Free Short Story Weekend!

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This weekend–Friday, Saturday and Sunday–a different short story in the Watershed Tales series will be free from Amazon each day.  The free stories will celebrate the release of the final three shorts of the series, bringing Watershed Tales to a total of 10.

Friday:  The Corn Snow

There’s something evil in the woods. No one quite knows what it is, but every five years, like clockwork, it returns to haunt one particular family, bringing with it a fierce storm marked by a rare, sleet-like precipitation called corn snow. Each time the storm comes, the unnamed evil claims a different family member as its own, no matter how hard they try to prevent it. But now, the family’s matriarch has had enough. Twenty years of watching the slow erosion of her family has left her old and alone.  On this night, the storm approaches once again, but she’s ready. She will not be taken.

This edition of Watershed Tales also includes a bonus tale, One Step Ahead. After a horrible accident during a bad storm claims the life of his pregnant wife and their unborn child, Gil’s rage leads him to curse God himself for allowing such misfortune.  Soon, however, he finds himself running desperately to stay ahead of the fate that had failed to claim his life with the rest of his family. Unwilling to simply lie down and accept it, Gil responds by fighting back the only way he knows how, by using the vindictive twist thrown at him to survive, staying just in front of the retribution always chasing him.

Get The Corn Snow from Amazon

Saturday:  The Beacon

The dreams had created an obsession so deep within Gary that he dragged himself, almost unthinkingly, out to the remote lighthouse in the middle of the night, risking the approaching onslaught of the storm, to find the answers. The woman in white he had seen every night for weeks had been calling to him, wanting him to solve the riddle the dreams had pounded into his head. Through the darkness, the thunder, lightning and heavy winds, and the treacherous route to the isolated peninsula upon which the lighthouse stood, Gary risked it all to try and settle his tortured mind.  But once he reached the beacon that had called to him so forcefully in his sleep, would he find the answers he sought, or only more questions?

This edition of Watershed Tales also contains the bonus tale, Yardwork.  If you thought mowing the grass, pruning hedges or raking leaves in your yard was tough, try being Tom.  In the ever-present struggle to maintain control over the forces of nature, and bring civilization to a comfortable suburban landscape, what do you do if the yard likes the way it is and doesn’t want or need your help?

Get The Beacon from Amazon

Sunday:  Brother, Can You Spare A Dime?

Business Man is the fierce, self-anointed top predator of his realm, the great gleaming steel and concrete jungle.  For so long now, he’s prowled the hunting grounds of these streets, seeking out new prey to fatten his bank account.  He’s become so self-assured in his dominance that the mere notion of danger had become alien to him.  Times are changing, however, and some of the weakest, least valuable inhabitants of his world have developed a new plan.  They are turning the long-standing food chain on its head, and if Business Man isn’t careful, yesterday’s predator could very well turn into today’s prey.

This edition of Watershed Tales also contains two short bonus stories.  First, Indifference tells of a world falling apart at the seams, death and destruction everywhere, and basic human compassion is the first casualty.  Second, the messiah is faced with having to deal with modern day problems during an illegitimate and intrusive interaction during a random traffic
stop by a police officer just trolling for someone to hassle in What Would Jesus Do?

Get Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? from Amazon

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Evereybody Likes Free Stuff! Get a different short story ebook every day during the first week of March

Spring is just about upon us, and I figured as part of my ongoing promotion of my self publishing excursions, I’d offer up a different ebook in my Watershed Tales series of digital short stories for free for the Amazon Kindle every day of the first week of March.  Here’s the run down of what’s available, when, with the obligatory link to the store site.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 5-  The Long Walk

What happens when your conscience is over-ridden by your orders?  Is it better to simply do as you’re told, even when you find the actions abhorrent?  And if you do, despite your better judgment, what kind of consequences will follow, if any?  In The Long Walk, a young cavalryman gets assigned the duty of escorting some particularly violent prisoners to their place of execution.  The manner planned for the  deaths of the condemned is particularly horrible, but no one questions their actions or orders until it’s far too late.  Honor doesn’t supersede duty in the unforgiving desert, and the results are severe.

Get The Long Walk

Tuesday, March 6- Journalistic Integrity

Reporters and war correspondents regularly put themselves in harm’s way all in the name of journalism, ratings and informing the people.  Most times, things work out; sometimes they go horribly wrong.  When a military madman rises to power in a former Russian province after the collapse of the Soviet Union, threatening Moscow and London with some old Soviet nukes he’d managed to get his hands on, it looks like the story of the century.  A bevy of reporters from all the major news agencies in the world make their way through the war-torn countryside in pursuit of an exclusive.  But when they find what they’re looking for, these newsmen discover that instead of covering the story, they are about to become it.

