Old Dog, New Tricks In May

I’m back in the saddle with my KDP book projects, getting ready to publish my books again at Amazon. I spent the past month learning new publishing techniques that will help ease the burden of being an indie author who self-publishes their books.

First among the list was learning the latest Microsoft Word program after I replaced 2010 with 365. The learning curve was small on that, which carried me onto Amazon’s latest version of Kindle Create. Again, the curve wasn’t too difficult since I last used the program five years ago.

Next on my list was learning to use Inkscape so I can create my book covers for paperback books. I usually use MS Word and an old PhotoDeluxe program for that, but I wanted to learn something new. The curve on that is big, so I’ve been watching YouTube tutorials to ease the process. I have a college BA degree in graphic design that I received in 1990, so I’m a relic when it comes to all the gadgets and their bells and whistles in the digital age. Don’t let me get started on all my failures while using Photoshop twenty years ago. The program was Grand Canyon huge and clunkier than my grandfather’s Model A Ford back then, so I got rid of it and settled on its streamlined and swifter little brother, PhotoDeluxe. Inkscape doesn’t seem as difficult as Photoshop but has plenty of bells and whistles.

During all this excitement, I replaced my Win7 laptop with a Win10 one. I spent a weekend moving files and learning 10’s shortcuts. It was funny when the computer connected to my old 2007 Hotmail account and wanted to use it as my primary email. I’ve been using Gmail for a decade and I forgot all about my Hotmail account after I transferred all my contacts to Gmail ten years ago. It was funny and a little bewildering to see my face from 2007 on my computer’s sign-in screen. Ah, the old gray hair isn’t what it used to be.

In between writing, prepping my books for publication, and getting comfortable with Win10, MS Word 365, and Inkscape, I decided to dive into the deep end of the author pool by downloading Scrivener version 3. More tutorials at YouTube helped me with its steep learning curve and I enjoyed how easy it was to create ebooks and paperbacks ready to send to Amazon’s KDP.

As if I wasn’t busy enough, I created a new author logo.

I plan to use this on my book covers to give them a unique look. I’m tired of seeing plain fonts on covers, so the artist in me took over during one of my book cover design sessions. Although the one pictured is red, I can use any color.

As an experiment, I threw this cover together for the first ebook at my KDP website.

I made it with MS Word and PhotoDeluxe—my old standby method—but I’ll probably use a cover built on Inkscape when I actually publish the book.

So, there you have it, my busy month of May in less than 1000 words.

Have a great June and stay safe.

Peace and love!

The New Two-Day Delivery Service

I recently had major surgery and spent two weeks in the hospital before the doctor sent me home to finish recuperating. I spent a lot of time in my hospital bed reading ebooks on my tablet and phone. But when I got home, I wanted to have some hard copy books to read while stuck in my recliner. So, I headed to Amazon and placed an order for two-day delivery. That was two days ago. It took Amazon that long to process my order of a book in stock and then ship it. My book, Amazon tells me, will arrive Monday … two days from today.

Really?

I understand that they are likely understaffed during our COVID-19 crisis. But I noticed a slippage in their prompt service before the worldwide outbreak.

Amazon has been slacking on their two-day shipping, which bothers me because I pay yearly for the promised 2-day delivery.

Once upon a time, Amazon delivered all my orders via either FedEx or UPS and shipping was great. Always on time. Never an issue.

I usually order books, no more than three at a time, so the packages from Amazon aren’t large, which is a problem for FedEx and UPS who are geared for delivering BIG packages. Because of financial losses from delivering hundreds of small packages all over the U.S., FedEx discontinued its air and ground contract with Amazon. Then UPS did the same for its delivery of small packages. Now (and I have seen this happen in my town), the drivers drop off the small packages at post offices on the day the packages are due to arrive to the customer. Then the packages sit at the post offices for another day or longer before delivered.

As I said, FedEx and UPS no longer deliver my Amazon orders. Nowadays, Amazon sends all my orders through (shudder) the United States Postal Service (aka the USPS—snail mail). Since then, none … and I mean absolutely 0 … of my purchases has arrived at the promised delivery times.

I never know anymore how long after Amazon’s promised delivery date my orders will arrive.

And this is happening to others too.

Just this week, my wife had an order arrive at our post office at 8:00am on its promised delivery date and sit there until the following day. It sat there because our post office won’t sort any mail and packages that arrive after 6:00am.

A coworker had his Amazon order arrive at our post office on its promised delivery day, sit there unattended for a day, then go to a nearby city, sit there for another day, and then return to our post office before he received it 3 days late.

Crazy.

By the way, when my wife complained to Amazon’s customer service about her order’s late delivery, they said it’s the US Postal Service who’s to blame, and rightfully so, but she is paying for a service that Amazon isn’t honoring.

