some of whom had been my idols for years.  If I owned a bookstore, I would consider getting their January lineup to be the crowning year of my ownership.  And they were going shoehorn little ol’ me in between two giants of the field.  Yeah, no thanks.  The only question I could envision their sophisticated clientele asking me was, “How did you get in here?”  I passed, as I have passed on the radio show.  I’m not that guy.

You see, my life doesn’t revolve around writing.  Blasphemy, I know, but there are too many other things that life has to offer for me to spend 8-12 hours a day with my nose glued to this keyboard.  I have a family that I love very much.  I was just getting good at blues harmonica when I had to get an upper denture; I have a lot of work to do to get back to where I was, not to mention move beyond.  There are dozens of Xbox games I haven’t seen the end of, and hundreds, thousands of books and movies await my attention.  There are places to see, dishes to try, and this keyboard isn’t going to provide any of them.

Dude 4-16

Due to my lunatic sleep patterns, I rise hours before the rest of the household.  Well, except for Dude the Insane Beagle, and once I give him a couple of treats, he’s out for the duration.  Anyway, I typically have up to three hours to spend at the keyboard, and that’s plenty to pursue a hobby.  I can knock down a scene, turn out a blog post, or put up a review, and the girls never miss me, because they’re still asleep.  Anyway, that’s about all I can do in one sitting.  Right around the three-hour mark, my fingers go numb, my brain turns to mush, and anything I force myself to produce after that is just wasted material that I’m going to have to throw away anyway.

So you see, I’m a hobbyist.  Writing is one of many things I dabble in.  I don’t use professionals because I would be in the hole forever.  $500 for a cover would equate to a couple of decades before my book made enough money to break even.  I have a camera and some steampunk gadgets.  You can see pictures of the gadgets on the book covers; they were taken with the camera.  Likewise editors.  My wonderful beta readers catch most of my mistakes, and I’ve painstakingly taught myself the rules of grammar and composition.  I go with about three rewrites, after which I find I’m changing things back to the way I wrote them in the draft, and if the comments and reviews that the series has received are any indication at all, it’s working.

So, yes, I’m a hobbyist, and I’m good with that.  I still get goosebumps when I check my dashboard and discover a new sale, and the thrill of reading a good review is positively orgasmic!  I’m not convinced it would be the same if I was getting twenty a day.  Most of my author friends are young, and still have stars in their eyes.  I wouldn’t do a thing to take that vision from them, and I hope with all my heart that they succeed, but I’m where I want to be.  If the series suddenly takes off, I guess I’ll have to reevaluate, but I don’t anticipate it, and I’m not unhappy right now, today.  How many people can say that with a straight face?

View from the Blimp

StoneSeekersFront

To quote my childhood crush, Hayley Mills, “I just had the most scathingly brilliant idea!”  Observing what a big item the fantasy genre has become, it occurred to me that I could spread my name to a wider audience by publishing in that genre.  Accordingly, I dug out my old fantasy manuscript, The Wellstone Chronicles, polished it thoroughly for typos, grammar, and plot holes, and published it under the more appropriate title, The Stone Seekers.  It has done nothing, and I mean almost literally nothing, and part of this I lay on the doorstep of Goodreads.  They have a new-book promotion program that I used for all the Beyond the Rails books, and if huge sales weren’t generated, it at least made several hundred readers aware of their existence.  The program still exists, but now they want $119 for the basic, stripped-down model, and if prior experience is any guide, that’s about what your typical indie can expect to make in royalties over the lifetime of the book.  I already have the $119; why should I give it to someone else in the hope that I might someday just possibly, if everything goes right, earn it back?

All this talk of being a hobbyist notwithstanding, like any collector of stamps or breeder of dogs, part of the enjoyment of a hobby is sharing your accomplishments with others.  And that brings up the real problem that all indies face; in a word, advertising.  You could write the greatest book on earth, but if you aren’t independently wealthy, you just can’t get the word out.  I will, nonetheless, continue to advertise on various platforms, Facebook, my Goodreads blog, here, for which I have apologized in advance, but part of my reason for doing this is to sell books.  Along those same lines, I’m also no longer going to dilute my own efforts promoting authors who ignore my promotions when I post them; if you want your latest promotion to appear on my pages, then mine will have to appear on yours.  I’m sorry to have to be that way, but part of being a writer is selling books, which is a business, and I’m given to understand that to be successful in business, you have to eliminate the programs that aren’t working.

