Ecumenical Daffynitions and Release Date Updates

Tithe: noun. The annual activity fee for Heaven.

Adam: the first man to insist that he was not responsible for what his wife convinced him to do.

Choir members: noun. A group of believers who sing mostly the same notes and usually the same words at the same time, while the choir director waves his hands or a stick at them.

Faith: noun. A level of certainty stronger than belief but weaker than knowledge.

Gentile: noun or adjective: 1. Someone not Jewish. 2. Someone not a member of the Latter-day Saints, including Jews. 3. Heathens (aka people outside your denomination), but using New Testament terms so it doesn’t sound as bad.

Wine: noun. An alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice that multiple denominations try to pretend is not what the New Testament writers really meant when they used the word “wine.” [And having listened to some of the linguistic and historical pretzels people tie themselves into on this one … It’s far easier to point out the importance of the Temperance Movement in the late 1800s-early 1900s and admit that avoiding all forms of alcohol was the real point.]

Many of these are paraphrased from Orson Scott Card’s very funny little book Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary. You don’t have to be LDS to chuckle at many of the definitions. Modify the terms slightly, and they apply to any denomination, or non-denominational congregation.

Book release update: I hope to have the next Merchant book out by mid-June, and the Wolf’s Paws story in mid-July, with a Familiar Generations short-story collection out in late August or early September.


Novel Progress Update

The draft of Herbs and Empire is done at 89K words. I’m going to let it simmer on the back burner for a while while I work on those two fantasy stories.

Fair warning, the French-flavored story is getting dark. It’s still a positive ending, and all ends pretty well, but dang, it’s going some grim places on the way.

I’m on the road, so I won’t be commenting today.

State of the Author – March ’23

The next Merchant book is at 32K words. I hope to make decent progress this coming week.

I have three stories to finish for the next Familiar Generations collection. They are on the back burner for the moment. I do not have release dates for either of those.

Two short stories or novellas, both music inspired and both fantasy, are also on the back burner. They are not part of any series at the moment.

I’m reading a number of books, including Charles Murry’s By The People. Just his descriptions of Supreme Court cases makes the book useful for me. I’m not entirely sure about some of his ideas, but he makes good arguments and it’s a great spring-board for discussion.

David Carrico’s The Blood is the Life is good thus far. How can you be a faithful Orthodox Jewish vampire? Carrico does characters very well, and I’m enjoying the book.

Selling Books: KS/KU or Going Wide?

First, I want to apologize for not catching that the Familiar Generations books had not been properly enrolled in Kindle Select. Amazon’s author interface changed, and the button to enroll the books in Kindle Select, which puts them into Kindle Unlimited, had changed location as well. Instead of a click on the pricing page, it now requires going to a separate page and confirming that yes, the book should be enrolled.

A little about KS/KU. When I started, I “went wide,” meaning my books were available on Kobo/Rakuten (a global sales platform used by Waterstones and by a lot of Asian readers), in Barnes & Noble’s Nook library, and on Amazon. I tried Apple iBooks, but their EPUB formatting and my EPUB formatting flat out refused to cooperate, and I gave up.

The trade-off was lower Amazon royalties. Over the course of a few years, I noticed that Kobo did not bring in much income, B&N was OK, and Amazon provided 80-90% of sales. Then Waterstones had a very awkward episode with readers discovering that some writers had broken the rules, and were selling erotica (and let us say, hard-core erotica) as romance. This led to a huge clean-out of both the offending books and a number of others. The criteria for defining “might be naughty” were both vague and odd (pearl necklace on a Regency character? Book dropped. Too much neck above the neckline? Book dropped. Those were two infamous ones.) Now, this didn’t affect me, but the year that Kobo announced “We will close from December 17-January7 so upload everything as early as possible for holiday sale” did catch me.

Because of all of these different things, I opted to enroll in Kindle Select, which makes the books available in Kindle Unlimited. At the time I only had a dozen or so titles, so it wasn’t hard. My income increased, and I gained readers. All was well.

Fast forward to 2019. KS began having some problems, in part because of attempts to reduce fraud and cheating that cast too wide of a net. I wasn’t directly affected, but it caught my eye. B&N changed their terms of service for writers, including a clause that, if brought into effect, claimed your IP forever. That inclined me to not return to wide distribution. Certain behaviors by Amazon in 2019-2020 set off more alarms, mostly concerning censorship and restrictions on book they might sell in the future. Again, it did not affect me directly, but . . .