To “justify” the situation, Amazon gave her a ten-dollar credit on her next order.

I’m sure not all U.S. post offices are as bad as the one in my town, so I don’t mean to lump them together when I complain about the slow service the USPS offers where I live. And I’m sure customer complaints to other postmasters don’t fall on deaf ears like they do here. But deaf postmasters have been a way of life in this town since the day I moved to it in 1981.

So, the bottom line is Amazon’s two-day delivery is a thing of the past for me. Therefore, there is no reason for me to pay extra for a service Amazon won’t honor via the USPS.

And that’s too bad.

Book News, April 2019

Plans continue to rewrite and retool my ebooks at Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. I published my first book there in January 2013. Although my main character was a boy named Lenny Stevens, it introduced Vree Erickson and started the ball rolling for her to take center stage in many of the stories that followed.

I based the first book on a short story I wrote in high school in the 1970s called “Ghost Dogs.” I had such a fun time in 2012 going through my old stories, stripping them down to their bare bones, clothing them in newer outfits, and giving them new titles. The book became “Night of the Hell Hounds.” After publication, I knew the story should have been Vree’s, so I rewrote it in 2014 and turned it into a novel. I drove the librarians crazy at Amazon’s partner site Goodreads with all my changes. You can read more about the story and others by searching through my blog’s archives.

I published the following editions of Book 1 at KDP before I took all my books off market:

  • “Night of the Hell Hounds”: A Ridgewood Short Story, first edition, January 7, 2013, 19 pages
  • Night of the Hellhounds: A Vree Erickson Novel, second edition—title and story change, November 15, 2014, 200 pages
  • Margga’s Curse: A Vree Erickson Novel, third edition—title change, January 1, 2015, 200 pages

Please note that I retitled the third edition, Margga’s Curse, to Mergelda’s Curse at Smashwords where it is still available free for download. I will pull it from the market when I finish rewriting it.

At KDP, I published as Steven L. Campbell. The new books will list me as Steve Campbell. And it will have a new title. Its working title is Curse of Myers Ridge, but I don’t know its final title yet.

Other changes include

  • Vree as a middle child instead of a triplet
  • Her father is alive
  • Her grandparents live at Alice Lake
  • The west end of Alice Lakes butts against the cliffs of Myers Ridge

Currently, Vree’s age is in flux. I want her to be 15, going on 16. 16 is when you can get your driver’s license in Pennsylvania and I don’t want her driving yet.

So, it’s off to work at my mundane retail job today before I can continue the joy of rewriting Book 1 tonight.

Godspeed.

A Pencil Illustration of Vree Erickson

Vree

 

 

 

 

 

Another Year and Fixing My Blog

Yes. Another year.

As usual, I entered my WordPress blog after a long hiatus and spent the whole day redesigning my blog instead of writing. The artist is the true inner child in me—I love playing with design.

Anyway, I played all day with many themes, inspecting their positive and negative elements until I found a design with a high proportion of positive factors to make my blog look its best. I simplified my categories to Art Blog, Writing Blog, and Life Blog, which echo my blog’s underlying title: Art ~ Writing ~ Life.

Next on my agenda for 2018 is a plan to blog more … and as often as I can without it interrupting other agendas on my schedule. We’ll see. I make no promises—or resolutions—other than I have made more changes to my Ridgewood characters and progressed with Vree’s Margga’s Curse story, now called The Witch’s Curse, its working title when I first drafted the book.

You may remember from January 2017 that I planned to rewrite Margga’s Curse and publish it as a physical paperback at Amazon, which was to be the first book in The Ridgewood Chronicles series. That didn’t happen, so I’m extending that plan and aiming for a finished project by the end of the year.

But I make no promises.

Anyway, have a safe 2018 and live your life like there’s no tomorrow.

“What have you been up to?” [writing news]

An apology for being away from my blog. I said in my last post that I’m busy writing a combination of stories into one. I am still at work on it.

I wish to clarify that the story-in-progress is based on an old manuscript that I tore apart years ago and turned sections into short stories. Part of me wanted to finish the ms, and over the years that feeling has never left me. So, here I am, piecing the story together.

The photo below is the actual typewritten ms taken from its two 3-ring binders. And some people think Stephen King is long-winded. Ha ha ha!

I don’t wish to pigeonhole myself as a writer of young adult and children’s books, but the story will feature Vree Erickson as a 13-year-old—her original age when I began the original ms. The story is told from her friend Lenny’s point of view and is part autobiography from when I was a teenager. Of course, there are supernatural elements to turn it into a fun fantasy read for lovers of that genre.

