Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Free Book Overload?

Because I visit facebook  and a lot of blogs every day, I see a lot of links to free kindle books. I download quite a few.  I mean, I’m the guy who, at book sales in the old days, would fill a couple of boxes for the dollar-a-box close of the sale with stuff that I thought, perhaps, maybe, on a good day, when life was perfect and I’d read everything else in the house, I might give a try. Turns out those books are almost all still packed away in the closet waiting for that day. A few weeks ago when I had to go through some of those boxes for something, I even took out half a dozen of those ‘possibles’ and put them on bookmooch.  I know at age 53 I’m not gonna find time to read them.

So, when I first started seeing free books for Kindle, I pretty much clicked every link, and if it sounded even remotely like something I might eventually read, I downloaded it.  I actually have read some of these.  Fortunately, a lot of free downloads are short stories rather than novels so I can get through them more quickly.  But still, I’ve got, at rough estimate, about 90 of these freebies sitting on my Kindle now.  About two-thirds of those I can no longer remember why I thought I might read them. But there’s no bookmooch for Kindle books.

As a reader, I can’t complain about getting books for free.  In fact, I could pretty easily fill my whole TBR list with freebies. If I actually “tried” I might be able to essentially read for free for years to come. I don’t do that, for several reasons.  1) my reading tastes are mercurial and when I want to read something I want to read it now.  That means not waiting for it to be offered free at some point.  2) I have a lot of friends who write and I like to buy their works and support them, although if they are giving away something for free I’m not above taking advantage of that offer.  3) as a writer I feel like I should give back with money to other writers, both for the pleasure they have given me with their work, and because I want people to buy my stuff too.

As a writer, I have to wonder how effective the free giveaways are, and maybe others can answer this question from their experience.  I’ve tried one giveaway, for “Harvest of War.”  It was free for five days, ending April 8, and I gave away 466 copies.  I was happy with that.  What the writer hopes for with such a giveaway is that readers will read the free work, enjoy it, and then spread that by word of mouth, and maybe even put up a review on Amazon, and maybe purchase other titles that the writer has to offer.  As near as I can tell, only one of these things happened in my case. Here’s the outcomes for me, near as I can tell.

Reviews: I got about half a dozen reviews in the wake of the free giveaway period and I’m pretty sure some of these were from folks who took advantage of the free download. I appreciated it very much, of course, but these were also folks who knew my writing from before.  They were not newcomers to my work, and quite likely would have bought the book and reviewed it anyway. I only got one review from someone who I think downloaded a free copy and had not previously commented on any of my work.  

Sales of other titles: I can’t be sure whether reading “Harvest of War” brought people to my other work. My Cold in the Light sales went up dramatically, but I’m sure the reason for that was that it was introduced in ebook format finally.  For the stuff I’ve self published, though, Killing Trail, Harmland, Days of Beer, I’ve seen no measurable increase.  In fact, prior to the free giveaway for “Harvest,” I’d been selling about 8 to 10 copies a month of Killing Trail. That has dropped to one or two since.  I hope they aren’t related, but, if anything, it looks like giving away “Harvest” hurt my sales of Killing Trail. That could mean that a lot of people really hated “Harvest of War” and don’t want anything else from me, or it could be that such folks have something by me, “Harvest,” that they haven’t read yet and won’t buy anything else until they do read it.  Or it could mean that if they decide to buy something from me they’re gonna spend the 99 cents for “Harvest” instead of the $2.99 for Killing Trail.  Or it could be any number of other things, I suppose. 

Word of Mouth sales of “Harvest of War”:  Immediately before and after the giveaway there were some sales for “Harvest.”  Since April, however, it’s sold fourteen copies.  Some of that may be word of mouth, although I do post about the book fairly frequently on facebook so I can’t be sure whether these are word of mouth from readers or word of mouth from me.  It’s certainly not had a huge impact.

