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Inspired by my friend Jon, I wrote a story about a man and his family in a post-apocalyptic world. It’s dark, but it was a blast to write. This about sums it up:

Faced with the atrocities he’s committed to keep his wife and son safe and provided for, Chris is forced into a bitter decision. He must find a way to let go of his family and move on. But in a world gone to hell, is there any other choice?

I also wrote a little piece with his perspective on family.

Family makes us who we are. I buy into the fact that we’re all blank slates when we’re born and throughout life the presence or even the absence of family makes you who you are. My family is everything to me. People say that shit, but I believe it. When my son was born I gave up coke, booze, even porn. None of that mattered if it meant any of it could touch him and turn him into the fuck up I’ve been.

Now I’ll grant you, I pull down six figures a game, have three houses, a dozen bikes, and a damn fine wife. Sounds like every man’s dream. I’d give up all of the stuff if it meant keeping my lady and our boy safe and happy. I dropped three games my last season alone, a million and a half and change, to see a play he was in and take my bride to Vegas for our anniversary. Could have cost me my contract. Show me someone else who’s done that.

Some things have changed since the world has gone to hell. Even my wife and son have… changed. But nothing can ever take them away from me. Nothing.

Go over to Smashwords and check out the free sample.

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So we’re nearing the finish to the E-book Death Match and at this point neither of us knows who is winning. It could be neck and neck or one of us could be waaaaay out in front.

I’ve done a lot that I know how to do including making a video:

I left reviews on Smashwords and Amazon. I’ve also crowed about it on the Kindle Boards, MobileRead, on Twitter, Facebook, and here on my own blog. We’ve also been tweeted about by some awesome folks, mentioned in podcasts like The Galley Table and Podioracket, and even blogged about by Channel37

In case that’s not enough, just to try and clinch it, I am going to resort to a little bribery. If you buy or have bought Borrowed Time during the period of the Death Match, I would like to reward your support of my villainy. Simply let me know that you have and I will supply you with a coupon code for the story of your choice from my Smashwords store. Any story, that is, except Through a Glass, Darkly. Unless you want to claim that coupon next week. ;-)

So spread the word and go get yourself a great little e-book.

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Time travel as a sci-fi trope is pretty haggard by this point. I got particularly tired of the various Star Trek series attempts at doing interesting things with it, but they aren’t the only culprit. So when I see a book whose central plot line relies on it, I’m skeptical. Enter Borrowed TIme by Keith Hughes.

First, let’s get the science-y bits out of the way. The way that time travel works in this universe, essentially using an app built in to a PDA to harmonize you to a future or past universe’s resonance, seems a little wonky. But then so does slingshotting around the sun or a nuclear powered DeLorean. The interesting twist in this particular tale is the farther forward or back you go, the shorter your stay can be, thus the title.

The requisite dramatic tension is supplied by the men with guns and power that are after the PDA. Very Bad Men want what Relevant has and intend to do Very Bad Things with it. They’re willing to do anything they can to get it and Relevant needs to think fast and use every skill at his disposal in addition to taking advantage of time hopping to get and keep the upper hand. It moves very quickly and kept me anticipating the next chapter.

What’s this story really about though? Is it just a good read or is there more to it? (If you want to honk a writer off, ask them that question.) Not to be corny, as the story never falls in to it that I notice, but it’s really about making the best use of time that you have with the people in your life. That’s reflected in Relevant’s relationship with the professor that invented the device as well as in his failed relationships. Lacking a time machine it’s best for us all to remember that we’re all on borrowed time.

I think this story could stand to be fleshed out a bit. I’d like to get to know the professor and Relevant a little better. I’d also like the Very Bad Men to be fleshed out a little. As it stands they’re kind of two dimensional. It works in the framework of a fast paced sci-fi thriller novella, but I’m a sucker for a well written, complex bad guy. Overall, it’s that that keeps this from being the five star book that this could be. This book is well wroth the price of admission though, and I hope you check it out!

