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I put up a new anthology today. Three of the four are available elsewhere. I thought I’d see if anthologies go down a little easier so here you are. If you’ve already bough one of the stories contained herein, let me know and I will hook you up with a coupon for this. As of right now it’s available at Smashwords. Amazon is still cranking away. It’ll be there in a day or so.

Have you ever wanted to escape the world for just a little bit? Of course you have. You’re reading a fantasy anthology, and what fan of the mysterious and mystical hasn’t wanted to do just that? Well I hope that this little group of stories about beings in that very situation help you along the road.

“Bitter Release” is set in the trench wars of World War One. A young soldier finds himself the sole survivor of a German attack and buried under tons of mud and stone. His only way out seems to be a case of spirits, but there’s more to the mix of absinthe and brandy helping him to escape.

“Hole Card” gives us a glimpse into a poker game on the edge of the apocalypse. The forces that run the universe are taking a little time out to see how the other half lives. For just a few hours their only cares are the riffling of cards and time with family. That is, until someone comes along who has a surprise up their sleeve.

In the third story an art student has an encounter with a spirit who can’t seem to move on. In an effort to help her, he builds “The Music Box”. Will the ethereal music free the little girl?

Finally, in “Bobby and Spinel” a little boy sets out to capture a dragon. As these sort of things generally go, he ends up with quite a bit of trouble on his hands. Both the boy and the creature want to escape the bonds of their entanglement and neither leaves unchanged.

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I’ve talked about this a little before, but I’ve had a new story come out since then and talking to James Durham and his family has me a little amped, so I’m laying it out here for you. I’ve put out three stories in my Children of Legend series so far. They’re all intended to be prequels and as such aren’t fully intended to stand alone, but I hope they do. I want them to give you a taste of the universe and they characters in it. I want to make these young people as realistic as you can make any protagonist and perhaps more so than you might get in some YA fiction. Let me tell you a little about them, perhaps a little more than you’ll get in the stories to date, in hopes that I’ll whet your appetite.

Marcus Killian Feaney, aka Mark, is the protagonist in “X Marks the Spot”. I identify quite a bit with this young man. Raised by a single mom, he led a largely unremarkable life until he went digging in the woods one day. What he uncovered there gave him important, but very subtle powers over the people and environment around him. He’s a bit of a brain thief, stealing intelligence from those around him and using it for himself. He also has low powered telekinesis, able to lift and finely manipulate objects under five pounds. Mark is an idealist, or so he would have you believe. He’s of the opinion that the world can be shaped into a utopia and he’s just the boy to do it. He’ll do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Maria Perez gets introduced in “Here, There Be Dragons”. Saved from a local gang by her kindly boss, she is given a great deal of power when she takes the form of the Tarasque. Surrounded by gang violence, she lost a number of friends and family members and is determined to use her power where the authorities can’t or won’t. I’ve often called her my universe’s Batman.

The most recent character to be introduced is Ross “Rose” Covington in “Compass Rose”. A transgender teen, Rose is the white knight of the bunch. She stands up to a bully and ends up in the hospital for her trouble. The mysterious alien boxes that granted all three people their powers gives her control over the perception of reality. She can produce illusions of incredible beauty and can pierce any deception presented to her. She’s wary of her abilities though and is reluctant to use them for fear of what they could turn her into.

There’s a fourth character that hasn’t joined the trio yet. I have his story in the back of my mind. The young immigrant, brought to our shores against his wishes, will have to figure out how to survive in a strange land. Being invisible socially and physically will help him, but only to a degree.

All three stories are available on Smashwords for whatever you’d like to pay for them or on Amazon for $.99. My plan is to release a story every month in 2012. Each of these characters will get three tales, somewhere in the ten to twelve thousand word range. I’ll stagger who gets the spotlight and each one of the stories will be stand alone, but be part of an over all “seasonal” arc. I’d also like to release these as a podcast, though when that happens will be up in the air.

Wish me luck and have a look at what I have out so far!

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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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This past week I gave away over two hundred stories as a part of Smashwords celebrating Read An E-book Week. I figured I’d share the results with you guys since that was pretty phenomenal in my mind. There are now two hundred copies of my stories in the wild and I hope that will lead to people coming back for more.

Fetch” and “The Behemoth” were certainly the most popular. Only two copies of “The Battle of Wildspitze” were sold but it didn’t come out until late in the week and was not part of the giveaway. I guess people were attracted to the cover, blurb, and/or genre of those two big movers most. The reviews may have also been significant. That’s hard to say.

