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Oct 26, 2011

Ren Faire: A Tale from The Tome of Bill (Part 4 - Finale)

Ren Faire: a Tale From the Tome of Bill

Rule of Three Blogfest
Prompt:
The misfortune is resolved/accepted.
There is a new arrival in town.

Word count: 573

Part 1: Bill
Part 2: Tom
Part 3: Ed


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

Part 4: Back to Bill for the "epic" conclusion...

“Well that was disappointingly easy.” remarked Ed as we made our way back to the surface via torchlight.

“Says you!” I griped as I continued to hobble along. “You didn’t get a broadsword shoved through your goddamned leg. Next time listen to me when I tell you I’m not possessed anymore!”

“I don’t know what you’re bitching about.” said Tom, “And I quote...Only the caress of a lovers kiss shall vanquish the darkness back to the abyss... Stupid fucking prophesy! Chosen one, my ass!”

I glared at him in the dim light. “Let us never speak of that again!”

“I thought it was kind of cute.” quipped Ed.

“Fuck you, dude. Just do me a favor and put a stake through my heart if I ever decide to follow some psycho ghost bitch to the gates of Hell again.”

“Gladly!” added Tom as we continued our upward trek. “Although speaking of ghosts, I thought you said she was hot.”

“Well she was.” I replied with a smirk.

“She only had half of a face!”

“Yeah, but that half was pretty hot.”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t tell with all of the pus dripping off of it!” he spat.

“Oh Relax! She was still better looking than your last girlfriend.” Ed commented. “But then again so were those trolls that were attacking the gate.”

Tom tried to scowl at us but eventually just gave up and laughed. “I have to admit those things were wicked cool. But not as cool as that group of goblin berserkers that went all apeshit against them.”

I nodded and then added, “Personally I liked when the dragon showed up and started eating them all.”

**********

We finally made it back to the ladder leading out of the mines. We climbed up and exited the store to find that the sun was still peeking over the horizon. We hadn’t been gone as long as I had thought. To avoid toasting myself, I put my cloak and executioner’s hood back on and then turned to my companions.

“What now?” I asked.

What now!?” replied Ed, incredulously. “Now we get out of this asshole town before anything else stupid happens.” With that he started leading us back to the car, but not before telling Tom, “That’s the last vacation you get to plan.”

“What!?” he whined. “At least it wasn’t boring.”

“Don’t make me deck you.” I said in response as we neared the vehicle.

Suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks as the sound of multiple footsteps caught my ear. “Guys, we’re not alone.” I whispered to my friends.

We turned as a group to find three large men approaching us.

“Uh oh.” sputtered Tom. “I think we missed a few.”

“It figures!” spat Ed. “I knew we recited that fucking spell wrong!”

“Stow it and get behind me!” I hissed as the brutes came closer.

They were clearly dressed for battle. They wore heavy leather armor adorned with furs. Multi-colored war-paint was slathered on their faces in a variety of tribal symbols. Worst of all, each carried a large, nasty looking battleaxe.

I tensed myself for action as the one in front stopped and looked me over.

There was a pause as his eyes locked with mine and then he turned to his companions and said, “I told you this was the right place! Nobody would name a town Renaissance and then not host a Ren Faire in it.”

The End

Oct 19, 2011

Ren Faire: Part 3

Ren Faire: a Tale From the Tome of Bill

Rule of Three Blogfest
Prompt: Betrayal is in the air
Word count: 592

Part 1: Bill
Part 2: Tom

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

Part 3: Ed

It’s pretty hard to kill someone who’s already dead. Tom and I would have been messed up six ways to Sunday by the fall that Bill had just sustained. Fortunately his vampire physique was able to shrug it off. Unfortunately the rest of him wasn’t able to shrug off the need to whine about it.

“Ow! That fucking hurt!” he called up.

“Watch that first step.” Tom, ever helpful in these situations, yelled back.

“Screw you!”

“At last your true feelings for me emerge.”

“Enough!” I interrupted. “You two can get a room later. For now let’s get you out of there, Bill.”

“No!” he replied. “Kymara says this is the right way. Try to find a rope to....huh, what’s that?”

