Old Endings, New Beginnings & Getting Down to Business

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Blank Pages In An Open NotebookFor about the past year I’ve been exclusive with Amazon’s KDP program. Initially I saw an upsurge in sales. Nothing huge, mind you, but a noticeable difference. Then I ran into some major hiccups. My ebook kept showing up for sale on other sights, making me not so exclusive, and KDP would kick me out of the program. I have my past with Smashwords and my very unfortunate past with Xlibris (horrific vanity publishing) to thank for that. Each time I managed to get my ebook removed from one market, I’d sign back up with KDP. Each time this happened, about four times in total, I found that I couldn’t recover and sales were even fewer.

I realized that I was probably going about things all the wrong way. Go figure, I’m new at this, and besides having little time, I’m lazy. I wanted to make selling my book as simple as possible. I also spent more time worrying about that book than I spent worrying about my current projects and about this site.

Along the way I also just got off track with my writing. I was losing my resolve and my hope. Then I came upon this fairly new and interesting podcast called Rocking Self Publishing hosted by Simon. I encourage you to listen to a few of the interviews. They are incredibly enlightening and educational. You will quickly learn just how generous other indie authors are as they share some incredible information about self publishing. A site that always helps set a fire beneath my creativity and give me indie author hope is that of Lindsay Buroker, author of The Emperor’s Edge series. Besides being a successful and prolific indie author she imparts some amazing advice over at her site.

So, I made the decision to make some changes. We are always changing aren’t we? It’s supposed to keep us on our toes, I guess, but to be honest, it tires me out.

  • I didn’t sign back up for the KDP program. What’s the point? Fewer venues means less visibility and fewer sales.
  • I’ve republished An Unproductive woman on Smashwords and as a result it will soon be available at many outlets. In this case, more is more.
  • I’ve come to the realization that I need to STOP avoiding outlining and give it an honest try. I’ve been pantsing myself into literary holes. I can’t seem to stay jazzed about a story or complete a story because I end up floating in space with no direction.
  • I’ve decided to start working with some internal deadlines. I need to complete one of the multiple projects I’ve started over the last year. Not having done so when I know that I am capable has dealt a blow to my writer’s self esteem.
  • I’m actively looking for reliable betas and reasonably priced editors. So if you have any suggestions please send them my way.
  • I’ve dusted of the picture I purchased over a year ago with the intent to use on a book cover. I’m using it as the background on my desktop to keep me motivated about this project that I wholly believe in.
  • I’m getting back to my old schedule, where I rise at 0400 to get some writing done.
  • I will take no prisoners or excuses.

See you at success.

The Hinterlands Chronicles: Bilqis

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It’s been a while friends. I’ve been busy with work, and even more gratifying, I have been getting some consistent writing done. I’m not making the great big leaps that I’d like but consistency is more important in my estimation. I haven’t forgotten about my blog here, or my reading, but with a full time job, well, something has got to give, yeah? And some of my indie writer friends have had recent successes (Lindsay Buroker being one such person) that have inspired me to work even harder to complete this project. I believe in this story and it has been with me for several years. I’m still quite a way off but I am so very hopeful. So hopeful in fact, that I thought I would share a little snippet from Bilqis. Read and enjoy.

Look alike hanger

Some time had passed since Bilqis left Sector Five, but not enough to forget how being there used to make her feel, like both prey and predator, both afraid and empowered. What came over Bilqis as she stepped from the ground floor platform was an instinct born of the emotions that came rushing back to her. The abrupt and easy squaring of her already broad shoulders, the cool set of her jaw, bright eyes hooded yet keenly alert was so deeply intrinsic it was as if she had shed a costume to reveal her true self. She had after all spent her entire life behind the invisible sector boundaries and it was only natural that she would, as much as she hated to admit it, find a certain comfort in the familiar yet treacherous surroundings.  

The weak didn’t survive Sector Five and many of the strong didn’t either. Bilqis moved east toward Middleton, compelled by some deep need to revisit her old home, cutting through the humanity and the detritus like a scythe.  