I do hope that if you were one of the folks who took advantage that you’ll remember to drop a review. They do help people to make the decision to buy. That’s part of the reason I did this, to see if it would generate some feedback and drive future sales. Sales haven’t been phenomenal there or at Amazon. I tweeted last night, tongue in cheek, that I tripled my January sales in February (moving from three sales to nine sales) and that I’d like to do that again in March. That would mean twenty seven sales and given that I’ve sold one this month that would mean needing to sell almost two a day for the rest of the month. That would be unprecedented, but it’s not out of the ball park.

I’ve got four stories and two collections up there right now. “Through A Glass, Darkly” combines “Fetch“, “Power in the Blood“, “The Good Doctor“, and a new one “The Good Samaritan” into one file for $2.99. If I could sell fifteen to twenty of those this month that would be awesome. It’s not a bad deal either considering “Fetch” and “Power” together would be $3.50. Those are two of my most well received stories and the other two would be icing on the cake. “The Good Samaritan” is the lead off story and if you download the sample from Amazon you’d get a good taste of that one.

So, please spread the word and help me meet this goal. Two a day for the next two weeks! If you’ve already read any of these stories it would help my goal to get a review on any of the ones on Amazon.

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In celebration of “Read An E-book Week” if you go to Smashwords you can get any of my e-pubs for free. Don’t have an e-reader? You can read them all online or download them as PDFs. Coupon codes are available on each story’s page.

This is a promotional effort by Smashwords to encourage people to embrace the format and let people know about the awesome content out there. This promotion only lasts til the end of the week so don’t wait!

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Reviews for my stories keep coming in. A new one for “Fetch” went up last night and I’m pleased with it. Still, I want to continue to find new ways to get the word out about them. So I came up with an idea and I’ve approached some of my favorite podcasters with it…

I send them a coupon code for one of my stories and they drop it in their podcast. Their listeners get a free story and I send you lovely people (who might not be listening, and why aren’t you?) over there to listen, get hooked and ALSO get a free story. It’s WIN/WIN/WIN/WIN.

The first one has gone up. Jake Bible has dropped a coupon code into his latest Ramblin’ Jake Infocast. So go listen. He’s got some great news about his projects (at least one of which you might be interested in) and he also drops the coupon code somewhere in there. You’ll find a link to the story itself on his site.

If you’re a podcaster and you want to get in on this action, drop me a comment. If you want more free stories and news go to my author page on Facebook. You might find something over there to like other than me!

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A little over a week ago I put Fetch up on Smashwords. I thought to myself, “Let’s just see how an expanded version does.” I’ve been tickled with the results. While I’ll grant you that the overall sales numbers haven’t broken into the double digits yet (one more would do it), it’s my best selling story to date in terms of how quickly I’ve reached that number. More importantly, a number of people have discovered my back catalog of stories there. So overall I’d say it’s a success for me personally.

A number of reviews have gone up and all of them have certainly pleased me. Critical Press Media says that, “Roche, true to form, sets out to turn folklore on its ear.” Fred Grenvile said that it’s “a remarkable little story with a number of uncommon observations lurking just beneath the surface” and compared me favorably to Flannery O’connor. David Sobkowiak left a review on Smashwords that tickled me utterly when he said he was “more than a little moved by this story.” He went on to say this, “It not only scares me on a spiritual level, but also on an emotional level. It speaks to a greater battle that we as humans often never consider.” It’s exactly the kind of reaction I was shooting for.

John Wilkerson went through the trouble of leaving me a video review (which blows me away).

So, if any of this speaks to you and you’re interested in buying the story, go here. You can read the first half for FREE and that in and of itself is a complete story, though it may leave you wanting more. It’s only $1.49, as at least one reviewer said, well worth the price of admission. I get a healthy cut of that.

In other news I released two werewolf stories under one title on Amazon over the weekend. The first one, “The Good Doctor”, was written for Great Hites. I should go on to say that I think this particular episode of Great Hites is possibly the best of the bunch.

The other story, called “Changes”, was inspired by a prompt from News From Poughkeepsie. The original story was posted here so feel free to read it. The version on Amazon has been tweaked, but I believe runs about the same length.

So, feel free to read the stories as I’ve put them out there for free and if you like them, go buy them in one tidy package for your Kindle. I will likely be putting this on Smashwords this week and putting most, if not all my Smashwords stories on Amazon, since at this point they don’t talk well to each other. So stay tuned and thank you for supporting my work!