I have to wonder about what happened to those free downloads of “Harvest.”  Did folks read them, or, like me, do they have a glut of freebies sitting on their kindles and the stuff they downloaded yesterday keeps getting pushed further down on the list by the free stuff they are downloading today. If the story isn’t being read, then the free download would appear to be useless to the writer.

Just a few more thoughts from someone trying to make sense of this crazy new world of publishing we are living in. Your thoughts are equally welcome.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Battle for Eden: Mark E. Burgess

 We have a guest on the blog today.  Mark Burgess is an author and veterinarian who works out of Portland, Oregon.  Mark’s novel is the other half of Wildside Double #25, which also includes my “Ember Star.”  I’ve never met Mark in person but we’ve corresponded via email and I can tell by his mention of Keith Laumer’s “The Last Command” in his acknowledgements that we’ve read many of the same works and have similar influences.  Below, Mark tells us a bit about his story.  I hope you’ll give him your support.
 Hi everyone!  I thought I’d write a short note about my new novel, The Battle for Eden, which is half of a double paperback from Wildside Press, paired with Charles Gramlich’s story Under the Ember Star.  My novel is the third in a series about the human-Knacker war. The tale is set in the far future, and far from Earth, in a giant globular star cluster just outside the Milky Way galaxy. The humans who had settled numerous worlds there are unexpectedly confronted by the Knackers, an ancient nomadic race of large crustacean-like aliens. These creatures inhabit a massive armada of space-faring ships, and they live by raiding planets throughout the galaxy, both for food and raw materials. Unfortunately, the Crabs (as humans call them) see nothing wrong in harvesting other intelligent life forms for food, and humans seem to be high on their list of delectable edibles.  Hence the conflict around which the series of stories is focused, as humans struggle for survival against a technologically advanced species for which war is a way of life.

I had already read the first two books in the Knacker series prior to writing “Eden,” and was enchanted by the unexplored possibilities left open by the initial installments. The original ‘concept’ story, a short piece by Ardath Mayhar, was written long ago and never published until recently. Ardath was an accomplished writer whose career spanned decades, and she recently passed away, but she lived long enough to see her Knacker story finally come to life in print.  In “Eden,” I wanted to delve more deeply into how humans would be affected by conflict with a hostile alien species, how people would react, and how resilient could they be in the face of fear and loss.  Last (but not least!) I wrote “Eden” to be a fun ride, full of action and exotic imagery as well as characters with depth.  My wife likes this story best of all those I’ve written so far. The Battle for Eden is written as a stand-alone story, so you do not have to read the prior books in the series in order to enjoy this one. The first chapter is available to read on my Facebook page. My facebook name is authorvet.  If you go to ‘Notes’ on the left page margin you’ll find free samples of several of my stories.  If you like them, feel free to share with your friends!

I’m currently working on another Knacker story, “Dark Angels,” a somewhat darker tale which is set entirely in space, not planetside as most of “Eden” is.  After that I’ll give the Knacker series a break, and work on some other ideas I’ve got brewing.  My heartfelt thanks to Charles for consenting to having my story paired with his in this new double paperback; he’s an accomplished author and has far more published works in his resume than I, at this stage of our respective careers.  May both our stories live long and prosper!     ~Mark E. Burgess    July 26, 2012


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Looking for Joy

How does the time get away?  It was Wednesday when I posted last, and now it's Sunday. I posted about Under the Ember Star being published.  I did some promoting for it on facebook and sent some emails, but not that much.  I haven’t had a lot of energy.  Lana is starting to feel the full effects of the radiation and is not eating well.  Her saliva gland on the tumor side is no longer producing saliva and everything tastes bad to her, and her throat is so dry it often hurts her to swallow.  I think yesterday she ate a bite of scrambled egg, a little rice, and some Italian Ices.  She is drinking a lot of milk, and they gave her some prescriptions to help with the saliva issue.  So far they have not helped much, but maybe it will take time to build.

