A New Short Story Collection

I am not by nature a short story reader or writer. Hence the reason it’s been seven years since I published my last short story collection.

But every once in a while I get an idea that only works as a short story and I write it. And then, because I have zero patience for the years-long short story submission process what I usually do is sub it to Writers of the Future (which I still barely qualify for), maybe submit it to another market or two, and then let it molder away on my hard drive.

But I actually like those short stories and would like for others to have a chance to read them. So I recently put some of the old ones and the new ones together in a collection and I published it.

It’s called When The Time Comes and Other Stories and you can read one of the stories, The Taste of Memory, which was a WOTF Semi-Finalist and deals with memory and creativity and the role of “the splinter” as Jeff Vandermeer refers to it in being creative, for free.

(Free everywhere except Amazon at the moment because they have the most annoying and convoluted process for setting a book to free of any sales platform on the planet, but I have sacrificed the ritual goat, walked three times backwards around a fire, and asked pretty please so that could change at any moment.)

Anyway. If you like short stories, check ’em out. If not, carry on. If nothing else I had fun practicing my cover design skills and can now justify the expense of buying that pretty font. (I have developed a font addiction, I’m afraid. Please send help.)

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9 Or So Years, 2.7 million words,$165K

While I was here figured I’d drop in a state of the writing post. So the headline pretty much says it all. I hit the end of my ninth year of writing towards publication in early July. In that time period I’ve written around 2.7 million words. And as of the end of July (minus audio and a couple of the smaller sites that haven’t reported yet) I’ve grossed $164K from my writing with a net just over $75K when you take into account expenses.

For me most of those expenses are advertising. I did put some money into audio at one point and I do keep making the mistake of putting big money into covers for my fantasy series. (I’m just about to release new covers for that series after five years. They’re very nice covers but the pain in the ass of working with the designer to get them makes me more determined than ever to master cover design enough to do my own for the next series.)

At this point I like to think of myself as a decently successful self-publisher but a failed novelist. But I do honestly think that has more to do with how many titles I have out under my novel-writing pen names than anything. I still only have two romance novels published and three fantasy novels published. I’m doing better on the mystery side, I have six of those published at this point, which is likely also why that pen name is my second-highest earner in terms of profit.

I’ve sold 54,000+ books at this point, but for some of my pen names it’s like treading water. I’ve sold over 10,000 romance/erotica titles but made just as much with them as I have with the mysteries that have sold just about 5,000 titles. Unfortunately, in certain competitive genres the cost of getting visibility to get those sales is high and so is best recouped with long series that people go on to read. I don’t have that. My romances sell and get good reviews but there’s just nowhere for a reader to go after they finish even if they love what they read.

Right now I make most of my money on non-writing-related non-fiction (which is why the failed novelist comment). I’ve also published 780K words of non-fiction, so that’s probably part of the reason for that.

I was lucky to qualify for PPP and EIDL loans this year based on last year’s profits so even though I took a hefty hit with print sales this year when everything went down I’ll be able to continue publishing for at least the next six months. I was on a very nice uphill swing in January/February compared to the year prior, but I’ve slipped back to 2019 numbers. At least I didn’t slip further than that.

My goals are another mystery and a new fantasy novel. As you can see from my other post today I also have been having some fun with covers and design work. Someday I’ll get good enough to do my own fantasy novel covers and have them look just like a trade published novel, but not yet. I am proud of the new short story covers though. There’s just a little bit of je ne sais quoi that my covers miss that professional ones have. I know it when I see it, but I can’t recreate it yet.

It’s all a matter of slowly leveling up for me. Learn a little more, improve a little more. Some come in right at the top with slick presentation and heavy ad spend and all of it in place. I’m not that person. So I guess I get to be the proof that you can get somewhere in this business without being that person even if it isn’t six-figures-a-year. (You just have to be willing to be embarrassed in public when you look back and realize how far you were from the mark at certain points. Sounds easy, right? Ha.)

Anyway. That’s where I’m at. Hope everyone is well and if it still brings you joy that you’re continuing to write and/or publish. (If it doesn’t, it’s also okay to walk away for a bit or forever. Or to keep the social aspect and drop the actual writing aspect. The nice thing about writing compared to skydiving, for example, is you can keep that community and social group while not actually doing the activity that brought you together. But I digress.)

Be well.

Also, as I’ve mentioned before I tend to post more over at mlhumphrey.com than here these days although this year it’s mostly about COVID being real and people being assholes, so maybe not worth reading….

