Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Success and zombies.

I have managed to get through the Smashwords approval process so 'Fears of the Old and the New' will pop up as an Ebook all over the place in the coming weeks. It'll be available for Nook, Kobo, Sony, Kindle and most other readers. It already is, via the Smashwords site, but it'll be on the proprietary sites too.

The print version is still on Lulu.

Well, I can take a little rest before trying another one. In the meantime I have a book to review for the Horror Zine. It's a scientific treatise on the true nature and correct biological implementation of the zombie and so far it is a very informative read. The review will be complete in time for the next Horror Zine issue.

For now, I must continue my education in zombiology.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Writing, money and wifely rage.

Senga and I had our first actual argument today. Normally she does all the arguing, I ignore her, she goes in a huff for a few days and I use the peace and quiet to get some work done.

This time I made a mistake. I responded. That's never a good idea, it turns a few minutes of nagging into hours of hysterical shrieking and I can't be certain of the stony silence this time. If I'm lucky she'll refuse to speak to me for a week. If not, it could be only hours.

It was about work and money. Senga does not see sitting at a computer as work although I have Norman's House in full-novel editing stage now and it's shaping up nicely. If Samuel's Girl is accepted for publication, something I don't expect to know for a couple of months yet, Norman's House will be ready to go. Then there's Demdike's Revival which is only sketched, Victor's Will which is first-drafted and still messy, and others that are only in the planning stage.

Plus, I intend to write the Story of Dume as well as compile all those horror-writing articles into one place. I am waiting to hear whether Fears of the Old and the New has made it through the Smashwords vetting process and the Professor wants his little ghosthunting book turned into a Kindle version as well. I shouldn't have told him I'd done it with my book. I know he's working on a revised version and he'll expect me to deal with that too.

There is also the matter of the writing website. I am hampered here not by HTML, but by not knowing what it should look like nor what I want it to contain. I have at least registered a domain for my writing persona, but hkhillman.co.uk points to a holding page for the moment. Websites are a bit like writing, but actual HTML writing looks like someone has spilled a box of letters at the feet of a line-dancing club. If the letters land in the right order, the website looks right. If not, it doesn't work at all.

The thing about working on all these things is that I sit down to do them. Writing involves no heavy lifting except when throwing things in frustration, almost no noise apart from the occasional scream of anguish and in fact, hardly any physical movement at all. Senga does not consider any of this as 'work', not even the screams. I put a lot of effort into those screams. Sometimes I have to have a lie-down afterwards.

The work aspect of the argument was fine. I let her do all the arguing while I ignored her and things were going well until she shifted to the subject of money. The downside of writing is that you have to do all the work first, persuade someone to publish the work, persuade people to buy the work and then hope they like it and hope word spreads. Getting paid is bottom of the list.

She caught me out with direct questions concerning Jessica's Trap. Like a fool, I responded, even though I didn't know the answers.

How well is it selling?

I have no idea. I can see it moving up the Amazon rankings but I have no idea what the total number of books on Amazon is, nor whether one sale or a hundred would be enough to move up one place. It might be selling well, it might be dribbling along. Until it reaches first-quarter sales reports, I cannot know how well it is doing. The publisher won't know until those results are in, so how could I?

How much do you make per book?

I have no idea. I know the percentage of the list price that should come my way, but books rarely, if ever, sell at list price. Every seller discounts. Publishing and printing costs are fixed and cannot be reduced unless the publisher sacks staff and the printer writes out every copy by hand. So the discount comes off my share. How much? I don't know. It depends on where they sell and what discount is applied. Until the quarterly sales reports come in from booksellers, the publisher cannot know so how could I?

So how much money is coming in?

I have no idea. To be fair, I have rarely had any idea nor indeed a great deal of interest in this. Income just encourages the taxman to demand more money with menaces. There is no point earning millions to be left with pennies.

These answers were not to Senga's liking. They reinforced her view that I actually have no idea what I'm doing and am just bumbling through life with no aim or direction in mind at all. She knows me very well indeed. In fact, I can say that my wife understands me, even though I don't always understand her, but that could be down to the facial deformities.

Writing isn't just about the money. The money is useful, indeed essential in the modern world, but the main aim of writing is to scare the living daylights out of people. Nothing compares to the satisfaction of a job well done, when people complain of sleepless nights and paranoia after reading my little tales. When psychiatrists call to thank me for sending more frightened patients their way, I admit to swelling with pride even beyond the levels naturally produced by gangrene or even corpse bloat.

