Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spambox Sunday: Shame on the Seek Engines


So a few anonymous British massage parlors and a Google Translate nightmare ended up on my Today's Spotlight: Finishing Touches post over the last couple weeks. Enjoy the following from my anonymous friends:


I.
You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post. I’ll try to get the hang of it!

I can't wait. Good luck.

II.
Great work! That is the type of information that are meant to be shared around the web. Shame on the seek engines for now not positioning this submit upper! Come on over and consult with my website. Thank you. =)

No. Thank you. SHAME ON SEEK ENGINES! 

III.
This paragraph provides clear idea for the new people of blogging, that genuinely how to do blogging. Here is my blog post

So glad I can help...?

IV.
I feel that is one of the most important information for me. And I am happy reading your article. But wanna remark on few basic issues. The web site taste is perfect. The articles is truly great : D. Excellent task, cheers.

I achieved web taste! I will be the envy of all! 


V.
Very great post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have truly loved surfing around your blog posts. In any case I will be subscribing for your rss feed and I hope you write again very soon!

Ah, thanks! I always look forward to your comments.

VI.
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Well, hey, points for honesty.

VII.
Hello. I think you blog might be having browser compatibility issues. When I look at your blog in Opera, it looks fine but when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Other then that, terrific blog!

Hmm. I have had this issue before. I'll check the Explorer for peanut butter.

VIII.
Peculiar article, totally what I wanted to find.


I can be peculiar.


And last but not least:

IX.
Odtuz chwilowki oroEz my page procent chwilowki ktory

Google Translate hinted at Polish, turned inside out, and exploded. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ten Chapters, Terrible Minds

Back again to Chuck Wendig and his blog over at Terrible Minds. I enjoyed this week's challenge. We get the standard thousand words, but there's a catch. Those thousand words need to be divided into ten chapters.

I've been wanting to write a story for a while that includes a Kelpie. I decided this would be the challenge for a Kelpie Story. When I sat down to write this, I expected to struggle with the word count and chapter breaks the most, but I almost found it easier than to write a straight, no-chapters short story. So now I pass it on to you. How did I do?



I offer this response:  The Forest of Shadows


I.
The woods lacked the sun's warming grace. Estlyn glanced over his shoulder as a flock of sparrows flushed from the undergrowth, gripping the hilt of his dagger in readiness, and heaved a sigh when a stag emerged. Estlyn rubbed his eyes and wondered if his fears were unfounded. No sane man stepped foot in the Forest of Shadows. It was a good place to get lost, and a horrible place to die.

And he was already lost.


II.
Hedwise stepped from the carriage and stretched. “That’s far enough, m’Lady,” Ogive said. “We are on the Forest Road. There are dangers here.”

Hedwise obeyed with reluctance, peering through the undergrowth into the darkness. “I thought I saw something.”

Ogive pulled her back towards the carriage. “Please. Your father will take my head if we don’t deliver you to your wedding.”

“A small delay won’t start a war, Ogive.” Hedwise didn’t believe the tales of the Forest of Shadows, where evil thrived and twisted trees blocked out the sun. Still, with strange noises rattling on the wind, perhaps it wise not to test Fate.


III.
The throne appeared red in the window's light, a bad omen. Ayman looked to the foul-tempered king and braced for the worst.

The king paced. “I’ve a mind to try him for treason when we find him.”

“We tracked him to the Forest of Shadows, Sire.” The guard shifted his weight. “He’s as good as dead. The devil is in those woods.”

“A ghost story scares grown men from their duty to their king! You will enter those woods and you will drag my son back by his ears if need be, or I will have your heads on spikes!”

“Sire.” The guard spun about and hastened from the chamber.

Ayman genuflected. First a red throne, and now the crowned-prince running away on the day of his bride’s arrival…


IV.
Estlyn checked the water, suspicious. Although the water smelled clean, the pond’s surface failed to ripple at his touch. He struggled with his thirst but decided not to risk it.

In the center of the pond, a pale hand appeared and beckoned. Estlyn’s heart lodged in his throat.


V.
Ayman greeted the young Hedwise and her governess upon their arrival. “I’m afraid the king is engaged at present,” he apologized, “but I can answer any questions.”

“Grammercy.” Ogive made introductions. “The journey was exhausting, but uneventful.”

“You’ll want to freshen up. If you care to follow me, I’ll show you to your chambers.” Ayman bowed.

Hedwise stood fast. “I am a Countess in my own right. You will address me accordingly.”

Ayman gulped. The young countess would not be so easy to tame as the king thought. Could the day get any worse?


