Tag Archives: short stories

Short Story: THE BAD COP

I wrote this story for a contest back in September of 1996, and found it in my archives a few days ago.  I did a very minimal amount of rewriting but didn’t change too much.  I’d write it differently today, probably, but I don’t think it’s terrible for flash fiction from my earliest days of attempting to write.  If you’d like to read it, click the link at the bottom of the post:

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THE BAD COP

“If you open your mouth again, I’ll have to shut it for you.”  The man in the police uniform spoke in a low voice, intending to intimidate Joe, and the rest of us were too cowed by the badge to interfere.  We all watched silently as Joe backed down.

It wasn’t every day that a cop showed up at a party and started hitting on our female friends.  No one knew what to make of it.  So we had ignored him, for the most part.  After all, cops are the good guys.  We’d just partied on, like he wasn’t there, or like his presence was a normal thing.

But that was before he’d started hitting on Joe’s girlfriend…

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If you’d like to read the rest of this story, please click here:  THE BAD COP

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Short Story: GRANDPA

This is the first short story in my collection 14 DARK WINDOWS. You can get it in its entirety if you download the free sample for Kindle, but I thought that maybe some people who don’t do Amazon or have a Kindle might want to read it.  I wrote it a long time ago as a contest entry where the first sentence and six additional words were given and you constructed a story around them.  Enjoy!

GRANDPA

“All the King’s Horses, and all the King’s men, couldn’t put Humpty together again!” Grandpa finished the rhyme and closed the book. “Well, Billy, what else would you like to do?”

Billy loved his grandfather. Grandpa always had time for a story, a game, or to simply talk. “I’ll do whatever you want to do, Grandpa.”

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You can read the rest of this story by clicking this link or by going to “Stories” on the menu above and choosing “Grandpa.”

You can buy 14 DARK WINDOWS at Amazon by clicking this link:  14 DARK WINDOWS

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ODD MAN OUT long version is done!

Well, not done exactly, but the story is finished. It needs editing and other such stuff, but I wrote “The End” yesterday at a little over 33K words. It felt good. I knew there was a longer story in there when I started thinking about it, but wasn’t sure how much longer. Was I talking about 12K words? 20K words? I was thrilled to find out that it ended up a little over 33K. And I like it. I think it holds together pretty good and tells an interesting story.

I’m going to unpublish the short version sometime very soon, but it will be included at the end of the novella and will still be available in 14 DARK WINDOWS. Look for it in the upcoming months!

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Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge – THE GOBLET OF LOST CHICAGO

Chuck Wendig put up a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction, around 2000 words, choosing one of the titles he provided.  So here’s my try at it.  It’s an odd piece, and I may try to rework it in the future, because I sort of like some of the ideas in it.  But I probably wrote this one in less than two hours…  I hope you can enjoy it!

THE GOBLET OF LOST CHICAGO

As the pair waited on the platform for the elevated train to arrive, the girl pointed to a sign on the opposite platform.

“What’s that mean, Grandpa?” she asked the older man standing next to her.

He strained his eyes to read the advertisement.  “The Goblet of Lost Chicago…hmm.  I never heard of it, Brie.”

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(To read this story, look under the tab “Free Stories” above, or click this link…)

JACK’O’LANTERN (and THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY) free on 10/29!

In honor of Halloween, I’ve made my short story trio containing JACK’O’LANTERN, THE MOMENT and SARAH’S PUPPY free for five days, starting Thursday, 10/29/15, till Monday, 11/2/15.  It’s been free before, but this time it contains sample chapters from my novellas THE INN and THE CAVE.

Jackolantern updated cover

All three stories are also found in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS, which is priced at only $0.99 and will continue to be priced there for the foreseeable future.

Grab it while it’s free! If you like it, grab something else as well! Thanks for reading!

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Kindle Unlimited – how’s that workin’ for you?

