I’m At Smashwords

After publishing my ebooks at Amazon for three years, I finally stuck my toes in the waters of Smashwords today, checked for sharks and other things that bite, and took the plunge.

See my profile page at Smashwords. Click here.

After I filled out my profile page, I uploaded an ebook formatted to Smashwords’s specifications. It didn’t take long for them to publish my book, but there was a short delay because I didn’t assign an ISBN to it. There was no prompt at the setup page to assign an ISBN, which I think would be a nice feature there. Smashwords doesn’t require authors to assign ISBNs to their ebooks, but it’s necessary if you want to sell at Apple and Kobo stores through Smashwords. So, I assigned an ISBN to my ebook, which has me hoping the numbers took and my ebook will end up listed at the Apple and Kobo stores.

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Old Bones: A Collection of Short Stories is free and contains earlier published material. The following is the ebook’s official blurb:

A collection of 19 short stories spanning 40+ years of the author’s career as an independent author. The stories are divided into three groups: Tales for Young Adults, Oddities, and Tales for Adults, and center on eerie Ridgewood, Pennsylvania and some of the characters who live there.

Go to my book’s Smashwords download page to get it free. Or wait a few days for it to arrive at the major online ebook stores.

It is my intention to increase my ebooks availability, meet some new readers, and perhaps strike some new friendships.

Backstory of Margga’s Curse [book news]

My last blog post dealt with changing the title of my e-novel Night of the Hellhounds to Margga’s Curse. As I said, the novel began forty-some years ago as a short story called “Ghost Dogs.” I was in high school and enjoyed writing fiction from the perspective of two teenage male protagonists, Lenny Stevens and Dave Evans until a creative writing teacher challenged me to write from the perspective of a teenage female protagonist. I did well on the assignment and ended up writing about a teen girl’s spooky encounter with some ghost dogs. The story began

My name is Nancy Louise Johnson. I’ll never forget the night I almost died. Vicious ghost dogs were snapping at my heels when I slipped on some gravel and fell over the steepest side of Myers Ridge.

The day began like most August days in Ridgewood, Pennsylvania: hot and humid. Every hour, the weatherman at our local radio station promised more of the same, and every hour since seven o’clock that morning my twelve-year-old sister Krissy groaned from her spot in Dad’s huge recliner. It was Friday and as usual, I was babysitting. Dad was at work and Mom and my big brother Ted were shopping in nearby New Cambridge for a new air conditioner.

Nancy is a tomboy and likes camping. Her two male friends visit and invite her to camp with them on Myers Ridge. There’s a bit of sexual tension between her and one of the boys whom she has developed a crush on, so she battles her internal voices until the ghost dogs arrive and give everyone a scare. The dogs cause Nancy to fall from the ridge. But she manages to catch herself and hold on.

For a moment, as I seemed to hang above the rocky ravine below, I knew I wanted to live. I shot out a reflexive hand and found Jerry’s sweaty shirt. I clutched shirt and skin while my legs swung wide and I hovered for a moment in midair. Behind Jerry, the swarm of will-o-wisps glowed and the pack of ghost dogs charged quick and hard at him.

“Save me,” I said before my lower body crashed against the side of the cliff. The force knocked loose my grip of Jerry. Gravity pulled me away, and I began my sudden descent to the rocky ground below.

In a flash, I thought about our lives: Dave’s and Jerry’s and mine. Death had robbed Dave and Jerry of their fathers. The accident had robbed me of the intelligent dad I once had. Although he was alive, he would never be the same. With his suffering, I didn’t want him to be without me. And I didn’t want my two best friends to be without me either. I loved them too much to die. Continue reading “Backstory of Margga’s Curse [book news]”

Night of the Hellhounds Gets New Title [book news]

Attention readers and followers of my Ridgewood books. After months of consideration, I decided to retitle Night of the Hellhounds, the first novel in the Vree Erickson series. The story began as “Ghost Dogs,” a short story I wrote in the 1970s that dealt heavily with a pack of vicious ghost dogs chasing the main character. Over the next 40 years, I rewrote the story several times, changed the ghost dogs to hellhounds, and retitled it “Night of the Hell Hounds.” I gave the story to my teen character Lenny Stevens in 2012 and published it January 2013 at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Meanwhile, I remembered writing a rough draft novel of the hellhound story for my teen character Vree Erickson in 2006. Its working title was Margga’s Curse, and it dealt little with hellhounds chasing the main character. Instead, Margga’s Curse concentrated on a witch seeking revenge on a man who killed her father. Margga is a bit insane, so after she kills the man, she then kills his wife and tries to kill their daughter. Her contemporaries put her to death, but Margga’s spirit returns annually on a night in July called “Night of the Hellhounds.” (She befriends some hellhounds in the spirit world, so they join her on that night.) She continues her revenge and over the years, she kills the daughter, the daughter’s husband, and the wife of their son, and then continues her vengeance until Vree finally puts an end to Margga’s curse.

