Monday, 31 October 2011

After-party relaxation.

Well, that's Caligula's birthday over for another year. Two years old. You wouldn't think it, he's only on his second set of teeth although the third row is starting to cut through. He had a great time, especially as many local children took the trouble to come to the door to be tricked.

Senga insists that it's the visiting children who are supposed to do the tricks but Caligula and I agree that's a silly way to do it. She also has this crazy idea that the tricks should not draw blood. What would be the point of that?

Death and Red Stan showed up, as did that wretched wraith Banquo. Every time there's a feast, there he is. Nobody invites him.

The Professor wasn't here. He was probably out hunting for something supernatural somewhere.

Little Caligula is safely tucked away in his secure room. He's supposed to be asleep but I think I hear him practicing with his throwing knives. Let him play. It'll help keep the rats under control. Now I can settle down to the latest issue of The Horror Zine.

I already have a copy of 'What Fears Become' but if you like the idea of a free one, there's a competition until midnight.

If you lose, you might turn into a pumpkin, but that's a chance you'll have to take.

Preparing for the feast.

Another free tale at Smashwords. That's three freebies so the next will have a price attached to it. Not a huge price but a price nonetheless.

This one features Death, who I hope will attend little Caligula's second birthday party tomorrow evening. He's very likely to appear since Caligula has requested a set of throwing knives. They're all sharpened and wrapped and hidden away until tomorrow. The little tyke is certain to want to try them out and Death will want to be nearby in case he has to collect someone. I will be wearing armour.

The story is also set at Halloween so it's suitable for a children's party, I think. Caligula won't appreciate it, there's not nearly enough gore. I was surprised to find the story had already been reviewed since it has not yet been on the site for a full day. Pleasantly surprised, I might add, since it was a full-marks review. Those are always good to see.

Well, best get ready for Caligula's party. I hope that wretch Banquo doesn't show up this time.

Friday, 21 October 2011

The Wandering Dume.

It's been quite some time since I wrote those articles for Alienskin magazine and I have been out of practice. So it was very nice to be invited to write a short one in exchange for a review of Jessica's Trap at the Book Boost.

I hope the article is up to standard because the review is very complimentary indeed. The author of that blog is putting in an incredible effort this month, with one of these huge posts going up every day. It must be tiring.

This has reminded me of my long-ago intention to collect those Alienskin articles into one book. It's time to revive that idea, I think.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Death in the kitchen.

It's been one of those nights. Full moon, Ferals howling at it, the Slimy Swamp Thing slithering about the place, Little Caligula on the hunt for hidden birthday presents, rats and pretty much anything edible, Senga moaning about her household budget, the swamp plants muttering dark things in the night, and Death waiting for me in the kitchen. Some nights you just can't get a moment's peace.

"Hello Dume." Death brandished his scythe. "Look. I have the proper one back."

"So I see." I stayed out of range. He's not known for being too careful with that thing. "What happened to your iScythe?"

"Scrapped." Death ran a phalange over his blade. "That Steve Jobs chap died and the first thing he said when I went to collect him was that the iScythe was a breach of copyright. So it had to go. The Boss wasn't happy, but I was."

"No, I suppose breaking the law wouldn't be a good thing for your boss."

"Aha, even better. It was one of his own laws. The one about coveting thy neighbour's whassnames. Apparently it extends to copyright. Oh, the Boss is in a foul mood, believe me." Death leaned his scythe against the wall and patted it. "Now, how about some tea?"

I filled the kettle and set it on the cooker.

Death grunted. "What happened to that assistant of yours? He hasn't turned up in my list yet so he can't be dead."

"No, not dead. He's in the laboratory, sweeping up. Again. He's costing me a fortune in glassware." I had considered transferring Click to toy supervision duties but he'd probably end up letting them all loose and then we'd have to barricade the doors to get any sleep at all.

"Can't get the staff, eh?" He settled into a chair and made himself comfortable. "A common problem these days. Even the red guy is complaining about the quality of recruits lately. Some of them want to make Hell smoke-free, can you imagine? They just don't seem to grasp the essence of the business at all."

While the kettle boiled I placed the sugar, milk, stirring fingers and kitten blood on the table. "No fairy cakes this time, I'm afraid. The fairies have been elusive this year. I have some elfin savouries though." I shook the tin to quiet them before opening it.

"Elfin savouries. Haven't had those for years." Death picked one up and bit into it. "Their screams are much more musical than the fairies, aren't they?"

"Yes, but the fairies taste better." The kettle howled. I took it from the stove and filled the teapot. "So, quiet lately? Not much reaping going on?"

