Tag Archives: kobo

Deep Discount Promotions – Part 4

Cue the comeback music!

Yesterday – thanks to promotional advertisements at Robin Reads and other assorted factors I managed to move 18 books in total.

Not all of these 18 books were GYPSY BLOOD and not all of them made me any money – but 18 books in one day is still a long away from the 1-2 books daily that I was moving from May 1 to May 23.

Let me break it down for you.

Yesterday I sold…

GYPSY BLOOD – 7 copies Amazon.com and 2 copies Amazon.co.uk

THE TATTERDEMON OPUS – 1 copy Amazon.com

BIGFOOT TRACKS – 1 copy Amazon.com

BIG HAIRY DEAL – 1 copy Amazon.com

TROLLING LURES – 1 copy Amazon.com

as well as these permafree e-books…

REVENANT: BOOK ONE OF THE TATTERDEMON TRILOGY – 4 free copies Amazon.com

FLASH VIRUS: EPISODE ONE – 1 free copy Amazon.com

***

Now, you have to understand that I usually move a couple or two of those permafree e-books nearly everyday. I don’t crow too loudly over them because – hey, they don’t make me any money. They are nothing more than freshly churned cow-guts thrown into the waters of the mighty Amazon as chum.

So – did ALL of these sales directly result from Robin Reads?

Maybe – but as I mentioned there are other factors to consider.

Some of the promoting I did yesterday and the day before might also have sold some of those book copies. Maybe you got a Booktastik newsletter in your e-mail box on May 25th and did not get around to reading it and acting upon it until May 26th.

Anything is possible.

Also there are the numerous Facebook pages that I have announced my GYPSY BLOOD promotion upon. Personally, I have really begun to doubt the effectiveness of these Facebook postings – but in all honesty, I am too chickenshit to NOT give them a try. I do try and space them out so that folks who follow me on Facebook don’t get inundated with something along the lines of STEVE VERNON JUST SHOUTED BUY-MY-BOOK ON THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY TWO AND A HALF FACEBOOK BOOK PROMOTION PAGES.

(That half a promotion was the one that the telemarketer interrupted me at, wanting me to purchase a brand new gold-plated Ginsu knife collection to fix my computer on my free cruise to Mexico)

So – a couple of those sales MIGHT have resulted from those Facebook postings.

Then too there is always the possibility that somebody might have read a recent blog entry and felt compelled to order a copy.

You never can tell.

That is the thing about promotion. It is a little like casting rocks into a pond. You cast one rock and you get a few ripples. You cast a whole handful of rocks and you get a whole pond full of ripples. You build yourself a catapult and chuck an entire dumpster-load of pebbles into that pond and you get yourself a non-stop freaking tsunami of promotional ripples.

Something that I have not done is to set up promotional blog appearances. You know – the kind where you write an informative blog entry for somebody else’s blog and make mention of your upcoming promotion. This is another important tool for indie writers who are trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. It isn’t just a matter of having a typical BUY-MY-BOOK! blog post show up on somebody else’s blog. It is FAR more effective to write something creative and interesting and useful that might possibly go just a little viral, even for a brief internet moment – and then to add at the end of that blog entry – “Oh, by the way – BUY MY BOOK!”.

However, I have a hard time these days following through on promises to write interesting blog entries for guest blog appearances, so I don’t hunt those up the way that I used to. Still, I have always felt this was a strong way of getting the word out – especially if you can get a more popular writing/reading blog to take one of your articles.

I hope this series of promotional advice is helping some of you writer-type-folks out there. This is still a big old learning experience for me and I do not claim to be an expert at what I am doing. I just like to put this out there to reach a few more folks and hopefully show them what I am doing right and just as importantly show them what I am doing wrong.

Good luck and keep on writing.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

No – because today’s Sweet Free Books listing has NOT gone live on their page just yet. Neither has their e-mailed newsletter. That is common with a lot of promotional websites. You do not ALWAYS know just when in the day that they will go live.

So – what DID sell those e-books I moved yesterday?

INDIE VERSUS TRADITIONAL – WHICH SHOULD YOU CHOOSE?

This year the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia was kind enough to ask me to speak at their Halifax headquarters, about the differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

Myself and Patrick Murphy (Managing Editor, Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press) discussed the differences between independently publishing your work versus traditionally publishing it. It was a two hour talk in which we presented for the first hour and then answered questions for the second hour. We had a good turn-out – about two dozen people – which is really almost all that the room could hold comfortably.

I thought it would be of value to offer you folks an idea of what I talked about.

So let’s charge right in, shall we?

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO SELF-PUBLISH?

1 – First off you need a rhino hide. You have to be absolutely bulletproof and impervious to all traces of discouragement. The good news – or the bad news – is that you need that same rhino hide for traditionally publishing as well. First thing you need to realize is that writing is NOT a game for wusses.

2. You need to be a self-starter. You are your own time clock and your own foreman and your very own kick in the pants. The same thing goes for traditional publishing as well.

This is not a lazy man’s game.

3. You need to be fast on your feet. The rules for self-publishing are changing constantly. You have to learn how to format a manuscript for Kindle, for Kobo, for Smashwords, for Apple – each one of those online book marketing franchises has their own standards and their own set of rules. You’ve got to find out the difference between an e-pub and mobi – and NO, I am not talking about great white whales.

4. You have got to have a hunger for learning. This is NOT a business for folks who hate to learn new techniques – but like I said before the rules for e-publishing are changing every week. As a matter of fact, while you were sitting there and reading this the rules just changed.

It happens that fast.


THE BENEFITS OF TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING

– Prestige – Let’s face it. There is something undeniably cool and prestigious about seeing a book in a bookstore or a library with your name on it – unless you are holding a magic marker in your hand. Publishing with a known traditional publisher automatically brings you an air of credibility.

– Book distribution and placement in traditional stores – The folks at Nimbus are VERY good at getting my books into bookstores right across the country. They have got a small army of representatives who visit with booksellers right across the country and make certain that they are aware of the next season of Nimbus books. A self-publisher doesn’t have that luxury. While it is possible to talk a bookstore into carrying your books it is a whole lot easier if that book is attached to an actual publisher.

– Easy access to book signings. Two or three times a year I am contacted by the marketing coordinator at Nimbus and I am asked if I would like to go and sit at a local bookstore, selling and signing my Nimbus books. This is a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with book-lovers and potential new fans. Trust me, it is a LOT harder to get a bookstore to bother setting up a table if you are self-publishing.

– When you have a traditional publisher in your corner you can count on an editor, a cover artist, possibly an illustrator and a promotions department who will work to make certain that you have the best opportunity to promote your traditionally-published book. If you want your self-published books to be properly edited you had better have deep pockets and be prepared to hire a professional editor yourself. The same thing goes with cover art.

– A publisher can also offer an advance on your royalties. Cash up front is ALWAYS a useful thing. You’ve got to be able to pay for that new laptop SOMEHOW!

– A lot of professional book reviewers will only deal with traditional publishers, preferring not to have to winnow through the chaff of self-publishing.

– A traditional publisher has a lot more capability of providing an up-and-coming author with book tours, a fully-catered book launch, guest appearances at literary conventions, book signings and other useful promotion.


