More Time On My Hands

In 2011, my critique group put out a benefit collection of time travel stories called Out of Time. All the royalties have gone to Doctors Without Borders and since then we’ve sent them thousands of dollars.

Our second benefit collection, Still Out of Time, just released. Six more tales of time travel for your entertainment.

Still Out of Time Cover

It’s only 99 cents for your Kindle. You can preview and purchase it here.

To Curse or Not To Curse…

…that is the question. A question that comes up a lot in writing forums. So, here’s one writer’s take on it.

And so we are clear, I’m talking about language banned on network TV, not any of the lesser versions like “damn” and “crap”. Cut that stuff out and your writing sounds like an episode of Leave It to Beaver and will probably be just as believable.

I am in a benefit time travel collection, Out of Time, and have another horror collection, Tales from Beyond. Both are on Amazon, which means getting reader feedback is pretty common. Reviews for both of these collections have included praise, which borders on wonder, about not using any profanity. Now that’s not to say I haven’t. My novel Sacrifice probably can’t get through a chapter without an F-bomb. But these collections did.

An author should treat cursing like a stylistic tool, right up there with metaphors, foreshadowing, and alliteration. Or the Oxford comma I just used. Like using the Oxford comma, the decision to include profanity has to be conscious, not just an assumed part of your writing.

A writer has to decide because, no matter his or her personal feelings on profanity, using it will limit the potential market. There are people who don’t want to read something with language they find embarrassing. Maybe you don’t care about them. Well, if you are writing in some genres, like horror, you have already written off the pre-K through middle grade market when you wrote that scene where the zombie ate that guy’s face off. You made the main characters Marines, and wrote off people who dislike military stories, even though that’s not really what you wrote. The list goes on and on, and every decision you make potentially narrows your target audience. Cutting out another segment for a vulgar reference to female anatomy had better be worth it.

Hollywood has already figured this out. A few choice words guarantee an R rating. No choice words gets you a G rating. An R limits you to adults and teens lying about their age. A G rating gets you little kids and reluctant parents. The G audience is limited because a teenager would rather be home scrubbing floors than have his friends see him leaving a G-rated movie. Hollywood likes the PG-13 sweet spot, rough around the edges, but nothing sharp enough to cut the skin. I think I heard that one comedic F-bomb is the PG-13 limit, and most movies don’t hit that. Rude scatological references appear to be unrestricted.

So why use language on the far left of the scale? Not because “That’s the way I talk,” unless you plan on limiting sales to the few people who can stand to listen to you. If it is in dialogue, it has to say something about the character. The TV show Dexter had Deb Morgan add an F-bomb to every sentence. That language said her character was seriously unfiltered and didn’t care if she offended anyone, or everyone. And then she acted just that way. So the language reinforced what you saw on the screen, the way a symphonic melody enhances a pastoral scene, except that the symphony doesn’t make you wince on occasion.

Or cursing could highlight a character’s state of mind. The loving, upstanding Scout Leader whispers “Shit, no…” as the cliff falls away beneath his troop. It is the one event so tragic he drops his guard and says something he’d never say in front of his Scouts. Now the profanity has impact.

Should you create your own curses? I’ll point you to the use of “fracking” in the Battlestar Galactica cable series as an F-bomb replacement. Personally, nothing took me out a scene faster than this laugh-inducer.

When you have finished your manuscript, hit the magic Search icon for each word that would earn an FCC fine. Realizing that that usage will cost you readers, however few, decide if it is worth it. Is it necessary for the story, or is it a shortcut that a better writer, your better writer, could replace and improve. Then make the call.

After all, I got through a discussion of cursing and only used “shit” once. Damn it. Make that twice.

One Job, Two Brains

I haven’t been writing, and I’m still exhausted. That’s because I’ve been editing.

A note for the up-and-coming writer (because no true writer can ever be said to be “aspiring”), you will be doing both of these. I’ve never heard of anyone who can put words on a page with perfection on the first pass.

When I was a pilot, I remember that there was some ridiculous ratio between flight time and maintenance time for an aircraft. For every fun hour in the air, there were eight or ten dull maintenance hours on the ground, some number like that. Same thing for writing. For every hour you spend scribbling down the first draft, expect to spend several hours massaging the prose into something the rest of the world wants to read.