In other health news, my blood tests came back with my cholesterol at 210 and my triglycerides at 496.  I am now on my second prescription medicine, this one for triglycerides. I was already on high blood pressure medicine.  I knew it was coming but didn’t really want to end up on two. Anyway, pretty minor compared to Lana’s issues.

But enough of the less joyful stuff.  I’m gonna try to find a good book and loose myself in it.  There are worlds of adventure and joy out there, and if I can’t find much inside myself at the moment, maybe I can take some in second hand.  Maybe I’ll read Under the Ember Star again. It’s been a while, and the days when I was writing it were quite full of joy. 

Here’s a little excerpt from the end of chapter 2 and the start of chapter 3, which is called “Smoking Blasters.”  To set the stage, Ginn had a rough night and wakes up to find that a veiled stranger has broken in and wants to talk to her. But there are others looking for the stranger to, and they are ready to kill to get him. Ginn hears a sound in her home that she shouldn’t hear.  And…action:

“Who’d you bring with you right now?” she demanded suddenly.
“No one. I mean, they did not come into town.”
Ginn surged to her feet, the apple dropped and forgotten, the kaftee spilling to the desk. She filled her free hand with her second blaster. Her visitor recoiled, hands going up toward its veiled face.
“Then you were followed,” she snarled.
From below, in the abandoned factory, a door shished open. From the street outside came a sound like a sheet of paper tearing—a pulse weapon powering up.
Ginn hurled herself forward, one arm sweeping her robed companion with her to the floor.
The wall at her back exploded.
Shrapnel sleeted. Echoes hammered.
A burning flake of metal furrowed Ginn’s left shoulder. She heard the sudden grunt of the being beneath her but couldn’t tell if or how bad it had been hurt. Dust and ash roiled and the already dim Kelmerian sun did little to cut it.
Lurching into a crouch, Ginn hacked up some of the swirling grit, tried to draw shallow breathes to keep the rest out of her lungs. The light-lenses provided a quick catalog of what was left of her apartment. It wasn’t pretty. Her roof sagged, smoldering. Half of it was gone. The remaining walls bulged outward. She wasn’t living here anymore.
The floor beneath Ginn creaked, as if about to collapse. Her enemies weren’t waiting on that. From below in the abandoned factory, running footsteps sounded. They’d expect her to try and escape that way—if she lived. But the stairs down would not belong to her anymore. Her options were narrowing.
“Follow or die,” Ginn growled toward her strange visitor.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hello, “Under the Ember Star”

I was setting up an Amazon Author Page for Amazon.France today when a book cover popped up that I hadn’t seen before. I looked a little more closely, and it was the cover for Under the Ember Star, which is finally in print through both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The publication date says March 29, 2012, but I checked as recently as last week and it wasn’t yet up. I think March is when it was submitted.

This one comes from Wildside Press, through Borgo Press as the purchasing imprint, and it’s listed as Wildside Double #25. Yes, you heard right. It’s a double book, in the tradition of the old Ace doubles so many of us remember fondly. There are two books printed back to back, each with its own cover. My cover is below, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve had yet. 

The second book is by Mark E. Burgess and is called The Battle for Eden: The Human/Knacker War, Book 3. Military SF probably best describes it. The three books of the Human/Knacker war are only loosely tied together by the concept of the Knacker invasion of Earth’s space territories. I’ve read all three and each stands alone just fine without the reader needing to know anything about the other two. I read “Battle for Eden” when it was first suggested as the flip side for my work, and it’s full of action and adventure, and quite a lot of intelligent thought.

Under the Ember Star is the book I wrote last summer, and I’m very proud of it. I’d call it a mixture of Space Opera and Sword & Planet adventure.  If you want to look for literary forebears, well, I gave special acknowledgments to Leigh Brackett and C. L. Moore in the book.  If you think of Sword of Rhiannon and the Northwest Smith stories, you’d be hitting close to the feel I was going for in the story.