THE BENEFITS OF INDIE PUBLISHING

Traditional Publishing takes a lot of patience. You have to learn how to put together a proper query letter and a submission package and you must be willing to wait patiently while the publisher – or publishers – get around to looking at your work. Even then there is no guarantee that they will automatically want to release your novel.

Perhaps they have just released a book similar to yours. Odds are they won’t want another. Perhaps they have had bad luck making back the advance of a book that was similar to yours. Odds are – even if your book is a huge improvement they still might be wary of trying the same trick again.

Some publishers will only look at agented material. Others insist upon authors with a proven track record. There are many variables that you have no control over.

Let us say that you have found a publisher who wants to publish your book. Then you have to deal with a long lead time for release. Your book will need to be passed before committees and scrutinized by editors and copy editors and proofreaders and the office dog. They might want to change a paragraph or an entire chapter or your title.

Keep in mind that these delays and the risk of having to change your work is NOT necessarily a bad thing. Some of my best writing came out following many laborious arm wrestling matches with editors.

Traditional publishing offers smaller and more structured royalties. Depending on who you release it with, an indie-published work can give you as much as 70% royalties on the cover price – which you get to set. Whereas most traditional publishers, depending on the contract and the nature of the release, will offer you 10 to 12% royalties on the cover price.

Some of the larger publishers will demand first refusal and exclusivity clauses and non-competition clauses – all designed to limit your future work. For example – if I sell a vampire hunter series to one publisher they might not be all that keen to see me release a second vampire hunter series with another publisher.

There are a LOT of clauses in a traditional publishing contract that an author needs to consider. A traditional publisher is going to want an AWFUL lot of subsidiary rights. They are a business, remember, and they WANT the opportunity to see your book turned into a movie, a video game, a comic book or an app. Often a traditional publisher will expect as much as 40 to 60% of any income that is derived through subsidiary sales.

An indie writer releases his book under their own flag and can keep control of ALL subsidiary rights. SO – if you manage to interest a filmmaker in selling the film rights to your novel you can expect to receive the whole share of the fee.
HOWEVER, that means that you need to be able to successfully market all of those subsidiary rights if you actually expect to receive any. A traditional publisher – depending on the size of the publishing company – will often have a person or possibly an entire department dedicated towards the sale of any and all subsidiary rights.

That includes translation rights, as well. There is huge market for French, German, Italian etc. translations of English e-books – and some traditional publishers, depending upon the nature of the book in question, will take steps towards securing a translator. If an indie author wants to put out a German/French/Italian version of his novel than he needs to hire a translator.

Translators do not come cheaply. Most will charge by either the word count or the page count and you can expect to pay several hundred or even over a thousand dollars for that translation – and even then there is no guarantee that you will receive a GOOD translation.

You think about that the next time you try to order a fancy French dish from the menu in Paris.

As I mentioned, royalties are a big plus for indie writers. I receive money every month from my indie work whereas a traditional publisher usually pays out royalties bi-annually – that is twice a year.

An author trying to decide between an indie or a traditional release must also take expense into consideration.

Traditional publishers do NOT charge you for your work. Remember that, now – no matter what you decide. If a publisher starts by asking you for money than you ought to run away as fast as possible.

HOWEVER, indie publishing can cost you. While it is possible to release as many indie published books as you want to without spending a cent – there are an awful lot of expenses that still need to be considered.

You might want your book edited – so that will cost you money. You might not have the technical ability or the skill or talent to create a nifty cover for your e-book and so you might decide to hire a cover artist – and that costs. Some folks might not feel confident enough to properly format their own work – and then they will have to hire themselves a formatter to turn the manuscript into something that is Kindle-friendly or Kobo-friendly.

Promotion is entirely the responsibility of the indie author. That means that if you want to get your book featured on various promotional websites then you have to be prepared to pay anywhere from five to five hundred dollars for that privilege.

Distribution is another factor to consider when you are choosing between a traditional publisher or independently releasing your own work. There is a HUGE variety of distribution networks to choose from.

Createspace
Kindle
Kobo
Nook
Apple i-books
Oyster
Scribd
Page Foundry
e-sentral
Gardners
Baker & Taylor
Bookbabe

That is just a few of the top of my head. Being an indie author allows you to freely access all or most of these various networks and thus getting your books out to a whole lot of possible customers.

It is just a matter of time and research – and THAT, brothers and sisters – is the single biggest requirement to make yourself a successful indie author. You have to be ready to put the time and the effort into making and marketing and promoting your own books. It is not just a matter of handing them to your publisher and moving on to your next book.

So – the questions that you need to ask yourself about deciding between indie and traditional publishing are as follows –

Do you hate and fear change? – Stick to traditional.

Are you afraid of new things? Do you hate to learn new systems?

Then you better stick to traditional.

Are you a fast writer? Do you six or eight or twelve manuscripts sitting on your desk waiting for a traditional publisher to accept them, one by one? Or, do you have six or eight or twelve out of print books that the rights have reverted to you and you are wondering what to do with them?

Maybe you ought to be an indie author.

Are you prepared to invest time, effort and possibly money into the making and the marketing and the promotion of your writing?

Again – think indie.

All right – not that Indy!

Are you a control freak? Do you like to think for yourself and set up your own promotions and book sales and make all the decisions about title and cover and subject matter yourself?

Well, you might want to look at indie publishing.

Are you a genre writer? Certain genres lend themselves nicely towards indie publishing. For example, a skilled and prolific romance writer can do VERY well as an indie author.

Budding romance writer…

Do you like to read series characters? Do you like to WRITE a series? Writing series novels and novellas and short stories just naturally lend themselves towards indie writing.

The Adventures of Bolt Upright – Book 23 – The Stripped Nut…

Are you a hard worker? A self-starter? Are you ready to dedicate a substantial part of your life towards making your career a reality?

Then indie writing might just be the path for you to take.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


If you enjoyed this blog entry why don’t you do one of the very best things that you can do for an indie writer and pick up one of my e-books?

🙂

Steve Vernon on Kindle!

Steve Vernon on Kobo!

Some Writing (and Business) Tips for 2015

A visual metaphor for my production through the winter.

Guess what?

It snowed last night.

It is still snowing but by now it has slowly begun to turn to rain. Which means it is going to be messy out there. I’ve spent the last hour out there shoveling. I am about halfway done the sidewalk. The driveway – which faces out onto a main roadway and thus gets plowed in frequently – is going to be a whole other ball of wax.

Big sticky funky wax.

I did manage to put my 40th Kobo release into the Kobo portal – as well as the Kindle portal. I’ll tell you about that a little later this week.

BUT NOW –

While I go back to shoveling why don’t you writer-types take a look at this blog entry over at Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s blog.

I guarantee if you give this one a good read you are bound to come away with something worth knowing.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


If you enjoyed this blog entry why don’t you do one of the very best things that you can do for a writer and pick up one of my e-books?

If you like the book then you get to do one of the second-best things that you can do for a writer and review it on Goodreads or Kobo or Kindle or even on your own blog.

If you REALLY want to get on my good side you could try sending beer and more money and maybe more beer.

Some pizza would be nice too.

Steve Vernon on Kindle!