Posted in My Writing, Writing | Tagged

New Short Stories and New Covers

I’d unpublished my short stories for a while there because I wasn’t really focused on writing short stories and I’m a weird person and having those up took some sort of mental real estate I wasn’t willing to give up.

But I recently bought a new design software (Affinity) and wanted to play with it and thought I could do better than the old covers I was using. And I had a few stories just sitting on my hard drive going nowhere. One is somewhat dark, one is somewhat funny, so very different stories. (And there’s a third I’ll put up when it comes back to me and probably put all of these into a collection.

Anyway. In case anyone was interested in some new short stories or confused about me renaming a couple of the old ones, here’s what we have:

New stories (I hope you can tell which one is humorous by the titles):

In Search of a Hero7 small

Everyone always tells stories about the hero. But what about the guy who wasted his whole frickin’ life looking for the hero? Well, this is the story of that guy and the day he finally found the hero he’d spent decades looking for.

The Taste of Memory small

Should You Give Someone What They Want Even If It Will Harm Them?

Dmitri is a memory eraser, someone capable of removing the worst memories, the ones that haunt and pursue someone for the rest of their lives. He’s the best. But to help those most in need he has to take on other clients, ones who can actually pay. When one of those clients demands that he give her painful memories to make her a better actress he has to decide. Does he say yes and harm her but help his other clients? Or does he say no to protect her from herself?

Old Stories With New Names:

To Be a Hero3 small

What’s It Take To Be A Hero?

It’s the year 2030 and the whole world is watching while American soldiers fight insurgents in Syria. But with TV networks in charge of the war what’s the real goal and is a hero really a hero?

(Formerly Live at Five: The War for Tadmur)

Drowning In Their Darkness small

What If You Couldn’t Say No To Others But They Never Knew?

Empathy should have its limits.  But for Freya it doesn’t.  When others are around she finds herself bending to their will, unable to tell anyone what she wants, unable to assert herself or defend herself. Can she find a way forward or will she forever be drowning in their darkness?

(Formerly Freya’s Tale)

Previously Published Titles That Are Now Available Again

The Price We Pay3 small

What If You Didn’t Have To Struggle Anymore?

Clark has spent every day of his life fighting to survive his terminal illness and provide for his family, but then all his wishes are unexpectedly answered and he’s left asking the question, what now?

Death Answered2 small

How Far Will She Go To Save The Man She Loves?

When Christy’s husband is seriously injured in a skydiving accident, she can’t stand the thought of losing him. So when she’s given the chance–however unreal–to save him, she takes it. But at what cost?

The Bearer5 small

Ka was raised to be a Bearer, a surrogate for wealthy parents who don’t want to or can’t have their own children. Forced to stay silent and devote every moment of every day and every action to creating the perfect environment for growing someone else’s child, she’d never questioned her role. Until now.

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Need a Book to Read?

As I mentioned over on my main blog, I use reading books as a refuge from stress. The worse life gets, the more I read.

Which is why I dropped the price on a number of my ebooks yesterday to make it a little easier for others to find a way to escape, too. That included republishing Erelia, which I had unpublished simply because I didn’t know when I’d write the follow-up to that book. (Still don’t, FYI. It’s hard to write about a dystopia when the real world seems determined to turn into one.)

But anyway. I wanted to drop by here and give you links to the books I put on sale in case any of them look like something you could escape into.

It’s important right now to take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically. I’m walking my dog daily and binge-watching Chopped episodes on Hulu while also devouring a large number of books. (I’m about to start re-reading the Katherine Kerr Deverry books now that I got ahold of the first two that weren’t in my collection. Hopefully they hold up on a re-read. If not, I’ll be scouring various sources for some new-to-me authors to read.)

So anyway. Hope you’re well. Take care. Here are some books that are on sale in ebook.

Non-Fiction ($2.99 USD each)

Excel for Beginners open sans boldv2

Excel for Beginners: A guide to Microsoft Excel for those who need to master the basics.

 

 

Budgeting for Beginners open sans

Budgeting for Beginners: A book that will teach you how to figure out where you are financially, judge what that means, and give tips for how to improve. Especially helpful right now for those who are finding themselves without a steady paycheck, because it covers how to approach irregular income like that. (Also available in audio as the Juggling Your Finances Starter Kit.)

Quick--Easy-Cooking-for-One-KindleQuick & Easy Cooking for One: Exactly what it says. A guide to cooking for yourself for the absolute beginner. More concept-based than step-by-step, but it does include recipes.