After I finished the novel, I spent months debating what to do with it. After all, it was the published hellhound story wearing a new outfit. While I debated, I showed the novel to friends and family, and most said they liked it over the short story. Some people wanted me to change the night to Halloween, but I felt it was too cliché. Why can’t there be other spooky nights during the year?

I replaced the short story with the novel and gave it the title Night of the Hellhounds. But a part of me wanted to keep the original title. This nagged me for years, though not too deeply until a few days ago. The more I listened, the more I realized I had to go with my gut feeling.

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I have included two versions of the new cover above. The first is dressed in red and yellow colors, giving it a warm appearance. The second cover has an emphasis of blue in its colors to play down the warmth and give it a chillier look. And I whitened the title to make it colder as well and to add emphasis. I’m not sure which cover I’ll use, but any suggestions would be appreciated. I plan to choose the new cover and make the title change Sunday, March 6, and have them ready Tuesday, March 8 at Amazon. Changes at Barnes and Noble will follow later in the month.

What do you think of the title? Which cover do you like best? Have you read the “Night of the Hell Hounds” short story or any of the versions published at my old website? Have you read my novel or any of my other books? If so, which books are your favorites? Do you have a favorite character? I would love to hear what you think.

New Book Cover and Free Books

I redesigned the cover of Kismet at Amazon and added a bonus story to the book. Readers who own the earlier version of Kismet and want the bonus story can get it free here. The book is a PDF and is free to download and convert to other reading formats.

I have added more books to the Free PDF Downloads section of my Library tab in Writing. All the books are PDFs and yours to add to your libraries. I plan to add more freebies as time permits.

Meanwhile, anyone who ventures beyond the WordPress Reader and actually visits my blog will notice I have housecleaned my blog’s appearance again. I plan to keep the current design for a year or longer, though I need to tweak a few items when I have time.

Enjoy the freebies and drop me a line.

New Book Cover for Hellhounds Novel

I took a break from writing today to redo the cover of my Night of the Hellhounds fantasy novel, which features Vree Erickson, my youngest protagonist who has preoccupied my writing time off and on since 2012.

I felt especially artistic when I awoke this morning, and having the day to spend as I please, I thought it would be nice to give the star of the story a place on the book’s cover. The original cover was rather generic and featured the black hellhound baring its fangs at the viewer, so I set about locating all the drawings I have done of Vree over the years.

I like to work at a large scale, which gives me lots of room to put in visual elements. The problem with having a huge canvas is I tend to get caught up in the act of creating art and forget that a lot of those elements are lost when the final product is scaled down, as happens when book covers appear as thumbnails at websites. KISS, or Keep It Simple Steve, has always been my motto, so I found myself removing elements that lost its detail and cluttered the overall product when reduced in size.

Another KISS for book covers is text. Text is as important as good art and should be easy to read, especially when the book is a thumbnail. I made the text large and bright so the thumbnail image stands out. After all, thumbnails are what most people see at the bookstore websites that feature books, whether the books are e-books or the printed ones.

I like this cover with Vree’s face inside a fireball, though it’s actually her face through the fireball, like a window to another dimension.

Now, while I watch the sun set on a day well spent, I hear the call of my notebook wanting me to work on Vree’s future story. But not until I watch the clear sky overhead fill with the extraterrestrial beauty we call night. After all, the poet in me needs some play time, too.

Green Crystal Stories Update [book news]

A quick news item for my readers: Today was a free day—a day off and away from my 9-to-5 job—so I spent most of it redesigning the cover of my e-book, Green Crystal Stories. I’m making changes to some of the stories that appeared in the last volume, and I’m adding new ones, including some that I co-wrote with my friend Laura Gilson-Comier, and some that she wrote alone. Our stories will feature creepy Ridgewood, and will focus on Vree Erickson and Lenny Steven, just like the earlier volume did. We plan to have the project finished by July and the new book on the e-shelves at Amazon the same month. A release with Barnes & Noble for their Nook e-reader will take place in October.

Free Book Friday [book news]

My eBook Night of the Hellhounds: A Ridgewood Novel is free at Amazon for the Kindle e-reader this Friday. You can download a copy directly by clicking on this link.

Here is the official cover I created for the book, so look for this cover when getting it.

The novel replaces a short story I had published 2013 at Amazon and is no longer in print. However, the short story is featured at the end of the novel, along with two other versions of the story—my gift to you.

Happy reading.

Promo Week for Night of the Hellhounds

My fantasy novel Night of the Hellhounds is free this week, beginning tomorrow, Tuesday (the 18th) and ending Saturday (the 22nd) for its 5-day promotion at Amazon. Get it free for your Kindle by going to this Amazon.com page on those dates. Its price will return to $.99 after that.

About the Novel

This is the novelization of “Night of the Hellhounds” short story published January 2013. Whereas the short story was about Lenny Stevens, the novel centers on his friend and neighbor, 15-year-old Vree Erickson, a girl destined by the fates to die during the summer unless she can change her fate.

