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Monday, 17 December 2012

MADONNAS, WITCHES, AND WEREWOLVES, OH MY!

Fiction. I’m known for writing it. What is the nature of fiction, in the Digital Age? Stories are whatever the hell you want them to be. I have slight trouble with the word novella. To me, the term signifies a story around 50,000 words.
   When I decided to put out short stories, I wondered if I’d call a 30,000-worder a novella. I didn’t wonder long. No. At that level, my tale is an extended short story. That’s a fancy way of saying it’s a short story stuffed to brimming.
   I do what I can to gather my work for sale. My Amazon author page appears at the end of my blog collections. Blog posts are bundled with fiction – on the off-chance that my blog vanishes. I always write blog posts with the intention of publishing them in e-book form. Whether or not that improves the quality, I leave to the muttering of others.
   Familiar readers of this blog may have noticed that I mentioned a factory for my fiction. The phrase seemed ripe for exploitation. I wanted to write, edit, and publish rapidly. Format? Stories around 30,000 words. I felt like throwing in a few pages of notes. Behind the scenes. FICTION FACTORY was born.
   I created a red stripe for the top of each cover. Initially, I used black lettering. Black on red. Must be a winner. At thumbnail size, I saw white on red had a slight edge. I ditched the winner and backed a horse I wouldn’t normally give a second glance.
   Red stripe. White lettering. Hell, I’d just created a mini-brand for handy doses of tale-tellery. Here’s the blurb for the first three stories in my FICTION FACTORY

*

WITCHES.

Selena Salem spins tales o’ witchcraft, and worse. Mystified strangers are invited to her kitchen table to hear uncanny stories. Fanning the blood-spattered cards, Selena casts her storytelling spell into the rainy Scottish night.
   Tonight’s tale is one of war between greedy clans. The clan o’ the Hand hires the man in the scarlet cap to do the clan’s bidding. His task? Destroy the clan o’ the Eye and the clan o’ the Tongue. No easy feat for mortal man. A difficult job for a warlock.
   Enter Rory: bandit-killer and lover of married women. The Laird o’ Tongue sends Rory to redress the balance of power by hiring witches. Rory stands on the brink of destruction at the cottage of Selena – prentice witch. Selena’s uncle may be too tired for the fight to come. All the while, the clan o’ the Eye keeps watch. Who will triumph, in this devilish tale of magic gone awry in the service of mortal men?
   35,000 words, plus notes.

*

THE MADONNA GAMBIT.

Harvey lingered, in case the rain concealed someone tailing from the weather’s depths.
   Come on. Is that likely? A tactic you’ve used, true. If they are sharp enough to keep an eye on you, they’ll do so from here. Not on the exposed walkway by the shore. Leapfrog ahead in that red car, and hang around the streets. Around the spare wheels. No one knows about the contingency except her. Your link to the outside world. If she’s suspect, throw yourself in the lake now.
   Placing the spare car here was a thin point generating weakness. Getting the keys to him constituted another thin spot. Forget this crisis of non-confidence. The only way to compromise the alternative exit is by going there to check on things. You are a tourist, remember. Lurching from puddle to puddle. Doing touristy things on a rainy day.
   They are watching me.
   Snap the hell out of it.

Harvey Yale is a hired killer. He wonders why the Madonna Gambit isn’t going according to plan. Is revenge really reaching from beyond the grave to spoil Harvey’s appetite, this job, and the rest of his day? Perhaps there’s more to his paranoia than his paranoia.
   Someone marked him. Coincidence. He was offered a gun he wasn’t sure about using. Uncertainty meant nothing. This wasn’t a high-profile job. He could walk away from the pittance they’d offered him, claiming the set-up looked bad.
   Set-up. The phrase needled him. When in doubt, run with your gut before your gut is wrapped around the other guy’s cutlery. Is the mission compromised? Has paranoia won over instinct? Join Harvey on the treacherous slopes of the rock, to find out…
   37,000 words, plus notes.

*

WEREWOLVES.

Two men died. The third man faded. SHE spoke to the police. The police looked into that connection. Nothing connected. Trailing over old ground, cold ground, SHE thinks SHE’s on the right track. The trouble with following tracks? Sometimes you meet trains coming the other way.
   SHE has little to go on but instinct and a curiosity that’s already killed the cat. On this mad little adventure into the unknown, it’s the dog SHE should worry about. No full moon. Little sign of silver bullets. Maria Ouspenskaya checked out of that hotel a long time ago.
   Follow in the footsteps of two, or three, dead men. Take a walk into the alleys just off Maldine Square. Ignore the café chatter. Find your way to that place, where the brass dragon shakes two silver bells as you tumble through the door. Take a look around. See what you can find. Be wary of anything that finds you.
   39,000 words, plus notes.