 

 

Writing for Beginners open sans

Writing for Beginners: An overview of what a beginning writer should know to get started. Includes discussions of point of view, tense, as well as agents and publishing paths. (Also available in audio under the title The Beginning Writer’s Guide to What You Should Know.)

 

Dont Be a Douchebag PC version 20160803v10Don’t Be a Douchebag: Online Dating Advice I Wish Men Would Take: A snarky guide to online dating for men who aren’t doing so well at it. (Also available in audio. Some retailers may have a different cover.)

 

 

Fiction:

Riders-Revenge-The-Complete-Trilogy-GenericThe Rider’s Revenge Trilogy: ($4.99 USD) A feminist YA fantasy adventure trilogy about a young girl who sets out to avenge her father and finds herself caught up in much bigger issues.

 

 

Erelia blue flame 20151222v5Erelia: (Available on Amazon Only, $2.99 USD and in KU) A dystopian utopia. Life seems perfect on the surface, but the reader sees just what horrible actions create that perfection. Also has a pandemic subplot. (I had unpublished this one just because I thought it needed a sequel and I wasn’t sure when I’d write that sequel, so be forewarned.)

 

A-Dead-Man-and-Doggie-Delights-KindleA Dead Man and Doggie Delights: (99 cents) First in what will soon be a six-book cozy mystery series set in the Colorado mountains. For lovers of Newfoundland dogs, Colorado, and quirky characters who like a little murder on the side. (Book 2, A Crazy Cat Lady and Canine Crunchies is also reduced to $2.99 USD.)

 

Something-Worth-Having-KindleSomething Worth Having ($2.99 USD): Contemporary romance bordering on women’s fiction. About a woman facing a breast cancer diagnosis who goes on a road trip with a man she is absolutely not allowed to fall in love with. (A related but standalone title, Something Gained, is also just $2.99 right now.

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Fantasy StoryBundle

Long time no post. (I usually post at mlhumphrey.com these days.) I can say that my next year’s update, which will come in July, will be pretty exciting, though. I’m expecting to be past the six-figure mark by then which is a nice boost from last year’s post, no?

But in the meantime…

My YA fantasy novel, Rider’s Revenge by Alessandra Clarke, is in a StoryBundle with some great names and I wanted to share that here just in case anyone hadn’t followed me over to the new blog but would like the bundle.

Here’s the link: https://storybundle.com/fantasy

And here’s a picture of all of the books in the bundle:

All Covers Large

Look close and you’re bound to recognize some of the names like Kristine Kathryn Rusch, James A. Owen, and Alan Dean Foster. Also, if you’ve ever paid any attention to LitRPG you’ll see that there’s a collection in there of stories from James A. Hunter’s Viridian Gate. (I read the first novel in that world and really enjoyed it.) Not to mention…dragons!

For just five dollars you can get the first five books pictured there, which includes mine. But for just fifteen dollars you can get all of the books. Pretty great deal, right? And you can donate to charity at the same time. So give to a great cause and get some great books. What more could you ask for?

It’s available through April 11th and then it’s gone forever, so act now.

(I’d also appreciate any signal boost you can give to get word out about the bundle, so if you have friends or readers you think might be interested, please let them know.)

Posted in My Writing | Tagged | 2 Comments

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I went through the posts on this site today to delete references to a certain self-publishing forum that at one point was an incredibly valuable source of information for me but that is now under new ownership that has shown itself more than willing to run the forum into the ground.

And it was interesting to do so, because it gave me little glimpses of the journey that brought me to this point. Five years into self-publishing, seven years into writing. It’s crazy how we forget how we change over the years. I’ve always kept journals so I can always go back and see for myself, but this blog did that for me, too.

I suspect if I sat down and started reading from the beginning I’d laugh uncontrollably more than once at what I once thought mattered or didn’t in this whole crazy business. And I’d probably find insights I’ve lost. Little nuggets of wisdom that I took in at some point and forgot about but that still live somewhere mashed together with everything else I’ve experienced and learned.

I’m a little nervous knowing that location for self-publishing information is going to fade away. (Some would argue it won’t. I think it hit critical mass in terms of users who were upset enough to leave. I know I won’t go back.)

As I said on my newer blog, I think this is a pivot point for the industry where we start to mature and people don’t openly instruct their competition on how to compete with them anymore which will make it harder for those already publishing as well as those who are new to it.

I could be wrong. Time will tell.

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7 Years, 2 Million Words, $40,000

That pretty much sums up where I am right now.

