One huge advantage of epublishing

Two days ago I released my sci-fi story The Information Monster as a Kindle ebook and wrote about it in this post. I was very happy with the cover, created by myself and my regular cover designer Alex Nereuta, but then I decided to run an Amazon ad campaign for the first time and noticed that the cool font we chose didn’t show up at all when reduced to a thumbnail. Not only that, but the “monster” made of stars also disappeared at a smaller scale. The upshot was that I was asking Amazon visitors to basically click on a black rectangle! I’m guessing that rule 101 of ebook marketing is that you should actually be able to see the cover, so changing it was an easy decision to make.

Although the original would have made a lovely print cover, Alex and I are very happy with the new one and it certainly a) stands out more, and b) is creepier. What do you think?

The Information Monster cover V5 smaller

So here’s the beauty of epublishing: if this was a traditionally published print book and I needed to change the cover, I’d be screwed. With Amazon, all it took was a couple of hours and the new version was proudly online.

Oh, and before I forget, please leave a rating and/or review on Amazon if you read The Information Monster. Stars for stars!

My new sci-fi story: The Information Monster

Chile’s Atacama Desert, 2053. The universe’s dark energy is increasing and only a former MIT astrophysicist knows what it means. As his worst nightmare becomes a reality, he flees Santiago with his young daughter to the peaceful safety of the decommissioned ALMA radio-telescope. But what if they were followed…

That’s the blurb for The Information Monster, a previous version of which was published in 2013 as part of an anthology called Disrupted Worlds. Now it’s available as a standalone Amazon Kindle book.

At over 10,000 words, The Information Monster has more meat to it than a typical short story, so if you’re ready to spend an hour (and a buck!) navigating the tortured mind of our hero Sigi, click right here to go to Amazon.com, or here for Amazon.ca and here for Amazon.co.uk.

The Information Monster cover V2

Back from vacation with a new story

In some parts of the world, spring has sprung. In the Dominican Republic, where I visited last week, it even felt like summer, with temperatures reaching 30 degrees Celsius (86 F). And while I was in the Caribbean, it was -30 degrees (-22 F) in Montreal, where I live. That’s quite the contrast! In fact, last month was officially the coldest February on record in Quebec. Lucky me, I thought, as I lay in a beach lounger last Friday, looking up at palm trees while sipping something called a Coco Loco. Then a bird pooped on me. This has happened to me once before (bizarrely, also on vacation; maybe I shouldn’t get out more) and this time I’m happy to say that it was a much smaller bird with a correspondingly smaller payload.

Breath Less cover

What does this have to do with writing? Sometimes unexpected things can fall from the sky and you’re left staring at them thinking, “Well, I guess I have to deal with this now.” When I geared up for the launch of Starley’s Rust in mid-January, I didn’t expect to embark on another work of fiction until I began the as-yet-unnamed conclusion of the Embodied trilogy. Then suddenly, plop! the idea for Breath Less came to me.

Breath Less is a short story for Young Adults. It’s set one sweltering summer sometime in the future, and I guess you’d call it a sci-fi romance. Talaya, a teenage girl, is trying desperately to revive a boy called Adam whom she met the day before and has now passed out in her backyard pool. But things aren’t what they seem…

I decided to publish Breath Less “live” in three sections on Wattpad, and now the last one is online. Maybe I’ll also make an ebook version at some point, but right now I’m keen to know what readers think of it, rather than attempting to sell it.

So if you’re interested to know why a girl who takes her books out for a drive is attracted to a boy who dives into a pool but can’t swim, click on the cover and log in to Wattpad.

Disrupted Worlds – out a day early!

I promised yesterday that Disrupted Worlds, a novel-length short story collection that features my own effort, The Information Monster, plus five others, would be published tomorrow. Well, it turns out that those digital printing presses at Amazon have been running on overdrive because it’s already available as a Kindle ebook.

