ASIN: B00B1UOE7S Cover Reveal

I’m putting the finishing touches on the second e-book of the Green Crystal fantasy series, which stars Nick Andrews, a 12-year-old boy whom I featured in my previous post. The book, “Day of the Fairies,” is another short story, and it replaces the following books that I published at Amazon from 2013 to 2016:

Trespassing: The Ridgewood Chronicles, Book 2

and Trespassing: A Vree Erickson Novel

The novel moved to another series of books. (More about that in a future post.) As for the new book, I’m aiming for a Halloween release, so stay tuned for more info.

So, before I run off to put on my editor’s cap, here’s the new cover:

Day of the Fairies: A Ridgewood Chronicles Short Story

Okay, time for me to run. Peace, love, and good health, everyone!

ASIN: B00AY2K1H6

In January of 2013, I published an e-book short story at Amazon about a teenage boy who joins up with his friends and sits around a campfire and tells ghost stories. All goes well until hell hounds break up their party and chase the boy off the edge of a cliff. Spoiler: He lives.

The e-book was based on a short story I wrote in my ninth grade Creative Writing class about a teenage girl who camps on a ridge with her friends overnight and sees ghost dogs prowling the countryside.

The story went through several drafts because my English teacher wanted me to consider different points of view and gender relationships. We also studied various dramatic elements, which resulted in the girl dying and returning as a ghost in one version. In another version, a witch saves her from falling off a cliff and they become friends. I finished the course with a dozen drafts of a story that had begun with a girl and some ghost dogs and ended with a boy and some hell hounds.

”Hell hounds” became condensed to “hellhounds” during a rewrite for the 2013 Amazon book and I was happy with the plot and character results. I published more short stories that year and made them a series called “The Ridgewood Chronicles.” Then I took a long sabbatical during 2014 to plan and write a novel.

Self-publishing wasn’t new to me — I’d published several of my stories via desktop publishing, and I’d been making them available in PDF format at my website since the early 1990s. Whenever I made changes to my stories, I republished them as a new edition. But I went a step further with Amazon’s Kindle publishing program: I replaced my short story with the novel with the same title.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I learned that I should have published the novel as a separate book with a different title. But there was no manual at Amazon telling me about the ensuing difficulties of my readers getting the old book replaced by the new one on their Kindle readers. The same applied to when I changed the cover art in 2015. Past purchases stayed unchanged.

So, old readers had my short story and new readers had my novel. When people talked about Night of the Hellhounds, I didn’t know which story they referred to — the short or the long. It was confusing. So, in 2016, I changed the novel’s title to end the confusion. Or so I though, haha. I was wrong.

The book almost became Cursed. Hindsight: I wished I’d not changed my mind. Instead, I titled it Margga’s Curse — a name difficult to pronounce correctly. Margga is pronounced marj-GAH.

Margga’s Curse ran for a year before I took all my books off Amazon’s market. (It’s still available for free at Smashwords, ISBN: 9781311627582, but I plan to take it off that market next year.)

Some people who have the old Kindle versions of this book may hate me when I say this, but I’m publishing a new version of ASIN: B00AY2K1H6 — all brand-new, though it will have its old and original title: “Night of the Hell Hounds” — later this year. It’s a 3,800-word Halloween short story about 12-year-old Nick Andrews who loses his big brother to war. After the funeral, he discovers that his brother had access to magic via a computer program and a green crystal pendant that can send the wearer of the pendant to another dimension of reality. He ends up at a cemetery in Ridgewood where someone has stolen the sacred bones of its protector dogs and turned them into vicious hell hounds. He meets three others trapped with him inside the cemetery. One of those people is Vree Erickson, but she’s a minor character. This is Nick’s story and it’s the first book of the Green Crystal series, even though it’s listed as a Ridgewood Chronicles short story in the subtitle.

Because of Nick’s age and the story’s subject matter, Amazon will likely shove this in its Young Adult Fantasy section. I don’t write to an audience, so I didn’t write this to be a kid’s book. Though I don’t use profanity or explore sexual matter (a reflection of my childhood), I do explore dealing with death and the pain of loss that comes with it, the good and bad of escapism, and the desires of wanting to belong to friendships, wanting to be loved, and wanting to be happy in life.

I’m planning a Halloween release. Stay tuned for more info.

Peace and love!

Judging A Book By Cover

I am trying to understand the reasoning behind the popular talk nowadays among indie authors about how to best present our book covers. Most of the how-to info is very complicated, and most of the advice ends with “Let a professional do it.” The idea is to hook the potential reader before they look inside the book.