VI.
The hand belonged to a body clothed only in dripping water and bearing eyes that pierced Estlyn’s soul. “You disturbed my sanctuary.” She spoke in an ageless voice. “I demand the reason for your trespass. Your sacrifice will befit your sin.”

“Sacrifice?” He shivered. “Please, I meant no harm. It’s my wedding and my father—“

“I smell deceit. Betrayal. Treason.” She whispered these words and he felt the sting of them. “You have until the morrow. Mark your tribute, or I shall choose you.”


VII.
“I apologize for my son’s absence,” the king said.

Hedwise silenced her governess with a raised hand. “Your Majesty, I am still a babe to court politics, but it seems to me that a king should never apologize for another’s actions, especially if it is rare for him to apologize for actions of his own.”

A smile grew in the king’s expression. “My son could learn from your example. Your beauty, I fear, is wasted on him.”

“Where exactly would my betrothed be? Is he aware that he belittles our marriage contract?”

The king snorted. “Unlikely. He’s always been a contrary prince. My men place him in the Forest of Shadows.”

“Why would he go there?”

He rolled his eyes. “To be worthy of you.”


VIII.
The gate guards did not recognize Estlyn until he flashed his signet ring, but he didn’t blame them. If he looked as miserable as he felt…

He stumbled into the throne room, disappointed to see his bride speaking with his father. Her presence made what he had to do more difficult.

His father jumped from the throne. “You look…where have you been?”

“Majesty.” Estlyn bowed, addressing his bride. “M’Lady, my late arrival could not be helped, but I have procured a gift for you.”

His bride smiled. “A gift? From the woods?”

“A wild horse of such rare beauty, it should be yours.”

“Can I see it now?”

“It’ll be delivered on the morrow, m’Lady.”


IX.
Hedwise joined her betrothed and the king in the meadow beyond the castle gate, where a horse of rare beauty indeed drew near. The pale mare glistened as if wet. Hedwise felt the presence from the forest’s edge again.

Estlyn didn’t look at her. “Can you ride, m’Lady?”

Alarm shivered through her spine. “It is unseemly without a saddle, your Highness.”

The king stepped forward. “My son, you fool. You would give an unbroken horse to your bride?”

The prince placed a hand on his father’s shoulder. “But you are the finest horse trainer in the kingdom, Father. You will train her.”


X.
Estlyn watched, nervous, as his father mounted the bareback mare. She reared and stamped and the king gripped her mane.

His bride turned from the scene. “Please say you never meant that horse for me.”

He sank to his knees. “You know what she is?”

“I do. I didn’t believe…I’m the fool.”

“My father intended to impose First Night Rights. And he is the sort of man who breaks wild horses.” Estlyn kissed her fingers, fighting tears. “I couldn’t let him hurt you.”

The kelpie broke towards the forest; the king stuck and screaming the entire way.


“The King is dead,” Hedwise kissed Estlyn’s brow. “Long live the King.”


The End


Monday, March 17, 2014

My First Blog Tour!

The beautiful and talented Karen at Time Crafted invited me to be the next stop on the writer's blog tour.

I'm excited that she has confidence in me, but at the same time, I have no clue what I'm doing. But here we go!

The theme of this tour is the writing process. Four questions. Four answers. Starting in 5...4...3...

1. What am I working on?

I have several irons in the fire. The next scheduled project to finish is the next in my Trouble series. The Cold Side of Trouble is promised to be released this year and I'm a solid 10 chapters in. I'm also starting another series that is going to be more paranormal urban fantasy than mystery, my usual haunt. Not to mention a few short stories and a flash fiction piece for submission to Write on Edge's 3rd Precipice. And that's just stuff on the front burner. On the back burner? It's pretty hectic.


2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

If I start to compare my work with others, I'm going to get a healthy dose of insecurity. I don't know that my stories differ much from others of the genres they belong to. Other than telling the stories through my voice and vision, and I have a pretty unique view of the world, I don't know how to answer this one.

As far as genre though, I don't stick to one, even within a story. Elements of humor and paranormal and intrigue and history and present day weave through the words I write, but I try to let the characters drive their stories. I think that way, it keeps the situations pretty real, no matter how much fantasy I'm infusing into the plot.

3. Why do I write what I do

I write the stories I want to read, and because nothing beats the feeling of opening the box that UPS or FedEx delivers and finding a dead-tree print copy of a book with my name on it. It's happened to me twice now, and I'm addicted. So I will write and write until UPS and FedEx stop delivering.