You can read a free preview of the first story-and-a-half by clicking on the cover image below. But since The Information Monster is the third story, I’ve decided to post a short excerpt from the beginning:

“The darkness is our friend,” whispered Sigi.

Coleoptera snuggled closer. She didn’t understand. Darkness had always meant death. It was in the books with paper, so it must be true. The books that held stories of children losing themselves in deep, dark forests where wolves prowled, trolls lurked and witches squatted in their hovels waiting to feast on plump cheeks. Darkness had always meant death.

“Why, daddy?”

He kissed her hair softly. Maybe he was a fool. Maybe there was nothing anyone could do to defeat it.

“You know how plants need light to grow?”

“Uh-huh.”

“So does the monster, and that’s why the darkness is our friend.”

“I’m scared.”

“We’re safe here. Sleep now, Beetle.”

“Tell me a story. From when you were little.”

“Okay, just one.”

“Thank you, daddy.”

She rubbed the fabric of his shirt sleeve between her thumb and forefinger. He wondered whether the tactile sensation of its silky NanoNylon was more soothing than her own bamboo thread nightshirt. His mind flashed through molecular configurations.

“Daddy!”

He clenched his teeth. It was so easy to slip. So easy to go down that path.

“Yes. Okay. When I was about your age, most of the books were paper.”

“Really?”

“Uh-huh. And they never changed. A story was a story with words, and sometimes pictures, and it was written by a storyteller.”

“Like my fairy tales.”

“Yes, and they used to be my books. But the fairy tales changed from one book to the next because they had lots of storytellers.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Sorry, Beetle, it’s complicated. And it doesn’t really matter for my story. What matters is that I had a book that was really special to me. It was about a bear who learned to read, and I loved it. Then one day my grandma took me for a walk and I brought the book along with me. But somehow it must have slipped out of my hand along the way because when we got home to my mommy and daddy’s house I didn’t have it anymore and I cried so much that my grandma walked all the way back along the route we’d taken to look for it. But she couldn’t find it.”

“Poor daddy!”

“Yes, I was really sad. But the next day when my mom came home from work she’d bought me another copy.”

He felt her tug a bit harder on his sleeve.

“The only thing was, I didn’t understand. I thought that the book I’d lost was the only one like it in the whole world. It was my favorite, and it was special. Suddenly I realized it wasn’t special because there was another one the same. And others in the store. Then when I grew up, things started to change. The books on screens took over. Soon nothing was special.”

“Why?”

“Because everything was a copy.” He kissed her hair again. “But now it’s time to sleep.”

“Why are we here, daddy?”

“Because we need to get away.”

“From mommy?”

He drew breath sharply. “No. From everything.”

“You’ll keep me safe, right?”

There was the slightest pause in his answer and he hoped she hadn’t noticed.

“Yes. That’s why we’re here.”

She squeezed his arm and let out a big yawn.

Once he was sure that she was sleeping soundly, Sigi carefully moved away from her sleeping bag so as not to disturb her. He rose and closed the door of the Correlator room. This was where they were “camping”. It was an adventure. That’s what he’d told her. She was lucky to be going on an adventure with her daddy – not a lot of five-year-olds got to do that.

Disrupted_12_fix

Cover reveal! Title reveal! Authors reveal!

I teased my dystopian sci-fi short story The Information Monster back in June, and now it’s time to cut out the teasing and open the kimono, as business/marketing/PR folk bizarrely sometimes say in otherwise very boring meetings. Actually, that’s not quite true, because opening the kimono would require cutting and pasting the entire contents of the ebook that my story will shortly be published in. So it’s more like I’m showing you the kimono, because here is the cover. And the title, which fortunately is hard to miss because it’s right there on the cover, along with my name and those of my five fellow authors, like an embroidered dragon on a kimono. (I think it’s time to stop with the kimono metaphor.)