To get back on topic, though. I’m afraid if The Stone Seekers doesn’t generate some interest soon, I’m going to have to cut my losses and remove it from sale, because a book doing this badly can only hurt my reputation and harm my brand.  I’ll give it until August to move a few copies, after which it will vanish into history as a bad idea whose time never came…

The main project right now, and until it is finished, is The Darklighters: Hong Kong.  This is my Victorian-era steampunk Man from U.N.C.L.E., and is a spinoff from Beyond the Rails, continuing the adventures of Abigail “Jinx” Jenkins, who visited the Kestrel a couple of times, bringing her own rowdy brand of enthusiasm to that otherwise sane and sensible crew.  The first story is finished, and can be read in its entirety at the tab above.  When I have completed four more, they will be collected in a book of adventures connected by a story arc.  I am still taking applications for beta readers, and could use about four more.  Read the story above, and if it looks like it might be interesting to you, drop me a line and I’ll send you the particulars.

In Other News…

AfterPunk

David Lee Summers is back with yet another story in yet another anthology.  After Punk is a collection of steampunk-themed stories dealing with various aspects of the afterlife.  I can’t yet endorse the collection, but I can whole-heartedly endorse David’s talents as a writer, and I will be acquiring this book for my own collection soon.  I guess that’s an endorsement in itself…

 

 

And that’s all I’ve got.  See you in couple of days with a new book ad!

Mind Your Language!

“The difference between the right word and the nearly right word is the same as that between lightning and the lightning bug.”

~ MARK TWAIN

Before I get started on today’s post, I have a bit of news to offer:  I have invested some time, effort, and coin in the pursuit of being professional… or at least looking professional.   I have bought my domain name, and can now be found at simply blimprider.com.  No Blogspot, Weebly, WordPress, or anything else, just purely me.  Don’t worry, though, your old bookmarks will still work.  This is a substantial outlay for a guy on a fixed income, but I do have a small recreational allowance, and this is how I chose to spend it.  And what brought this about, you ask?

My dearly beloved has macular degeneration, and last week I drove her to her treatment, which involves having her pupils dilated, then a hypodermic injection into her eyeball!  It doesn’t seem to bother her much, but it freaks the hell out of me every time.  Anyway, this leaves her eyes hypersensitive to light for a few hours after, and ordinary shades don’t seem to help it much, so last visit, I told her that I’d wear my steampunk goggles on my patrol cap, and after her treatment, she could put them on.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

Card

She did, and they worked great, but that isn’t the story.  All the time I was walking around the hospital in these, I was getting favorable comments and questions about them.  It felt like I could have moved a stack of books had I had some with me, and that gave me the idea to print up some business cards promoting this website.  If I wear this hat everywhere, and hand out cards to anyone who expresses an interest, I should generate at least some local sales, right?  Yeah, that’s not going to work, but I’ll sure have some fun while I’m doing it!

[For those who might want to try their own luck with this, the company is VistaPrint.  They offer cards, coffee mugs, hats, shirts, and a dozen or so other ways to promote your own activity.  Their prices are reasonable, and they offer a substantial first-order discount.  Very much worth a look if you’re looking for something to hand out at cons, etc.]

. . . . . . . . . .

In my last post I touted the wonders of a European website called Irevuo.  I stand by that glowing appraisal, as it really is a site based on high-quality content.  The thing is, Cristian’s computer has gone belly-up, and until he can replace it, he is limited to working with his phone, which is okay for some things, but not so hot for the wonderful graphics he’s known for.  You can read the disheartening story here.  Included in the story is a PayPal request he has initiated to try to get back in business.  I have a simple request to make of my readers, that you visit his site, read his work, and if you find it worth supporting and you can afford it, send him a few bucks.  Nothing you can’t spare, but if a lot of us each send him a modest donation, it could return him to operation much more quickly than he can get there himself.

During our conversation, he mentioned that he is in Romania, and that English is not his first language.  You’d never know it to read his posts; he handles what may be the most convoluted language on earth with the grace of a native speaker.  Inspired by his facility, I’m reposting an old article that I put together for writing.com a year or so ago.  I found it to be great fun.  I hope you will, too!

. . . . . . . . . .

