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!

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

 

 

 

 

 

Being Me, a Writer

I am me; not who others think I should be.

When I write, I write for me. I know what I like, so that’s what I write about. I stay away from topics I find offensive, which places me among writers whom many of our critics label “conventional” and “old school.” I don’t think being conventional is a bad thing. But it seems many critics believe writers should be avant-garde, pushing the envelope of taboos to acme just to shock and titillate their audience.

I don’t like vulgarity, but it’s a common theme in contemporary adult fiction. However, I prefer not to read extreme foul language, extreme violence, sex, or any other types of debauchery in literature. If there is an audience for it, I’m not a member. Keep it in the porn shops.

But it’s in all the bookstores. Even in the children’s section.

I know this because one of my critics suggested I read current books written for the age group of adolescents I write about in my books.

Imagine my surprise and disbelief when I read a recent popular YA novel about werewolves and vampires where foul language and graphic violence and sex occurred in almost every chapter.

Why are YA authors making this crudeness a reality and turning their young readers into voyeurs?

Perhaps they mimic life in the city, which hardened some of my relatives and made them crude, rude and almost criminal. Or maybe they find it on TV and the Internet, which are cornucopias of everything mentioned. I don’t know. I grew up during the late 1960s and early ’70s out in the country, went to a small school in a rural town, and kept my virginity into my 20s. It’s how life was for me. I know it well, remember it easily, and write about it a lot.

And that makes me “conventional” and “old school” to certain others who try to manipulate what’s inside the books we read.

Bah! I enjoy reading what I write. It’s the innocence of youth, when becoming an adult was years away and adolescents didn’t worry about pregnancy and STDs. It’s out of touch, I’m told, with most of today’s adolescents, but it’s in touch with me.

And when I write, I write for me.

My Blog’s New Look

I gave my blog a new look again. It was looking cluttered. And since I’m at a standstill with my writing and art projects, I figured I’d have a go at blog design and pray for something appealing. This came after I gave up the idea of pulling the plug on my blog altogether.

Life got really crazy-busy during the past year and I grew weary trying to keep up a blog. Blogging and keeping it fresh and interesting are huge responsibilities. When I don’t invariably post new and exciting content to it, I feel guilty of letting down my followers.

Meanwhile, there’s a lot of material sitting in the archives for you new followers. It’s a feature that goes unnoticed because of WordPress’s push at shoving new material at us. Their Reader page with its constant updates is the first thing we see when we log into our accounts. It’s a shame they don’t have a better feature for our archives other than a search bar. But I’m glad to have the old search tool because I love reading and looking at gems from the past.

But don’t take my word for it. Start digging around and see for yourself.

Sending Out a Finished Manuscript, by Beverley Bittner [guest post]

From the Help Desk of Beverley Bittner.

PJ has been working a long time on a mystery novel. She is finishing it and wants to know if she should send the whole thing to a publisher.

First, congratulations on actually finishing your story, PJ. That’s the first big step of writing. Marketing is the second (and some say the hardest) part. Here are some ideas that may help you:

Study the markets. You probably read a lot of the kind of story you have written. Make a list of the publishers of some of your favorites. Most are in the annual book, Writer’s Market, available at your public library.

Follow the publisher’s instructions. Many publishers will ask for a cover letter and two or three chapters. If you don’t understand what they want, ask. Always send return postage with any mailing.

Don’t think it will be easy. Expect rejections. John Grisham, in an interview in The Christian Communicator, Sept. 1999, said, “When (my) first novel was finished, the response was one rejection slip after another.” Finally he found an editor willing to take a chance on him. 5,000 copies of “A Time to Kill” were printed. Grisham bought 1,000 of them himself and sold them out of the trunk of his old blue Volvo. His second novel “The Firm” captured the attention of Doubleday and the rest is history. By the way, those first edition copies of “A Time to Kill” are now worth about $4,000 each.

We welcome everyone of like interests to be part of our world of reading, writing, and lifelong learning. E-mail us your questions, comments, or ideas.

—Beverley Bittner
Copyright © 2000


About Beverley

bevBeverley Bittner (1930–2006) was born in Dunkirk, NY, a daughter of Paul and Doris Blakeslee. She was raised and educated in Spartansburg, Pennsylvania where she graduated from Spartansburg High School in 1948. She moved to Corry, Pennsylvania in 1960, and resided there until 1979 when she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for several years. She was the Associate Editor for the Union Gospel Press in Cleveland, and was a free-lance writer for various religious publications. She had a special interest in history, wrote about veterans of World War II, and wrote and published a series of five novels about the history of western Pennsylvania and the origins of the local oil industry. She founded the Writer’s Block in 1999 after moving back to Corry and served as a mentor to other writers until her death in 2006.

Kismet eBook Is Free Till Halloween [book news]

A reminder that my 99-cent sci-fi adventure novella Kismet: A Ridgewood Tale is still free at Smashwords, which ends Halloween (10/31/2016). To get yours, go to my Smashwords page and enter coupon code AR96Q (not case-sensitive) when ordering. You can download the book in the following formats for your tablet, e-reader and /or computer: epub, mobi, pdf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html.

For more information about Kismet, click on my bookstore page tab at my blog’s header.

Thank you.

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.

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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.

Free Kismet eBook Promotion Reminder

Now until Halloween of this year you can save 99 cents and get my ebook Kismet: A Ridgewood Tale free at my Smashwords page by entering coupon code AR96Q (not case-sensitive) when ordering. You can download the book in the following formats for your tablet, e-reader and/or computer: epub, mobi, pdf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html.

Kismet is a mystery story with a sci-fi element of time travel in it for adventure. You can read its history and different versions of it here at my blog by using Kismet as the keyword of your search, though it may take away the enjoyment of reading the final version first.

Kismet occurs in my fictional town Ridgewood, of course, and is about a diary from the past that warns Addison Taylor about her future. However, it’s Christmas and she’s too busy with her recent marriage and problems at work to worry about a book whose author is certainly delusional. But when she and her husband Daniel hike Myers Ridge in the spring, the diary’s warnings become real and force the couple headlong into mystery, suspense, and a strange world of past, present, and future. Can Addison and Daniel change the past to protect their future together?

I hope you take advantage of this offer and read the book to find out.

Free Book Promotion

Hello readers and fans of my fiction. I am offering my 99-cent sci-fi adventure novella Kismet: A Ridgewood Tale free starting tomorrow (5/1/2016) and ending Halloween (10/31/2016) at my Smashwords page. Go to my page here and enter coupon code AR96Q (not case-sensitive) when ordering. You can download the book in the following formats for your tablet, e-reader and /or computer: epub, mobi, pdf, lrf, pdb, txt, and html.

You can view more information about Kismet at My Books page tab above my blog’s header.

Publishing and selling my books via Smashwords are new ventures for me, so please contact me if you experience any problems. Thank you.

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.