Steve Vernon on Kobo!

Jigging for Cod – and other writing practices…

The Hand-Line Cod Fishery

All right, so I have been trying to figure out the best way to advance my writing career over the coming year and I’d like to spend a few minutes here on the blog letting you folks know just what I am up to.

Right off the bat I will tell you that 2015 is going to be my year of words. I want to get more e-books out there – and I also want to get another traditionally-published book out there as well.

Why?

Well, for starters it is because I am still primarily a HYBRID WRITER, not just an INDIE WRITER. Which means that I also write for a traditional publisher as well as just writing for indie publishers.  Only problem is, my last traditional release was MARITIME MURDER – which was released back in 2012 from my local publisher, Nimbus Publishing.

008

That was about two years and too long ago and in all honesty I have been working on a new Nimbus project for sometime now. I have bounced two or three YA novels that did not quite fit with my publisher’s needs – but over the last month I have begun work on a new project that I believe – (so far) – will really fit in the Nimbus stable.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime I have been working away on building my indie-writer career. Things have been progressing slowly but steadily. When I first got into writing for the indie market I was averaging about twenty to thirty dollars a month income – which isn’t really much at all.

These last couple of months I have been averaging about two hundred dollars a month income from my indie releases. That is still not much as far as indie writers go. I know a lot of folks who are making one or two or three thousand dollars a month at this racket – but that is not me.

Not yet, anyway.

🙂

Every month I sell a few more copies and every month I make a few more dollars and no one ever said that this going to be an easy way to make a living.

In 2015 I have decided to back off a little bit on the promoting side of the business and try and work on just getting a few more books out there.

Currently I have independently published THIRTY-NINE e-books through Kobo and a similar amount through Kindle. I intend to release my 40th Kobo independent release later this coming week.

So, as I have mentioned before, I am going to be concentrating on making 2015 a year of full-tilt production.

I have already written about this in an earlier blog entry – ACHIEVING PULP SPEED.

As a result I am going to be spending a little less time on Twitter, Facebook, the blog and similar pastimes. I want to concentrate more this year on actual writing.

HOWEVER – I do not intend to leave my loyal blog-followers hanging high and dry. That is why I have begun to step up my reblogging, sharing important and/or interesting articles that I come across in the run of the day.

Today I would like to share with you folks some of the good words that I have come across over my morning coffee.

Please check out this article on creating MULTIPLE STREAMS OF INCOME from well-known blogger and author Joanna F. Penn. Here Joanna talks about how she has managed to create multiple streams of income out of her talent – which is exactly why I try to mix and match my Kobo, my Kindle and my traditionally-published work.

Basically, every month I make a bit from my Kobo releases and I make a bit from my Kindle releases and I make a bit from my traditionally-published releases. I also make a bit from my public appearances and my Writers In The School appearances and the workshops that I give – and, of course, my day job.

NONE of these streams of income are full-time pay – not even my day job. But when you look at them together they add up nicely. That sort of diversity is KEY for any of you writer-types out there. You get a little bit of money coming from a few more directions and all those little bits are going to start combining to create a powerful stream or income.

This is one of the reasons that I have backed right out of the Kindle Unlimited program. I was pleased with the initial pay-outs – but over the last few months the KU pay-outs have continually decreased and I have decided that it is not worth giving up my full range of marketing opportunities. To fall back on a cliche I did NOT want to place all of my eggs in one single basket – that is Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited.

The fact is, I still make most of my indie money from Kobo – considered the back-runner in the indie publishing field.

So I like to keep my options open.

I like to think about it like an old-time fisherman, jigging for cod. A fellow who wanted to catch a lot of fish would have more than one line hanging out of his dory. He’d pull up one fish, rebait and drop the line back in and then turn around to the other side of the dory and pull another codfish in from his other line.

May the wind run with you, the fish run for you and trouble in the other direction!

Yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


If you enjoyed this blog entry why don’t you do one of the very best things that you can do for a writer and pick up one of my e-books?

If you like the book then you get to do one of the second-best things that you can do for a writer and review it on Goodreads or Kobo or Kindle or even on your own blog.

Steve Vernon on Kindle!

Steve Vernon on Kobo!

Kindle Unlimited – Is it worth it?

Is it really worth it?

Right from the get-go let me warn you that this is only ONE author’s opinion.

I’m not a marketing genius.

I am not a business analyst.

But let me tell you how it has worked out for me.

First month I was in it – September – the KU paid out $1.52 per borrow; which means that for every e-book of mine that somebody grabbed through Kindle Unlimited and READ MORE THAN 10% of the book – I earned $1.52.

Back then it was easy money.

In October the KU payout has dropped down to $1.33.

Now, I have had MORE borrows in October than I had in September – so it is still a good thing for me – but that trend is definitely worrisome.

Now – if I somehow manage to get a lot more people worked up and excited about borrowing my books through KU – then even if it drops further I will still do all right.

The big trick is getting folks to borrow me through KU.

That isn’t exactly easy.

AND, I am pretty sure that the KU payout is going to continue to trend downwards.

Why?

Well, for starters that has DEFINITELY been the trend.

  • $2.00 per borrow or thereabouts prior to July, 2014
  • $1.81 per borrow for July, 2014
  • $1.54 per borrow for August, 2014
  • $1.52 per borrow for September, 2014
  • $1.33 per borrow for October, 2014

If you want to read those figures in MORE detail, you ought to definitely check out Chris McMullen’s blog.

Bear in mind that this downward trend has continued relentlessly – IN SPITE of Amazon’s regular cash injections into the KU pay-out fund.

Why?

Well – just take a look at how many indie authors out there have climbed on board of the KU program. Especially those folks who specialize in 99 cent releases.

That is a lot more soup spoons scooping out of the same old pot.

AND furthermore, I am beginning to wonder just how many readers are getting all excited about the KU program.

When KU first came out it was billed as NETFLIX for readers.

Now that, in itself, is a pretty cool concept. Even I was excited at first glance. “Cool,” I thought. “I pay a monthly fee and I get to read all the books that I want to.”

BUT how many books can one fellow read in a month?

I mean I can watch an awful lot of movies and television programs in a single month – but I am apt to read maybe one or two books in that same month.

I’m not dumb. I’m not lazy. I am just a slow reader – and I generally only read before bedtime and on my way to or from work on the bus. And that bus reading can get interrupted if I happen to be on the bus with someone I want to talk to – or if I am sitting in front of someone who wants to tell their neighbour about the uber-cool mac-and-cheese they had for dinner thirteen times.

The more that I think about it the more I have to wonder just how big of a market is there for a Netflix for books?

So – as I mentioned in a previous blog – I am going to be pulling some – if not all of my KU releases as their enrollment period winds down.

TROLLING LURES and HAMMURABI ROAD are both ending their KU membership as of December 4, 2014 – so, if you have been thinking about borrowing them through KU don’t wait for too much longer.

BIGFOOT TRACKS , my collection of Bigfoot short stories, is going to stay in to the KU program until December 9, 2014.

BIG HAIRY DEAL, my full-length Bigfoot novel, is going to stay in the KU program until December 29.

I am going to be rolling each of these e-books into the Kobo system throughout December.