“What?”

“She says there’s a trapdoor in the corner with a ladder leading down...Could’ve told me that sooner!”

As Bill continued arguing with his spectral companion, we found the door and descended downward by the light of my phone. As we did, I wondered if I was alone in feeling paranoid. Bill and Tom both seemed blissfully clueless as usual, but I’ve seen enough movies to be wary of following a ghost into the bowels of the earth. Oh well, friends don’t abandon friends...tempting as it might be.

After meeting up, we were directed down a steadily descending path for almost an hour. Bill finally stopped and, of course, that’s when my phone gave out. Great! Vampires can see in the dark, but Tom and I were screwed.

However, before we could complain, Bill gasped, “Unbelievable!”

“What?”

“It’s amaz....” He started to answer when suddenly a torch flickered to life on the wall.

More torches lit up, illuminating a cavern some fifty feet across. The whole spontaneous ignition thingee was almost certainly a bad omen, although I’ll admit it was also pretty fucking awesome to watch. However, that wasn’t even the wildest part of it.

“Holy Tolkien’s wet dream, batman!” exclaimed Tom.

Standing before us was a legion of the dead, literally. Mummified corpses in full medieval battle armor and weaponry stood at attention. They were arranged in a semi-circle, all facing the far end of the cave.

“The guardians of the Kastanes.” Bill said in a whisper. “Tasked with holding the accursed gates of Heriot’s Pass.” and then louder, “That’s what Kymara says anyway.”

“Oddly fitting.” I remarked, gaping at the massive portcullis that filled the opposite end of the chamber. It was heavily fortified yet showed signs of stress as if something had once attempted to gain entrance from the other side.

“Check it out guys!” suddenly cried Tom. We turned to find him swinging a sword swiped from one of the corpses. “Crush your enemies...drive them before you!” *sigh* He is such a twit.

“Chill out, Legolas.” I said right before I was drowned out by a booming disembodied voice...a female voice I might add. Surprised? Neither was I.

“FOOLS! YOUR BLOOD SHALL FREE MY MINIONS FROM THE PIT!!

“What the hell...” Bill started to say when suddenly he was enveloped in a white light. “Kymara, what the fuck are...” his body started convulsing. He turned toward us and yelled, “Run! I can’t...stop...she’s...taking...ov...”

Before we could do anything to help, the spasms stopped. He smiled and a voice came from his mouth that was most certainly not Bill’s.

“Freedom will finally be ours.” the new voice purred as Bill’s fangs extended. “Right after dinner.”

“Oh shit!” muttered Tom. “What do we do?”

“Don’t ask me.” I replied as Bill stepped towards us. “You’re the one who called dibs.”


To Be Concluded...

Oct 12, 2011

Ren Faire: Part 2

Ren Faire: a Tale From the Tome of Bill

Rule of Three Blogfest
Prompt: Someone is killed or almost killed
Word count: 592

Part 1: Bill

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

Part 2: Tom

“Where are you going, Bill? I asked as my sun-averse friend suddenly veered towards the boarded up storefront we were passing.

“Come on. Let’s see what she wants.” he replied, heading towards the oddly open doorway of the dilapidated structure.

She?” asked Ed.

“Yeah yeah, I’m hurrying.” Bill complained as he stepped inside.

“Maybe his mask’s on too tight.” I commented, following.

I found him standing in the middle of an empty room. Judging from the dust on the shelves, this shithole had been closed for some time. However, my more immediate concern was the conversation Bill was having with thin air.

“I’m pretty sure this is breaking and entering.” Ed stated as he joined us.

“It’s cool.” replied Bill as he pulled off his hood. “Kymara owns this place.”

“A Chimera owns this...” I started to ask when the door suddenly swung shut behind us. Ok, that was a little weird. But still, after learning that one’s best friend has been turned into a vampire, one tends to up their tolerances of the strange and unusual.

Bill responded with, “No, stupid. Kymara, with a K.” as if that answered anything. “This is her store.” He then addressed the space next to him, “Kymara, these are my friends.”

This of course prompted Ed to ask, “Who the fuck are you talking to?”

