The World’s Mine Oyster

The book world is changing rapidly. Now you can have an entire library of ebooks at your fingertips for less than $10.00 a month.

According to Smashwords, who will be delivering books for the new Oyster app:

oysterA reader downloads the beautiful Oyster app, available for the iPhone and iPad. If they subscribe to the $9.95/month service, the customer gains access to a massive catalog of ebooks, of which Smashwords books will soon be included. Readers can read as much as they want or as little as they want. The books are contained within the Oyster app, and cannot be transferred or shared. If the customer ends their subscription, they lose access to the book. This is fair and reasonable. The customer is subscribing to a service, and for as long as they maintain their subscription, they read whatever they want. It’s a very similar offering to Spotify in music and Netflix for film and television entertainment.

A single Oyster user could conceivably read multiple books by the same Smashwords author in a single month, and the author will be paid for each book. As a Smashwords author or publisher, you’ll earn 60% of you book’s retail list price whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than 10% of your book, starting from the beginning of the book forward. It’s an author-friendly model. That’s the same rate Smashwords authors earn when we sell ebooks through the major retailers such as Apple and Barnes and Noble.

Oyster’s subscription service will help you connect with a segment of the reading audience you’re not reaching anywhere else. Oyster will also give authors yet another reason to steer clear of exclusivity and embrace full distribution with Smashwords.

The first books to be delivered to Oyster by Smashwords will be their bestsellers, but eventually, my books will be available, too. Although this seems like a good deal for everyone, I doubt I’d ever subscribe to such a service. It spooks me that someone would keep track of what I am reading, and would know as soon as I read more than 10% of a book. Besides, by the time I got used to such a book delivery system, something newer and even more innovative will come on the market.

And anyway, I don’t have an iPad, iPod, iPhone or any other iProduct.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Short Story Contest. No Entry Fee!

Now that you’ve blogged about what you are thankful for and stuffed yourself with Thanksgiving goodies, now that you have finished your NaNoWriMo entry and celebrated your success, now that you have survived your Black Friday shopping and have not yet gotten into the Christmas mood (or have already gotten out of it)…

Think Spring!!

Second Wind Publishing is sponsoring a short story contest. The theme is . . . you guessed it! Spring. Spring and renewal to be exact. Your stories do not have to be light and uplifting (which should be welcome news for all of you writers who pen dark fiction), but they do have to fit the theme. The story should be your own work, no more than 5,000 words, and must not have been published anywhere, not even on your own blog.

There is no entry fee.

The contest is open to anyone in the world, 18 or older, though the entry must be written in English. The deadline is December 31, 2011. The best entries will be posted on the Second Wind Contest Blog for everyone to read and comment.

The winning entry will be published in the upcoming Second Wind anthology, Change is in the Wind. This anthology is a collection of stories by the authors of Second Wind, so the winner will be in good company. (Since I’m a Second Wind author, I will be writing a story for the anthology. Well, I will as soon as I figure out what I want to write.) The winner will also receive a coupon from Smashwords.com for an unlimited number of free downloads of the anthology for one month. The coupon can be sent to as many people as you wish during that month. The winner will also be able to purchase an unlimited number of print copies of the anthology at half price plus shipping costs. And the winner will receive a one year free VIP account from Angie’s Diary, the online writing magazine to help you get even more exposure for your writing. ($99.95 value).

So what are you waiting for? Encouragement? Then here it is: you can write a wonderful short story! I know you can! So please send your story as a Word .doc or .docx to secondwindpublishing@gmail.com.

For more information, click here: Second Wind Contest Blog.

Free Ebook! No Strings (Or Pages) Attached

Light Bringer, my fourth novel will be released this spring. To make way room for my new book, Second Wind Publishing is clearing out the ebook inventory of my previous three novels by giving away a free copy to everyone who leaves a comment on this blog post. That’s a joke, sort of — there is no such thing as ebook inventory clearance. Since ebooks exist only in the infinite reaches of cyber space, there is no inventory to clear. What is not a joke is that Second Wind is giving away free ebooks — that part is true.

All you have to do to receive a free ebook is to leave a comment mentioning which of my books you want to read. (Descriptions of  all three are listed on the right sidebar.) We will send you a coupon code to use at Smashwords.com where you can download your free book in whatever format you choose.

