Archive for May, 2013

The Last Communion

Posted: May 29, 2013 in Flash, Published, Stories

 

Written for the Santarium Magazine  weekly 500-word flash competition on Google+, which it won by a tie-breaking vote!. The only prompt for the competition was the word ‘Moon’. This flash fiction is also available to read on Wattpad.

He marvels at the moonlight, cold, blue-silver, as it washes over the congregation below him. The Reverend sways drunkenly, leaning out to look down upon his flock as they swarm around the cathedral’s mighty buttress. The half-full bottle of wine he grasps, clinks loudly against the stonework, drawing a groan of unearthly longing from below. A vile stink pushes him back from the edge. Instead, he sits on the lead roof and stares at the moon, so dead, so barren and yet so beautiful.

 ~~~

The cathedral had never been so full, his congregation swelled as fear of the contagion spread. When medicine and science failed to explain, when the authorities, police and army had failed to stop the spread, the people turned to faith, to him. The irony was, this apocalypse had caused him to lose his own.

Revelations, that’s all they wanted to hear. Now he finally had the audience he had yearned for, how could he refuse?

“The sea gave up the dead who were in it,” his voice echoed over those below him, the pews filled to overflowing, “and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them.”

Shouts broke through his words, a commotion near the back. At first, from his elevated position in the pulpit, he thought the old lady was having a seizure or fit. Then he saw her rise up, those unfortunate to be nearby reeling back in horror. He saw the blood running down her chin, her face locked in a lunatic grimace and her hands hooked into claws as she reached for those around her. The plague had found them, even in the house of the Lord, it had found them.

His flock, fled. Pews fell, bodies tumbled, many were crushed in the stampede.

In their time of need, he abandoned them and escaped through the vestry door. It’s heavy oak planks and iron bolts would hold back an invasion but they couldn’t stop the screams, the fists banging with urgency and desperation.

As the screams intensified, the knocking faltered and stopped.

~~~

He’d watched the city die from the cathedral roof. At first the riots and sirens, then the fires, conflagrations that spread and polluted the sky with black smoke, bringing ash rain and blotting out the sun. A vision of hell.