Get Journalistic Integrity

Wednesday, March 7- The Garden

Isolation can do strange things to a person, and there can be no place more alone than in the depths of space.  Duane is an astronaut on a 20-year mission to test technology that could lead to mankind’s greatest exploration ever.  His ship, being fully automated, leaves him with nothing but time to fill.  The large garden that provides his food, water and oxygen for the journey is his only distraction from the tedium.  But several years into his mission, things start to go wrong and he loses contact with Earth.  The constant loneliness begins to dredge up memories of his unhappy past, and the garden that provides not only the elements for his survival but also his sanity, is threatened.  Will Duane find within himself what it takes to survive and make it back home or will he be lost forever?  This edition of Watershed Tales also includes a short bonus tale, Travis Walton Never Had It So Bad, a story of planetary exploration and how very wrong things can go.

Get The Garden

Thursday, March 8- Faded Summer Leaves

You hear so much about the innocence of youth, but in truth, youth isn’t all that innocent.  The same mean-spirited viciousness, rage and emotional trauma adults suffer through exists for the young, as well.  And often, the lack of experience of youth amplifies the problem.  Growing up is a hard row to hoe sometimes, and for a small, scrawny little kid like Tommy, it can be even tougher.  But everyone has their limits, even someone who you wouldn’t think could ever stand up for themselves.  A group of young boys on an afternoon fishing excursion is the stuff of sweet anecdotes and quaint paintings.  That is, until things go sour.  On this particular day, Roy, the town bully, really should have kept his mouth shut.

Get Faded Summer Leaves

Friday, March 9- the Trail

Are you afraid of the dark? What if you find yourself alone in the woods with the sun rapidly setting and darkness falling in all around you?  Would you be afraid then?  That’s the situation Aaron finds himself in as he realizes that his peaceful day of hiking is quickly turning into a nightmare when he underestimates how long it would take to get back to his car.  Alone in the woods, desperately trying to find a way out, he runs across a mysterious hiker who offers his help.  Should Aaron take it or find his own way to safety?  This Watershed Tales edition of The Trail includes the bonus tale, The Tell-Tale Heartache.  Amontillado lives a solitary life, father who ran out on him, mother who died years earlier and no one but the residents of the trailer park he resides in for company.  One Christmas day, a strange thumping sound attracts his attention and he goes on a quest to find its source.  The odd noise leads him to what he thinks he desires most, but will he like what he finds?

Get The Trail

New Stuff and Old Concerns: The emerging ebook market can create a better future for writers

After all the Halloween stuff I did over the past few weeks on this site, I took a little time off.  Hey, cranking out 18 pieces in 14 days can be exhausting.  Anyway, I was very happy with how that worked out.  I got a massive uptick in traffic to this blog, I added a number of Twitter followers who actually stuck around and, ultimately, I sold what I consider to be a fair number of both of my books. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, the actual numbers behind any of this are miniscule.  I’m not making a fortune, I didn’t sell 50,000 copies, I didn’t add 25,000 followers on Twitter.  What I did do was illustrate to myself how some of this could conceivably work over the long haul.  And I made a few bucks to help pay the bills.  Sounds like a success to me.

I’ve noticed a few things of late that are steering me toward future choices.  The first is the impact a second book has had on generating sales for the first one.  That is, while I’ve sold copies of the new book, I’ve noticed a nice little bump in sales of the old one, too.  As much time and effort as I’ve put into trying to figure this stuff out over the past couple years, it startled me a bit to realize that I was still a victim of old school thinking. 

I was looking forward, focusing on the new book, almost subconsciously determining that the old one was played out.  It really never dawned on me that “played out” doesn’t even begin to apply to any of this any longer.  Ebooks are a relatively small percentage of the overall book market right now, but even the most pessimistic observers admit that they will soon come to dominate the market.  Tablets are getting cheaper and more diverse, meaning their penetration into the mainstream of life has the potential of what the VCR or DVD player or cable television did in the past, as in sooner than later, more people will have one than not.  How can a book that never goes out of stock, and never leaves the marketplace be played out when the market itself could be 200-300% bigger in the next few years alone?