So, which book do you want to read? More Deaths Than One?  A Spark of Heavenly Fire? Daughter Am I? Now’s your chance!

This offer expires on February 15, 2011.

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtake #3

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, I am posting outtakes from the book. Like movie outtakes, these are scenes that were deleted from the final version.  Posting them is not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Still, it’s fun being able to revisit some of my original scenes. Hope you enjoy this look at my characters. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

One of Hollywood’s highest paid actors, Jeremy King had a tendency to take himself and his status too seriously, but here, on his vast Montana ranch, he felt centered. A man, not an icon.

After a satisfactory day riding fence, he crawled into bed so blissfully drowsy he felt no need to take a sleeping pill.

His wife Nora rolled over into his arms, enveloping him in her inimitable scent: jasmine, cinnamon, woman. He felt a momentary tug of arousal, but it dissipated when she didn’t respond to his exploratory kiss. Before he even had time to register a flicker of disappointment, he fell asleep.

To his annoyance, he woke an hour later. As he started to get out of bed, Nora grasped his wrist.

“Don’t go,” she said, still half asleep.

“I have to. This damn prostate.” He gently disengaged her fingers and headed for the bathroom.

When he returned, Nora was sitting up, the heirloom quilt clutched to her throat.

“Don’t go,” she repeated.

“I won’t.” He laughed humorlessly. “Not for an hour or two, anyway.”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“It’s late, honey. Go back to sleep.”

“I had a dream.”

Jeremy yawned. “Can’t it wait? We can talk tomorrow before I leave.”

“I don’t want you to go to Denver,” Nora said. “Something terrible is going to happen to you there.”

“I’m only going to be gone two days, just long enough to shoot a few exterior scenes. That’s all.”

Jeremy’s latest film, Cry of Hope, was the story of a Colorado cattleman who, while trying to survive a severe drought, discovers that his son has leukemia.

Test audiences had been singularly unmoved. In an effort to rescue the movie, the producers had decided to shoot a few more scenes showing the rancher’s despair. Jeremy had readily agreed to take the extra work; he was at that age where one disappointing film to could an end to a long career.

Nora knew this too, so why was she giving him grief? Maybe she was lonely now that their two children were away at college.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Jeremy said. “Go shopping at Cherry Creek Mall, eat at some fancy restaurants.”

“You think that’s what this is about?”

“Look, it was just a suggestion.”

“Oh, never mind.” Nora flopped down on the pillow, pulled the covers up to her chin and turned her back on him.

Jeremy had just about drifted back to sleep when Nora sat up again and turned on the light.

He squinted at her in the sudden brightness. For just a second he wondered who the worried old woman was. What had happened to the slim, raven-haired beauty he had married twenty-five years before?

With a pang of compassion, he sat up, put his arms around his wife and pulled her close. “What is it, honey?”

Nora started to cry, loud gulping sobs like a child.

Jeremy patted her back and made soothing noises.

“I don’t want to lose you,” she said after she had calmed down.

“You’re not going to lose me. What can happen in Denver? There’s no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no tornadoes, no tidal waves or flash floods. There’s an occasional blizzard, but eh weatherman says it’s going to be clear this week-end.”

She pulled away from him to study his face. “You’re making fun of me.”

“No, I’m not.” He smiled at her. “Well . . . maybe a little.”

She snuggled back into his arms. “The dream really scared me. You and someone else — a girl, I think — were alone in a very desolate place. There were a few skeletons of buildings in the background, and some trucks and bulldozers parked haphazardly around an immense smoking pit, but that was all. The sun was just setting. Because of the smoky haze, the sun was red, like the sun of a dying planet, and it made everything else look red, too. Blood red.”

Jeremy felt Nora shudder. “It’s just a dream,” he said. “Remember when I was doing The Sultan’s Pride? You called me in Mozambique, all frantic because you dreamed I was going to be tortured. You were right. I was. But it was just a scene in the movie. And that time you dreamed I was going to be hit by a car and end up in a coma? Another scene from one of my films.”