As days passed, his congregation returned. The dead raised their faces up to him with longing as he delivered sermons of hellfire and damnation. They were beyond that.

~~~

The moon; so barren, so beautiful, so dead. Was that such a terrible thing?

The wine bottle is empty, he casts it away, over the edge, and hears it shatter, probably on the upturned face of one of his flock below.

He moves to the edge, vertigo turns the wine in his belly to vinegar. A sigh moves through his congregation, a low growl of hunger and need. How can he deny them?

He steps forward. It feels like flying.

The End

The Cinderella Deception

Posted: May 24, 2013 in Published, Stories

Cinderella-Deception-Cover-SmallI’ve read a bit of Steampunk but I’ve never had a crack at writing any before.

As part of my adventures on Wattpad, I am taking part in the Science Fiction Smack Down (SFSD 6.0). Round 1 requires a 2000 to 5000 word Steampunk fairy tale.

I plumped for Cinderella (obviously) and, I have to say, I am quite pleased with the result.

It should of been a simple shakedown but when Charming’s thugs trashed the Carnival and destroyed Cinders’ beloved carousel she swore revenge. But what’s a girl to do? With only the help of her Godmother and her ugly stepsisters, Cinderella will have to rely on her wits, her engineering skills and her assets

The Cinderella Deception

Doggeral-CoverIn part 1 of my adventures, I published my short story, Less Of Her, on Wattpad. As I mentioned at the time, I thought that the Wattpad site would lend itself well to publishing my flash fiction stories as it can be done a story / chapter  at a time.

Well, I went ahead, knocked up a cover on my own with my mad Gimp skillz and voilà!

All the flash stories I have already published here on this blog are also now under this ‘title’ on Wattpad for your viewing pleasure.

Doggerel – A Flash Fiction Collection.

In part 1, I explored the trials and tribulations of publishing on Wattpad.

smashwordsThis time, I published my short story,  Less Of Her, on Smashwords.

Smashwords, is all about publishing your work in various e-book formats. The website itself isn’t quite as slick and easy on the eye as Wattpad is (except there is a lot less of that hateful orange, so it’s got that going for it) but it’s still pretty tight and easy to navigate around.

First things first, set up your profile. It’s a doddle, and lets you add all your social media contact points.  Once that’s out of the way, it’s time to add your magnum opus. On the face of it, it seems pretty simple – Microsoft Word 97 document goes in, various e-reader formats, PDF, html and plain text versions come out. If only. Between your word document and all those shiny e-reader friendly formats is the Meat-grinder.

smashwords-meatgrinder

Beware – this is not as straightforward as it seems. Badly formatted word document goes in, incomprehensible mess comes out – capiche?

Thankfully, there is an excellent, well laid out, step-by-step guide to formatting your great work so that it eases through the Meat-grinder like… like… You know, I can’t come up with a metaphor here that isn’t disgusting. Let’s just assume I did and proceed. Let me put this in bold to emphasis how really, really important this is.

smashwords-style-guide-cover

Smashwords Style Guide by Mark Corker

You Must Use  the Smashwords Style Guide to Format Your Word Document.

Not only does this document tell you how to make your work look the best in all formats, it also helps you with how to layout the copyright page, authors page, acknowledgements, everything. And when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of getting Microsoft Word to behave, it does it in fine detail, in simple clear instructions and with diagrams.  I want to say fool proof but I know that fools are really very ingenious.

Once you’ve got your word document in perfect Smashwords format, you’re good to go. You will need an International Book Serial Number (ISBN) to publish to some of the formats, such as for the Sony e-reader. Fear not, Smashwords will let you use one if you already have it or give you a free one!

You press the button. It sends you an e-mail when your precious baby has been through the meat-grinder (really, it was genius to call it such) and then you can click and download to your heart’s content.

As you may imagine, since you have to put your whole manuscript through the meat-grinder, you cannot publish your work a chapter at a time, unlike Wattpad. It’s all or nothing on Smashwords.

As with Wattpad, having a nice, eye-catching front cover is important. They recommend a humongous resolution, at a minimum your cover must be 1,400 pixels wide. The recommended resolution is 1,600 wide by 2,400 high. Luckily, when Rafido Francavilla did the cover for ‘Less Of Her’, he know what he was doing. At the time, I did wonder at the huge size.

When publishing you have various options for setting the price of your e-book.

  • Free, as in beer
  • Customer pays what they want
  • Fixed price

With the latter two, you can set a percentage of the book you want to allow them to sample, which can be done right there on the site in HTML. If you insist on charging, your payment comes either as a paper cheque or paypal, in the States, or just paypal if you live outside the US of A.

“What about the finished product?” I hear you ask.

Well, the PDF and HTML versions look okay. Plain text is plain text. I only own an Amazon Kindle, so I can only really vouch for that e-book format but, I can honestly say, it looks awesome! (I may be slightly biased).

smashwords-less-of-her