I’m an old-school reader and buyer of books that began in the 1960s. Many of my purchases back then were paperbacks because they were affordable. Even in the 1970s when I entered the workforce and had a weekly income, I still bought paperbacks. So did my friends. Often, we went book hunting on Saturday afternoons, hitting the malls in search of our next read.

The covers on paperback books (and hardcovers) were simple in design. It was often the title that caught my eye. If it sounded interesting, I would flip the book over and read the back cover copy. That’s what either prompted me to buy the book or return it to the shelf.

Most online bookstores today have a feature equivalent to the old back cover copy. It’s the short blurb off to the side of the book cover on display. I call it the “What is this book about?” feature. And it’s here where an author either convinces me to buy their book or prompts me to continue browsing.

Beautiful, fancy, exotic book covers and plain, two-tone, neutral ones have never prompted me to buy a book. It has always been the “What’s this book about?” feature.

Look at this Stephen King paperback of The Shining from one of its first runs.

The book’s title attracted me because I asked, “What does the title mean?” The back cover copy gave me a clue and whetted my curiosity. Until then, I had never read a book by King. Neither had my friends. I ended up liking the story so much, I bought his two prior releases, ’Salem’s Lot and Carrie, on a gamble that I would like them too. I did. So did a million other readers.

Compared to today’s indie writing market, if King was an unknown author selling his books at Amazon, and he used the above cover, would you buy it?

Look at the replacement cover of The Shining a few years later during the movie release.

Would you still want to buy it?

I don’t think it’s wise to worry about eye-catching book cover design. I think we should continue to strive at writing as well as we can and to write a compelling “What’s this book about?” feature. If your story is captivating and entertaining, then people will notice, even if you’ve wrapped it in a brown paper bag.

Free Book Offer

My short story e-book “A Night of Hellhounds” is free at Amazon until midnight Pacific time. (Click this link.) It’s a fantasy tale because I enjoy writing fantasy stories. It’s at the top of my list of favorite things to do. Writing fantasy has been a passion for many years because it involves world building. I can get engaged in the creative development until the worlds appear in my dreams. The same is true about my characters. I have even dreamed new ones into my stories.

Over the years, people have asked me about my process of writing a story. I answer with: “I get an idea for a story, it festers in my mind with all sorts of situations, I dwell on my favorites and begin scheming a plot with a look on my face equal to the Grinch ready to steal Christmas from Whoville, and then start writing.” That’s it. No magic. Just an idea that I put into words that become a story.

In all its simplicity, I structure my stories no different than most other writers. I divide my stories into four parts as Act 1, Act 2 first half, Act 2 second half, and Act 3. Each story has a beginning event, an ending event, and a series of high and low events in between the two. Writing those in-between events is the adventure I enjoy the most, though staying on track to reach a good ending can add difficulty to the process. An ending should come naturally—a final piece to the story puzzle that fits nicely with the rest of the pieces, giving us an aesthetic composite. Some writers call this a “perfect ending” and stress over getting it “right.” Writing a “perfect ending” is not something I let ruin the joy I get from writing, though I do take it more seriously than the other parts of story writing.

All story writing involves getting the words written, editing them, and revising the parts until they work together as a whole. I love marrying those parts into a finished story. And I like calling the process a marriage instead of that old military standby: polishing. Polishing is some drill sergeant’s way of saying, “Write, write, write, every day, over and over ad nauseum until you can do it blindfolded, standing on your head.” I don’t do that. And I don’t “polish” my stories as if they were a pair of leather dress shoes. But I do write several drafts—sometimes as many as 10 or more—marrying my story elements into an enjoyable read.

Of course, not only am I marrying the elements to each other, I’m marrying me to the story. I do the same when I read stories by other writers and find I can’t put the stories down until I reach the end. There are others like me—we call ourselves “book lovers” and “author fans.” We love libraries and bookstores, and we collect our favorite stories and hold our favorite writers in high regard. And we dream of someday being a favorite writer to other writers, book lovers, and author fans.

If you read my stories, drop me a line. Tell me what you like and don’t like about my stories. I’d love hearing from you.

My Return To KDP

After a lengthy absence from Amazon’s publishing outfit Kindle Direct Publishing, I took the first Vree Erickson short story “A Night of Hellhounds” from mothballs and made it available again at Amazon.com as a new ebook.

The ebook is 3,000 words and approximately 16 pages long. It is priced at 0.99 US dollars at the US Amazon site and sports a new cover that I had too much fun creating. For this cover, I took away all hellhound and other canine references and concentrated on location—specifically Vree’s fall from the cliffs into Alice Lake.

The book is a quick read, hence the 99-cent price, and is available as an ebook only. I do not plan to publish paperbacks of my single short stories.

Go to amazon.com/dp/B09BFLJ563 for your copy.

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.