“Lack of pussy has finally driven him over the edge.” I noted.

Bill looked at us as if we were morons. “I’m talking to her.” he said, pointing towards nothing.

“Yeah, definite pussy deprivation.” I stated. “There’s nobody else here, dude.”

“Don’t be assholes. Of course...” Bill stopped and again turned towards the nothingness. “What? No shit!?” He blinked a few times and then addressed us. “She says she’s a ghost.”

“A ghost.” Ed repeated. “Well ok then.” he replied with dubious tone.

Bill paused again and then added. “She says that I can see her because I’m already half in her world. The whole being dead thing, I guess.”

“Makes as much sense as anything.” commented Ed with a shrug. “So what does this...”

“Is she hot?” I interrupted.

What?

“Is the ghost hot?” I repeated.

“Well yeah, I guess.” Bill replied. “Except for...”

“Except for what?”

“Nevermind.” he finished.

“Dibs!” I proclaimed.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” Ed asked me.

“I’m calling dibs.”

“You’re calling dibs on a ghost?”

“Sure. I’d do a ghost.” I answered.

“You worry me, dude.” responded Ed.

“Oh come on. It’d be great!” I explained. “You wouldn’t need a condom. No chance of getting a disease. And then when morning comes...*poof*...they vanish into the ether. It’s like the perfect woman.”

There was a momentary pause as they no doubt pondered my genius, and then Bill started walking around the counter. I heard him say, “Yeah, he’s always like that. Sorry.” as he disappeared into the back.

Ed and I shared a glance and then he called out to Bill, “And you’re going where exactly?”

“The mines.” he yelled back. “She needs our help to...OH FUCK!!”

There was the sound of wood snapping and then a loud crash. I started in that direction, but Ed put his hand on my shoulder to stop me. Before I could protest, he activated the screen of his phone to light the way.

Good thing he did. As we followed, we found a large hole in the rotting floorboards. I didn’t know how far it went, but in the meager light I couldn’t see the bottom.

“Bill, are you okay?” I called down into the darkness.


To Be Continued...

Oct 10, 2011

Self-Publishing from One Newb to Another

Recently, on twitter, I found myself answering a few inquiries about getting started in ebook self-publishing. What strikes me odd about those conversations is not so much that they occurred but that I found myself answering with an actual air of authority as if I had clue one as to what I was doing. You see it’s been less than a year since I self-published my first book, a mishmash of old short stories I had written way back during my college years. Since then, I’ve been doing my best to play catch-up, releasing two original novels and continuing to chug along, but I am still but a babe lost in the woods of this industry.

However, since then I’ve realized that perhaps I’m not entirely as na├»ve as I had thought. We’re all used to working in fields where one’s maturity is measured in the sweat accumulated over years. If you were to try acting like an authority on your first job out of high school or college then you’re liable to be laughed at, probably rightfully so. However, the e-publishing business is still so much in its infancy that the difference between a newb and a journeyman can probably be measured in the space of weeks, not years. Thus perhaps I wasn’t entirely out of turn answering these questions like I did. Of course there’s still a chance that I’m just a self-important, egomaniacal dick. I leave open that possibility.

Regardless of that last part, however, I do have a year of experience under my belt that perhaps you do not. That being the case, I would like to present to you my experiences with some of the e-publishing resources out there so that you might be better armed as you dive into this crazy world. I offer no guarantees to the below. Your mileage may vary. All I offer is my viewpoint and the note that the below is by no means exhaustive. I only know that which I have tried...

Amazon / Kindle: If you are just starting out in the e-publishing world then I personally can not think of anywhere else you would wish to start. Amazon is the big dog out there. While everyone else might pretend to be players, when it comes down to the actual pissing match nobody can measure up to Amazon.

If you have an Amazon account (and if you don’t then I might suggest you have a nice stern talk with the wolves that raised you) and a book to sell, then voila you can sell it on their website. The only emphasis on you is doing a little research on their site beforehand with regards to formatting. If you need help, Amazon has a great many writers on their forums that would probably be happy to give you some pointers.