I really don’t know yet.  I enrolled all my books in KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited about a month ago — maybe it’s two months, I don’t know.  But I did notice that, after day after day after day of zero pages read for Kindle, my novella THE CAVE (see it over there to your right?) all of a sudden had 318 pages read over the course of a couple of days.  And my short story DEAD OR ALIVE (it’s not over there on the right, but it is part of THE STRIKER FILES, which is) had 50 pages read.

I looked, and THE CAVE has a KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) of 166, as opposed to its stated length of 88 pages.  DEAD OR ALIVE has a KENPC of 56.

Now, that doesn’t sound like much, but basically it’s two full reads of the novella and one full read of the short story.  For me, that’s fine.  Those sales would have earned me 35% of $0.99, which is little over a buck.  The KU reads paid me more than that; a bit less than two bucks.

(Yeah, that’s the sort of life-changing money I’m earning right now from my writing.  🙂  )

Couple that with a few purchases of THE CAVE, one of DIE 6, and one of my non-fiction DOING DISNEY quasi-guidebook, I’ll have done okay.  Maybe I’ll sell a couple of copies of my new one, THE INN, when it comes out.  Crossing fingers.  (Watch this space for announcements.)

The way I see it, the more people who grab my stories and read them, the better chance I have of actually getting noticed.

And that’s the state of the state right now.

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ODD MAN OUT Promotion

It was a spur-of-the-moment decision – I decided to give away ODD MAN OUT, a short story pair that featured the title tale (about 1600 words) and a second short story called THE HOUSE AT THE BEND IN THE ROAD (about 1800 words).

Of all my works, I like this cover the best.  It looks professionally done, because it was.  I have a good friend, Rich Siegle, who did the cover for me (gratis), and he does book covers for small publisher Poison Pen Press in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I paired these two stories because, well, they seemed to go together.  Originally I had paired SOLE OCCUPANT and ODD MAN OUT because I liked them about the best of all my short stories, but I ended up using this pairing because it kept the word counts between the two ebooks about the same.

ODD MAN OUT is also found in the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.  The short story pair costs $0.99 on Amazon, because that is the lowest price Amazon will let you set for something.  I lowered the collection to $0.99 also, because I hoped to move some titles.

I decided to give this short story away because I thought if someone liked enough, they might be inspired to buy the collection which contains both of these and twelve other stories (including the aforementioned SOLE OCCUPANT).

I also started to expand this short story into a longer work.  Hoping that I can get 20 or 30 thousand words out of it.  It struck me as I read it that there was a lot more story to tell.  So we’ll see what comes out of that project.  I haven’t been putting much time into writing on this story recently; there’s been a LOT going on with my family, but I think things might start to wind down now.

The other reason I haven’t been writing it is because I spent some time finishing up the collaboration between my son Kevin and me.  It’s part of a series, and we completed Book 1 and got a fair start on Book 2.  Book 1 is about 77000 words, so it’s a full length novel.  Believe it or not, it started life as Harry Potter/SwordArt Online crossover fan fiction written by my son.  I saw some potential in it and decided to write it with a more original slant.

So, maybe I will get some things written before summer runs out of time.  We’ll see.

Oh, yeah.  The point of this post was that I did a giveaway with ODD MAN OUT.  The giveaway ran three days (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).  I only announced it on Facebook.  I gave away 35 copies of the short story in that time frame.  (Well, 36, but one was downloaded by me for free in an attempt to boost the number by one.)

I guess that’s 35 people who never heard of me before, because I doubt I had anyone from my Facebook announcement get it.  Okay, perhaps there were four or five downloads because of that announcement.  I can’t say for sure.  We’ll see if anyone grabs the collection in the next week or so.  Even one or two downloads would be great!

So, did it do what I hoped?  No…it made it to #10 on a “Ghosts and Haunted Houses” list on Amazon, but it certainly didn’t amount to much in the sense of sheer downloads.  But it’s just one of those things.

Have a great week.