Borrowed Time is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

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I had an interesting Twitter discussion this weekend that involved e-book pricing. It’s on my mind a lot really what with me having a new book coming out in May. I had five dollars set as the soft price in my mind based on a few things I read in this post. I felt (and still feel) that this is a fair price point for a book in the sixty-thousand word range.

There are a number of people who disagree with me though. Brand Gamblin (an author whose work I will pimp without fail) posted recently about his experiment in advertising and his decision to drop the price on Tumbler from $4.99 to $2.99. He points to JA Konrath’s ongoing experiments in e-book pricing as well as data from Evil Genius Dave Slusher’s graphs and charts as the reason for this decision. Brand has been well pleased by the results, the increase in sales more than making up for the decrease in profit. While Brand isn’t saying that there’s anything “magical” about $2.99 (the biggest thing driving that price point is that it’s the lowest you can charge through Amazon to make 70% profit) and that not every book should be priced at that point, he is saying that that’s probably what I should charge.

Several people in my Twitter stream expressed a concern that I was letting a notion of what my book is “worth” in an artistic sense cloud my judgment in terms of the price I’m setting. They believe in me in some sense and in my work and want me to maximize my profits. I appreciate that concern and it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. I certainly want to make money on this deal and I want to both maximize the total profit and get this into the hands of the highest number of people possible. So I don’t have any high flung notions that my work is “worth” five bones. The notion of worth as Ed Talbot pointed out is philosophical and largely depends on how you’re measuring it.

So far a number of people have stepped onto the pre-sale band wagon, six to date, and gave me varying chunks of their hard earned dollars. Four have opted for the highest level of support, one at the ten dollar level and one at fifteen. To them, the idea and the reality of my work is “worth” the price that they paid. To say I am grateful is a wild understatement. I am also grateful to folks that have ponied up anywhere from $.99 to $1.99 for my offerings on Amazon and Smashwords. Their payments for my stories have meant far more to me than the coin I received. The accolades I’ve received from reviewers likewise made my day/week/month. That out of the way though, I need to look at this as a business man would. I’m not a business man at heart, but as Dan Sawyer’s often said to me (paraphrasing) authors/aritsts need to train themselves up that way.

I’ve read the threads on Kindleboards and I’ve looked on Amazon’s lists and the pricepoint that makes the most sense to me is the $2.99 one. I don’t have the researchers that publishers do, but there are a few things I know. I don’t have the following that Nathan Lowell does. People aren’t clamoring for this book. I’m a completely unknown author to 99.999% of the universe out there. So I need to make my prose as compelling as possible and price it reasonably. I won’t give it away (at least not in text form) since I think it is worth something and based on a number of things I’ve read, free e-books languish unread in their owners’ readers. I also don’t see charging less than $2.99 for it since, while it may increase sales (or it may not depending on who you listen to) I don’t think the subsequent cut in percentage will make it worth while.

The question of what to charge for the paperback version still looms large in my mind. I have the pre-sale levels set at five and ten for e-book and paperback versions respectively and I don’t see that I’ll lower those. That means if you’ve made the decision to support me already, you’ve likely paid more than you would have had you waited. And it may mean that if you were going to pre-order that you’ll wait til it’s out. I can’t fault you if you ask for a refund or if you wait until the launch. My hope is that you’ll support me anyway and that you’ll feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth at the “full price”.

As always, feel free to share your comments below and tip your servers well!

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I was thoroughly pleased when Dan Sawyer offered to send me a reviewer’s copy of And Then She Was Gone. I enjoy his writing style and I’m also a fan of detective stories, so I couldn’t wait to see what he was going to do with it. It also gave me something else to put on my iPhone to continue testing it as an e-reader. Yes, Dan’s publishing it as an e-book and selling it through Amazon and Smashwords. Add to that, for me as a publisher, it’s always exciting to see authors continuing to test the electronic publishing space as a first, rather than a last, resort.

So, onto the review. There’s a lot of “noir” in this. While I’m no expert on the genre, I’ve seen my share of takes on it both light hearted and traditional. It has all of the elements you might expect. Clarke Lantham is a private eye and the story is told in first person. He has a girl Friday and the story opens with an attractive woman walking into his office. It also has the sort of content that would be considered “lurid” enough for a twenty-first century audience. If all of this seems a bit too “on the nose”, for me at least it was ameliorated by a thoroughly modern take on these elements.