“I still feel terrible about accusing you of having an affair with your co-star while you were making Mesa Grande — what was her name? Janet Richards? — but I did see the two of you in a dream.” Nora sighed. “You must think I’m a foolish old woman.”

When he opened his mouth to speak, she kissed him, stifling his protests. “You’re a good man, Jeremy King,” she said, then she turned off the light.

Within minutes, she was sound asleep. Jeremy, however stared up at the ceiling, unable to get her words out of his head.

His affair with Janet Richards has been very discreet, so it had come as a shock when Nora had confronted him with it. He had managed to sidestep a battle by swearing the affair was nothing more than a protracted love scene that had been cut from the movie, but he had never understood how she had found out about it in the first place. Could she really have seen it in her dreams?

An hour later, still wide awake, Jeremy took two sleeping pills.

I always liked this scene. It put a different slant on Jeremy’s flirtation with the gorgeous Pippi O’Brien, and it foreshadowed the terrible sight that greeted them when they fled Denver, but too much of Jeremy at the beginning pf the book overwhelmed the story and made it drag. I can’t believe I had the courage to eliminate it. 

Read the first chapter of the published version here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire 
Free download: get the first 30% of A Spark of Heavenly Fire free at Smashwords
Read blurb at  Second Wind Publishing: A Spark of Heavenly Fire
Blatant hint: Books make great Christmas gifts!

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtakes #2

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. To celebrate, all month I will be posting outtakes from the book. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at my characters. It’s a continuation of the scene posted in here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtakes. Oh, and if you’d like to see a photo of the handwritten book, you can find it here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire Pre-Anniversary.

The waitress brought a Coke, which Jim drank in one long gulp. He hauled himself out of the booth.

“I’d better be going.” He started to leave, then turned back. “I almost forgot. When we talked earlier today, you said you had some news.”

“It can wait,” Greg said. “You have more important things to worry about.”

Jim sat back down. “Tell me.”

“I asked Pippi to marry me.”

A big grin softened Jim’s forbidding face. “Hey, that’s great! I’ll bet Pippi’s thrilled. She’s had that look in her eye for quite a while now.”

“What look?”

“You know—that ticking biological clock look.”

“She’s only thirty. I didn’t think their biological clocks started ticking  until they reached thirty-five, at least.”

Jim shrugged. “Depends on the woman. Letisha’s clock started ticking when she was only twenty-four. Just think, if she hadn’t proposed to me, I would have been a swinging single, too.”

Greg ignored the comment. Jim always pretended to lament the loss of his bachelorhood, but Greg knew the truth—Jim loved being married.

“Have you set a date yet?” Jim asked. “Letisha will feed me leftovers for a month if I can’t give her all the details. It’s only fair to warn you, she’ll want at least one of out kids in your wedding party.” He stopped and peered at Greg. “Hey, you okay? You don’t look too happy.”

Greg tried to smile, but his face refused to cooperate.

“Don’t worry, kid,” Jim said, sounding as if he were twenty years older than Greg instead of just eight. “Everyone gets pre-wedding jitters.”

Greg shook his head. “It’s not that.”

“Then what? Pippi didn’t say no, did she?”

“Not exactly.”

“Did she say yes?”

“Not exactly.”

“Hell, kid, you’ve got me so confused I don’t know whether to slug you or congratulate you.”

Greg toyed with his beer. “You’re confused? What about me? I thought she wanted to get married—she’s been hinting at it for months, so I finally decided to ask her. Know what she said?”

“What?”

“She said she’d think about it.”

“Ouch.”

“I asked her what there was to think about and she said she wasn’t sure if I knew what love was. Then she said that even if I did know what love was, she wasn’t sure if I was capable of loving her the way she wanted to be loved.”

“Sounds to me as if it’s herself she’s unsure about.”

“Could be. I don’t get it though. Marriage, I mean. It’s not like it’s forever any more, so what’s the big deal?”

Jim raised his eyebrows. “Very romantic.”

“I didn’t tell her that. I may be unromantic, but I’m not stupid, you know. And I do love her.”

When Greg was alone once more, however, it was not his would-be fiancé who occupied his thoughts, but the unknown woman whose corpse had been so savagely mutilated.