The two tasks are totally different, one free-flowing and rushed, the other structured by rules of grammar and lengthy. One right brain, one left brain, if that sort of thing is true. People ask me which I like to do better. I like to do them both, as long as I’m not always doing just one forever. After a few weeks of editing, I’m dying to start putting something new on a white piece of paper.

So what’s coming down the pike to you all edited? STILL OUT OF TIME, a collection of time travel stories to benefit Doctors Without Borders, releases in December, DREAMWALKER, a paranormal thriller novel from Samhain Horror arrives in January, and another benefit collection, this one of space sci-fi called CENTAURI STATION should be out in January as well.

Still Out of Time Cover Dreamwalker300  Centauri Station Cover V2

Wow, no wonder I’m exhausted.


Goodreads Giveaway!

There’s a Goodreads Giveaway for  WHAT WAITS IN THE SHADOWS, the paperback version of four great Samhain Horror Gothic novellas, including my BLOOD RED ROSES. Enter to win before October 12th!




Kindle Unlimited’s Actual Impact


July 18th, Kindle announced Kindle Unlimited. With this new service, all works enrolled in Kindle Select would be available for anyone to read at the monthly rate of $9.99. This is the Netflix model applied to books. Authors would be compensated by a payment from a central fund for each time the book was viewed, and the viewer read more than 10 % of it. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth throughout the Internet. The Evil Empire was taking one more step that would destroy authors’ livelihoods by making books available without purchase.

Well, it’s been a month, so I thought I’d see if the naysayers were right. Admittedly, a month isn’t a long time, but I’d certainly see of sales had driven off a cliff.

Out Of Time Final FullI looked at the numbers for OUT OF TIME. This collection of time travel stories from the Minnows Literary Group is a benefit for Doctors Without Borders. It has been out for over a year and after an initial big spike, now sells a consistent, stable number of copies each month, enough to keep it on the Amazon Top 100 Sci-Fi anthology list every week. It has always been Amazon exclusive and Kindle Select.

That means it was part of the Kindle Lending Library (KOLL). Here a Kindle owner could offer up a virtual copy of the book to read to any other Kindle owner. Again, the author was paid out of a pool of money set aside to compensate for each time that happened.

Here’s a sales chart of relative sales over time for the last few months so you can see the trend. The Y axis is just a reference number. Sales are very stable.

oot sals only

Now let’s see what happens once the apocalypse of Kindle Unlimited arrives. This graph adds KOLL and KU units moved each week in blue. A big jump happens as soon as KU kicks in. Note that borrows of any kind are a small percentage of total units moved.

oot sales 16 week

Now here’s the ratio of sales to lending for the last seven weeks. The ratio remained relatively constant all year at .05 under KOLL, and then triples after KU starts.

oot sales ratio

So KU, even with the limited impact of only early adopters to the system, has tripled the number of time OUT OF TIME has been borrowed. But what has not happened is any corresponding decrease in sales. KU and sales are not a zero sum game.

Why is that? Because these two venues seem to serve different markets, with apparently minor overlap, the same relationship between library users and book buyers, or between Netflix watchers and movie goers, or between people who rent a jet ski and people who buy one. It looks liket what Amazon has done is open a new revenue stream for authors without pinching off the old one.

The only variable in the equation now is that pool of cash we all get paid from. As far as I know, it is disbursed per unit moved without relation to cost. So Stephen King’s $11.99 MR. MERCEDES earns as much as my $0.99 TALES FROM BEYOND, the only time the two of us will ever be considered equals. If the payout was a dollar per event, Mr. King would no doubt be taking a loss and lament it. But compared to my 33 cent payout on a sale, I would cheer. In fact, under KOLL, OUT OF TIME has always made more money per lend than per sale. Doctor’s Without Borders should praise the parsimonious. The risk here to authors is that Amazon will get skimpy with that fund for payouts.

So what if they do? Remember, if these numbers hold true, it is not a zero sum game. The $1.00 you get through KU isn’t in place of a $1.25 from a sale. It is in place of getting nothing. But if an author is unhappy with the revenue per unit, he can uncheck the KU box and opt out. It probably won’t hurt sales.

I’ll watch these numbers over the next five months and post another update. We put out a second time travel anthology before the end of the year and I’ll post what impact KU appears to have on a new release.