A big apology for taking my books off Amazon. My plan is to start over with the book mentioned above, which will kickoff the beginning of this venture. Before publication of said book, I plan on changing my author name from the elaborate Steven L. Campbell to the simplified Steve Campbell. Most people know me by the latter, which will make it easy for them to find my books and me. That’s the plan and I hope Amazon allows it to happen. Meanwhile, you can still find my books at Smashwords.

Another change in the works is the title of my blog. Right now it’s called Art, Writing, and The Ridgewood Files. I plan to shorten this to Art & Writing unless something better strikes my fancy.

That’s all for now. Thanks for dropping by.

Moving Along Nicely [writing news]

Four days into February and the year’s writing project is moving along nicely. Grafting two major stories into a novel takes the finesse akin to a surgeon’s delicate hand: a wrong move can put the story into cardiac arrest, so I’m operating carefully. I want the final project to be a work of art. That’s what artists do.

Until now, my writing has been the ethereal musings of a wannabe author. I say ethereal because all my “published” stories have appeared on the Internet, existing like fog: changing and/or disappearing when I think of new storylines. But this year’s project is going to finish as a physical book. A physical book is the real deal: the good and the blemishes of an author’s story in a package that can’t be changed once printed. That’s why I’m operating on this project with delicate hands, removing most, if not all, the story’s blemishes. Aside from a mass book burning, the published product will be around—hopefully—long after this body is gone. Perhaps it will sit on a grandchild’s bookshelf, its pages dog-eared from many reads, a gift from his or her grandfather who spent many years telling anyone who would listen, fun and adventurous stories.

Continuing My New Year Plan [writing news]

As I promised in my last blog post, I am keeping you—my followers and fans of my Ridgewood stories—posted with my progress of reestablishing order and content of my books at Amazon.com’s KDP and to publish a physical paperback this year.

Sometime in February I will take my books off market at Amazon.com. Later (probably March or April) I will do the same at Smashwords.com. Then, when this project is completed, it will be available at both sites, starting with Amazon.com. The book will feature a combination of Night of the Hellhounds, Margga’s Curse, Kismet, and a few other stories, and will feature teenager Vree Erickson and other characters I’m close to. I don’t plan on the book being a Young Adult read, but that’s something I cannot control at Amazon.com. All books featuring teenage lead characters end up on Amazon’s YA list. That chases away many of my adult readers. My book will be a contemporary fantasy fiction one and should be listed as such.

Another change I’ll feature with the new book will be my publishing name. One I’m considering is Campbell Stevens. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I’m not purging my old stuff from the internet. This blog’s archives is a great place to find my old stories. But for easy access to the ones that are the foundation of this year’s project, here are links to the books inside the original book, which I titled earlier as The Green Crystal Stories.

Book 1, Night Of The Hellhounds

Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3

Book 2, Trespassing

Chapter 4, Chapter 5

Book 3, III

Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8

Book 4, Kismet

Chapter 9, Chapter 10, Chapter 11, Chapter 12
Chapter 13, Chapter 14, Chapter 15, Chapter 16

Book 5, Cracks In Time

Chapter 17, Chapter 18, Chapter 19

These stories are the bones—old bones, you could call them—of the start of this new era. I hope you’ll join me for the ride. I plan on making it a fun one.

New Year Goal [writing news]

plan

I’m an artist, but I don’t do much art anymore except create covers for my books. I’m a writer, but I don’t write as often as I want to. So I’m mostly a reader when I’m not working my “9 to 5” job, studying the craft of writing in the books I read, and dreaming of writing the stories in my head and turning them into books for others to read.

For many years I’ve considered creating a series of books called The Ridgewood Chronicles. I did a test run of that idea in 2013 at Amazon.com when I published several short ebooks that became known as The Green Crystal Stories. The first book did well and prompted me to turn it into an experimental novel called Margga’s Curse. It didn’t become as popular as I’d hoped it would, so now it’s on my list of short-lived books—one that I’ll “unpublish” sometime this year. But parts of it will stay alive if I ever write my Ridgewood Chronicles series.

And that’s what was on my mind December 31, 2016 when midnight drew closer and I considered plans for the new year. The first thing I did was make a daily planner on my laptop and start chipping away at the idea that seemed to be buried inside a mountain of marble—marble that also has doubts and fears in it, mixed with hopes and dreams.

From my planner, the journey began. Here are my notes, which may not make complete sense to you unless you’re familiar with publishing ebooks at Amazon.com.