Authority investigators were still no closer the finding the person responsible for instigating the riot and the destruction of Ajutine Aeronautics, although a sketch of the nameless suspect, in his mid twenties, with a broad deep brow, dark deep set eyes, and a sensually curved mouth that seemed somehow too petite to belong to a man, had been plastered across the city. Bilqis stopped to study one such flier printed on thin bright yellow plastic paper. The digital image of the suspect rotated ninety degrees to the left and then to the right. When the image stopped center, it closed its eyes. She didn’t recognize him.

Beside the sketch of the suspect hung a faded flyer encouraging residents to visit their local clinic for free vaccinations and health exams. People complained about Goodwill’s tough policies but Bilqis thought that the efforts he made to take care of Ajutine’s residents were commendable, and more than previous mayors had done.

A left at the next intersection and three blocks east took Bilqis to Middleton and Bright. She was stupidly mollified to find that her old apartment building, all of Middleton and the two scant blocks north of it, had been spared the blaze that ate up nearly an eighth of Sector Five, though she was unsure why. She’d never liked living there. The plumbing always backed up foul green muck and every intimacy and indignity could be heard through the paper thin walls. And it wasn’t as if Taha would ever return. Too much time had passed.

A set of crumbling stairs led from the brief courtyard to a grungy little foyer lined with broken mailboxes, according to memory. She didn’t go inside. It was enough to see ithat the building had survived unashamedly ugly amongst even uglier buildings and circumstances. The residents here, like in much of Sector Five, were steeped on the kind of poverty that was worn beneath the skin. Even now, three years out, when she had plenty, there was always a lingering hunger, like an itch that no scratch would ever relieve.

But her success wasn’t so singular. Not everyone who could wished to leave Sector Five. Some were determined to call the place forever home, thinking themselves noble and devout. According to them the price of leaving was too high. According to Bilqis they were fools. They refused to take the pledge to forego faith, unwilling to sign away their gods. Bilqis had been willing.

Mayor Goodwill sought only to enforce the laws that already existed, under which Sector Five would cease to be a safe haven for the faithful. Starting at the beginning of the coming year everyone would be forced to sign the pledge of faithlessness or take their life to the hinterlands, eke out a life there on the vast barren plains. Bilqis figured that when that time came, plenty of people would let go of their notions of pride and submit. No number of riots or fires was likely to stop Goodwill’s plans to cleanse Ajutine, to prevent another disaster like that of 2035, to allow another Bilqis Harban, sword of the people, to be created.

Weaving through vehicles jammed at the intersection Bilqis crossed to the opposite side of the street. Half a block up she stopped at the cart of a street vendor and bought a sandwich of dried meat and onions and cheese wrapped in soft yeastless bread. She took a bite of the sandwich, unaware until that moment just how hungry she had been..

“Not protein meal,” she stated and enquired at once. She hadn’t eaten real animal flesh since leaving Sector Five. Everywhere else such fare was considered parochial.

The vendor unabashedly took her in from head to foot as he spoke. “Course not. I only sell real meat.” He pointed to the faded writing on the umbrella over his cart.

“What kind of meat is it?” She took another great mouthful.

He held up a finger as if struck by sudden inspiration. “Now that’s the question, isn’t it?” He didn’t elaborate further but he did extend his hand. “You owe two bills for that sandwich. Four if you’d like another.”

Bilqis paid the old vendor and left. Three blocks east, Bilqis turned into an alley. It was dark and buffered the cloister of noises from the street. She found the door at the very end of the alley where it butted up against a brick wall.

Bilqis knocked three times, waited five seconds and then knocked twice. Seconds later the door inched open, but Bilqis could see little more than a single glassy eye as it looked out at her.

“Who?” demanded the disembodied voice.

“Bushrah.” Bilqis crossed her arms. “She here?”

The door eased open a bit more and a face, mid-teens and male, emerged from the darkness. “Show me,” he said nodding.

Bilqis unzipped her jacket and pulled down the collar of her shirt to expose the tiny black fist tattooed just beneath her collarbone. He flashed the beam of a hand torch onto her face and then lowered it to the mark on her chest. His hard angular face softened beneath the weight of naked respect. “Banded in red,” he said, awe choking the timber of his voice, further betraying his youth.

Her memory of that tattoo was strong. Her brother Taha had drawn it himself, the needle loaded with ink laced with the oil of the atarahu. “So that you’ll never forget the pain of our people,” he’d told her. The tattoo had burned beneath her skin for months after it had healed. The very memory revived the old tat with stabs of prickly heat.

The black fist was the symbol of The Walls the largest and most fierce of the Sector Five cabals. The black fist rimmed with red indicated a member of high rank. In the case of Bilqis, it was not she who had possessed a high rank, but her brother Taha. He had ensured more than her safety with that red line. He’d guaranteed her protection. She was practically royalty among The Walls, untouchable.

“Who wants Bushrah?” he asked, back to business.

“Billie,” she said reclaiming the nickname she hadn’t used since leaving Sector Five.

He pushed open the door and signaled for her to enter ahead of him. “Okay Billie,” he said eyes flicking back to the area below her left collarbone, “I’ll take you to her.”

A “Friendly” Undeserved Rating

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Shining StarLately sales have been close to nonexistent. Eh, I wish I could say otherwise but that’s the way it is. I’m still in the process of extricating myself from Xlibris but once that’s done and settled I will reevaluate whether or not I want to sign back up for Amazon’s KDP program.

Of late, my attention has been on my WIP, hence publicizing AUW has taken a far back seat in the clutter and lack of time that is my life. Despite this, and lagging sales, from time to time I check out how my title is ranking on Amazon and also to see if I have any new reviews. I also occasionally check to see if AUW has any new reviews on Goodreads.

Today I noticed something very curious. At some point in the recent past I was awarded a five star rating, sans review, from one of my Goodreads “friends”. Said “friend” will remain nameless. I found this curious because although I don’t really know this person, I am fairly certain this person has NEVER read AUW. In fact, if I was the gambling type, I’d bet everything I own that this is the case.

So, why would this person, my “friend”, give me a five star rating?

I think I know why. A couple of months ago this “friend” published a book and dove full steam into a publicity blitz that included mass friending on Goodreads, form emails offering a favor if and when the need arose (we’re talking Goodreads friends, not lifelong since we were wee pups in the cradle friends, so it seemed kind of icky weird), a free eBook download of the newly published novel, and the opportunity to win a free autographed copy, among other things. The email was, well, kind of weird, mostly because I don’t know this person, and also because who offers strangers online an anytime favor? But I saw it for what it was, an attempt to gain exposure and to sell books. I didn’t respond and I sort of forgot about it until today.

I’m of the opinion that my five star rating was one of those selfless favors meant to, at the very least, endear me to the author and at most, oblige me to reciprocate.

I can not.

I tried to read this person’s book a while back but couldn’t complete it. I just couldn’t. The writing was, well, suffice it to say, 4% was all I could take. If I can’t turn off my internal editor when I am reading a book then that’s a sure sign its chock full of writing flubs, grammar errors, inconsistencies, editing nightmares, and plain old WTHs. Despite the major issues with the writing, this book has a number of very impressive reviews on both Amazon and Goodreads, so perhaps I’m wrong or being too harsh a critic.

In light of my undeserved five star rating from this author/”friend”, I wonder how many of this author’s five star reviews were because the author is a good writer with a compelling story as opposed to a selfless “friend” willing to do favors. Of note, the author has also rated their own book. Want to take a guess?

My personal opinion of self rating is that it should not be done. Besides tacky it is wholly unbiased.

My opinion on “friendly” ratings based on anything other than the opinion of one person who has actually read my book, is that I don’t need them nor do I want them. It lacks integrity. It makes me feel like a cheat.

I don’t need friends or ratings like that.