Lantham is a very fallible detective, prone to errors in judgment and very human, believable motives. He’s hardly the iron jawed detective I recall from my exposure to the genre. His office assistant, a grad student working through her interneship, kicks his butt as much as she helps him out. While a bit of sass might be expected from a P.I.’s secretary, Rachel’s hardly satisfied to stay in that role. Finally, the good looking, wealthy client you’d expect to see is interested in finding out what’s happened to her daughter. I can’t recall having seen a noir with an over-protective soccer mom as the P.I.’s client so that’s anohter nice twist on the genre.

Speaking of twists, the trail that the various clues Lantham uncovers leads him down a dark and convoluted path. From a bondage clubs and patrol cars to wealthy neighborhoods and universities, he covers the depth and breadth of San Francisco. I won’t give anymore away, save to say where it ends up isn’t anywhere near where I thought it would go. That’s actually something I’ve come to expect from Dan’s work.

So what’s to like? The thing about first person narratives is that you spend a lot of time in one person’s head. You don’t necessarily have to like that narrator, though that often helps, but they have to be interesting. There isn’t much to like about Lantham. He’s not exactly cuddly. He’s not afraid to lie, steal, or do (almost) anything to get the job done. When he gets roughed up, shot at, or otherwise abused I wasn’t really broken up about it. In fact those were some of the more fun bits of story. Still, Dan has a knack for taking a jerk like this and making him interesting enough for you to care about what he’s doing and what happens to him.

The other thing that really appealed to me about this book was its sense of realism. I get the sense from what I know of Dan that he’s a research junkie. Whether or not that’s the case, he’s very thorough. Upon finishing this story, I was left with a sense of what it feels like to be a detective in our modern age. Lantham’s use of technology, particularly hacking Facebook accounts, data mining, and the ubiquitous cellphone, appeals to a geek like me. He also takes advantage of (literally and figuratively) a number of experts. As much as I like detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, having a protagonist with a less than exhaustive knowledge of everything under the sun is good as well.

I only have a couple of gripes with this on the whole, one minor and one major. First, there’s a question of language. Dan does love his F-bomb. While cursing generally doesn’t bother me in fiction or in life, it can get distracting here. I suppose in this case it can be defended as realistic given the gritty nature of the tale in question, but it still seemed excessive. That’s the minor quibble though and for some, perhaps most, it might not be an issue at all.

The bigger problem I have, and I don’t want to give anything crucial away so I’ll be a little obtuse, is a matter of science that’s a large plot point. I’m no scientist and I’m not up on my research in this area. However, given how realistic the rest of the story seems, the tech in question strikes me as being more at home in the realm of science fiction. While it doesn’t hurt the story per se, it was jarring.

Is the story worth the price of admission? This e-book costs $3.20. In a market where authors/publishers/consumers are still trying to figure out what an electronic product is worth you see prices all over the place. You can get a lot of fiction for free and quite a bit for $.99. A lot of those examples are worth exactly what you’re asked to pay. I think in this case, if you aren’t a reader that’s bothered with the language, it’s a good investment. It’s a quick read and one that I think would bear up under multiple readings. I give it four out of five Maltese Falcons.

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James Melzer, Drew Beatty, and I have a nice chat on ebooks, podcasting and publishing.

Mentioned:

Drew Beatty
http://www.drewbeatty.com/
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/drewbeatty
http://twitter.com/drewbeatty

James Melzer
http://jamesmelzer.net/
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jjmelzer
http://twitter.com/Melzer

Scott Roche
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/ScottRoche

Paul E. Cooley
http://shadowpublications.com/?q=node/167

Zach Ricks
http://www.madpoetfiles.com/

Jennifer Hudock
http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jennybeans
http://jennybeans.net/2010/04/10/the-dark-side-anthology-project/

Critters.org E-book Pricing Survey
http://critters.org/surv/

Jake Bible
http://jakebible.com/