From the Back Cover

Vree Erickson’s life has gone from bad to worse. She left the lawnmower in the rain and lightning killed her father and burned down her family’s home. To complicate matters even more, the lightning struck her and left her with psychic powers.
Now, Vree and her family are forced to move to her maternal grandparents’ home on Myers Ridge, a strange place near Ridgewood, Pennsylvania. There, July fifth marks the annual “Night of the Hellhounds”—a time when a vengeful spirit witch and her hellhounds return to the property next door every year and reign terror there until midnight.
Unfortunately, try as she may, Vree is unable to ignore the strangeness around her or the witch who wants to take away her powers and kill her. With the help of the cute boy from up the road and mysterious creatures that only they can see, Vree embarks on a difficult journey to save her life and destroy the ghost witch who wants her dead.

The Cover

I drew, painted, and designed the cover by hand and scanned it to my computer, then brought the elements together with a stripped-down version of Adobe Photoshop, and added text via Microsoft Word.


A Possible Book Cover [book news]

Happy Fourth of July time of year to my American readers! I’m making a quick touchdown here before I zoom off again into my active imagination.

If you follow me at Facebook (sorry Google+ fans—I have been absent there for a while), you know I spent a full day (right up to midnight) last week working on a new cover for my Night of the Hellhounds novel (or mini-novel at around 200 pages). I went with an old-time dime-store look and feel. And the fonts mimic the ones used in the old King Arthur storybooks from my childhood.

Tentative Cover
Tentative Cover

I spent a lot of time working on the Rottweiler’s mouth. I tried to make it look like it was exhaling an angry bark, which when you watch dogs bark on film in slow motion, their cheeks billow out just before their jaws snap shut. I think I captured it well enough. And those vampire-like fangs look quite menacing.

Missing from the hellhound are its red eyes. I’m hoping for enough time to add them. But I can manage without them if I don’t have time.

Now it’s time to recheck my edits before I send it to my beta readers for another read through. They’re good at catching things I miss. I owe them a lot more than pizza, a thank-you, and a free copy of the final book.

Again: Happy Fourth of July! And to my writer friends working on books of their own:

Write Something

New eBook Giveaway Weekend

Once again, to all my readers, fans and followers, I’m offering another free e-book—this time to kick off Father’s Day Weekend. (If that isn’t a thing, it should be.) An e-book of 12 really short (and awesome) stories, Ridgewood Sparks is available at Amazon worldwide beginning Saturday, June 14 and running all day Sunday, June 15. As always, the book is available to lend out to family and friends.

An excerpt of one of the stories, “A Buzzing of Bees”:

Brian pushed hanging branches away from his face. This part of the woods on Myers Ridge was thick with broadleaf and coniferous trees, and infested with thorny blackberry and raspberry bushes. These barbed sentries were deep in cover, away from hungry predators and ambitious and adventurous gardeners with spades and pruning shears. But few people trespassed here on his land. The terrain was rough and steep in many places and challenging to walk over. Thick and thorny underbrush, stinging nettle, and rattlesnakes were common threats, including branches falling from trees infected by disease and acid rain attacking their roots.

From “A Sinister Blast from the Past”:

Inside this cold and sterile environment, I am a prisoner of time, a prisoner of fate, a prisoner to the cruel circumstances that have left me unable to communicate to the people around me. They pass me and I go unnoticed by them. Without a name I am nobody. Without a voice I am nothing more than a silent pet that must be fed and bathed and taken care of. Unable to move I am less than that.

From “Dead Rabbits Don’t Run”:

I smell it again. Past hemlock and below hill the aroma is coming from man’s wooden lodge, drifting to me on smoke from most powerful and burning my nose with the fragrance of the blood of my sins. Although my eyes are closed, I know that if they were open I would still see the tormenting image of man eating his bloodless rabbit meal: chewing, always chewing; licking fingers clean; sucking bare every tawny bone; he will leave no bloodless meat behind. Before he sleeps tonight, he will bury bones into ground behind his lodge near where I committed my first crime. If I could move, I would run to there now and commit one last sin by digging up bones and feasting on marrow for the remainder of my short, pathetic life.

And nine more short tales of fantasy, a bit of horror, all set in and around peculiar and eerie Ridgewood, Pennsylvania.

Follow this link to get your free e-book, Ridgewood Sparks for Kindle on June 14 and 15.

Have a good read … and a great Father’s Day Weekend!

Free Kismet Weekend [book news]

To all my readers, fans and followers, a quick post to let you know that you can get a free e-book version of my novella, Kismet, at Amazon.com beginning tomorrow, June 7 and ending after Sunday, June 8. Though the standard U.S. dollar price is only $.99, I always like to offer something free to people who appreciate what I do. The book is available to lend, too, so you can loan Kismet out to family and friends.

BTW, this is book 4 of the compilation book, The Green Crystal Stories. However, if you do not own TGCS, I wrote Kismet as a standalone book outside the lives of Vree Erickson and her friends.

Follow this link, free Kismet offer! on June 7 and 8 to get your free e-book.

Have a great weekend!