I started writing for publication seven years ago this month. (Yesterday was the last day on my tracker for year 7.) That’s when I said, “I’m going to write a novel and try to get it published” and, me being me, started tracking my hours spent and words written.

I’ve written a little over 2 millions words of short stories, novels, and non-fiction in that period of time. (I count net word change when I write and edit, so that means if I start with 1,500 words, cut 1,000, and write another 1,500 then the net change I’d count for that day is 500 words.)

And from self-publishing I’ve made a little over $40K at this point. A helluva lot better than my first year of self-publishing where I made $87. But not where I want to be just yet. And of course that number is “gross” without expenses. Take out expenses and it’s closer to $16,000.

Even though I mostly blog over at mlhumphrey.com these days, I figured it was worth coming back to this blog to give this status update since this is where I went through all my early growing pains.

So, for anyone who actually sees this post, what can I share about what I’ve learned at this point?

I’m pretty much converted over to one space after a period because it looks better for print formatting, but I’ve decided that alright is all right with me regardless of what Strunk & White think.

Turns out I might be better at writing non-fiction than fiction at this point. At least from an hours spent, words written perspective. That $40K is about half non-fiction. I wouldn’t have known that if I hadn’t been willing to try different things and experiment. That’s one of the strengths of self-publishing–you can publish whatever you want. So if you’re not seeing success in one direction, try another. You might surprise yourself.

The first couple years I self-published I was afraid to advertise, which was a mistake. I have a pretty clear chart showing that the more I advertise the more I make, both in profits and total sales. So I’d say advertising is pretty much essential for anyone self-publishing these days.

I was hoping to be an outlier when I started all this, but looks like 10 years is pretty much what it will take for me to get the writing income to the level I want. Ironically, the closer that goal gets the farther away it seems.

While I would never suggest that someone who fails at trade publishing should pursue the self-publishing path as an alternative (ten times as much to master on the self-publishing path), I have to say that for me personally it was probably the best path to take because it forced me to keep going.

If I were just writing in a vacuum and sending off queries or short stories on occasion I’m not sure I would’ve had the same impetus to keep going as I did with self-publishing since it’s such a public way to fail. I suspect without self-publishing I would’ve written a novel, maybe two, and some short stories here or there and maybe had a short story publication or two by now, but not even a million words written if I’d stayed on that path. But because I’m stubborn and don’t like to fail I’ve kept pushing forward with the self-publishing. (I’m still a bit of a slacker. I think I average out to about 7 hours of writing/editing per week on average.)

It’s also taught me a tremendous amount about genre expectations and categories and marketing that I think can feed back to my writing in a productive and useful way. Lessons I think every writer has to learn at some point if they’re going to succeed at this.

I am both pleased with where I am and frustrated by where I am. It’s a weird feeling to live with, but I think part of being a writer for most of us, that pride with what you’ve done that sits side-by-side with the disappointment for what you haven’t accomplished.

There are definitely times I’ve thought about quitting and walking away. I will always tell stories in my own head–it’s what I do when I’m bored–but the whole writing it down, sharing it with the world, and trying to make money from it part of things isn’t truly necessary for me. But I like working from home and doing my own thing. And writing seems to be the best suited to that if I can just make it profitable enough and sustainable enough for the long-term…

So I keep going. For now.

 

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Priorities

It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m sitting here at my desk trying to motivate myself to work on a story that just doesn’t want to come together. It’s a holiday story so if I want to publish it this year I need to stick with it.

But it’s also a gorgeous fall day. Almost warm enough to be summer, but the leaves have turned and there are some brilliant red-leafed trees just outside. If I got sit out there with a book I’ll be able to see them in the distance as pup sits quietly nearby, her face to the breeze. It’ll probably be one of the last chances I have to sit outside like that for the next few months.

It’s easy to think that the story should be the priority. It’s what has the potential to make me money, after all. And sitting outside enjoying the day seems self-indulgent when there are bills to pay and only so many hours to each day.

But the thing is…

What’s the point of working all the time? What does that get you? Financial security? Maybe. As long as the markets don’t crash and tax law remains stable or continues to favor those with assets. Status? Fine, okay, but what is status, really. Who cares if other people think you’re important if your life is a misery? Or not even a misery–that’s easy to recognize and walk away from–but bland. Like unflavored gelatin. What’s the point to acquire more and more and more if it doesn’t increase the quality of your life?

I mean, there has to be a balance. You can’t just spend your life having amazing experiences and savoring the moment with no regard to how to pay for that. (Not unless you have a really good trust fund.) But it seems to me that far too often we achieve what we need but then we keep on going, sacrificing it all to get what other people tell us we should want. Or to prove to others that we’re good enough or worthy enough, whatever that means.

