Sometimes the Best Reviews…

I just finished the first draft of my novelette, “Road Trip,” and I’m now working on my second draft edits. The is the story that’s going to be published in May in the anthology, Reliquary, so I’m well on track to have it fully polished and ready by the April 30th deadline.

Since I’m working on my second draft edits, I’m looking at the comments I’ve received on each part of the story from the members of my writing group. The best thing about going over all the comments with a fine-toothed comb is that I found this little nugget from Lou Lamoureux, the author of Recalled to Duty:

Good story. Reminds me of Neil Gaiman w/ more flavor.

Not sure it’s true, but still… Gotta love it.

The official blurb for “Road Trip” is:

Rocco Fitch, a wounded veteran of the war in Afghanistan, doesn’t have much left to live for. He’s disabled, unemployed and his wife has left him, taking their daughter with her. Then a beggar, a war veteran like himself, offers to sell him a road.

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Our New Writer’s Group T-Shirt

I’m a member of Loudoun SF & Fantasy Writers, a writing group that meets here in Loudoun County, VA, just south of Washington DC. And now, we have our own T-shirt, the back of which features the cover of our group’s first anthology, Uncommon Threads.

In fact, that anthology commemorated the group’s one-year anniversary (which is why we’re in the process of putting together a second anthology).

Loudoun County SF & Fantasy Writers Group T-Shirt

Note that the ebook of Uncommon Threads will be available soon (the print edition came out last June). I know this, because I’m the one working on it.

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Upcoming: Road Trip

My latest story is a novelette called “Road Trip,” which will be appearing in the upcoming anthology, Reliquary, edited by S. C. Megale, Donna Royston and myself.

Here’s a preview of the story:

It’s 2003 and Rocco Fitch is a down-and-out disabled veteran of the War Against Terror, having been severely injured by an IED in Afghanistan. Since his return, his wife has left him (taking his daughter with her), he can’t get a job, unemployment payments have run out, his car’s been repossessed, the bank wants to foreclose on his house and life just isn’t working out well in general

Then some beggar tries to sell him a road. Sensing that the beggar is a war vet like himself, Rocco buys the road from him for all the money he has left: $3.37.

At first, Rocco thinks the sale is just a strange way for the beggar to talk himself into accepting a handout from a fellow vet. But then he wakes up the next morning with a road, a magical road, crossing his backyard. A road that nobody else can see…

Besides the mysterious road that he now owns, the one bright spot in his life is his unlikely friend, his neighbor Sammie, an aging black rogue with a diabolical sense of humor, a foul mouth, friends in low places and a rather piratical way of looking at the world.

Between the two of them, they might just be able to set Rocco’s life on a new and different path.

It’s intended to be the first of a series of novelettes that I’m calling RoadWerks, LLC. If all goes well, the anthology should be coming out at the end of May, 2016, in both ebook and print. The story will be separately available for purchase on Amazon in January, 2016.

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Thoughts on Dixie Fey: The Accidental Urban Fantasy Series

Dixie FeyThere was one really interesting thing that happened when I ran my workshop, “Creating an Adaptive Setting,” at Capclave last October. I created the “Dixie Fey” urban fantasy setting, based in the southern U.S., as a world-building exercise to illustrate the strategies I was teaching in my workshop.

To my surprise, in addition to the workshop itself going extremely well, it turned out that the “Dixie Fey” setting turned out to be considerably more of a hit with the attendees than I expected. I fielded questions from the class in which they asked me if the setting was real, i.e. – if I was setting stories there. And whether I’d consider a “Dixie Fey” anthology.

I intend to run this workshop again. I can’t help but wonder if this question will come up again. It seems to me that there’s an opportunity here. Somewhere.

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Reliquary Cover Concepts

I’m one of the editors for the upcoming anthology, Reliquary. The challenge is for writers to provide us with stories on the theme of “relics,” which can range from magical artifacts to, in the realm of science fiction, mysterious high-tech artifacts left by a long-vanished alien species. In fact, contributors were invited to stretch the boundary of “relics” as far as they could feasibly expand it.

Now, the anthology also needs a cover, so this is what we’ve received so far with regard to cover concepts for the book:

Reliquary Concept 01 Reliquary Concept 02

And, well, um, we’ve had a few joke concepts submitted as well. The noir cover below was a response to comments that the first concept above didn’t present a story question to viewers. The second was a response from female participants in the anthology that the second concept had a statue of a nude woman, but, hey, what about the men? Personally, I’m not sure that the last concept represents an anthology to which I’d submit a story…

Reliquary Concept 03 Reliquary Concept 02

Anyway, I thought folks might get a kick out of seeing this. On another note, I know details now about two of the stories that will be in the anthology…

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Editing a New Anthology

One of my writing groups, the Loudoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers, is producing its second annual anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories. The editor will be S. C. Megale, another member of our writing group.

Additionally, as with the first anthology, I will be producing the Kindle ebook for the anthology, as I am currently doing for the first anthology. Martin Wilsey will be producing the print edition, taking over from John Dwight (who did a superb job on the first anthology). Donna Royston is available for copyediting; she does this professionally in her day job for a technical journal.

The group decided on a theme of “relics” for the anthology, so every story, whether science fiction or fantasy, will feature some sort of relic. Naturally, we expect the writers to liberally interpret the meaning of “relic” for their stories. This, of course, prompted me to suggest the title of “Reliquary” for the anthology, which was enthusiastically accepted by the group.