From personal experience I would recommend utilizing Mobi-pocket to format your first Kindle e-book. It’s an old program and doesn’t work well on some PC configurations, but it’s easy to use. Outside of their Table of Contents wizard, which can be a bit tricky on first use, the rest is a breeze. You basically take an MS Word version of your book, save it as filtered HTML (from within Word itself), and then import it into Mobi. Within about 3 clicks you’ll have an ebook. Just be sure to test it first on Amazon’s free Kindle previewer.

Aside from that, Amazon also offers other resources to help you get the word out, such as an author page for you. The best part: aside from their cut of the sales, there isn’t any charge to you.

I sell at least 90% of my ebooks through Amazon. They are the duke. They are A-number 1 as far as I am concerned.

My only downside with them: If you upload an ebook and then realize you’ve missed a massive typo, you’ll have to wait 24 hours to fix it. That can be a pain in the ass as you sit back and hope you don’t get crucified with bad reviews for all of your The’s that are spelled “Teh”.

Barnes & Noble / Nook: B&N doesn’t offer nearly the support for self-pubbed authors as Amazon does. However, they’re not exactly chopped liver either and they’re a huge, well known company. Another plus in their favor is that B&N supports their books uploaded in epub format (as opposed to Amazon’s propriety format). Once you have your books formatted for the Nook store, you can pretty much port them over anyplace else you’d like.

I typically use a program called Calibre for formatting. Since Amazon is my number one ebook seller, I almost always format for them first. However, Calibre will allow me to import my files in Amazon’s format (.prc) and export them as epub books. The program isn’t the easiest to use for a first timer. However, once you get the hang of it you’ll find it’s a breeze to reformat your files.

I don’t sell a lot through B&N, but I do sell. Thus they are always a consideration for me. Even better, they don’t have Amazon’s pesky 24 hour lockout rule. If you find a typo, you can upload a new file right away.

Like Amazon, B&N offers a PC version of their Nook software to preview your work. Take advantage of it.

Smashwords: Some authors swear by Smashwords. I do not. However, that doesn’t mean you won’t. To date I have sold a grand total of two books on Smashwords. However, two is still greater than none, so I shall continue to utilize them.

The beauty (and curse as well) of Smashwords is that they’ll do all the work for you. As long as you have a Word document formatted to their guidelines (you will remember to read their guidelines first, won’t you?), all you need do is upload it and let their conversion software do the rest. Smashwords is one stop shopping for nearly all ebook formats. However, since they do the conversion and formatting for you, you’re kind of at their mercy. This makes me a little nervous. If my ebook is formatted like shit, I’d prefer it to be my fault. At least that way I can probably fix it.

I consider Smashwords my K-mart of ebook outlets. They’re big enough and they do just enough to make it worthwhile but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Lulu: The Hyde to Smashwords’ Jekyll. Lulu pretty much serves the same purpose as Smashwords. They’re an ebook aggregator who will help get your ebook out there across multiple stores and formats. I’ve also never sold a single book through Lulu. So why bother? A couple of reasons.

For starters Lulu is much stricter than Smashwords. They won’t format your files for you and your book had better be formatted perfectly otherwise they’ll boot your ass to the curb. I find I have to use a third program called Sigil to edit my epub books because Calibre leaves a little extra formatting in their files that B&N is cool with but Lulu is not. It may be a bit of a pain but the flipside is that I know my books will be formatted as I’ve intended them to be on Lulu, as opposed to Smashwords.

The second reason is this little thing called ibooks. They’re the one-hundred pound gorilla in the room with aspirations to being eight-hundred. They’re also not particularly friendly to self-publishers. Using Lulu, however, I can get my books loaded up into the ibooks store with no problem. Technically Smashwords offers this same service, but I’ve found my books appear on Apple’s devices more quickly with Lulu. Thus I continue to stick with them. Even if they offer me no sales (so far), they get my books into an exclusive club where I might otherwise get tossed out on my ass by the bouncers.

Print-on-Demand: Finally there’s always the possibility that for all the work you’ve done to get your ebook out there, you still won’t be able to satisfy your great aunt Betty. “What’s an ebook?” she’ll ask in her shrill tone. If print books were good enough for her daddy then, by God, they’re good enough for her. So to cover your bases I’d recommend finding a print on demand outfit to fill that need.