I think what we should really do at that point is step back and enjoy life a little bit more.

(Then again, because I did take that step back and walked away from the more-money path, I’ll probably be living off Go Fund Me campaigns a few years from now, so don’t listen to me. The way our world is these days it’s very zero sum. You either have too much or too little. You can’t stop easily at the midpoint or you risk slipping backwards.)

Anyway. Those are my thoughts on a gorgeous fall afternoon. If you’d like to help head off my descent into poverty and you’re a writerly type, I am part of this year’s NaNoWriMo StoryBundle. You should check it out. It’s a pretty good selection of books if I do say so myself.

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Sort Of Kind Of Outing Myself

Not in the traditional sense of outing yourself, but more in the “I have too many pen names to keep track of and I’m tired of keeping them all separate” sense of things.

I’ve started a new blog at www.mlhumphrey.com.

It basically combines this pen name, the M.L. Humphrey name that I’ve written writing advice and financial advice titles under, the Cassie Leigh name that I’ve written dating advice, cooking, and puppy patenting titles under, and my other fantasy pen name, Alessandra Clarke.  I’m keeping the romance names separate for the time being just…because.

I’ll probably be more active there than here going forward since I feel like I can blog about more topics there than here, but I’ll probably circle back here on occasion or cross-post if a topic seems like it would fit on both blogs.

Right now I’m planning on posting photos of my dog on Mondays, a random thoughts post on Wednesdays that could cover almost anything, and thoughts about AMS ads or maybe self-publishing on Fridays.

My first random thoughts post is about pen name bios and honesty and how people still assume things about the author even when the bio is 100% true.

We’ll see how the new blog evolves from here, but since some of y’all have been following this blog since 2012, I figured I should give you the heads up.

Hopefully for those of you who’ve been around that long it doesn’t actually come as a huge surprise that I’m a woman?  Then again, perhaps it does since, as I mentioned in that new post on the other blog, I do tend to self-censor out the more feminine examples or comments on this blog.

Anyway.  Check it out if you want.  If you’ve been curious about some of the other stuff I’ve published over the years, I have links and thumbnails up so you can see and know what I was talking about when I vageuposted here more than once.

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Lucky Number Seven

This week starts the seventh year of my writing journey. I’m not where I wanted to be, but I’m making forward progress.  And I have to keep in mind that when I started down this path I had heard that it can take ten to fifteen years to break in, so I’m not behind yet. And certainly, in some respects, I’m probably ahead of lots of folks who’ve been at this for as short a time as I have.

But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard and that I don’t want more now.

It’s kind of crazy really. Last year I wrote 323,985 new words.  (That’s words added in any writing session whether it’s an editing session or pure writing session which means I probably wrote more words than that because when I edit I can delete four hundred words and then add five hundred and I only count that as a gain of a hundred.)  And I feel like a slacker.  I feel like I should’ve done more.  I technically could have. I don’t need to watch television every night.

But at the same time there’s only so much I can extract from my subconscious at any given time and only so much time I can spend wallowing in emotion before it exhausts me.  And, really, not like 324K words is some pathetically low number.  (Although I do wonder where those went in terms of what I published…Half of that was two novels, but the rest? IDK.)

I’m in a tricky spot right now.

Technically, I could quit and walk away.  There might be a reader or two who wonders what happened to that author whose book they enjoyed.  But it’s not like I’d receive hundreds of emails from strangers wondering what happened to me and asking when I’m going to write the next book.

And in many respects stopping now would probably be the smart thing to do. Go back to the 9-5 that pays a helluva lot better than writing does before it’s too late to do so. I’d always know that I accomplished something more than most people ever do. I not only wrote a novel (I wrote seven across all my pen names), but strangers bought it and enjoyed it.  At full price, too.

It’s not what I wanted out of my writing, but it’s not failure either.

But it seems I’m too stubborn for my own good.

And I don’t like to fail. Especially at something I think I can succeed at that’s showing steady forward progress.  My year four self-pub income should be twice my year three self-pub income which was 1.5x my year two self-pub income which was 20x my year one self-pub income. And I just had my first $1000+ month. (Gross, not net, so not as exciting as it sounds.) It’s hard to quit when there are glimmers of hope like that.

So one more year. Or at least six more months.  And then I can reassess again.

I just hope when the time comes that my friends are generous with their spare bedrooms and couches. And that they like dogs.

Haha. Sigh. (I’m a fool.)

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