I’d say “Ember Star” is the same kind of action-oriented adventure story I’ve tried to tell most of my life, but in one way I really tried to stretch myself with this book. For the first time in any of my longer works, the main character is female. She’s also carrying a little more baggage than my typical hero, but that doesn’t stop her from kicking ass. I’m happy with how she turned out.

Here’s the Blurb for Under the Ember Star:  “Ginn Hollis was fourteen when her father's mysterious death left her alone on the planet Kelmer. She's grown up since then. Kelmer is a harsh world, an old world: its people are ancient, its civilization long fallen and dimly dreaming under a brown dwarf sun the natives call the Ember Star. But now, long dormant forces are beginning to stir on Kelmer, forces that could destroy the planet forever...or bring it back to life. One being stands at the center of the turmoil. His origins are veiled, his destiny is unclear. Everyone wants a piece of him. Only Ginn Hollis can protect him from both sides--if she can save herself first.... Another grand science-fantasy adventure by a riveting storyteller.”

You know, I like the sound of that. I hope you do to.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Do You Think I’m Obsessed with Books?

I’ve mentioned the video game Skyrim here several times. I’m still playing it a fair amount and enjoying it. Recently, however, a certain ‘behavior’ of mine has come to the forefront in the game. I’m talking about book collecting.

Skyrim is part of a series of games called the Elder Scrolls games, and there are a lot of books in the game. Reading some books gives you perks, leading to improvements in archery or defense or so on, and others teach you magic skills. Many are just there.  Some of these talk about historical incidents. Others are biographies or personal journals. I don’t know how many there are total but I’ve seen over 100 so far.  I find it pretty cool.

And now to the subject of this post.  Many of you know that I’ve got lots and lots of books at home. I’ve reviewed thousands at Goodreads. I’ve got many hundreds more in my TBR piles.  I collect books and keep records of what books I read.  I seek out all the books in certain series that I enjoy.  And now I have become a book collector in Skyrim.

Skyrim allows you to ‘buy’ houses in various cities and I have four such properties now. Each of these properties has actual bookshelves that you can activate and store books on.  I set up a computer file the other night and began systematically collecting the books of Skyrim and putting them into the bookshelves in my various properties.  Many of the books come in series and I’m keeping the series together on the same shelf as I get them. All books have a “value” that is attached to them too, and, interestingly, I’m finding in many series there is one volume that is worth more than the others.  Just like in real life. Now, if only Skyrim had a Goodreads subsite I could access.

So what do you think? Am I certifiable?  Am I a true bibliophile?  Or would the term be bibliomaniac?  While I wait for your answers, I’ll leave you with some pics of real life books in my real life house.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Harmland Brand Chili

In honor of my newest collection, "Harmland," I'm gonna cook up a batch of Harmland Chili today. If you're in the Abita Springs area drop by and we'll have a heaping bowl with some dark beer. I’m thinking Turbo Dog is just about right with this kind of chili. And you won’t need any hot sauce.  Maybe I’ll whip up a batch of cornbread to go along with it. It’s great for sopping up the juices.

 Here’s a little excerpt from the story, “The Finest Cut,” which inspired today’s chili recipe.

Sheriff Dan Cortland stood looking down at the excavated grave. A coffin lay within, its lid thrown back. The coroner, Garrison Moeller, knelt in the dirt beside the grave, peering into the casket, which had been hand built out of thick cypress planks and seemed far too well constructed to house a couple of murder victims.

 Moeller climbed heavily to his feet, then stripped off the pair of surgical gloves that made his thick hands and wrists look like grub worms underneath the latex. He gestured toward the med techs nearby. “You can move ‘em now. Straight to Longleaf Hospital.”

 “Something strange about the bodies,” Cortland said.

 Moeller snorted. “You mean besides the cut marks on the bones and the fact that sixty percent of their flesh has been removed?”

 “Yeah, besides that.”
Remember: Harmland Chili: For when you absolutely have to kill the main ingredient yourself.
Get the Recipe Here. (Sort of: If you read between the lines.)