Stories are displayed with cover art and all relevant information (see above). As the author, not only do you get a download count, you also get a nice little stats page showing how many people visited your e-book’s page and how many people actually downloaded it.

So, which one is better: Wattpad or Smashwords?

Really, they are complimentary, if you are publishing for free, as they cater to different readers and different ways in which people can read your work. Go for both if you want maximum attention whoring potential.

This concludes my adventures, so far. If your still looking for something to read, can I suggest a certain short story

Let’s face it, you’re not a writer unless you’re an attention whore. Personally, I’m only in it for the warm fuzzies. Being a family pet means I have no idea about finance, I may have chewed a ten pound note once. What I’m getting at is that this is my passion and my hobby, not an alternative career, strictly amateur. I don’t do it for the money.

However, I do want desperately for people to read my stories and tell me how brilliant I am.  I like to publish my stories on various webzines; Every Daily Fiction, Quantum-Muse, Another Realm, Daily Science Fiction (one day they WILL accept one of my stories) and, my personal favourite, Aphelion. It’s not just the sense of community that surrounds these sites and makes them special, to get a story published at these sites means that it has met a certain quality, that its ‘good enough’ by someone else’s standards. That is also important to me.

But once I’ve published a story and the glow of seeing my name in print, up on the screen, has faded, what then?

There’s a lot of noise around the inter-tubes about the changes in the publishing industry. Certainly, its still the ultimate goal for a professional writer, to make it past the gatekeepers of the publishing industry and see their work in dead tree format. I won’t lie, my resolution this year is to get my name in a print magazine.

However, if you don’t want to run that gauntlet, or you’re tired of seeing form rejection letters, then self publishing is  an attractive option.  Or if you’re an attention whore who wants to reach a wider audience.

wattpad-iconMy first dabbling is with Wattpad. This site pimps itself as the ‘youtube’ for sharing electronic stories. The site itself has a very simple and intuitive  look and feel, even though it’s colour theme is orange.  It pushes the social angle hard with integration to Twitter and Facebook. On this site, you can follow other people and be followed. You can write on each others walls, etc…

Publishing stories is a doddle but it really emphasises the need to have a cracking good ‘book cover’ for your work.

I think I got very lucky. I did a google image search with the keywords ‘cybernetic’, ‘legs’,  ‘female’ and straight away hit on something I liked. I tracked down the site of the guy who had created it, Rafido Francavilla. Of course, you have to be very mindful of copyright but I was happy to see Rafido does book covers and so I emailed him, not sure what would happen next.  I don’t want to bore you with details, but long story short, Rafido made me a book cover – for free – as long as I properly attributed his work, the model and original photographer.

This is the result and IT IS TEH AWESOME!!!!LESS-OF-HER-240x340 So, armed with my book cover, I created an account, set up a profile and started to add a new story.

The process is straightforward but you can see straight away that it is geared towards allowing you to update your Work In Progress (WIP) a chapter at a time. You can even release it, only a chapter at a time. This probably works very well for long works but it confused the heck out of me. In the end, I chunked my story up into chapters, even though some of them are only a paragraph long. If I had to do it again, I don’t think I would bother, I’d just put the whole thing in one chunk. This is important for a reason I will get to later.

The site only really caters for reading ON the site. However, there are Wattpad apps for JesusiPhone and Android. I downloaded the Android app and it’s actually really very good. So the best thing about Wattpad for me is that people can access my story, easily and in a really accessible format on their Smart phone or tablet!  Come on, that’s pretty cool, right?

Once you’ve published your masterpiece this is the kind of status info you can get on it.

Less-of-her-wattpad

The read count is a little misleading. It aggregates the read count for each chapter/chunk/section. So, if you go and visit my story, you can see that (currently) 23 people have read the first chapter, ‘brass legs’, but only 7 people made it to the last chapter, ‘whole’ (and 12 people read the ‘Acknowledgements’ page – WTF?).  So really, only 7 people have read it all the way through, assuming nobody skipped a chapter or two.

If you look at the number of stories by genre on Wattpad it gives you an idea of the user demographic of the site. Romance ~3.5 million stories, Fan-fiction ~2.4 million and Teen fiction ~2.2 million. Science Fiction short stories come in at a paltry 4,363 (right now).  A site firmly catering to da youf of today.

Will I put other work here?

Yes, I think I will. Every little helps. In fact, I have a plan to publish my Flash fiction stories here. The model would work very well as I seem to do a Flash story about once or month. I can publish as I go, each Flash story will get it’s own chapter, and therefore its own read count, and I only need one book cover for it. So keep your eyes peeled for that.

In the meantime, go read my story at Wattpad, vote for it, coment on it and tell me how much you love me!