Read the first chapter of the published version here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire 
Free download: get the first 30% of A Spark of Heavenly Fire free at Smashwords
Read blurb at  Second Wind Publishing: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

A Spark of Heavenly Fire Outtakes #1

A Spark of Heavenly Fire takes place during the month of December. Originally, the story began on the first with the climax at Christmas, but during one of the rewrites, I got rid of most of the first chapter. So, oddly, the story now begins on December 2.  I could have have changed December 2 to December 1, but that seemingly innocuous change would have rippled throughout the book, and I didn’t want to make inadvertant mistakes. I make plenty of vertant ones! It may not have mattered so much if it were any other month, but the Christmas activities needed to take place on the 25th. 

To celebrate A Spark of Heavenly Fire‘s month, I will be posting outtakes from the book. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Since the original version is no longer in my computer, I have to retype the pages from my handwritten draft copy.  Hope you enjoy this behind the scenes look at my characters:

Greg was idly running his finger around the rim of the empty beer mug when Jim appeared in the seat opposite him.

“Jeez, you startled me,” Greg said.

If Greg looked like a matinee idol, Jim was surely a stock Hollywood villain — big and black, ugly and menacing. But one who could move as quickly and as silently as a jaguar. Cat or car, take your pick.

A hefty waitress with a rose tattoo peeping out of her considerable cleavage brought Greg’s second beer, slamming it down on the table so hard that some of the liquid sloshed out of the mug.

“Bring me a coke, will you, Joyce?” Jim said.

Joyce glowered at him, then trudged off, perhaps to get his drink.

“Still on duty?” Greg asked.

“A cop’s always on duty.”

“You know what I mean.”

Jim massaged the back of his neck. “I’ll have to go back to the station, probably have to work all night.”

“What’s up?” Greg could smell a news story — a big story — and wanted a piece of it.

“Off the record?”

Greg hesitated a second. “Okay.”

“I don’t know if it amounts to much, but the brass want it kept quiet. Afraid of starting a panic, I guess.”

“Over what?”

“There’s been a lot of deaths from something the medical examiner called ‘projectile hemorrhagic vomiting, cause to be determined.”

Greg hunched his shoulders. “That’s it?”

“If you’d seen the bodies, you wouldn’t ask that. In all my years on the job, I’ve never seen so much blood. Some of the younger guys are spooked. Can’t say I blame them. It’s truly gruesome. And when you consider that most of the victims were driving when they died, you can imagine what it was like out there.”

“Bumper cars.”

“Right.”

Greg studied his friend’s grim face. “There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Jim let out his breath in a loud whoosh. “You’re right. Did you hear about the woman who was bludgeoned to death and left lying in the street in a pool of her own blood?”

“I heard about it, but someone else at the paper was sent to cover it.”

“I talked to the pathologist assigned to do the autopsy. She said she won’t know anything for several days, but form a cursory look, the beating was post mortem.”

“Someone beat up a corpse?”

“Yep.”

“Jeez, how weird is that! Where does one get a corpse anyway?”

“Unfortunately, tonight there’s no lack of dead bodies lying around. The perp must have stumbled across a woman who died from the hemorrhagic disease and decided to have a little fun. The pathologist said it looked as if the woman had been run over by a semi — just about every bone in her body was broken. At first we thought the beating was done by a gang of teenagers, but we found only one weapon — an eighteen-inch-length of metal pipe.”

“Wow. This is great stuff.” Greg pulled a small notebook and a pen out of his pocket and began scribbling. “The guy who covered the story didn’t get any of this.”

“We’re still off the record,” Jim warned.

“I know, I know. But I can be prepared, can’t I? The proverbial lead pipe! I thought that only showed up in detective novels.”

“Not lead. Galvanized iron.”

Greg looked up in surprise. Jim was either very tired or very worried to have let the detective novel remark pass. A real-life detective, Jim considered most of the books to be simplistic or cartoonish, and he was usually quick to voice his opinion.