I believe the mistake I made, and the mistake a lot of other, smarter people than me are making right now, is considering ebooks a segment of the overall book market.  It’s not.  Ebooks are an entirely different market altogether.  Even though you have the same material overlapping between print and digital, that’s really the only similarity.  Digital revenue won’t overtake print revenue in total dollars historically anytime soon, or even compensate for print’s losses in any effective way because the economics are different.  As much as big publishers want to tell themselves that people will pay $13, $15, $17 for ebooks, that’s a pricing structure doomed to failure.  So to look at ebook sales in the context of a percentage of total book sales misses the point, and totally underestimates the potential upside.

Ebooks are a market that, barring another economic catastrophe, is poised to enter a period of enourmous growth and expansion.  That expansion is predicated on a vastly different sales model than what has existed seemingly forever in print.  There is no longer any such concept as “played out.”  In fact, it appears that, as the networked infrastructures within ebook sales continue to grow and be populated by more and more readers, that each new entrant into the market under an author’s name has the potential to generate just as many sales for a book published two years ago as it does for a new release. 

That just seems counterintuitive to anyone who’s worked extensively in print publishing where everything, no matter how popular and successful, has a distinct life cycle.  It may be that ebooks hold the possibility of not simply extending that life cycle, but making it near infinite.  While things have existed in such a way for the most popular of writers, albeit to a lesser extent, this infinite life cycle in ebooks isn’t limited to the top of the top, it’s available for all writers at all levels of the book food chain.  That is a massive departure from the past, a total game-changer, if you will.

And it never really occurred to me even though it was staring me right in the face.  But I get it now.  After two years of wrapping my head around this stuff, trying to find something that makes sense economically–meaning an earning potential that equates the effort necessary to produce the product–ebooks are by far the most promising development I’ve seen.  There really hasn’t, with limited exceptions, been a model that makes a compelling case for selling digital content as a writer.  The ones that do tended to pull the majority of revenue to the institutions operating the platform.  Newspaper paywalls, for instance, generate revenue mostly for the newspaper and the corporation that owns it, and the writer is left with a miniscule share of that, if any.  Content farms pay peanuts for material, yet exploit that for their own, much larger share.  Ad supported sites are stuck in a volume business because the unlimited structure of the internet has been, and will continue to, drive a race to the bottom on ad rates.  And again, the writer gets a tiny, insignificant slice while the institution gets the lion’s share. 

Even book publishers, who have operated on that premise forever, are trying to squeeze that form into ebooks.  What does it say about a system where I can sell a book for a third or a quarter of the price of a Big 6, agency priced ebook yet I make more per copy than their author, no matter how big their name?  Ebooks have a clear potential to break this cycle, and produce significant financial gains for writers, putting us into a position, perhaps for the first time, to reap the majority of the proceeds generated from our work. 

While I’ve had conflicting issues with previous developments for writers online–most of which seemed based on a devaluing of our work, further mitigating our place in the content ecosystem–ebooks look to be just the opposite.  And we’re right at the ground floor of what is possibly a booming growth industry over the next decade.  When I look at ebooks, I see optimism, I see large growth possibilities, I see earnings potential that at least meets the efforts required to enter the market, and quite possibly far exceeds it.  For the first time in years, I can look at the disruption the internet has wrought on publishing and see an opportunity created for writers rather than one taken away.  Can it be that I’ve actually found what I’ve been looking for?

Anyway, enough pontificating.  I liked the 13 Days of Halloween stuff I did here so much, I decided to collect it up and make it an ebook all its own.  I unleashed it a few days ago.  You can click here to check it out.  I did slap a modest little price on it, as it’s a cleaned up, better organized and polished version of what’s still on the site, so I don’t believe that’s unreasonable. If you simply must read it for free, well, just scroll on down and have at it.

After wrapping that up, I dove right into something I’ve considered for a while but haven’t acted on, I kicked off a series of individual short stories in ebook form, each available for 99 cents.  I started off with three stories, and am listing them under the banner “Watershed Tales.”  Click here to check them out and see where you can buy copies.

It’s been a busy few weeks.  And there’s much more to come.  It’s interesting how encouraging it is to finally see a direction that doesn’t look like a dead end.  I’ve had a lot of pent-up creativity the past few years, mainly because I couldn’t find an outlet that made sense.  Now, however, without even truly realizing it, I’m overloading with ideas and possibilities.  For the first time in a long time, they actually seem attainable.  It’s about damn time!

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