Kindle Unlimited does NOT seem to be working for me.

Now – in all fairness – two months isn’t a lot of time to make this sort of a judgement call – but that is exactly what I am doing. I am the captain of my own ship – not your ship.

🙂

Some folks are still making out with KU like crazy love-starved baboons.

You have to remember that. In indie-publishing what works for one writer might NOT work for another – or vice-versa.

So, is KU going to crash and burn?

How the heck should I know?

Is KU the right answer for your e-publishing needs?

How the heck should I know?

William Goldman said it best.

“Nobody knows nothing!”

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


If you enjoyed this blog entry why don’t you pick up one of my e-books?

Steve Vernon on Kindle!

Steve Vernon on Kobo!

Speaking of Scarecrows…

This weekend – from today until Monday – you can pick up a copy of TATTERDEMON on Kobo for a big fat fifty percent off.

So – all of you Kobo readers who are DYING to read something with a REAL October feel to it – why don’t you swing on over to Kobo and save a big fat honking 50% off on my big fat honking scarecrow novel.

The regular Kobo price is $5.99 – but if you use that SAVE50 promo code this weekend you get it for three bucks!

That’s about 400 pages worth of big fat scarecrow horror novel for the price of a Starbucks coffee.

This is the Kobo version. It's currently ranked #19 in Kobo's horror section. Order it today, Kobo users - but DON'T forget to use that SAVE50 promo code to save 50%!

This is the Kobo version. It’s currently ranked #19 in Kobo’s horror section. Order it today, Kobo users – but DON’T forget to use that SAVE50 promo code to save 50%!

Not enough for you?

You want to take a peek inside?

Here’s the Prologue AND the First Chapter!


Tatterdemon

PROLOGUE

summer 1691

Preacher Abraham Fell stared down at the witch Thessaly Cross, breathing like he’d run for a good long stretch. He leaned over, bending at the knees to lay another slab of fieldstone upon her chest.

“We beat you with hickory and we beat you with iron,” he said. “And you withstood every blow.”

He stooped down and picked up another rock, never taking his eyes off her, as if she were some kind of dangerous viper who might strike at any moment.

He set the next rock on top of her, directly beside the others.

“We shot you and the musket balls swerved in midair like they were afraid of sinking into the taint of your flesh.”

He scooped up another rock, grunting as he scooped. He just wasn’t as young a man as he used to be – and no wonder.

Sights like this one aged you faster than years ought to run.

“We hung you in a noose woven from a widow’s gray hair, a noose soaked in children’s tears and you kicked and cackled like a hell-kite in the wind.”

He laid the next rock down, sank to his knees and scooped up another stone. He was building a kind of rhythm that made the labor just a little easier.

“We burned you but even fired failed us.”

It was true. She had witched a storm from a cloudless sky and drowned the blaze cold. Seth Hamilton, the town smith who had been the only man to dare kindle her pyre had been cindered black.

“Let the stones crush you and the dirt eat you,” Fell said, laying another rock – which made thirteen stones in all. These were all good sized stones, hand-picked, at least the weight of child’s corpse. She ought to have been crushed by the weight upon her yet she carried the load as if it were nothing but sticks and straw.

“Where did you hide the broom, witch?” Fell asked.

“Maybe it’s up your bunghole,” Thessaly taunted.

The broom was her power and Fell feared it – although he knew that he shouldn’t have. It was just a thing of woven willow. His grand-nanny swept the pine boards of her cabin daily with just such a broom and she certainly wasn’t a witch.

Was she?

He bent for another stone.

Thessaly spat in his face. “Bury that, god kisser.”

He dropped the fourteenth stone upon her. It made a hard sound, like she had stared too long at the Gorgon. He grunted at the effort and she laughed at his strain – which stung his pride hard.

“You must pay for your crimes against God and this community,” Fell said.

Thessaly snorted. It wasn’t any kind of human sound. Her snort sounded like a boar in rut.

“What I pay for is refusing to give you my land,” she pointed out, as the wind rattled the grass. “What I pay for is witching your field in return for your greed. I pay for your cattle that ate the gray grass. Happiest of all, I pay for your daughter, Fell.”

Eliza.

Damn it.

Fell could still taste the smell of the dead meat festering in the back of his sinuses. He’d put down the last tainted beast this morning. He’d beat it square in the skull with his best chopping axe. The metal of the blade had chewed into the bone and stuck hard. He’d had to put his left boot against the cow’s forehead and lean back to work the axe loose. The unholy cattle hadn’t moved, not one of them. Even after he’d cut the first two down. They just stood there in his field, the wind making slow soft harp sounds blowing through their gray rattled guts.

He had put his daughter Eliza down before he had started with the cattle. Then he burned what was left of her and buried her ashes in the field.

The husk that he had burned and buried wouldn’t have nourished a worm.

“Was the milk tasty, Fell?” Thessaly taunted him. “Did young Eliza find it sweet?”

“Witch!” Fell hissed.

He snatched up a skull-sized rock scraping his hand against the rough granite and marking it with his own blood. He would match his stone and his blood against hers, he fiercely swore.

But first he had to know.

“Where did you hide the broom?”

“Closer than you imagine.”

She spat again. The phlegm spattered the grass. The wind blew a little harder as Fell flung the stone. The granite chipped and sparked upon her flesh.

The farmer in Fell’s soul feared a run of wildfire. A spark could easily rise up in dry times like this and tear through an entire countryside.

“I’ll curse you Fell. I’ll curse you and all those who stand with you.” the old woman began to chant. “Merry through the prickle bush, the gore bush, the hump; careful round the holly fall, she’ll catch your shadow hold…,”

The onlookers stiffened like a pack of wintered over scarecrows. Fear, or something darker, rooted their feet to the earth. Fell stumbled back from the pit. The wind stiffened and gusted as Thessaly laughed all the harder.

“Our father,” Fell began to pray. “Protect us from this harridan’s evil spells.”

Thessaly continued to laugh.

“It is no spell, you fool. It is nothing more than a children’s rhyme, Fell. It was only a nursery rhyme. Maybe I wasn’t witching your field. Maybe I was merely waving my broom at a thieving crow.”

Did she speak the truth?

Fell smothered his doubt.

Thessaly Cross had killed Eliza and Abraham Fell would not rest until he saw the witch finally dead.

He knelt down and caught hold of the next stone.

Only she wouldn’t stay quiet.

“Witches don’t curse, Fell. Only men curse,” Thessaly ranted. “They curse themselves and their pitiful lot.”

“You lie,” Fell said, working the stone free

“Truth! I tell truth. Witches dance in easy circles. We follow the rhythms of time and tide and the wind that washes the earth’s bones dry.”

The wind howled. A tangled snare of root rammed through the dirt. Fell stepped back too late. The root twisted like a snake. It snared Fell’s wrists and held him fast.

“Witches plant what men water with tears,” Thessaly shrieked. “Witches sow the sorrow men must reap. Know this, Fell. When you harm a witch you plant a grudge as old as regret.”

Fell tugged against the root. From the corner of his eye he saw the rest of the townsfolk, snared like screaming rabbits.

“I have you Fell. I have you all. Now you will see what a witched field really is.”

Thessaly set the field to work.

