Tag Archives: #amwriting

Is a tragedy acceptable today?

I stayed up until midnight playing video games with my son. I knew I'd pay for it today, but did it anyway.

Frankie, the alarm dog, got me up at 4:30. I should be overjoyed that she gave me twenty minutes longer than my alarm clock usually does. It's a flex day, so maybe I'll grab a nap this after noon.

I hacked out another micro-fiction while the dogs managed to go back to sleep. Then I grabbed a fresh coffee and sat beside the footboard of my bed.

A slurping noise moved from the darkness to just the other side of the footboard. A black tentacle slid a Nylabone out on the floor beside me.

“Black is a new look for you, isn't it?”

“Oh, you know me. Always trying something new. I think it makes me scarier in the dark.”

“You could be onto something. Things you can't quite see are more frightening. What's with the dog toy?”

“Oh, Frankie and Otto were tugging at it yesterday and it flew under the bed. I thought she might need it back.”

“Not for much longer. I think her puppy teeth are almost all gone now.”

“Good thing too. Those babies are sharp. I had to steal a Bandaid while you guys were sleeping.”

“No problem, that's why they're there.”

“So what brings you to talk to the old under-the-bed monster today?”

“Tragedy.”

“You're going to have to be more specific.”

“Okay, tragedy is a time honored kind of story. When done well, it produces a powerful emotional experience for the reader–“

“Right a PEE, I read your blog. Too funny.”

“As I was going to say, it seems to be out of favor today.”

“Times change and all that.”

“Maybe they do, but maybe they shouldn't. Not everyone gets a happily-ever-after in real life. Fiction should reflect real life.”

“Riiiight. You write stories about spacemen, witches, and dwarves.”

“Okay, but I try to get real human emotions into them.”

“You still haven't told me what specifically brings you here today.”

“I nearly wrote a Greek tragedy a few years ago with The Cock of the South. I chickened out, and didn't completely go that route. Well, I've gone and done it again.”

“And you're worried it will make people mad. You're looking at it from the wrong side of the mirror. For every one of those happy endings, a monster dies somewhere. Do you know how many of my friends are hanging around the Union Hall just waiting for another story?”

“How many?”

“All of em, and they aren't going to get another story because the author killed them off.”

“Don't you guys always manage to stick a hand out of the grave right at the end, or open your eyes suddenly?”

“Only in horror. Not every monster story is technically a horror story.”

“That's all great, and I appreciate that monsters would understand, but they don't buy many books these days.”

“So it's a commercial thing?”

“Not exactly, it's a story for my blog.”

“Now you're just being stupid. Those things have the lifespan of a gnat. Eight hours later the readership forgets all about them.”

“Maybe they do, and maybe they don't. They don't swarm back and re-read the posts, but the story might stick with them.”

“Yeah, that's a good point. Is this for your macaroni thing?”

“It's called Macabre Macaroni, and yeah.”

“Maybe you can bracket it with something happy on either side. End with one that isn't a tragedy. They always remember the last one.”

“So bury it in the middle somewhere?”

“That's my opinion.”

“Thanks Under-The-Bed Monster, I owe you one.”

“You owe me several, but who's counting.”

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It’s a Draft

I put in the effort today. I needed to pick a project and focus on it, so I limited myself to just one thing. I added about 4500 words to The Enhanced League and finished it.

It's a draft with flaws, and it needs some help here and there, but it exists now. I can address the issues in the editing phase.

So what is it? It's a story about an alternate baseball league where anything goes. This includes performance enhancing drugs, aluminum bats, lasers that call balls and strikes, and more. I borrowed pages from my Experimental Notebooks, and my novel The Playground to try telling an overall story by writing a bunch of short stories, micro-fiction, and something new. There is a pinch of science fiction involved when it comes to my semi-main character too.

That something new is what I am calling anthems. They're almost like a monologue, but written in second person point of view. I think I shared one on this blog a month or so ago.

4500 words is a long day for me. Since these were individual stories, I didn't know what I had until I assembled them all. The book came together at slightly over 37,000 words. That isn't a lot, and I feel like it could use another three to five thousand.

Still, my intention all along was to make it a 99ยข special. I also have a theory that novellas are where it's at right now, so maybe it does work.

My personal goal was to make all the short pieces tell a larger story, and I did. It keeps me from my normal twist endings, but I'm okay with that. This isn't an Experimental Notebook. I still managed two pretty good ones using my semi-lead character Roger Warren.

I'm trying to celebrate, I swear, but I always wind up critiquing my own work. I poured a big glass of Laphroaig, not my usual drink, and am trying to type between bouts of throwing a squeaky bone for Otto.