*

I don’t feel the need to blog about my work at every turn. Relentless plugging is dreary. If I automated the process, relentless plugging would be just as dreary.
   BUY MY STUFF!
   HEY, BUY MY STUFF.
   ZZZ, HUH, WHUZ, UH, BUY MY STUFF.
   Automation has its place. I automate the blog to cover for a few weeks if I’m out of the country, ill, or otherwise missing in inaction.
   If you want to check out my fiction, root around the blog. There’s the Hallowe’en page. Free story. There’s also the free novel listed under DOCTOR WHO FAN FICTION if your taste runs in that direction. My commercial wordsmithery is on Amazon, for the Kindle…
   The first ten per cent of each tale is free. That’s the Amazon sampling system for you. Click to LOOK INSIDE! The system can take a week to kick in after publication. If you don’t see a free sample, have patience. Give it a few days for Amazon to ferry the free slice to a book-hungry public.
   Free samples. Blurb is free. Product description.
   I wanted a home for my blurb. A place that wasn’t Amazon. Right here. A blog post must be built around any blurb-fest. I thought I’d talk about the nature of product descriptions. Self-published digital writers have the power to fashion blurb. I control the content. Is this a good thing? A bad thing? In the world of movies, I often feel the need to shoot the people who come up with trailers.
   Rules for movie trailers?
   Never show a serious heavy-duty plot-point in a trailer. By that, I mean one that thunders into sight when people sit to watch the movie. They’ve seen the trailer, and guess the cunning part of the plot once they take in the first half hour of the film. Your shitty trailer gave away the last half hour. Awkward.
   Don’t put stuff in the trailer if it doesn’t make the final cut. Annoying.
   Please don’t show half the film in the trailer. Pointless. A tactic used for thrillers, mysteries, and suspense flicks. Trying too hard.
   Comedy trailers. Don’t show five jokes in the trailer. Especially if there are only four jokes in your movie.
   Please don’t tell us HEROES WILL RISE. That makes the movie sound as though there’ll be a catastrophic start to the good guy’s tale, followed by an extensive training montage/landscape-hopping journey, ending with a bare-chested revenge fight in rain. With knives.
   There’s nothing wrong with films like that. Just don’t tell us heroes will rise in them. DOUGH WILL RISE. VILLAINS WILL RISE. DOUGHY HEROES WILL RISE. Don’t confuse doughy heroes with doughty heroes. They’ll all rise.
   Don’t show any snippets from the final scene of your film. Let it go.
   Time for a DO, instead of a DON’T. Do use James Horner’s music from Aliens in your trailer. Hell, we won’t spot that tactic. Year in, year out.
   I give away my plot for Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords right there in the blurb. Our hero is sent to kill seven bastards. There’s an immediate betrayal and all bets are off. A good example of product description, or not?
   Go to Amazon’s Kindle Store to check the blurb. If you’re reading this in the collected edition, you’ll find blurb for Neon Gods under the heading ALSO AVAILABLE. Judge for yourself. I tell you everything, yet give nothing away.
   The plot outlined in my product description is divulged inside the first ten per cent of my book. You get the basic idea from the blurb, true. That plot surrenders to the reader of the free sample. I’m not giving out a major twist that upsets the customer.
   Did I say too much in my blurb for WITCHES, THE MADONNA GAMBIT, WEREWOLVES, or any other story I’ve written? Those FICTION FACTORY pieces are short stories. Should I say less that’s plot-related when describing shorter works?
   Rory enters a deal with witches. Harvey Yale is an assassin. SHE is a curious investigator of strange doings. Well, I have to tell potential customers SOMETHING. What am I saying? There’s a skill to writing, and there’s a skill to writing blurb.
   If you are a self-published scribbler, you must develop the skill of writing blurb. In the paper publishing world, this skill was thought too dangerous to be left in the hands of authors. There are times, glancing at paper publishers, when I thought those publishers wanted to do it all – even writing the books.
   You know. Do away with authors.
   This is the Digital Age, and many of us simply chose to dispense with the paper publishers. If I’m going to have crappy blurb attached to my stories, I may as well be the piss-artist responsible. Excuse my bias – I don’t have crappy blurb attached to my stories.
   Sometimes this sentiment feels right – if only the people who made the movie had made the trailer.
   Occasionally, the view runs in another direction – if only the people who made the trailer had made the movie.
   What to do, about blurb? I’d advise adding the word-count to product description. Be transparent. For my REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE editions, I make it plain that I’m bundling around 30,000 words of a free blog with paid-for fiction. The FICTION FACTORY line consists of stories that aren’t going to be reissued in larger collections – that’s transparent on the product description. (See any FICTION FACTORY story on Amazon or the ALSO AVAILABLE section of this collection for the main mission statement.)
   Transparency. Be honest about the product without giving away the goods. Have I altered product descriptions? Yes. The only way to know you set the blurb down straight is by studying the text live on Amazon. I’ve had to correct glitches and deal with gremlins that popped up.
   Don’t mislead customers. That’s a rule for writing blurb. When constructing novels, feel free to misdirect readers – that’s different. It’s also a topic for another time. Leaving me just enough space for a spot of blurb plugging the next blog post…

NEXT BLOG: SCHEMES O’ MICE AN’ MEN.

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