She stirred dead grass into unholy life. The strands and stalks whirred like a wind of teeth, slicing through men and women who tried too late to run away.

The first man died in mid-scream, as a gust of grass harrowed the meat from his bones. A root, flung like a dirty javelin, impaled a second man. A third went down beneath an airborne avalanche of fieldstone.

The wind grew gray with dust, straw and flesh. The earth opened in great cratered swallowing mouths. The townsfolk all died screaming.

Only Fell remained.

He stared at the carnage, as helpless as a snared rabbit.

“Witches sow, Fell. Witches sow and men must reap.”

She raised her hands.

He saw gray dirt imbedded beneath her fingernails.

“Shall I tell you where I have hid my broom, Fell? Have you guessed? Do you really want to know? I buried it in your very own field.”

The broom rose straight up from the earth’s dirty womb, not more than an arm’s reach from Fell.

“I and my broom will wait for you, Fell. We will wait for you like a seed waits for rain. Live with this. I have taken every one you know, but I let you live to breed. I let you live with the knowledge that one day I will return to visit your descendants.”

Fell braced his feet in the dirt. He prayed for the strength of Samson. He fought against the root.

“Now I will show you how to bury a witch,” she crowed.

She hugged herself as if hugging an unseen lover. The earth moved in reply as a thousand rocks flew from the flesh of the field and hovered above her homemade grave. Fell tore his wrists from the shackle of root.

He felt the skin rip from his bones.

“No descendants! No curse! Today we die together,” he howled.

He uprooted the broom with his freshly skinned hands. He threw himself down upon her. His momentum drove the broom handle straight through her heart. A gout of stinking blood splashed his face.

The willow twig head of the broom stood out in all directions like an angry star. Fell saw the flash of tiny unimaginable teeth grinning from the end of each writhing twig.

Then the broom took him.

It ate at his face like his skin was nothing more than apple rind. He felt the white-hot twig-worms gnaw his features. He felt them tear and burn through the bowl of his skull. They crawled into the jelly of his brain and nibbled at his thoughts.

He had time for one last scream.

The broom ate that as well. It swallowed each morsel of Abraham Fell’s pain and terror as it dragged him deeper down into the hole with the witch. The rocks poised above them like a pair of hands, ready to applaud. Thessaly pushed him from her. She nearly pushed him from the grave.

“Live, Fell. Let the meat grow back upon your opened skull. Crawl back from the brink of death. My curse shall stand. This earth grows too cold for me. I will wait for you and your descendants in the belly of hell.”

“No!” Fell pushed back down upon her. “The curse ends here.”

He shoved forward. He felt the broom slide and suck through the cage of his ribs. He pushed himself closer, impaling himself on the broom handle. The willow wood splintered inside him. It nailed him to Thessaly’s twisting frame. He felt her bones wiggling beneath her meat like worms in the dirt.

She nearly slipped free.

He bit her lip, tearing grayish meat. The pain racked her concentration. She let her spell and the rocks above them drop. The grave, the broom, the witch and Fell were sealed in completely.

For a long time, nothing moved.

The moon rose like a slow ghost, lanterning down upon the butcher field.

A small gray form pushed from the rocky grave. The gray hairless skin glistened beneath the cool wash of moonlight, like the hide of a stillborn rat.

It crawled away into the darkness that surrounded the field.

A lone owl hooted remorselessly.

…soooon…

*************

CHAPTER ONE – Three Hundred Years Later

* 1 *
I’m going to die, Maddy thought.

And the whole thing is all my fault.

She stared at her reflection in the dark kitchen window and her dead mother’s eyes stared back at her. There was a question asked in those ghost window eyes.

What are you going to do now, girl?

Maddy couldn’t say.

Vic stood in the center of the kitchen, waving his arms like a one-man windmill. Zigger slunk beneath his feet, gazing up with eyes pale as rotted moons, hoping to be fed.

Again.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Vic yelled.

Maddy felt her bones reaching down through the floorboards into the Nova Scotian dirt. She felt her bones take root, going to seed. What had she been thinking? She should have run a half a dozen years ago.

Now she was trapped.

Just like her mother.

Vic kept on yelling, one of the only things he was good at. “I come home a little late and you do a thing like this. What were you thinking?”

Maddy didn’t regret what she’d done, just doing it so stupidly. She’d been angry. She should’ve known there’d be trouble. She told herself that she needed to keep just as calm as possible.

She watched her reflection as she answered.

“A little late? It’s nearly midnight. You could have phoned.”

“The payphone at Benson’s was broke. Somebody buried a goddamn slug in it.”

Vic always had a ready lie. Lord but she was tired of it. She was tired of a lot of things. Marriage with Vic had started out fun, but fun changed fast. Vic grew mean just as soon as he had his cubic zirconium leash planted on her finger.

“You weren’t at Benson’s,” Maddy said. “You were at the tavern, spending your pay check. You probably danced yourself a couple of go-rounds with the shortest skirt in the place, I bet.”

Vic grinned, knowingly.

He was such a total bastard.

He didn’t even try to hide it.

“A man’s got a right to relax. Besides, I was at Benson’s, having a cup of coffee.”

She was tired of arguing, but what else could she do? Divorce him? She couldn’t expect any alimony. Vic would just laugh and drive away and that would be that – which would leave her on meant welfare.

No way.

She’d be cold in the ground before she’d lean on the dole.

“I smell bourbon,” she remarked and instantly regretted it.

Vic’s eyes flattened like slices of cut glass.

Maddy had just stepped over the line.

“Maybe your nose is broke and you smell things wrong,” he suggested. “It could happen.”

Stupid. She hadn’t planned to make him angry. She should have stopped right then and there – only she didn’t feel like stopping.

She made herself loose and ready to duck.

She usually could dodge the first couple of swings.

“You could have phoned,” she argued. “It’s a public restaurant. You could have asked Jack to use the counter phone. He wouldn’t have minded.”

Vic bulldozed straight through her argument. “Don’t talk goddamn foolishness, girl. Jack Benson never lets anyone use that phone, not unless the kitchen was burning down.”

“You could have tried.”

“Never you mind. Me being late is no excuse to do what you done.”

“It had gone cold,” she explained for the dozenth time.

“Well what’s a microwave for?”

“The microwave was broke, just the same as the pay phone.”

He nearly laughed. It was too bad he didn’t. It would have been over but out of the blue old Zigger started to bark. Vic booted the hound square in the ribs. The dog yelped in protest.

“Shut up hound.”

Kicking the dog should have cooled him down only Vic never worked that way. A little violence stirred him up like a poker shoved in a fire.

“I just need to know what you were thinking,” he asked, coming back to his anger like a dog after a bone. “Doing a thing like that.”

“It went cold,” she repeated. “It went cold, I was tired and it was near midnight.

The dog needed feeding. If you’d put some dog food in the house like I asked, I wouldn’t have had to give him yours.”

“There was a hockey game on,” Vic argued. “Can’t you understand?”

His voice rose at the last like a hurt little boy. Maddy nearly laughed. He was just so dense. He couldn’t realize what an absolute shithead he was being. She nearly laughed, but laughter right now would have been too much like asking for it.

She wasn’t suicidal.

Not yet.