4. How does your writing process work?

It doesn't. Not very well at any rate. I'm not nearly as focused as I should be. One thing though, I don't suffer writer's block. Maybe I get stuck in one  story I'm writing. That's okay, I've got others. I cycle through all my stories until I find one that inspires me to keep going. It's slower writing that way I think, and often counter productive, but it keeps me in the habit of writing every day. 

Editing and formatting? Completely different story. I'm aggressive as an editor and I love the process of formatting for publication. So much so, I'm happy to do it for anyone else. Hint, Hint, Wink, Wink, Nudge, Nudge, Say no more!


Thank you Karen, for letting me be a part of this tour. It was a ton of fun! The next steps of the tour have not yet responded to my emails, so until they do, I will give you over to others in the tour that you might have missed. 

Check out my fellow colleges:

Kirsten Piccini is a gorgeous, gorgeous woman with exceptional talent, and one of the few romance authors I follow. She weaves humor and passion like a master craftsman, and her road to successful publication began with the release of Precipice volume II last year. 

Cameron D Garriepy is a writer am I in constant envy of. She makes crafting setting and memorable characters look easy. Yup, I'm pretty green, but she gives me an ideal to aspire to. 

and stay tuned for more authors coming your way!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Tamsind Affair, Terrible Minds

Chuck Wendig is a writer I love to hate, or hate to love, or however the saying goes. I don't always agree with what he says, and I rarely agree with how he says it. In spite of this, I can't help but like him.

His blog over at Terrible Minds keeps me entertained, and while I use many of his weekly writing prompts to fuel my inner-muse, I don't always post and link-up. This week though, my piece feels polished enough to share.

Warning: This is the beginning of a story, not a complete story, but the seed of it has been floating around my mind for a while. Thank you Chuck for giving me the kick it needs.

We were given 1500 words this week, along with 2 lists of must-have choices. Follow the links for the original lists. I decided to go with 1. a mysterious picture, and 2. a pair of detectives. The result is my attempt at Raymond Chandler-esque noir.

I offer the following in response:

The Tamsind Affair
Chapter 1

The door opened and in walked a pair of forever legs and dangerous eyes. Gloved hands unclasped a beaded handbag and withdrew an old photograph from its shallow confines. She didn’t bother with introductions. The picture, she snapped on my desk. “My sister is missing, Mr. Bishop,” her voice was honey. “I am prepared to pay twice your standard fees to find her and bring her home.”

It was difficult to break away from her gaze. “Please have a seat, Miss – er?”

She didn’t sit. “There’s a substantial bonus in it if she returns in three days.”

My partner leaned against his desk, eager, no doubt salivating. I couldn’t blame him. We were three months behind in rent and owed twice that to our secretary. “A photograph isn’t much of a lead, Ma’am.”

She gaze twisted and her chin followed on delay. She lashed my partner with a sharp tongue. “I was not speaking to you, Mr. Pratt. Your opinion is unsolicited and not required.”

Her attention returned to me. I sighed and inspected the scene in the photograph. It was a high class studio print, a boudoir pose popular with gals sending cheer to their soldier boys. The subject looked sixteen, maybe, but worked a pout like she was born with it. She had the same pair of dangerous eyes partially obscured by a Veronica Lake hairstyle. Strategic shadows only just protected the girl's modesty, and I felt like a peeping tom. I returned Veronica to my desk. “No dice.”

The temperature dropped and the space between us iced over. “Mr. Bishop, if you’re expecting to haggle for better terms, I assure you—“

“No, your terms are acceptable. I said ‘no dice’ to the case, not the money.” My partner twitched. I shot him a look. The last thing I needed was for him to open his stupid mouth. Max Pratt was a fair detective, but a lousy partner, often reacting to situations with the wrong brain.

She sat, flipping her fox stole across her shoulder. “Very well, three times your standard fee.”

“Hold it, Max,” I held up a hand to the charging bull. “Lady, you can make it five times my standard fee or eighteen times my standard fee. The answer is still no.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re a liar.”

She flinched. Her sister’s pout graced her perfect mouth.

I had her attention now. I leaned forward. “Look, lady, I don’t trust you. Now, my partner, he doesn’t trust you either, but you’re offering us enough bread that he's itching to overlook his misgivings. But me, I'm not buying it, for any sum. I’d ask the real reason you walked through this door of all the doors in a city of private dicks, but you’re not the sort to give answers. I don’t think anyone has ever questioned you. I don’t think you’ve ever heard the word no either.”

Her cold expression had yet to melt. “So, I’m a liar and I’m spoiled. Is that all you’ve got?”