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Going all-in on KDP Select…

Yesterday I was reading blog entries on The Passive Voice, on Joe Konrath’s blog and some Hugh Howey thoughts, and I thought, “Wow!  Why am I not in KDP Select?”

So why wasn’t I?

I put my short stories in KDP Select when I wanted to give some of them away several months ago.  But I never put my longer collections and my novella into it.  My reasoning was that I was going to move to publish the works with other platforms, like B&N, iBooks, Kobo, and Smashwords.  I was thinking that maybe Draft2Digital was the way to go, but I wasn’t sure.

I never did any of that.  Honestly, I can’t see myself putting in the work to do so at this time.  Maybe if I was seeing income worth talking about, I could justify putting in the time.  But right now, I can’t.

So, I placed everything into KDP Select.  My novella, THE CAVE, costs $0.99 to buy, but can be borrowed in Kindle Unlimited or through Prime.  My short story collections, DIE 6, 14 DARK WINDOWS, and THE STRIKER FILES, are all currently priced at $0.99, and all can be borrowed via KU or through Prime.  And my four short stories (all of which are found in 14 DARK WINDOWS as well), are also priced at $0.99, and all are part of KU and Prime.

Here’s what one reviewer said about my short story ODD MAN OUT:

A pair of creepy tales, well written if on the short side. Worth a read, especially via Kindle Unlimited. I’ll be checking out the collection that includes these.   EC, Amazon review.

Another review about the same says:

The book is two short word pictures of atmospheric horror. They both nicely evoke a feeling of creepy dread, and in the case of the House At the Bend In the Road, mystery. Worth a read!  Scott R. Turner, Amazon review.

(ODD MAN OUT is available as a standalone short story or as part of the collection 14 DARK WINDOWS.)

Anyway, there it is.  I’m all in on KDP Select for now.  Grab ’em or borrow them.  They’re not pricey.  I think they’re good reads, but of course I would think that, since I wrote them.  But a few others think the same.  Don’t let others do your thinking for you; check them out yourself…

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Subscription services for ebooks – some thoughts

When I started practicing dentistry almost 30 years ago, I became involved in a reimbursement plan called “Capitation.” It was “insurance” where families or individuals paid a set fee every month, then the company took a percentage of that fee and passed the rest on to me. Their advertising to patients stated that they ‘covered’ 100% of every dental procedure known to man.

When I first started with them, I was actually getting checks for a little more than what I would have billed for services on capitation patients that month. But very soon that corrected itself and I was getting less than what I would have billed, by about 20%. Then another provider quit and I got a large influx of new patients. I started making more money, but very soon I was doing way more work than I was getting paid for. It got to the point where I was getting only 40-50% of the work I was doing.

So I quit.

The future of bookselling, says Joe Konrath among others, is in subscription services.  No one says that books will not still be purchased, but what Joe says, if I’m understanding him correctly, is that for many readers, especially avid readers, there will be a significant economic incentive to borrow books via a service like Scribd or Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited rather than purchasing the titles.

I can certainly see how he comes up with that view.  It’s exactly what happened with my capitation participation.  As the subscribers to the plan figured out that they could get an unlimited amount of dentistry done for one set monthly fee, and perhaps just as importantly, that there was a new young dentist out there who would do the dentistry they needed (and do a good job of it), they flocked in to use their “insurance.”  Very few of them understood what they were paying for.  As far as they knew, they were paying an insurance premium and I was getting paid by the insurance company for work done as I did it.  (That IS the situation with fee-for-service insurance, which is capped at one to two thousand dollars per year but pays me for the services I perform on patients.)  Capitation was a great plan for the patients – as long as there was a provider willing to do dentistry for the amount of money he was receiving.

So, there are three distinct entities involved in systems like this.  One is the reader.  She is analogous to the patient in my capitation situation.  She wants stories to read, and a subscription service would seem to give them to her.  How many stories she reads in a month?  It’s limited only by her speed of reading and the time she has available for reading.