The best one for that is still 'Telephone Pest' because now that the telesales people use automated machinery, more and more people get those silent phone calls. I still bask in the thrill of the person who told me, with terrified eyes, 'I had just finished reading that when the phone rang and there was nobody there.' It's in Fears of the Old and the New and if FromTheAsylum hadn't closed, I could have pointed to the archives there.

It is a little strange to find people reading horror stories and complaining that they were scared. I thought that was the whole point. Still, as long as I'm having fun, it's all good.

Anyway, must get back to work. The cold weather is discouraging visitors so I'll have to actually buy some food soon. This means parting with cash, a mortal sin in the Dume world and a risk of setting Father off on his threats to call the banshee again. I suspect he fancies her.

Senga is silent apart from rattling pots and pans in the kitchen. She isn't cooking, just rattling. I don't think she's really furious because when she is, she turns the cauldron over and lets little Caligula batter it with a ladle.

She might calm down soon. I have to get working before she starts talking to me again.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Hell on Earth.

It's not often I summon Red Stan but tonight I donned the asbestos gloves of invocation and drank the chilli-juice of the watery-eyed and high-voiced chant. I performed the ritual dance of the Burning Bottom and shook my head until I had regained some feeling in my tongue.

Click, who should have been assisting, merely gaped at me. Fat lot of use he was.

It worked anyway. Red Stan appeared and knocked another chip out of my mantelpiece as he emerged from the fire.

"What do you want, Dume? I've just had a batch of liberals in and they're so wet it's hard to light them." Stan surveyed the room with his usual contempt until his gaze fell upon Click. "What's that thing? It looks like it should be one of mine."

"It's a useless thing. You don't want it." I waved Click away and he needed no further urging to flee the room. I have some chilli juice left and he's going to drink it later. I'll teach him that 'assist' does not mean 'stand and gawp while I do all the work'.

"Oh I don't know." Stan rubbed his ear. "A couple of horns and a tail and he'd fit right in at my place. Anyway, what is it you want?"

"Have you had anything to do with a group calling themselves Microsoft?"

He looked at me for a moment then developed a deep interest in the ceiling. "I do believe I have a few shares in that company. How's it doing? Anything interesting?"

"I see." I folded my arms. "How about Ebooks? An invention of yours, I suspect?"

"Well, they are taxable and you know I'm a big fan of the tax office. Most of my family work there." Red Stan fingered his horns. "Did I chip this one on your mantelpiece? You'd better be careful, Dume. I have an awful lot of lawyers, you know."

"Don't change the subject. I've spent days trying to get a book converted into Ebook format. It has to be sent in as a Word document but it has to be done without any of the Word hidden formatting and other nonsense or it won't work." I glared at him briefly because glaring hurts when you've drunk that much chilli juice. "So Ebooks have to be submitted in Word but the programming of Word means the submission is doomed. I suspect you had something to do with this."

"Did it hurt?" He leered so well I almost forgave him, but held firm.

"It was appalling. I pulled out both my hairs, stitched them back in and pulled them out again during the process and I won't even know if it's worked for days." It wasn't that bad but he does like flattery.

"Yes!" Stan punched the air. "Best invention ever. One lot of goblins work on word processors and fill them with code, another lot work on Ebooks and fill them with entirely different and utterly incompatible code and then I set up a company that only accepts submissions in the most incompatible format possible. I knew that was a winner." He glanced at me and attempted to straighten his face. "Oh. I mean, perhaps one of my underlings did it without telling me."

"That is," I said, "possibly the most unspeakably evil thing you have ever done."

Red Stan performed a low and extravagant bow. "I thank you from the heart of my bottom."

"Yes, well." I tried to keep the admiration from my voice. "You could have warned me."

"Where's the fun in that?" He straightened and rubbed his hands. "Of course, those who have contracts have no trouble with the process at all."

"Oh no. I have a contract with Damnation Books for another book. I don't need one with you. Besides, I think I managed to get through the process. Eventually."

"Yes, but you'll have to do it all again. By then I'll have changed all the formats and added more hidden commands in the programs." He grinned at me. "So what was this book about? Am I in it?"

"Not directly." I showed him a print copy but didn't let him touch it. I have to pay for these and I can't reclaim the burned ones. "It's fairly cruel though. I think you'd like it."