“No, but I wouldn’t want to wound your delicate ears.”

“Very well, Mr. Bishop. I will play your game. What is it I am lying to you about, I wonder? I don’t recall giving you details of any kind. Unless you believe she isn’t my sister.”

“No I see the family resemblance.” I reached for my pack of Lucky Strikes and lighter. “The lie is in the money. Your sister ain’t missing; you just don’t know where she is and she’s just not coming home. You need to someone -- maybe us, maybe your parents -- someone to believe that you love your sister. That you want her back. That you’re willing to do anything in your power to see her safe. The reality is, it really wouldn’t bother you to see her on a slab in the morgue. Am I warm?”

“Scorching.”

I paused to light a cigarette and savored the instant burn in my lungs. “That good family name you’re trying to protect isn’t helping either. It’s a big, rich, name. The sort of name that comes with well-known and very old and deep pockets. So you come to the wrong side of town, gambling that we don’t know who you are, so we can make discreet inquiries that don’t involve the police dragging their muddy boots through your rhododendrons.”

“Ah but there’s where you’ve slipped up,” she leaned forward and mocked a whisper behind her hand. “We wouldn’t dream of keeping rhododendrons.”

“Well, I am from South-Side, I wouldn’t know an orchid from an aphid.” I blew a ring of smoke towards the ceiling. Max gave me the evil eye. I could be mean, throw her to him, let him deal with the yes ma’amin’ that comes with the expensive zip code. “So, no thank you, Miss Tamsind. Since you let yourself in, I trust you can see yourself out.”

She smoldered, her ice exterior yielding to subtle cracks, “You know who I am.”

Max was impressed too: I felt the weight of his glare shift and he gaped like a codfish. “Not formally, no. I'm sure you're aware I don’t get many invitations to your kind of parties. I do, however, pay attention when Miss Brown reads the society page aloud in the mornings. Your engagement was announced last week, no the week before. And this week, a small, one-line correction to the wedding date, placing it further out. So, your fiancĂ© Michael, Michael, something two-faced ran off with your baby sister.”

Whether I was right or not, I struck a nerve. She rose and collected the photograph. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Bishop. I will not require your services after all.”

My under-paid, overworked secretary, Miss Betty Brown exploded through the door. “Yes! Mr. Bishop will take your case. And you needn’t worry about reputations. He’s the very soul of discretion.”

They usurped me, Max and Betty. I took a long drag out of irritation while Max and Betty renegotiated terms with Miss Gayle Tamsind. Miss Tamsind was of the Smithsfield Tamsinds that perched atop North Hill in their alabaster shrines to the gods of wealth and excess. The same Smithsfield Tamsinds that settled in Smithsfield two hundred years ago and made a fortune in textiles and tobacco. Miss Tamsind’s ancestral roots may have been populated with hard-working, blue-collar farmers, but the present day branches hadn't possessed calluses since the tree was planted. Smoke ring after smoke ring wisped to the ceiling while I simmered in my own skin. Max made a mistake of course. My gut told me there was a storm coming, and that this dame was more trouble than she was worth.

“One and a half times his usual fees,” I heard Miss Tamsind say. “And you can keep the photo. Unfortunately, the studio made several copies at Delilah’s instructions.”

“Delilah?” The name rang familiar.  I put my cig out in the ashtray, the set-up becoming clear. “Max, you’re a damn fool if you take this case.”

The comment earned me three extremely toxic looks.

I ignored them. After gumshoeing for a decade, I learned a few things about human nature. Poor girls ran from home hoping to find something better. Rich girls ran from home because they can’t wait to get anything worse. And if Delilah Tamsind was the Delilah Black that checked into Ricardo’s Club for Gentlemen last week, worse was exactly what Delilah was going to find. And what that meant for Michael Two-Face, the fiancĂ©-on-hold, I didn’t know, but I knew damn sure I didn’t want to find out. I rose and crossed the room to my coat rack to grab my hat and coat. Pushing by Betty, I called out over my shoulder, “Don’t forget to lock up.”

“Where are you going?” Betty followed me out to the closet-sized reception area. “Why are you being so beastly?”

I took her aside and whispered. “Listen Betty, Max and I are a great many things and none of them good. You're too good for us. I know we don’t deserve your loyalty. I’ll find some other way to pay you. I promise. Double even, what I owe you, but please get Max to see reason and drop this case. There’s no way this is going to play out to a happy ending.”

She folded her arms and squared off to me, her eyes narrowing behind her budget eye-wear. “This fear talking? This could open doors for us in the right society. You won't have to struggle anymore.”