The second is the author.  She would be analogous to the provider, who, in my case, is the dentist.  She produces stories for the reader to read.  How many stories can the author provide?  Well, again, it depends on the speed of the author (ie, how fast she can write) and the amount of time she has to actually write stories.  It’s limited by both of those two things, just as in a dental practice.  In my case, I was limited by the number of appointments I had available for everyone, not just the capitation patients.  I was also limited by how long I took to perform a specific procedure.  Root canals took longer than fillings and cleanings.  Dentures took more appointments.  I was also limited by my own costs.  I suppose an author is limited by the costs of editing, proofreading, cover, formatting, etc etc.  In other words, in both situations there would seem to be a floor as to reimbursement.  Reimbursement needs to cover the costs of doing business.

The third is the “Company.”  In my case the company was one that provided capitation-style “insurance” to various employers so they could provide reasonably priced dental plans to their employees.  In an author’s case, the companies are Scribd and Oyster and Amazon.  The company has to balance the amount of money coming in with the amount of money going out in such a way that it covers its cost of administering the plan (in the dental example) or delivering, storing and providing some promotion for the ebooks in the lending service (Scribd, Oyster and Amazon).  Oh, and it needs to make a little profit.  (Costs would include the salaries of everyone involved in the process of acting as the middleman.)

In the case of Scribd, it seems that they were paying authors for borrows as if the books were purchased.  Voracious readers were reading a LOT, apparently, and Scribd was responsible for paying the authors as if those readers were purchasing every book.  (Almost sounds like a fee-for-service dental plan.)  Authors were paid per unit read, full price for the book.  Readers were paying a flat fee (something like $8.99 a month?) to access as many books as they wanted to.

In Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Amazon collects a flat fee ($9.99 a month) from subscribers, and allows them to borrow ten books simultaneously.  It then takes their subscription fees and puts them into a pool (minus whatever costs they feel they need to withhold to cover their operating costs and whatever profit they want to make), and from that pool it reimburses the authors whose books were borrowed.  (I think I understand this correctly.)  Amazon was paying authors if a reader read 10% of their book, which was great for short stories (my own shorts were in there, but I think I only had one or two Kindle borrows), not quite as good for authors of novels and such.  Now they have switched it so that writers will be paid by the actual pages read of their works.  I take this to mean that if someone writes a ten page short story and a reader finishes it, that writer is paid the same as an author who writes a 300 page novel and a reader only reads the first ten pages of it.  (Seems relatively fair on the face of it.)

So, if everything is golden, why did Scribd remove a bunch of romance novels from their service?  Apparently they did this because romance readers are reading them right into the poor house.  They’re reimbursing every author full price for the books borrowed.  If a reader is paying $8.99 for a month’s subscription, it’s easy math to see that they can read three books priced at $2.99 before the company starts taking it on the chin.  Not just no profit, but real financial losses.

I think this is illustrative of the pitfalls of this sort of model.  Because when you look at Scribd’s options, you see that there aren’t too many.  First, they could raise subscription fees.  Mark Coker suggested that perhaps there should be a tiered plan, with a basic level that allows a certain number of borrows per month, and maybe an unlimited plan for more money that allows as many borrows as the reader can read.  Any increase in costs up front to the reader will likely lead to less subscribers.  For some it would be a good deal at a much higher fee, but for others it would perhaps tip the scales in the other direction.

Second, they could pay authors less.  This is sort of what Amazon’s KU does.  There is a fixed pool of money, funded (I assume) in large part by subscription fees.  The pool is divided by the total number of pages read by subscribers, and the authors are paid by pages read.  In general, this model will reimburse authors by some amount that is probably less than the amount they would receive had all the borrowed books been purchased by readers.  I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but the math seems to make sense, especially if we’re talking about books that are reimbursed at 70%.  (At 35%, the math tips in the other direction.  All of my books are currently priced at $0.99, so I don’t make much per purchase.)  But they run the risk of having authors pull their books out of the program if they aren’t making enough money for their efforts.

