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.

A Conversation with Maynard Sims

I just finished the latest release from the duo who publish under the name Maynard Sims. It’s called A PLAGUE OF ECHOES and it is fantastic. Here’s a little Qand A with them.


1.  Who are you, how long have you been writing, and how long have you been with Samhain?   

We are Maynard Sims – who is really Len Maynard & Mick Sims writing together, as we have done for the past forty years. This (A Plague Of Echoes – Department 18 series book 4) – is our fourth book with Samhain horror – but our eighth for Don. We have two more scheduled next year. Our first was 2012. We also write erotic romance, and crime novels under different names, as well as ghost writing under various names.  

2.  Do you write full time?  part-time?  for an hour at a time in the middle of the night?  

We write full time now but won’t claim it is our main source of income by a long way. We have both retired from long time day jobs so we have all day to write when we are not gardening, looking after grandchildren, and just dealing with every day life. 

3.  Are you doing anything special to celebrate your newest release?  

Spending the day with our respective granddaughters is a highlight of a week for both of us.

 4.  Do you do any blogging?

We blog on our website  and on WordPress 

5.  Where can we find you on the web?  (Website, FB, Twitter, Pinterest, etc…)

Twitter @micksims

Facebook – search Maynard Sims as well as Len Maynard & Mick Sims separately

6.  What are you working on next?  Any projects coming up?   

Department 18 book 5 – Mother Of Demons – is out next summer and before that we have a standalone ghost story – Stillwater – out in the spring, both from Samhain of course. Recently sent a new novella to Samhain too. Working on a crime thriller, a romance, and a ghost writing project at present, as well as a few short stories. 

7.  What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned/place you’ve gone for research? 

Research has taught us both such a lot about subjects we never knew had any fascination at all. Each book has a backdrop of a profession, or area, or something that needs to be explained in full. Detail helps with atmosphere. 

8.  Will you go to any conferences?  Where can your readers meet you in person?   

Dread conferences I’m afraid, although WHC in Chicago 2002 stands out as that was where Mick met Don for the first time and our novel writing career took off. 

9. How’s the summer going?  How can it be August??  Any fun or are you writing, writing, WRITING?! 

Len has been gardening in the unexpected UK heat. Mick has been to Lanzarote which was hot but windy. A few hours sitting in the garden is a rare pleasure. The UK has some irregular weather but summer’s seem to be getting warmer and longer recently. 

10. Is your newest a stand-alone?  Or part of a series?

Department 18 books are – Black Cathedral, Night Souls, The Eighth Witch, A Plague OF Echoes and Mother Of Demons, so far. Different characters come and go although there is a core of characters that are evolving throughout. We’ve written a screenplay based on scenes from the first two books and that’s out with a production company right now so fingers crossed. We set up a whole back story for the Department – history going back decades, photos, that kind of thing. It had its own website until it was hacked and so now have the D18 pages inside our own website.
We’ve done interviews where we pretend we are being pursued by the government forces, and there are ‘case files’ listed on the site that appear to be true life. It’s all good fun.

Here’s the teaser of A PLAGUE OF ECHOES

The clock is ticking 

In London, Department 18 Chief, Simon Crozier, is brutally stabbed and left for dead. Billionaire businessman, Pieter Schroeder, has laid his first card in a deadly, high-stakes game. The secret past of Department 18 comes back to haunt the present day. Whether Crozier lives or dies, whether Department 18 has a future, is in the hands of a few. In a battle against an evil both ancient and modern, Robert Carter and his team has to play the winning hand, where immortality is the ultimate prize, and death to those who lose.

‘absolutely enthralling, with more twists and turns than a roller coaster’

‘suspenseful and occasionally surprising’

The YOUTUBE video –





In Over Your Head

house constructionThere comes a point in every home improvement project where I look at the half-assembled collection of raw materials from Home Depot and say “What the hell have I gotten myself into?” I seriously question if I’ve exceeded my skill set. The project always takes longer than my initial estimate.

Novel writing is no different. Stringing together one hundred thousand words with coherence is a daunting task. Then there’s character development, plot twists, pacing, setting, and through it all the nagging fear that on a shelf somewhere what you’re doing has been done before. After the initial, exuberant ten to twenty thousand words, that familiar self-doubt sneaks into the writing room. “What the hell have I gotten myself into?”

A lot of authors I talk to get this feeling, especially those who’ve done a lot of short stories. One beauty of a short story is its brevity. You can plot the three or four scenes the story needs in your head, lay them down on paper, and tweak to perfection. Like building a shed, you know that you’ve raised four solid walls and a roof and all you’re doing is arranging things within.

Not so with the novel. Now you’re building a house. Even with four finished walls, you’re sizing rooms, laying pipe, and running wiring until you type the last chapter. It’s easy to feel lost and overwhelmed.

Your best bet is to just keep plowing ahead. Don’t let the immensity of the project and the endless details, swamp you. Get that first draft finished. If you think of something that doesn’t quite fit with what you’ve written before, just leave a note in the margins to go back and fix it later. Completion gives you a sense of accomplishment and the assurance that you probably do have four walls and a roof. The story now has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Now you can go back and work out the kinks. Some ways to do that:

  1. Look at the overall flow of the story, with two sentences that describe each chapter. See where plot lines intersect. If one story thread goes missing too long, rearrange chapters to keep the thread fresh in the reader’s mind. In a novel like BLACK MAGIC that covers about a week in time, I shifted Thursday events to Monday and they worked better.
  2. Follow one character at a time through the story. Only review the chapters where that character appears. Are that character’s dialogue and actions consistent? Does that character’s story arc progress plausibly? My novel Q ISLAND has multiple POVs. This method let me refine language for each person, give them consistent usage and common idioms.
  3. Near the end, scrub that prose. Read the story aloud to yourself, preferably alone so people don’t think you are insane. This method really unearths repetitive words and structures. It also highlights clunky sentences. If a sentence is hard to read aloud, it’s probably hard to read at all. My novella BLOOD RED ROSES frequently uses archaic sentence structures since it is set in 1864. Reading it aloud really helped tune the meter of those sentences within paragraphs to better evoke the time period.

A novel has multiple facets that make it a success. Fine tune your work from one perspective at a time. Like any DIY project, it will probably take more time than you originally estimated.