I shook my head. “Gut instinct, Betty. That dame – this case, it’s trouble.”

"We need that money, Bish." Betty sighed, her chin drooping to her chest. "But all right. I’ll convince Max to drop the case.”


“Thanks, Bet.” I kissed her forehead. “Trust me. It’s for the best.”


Monday, February 17, 2014

Death and Taxes

Aspects of Independent Publishing part seven: Necessary Evils



There are only two certainties in life: Death and Taxes.


As we are in the throes of dying season and as tax season is come upon us, I feel now is a good a time as any to address the unpleasant stuff we, as individuals, don't want to face. We all know you can’t cheat Death, but the IRS believes everyone cheats with their taxes.

Before we go any further, I need to make it very clear that I am not, repeating for emphasis, I AM NOT ANY FORM OF A TAX EXPERT OR TAX PREPARATION PROFESSIONAL. I have a tax professional I employ for one very good reason: the IRS scares the jeebus out of me.

Don’t go to a baker for legal advice. Go see a lawyer.
Don’t go to a grocer for tax advice. Seek a tax expert.

How important is it for a self-published author to seek professional legal and tax advice?

If you’re asking that question, I’d say it was of tantamount importance, and there’s little my blog can offer you.

Shel, why are you bringing this up
if you’re not at least pretending to be an expert on this topic?

Because.

Listen, if your writing goals include the phrase “professional quality” at any stage, it behooves you to treat your writing career and your publishing career like businesses. All businesses have at least these three things in common: paperwork, liability, and fiscal responsibilities.

Get thee a business plan. Get thee a taxman. Get thee a lawyer.

Unpleasant Business #1: Business Plans


This is the one aspect that I’ve harped on about before, so I won’t spend a lot of time on it now. But. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. Scope out successful small businesses, not necessarily in the publishing world, and explore their practices. 
  • Adopt the practices that work for you, but above all that, establish a business plan. 
  • Keep it flexible enough to evolve with the times and the markets, but solid enough that you can follow it daily, weekly, monthly, and annually. If you’re a hybrid author, as in one who publishes traditionally as well as independently, you’ll want a plan in place for when your rights revert back to you. 
  • Keep in mind that overnight successes in the publishing world are far from it. There’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes, sometimes for years. When you ask your favorite indie author “how do you do it?” make sure you’re asking about their business practice as well as their creative process. Not everything they do will work for you, but it’s important to have a strong knowledge of the industry you’re in, about the players that make the system work for them and about the players who struggle while the system controls their product.


Unpleasant Business #2: Taxes


Taxes are necessary evils the world over. We are obligated, some of us even at a religious level, to “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s.” And no one likes an IRS audit. So, if you do nothing else professional in your writing career, at the very least, get thee a taxman.


Shel, we get it.
You’re not a tax professional.


So everybody's on the same page? Good. Let’s look at some of the ways we’re screwed we incur tax liability. And my apologies to my non-United-States readers, as an American, my scope of experience here is limited to the United States. 

Hobbyists vs. the Self-Employed


IRS definitions are found in the intent of your writing goals. Are you dabbling at writing, maybe offering most of your work for free, or entering the odd poetry competition like one enters their pie at a county fair? Or do you have plans to eventually quit your day job and make a living off of your writing alone?

Hobby: one cannot deduct against any income except the income from the hobby.

Say you publish a novel and you receive your 1099 from Amazon that states you earned $1000 for the year off of that novel. You go back through your saved receipts and you see that you shelled out $300 for a cover design, $400 for editing services, $125 for your ISBN, and $525 for a writer’s convention all-weekend workshop pass. You brought $1000 in and paid $1350 out. A hobbyist can only claim $1000 in loss against his income. The hobbyist cannot offset that remaining $350 against his day job income.

So, as a hobbyist, you cannot spend on your hobby more than you earn with your hobby, at least as far as the IRS is concerned.

However, if your writing is a business, you can probably include the $3000 you spent in airfare, hotel, and meals on top of that $525 workshop pass and get a business loss deduction of $3350.

Why is this loss important? It reduces your taxable income then, and therefore, your tax liability. And your tax liability, as a self-employed 1099 anything, is at least 30%. You don’t take those deductions, you owe $300 on that $1000, $150 of which YOU HAVE TO PAY NO MATTER WHAT.

Why? What is that $150?


It’s that pesky thing called a self-employment tax.

What?