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Ordinarily this is called the “Chinese Curse” and is looked on as a bad thing. As artists we do indeed live in interesting times and I suppose it can be good or bad. Let me ‘splain.

No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

On the writing side of the house royalties are going down as are advances. Slush piles are going up, up, up. It can be difficult to cut through all the noise and make yourself heard. I can only assume based on what I’m hearing that the same is true in the other disciplines. So it may be tempting to say that it’s more difficult to “make it”, all of course depending on what you mean by that.

However, interesting times such as these often separate the adults from the children (to update the adage). I can point to a few people in my sphere that are coming down squarely on the former side of the knife.

Ed Talbot – He had joined the growing number of folks using Smashwords to publish some of his content. To that end he had a “Mayday” promotion (that I missed participating in) to launch two collections of short stories. While using Smashwords isn’t particularly new, he’s the first author I’m aware of to promote publishing there in the way he did. I’ve read a few of those stories and can highly recommend dropping at least $.99 on one or the other if not both.

Jennifer Hudock – Jenny is another author I’m aware of using Smashwords to get her stuff out there. She’s building a short story collection there called Dark Journeys. She’s also putting together an anthology called The Dark Side, releasing a podcast novel called Goblin Market and she and future hubby James Melzer (no stranger to self publishing and soon to be published by Simon and Schuster) have put together The Creative Alliance.

Zach Ricks – The Mad Poet himself has self published his Mad Poet Files short stories through the Amazon Kindle store. This collection is certainly one for you to buy. It’s got great science fiction and fantasy stories and while I haven’t read them all, I can say that “Blood Red Sand” is my favorite Martian short since Bradbury’s Chronicles and that plus a fantasy story where the main characters are inspired by the A-Team earns my seal of approval. He and a few other forward thinkers are also jawing about a new way of delivering content that, if it all works out, will blow your doors off.

Seth Harwood – While I haven’t waxed poetic about him here, Seth’s crime novel Young Junius is coming to print very soon. Taking an idea from the FDO himself, Seth is releasing the novel in a beautiful, limited edition print, which he and his publisher will then use to kick off a standard full scale print run in the Fall.

Phil Rossi – On the music side of the house, author and musician Phil Rossi is in the midst of pre-selling an EP called Radio Silence. I’ve pre-ordered it and I think you should too.

Brand Gamblin – A vidcaster, podcaster, and author, Brand has done just about everything with his young adult, science fiction novel Tumbler that I can think of. He’s used CreateSpace to put it in print. He podcast it. He’s got it in a variety of e-book formats. You can get it now on Amazon, but if you love him you’ll get it here. Or if you’re gonna be at Balticon in two weeks (W00T!!!!!!!) you can buy a signed copy there.

And just in case you missed it, there are two authors whose work I respect and admire that have used social media/podcasting to get their books published and they will be available in the near future.

Honorary Admiral (in my mind and that of many others) Nathan Lowell is getting published by Ridan Publishing. Apparently they, unlike many publishers, work very well and very closely with their authors to find the most mutually beneficial path and according to Nathan cooperating with them has been beautiful.

P.G. Holyfield, whom I consider to be a good friend, will be launching Murder at Avedon Hill THIS WEEKEND!!! It’s being published by podcaster friendly Dragon Moon Press and all I can say is it’s about time!!

So these are just a FEW people who have used, are using, and I hope will continue to use the interesting times afoot to really break the boundaries of traditional publishing and are redefining what it means to “make it”. Sure, self publishing is nothing new, but all things considered I believe that it is gaining a certain amount of ground and losing the stigma long attached to it by many. I hope this is a launch pad to great things for them all and I hope that I’ve dropped some new names on your plate and that you will check them all out.

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Well in an effort to see if my stuff is worth buying I have published a version of my short story “Bitter Release” through Smashwords. Smashwords is a website that allows authors to take their work and convert it into a wide variety of electronic formats and sell it. Smashwords gets a cut as does Paypal, but considering the service they provide I think it’s worth it.

So go have a look. It’s available in just about every format they have. You can read the first half for free and see if you think it’s worth the price. A few people have bought it at this point. You can also review it and rate it over there and that would be a big help to me. I’ll be putting up a short story a month at least over there so you can always bookmark my author page and check back periodically.

I should add that the cover art was done by Dan Absalonson and I thank him for that.

Finally, I’m curious to know from anyone reading this who might not buy the short story as to why? I need to know if price or payment is a barrier or if it’s the story itself or the fact that you don’t want to read it off a screen. Any and all feedback welcome.