"Is it on Kindle?" Red Stan licked his lips. "I was particularly taken with the name of that gadget, the firestarter reference, you know?"

"It might well be. That's up to you."

"Oh?" Confusion flickered in his face.

"Well, that's what I've been trying to do. Get this book out into the world to scare as many people as possible. Your game of 'torment the author' has stopped me, or at least hindered me."

"Ah." Red Stan moved towards the fireplace. "I can see I'll have to rethink and perhaps refine this plan."

"Yes, perhaps you should." It was my turn to grin but I missed it because the chilli juice had numbed most of my mouth. I don't know what it looked like and perhaps it's better that way.

Red Stan took a headlong dive into the fireplace. I think that was the first time he managed it without smacking his horns on the mantelpiece.

The next Ebook submission might, I suspect, be a little bit easier.

Although probably not much.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Another review.

There is a new review of Jessica's Trap on the internet.

All the reviews are very positive so far, which must be a good thing. I'll also have to order more copies for signing because the first batch didn't last long.

I'm going to have to watch that Bifrons. He's supposed to be a minor character but if he keeps on chatting up the ladies he'll soon be demanding a book of his own.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Writing limbo.

I'm writing a mystery story. One so mysterious I don't even know what it's about yet.

One novel is in the bag, the second is submitted, the third is a complete first draft, so I decided it was time for a break. I'd leave the novels alone for a few days and work up a short story or two. That was the plan.

What I have here is an opening. A good opening. I'm very pleased indeed with this part of the story.

What I don't have is an ending. Not even a hint at where the story is going. It's going somewhere nasty, that's all I know. Okay, it actually starts somewhere nasty so it's going somewhere nastier. It's going to a place that would make one of Caligula's nappies seem almost bearable.

If only I knew where.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Getting to grips with marketing.

I have been surprised at the demand for signed copies of Jessica's Trap. Maybe they think it will be valuable when I die. That would explain why Caligula has stored away a whole box of signed copies.

It occurred to me that the little book of terror I have been giving away as an advertisement (free download, I can't make the print one free) has so far only been used to get my writing name more commonly known. It did not mention Jessica's Trap at all. That has now been rectified with a 'by the same author' page in the back with a link to the Eternal Press website.

Meanwhile, I have been in communication with the graphic artist who created that wonderful cover for a poster design. So inspired by contact with an artistic mind, I meddled with the cover of 'Fears of the Old and the New' myself. That has now changed too. It's not in the same league but it does look better.

I notice Caligula has salted away a few copies of the old 'blue sky' version of that book too. I'll have to be careful. If he is storing rarities that might become valuable when I die, he will expect to cash them in quite soon.

He's not a patient child, but he can be a particularly violent one.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

That heart-stopping moment.

I have just pressed 'send' on the submission of Samuel's Girl. This one is my precioussss, my most complex and intricate story ever. Each little detail has a place, every tiny action has a consequence. As Demdike says in 'Jessica's Trap', small things matter.

I have never had the nerve to send it anywhere before. By comparison, even the severe biological logic of Victor's Will or the twisted and complex world of Ghosthunters are mere fireside tales. Well, it's off now, and it will be some months before I hear 'maybe' or 'nay' so all I can do is write the next one.

The query letter took a lot of time. It had to. It had to be as good as, if not better than the actual story because no matter how great your novel, no matter if it's the next 'War and Peace' or the next 'Lord of the Rings', if the cover letter is rubbish nobody will ever read the sample chapters.

Should it be accepted and subsequently appear in print and pixels, I will have a competition to see who was paying attention. I will want to know exactly what and who was ultimately responsible for the demon's second kill and hint - it's not the demon. Nobody in the book ever works it out but one line, one little line gives it away to the attentive reader.

That is a long way away. Longer if the publisher decides it's not for them. It is, however, a promise. There will, one day, be such a competition.

As for me, I have a full first draft of Norman's House here, just waiting to be made into something submittable.

Is 'submittable' a word?

Sunday, 1 May 2011


It seems Jessica's Trap has been well received on both the Amazon US and UK sites. Not many reviews so far but then it's been less than a month, and the reviews that have appeared are all positive.

So encouraged, I have prepared Samuel's Girl for submission. It's a good deal longer than Jessica's Trap and set in the modern day rather than in the past.

If it's accepted, I hope the same cover artist produces the artwork. Wonderfully sinister imagery.