Those of us who have ever lost a job, you know that COBRA letter that comes in the mail? You may have only been paying $150 a month for your health insurance while you were working, but under COBRA, you can continue to get your health insurance benefits at full price. So for a mere $800 a month, you can keep your medical benefits. I know, it’s a bad dream.

The self-employment tax is kinda the same thing. Okay, it's completely different, but bear with me here. As an employee at your day job, you are required to contribute a little over 7% to fund Medicare and Social Security and your employer matches that. The result is 15% to Medicare and Social Security. But, being self-employed, you are both your employee and your boss. You are liable for both halves. So, if your writing is a business, you should expect to pay $0.15 on every dollar you earn.

But that 15% is AFTER all your deductions. If you earn $1000, and can deduct $900 in losses, your taxable income is only $100, and at a 15% tax bracket + 15% self-employment tax, the final tax of $30 is much softer to your pocketbook than $300.

Watch it though. The IRS doesn’t like 5 consecutive years of business loss. They’ll suspect you’re hiding your hobby as a business, and will audit accordingly.

Unpleasant Business #3: Death


Even before you hit the publish button, you become a copyright holder. Current copyright law affords protection of your completed or in most cases incomplete work (this area is a little fuzzy for me so don’t quote me here and expect it to stick) whether said work is officially published or not, for your lifetime plus 70 years.

I’m repeating for emphasis: Your lifetime plus 70 years.

At the risk of sounding like a life insurance salesman, what do you have in place to help your loved ones manage your estate? Will your estate end up in probate and tie the hands of your heirs for years while the government tries to sort out the dotted Ts and the crossed Is?

We have a living trust, Shel.
Give us some credit.


Yea! Credit is given as credit is due. But just to make it clear for that someone who isn’t as prepared as you, let’s pretend we’re brand new at this.

A copyright isn’t a tangible thing, like a desk or a lamp. It’s more akin to an idea, and it has a life of its own, one that is guaranteed to outlive you by 70 years. It’s not something one can list among other tangible possessions.

To Aunt Petunia I bequeath 30 pairs of worn socks, my barbed-wire collection, all my copyrights, and the Phil Collins album of her choice from my personal record collection.

The government treats your literary and other creative endeavors differently than they do your barbed-wire collection. And you should, too.

Okay Shel,
what do you have against Aunt Petunia?


Wait, don’t get angry. Aunt Petunia could very well be the best bet for maintaining your literary estate. My suggestion though would be to ask your loved ones, all of them, who would be interested in fostering your writing after your untimely demise. Don’t just dump this responsibility on your kids or your cat because you think they should want the job, and don’t blindside them at the reading of the will either.

Ask them if they have the same vision with your writing that you do. Ask them if they know of an author who could finish a manuscript that you might leave unfinished. Ask them if they want to be in this family business before you shuffle your dusty computer files over to them. Tell them you expect them to be honest in their responses, because this is a 70 year commitment, one that could outlive even them.

It’s a 70 year commitment that will require of them a working knowledge of the publishing industry and the way it evolves so that they can balance between keeping your legacy alive as according to your desires, and staying flexible enough to incorporate new avenues of production that might exist in the future. It’s a 70 year commitment that will require of them the ability to negotiate secondary and tertiary rights agreements to interested movie studios and action figure manufacturing companies.

I would further suggest that you keep your mind open to the idea that the perfect person or persons equipped to handle your literary estate just might not be related to you. Maybe that person or persons come from your literary circle of friends, the ones that helped you publish independently to begin with.
And once you have a good idea as to who you want in charge, make sure you keep them in the loop for the rest of your life. This is a commitment you want to keep fluid and flexible, because times change, and people change.

And get thee a lawyer, one who specializes in literary estates, one you trust. Consider their advice. Discuss your options with all interested parties present. Take an active role in protecting your work and your loved ones. A lawyer doesn't have to cost a lot either. Services like PrePaid Legal can provide top-quality legal eagles for a monthly fee that fits your budget.

It's important to keep in mind that your divorce lawyer isn't a living trust specialist, and your real estate lawyer isn't a criminal defense attorney. Just because your friend knows a good attorney doesn't mean he's going to fit your needs. Like all the professionals you contact, vet him first.



If you have other questions of a non-legal nature about publishing independently, or if you would like a cheer squad to help you walk through the process, feel free to ask me. I’m willing to help where I can. If it takes a village to raise a child, why not a community to publish a book?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Evensong Requiem (WoE #7)

Write at the Merge gives us 500 words to explore the concept of Time.

Alongside a picture of an alarm clock, which didn't spark anything for me, we are provided this quote from The Glass Menagerie:


Time is the longest distance between two places.