Read the first chapter of the published version here: A Spark of Heavenly Fire 
Free download: get the first 30% of A Spark of Heavenly Fire free at Smashwords
Read blurb at  Second Wind Publishing: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

A Shocking (And Embarrassing) Reality

I received my second royalty check yesterday and was shocked (and a bit embarrassed) by how few books I had sold online in the past couple of months. I’ve been a big advocate of online promotion, and I’ve had a great time connecting with people on Facebook, Gather, Twitter, Goodreads, this blog, and other sites. Apparently, however, while I’ve been making friends, I haven’t been making sales. I realize the economy is bad, that people are spending money for vacations and back to school clothes, that many people are without work, but that can’t be the total answer since 30% of each of my books is available as a free download on Smashwords. And people aren’t downloading them.

I’ve been saying all along that I’m missing a piece of the on-line promotion puzzle, and this just proves that I am right. To be honest, I still don’t know what that missing piece is. I get dozens of emails from authors telling me about their books, giving a synopsis and a plea to buy. I won’t follow their example. Such emails might work — people are kind and often will follow through — but I find them intrusive. And annoying. So annoying that I don’t even bother to read them. Since I won’t do unto others what I won’t let them do unto me, emailing people is out.

I know many authors who continually speak and write of their books, cramming them down our gullets until we want to scream. We can’t scream, of course, because that book is gagging us. That’s why you never hear a protest against this sort of tactic.

I could do what other authors are doing — give up on promotion to concentrate on writing another book that might be “the one.” The problem with this (for me, anyway) is that I already have two more books that will soon be published. Daughter Am I (sort of a gangsterish book with my own twist on the bootlegger story) will be published in August, and Light Bringer (sort of a science fiction, alternate history, retelling of human history novel, with my own twist on the past), will be published in November.

I can see one problem — I can’t write an elevator speech! After all this time, I still don’t know how to describe my books in a single sentence. Nor have I figured out my genre. One reader emailed me (yes, I do read and respond happily to emails from people who aren’t trying to sell me something unless it is one of those endlessly forwarded messages that no one ever reads). She commented: I now see what you mean about an unnamed genre. Kind of a big picture conspiracy, behind the scenes machinations and how that affects the little guy (or gal) on the street. (Thank you, Wanda!)

So, what’s the answer? I promise, when I figure it out, I will let you know. By November, I hope. Light Bringer is my magnum opus (of the four people who have read it, two called it brilliant; the other two merely said it was wonderful), but how magnum can an opus be if no one reads it?

Meantime, my fame, such as it is, is spreading. In the past few days, I found my name in four different blog posts and links to my blogs in a couple of surprising places:

Murder in the Wind — I won! Thank you! By Sheila Deeth

I blog, you blog, we all blog — Why? By Claire Collins

To Kindle or Not to Kindle by Norm Brown

Interview with Alan Baxter on Smashwords

Bookselling Links on the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association website

Yahoo Answers

It’s a good beginning.

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30% of More Deaths Than One — Free at Smashwords

Both of my novels, More Deaths Than One and A Spark of Heavenly Fire are available at Smashwords. Smashwords is a self-publishing platform and online bookstore for indepedent ebook authors, publishers and readers. They offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device. (Kindle, Sony, Palm, Stanza, etc.) Many publishers (including Second Wind) are starting to use their services, which allows them to offer their books in all the ebook formats with little added expense. Why is this so important? As I’m sure you know, ebooks are the wave of the future, even for those traditionally slow to adapt to new technologies, such as the over 50 crowd. (Does this still hold true, I wonder? Most people I meet who enthusiastically embrace computers and the internet belong to that age group.)

The new demographics are:

  • People 50 or older are leading the way in adopting the Kindle, followed by those 18-34
  • People 35-49 prefer using their iPhones to read e-books
  • But most people (48%) are still using their computers or laptops to read e-books
  • While e-books are1.5% of the total book market, ebook sales grew 125% overall in 2008
  • E-book sales grew 183% among seniors aged 65+ and 174% among seniors aged 55-65

So whatever your choice of reading device — printed book, Kindle, Sony, computer — I’ve got you covered. (Do ebooks have covers? Perhaps that wasn’t as clever a word choice as I thought.) And, you can begin reading online immediately.

My Smashwords profile: Pat Bertram
Smashwords: More Deaths Than One
Smashwords: A Spark of Heavenly Fire
Printed Book: More Deaths Than One
Printed Book: A Spark of Heavenly Fire

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