I would like to work on The Yak Guy Project tomorrow, but can't. I have a Lisa Burton Radio to assemble and schedule. I also have a new one to work up a shtick on and ship to the guest author. Then there are those Storyreading Ape posts I need to write. To tell you the truth, I'm dragging my feet there, because I may have a new release to post about. Maybe I'll write May's post and deliver it. Then, if I have a new release, I can write about it for June.

Lots to think about, more toys to throw, and a nice smoky scotch to down. I'd like to see a Spring Training game for actual baseball, but there doesn't appear to be anything on right now.

My wife called and already spent all her money on the first day. Let's be honest, I knew this would happen. It sounds like they are having a great time, and I'm going to have to accept the fact that another day of spending is going to happen.

So it appears I did get some writing done. The girls are having a great time, and did spend too much money. Otto is having fun too, and whisky (without the e) is good for what ails you.

Tomorrow is all about blog work, after I call my parents. Then I need to deal with some mundane things like dirty dishes and such. It won't be that hard to resist the editing phase, since it isn't my favorite. I'll probably still dwell on things like cover art, Lisa posters, beta readers, and the whole releasing a book strategy. I promise not to initiate any of it though.

I wish I could share it with my critique group, but I may be on the verge of losing the group. We've been together for years, but three of the members stepped out. We got one new member, but now we're having trouble scheduling the meetings. We skipped February all together. My beta readers for Enhanced League are going to be more important than ever.

The Enhanced League needs time to ferment. A couple of weeks of being ignored will give me a new perspective on the whole thing. It may also give me time to finish The Yak Guy Project.

Yak Guy is next, with no new projects until it is a draft too.

Talk to me tonight. Did you do any writing today? What do you think about novella length works? Would you rather be at the Mall of America with my wife and daughter?

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Productive Holiday

I headed for the writing cabin about 6:30 this morning. It was clear and cold, and apparently determined to stay that way. (Our high temperature today was a blistering nine degrees.)

Lisa* knew I was coming. (She monitors my phone and gyrocopter.) When I walked into the writing cabin, the fireplaces were pushing heat, and the coffee was hot. “What's the plan today, boss?”

“The Yak Guy. We're getting close to the end, and I want to keep making progress. Is the yak still in the basement stable?”

“Sure is.”

I turned toward the staircase, and Lisa stopped me. “Wait. Give him his carrot. I picked up a bunch, and give him one every day.”

“Won't Bunny get jealous?”

“Oh no. He gets some too.”

I grabbed the carrot by the leaves, scooped up some hot coffee, and headed downstairs.

The yak stood in his stall, but the gate was open. “Hey, brought you a carrot.”

“Thanks, but I don't care for them that much,” the yak said.

I glanced back over my shoulder. “You're going to have to eat it. Lisa thinks she's doing something wonderful for you.”

“Fine, but I've had to eat a lot of carrots in the last six months. I don't want to let out my saddle.” He accepted the carrot and started munching.

“I'm heading for the Wheel of Fortune part of the story. Is the Yak Guy ready for it?”

“He isn't too bright, but he seems to be ready when the next event comes along. All you can do is try. I don't know how he's going to react to a decision he has to make with imperfect information. He always wants to know all the answers ahead of time.”

“Don't we all. It seems more prevalent with Yak Guy's generation though. I have a hunch, he'll deal with it if I don't give him any choice.”

“You can always have me gore him in the butt again.”

“Heh, that was fun, but I don't know if we can do it again without it seeming forced.”

“I understand, but there are days I'd like to.”

“Alright, buddy, get your saddle on and I'll have Yak Guy meet you in the meadow.”

I tromped upstairs to my office and kicked Yak Guy off the couch. “Time to get to work.” He begrudgingly left, and headed outside.

Words flowed well, and the Wheel Of Fortune lesson is over. All I have to do is rescue some kids, then find some refugees, and reunite him with the love of his life. I think it's going to hit 80,000 words, and if not I'll have to enhance a couple of places. I have a hard time calling it a novel if I don't get the word count.

The yak led his human into the basement and got him all settled. Lisa asked if that was it for the day.

“I think I can manage a bit more, to be honest. I'm going to try a baseball story.”

“Oh, crap, I never called any of them.”

“No problem, this story is about a barbecue on a day when the players are off. I'm going to explore their feelings about being placed on waivers, and who their competitors are for post-season slots. We'll write it, and interview them all later to make it feel right.”

“Too bad, I would have enjoyed a barbecue and a dinner party. I have this cute little black–“

“Nevermind, let's just write it. Maybe you can put an old game on TV for some atmosphere.”

“Oh sure, no problem.”

That seemed to get Lisa focused, and I cranked out a 1000 word micro-story. I'm enjoying these tales, but I don't know how the world will receive them at large. There are a bunch of stories, and a few recurring characters. It tells the story of a mythical season, but delves behind the scenes and covers a lot of activities off the field too. In a way, it has some similarities to The Playground in the way I'm relaying it. Because there is an overarching story, I can't do the twist endings my short stories are known for. There are some, but not with the frequency an Experimental Notebook would have.