--Tennessee Williams 

This quote screams "measuring time" for me and it calls to mind the ringing of bells to mark the canonical hours of religious devotion. I wasn't prepared for where I went with the final product, so I thought I should warn you, this isn't a happy piece. (My Precipice/Bannerwing entry wasn't happy either. I think I need some vitamin B-12 or something.)

Anyway, I offer the following in response: A Evensong Requiem.


The None Bells rang and Brother Gwen set down his quill. He worked the blood back into his hands and slid from his wooden stool to follow the other monks to office. His broken gait pained him, sending burning pulses through his crooked back with each clumsy step. Forty years hunched at his station, with only a single candle to illuminate his work, Brother Gwen prayed for the day he could pass his mantle on.

He joined his brothers in the chant, saddened at his crackled voice. He reached the notes he could with the power he could, but he feared he was failing his office. His mind wandered, remembering his eager days as an initiate. There was infinite possibility under heaven’s watch when his calling was new. Now, he was conquered by his age.

With the None Office concluded, Brother Gwen hobbled to the infirmary instead of returning to the library. Brother Gregory waved him over before he could speak, sending one of his novices to fetch supplies. “Brother Gwen,” the monk helped Gwen onto the straw-thatched bed, “I had not expected you back so soon.”

“Thank you, Brother Gregory. God tests me with the cold and I fear he will not find me worthy.” Gwen allowed the monk to disrobe him to his waist. He had little strength left to manage on his own.

The novice returned with the familiar vial of pungent elixir that had been Gwen’s saving grace these many winter months. Brother Gregory handled the vial with extreme care, tilting the liquid into clean cloth in small dabs, never once touching it with bare fingers. “Monkshood is powerful, and although I have taken steps to reduce its poison, we cannot be overly careful, Brother Gwen.”

Gregory had said this before, Gwen remembered, but as of late, only the ointment relieved any of his pain. He prayed in silence for forgiveness, for being so weak and frail, while Gregory applied the small amount to his sore back. It numbed and soothed, and tingled up his spine. Gwen relaxed, but his breathing became labored and Death's rattle crept into his voice. “Thank you, Brother Gregory.”

The monk frowned and set aside his cloth and vial. “Gwen, you did good to see me. I do not think you will rise again this night.”

Gwen coughed. “That would be the cruelest office of all. I have not finished my last book. God will not receive me as a failure.”

Gregory smiled, “Oh my brother, you are the gentlest of us. You have given us a glimpse of God in the love you bear our order. It is your flesh which fails your soul, not your unfinished deeds.”

“Is it so simple as that?” Gwen gasped a short-lived chuckle and lay down on the bed. “I pray ‘tis so.”

--//--

Brother Gregory promised to wake him for Vespers, but when the bells of Evensong called the brothers to mass, Gwen was already gone.



Some of the WoE crowd mentioned during the assessment that they aren't always sure when it's okay to leave criticism. I'll try to remember to be a better citizen and put a note at the end of my responses to the prompt, but if I don't, comments and constructive critiques are ALWAYS welcome here. Okay? Okay. so, let me have it. Give me what you've got. I can take it. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

It Takes Two: A WoE writing contest.

So, Write on Edge has a special contest going to celebrate the upcoming volume of Precipice. The editors are being tight-lipped about the theme for 3rd year submissions, but this contest is designed to wet our whistle. We have 1,000 words and the following quote from the Great Gatsby:

"It takes two to make an accident." - F. Scott Fitzgerald.
For the record, I'm not a fan of the Great Gatsby. While this literary classic had genius moments, I thought it lacked a defined plot and it certainly head-hopped point-of-view too often for my tastes.

But that has nothing to do with the price of tea in China, or with the rules of engagement concerning this contest.

In addition to the 1k word limit, we can use the quote as an opening/closing line, or simply to draw inspiration from it, then we link up as we usually do. Out of the WoE community who participates, one story will be selected by the editors and another story will be selected by a vote of participants. The two selected stories will be featured in Precipice, volume 3, theme yet to be announced.

Exciting, right?

So I would like to offer the following as my entry.


Taps

  Gone the Sun

The trumpet sounded. Taps haunted the living. The flag was folded with military precision and the captain walked the triangle of starry cloth to an elder woman clad in black. She sat expressionless in a row of crying adults as she received the colors with gloved hands.

Melissa kept her distance, knowing she wasn’t welcome, especially now that her future husband was gone. His mother said the vilest things at the engagement party. Zach promised that it didn’t matter, that his mother’s opinions were base and ugly, but she would eventually come around. And none of it would change how he felt about her.