She tried to make peace.

“Look Vic, there’s a stick of salami in the fridge if you want. Some pickles and relish if you’d like. I’d be glad to fry you up a couple of slices and make you a sandwich of it.”

“I don’t want no stinking salami and I’m sick to death of your preserves. I want my supper, damn it, and I want it now.”

From beneath the table’s safety, Zigger barked again. He was always going off, ever since his eyes went. His baying bounced off the ratty gray walls of the kitchen until it seemed the plaster would shatter.

“Quiet!” Vic yelled, kicking at the table and the dog beneath it.

Don’t let him get you going, she told herself, but there was something growing inside her and getting bigger as every moment slipped by.

“So I thought,” Maddy started, still trying to figure how to change the subject.

That instant of lapsed attention was all Vic needed. He grabbed her by the chin and twisted her face around to meet his gaze.

“Thought what Maddy? What did you think? What have you ever thought in your godforsaken life?”

He pushed his face close to her, looming over her. He really didn’t need to. Vic was large all over, a totem of a man, all forehead and chin framed in a thicket of dark tangled hair. It made Maddy feel small, just standing next to him. It was a kind of slow erosion working away deep in her soul. Every year Vic made her feel a little bit smaller, like he was whittling her down until she was nothing but a shadow.

Some days she felt like she was nothing more than a puppet, dancing on his strings.

“If you learned how to think, then I sure want to know about it.” Vic went on.

The thing got bigger inside her. Every breath cut like a fish knife, her heart banged like a crazy drummer. It’s a heart attack, she thought. I’m having a heart attack.

“Maddy? Are you listening to me?”

Oh god I’m glad it’s over. He can bury me where ever he wants to.

I don’t care.

Zigger bayed and skittered across the tile floor.

“Shut up hound,” Vic snarled. “It’s bad enough you ate my goddamn supper.”

Maddy squeezed her eyes shut. She felt a burst of blue light open like fireworks going off inside her skull.

Oh god.

It’s a stroke, she thought. A stroke or a heart attack or maybe some sort of aneurysm.

Whatever it was it couldn’t be any worse than life with Vic.

Just then Vic snapped his fingers a half inch from Maddy’s eyes, calling her back from the brink of her imagined death.

“Hey!” he shouted.

Maddy opened her eyes, startled to attention.

“Are you listening?”

She stared. It wasn’t a heart attack, but it sure was something. A blue dot of light popped open in front of Vic’s chest. Maddy knew that the blue light had to have come from somewhere inside her. It wasn’t anything she thought. It was more something that she just felt.

The dot hovered over Vic’s heart, flickering like a blue firefly.

“Well?”

She saw her chance and she took it.

“It went cold, Vic. Your supper went cold and the pork chops were greasy and I figured you were out at Benson’s and it’s a restaurant so you must have had yourself some supper, now didn’t you?”

The cavalry rode in just that quickly. She shifted the blame to him. She put him on the defensive. It would work. She had trapped him in his lie and made him feel like he had to hide the whole thing.

She’d beaten him again.

She didn’t care. She didn’t even notice, not really.

She was too busy staring at that blue light, wondering just what it was. Maybe the light wasn’t from her. Maybe it was something else. One of those laser gun sights you saw in movies. What if there was a sniper out in the darkness of the field, taking aim on the kitchen? Getting ready to fire? Would it bother her, watching Vic get shot to pieces?

She decided to wait and see.

“Are you listening to me, girl?”

She nodded vaguely, entranced by the blue dot.

Vic rolled his eyes in disgust. “Wake up, hay-for-brains! Jesus Christ, you look like some kind of sleepwalker. Are you listening, hey?”

“I’m listening, Vic.”

Only she wasn’t listening at all. She hadn’t been for years. Vic just had nothing new to say. As far as their marriage went he had stopped growing a long time ago.

The blue light widened. It was like staring at her Daddy’s old television set, turning off in reverse.

“You ain’t listening. Christ. For the life of me I don’t know why I ever married you. Your Daddy was right, you know. You’re stupid and ugly.”

That hurt.

“I ain’t ugly, Vic. Maybe I’m stupid, but I sure ain’t ugly.”

It was true. Maddy was always pretty. No movie star, mind you. She was a tough sort of pretty like a country weed in full bloom. Straw blonde hair, straight as a beggar could spit – with eyes that her Daddy used to call cornflower blue. A little gopher bump on the bridge of her nose, hooked down like a river running around a bend. Thin in the flanks from work and worry, but living with Vic would do that to any woman.

“You’re skinnier than a bean pole, and if them tits get any closer to the ground they’ll leave skid marks where you walk.”

That was a cruel truth. Maddy’s knockers crept closer to her stomach every year. They nearly hid the row of five tiny circular scars Vic called her rib holes. But what could she do about that?

Nail them up?

“It’s the law of gravity, Vic.” she explained. “Sooner or later we all fall down. I can’t help that. Nothing but trouble ever comes back up.”

She stared at the blue dot, watching it grow. Vic didn’t seem to notice the blue light at all, no matter how large it got. The dot started changing like it was taking shape.

“There you go again,” Vic complained. “If you did some work around here instead of daydreaming, I might come home in a whole lot nicer mood.”

That was a bold lie. Vic didn’t know how to be in a good mood unless he was drunk and even that wasn’t any kind of a guarantee.

The blue shape grew into a form. It looked like some kind of rag doll, getting bigger all the time. Vic thumped the pine table for emphasis. The salt and pepper shakers shivered in their wooden box.

Maddy didn’t notice.

She was too busy staring at the hovering blue image directly between her and Vic.

The hovering blue image of her long dead father.

“How long are you going to let this skid mark with legs get away with that kind of crap?” Maddy’s dead father asked.

* 2 *
Helliard Jolleen drove a Mercury, just the same as his Daddy did. Two shades of red sprayed across a patchy rusted skin of red brown primer. Duane called it Martian camouflage. Helliard liked to think of it as something more like flames or blood.

Today it was both flames AND blood.

Helliard was certain of one thing.

Something his Daddy had told him a long time ago.

“Death is all around you boy. It’s just waiting around the next corner to jump you when you least expect it. Believe in that, and you’ll grow strong. The first thing you got to do is learn not to fear death.”

Helliard’s daddy, who had once picked steel guitar with Hank Snow and could shoot the pussy out of a pregnant flea, taught Helliard rhythm and how to kill.

“So long as you are alive, Helliard, you got to fight, eh? Now most folk, they say fight, they mean hit. I don’t mean hit. Hitting is for playground sisters. When I say fight, I mean kill. The man who goes into a fight ready to kill, he cannot be beat. So you got to learn to kill. And killing is just like a country song. It’s got a rhythm, easy as breathing, easy as dancing, whether you shoot them, knife them, or just beat them to flathead hell.”

It was daddy’s truth and a goddamn lie.

Helliard knew that now, for sure.

Damn it!

He swerved the red Mercury, tumbling half of Duane Telford’s potato chips down his beard.

“Goddamn it Helliard!” Duane swore, while trying to stuff the rest of the chips into his mouth. “Are you trying to kill a man?”

