06 January, 2012

Shorts, and a sample

While my novel-in-progress, Mindfire, is still my primary focus, something I'm going to start doing is producing short stories on a regular basis (scroll down for a sample), and making them available for sale on Amazon (for Kindle). There's three primary reasons for this:


Getting my work out there in a professional format is going to be helpful in building up an audience. I'm really starting from square one, here; aside from a few people who've followed this blog, or followed me on Twitter (hi guys!), or are friends on Mythic Scribes, I haven't exactly got what you'd call an audience. The novel will be several more weeks until it's finished at least; but I can take a little time out here and there to produce polished short stories that, I think, people will like.

Practice writing

One thing strongly recommended by a lot of "new-to-writing" guides and articles is to write short stories on a regular basis. There's a few reasons for this: they're easier to finish than a novel; they give experience with constructing a complete story without getting bogged down in all the elaborate developments that occur in a longer story; they don't lock you in to a particular fictional world and make you spend a lot of time on world-building.

I will be immodest here and claim that I don't need practice writing prose; you can judge that for yourself below, where I've included a sample of the first story I'm going to publish, The Demons of Lashtë. I'm confident that I'm already good at that part. (Not that there's no room for improvement, but...) It's really the process that's important: completing something, publishing it, getting feedback.

Practice publishing

I've experimented with the Kindle Direct Publishing platform before. It's missing a lot of functionality I wish it had, and I hope that Amazon will improve that in the future; but there's more to publishing a short story than just throwing it onto Amazon.
  • Creating cover art. I've been directed to a few good stock photo sites, where I can get good pics cheap, modify them and put title/author's name on them, and use those. They just need to look professional enough that people aren't turned off, and ideally are enticed by the cover.
  • Formatting the doc. I use Linux, and I've already got a suite of tools I use for converting OpenOffice documents to Amazon's .mobi format. There's still a lot of little gotchas to watch out for, and I haven't done this enough to be completely confident in getting the files exactly right, but it seems to work so far.
  • Marketing. That's right, the dreaded m-word. I have an instinctive aversion to marketing, as I majored in Computer Science and have been, professionally, a web programmer for the last twelve years. I always feel like that pimping my work will make people recoil and say, "How arrogant!" But I'm slowly learning that this is (mostly, I hope) not the case. So I just need to get over it.
So, without (much) further ado, here's a sample of the first few paragraphs of the first story I'll be publishing: The Demons of Lashtë. I will definitely be posting here when the full story is available on Amazon. :-)

Sample of The Demons of Lashtë

The demon struck, and Anders Vasik let the blade flash through him, cleaving armor, flesh, bone, sinew. The pain was staggering. But the demon-sword emerged out the other side, cleansed of blood, as the two sides of the wound melded together, trailing the blade’s passage. Anders’s spell left a bitter tang of sulphur in the air.

The strike left the demon unbalanced, and in that moment Anders held out his palm. A blinding pinprick of white fire tore through the demon’s gray hide, making a fist-sized hole ringed in char. The carbonized flesh swirled away on the wind, and the demon’s face twisted with every ounce of the minimal emotion it was capable of displaying. It fell back, tumbling into the jagged canyon, to be devoured by the enormous shale lizards that lurked below.

Anders collapsed onto all fours. The blade’s passage had taken more out of him than he’d expected, but he’d survived. That was all that mattered. He’d recover, he’d live to fight the next demon, and the next.

He looked up, and across the canyon, to where the city of Lashtë loomed, silent behind its walls of blackened stone. They’d shone, those walls, golden in the morning, silver at noon, ochre in the setting sun. But no longer. The erupting wrath of countless demons thrashing wildly to climb, to break through, blasted down by the city’s mages, had stained the walls permanently black. Only by a sacrifice of half their number had the mages created the chasm, buying the city some breathing room. Anders didn’t know if it had been worth it.

The horde was unending. This was no time for introspection. Anders whispered silent words to Umwë, and felt a warmth spread from his heart. Energized by golden fire, he stood again, and waited for the next demon to come.

A stone’s throw along the edge of the canyon, his friend Dródi stood, waiting as well. They’d gotten a respite, by whatever luck. “How are you feeling?” Dródi called. Beyond him was another shield-mage, and another, spaced along the canyon, disappearing beyond sight.

Anders shrugged. “Bored,” he called back. He estimated that it was another two turns before his shift would end. Then someone would relieve him, and he’d retreat to Lashtë, to rest and recreate. He looked forward most of all to seeing Gunnvar. They were as good as betrothed, although her father had not made the offer yet. But he knew it was coming.

A flicker of motion caught his eye. Another demon was coming. Anders brought up his hands, and began to summon fire.

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