So, we are in 2023. Several writers I know have left Amazon KS and returned to wide distribution, and have done very, very well. I’ve considered it, including looking into the dollar cost of reformatting certain books to meet other distributors’ standards, getting ISBN numbers for titles, and so on. It would be an investment, but might pay off in the medium to long term. However, I also know that a lot of readers are facing tighter and tighter budgets. KU/KS also accounts for roughly half my revenue.

All that said and weighed, I decided that I will stay in KS/KU for the foreseeable future, while starting to plan for changes, in case Amazon changes terms or start more censoring of books.

Random Stuff

Behold, mushy peas. Yes, they come in a tin, or you can make them at home. (Marrowfat peas can be used instead of green peas.)

I’m getting the edits and comments back for what is going to be titled “Lord Adrescu’s Sword.” It is a short story, around 20K words or so, and I hope to have it out by the end of the month.

I’m also working on several short stories for a Familiar Generations story set. Protagonists will include Mike, Nikolai, Jude, Imré Farkas and Csilla (the Hungarian piano-restorer mage and his Familiar), Art, and maybe Deborah.

I will be returning to work on the non-series Scotland book shortly.

Research has begun on a Merchant book about an herb healer. I will be staying in town this summer, so I should be able to release the book in the fall.

It has been so warm that the roses are budding out, and daffodil shoots are appearing. MomRed wants dad and I to go out and dump ice cubes on the flower beds to try and calm the plants down. Even with the ice maker now working again, that probably won’t accomplish much.

The Shen Yun dance company and orchestra were in town last week. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was quite pleased. (No, I”m not going to do a review, because I do not care to be overwhelmed by attacks or spam from those who would prefer that the group disappear or at least stop performing.)

The long-range forecast has February and March being very cold in my part of the country. If they are also wet (but no ice, please oh please. BTDT, had a tee-shirt) I won’t mind as much. Unless snow pulls down the power lines. Then I might get a touch irked.

I wish certain people in public life would grow up, get real lives, and disappear from my news feeds. I also want a legal source of tax-free income guaranteeing sixty-thousand a year, and low-cal chocolate that tastes good and won’t upset my insides, and a computer that does what I want, not what I typed. Waking up and discovering that I’ve lost 12 pounds of fat overnight would also be good while the Universe is at it.

Most of what I’ve been reading has been reviewing material for Day Job. However, I recommend Cedar Sanderson’s new short-story collection if you have not gotten it yet. She has a nice mix of story types and “flavors.”

I put out suet and woodpeckers appeared. I think they were keeping the house under observation.

Beta-Reader call

I need hunters of typos, awkward phrases, plot holes, and other things for the novella “Lord Adrescu and the Bull King.” Please send me an e-mail at AlmaTCBoykin AT aol DOT com if you are interested.

Thank you!

Update: The Call is closed. Thank you to all volunteers!

Something Sweet

So, I’m writing a series of short stories/ fairy tales, that are quiet, soft, and happy. Here’s part of the first one, “The Little House on Kitten Paws.” The end of the excerpt is not the end of the story.

Es war einmal a young girl named Gretchen. She lived with her mother and father in a snug wooden house at the edge of the village, where the fields and forest blended one into another. A painting of flowers and vines decorated the side of the bright white house. Other houses boasted paintings of animals, or geometric designs, also in bright colors. Like the other village houses, a good vegetable and herb garden grew behind the house, away from the path through the village.

Gretchen’s father owned a team of horses, Hansi and Stein, and a fine wagon that carried wood and grain and other things for people in the village. He’d come from “away,” perhaps as far as two towns distance. Gretchen’s mother had ten generations in the village burying ground. Gretchen took after her mother—plain of face but skilled with her hands, and blessed with moon-colored hair that shimmered white-blonde. She spun wool, making both fine thread and sturdy yard for the weavers. She knitted and embroidered. The family’s garden prospered despite being so close to the cool forest, but not so well that the other village women envied them.

Gretchen went into the forest with her mother and other women to gather berries, nuts, and herbs. Her mother knew more about the plants of the woods than did other women, as had her mother. They picked nettle tops and dock leaves, blackberries and tart gooseberries, purple-hued foxglove for making calming teas, chamomile, and other things. Some of the women knew mushroom lore, and trimmed the large, tan, flat mushrooms that grew like little shelves from some trees. Everyone knew that puff-balls from the pasture carried the goodness of the sun. Gretchen and her mother traded their wild herbs for mushrooms and garden herbs.