Duane was a fat useless fuck. Ordinarily Helliard wouldn’t have paid him any mind. Only today, after visiting that hospital Helliard felt a long way west of ordinary.

“Shut the fuck up, Duane. You eat too much anyway. That stomach is going to be the death of you yet, I swear.”

Helliard shoved a lock of red hair from out of his eye. The hair was another gift from Daddy. He claimed it was the Joleen temper bleeding out.

“Goddamn it Helliard. Ever since you come from that hospital you’ve been acting meaner than a rusty meat axe. What the hell’s got into you anyway?”

Helliard thought about the hospital. He thought about his Daddy. He thought about what he’d been afraid to do.

He couldn’t deal with any of it.

“Shut the fuck up before I kick your ass through your teeth, Duane.”

“Well goddamn it Helly, you made me spill most of my potato chippies,” Duane complained, picking and nibbling the larger crumbs from his beard.

“Chips, Duane. Not chippies. They’re called chips. Besides, you eat too fucking much.”

“I’m growing,” Duane said.

“You’re growing on my fucking nerves is what you’re doing. Now shut the goddamn fuck up, eh?”

Duane shut up. People always shut up when Helliard said to, because Helliard was a tough fucker.

Yeah, right.

He slid an Export-A cigarette out of the pack in his shirt pocket. He snapped open his Zippo lighter and sparked flame without missing a beat. That was the way Helliard liked to do things – smooth and tough, without thinking at all.
Only right now he didn’t feel so tough. Not after seeing his Daddy in the hospital bed with no more meat on his bones than a stick of kindling. Not after the way Daddy had stared at him, begging with his eyes for Helliard to find the guts to take Big Fuck and….

“Fucking cancer.”

A growth, his Daddy had called it.Like it was some kind of fucking weed.

“Jesus.”

Daddy gave him the lighter on his twelfth birthday. It was supposed to be right from World War II. The lighter had some writing on it. The writing said – SO SHALL YOU REAP in big fancy letters, all hooks and knobs that reminded him of meat hooks hanging in a slaughter house. Antique or not, the lighter worked damn good.

It lit the first time, every time.

None of that plastic butane shit for Helliard.

He puffed in a long hot drag and sparked up a couple of coughs to clear the air track. He ought to give this shit up. It was smoke that killed his Daddy. Sooner or later old man tobacco-weed would let Helliard know his bill was long past due.

Fuck it.

He puffed again. He blew the smoke at Duane for the hell of it.

“Horseshit, Helly!”

The doctor gave Daddy three months to live. He said Helliard ought to stick around to sort of keep an eye on things.

Like hell.

Sticking around, watching a man die, that was too much like sticking around to watch your house burn down after the oil tank lit off kiddle-tee-boom.

Helliard tucked the lighter back in his pocket. He touched the gun, jammed in his black leather belt. It was a big old Ruger Blackhawk. Way too much gun is what his Daddy called it, but Helliard called the gun Big Fuck, because it made a big fucking mess of whatever it shot. It could put a hole through a man large enough to reach your fist clear through.

He knew that for an honest fact.

The pistol wasn’t legal in Canada, but God bless the U-S-A-holes. Helliard’s Daddy drove it up over the border, tucked in the bottom of a welded over gas tank. He gave it to Helliard as a thirteenth birthday present. Since then Helliard had shot more men dead than he had fingers and toes to count on. And that was counting his extra little toe.

Mind you, Helliard didn’t shoot nobody he knew. That’d leave way too much motive hanging out there in the wind for some lawman to catch hold, like the tail of a kite. No sir, the only people Helliard shot were strangers he met on the road. He buried them deep in the woods a mile out past the town.

Yes sir, Helliard was a real bad fucker.

“Yeah right, goddamn it,” he muttered. “A real bad gutless fucker.”

Helliard felt Duane eyeing him like he wanted something.

“We need some pop, Helly. Some Pepsi.”

Helliard glared at him.

Duane shook the Pepsi can meaningfully.

“Yeah, damn it. I’m dry to,” Helliard admitted. “There’s a Night Owl up the road.

We’ll pick up some Coke there. Pepsi is nothing but piss water.”

“I ain’t got any money,” Duane said.

Helliard rubbed the butt of his pistol like it was a woman’s tit.

“Don’t need any,” he said

And he didn’t.

* 3 *
Maddy didn’t get it. There was Daddy, just as big as television. Skinny as a starved rake with that goatish half beard he grew because he’d always been too lazy to shave.

Only he was blue.

He was blue, and he was talking to her.

“I raised you better than this, girl.” Bluedaddy said.

She’d gone crazy.

That was it.

She’d gone absolutely nuts. Daddy was dead and buried. She ought to know. Yet there he was. Was, and wasn’t. He wasn’t more than a tattery blue silhouette, like the light that tatters about a dead stick in a fireplace, just before it bursts into flame. He was Bluedaddy – that’s what he was – glowing like a dime store glow in the dark dashboard Jesus.

“What are you staring at?” Vic asked. “Have your eyes gone buggy?”

Bluedaddy just stood there straight in front of Vic, grinning like a bastard at the tit. She could hear his grinning somewhere deep inside the plates of her skull, humming like the twanging of a guitar string.

Only Vic couldn’t see a thing.

“I asked you a question, girl.” Vic said.

Bluedaddy jerked a crackling blue thumb in Vic’s direction.

“He asked you a question, girl.”

“You’re dead,” Maddy whispered.

“You ought to know,” Bluedaddy replied. “You’re the one who buried me.”

Vic looked confused. It suited him.

“Don’t you be threatening me now,” he warned her. “You’re the only one who’s going to be doing the dying around here Maddy. The only dead I am is dead tired. Dead hungry too. Fry me some eggs, damn it.”

Bluedaddy’s grin danced in the air in front of his mouth like fairy light in a haunted swamp. She could hear the old bastard’s grin buzzing just behind her left ear, like a hive full of crazy bees.

“Are you listening?” Vic asked.

He got tired of waiting. As quick as you could say stick he backed his right hand hard against her cheek.

“Wake up,” he said. “And fry me them eggs.”

He plunked himself down at the big kitchen table. He faced away from Maddy, like she wasn’t worth worrying about.

“Why don’t you kill him?” Bluedaddy asked. “You sure as hell know how to.”

“Why?” Maddy asked.

“Because I’m hungry!” Vic shouted. “Because I fucking told you, that’s why.”

Bluedaddy grinned even harder.

“Because I told you to,” Bluedaddy repeated.

Maddy grabbed her fry pan. She gave it a half twirl to spill any dust that might have grown overnight. She hadn’t stood griddle at a half dozen Halifax greasy spoons for nothing. In a minute she’d have the pan on the burner, the eggs cracked and sizzling.

“Get to them eggs, girl.” Bluedaddy commanded. “Your man has spoken.”

That stopped her.

Those last four words told her that this was her Daddy and not just some figment of her imagination. Your man has spoken. The same four words he’d said to Maddy’s mother more times than Maddy could count. The last four words he ever said.

Your man has spoken.

Maddy opened her mouth and three more words fell out.

“Make them yourself.”

The hell of it was she wasn’t even sure who she was speaking to. Vic knew though. At least he figured he did.

“Are you looking for a pair of homemade sunglasses, Maddy my girl?” he asked, without even bothering to turn around.