"Huh." Death clattered his fingers on the table. "Look at this." He threw a newspaper onto the table, folded open to a particular page. "I'm going to relish collecting this one. He's causing nothing but trouble."

"Another apocalypse? So soon?"

"Everything has to gear up again. The sulphurous lake has to be refilled and lit and that takes days. The beasts have to be prodded into fury again. All the horses are being groomed, the trumpeters are practicing day and night, the whole place is in chaos up there. It'll probably be yet another false alarm but with the Boss still smarting over breaking Rule Ten I think he's using this as a distraction. Good day to bury bad news, sort of thing."

I filled two cups and passed one to Death. "So you're hiding out here for a few hours?"

"Too right." Death added a liberal splash of kitten blood to his tea. "Try having a fleshless skull when seven trumpeters, with trumpets that can be heard all over the world, are practicing. I think my sutures have come loose." He sucked tea into his mouth, where it vapourised at once. "So, what are you doing these days?"

"Well, I've just made another story available for free."

"Free?" Death set his cup down. "That doesn't sound like you. Are you ill? Is it serious?" He glanced at his scythe.

"I'm fine. You won't need the scythe for a while yet." I shifted in my seat in case he became overzealous and I'd need to run. "The free ones advertise the main ones. Short stories don't make any money anyway so I thought the best use I could make of them was to give them away with adverts in the back."

"Oh." Death's shoulders slumped. "Oh well, never mind. So how's it working out?"

A scream ripped through the kitchen, loud enough to make me jump. For a moment, I thought Beryl the banshee was back and my mind was already gearing up to give Father a sound telling-off for inviting her. It wasn't Beryl. Death took a small black coffin-shaped box from his robes and pushed a button. The screaming stopped.

"My pager," he said. "I have to report for rehearsals. Damn. I hoped they wouldn't notice I was missing."

"Aren't you somewhat central to the whole thing?"

Death finished his tea and stood. "Yes, I suppose I am." He picked up his scythe. "Almost the star of the show, you might say. Almost." He swirled his cape in a theatrical bow and backed into the wall. "See you another time, assuming this is just another false alarm."

I sipped at my own tea while listening to the Ferals howling outside. If it wasn't a false alarm I'd see Death in his official capacity sooner than I'd like to. That would be a nuisance.

I have more books to finish.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Phase 2 again.

I had a request for the full manuscript of 'Samuel's Girl' last night. The publisher can still say 'no' at this stage but I have all my fingers crossed. I had to rescue some from Caligula's toy box, those are a little bit chewed at the ends but every little helps.

So the second novel has reached phase two. I have the third almost ready to go into phase one, submission, so I'd better concentrate on that while I wait to hear about 'Samuel's Girl'. I don't want to leave such a long gap between submissions this time.

There's something about the amount of work that goes into a novel that puts me off the self-publishing route. I think they work best with a professional cover and after the attentions of a professional editor. Short stories are easy to self-edit but novels are almost impossible.

For the moment at least, short stories will go the self-publishing route and novels go through the traditional route.

This means I'll have to work harder on that writing website. Soon I'll need separate pages for each publishing method.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Covers and content.

I put the short on Lulu in print form, even though I very much doubt anyone willl buy it. The postage costs more than the little book! Added to another order, fine, but on its own it's too costly.

No, I put it there so I could order some print copies. Postage isn't so bad when you're buying a batch. Why do that? Well, so that I can give them away. This little story is ideal for leaving around and it has ads in the back for the other three books. It's also one of the safer stories. If I left something like 'The Gate Race' or especially 'The Sweet Man' lying around, I'd get complaints from parents whose children have lost the ability to sleep.'The Sweet Man' isn't published yet. I'm saving it for Christmas.

The book I'm currently reviewing for the Horror Zine has an artistically produced cover, a drawing that is very impressive indeed. Even more impressive because the author drew it. More on that when the review is finished and on the site.

A book needs a good cover and if you're self-publishing, artists can be expensive.

I can't produce such art so I use photographs and Photoshop and in that case, it's vital to only use photos you've taken yourself. Otherwise you hit copyright issues unless you have written permission from the photographer to use their stuff. Pictures found on the Internet are not free for all, the original photographer still has copyright and can demand a cut of your earnings if they find you've pinched their work.

The most important part of any book is still the content. Yes, you can self-publish a terrible story but you won't sell many. Worse, those who read the terrible one won't even bother to look at the rest of your offerings. Even worse yet, publishers you submit work to might have seen it and they won't be too keen on asking for a manuscript. A dud can wreck your chances, so don't put them out there.

If you see a copy of 'A Little Knowledge' lying around, you'll know I've been there. Take it, it's free.

I might even be watching...