One midsummer day, when she was ten years old, Gretchen and her mother went into the forest without the other women and girls. “You are old enough to see the great treasure of the woods,” her mother told her. They left the path to the berry bushes and followed an older, narrow trail into the cool shadows of the deep forest. The underbrush shrank as the trees loomed tall. Birds called, and puddles of sunlight glowed here and there, where the thick leaves permitted it. After a time, they came to a clearing lush with sweet-herbs and grass. The summer sun poured blessings down from above, warming the air. Gretchen heard a cheerful, quiet babble of flowing water. “There,” her mother whispered. “What do you see?”

Gretchen leaned forward, looking at a spot in some tan-gold rocks where light danced on water. “A spring, Mama?”

“Yes.” Her mother led her across the grass and they stepped carefully on two stones in a small creek. “This is a sweet spring. Nothing bad may grow here, and the water is safe, no matter how hard it rains or storms. A saint blessed this spring, and the clearing around it.”

Gretchen stared at the herbs and flowers, and at the clear water. Cresses waved gently in the stream, green and soft, and a little silver fish flashed across the water, then hid once more. “Which saint, Mama?”

“No one knows, it was so long ago, before the village grew. Nothing bad can stay here, Gretchen. Anything that grows is safe,” her mother repeated, pointing to unfamiliar red berries growing among the blades of grass.

“Yes, Mama.”

“Do not speak of this to the others. It is not a secret, but it doesn’t belong to the village.” Her mother gestured to the forest around them. “It belongs to the woods, and the saints. We may come here to visit, but not to stay.”

[SNIP. Things happen, and Gretchen, now 15, leaves home to seek her fortune]

The next morning, before the sun had begun to fade the morning star, Gretchen gathered her warmest things and fled to the forest, trusting her mother’s words. A few birds chirped as she walked with hesitant steps along the narrow path. The darkness hid the big stump and other familiar guides. A heavy “whunf” came from between the trees to her left and she sped her steps as much as she dared in the near-darkness. The trees hid the false dawn and stars. An owl hooted three times, and Gretchen whispered the charm against evil spirits. A few threads of mist—pale wisps like lost spirits—rose between the trees.

Slowly, as the sun drew closer to the unseen edge of the world, Gretchen saw trees and bushes. A faint shimmer of silver coated some of the big leaves. “The dew,” she whispered, and nodded. That was it. The forest smelled as it always had, both full of life and a little cold. Spring’s warmth always came late to the deep woods.

Soon, the trail reached the clearing and the spring. Gretchen set her bundle down at the edge of the sunny verdure, then took a drink from the stream. The water tasted sweet and soothed her stomach. A bit of color in the damp grass caught her eye, and she ate a few of the little white berries. Her hunger eased. “Thank you,” she told the grass and water, then returned to the edge of the clearing. Now what should she do? The warm sun took away the soreness in her shoulders and back. Soft bird chirps and the music of the spring made her sleepy, and she lay down, her head on her bundle. “I’ll just rest a moment.”

Footsteps, soft and steady, woke her. She opened her eyes to find a house sitting in the meadow! Gretchen blinked. No, not sitting, standing. Soft paws like a kitten’s feet grew from each corner of the little building. Cheerful red shutters and golden walls seemed to welcome her. Moss grew here and there on the roof, making fur-like stripes. The house stopped at the spring, then walked back into the grass. It settled down like a cat, front paws curled under as it sat in the sun. Gretchen smiled. It couldn’t hurt her. She stood, stretched, and dared to come a little closer. “Hello?” She said, quietly, one hand out as she would approach a strange cat.

The red-painted door opened, and the little house on kitten feet tipped toward her, making it easier for her to enter. She returned to her bundle, picked it up, and dared to step inside. “Oh!” A cozy sight met her eyes. A good, snug wood stove all clean and white sat beside cupboards of dishes and jars with flour and other things. A small bed tucked into a corner, near two chairs and a table. Spinning things waited under one of the windows, and a snug pantry waited near the cooking area. She looked around, then went back out and asked, “May I stay?”

The house trembled a little, and she heard a soft rumbling sort of sound. It purred! Gretchen petted the wooden wall, then returned to the house and put her things in the proper places. She needed wood, though. Gretchen crossed the clearing and gathered wood from the forest, away from the blessed meadow, and brought it back to the house. She lit a small fire in the stove. The rumble grew louder, and she felt the house sway a little, as if the paws made kneaded the ground like a happy cat. The swaying soothed Gretchen’s fears. She slept well that night in the little bed.

Come the next morning, the house had moved to a different place in the woods. Gretchen went out and gathered fruit and some early nuts, as well as herbs. She found fresh water and filled two buckets. Then she swept the little house. It wiggled, as if the broom tickled it. Then she swept the walls outside. The house purred, content.

(C) 2022 Alma T. C. Boykin All Rights Reserved