He’d do it.

It wouldn’t be the first time he’d blacked her eyes.

“Well?” he asked.

Maddy stared at the homespun wall of Vic’s back.

“I’m waiting,” he said.

She swung the pan over her head like a kindling hatchet and brought it down into Vic’s skull.

He hit the table face first. His hands pancaked out to break his fall but that was only reflexes talking. He was deader than Jesus’s dog, long before he hit the table. The impact launched the salt shaker into flight. It landed with a clatter, spilling salt on the floor. Hell, she thought, spilled salt’s bad luck. She had better throw some over my shoulder.

She stood there trying to remember which shoulder she was supposed to throw it over.

Vic’s brains began to spread like spilled porridge.

Maddy forgot about the salt.

She grabbed for a napkin to blot the mess.

Then realization hit.

She stared at what she had gone and done.

Then she smiled.

“How do you like those eggs, Vic?” she softly asked.

Bluedaddy smiled too.

For some reason he was holding a gray willow broom – kind of like her granny used to use. He passed the teeth of the broom through Vic’s skull. As the broom touched the skull the air crackled like a hairbrush on a dry winter morning.

“It’s time to clean up, Maddy,” Bluedaddy told her. “It’s time to clean up all of the old messes.”

Maddy nodded.

She let out a long slow sigh.

She thought it was over.

It wasn’t.

Because a few days later, just like Jesus, Vic rose up


Whew.

That’s a big old blog entry. The little hamster that runs the WordPress mechanism probably lost about three or four ounces of belly fat pedalling that wheel around.

NOW – for those of you folks who HAVE made it all the way down this far – here’s a bonus.

One of my favorite Friday The 13th television episodes.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Camp NaNoWriMo – a wrap-up

Those folks who were wondering how I wound up with Camp NaNoWriMo will glad to hear that I finished my novel by the last day of July with a total of 51,700 words.

I have begun the revisions and clean-up within the next couple of weeks.

In the meantime I have begun work upon my next project – a paranormal romance entitled LADY MACBETH AND THE KELPIE.

Or at least that’s the working title for now.

🙂

**********************

In a recent blog I lamented the loss of the Canadian penny – which has gone and died and gone to copper heaven some time ago – thanks to the Canadian Mint who decided that a penny was just too darned expensive.

I rolled most of my pennies and traded them in at the bank but I’m holding a few back for next summer’s gardening season.

Here’s why.

If you salt the ground with pennies early in the season it will keep away slugs. They don’t like the taste of all of that metal.

Apparently you can use them to turn your hydrangeas blue, as well, if you liberally plant your pennies close to the hydrangea bush’s root system.

There is also the remote possibility that by planting those pennies I might actually grow me a money tree.

🙂

Slug of Something or Otheryours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

And, if any of you folks would like to send me a few pennies – why don’t you do that electronically by picking up a Kindle copy of my latest short story collection DO-OVERS AND DETOURS.

With 18 of my favorite stories you are bound to find something you like and at 99 cents it won’t hurt your wallet very much – but I warn you – I do not accept any slugs.

🙂

Writers – Listen To What You Are Really Saying…

Keep Calm and Shut The Hell Up!

I get asked an awful lot of questions.

Questions like – how can I build abs of steel like that six-pack that you have cleverly concealed beneath your size 42 waistline?

Questions like – how can I sing so I sound as good as you think you sound when you are singing in the shower and nobody is listening?

But mostly I get asked about writing.

Mind you, I would not call myself an expert by any means – but I have about 40 years of experience in the profession and I have learned a few tricks along the way.

Just the other day somebody asked me if I had any advice about word tenses? The person who asked me was having problems switching from present to past tense and found it hard to know if  they were doing it right or wrong.

First off, I told them to find themselves a good editor.

No, I cannot recommend one – nor even afford one myself – but a writer – especially an indie writer – should DEFINITELY get someone else to go over their work for them.

I constantly run into this tense problem myself – partly because I am often writing a manuscript in short and varied writing sessions – and partly because I have a very free and casual kind of relationship with the English language.

That’s right.

I said it.

Me and the English language have a kind of OPEN relationship.

English understands how it is for me.

Nobody else can understand me – but English sure seems to – or at least that’s how I tell the story.

But what about if you CAN’T afford an editor and none of your friends are smart enough to do the job for you.

That’s not to say that you have dumb friends – but who in their right mind would ever want a writer for a friend anyway? The bastards never talk to you, they are always making things up behind your back and chances are they don’t have two cents to rub together.

(mind you, I’m from Canada – and we gave up our cents some time ago)

To all those writers who are broke like me – just try sitting down and reading your work aloud! Right out loud – and make it a point to LISTEN to yourself as you read. You will catch more goofs that way than through any other technique I can think of.

I absolutely LOVE this technique.

In fact my wife often tells me that I most likely invented this technique because I NEVER get tired of hearing myself talk.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

Day 30 at Camp NaNoWriMo – Ride Out With Me

Helms Deep

I started this morning at 43500 words.

Which means I need 6500 words to reach my 50000 word goal – by the end of tomorrow.

What can one man do against so reckless odds?

Ride out with me.

Ride out wielding nouns and verbs to the left and the right of you. Ride out with me carrying whole sentences under your arms and paragraphs on your back and clenching a couple of critical transitions in your teeth.

Ride out with me and help me finish this book!

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon

PS: I am at 44,250 words as I type this. I probably shouldn’t have stopped long enough to bother with a blog today – but I wanted to make this gesture.

PPS – Getting ready for a short night shift – but I’ve reached the 46,500 word mark. Only 3500 more words to go by tomorrow midnight. Wish me luck.

Follow along with me and cheer me on if you like.

Day 21 at Camp NaNoWriMo – I Ain’t No Sissy-Wuss…

The original rock and roller…

I passed the 34000 word mark this weekend.

That is over 2/3 of the way through my 50000 word manuscript target.

This is the hard part of the storytelling. Like Sisyphus, I have been pushing this rock up that hill all month long and gravity and momentum and my aged sinew are all beginning to tell on me.

This is where the going gets tough.

This isn’t just about Camp NaNoWriMo.

This is about novel writing in general. You line up any ten people at a writers convention and at least half of them have about twelve unfinished novels sitting up in a pyramid of shoeboxes scrawled on fistfuls of yellowed foolscap with a little sticky note on top of each of those shoeboxes reading – I GOT TO GET ROUND TO THIS ONE OF THESE DAYS!

Round TuitBut this isn’t just about novel writing, either.

Any damn thing that you have been MEANING to get around to doing – go and do it now.

Fuck the bucket list.

Make your dreams a reality now.

Start small. Run to big. Huge is going to happen.

Write that novel.

Say those words you mean to say to that person you mean to say.

Do it now!

Get your ass to the gym.

Mow the lawn.

Climb Mount Everest, bare naked, yodelling, in grease paint!

Don’t be a Sissy-Wuss!

yours in storytelling

Steve Vernon

PS – I just hit the 35000 word mark. I’m behind on my quota. The rock is getting heavier but I am going to lean on in and look for an elevator.

You can follow my progress over at Camp NaNoWriMo, if you’d like.