I prefer Createspace for a couple of reasons. For starters their prices are reasonable. Nobody, relatives included, is going to buy a copy of your book if it’s $30. The profit margin is very slim, but I can put a 300 page paperback version of my book out there for about $13. It’s even less if I want to purchase it myself. Keep this in mind for the holidays. The best Christmas gifts are the self-serving ones.

Perhaps more important, though, is the Amazon factor again. They own Createspace. Therefore, you print via Createspace and your paperback will show up on Amazon. That alone makes them a contender.

As for formatting, they prefer your work to be a PDF. However, they have plenty of samples to download to help you out. With one of the many free PDF converters out there (I use PDFCreator) you can export your book directly from MS Word and be good to go. The only thing you’ll need to worry about after that is your cover image. Don’t have one? Use one of Createspace’s many free templates and you’ll be set.

**********

That’s it. Sound simple? Well, while it may be harder than I make it out to be, I think you’ll find it’s all easier than you probably imagine it to be. Follow the above, do your homework, and you’ll have your bases nicely covered on the ebook front. Then you just need to worry about the marketing and that...as Conan the Barbarian’s chronicler would say...is another story.

Oct 5, 2011

Ren Faire: A Tale from the Tome of Bill

Rule of Three Blogfest
Prompt: There is a humorous circumstance
Word count: 514

*This story takes place approximately halfway between the events of Bill the Vampire and Scary Dead Things.

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

Part 1: Bill

They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I’m pretty sure whoever first said that had a roommate as monumentally stupid as mine. Tom, the stupid roomie in question, sat in the shotgun seat while my second roommate, Ed, was behind the wheel of the parked car. The street, the only one in this jerkwater town from the looks of things, wasn’t exactly crowded. However, the few locals milling about were giving us more than enough bewildered stares. This probably had something to do with Tom being dressed in full warlock regalia while I sat in the back wearing a cloak and an executioner’s hood. Ed, the only one of us with any shame, was dressed normally.

We were in character. However, my outfit was also a bit of a necessity. It allowed me to walk around without bursting aflame in the sunlight. Things like that can really ruin a guy’s day. See, I’m a vampire. Yes, I’m serious! They...err...we exist.

Being undead, a day trip is something I’d usually ixnay at least in the 3 or so months since I had been turned. However, things had been a bit stressful for me since then and my friends had finally suggested a weekend road trip to help me decompress a bit. Too bad we had left the planning up to Tom.

"Renaissance, population three-hundred and thirty three." sighed Ed, repeating the words on the sign leading into this bumblefuck town. "Not including three visitors, two of which are dressed like total doofuses, who I am assuming will not be attending a goddamned renaissance festival." That last part was directed at Tom.

"Ok, I admit I might have read it wrong on Google." he replied.

"Might!?" I queried from the cramped backseat. "I’m dressed like a fucking gimp in a dipshit town where I’m sure half the residents would gladly tell me to squeal like a pig and you might have read it wrong?"

"Cut me some slack, Bill." he replied, pulling his glue-on wizard goatee off. "I mean seriously, who names a town Renaissance and then doesn’t host a ren-faire in it?"

"People less stupid than you apparently." commented Ed, as he shut off the engine and opened the door.

"Where are you going?"

"I’ve been driving for hours. I need to stretch my legs."

"I could use a piss break myself." mused Tom, peeling his costume off to reveal jeans and a t-shirt underneath.

I mumbled something rude and then got out to join them. "Let’s get inside somewhere. I feel like a Luche Libre wrestler’s retard cousin." I griped. They grinned in response, knowing damn well I couldn’t remove my outfit until after sundown. Assholes.

Ed steered us towards what looked to be the town’s lone tavern. Good. A couple of stiff drinks could make even Tom’s idiocy bearable. We were passing what appeared to be a rundown trading post, a sign outside proclaiming “Heriot’s Pass cavern tours. Open Daily!” (fucking tourist traps!), when the front door creaked opened and a voice beckoned us from within.

"Get in here....now!"


To Be Continued...