I leaned back in my chair and took a sip of my coffee. “Let's make a couple of storyboards.”

“Are you serious? I didn't thaw out the left side of your brain. I might be able to, but don't want to scorch it again.”

“Don't worry about him. We'll just pin some cards up, and we can make them perfect later on.”

Lisa headed for the basement, and returned with two storyboards, a pile of index cards, some sticky notes, and all the colored pens you could want. What can I say, the girl likes making storyboards.

We made one for a science fiction tale I'm calling Estivation. This is like hybernation, but occurs when things get too hot. It involves a cute young couple who have to spend three months in a survival bunker while a parasite sun passes by their planet. I invented the term parasite sun for a gas giant planet that manages to ignite somehow. When things line up, their own sun plus the parasite sun, makes the surface deadly.

Their bunker is already occupied by a thief, and they all get locked in together. Happiness and merriment ensue. (Not really) They don't have enough food to last three months now. Throwing the bad guy out will expose them all to deadly radiation.

Lisa put that board aside, and we made one for a project called The Hat. This involves a hard working girl, who missed out on the family decision about what to do with grandma's personal possessions. She had to pull an extra shift and missed the meeting by a couple of hours. When she gets to granny's junk shop, her evil uncle decided to sell everything. All the heronine wanted was one of grandma's house plants, but even this was denied her.

When evil uncle's back is turned, she grabs a box and takes it home. Inside the box is an old fedora hat. It wasn't even grandma's, it belonged to the grandfather she never knew. Turns out the hat talks and forms a kind of symbiotic relationship with the wearer. This one is going to become a kind of paranormal superhero type story.

When wearing the hat, my heroine can see through his eyes too. They can communicate without vocalizing their words. She can see behind her, or wherever he is looking. She can also shoot guns while using his vision, while her own vision aims a different direction. On top of that, The Hat, plays an upright bass. She needs to wear him, and he uses her fingers and hands. This part is going to be great for character purposes.

I think my main plot problem is going to involve baby snatchers, and I've decided to include an unhelpful witch in the supporting staff.

The Hat is going to be more of a buddy tale, with my heroine and the hat making up the buddies. They're going to bicker and (hopefully) grow during the tale.

Lisa said, “So The Hat can be any kind of hat she wants, as long as it's a hat? Is that what's going on?”

“Yeah, basically. She can be seen in one thing, round the corner, and it's something else completely. Maybe headphones or something. Might make a reasonable way to avoid the cops.”

“This is so exciting, I'm going to order a small mountain of hats.”

“You party on, Lisa.”

And that's where I called it a day.

*Lisa Burton is my robotic personal assistant, and the spokesmodel for Entertaining Stories.

If any of you are that interested, you can check out pin boards for The Hat, and Estivation on my Pinterest site.

 

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Shifting Gears, again

With the end of October, and my first day off in November, I found myself out at the writing cabin once more.

Lisa Burton, my robotic assistant, had on her skull jeans but this time they were tucked into some knee-high black boots. That's as good a sign of the changing seasons as any.

“Are you tired of your Morticia dress now?” I asked.

“No. I love the dress, but I'm not in love with the straight hair. I think I like my curls more than I thought. Besides, Macabre Macaroni is over and it's time to move on.”

“Yeah, my promotions are over too. There is an extended blog tour, but I have very little to do with that now. It will run without me, other than checking comments.”

Lisa went about her chores, dropped off some coffee for me, and I dug into an advanced reading copy of a great novel a friend provided.” I made it through four chapters when Lisa interrupted. “Lorelei is here and she wants to see you.”

“She knows where my office is. Tell her – ” I yelled down the hall, “Come on back, Lorelei.”

Lorelei wore dirty sweats and her hair was a mess. Her feet were tucked into a pair of old slipper socks. This is the beautiful Greek Muse who inspired so many wonderful ideas. The classic beauty who enjoyed being looked at.

“Um, hi… That's a new look for–“

“Go ahead and say it. I'm fat!” She collapsed onto the sofa in my office. Lisa sat beside her and hugged her while casting me a concerned look.

“What's new in your life? It's been a while since you visited us.”

“Nothing's new. You've been out promoting since September. Lisa went on her tour for the second Experimental Notebook. Even your Macabre Macaroni stories were written months ago.”

“Look, I've been writing, I swear.” I opened the app on my iPad and turned it toward her. “See, these are the short stories about The Enhanced League.”

“Oh sure.” She wiped a tear away. “I can still inspire a decent bit of micro-fiction. Maybe a short story on a good day. I get tired even thinking about novels.”