Have you ever wondered at what a wonderful language English is?  Within its quarter-million words can be found reasonable ways to describe black as white, and up as down.  This comes largely from its proclivity to “borrow” useful words and terms from foreign tongues, and sometimes the rules that go with them.  We’ve all heard that old saw, “Why do we drive on a parkway, but park in a driveway?”  I always thought that was pretty funny, but then one day I heard, “Why isn’t Great Britain known as the United Queendom?” and I realized that, far from being the exception, these things must be as common as air!  I went on a quest to collect them during the early 90s, and cleaning out a box of old papers recently, I found a couple of sheets where I had gathered a good number of them in one place.  So, for those who enjoy this kind of thing, here are the oddisms that I’d gathered by the time I lost interest around twenty years ago.
~ Why do privates eat in the general mess, and generals eat in the private mess?
~ How is it that darkrooms can be lit?
~ Nightmares can take place in broad daylight while morning sickness and daydreaming can happen at night.
~ Hours, especially happy hours and rush hours, often last longer than sixty minutes, and others, especially lunch hours, can be far less.
~ Why is it that a woman can man a station, but a man can’t woman one? For that matter, how can a man father a movement, but a woman can’t mother one?
~ Why isn’t phonetic spelled phonetically?
~ Why is there no synonym for synonym or thesaurus?
~ If adults commit adultery, do infants commit infantry?
~ If the plural of tooth is teeth, is the plural of booth beeth?
~ If a person wrote a letter, is it not possible that he bote his tongue during the process?
~ We conceive at a conception, and receive at a reception.  Does it not follow that we should grieve at a greption and believe a beleption?
~ How are a caregiver and a caretaker the same thing?  How about sharp speech and blunt speech?
~ If bad and good, hard and soft, and up and down are opposites, how is it that badly and goodly, hardly and softly, and upright and downright aren’t?
~ Why are pertinent and impertinent, canny and uncanny, and famous and infamous neither opposites nor the same?
~ Why does night fall but never break, and day break but never fall?
~ Why do we pack suits in a garment bag and garments in a suitcase?
~ Is it still homework if you do it in school?
~ Does anyone remember why push-button telephones are dialed?
~ Why are they called apartments when they’re all together?
~ Why is the word abbreviation so long?
~ If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian consume?
~ If people ring a bell today, and rang a bell yesterday, why don’t we say they flang a ball?
~ If a horsehair mat is made from the hair of horses, what is a mohair coat made out of?
~ A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, but a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.
~ Appropriate and inappropriate are opposites, yet flammable and inflammable are the same.
~ Why do we play at a recital, and recite at a play?
~ How is that your nose runs, and your feet smell?
~ Hot dogs can be cold.
~ Boxing rings are square.
~ Why do they sell you a TV set, then only give you one?
~ Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?
~ Why doesn’t onomatopoeia sound like what it is?
~ If olive oil is made from olives, then what, pray tell, is baby oil made from?
~ A writer is someone who writes, and a stinger is something that stings, yet fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham.  Nor, for that matter, do humdingers humding.
~ How is it that I flew out to see a World Series game in which my favorite player flied out?
~ How can the weather be hot as hell one day, and cold as hell the next?
~ If harmless and harmful are opposites, why aren’t shameless and shameful?
~ If passable and impassable roads are opposites, why are passive and impassive people the same?
~ Why is it that when the sun, moon, or stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they aren’t?
~ When I clip a coupon from a newspaper, I separate it, but when I clip a coupon to a newspaper, I fasten it.
~ Why is it that when we transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when we transport something by ship, it’s cargo?
~ Tablecloths can be made of paper, and what, exactly, is plastic silverware?
~ Why is diminutive so undiminutive?
~ One goose, two geese, so one moose, two meese?
~ If the teacher taught, why then hasn’t the preacher praught?
~ Last time I went swimming, I treaded water, then trod on the beach.
~ How is it that pricey objects are less expensive than priceless ones?
~ Tomboys are always girls, but midwives can be men.
~ Quicksand works very slowly.
~ Fact:  The majority of bathrooms contain no bath.  And isn’t it just a bit odd that we go to the bathroom in order to go to the bathroom?
~ Why does the word monosyllabic contain five syllables?
~ If button and unbutton, and tie and untie are opposites, why then are loosen and unloosen, and ravel and unravel the same?
~ Why does a man get a hernia, but a woman gets a hysterectomy?
~ If pro is the opposite of con, is congress the opposite of progress?
~ Why do we call people who ride motorcycles “bikers” while those who ride bikes are called “cyclists?”
~ By what logic does “lisp” have an S in it?
~ Quite a lot and quite a few are the same, but overlook and oversee are opposites.
~ How can raise and raze, and reckless and wreckless be opposites when each pair contains the same sound?
~ In what other language is the third hand on a clock called the second hand?
~ If a firefighter fights fire, what does a freedom fighter fight?
~ Why do we call it newsprint when it contains no printing, but after we print on it, it becomes a newspaper?
~ Why is it the sun shone yesterday while I shined my shoes?
~ Why is it that when I wind up my watch, I’m starting it, but when I wind up this blog, I’m stopping it?

I hope you had fun with these.  I must hasten to point out that the majority of them came from the years I spent working alone on many weekends.  I would turn on the radio to keep me company, and a regular stop was a PBS show called A Way With Words, hosted by Richard Lederer.  He had a series of co-hosts, and they often trotted these things out.  There were other sources, magazine articles, TV shows, and things I heard in conversations, and I diligently took note of them, thinking they might help some day in my writing career.  I guess I was right; twenty years on, I got a blog post out of it!