Disrupted_12_fix

The name of the book neatly unites six disparate tales, some outrageously comic, some (like mine) sinisterly portentous.  And yes, I know that “sinisterly” isn’t a word, but it works just fine here, so please don’t give it a complex by looking it up in a dictionary. What bonds the authors is that double-edged label “indie”. It sounds cool if you’re a band.  But if you write books and deign to deliver them to readers via the newfangled medium of digital code uploaded without the help of an international megacorporation, “indie” is still sniffed at and frowned upon by old-school publishing types and snobs  Maybe we should call ourselves a “collective”? Or does that only work for visual artists? A “collective” is literally a collective noun. And a “literary collective” is literally a literary collective noun. Maybe I shouldn’t have had that fifth coffee this morning. Whatever we call ourselves, one thing’s for sure: these stories are as independent of any marketing masterplan or award angling as any fiction could be.

ALMA

The ALMA radio-telescope. Maybe it would be better if the truth wasn’t out there…

I’m sure my fellow Disrupted Words authors will be doing a super job of publicizing their own contributions to the collection, so I’ll stick to telling you a little more about my effort. The Information Monster takes place in Chile, 2053, partly at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array, or ALMA. This recently commissioned real-life radio-telescope isn’t only the largest on Earth, its Operations Support facility is housed in the world’s second-highest-altitude building, and its correlator is the most powerful supercomputer in the world. Who knows what it may find… or how its staff will behave in the thin air of the Atacama Desert?

Edited and published by Paul Little, Disrupted Worlds will be available at a special 99-cent  introductory price the day after tomorrow (Thursday, September 26) exclusively through Amazon as an ebook for Kindle. At that point you’ll be able to rip the kimono open for yourself. Okay, time for another coffee.

Photo credits: Source: ESO, Author: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

A dystopian tease

As I mentioned in this post a couple of weeks ago, I’m writing a short story for an indie collection that will appear later in the summer. Well, I’ve finished it, and it’s the longest short story I’ve ever written. I promised that I would reveal its title as a teaser, so… [internet drum roll]… here you go:

The Information Monster

And now, as an extra teasy teaser, here’s the opening line:

“The darkness is our friend,” whispered Sigi.

A_view_across_the_plains_of_Chajnantor_with_the_ALMA_construction_site_at_the_centre

This is the Atacama Desert – the driest place on Earth. They tested the Mars Rover here. It’s rather inhospitable. And a great setting for a story.

You can’t say you haven’t been teased! The Information Monster takes place in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 2053, and the main genre it fits into is science-fiction. It also belongs to a sub-genre called dystopian fiction: what happens when society goes wrong. One of the most famous dystopian fictions is Orwell’s 1984. (Although in North Korea that book is filed in the non-fiction section.)

The final ebook will be a novel-length collection of new voices in indie publishing and I’ll keep you posted on its publication details as soon as I get them. I haven’t read any of the other stories yet, since my fellow authors are delivering theirs this month too, but I’m very excited about the project.

Photo credits: Source: ESO, Author: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)

New short story

Right now* I’m working on a new short story that will appear in a collection of works by indie authors sometime around the end of the summer. It’s a good way to get back into the swing of writing fiction every day before I head out into the uncharted territory known as Starley’s Rust, aka the sequel to Silent Symmetry that some people seem to be clamouring for.

The story is science fiction. I’ll post its title in the next couple of weeks as a teaser, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here’s a photo. It’s significant in the story.

ALMA_Prototype-Antennas_at_the_ALMA_Test_Facility

Ever been teased by a radio telescope? You have now.

(Can we still say “stay tuned” now that everything’s digital? “Keep your eyes glued to the screen” seems a bit much. “Heads up – there might be a tweet flying by!” could work…)

Oh, and the story features one of these.

Teasing over. Back to work.

*DISCLAIMER: Obviously right now I’m writing a blog post. That’s because I took a short break from the story. But I’m publishing this post and getting right back into it. Promise.

Photo credits: Source: ESO, Author: ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO)