Saturday, January 26, 2013

London Calling (to be Free of the Nazis!)

My new alternate history story, "Our Stern Alarums Chang'd to Merry Meetings," has been published online by Cosmos, the Australian science magazine.

Ahem.  That's science magazine, not science fiction.  Their main business is articles on science for the general reader, with a certain small amount of select science fiction also published.

Select, I say!

Forgive my arrogance, but also forgive the long title; it is a quotation from Shakespeare (read the story for context).

It was the first time I had pitched a story to an editor, then wrote it.  The editor in question, Ms. Cat Sparks, a well-known Australian SF writer and editor, is coincidentally a fellow winner of the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Award.

There have been a lot of stories about the Nazis winning World War II (which this sort of is; read it for context), and I tried to avoid a wheezy recycling of old cliches.  I hope you'll think I've succeeded.

The story has an endnote shoutout to my fellow author Ross Baxter.  The story takes place in London; he's British; I asked him to check a few things for me (obviously, any remaining mistakes or continuity errors are mine).  Ross has written his own alternate history story which appears in this anthology.


If you liked "Our Stern Alarums Chang'd to Merry Meetings," you should know that I self-published another alternate history story (a novella) online.  I used that other alternate history convention covered with cobwebs: the Confederacy won the American Civil War.

Entitled "The Man Inside," it has been my most popular self-published title.   I was gratified that a reviewer on Amazon called it "one of the better short stories I've downloaded for my Kindle. It's a fun read, and the twist at the end is worthy of an O. Henry story."

Check it out:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (DE)

Amazon (FR)

Amazon (ES)

Amazon (IT)

Amazon (JP)

Amazon (CA)

Amazon (BR)

Nook by Barnes & Noble




Sunday, January 20, 2013

Robbed Zombie

Well, I self-published another title recently.  My novella of what happens after the end the zombie apocalypse, Collapse Day, is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and at Smashwords' own site (although not on the stores they usually distribute to -- for the reason why, see below).

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (DE)

Amazon (FR)

Amazon (ES)

Amazon (IT)

Amazon (JP)

Amazon (CA)

Amazon (BR)

Nook by Barnes & Noble (US and, I think, England)


Smashwords (just them ... none of the other e-readers they usually distribute to)

It was instructive because, for the first time, I bought cover art.  (Er, fair warning: this post may be of interest mainly to those other tortured scribes out there who are interested in self-publishing.)

Let's face it.  All of my other stories have had artwork or design (by me) ranging from talented amateur to rank amateur.  Hey, what can I say; I got no budget here.

But the world of self-publishing is changing.  Better quality in formatting and cover images are becoming the norm.

Someone did an experiment once:  A banquet of delicious food was laid out on a table.  But it was lit up with a green-tinted lightbulb.  The volunteers, asked to eat the food, got nauseous.  The food itself was great, but the green sheen of the lightbulb -- the presentation, in other words -- was just too much to overcome.  They knew there was nothing wrong with the food, but they couldn't overcome the image.

The same is surely true with cover art.  I did a few that will stand the test of time.  But others, not so much.  I hope to swap out all of the inadequate art soon enough.  Meanwhile, please forgive.

I love the image I chose (from iStockphoto) to illustrate Collapse Day because it really captures part of the spirit of the novella.  No, there's no zombie girl with a sign saying "will work for food" in the story itself.  But it's a parable of the economic divide -- the difference in social class, actually -- between those who defend society and the ruling class.


I publish on Smashwords because they're an aggregator who distribute e-books to sites such as iTunes and many smaller markets.  You can publish anything to sell on Smashwords alone (they are not a major seller in and of themselves), but in order to get your work distributed to other sites, you have to meet some minimum standards of formatting competence and cover adequacy.  They call this "premium" status, meaning that your work will be distributed.

But when I uploaded this one, I got an "autovetter error."  Smashwords' software picked up this sad fact: my cover image was less than 1,400 pixels in width.  They started requiring this on July 15, 2012, which was after the last self-published story previous to Collapse Day.  Those older titles were grandfathered in.

In other words, the best, most professional cover I have done for any of my self-published stories is not fit to sit on the e-shelf next to my older, lesser covers ... because it didn't meet the new, high standard.

And why the new, high standard?  Because iTunes (one of the major outlets that Smashwords distributes to) supplies e-books to those fancy iPads, you know, the new ones with the ....

... drum roll please ...

... higher resolution screens!

And because it doesn't quite meet the standard for iTunes, Smashwords won't distribute it anywhere.

This shows how much I have to learn about this business.

When those umpteen-million stories appeared in the media about how the new iPad had all these great features, including a new higher resolution screen, I never said to myself, "Gee, I wonder what that will do for covers on e-reading devices."

From now on, I'll have to pick up on that.

Meanwhile, I'm experimenting with ways to make the cover fit the new standards so I can be distributed to iTunes (and other outlets served by Smashwords).  I can't use a higher resolution stock image, because I purchased only a medium resolution image, thinking it was good enough.  (The prices, at least to my meager purse, seem to climb exponentially with the pixels).  Basically, I'd have to buy the image again, at a higher resolution.

Poor me.

Oh, who am I kidding.  I love this!  I love being able to self-publish my works.  Some of the stories I've put up on the e-reader sites got held for further consideration by major magazines, but ultimately turned down.  I know they're good.  And now, despite all of the pains of being the guy who does the formatting, the cover illustration, the uploading, the ad copy, all of it ... despite those inconveniences, I have an audience for good stories that just wouldn't fit in the handful of genre magazines that are left.

My thanks to all of you who have bought my self-published works.  I hope you enjoy them.  And I promise to make those layouts and those covers look as good as possible. 

I wouldn't want you to get sick from eating green food.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Link to See the Artwork (and Beginning) of My Newest Story in EQMM!

Hey there, screaming, loyal fans!  Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine has a link that will give you an excerpt from my story "One of Those Plans-the-Perfect-Crime-but-then-Something-Goes-Teddibly,-Teddibly-Wrong Stories," published in their February 2013 issue.

I love this link because it allows you to see the excellent, pulp-fiction artwork by Mark Evan Walker that accompanies it.

Cruel Cline says ... check it out!