I’m a big believer in constant improvement. I’d like to build on the success of the first anthology and do even better with the second volume. To that end, here are my goals:

  • Do at least as good a job with the design of the print edition as the first anthology.

  • Improve on the copyediting of the first anthology; we are still finding grammatical issues and typos.

  • All entries should be stories, with a beginning, middle and end. No vignettes or chapters from longer works (unless said pieces work as complete stories).

  • The print edition and ebook edition should come out simultaneously.

  • The second anthology should have a professional-looking cover.

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Preliminary Anthology Math

Some friends and I have been discussing the possibility of producing a fantasy anthology. Creating a quality anthology requires a business-like approach, since there are real costs that have to be accommodated. I did some preliminary figures on doing the anthology in both print and ebook (Kindle). I’m assuming some sort of IndieGoGo campaign to fund the anthology.

Consider an anthology in trade paperback (like the ones I’ve seen people selling at Capclave). Figure 250 pages at 250 words per page for 62,500 words. At 2 cents a word, the writers would get $1250. At the standard pro rate of 6 cents per word, writers would get $3750. Now figure on getting a real cover for $250. And some professional graphic design work (interior and cover) for a $100. And professional editing for $800.

The minimum figure to create the anthology is $2400, paying all involved parties at least something, and paying the authors an initial 2 cents a word. But that’s not quite the end of the expenses. (The fully price to pay the standard pro rate of 6 cents a word would take us to $4900.)

There’s a cost associated with producing the books, and it’s a little hard to calculate because it’s different for print vs. ebooks. Let’s assume that the IndieGoGo campaign sells books/ebooks at a 1/3 ratio. Ebooks cost nothing to produce. Let’s assume that they can be sold for $4.99. Amazon will take it’s 30%, or basically $1.50, leaving $3.49 profit per ebook.

Printed books, on the other hand, require some fixed costs to produce. For a $14.99 book, you’re looking at about $6 to produce the book. Amazon will take 30% of the sale price, or about $5 (rounding up). So that leaves $3.99. However, the books need to be shipped, which is an additional cost. So, the IndieGoGo campaign would need to add about $3 per printed book for shipping.

Getting back to our projected ratio of one print book for every three ebooks, the numbers look like this for the minimum funding level:

      161 print books
      483 ebooks

This can be ameliorated a bit by adding an option so that anybody that buys a print edition can get the ebook for just a dollar more. If we assume that half of the buyers of the print edition buy also opt to buy the ebook, then the numbers look like:

      78 print book only
      78 print book + ebook
      468 ebooks

This can be adjusted even more by emailing the ebooks rather than sending them via Amazon. The buyers would also have to get instructions on how to get the ebook to their Kindle readers (a solvable problem). That increases the margin on ebooks from $3.49 to $4.99, and on the dollar-extra-special from 70 cents to the whole dollar. Our numbers then become:

      61 print book only
      61 print book + ebook
      363 ebooks

So, these numbers assume that we’ve priced everything as shown below:

      $4.99 Ebook
      $14.99 Trade Paperback (signed)
      $15.99 Trade Paperback (signed) + Ebook

I’ll have to think about other levels we might offer prospective supporters. This will require more research to see what other IndieGoGo or KickStarter campaigns have done in the past.

Bear in mind that some of these figures need a good bit more work, but they’re in the ballpark. There are still things that can potentially be done, such as:

  1. Higher prices for “more stuff”…e.g. – the extra levels that any good campaign should have. Getting mentioned in the book as a supporter, a major supporter, etc. Any extra levels that get bought can reduce the effort necessary to crack the nut (as long as the costs for extra levels are controlled).

  2. Reduce production costs. If the cover, graphic services or editing can be done for less, then that helps. Except that a certain level of quality is mandated in order to attract buyers.

  3. Pay less for stories. The downside is that this reduces the level of story submissions (and our minimum level is 2 cents a word, which is also going to hurt).

  4. Offer zero pay for key authors in return for an unlimited upside, i.e. – the selected authors become “partners” in the anthology and reap any long-term gains from the anthology. Basically, trading short-term reduction in cost for potential long-term gain. Problematic, since most writers want to get paid.

Anyway, these are some of my thoughts, based on preliminary numbers.

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The Thrill of Seeing Your Name on Amazon

All right, I know it’s just a minor anthology put out by my writing group. But I still get a thrill seeing my name associated with a book on Amazon. It’s a start…

Uncommon Threads on

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Uncommon Threads

Uncommon Threads: An Anthology I have a short story called “Winter Roses” appearing in a new anthology called Uncommon Threads. It’s really short but it’s nevertheless part of my Thousand Kingdoms series of stories. It tells the story of one of the ancient mountain kings, from the warrior clan that’s ruled their rugged domain for so long that the Cragenrath Mountains are named after them.

My original short blurb for my story is:

The young heir to the mountainous Cragenrath Kingdom thought he’d met the love of his life. Instead, he got a lesson in crime, betrayal, magic and revenge.

My story started out as a speech for my Toastmasters club a few years ago. I was doing projects from an advanced manual called Storytelling, and ended up with this rather Shakespearean story, almost a soliloquy.

Anyway, the volume is a community effort of the Loundoun Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group. The anthology was edited by John F. Dwight, who also did the layout with Liz Hayes. The cover was created by Asher Roth. All of the stories were created by members of the writing group.

Check it out. We’re all pretty proud of it.

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