Third, the company could simply take losses and hope that the subscription dollars grow as more people subscribe, and hope that not all of them are voracious readers who consume many more books than they are realistically paying for.  They run the risk of losing money and putting themselves right out of business, unless they’re a company like Amazon.

In my capitation case, the company who administered the plan had very little, if any, risk.  Their biggest concern was in getting a provider who would adequately care for their subscribers.  I know that one of the problems when I was doing it was that when I got that influx of patients due to another provider dropping out of the system, I found that they all needed a bunch of dental work.  The other dentist wasn’t doing much of anything.  Cleanings, a few fillings, and not much more.  He was coasting – sitting back, collecting checks and not doing the work because he wasn’t treatment planning it.  Many of them needed crowns and partial dentures, and I was doing them, one after another.  I had to ration out the care, because I simply couldn’t afford to do it all in one month.  I wasn’t being paid for it.  Also, I had to ration out chair time.  I couldn’t allow more than a certain number of patients with that plan per week, because I had other, paying patients who I needed to work on in order to keep the business running at that time.  The theory was that once I got a patient or a family completed, they would not need much work in the future, and I could collect their capitation fee without providing much value in the way of services.  In practice, many of the patients dropped the coverage once they got their crowns and partials, and there was no way to force them to continue to pay for it.

Some of this has implications for subscription services, some of it is unique to dentistry.  The thing with ebooks is that there are tons of providers (authors) and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of books out there.  It isn’t a single author being forced to write stories for the masses for virtually nothing.  But in another sense, that just means that the pot (the subscriber fees) has to be divided in a lot more parts before being distributed to the providers.

There is a delicate balance here that is going to be very difficult for a company to negotiate successfully.  Amazon is experimenting with the way they reimburse authors, and they have the size and the ability to spend money in an attempt to figure out a way to do this right, to find that perfect balancing spot.

There’s more to be said on this issue, but this has gone on long enough today.  If anyone reads this and has any thoughts, please jot them down in the comments!  Thanks!

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Price reductions!

I have reduced the prices of everything I have published to $0.99!  Is that good news or bad?  That remains to be seen, I suppose.  If the lowered prices result in any sales at all, it’s great news!  If not, well, then, it isn’t any different from what’s going on now.

The truth is, until the 13th of May, I hadn’t seen a sale in over a month.  One of my short stories, “Night Family,” was purchased on that day and has not been returned.  The last three before that had been returned.  Why?  Because whoever downloaded them was disappointed that they were too short?  Or because they realized that they’d already read them as a part of either 14 Dark Windows or The Striker Files.

I’ve redone the descriptions in a very minor way, making the first line an indicator that the stories are contained in larger collections, also costing $0.99.  Hopefully that will help.  Also it will hopefully take away the “being upset at the length” factor, even though every one of them clearly shows the number of pages AND I state the length of the short stories in the blurb.

So now everything is $0.99, including the 25K novella THE CAVE which will be out very soon.  The short stories are also in KDP Select, so they can be downloaded as a KU borrow or used as a “Prime” borrow in a given month.

Although you can see all the titles by clicking on the “Books” menu tab above, here they are:

14 DARK WINDOWS

DIE 6

THE STRIKER FILES 3-in-1 Collection

SOLE OCCUPANT (two short stories)

ODD MAN OUT (two short stories)

JACK’O’LANTERN (three short stories)

THE GATEWAY   (three short stories)

DEAD OR ALIVE (a Striker Files short story)

NIGHT FAMILY (a Striker Files short story)

RICK’S RULES (a Striker Files short story)

And that’s all of them.  Except for THE CAVE, which isn’t live yet on Amazon.

Oh, yeah.  Did I mention that they’re all $0.99?  They literally can’t get cheaper as long as they’re exclusive to Amazon…

Take a look, assuming anyone sees this post.

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