  • Sun 1—One of my resolutions is to concentrate on reestablishing order and content of my books at Amazon KDP; another is to publish physical paperback this year.
  • Mon 2—Two stories I’m considering reestablishing are Kismet and Night of the Hellhounds/Margga’s Curse. Undecided about POV with latter, though I’m favoring strict first person now.
  • Tue 3—Read Kismet again today. May need to add second part I started but never developed—part where Catherine is aware of two alternate dimensions. Will involve months of work if I decide to do it.
  • Wed 4—Second part (Act 2?) and climax and dénouement (Act 3?) of Kismet will need helper character—perhaps male character (magic abilities?) to add conflict between marriage.
  • Thu 5—Male helper/conflict character could be tie-in with Night/Curse—perhaps Grandma Evelyn’s son Balen Renfrew.
  • Fri 6—Kismet is obviously first story of series (Ridgewood Chronicles?) but fourth book on KDP list by date published. Should I unpublish all books and rearrange them in their stories’ chronological order? If so, should I scrap their current titles and begin anew with different ASINs? How much confusion will that cause to readers who own my books now? Past confusion was caused by Goodreads’ librarians when I changed titles—they’re too righteous and didn’t work well with me. Though they’re affiliated with Amazon, I see no reason to use Goodreads as an avenue for my books.
  • Sat 7—Must decide about Kismet and Night of the Hellhounds/Margga’s Curse and my KDP list so I can post news at my blog.
  • Sun 8—Still undecided. Irritating how quickly work fatigue derails my concentration. Need to decide and blog plans tomorrow. Also consider new titles for changes.

And here I am, the journey underway. I plan to keep you posted with my progress as often as possible. And hopefully we’ll see The Ridgewood Chronicles a reality by December 31 of this year.

Free Books

I just found out that July is a great month to get ebooks for free or at discounted prices at Smashwords. I have two books there that are permanently free, and one that is 99 cents (USD). The free ones are Old Bones: A Collection of Short Stories and Margga’s Curse: A Vree Erickson Novel. Kismet: A Ridgewood Tale is 99 cents.

Smashwords-800x632

My Smashwords author page link where you can find my books at the bottom of the page.

I have also discovered over at Amazon that these guys hate letting authors give away books permanently for free. They have allowed me to lower the prices of Old Bones and Margga’s Curse to 99 cents, but no lower, even though I contacted them months ago to set the prices at FREE. If you happen to be at one of those Amazon ebook sites and you do not see the book listed as free, please take a moment to submit the price difference from B&N or any of the other sites they are free on. Amazon claims to listen to their customers. If only they would listen to us indie authors and respect our wishes.

Thanks to everyone who have downloaded my books. Super Thanks to everyone who have read my books. And an Awesome Thank You to those of you who have written reviews. Places like Amazon build walls around indie authors; reviews help tear them down.

99-cent eNovel

Beginning 8:00 AM (PST) tomorrow, you can buy my e-novel Night of the Hellhounds for 99 cents at Amazon. I am still trying to get them to price it as a Perma-Free book. Meanwhile, I hope my book will see some attention from readers who enjoy fantasy stories.

For readers without the Kindle e-reader, you can still read my books purchased from Amazon without using Kindle or the Kindle app. Calibre at calibre-ebook.com is a free ebook editing program that allows you to deconstruct my books and change them from Mobi files to whatever is convenient for you. There are no DRM codes in my books to wrestle with, so you have the option of sharing my books freely with others. I don’t think of it as stealing, and neither should you. You’re getting and giving books that I wanted to be free of any price in the first place. And you’re helping an unknown author become known.

For more info about my books, go to my author page Steven L Campbell @ Amazon and click on the book links.

Happy reading!

And as always, if you like—or don’t like—the books, please leave an honest review at Amazon. Many thanks to those who have.

Who I Am at Amazon [author news]

When I wrote Night of the Hellhounds: A Novel last year and placed it at Amazon for the Kindle e-reader, the folks at Amazon confused it with Night of the Hellhounds: A Ridgewood Short Story that I published two years ago, and they placed the two books together, despite the distinction of separate ASINs for each title. Thus, the folks at Amazon put readers’ reviews for the novel alongside reviews for the short story. During that confusing time, I took the short story out of circulation to avoid any more disorder.

Recently, I redesigned the novel’s cover and made the appropriate changes at Amazon. When I did, the folks at Amazon noticed the error of placing reviews for two separate books on the same page and gave my novel a brand-new review page—a blank slate—which means I have lost all the previous reviews for the novel. So, if you wrote a review for the novel prior to its new review page, will you write another one please? I would greatly appreciate it.

Now I am going to go pull out all my hair in a fit of frustration.

But before I go, allow me to clear the confusion between me and another author at Amazon who shares my first and last names. I am not, repeat, NOT the Steven Campbell who writes the Hard Luck Hank books, despite the constant prompts at Amazon that try to make readers think otherwise. I pen my books as Steven L Campbell (or Steven L. Campbell at places that insist on “proper” abbreviations), so look for the L between Steven Campbell wherever e-books are sold.