There was no benefit for Melissa. The Marine Corps didn’t consider her as next of kin. It was the cruelest trick of fate, to dangle the possibility of forever before her eyes, only to rip it away two weeks before the wedding.

Afghanistan couldn’t kill him, though it tried. The heat during the day, the cold during the night, the rabble with a penchant for locking their own in suicide cages, all of it and he still managed to come home well-adjusted and strong. Zach was supposed to be safe in the States. Gunfire disturbed the silence. Melissa forced a breath through her tired lungs, wiped a tear from her cheek, and counted.   Seven rifles times three rounds equaled twenty-one.  

And it was over.

The shadow clad family and friends wore their grief like a shroud and dropped ruby roses after the rosewood casket lowering into the ground. Her vantage point grew stale, yet she remained, numbness returning to her veins. Melissa watched Zach’s mother rise and depart in a sea of supporting arms. She sucked in another breath and whispered her silent argument to the sun for another hour with Zach. Just one more hour, she begged.

“You’re Melissa, right?”

She lowered her head, preparing for the avalanche of ill-will from a tongue under the employ of her would-be-mother-in-law. “I am.”

“I’m Bricker.” He sounded nervous. “Well, my name is Anthony Brickman, but everyone calls me Bricker.”

The name was familiar. She looked up and caught a pair of melancholy eyes, gray like an ocean of storms. “Zach’s…cousin.”

“Yeah.” He flinched. Something was troubling him.

“Nice to meet you. Zach told me a lot about you. I’m sorry for your loss.”

“You’re sorry for my loss?” He gave a humorless laugh. “No wonder he loved you. You were too good for him, you know.”

“You’re wrong.” Her tongue was sharper than she wanted it to be. “He was bloody perfect.”

“He was a better man than me, that’s for sure.” Bricker sniffed and looked away. “It’s my fault you know. My fault he’s gone.”

“That doesn’t make sense. It was an accident.”

“I know it’s not my fault in that respect. But I’m the reason he was there at all. He wouldn’t have been on that bridge if not for me.” His weight shifted on his crutches. “You know that’s enough reason for Aunt Addie to cut me out.”

His tears drew more tears of her own from hiding and fished anger from her soul. “Zach’s mother, she blames you?”

“Can’t say I blame her for that. I mean, I blame myself too, so it’s only natural.”

“It’s not fair that Zach’s gone. I’ve begged every deity in history for a glimpse of what we could’ve had together.” Melissa shook her head. “But you didn’t make that accident happen. And he is the only one gone because the two of you together worked to get everyone out. Time just ran out for him. Time just ran out for us both.”

He was quiet for a long time, which was okay. She needed to process what she had just said. As her emotions tugged at her thoughts like taffy, she watched the Cat scoop earth into Zach’s final resting place. Zach saved thirty-two people that day, twenty-eight of them children, completely emptying the bus before the fire consumed him. Pointing fingers at anyone seemed petty in comparison.

“Look, Bricker,” she reached out and touched his arm. “Zach isn’t the sort – wasn’t the sort – to stand by and watch children perish. The others on that bridge were too busy catching the wreck on their smartphones. But you and Zach…I don’t want Zach to be gone, I want so bad to have my wedding and to live happily after. All those parents though, they all get to wrap their arms around their babies for one more hour. Why on earth would I ever wish this pain on them? No, you did good, Bricker. You both did.”

“It should have been me.” His voice crackled and sputtered. “Zach had so much more to contribute to this world. Can you ever forgive me?”

Melissa wiped the waterfall from her eyes and tried to smile. “There’s nothing to forgive. But if you need to hear the words, I forgive you and I hope someday you can say it to yourself.”

His crutches clattered to the ground. Strong and sudden, his arms engulfed her in a cocoon of a hug. They stood clinging to each other’s warmth in the shadow of Zach’s grave-site. “I’m so sorry, so very sorry,” he repeated like a child over a broken toy.

She began to overheat, feeling sweat bead at the nape of her neck. She kept the hug as long as she dared before giving him a gentle push. “I don’t want to keep you. I know the family is having a small reception at your aunt’s house. But I’m hoping…”

His gray eyes locked her gaze. “Hoping what?”

“Your aunt isn’t the type to be forgiving, no matter how wrong she is, and it’s going to take a long time before she’s willing to budge. Would you like to grab a cup of coffee with me? Maybe some lunch? I’d very much like not to be alone right now.”

He nodded. “I’d like that, too.”