“I intend to get back to the Yak Guy this month. It's languishing at about forty-two thousand words. It needs another fifty-K or so to be finished.”

“I'm sure you'll come up with something. At least you have your outline to go off of.”

“Sure, I have an outline, but the story drifted back in Act one. I need you to get me through it.”

Lorelei wiped her eyes and sat a little straighter. “You do? I mean, that's more than a short story, but since it's already started I might manage it. It's going to require a bit of working out, maybe some fruits and vegetables along with all the ambrosia I've been drinking.”

“Yeah, it's going to take an effort on my part too. I haven't looked at it since the first promotions back in September. I need to read it, check the outline, and get back to work. It's going to be different than guest blogging, working on short stories, and all that.”

Lisa said, “Sounds like things are going to get lively around here.”

“I have a list of short stories, and I can't promise they won't get some keyboard time too. Is that alright?”

“Of course,” Lorelei said. “I sent them to you.”

“You sent me some bigger ideas. I don't know if I can make them into novels though. I made notes, but they might only make it to novella length. Is that okay?”

“I don't know. I just want you to be creative. You have to decide if there's a market for them or not. Let's work through The Yak Guy Project. If you get it finished, maybe I can figure out how to make them longer.”

“I think they have merit. I like the one about a story from the monster's point of view. I just don't know if it should be a tragedy or have some kind of heroic ending to it. I also like the one about the couple who have to live underground for three months to avoid the parasitic sun.”

“Parasitic sun?”

“Yeah, that's what I decided to call it. A gas giant planet ignited. It's much larger than the planet with people, but dwarfed by the real sun. That way it only becomes a problem when the two pass each other in orbit. It's like two suns for a short period of time. I even came up with a title, Estivation.”

“I like it. I'll work on them both, but let's get Yak Guy finished first.”

“I'd better make some time to read through it again.”

Lisa took Lorelei's hand. “You'll be back in goddess shape in no time. In fact, let's give Craig some space so he can read. I'll do your nails, it will make you feel better, I promise. Maybe we'll look at your hair too, if that's okay.”

***

There you have it. Looks like I have some work ahead of me, but it's fun work. There could be some word metrics this month.

*For all the new followers, Lisa Burton is my personal assistant and the spokesmodel for my writing career. She's also a robot. Lorelei is my Muse, like actual classic Greek Muse.

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Check another project off my list

I set my alarm clock for 4:00 AM and flew out to the writing cabin early. I intended to finish this short story by hook or by crook.

Lisa monitors my gyrocopter, and the lights were on at the cabin as I made my approach. I touched down and maneuvered onto the elevator that goes to the basement.

The smell of fresh coffee almost made me drool as I climbed the inside stairs. Lisa is the best assistant.

The rocket pack sat on the coffee table in my office, beside the fishbowl style helmet. My story couldn’t end until this thing flew one more time.

Clacking came downstairs from Lisa’s rooms. She wore her leather flight jacket, a body shirt, and a pair of thigh high boots that still needed zipped up. She leaned against the wingback chair and wrapped her hair into a bun.

She stomped each boot before zipping it up tight. “I think you’ve been stalling. This story doesn’t end until that rocket flys again.”

“It’s damaged, are you sure about this.”

She only gave one slow nod in answer, grabbed her helmet and balanced it on her hip.

“I’ll carry your rocket down.”

“No. You need to watch from the back porch. Take lots of notes. I’ll bring myself up on the elevator.”

I carried my coffee to the back porch. The freezing temperature made the fog rise from my cup. The first rays of sunlight punched through the trees and lit the runway in a surreal glow of fog and sun.

The machinery of the elevator engaged, and the door slid open revealing blackness in the basement. Tiny horizontal swirls of ground fog marked the moving of machinery. A mechanical clunk and the motor preceded her arrival.

I swear the moment required orchestral music and tympani. She looked so small on the flight elevator coming out of the darkness.

As she rose to the surface, the sun backlit her strawberry blonde hair. She put her helmet on, and clicked it into place. She already wore the rocket pack that would send her into the heavens.

She looked different somehow, more confident, stronger. No polka dots and pencil skirts, today Lisa was all business. I admit to having a tear in my eye, a combination of pride and concern.

“How you reading me, Boss?” I jumped at the hand radio she’d placed out ahead of time. Lisa thinks of everything.

“Five by Five.”

She snapped to the right and marched out onto the landing strip away from the elevator and cabin. The rising sun provided God’s own spotlight down to her knees. She gave me her best fist over the heart salute.

It’s been our thing since I wrote The Cock of the South. I returned the salute and she pointed at the sky with her right hand. When her arm came down, she hit the button on her crossed harnesses.

Fire lit up the meadow.

Smoke curled off the runway obscuring my vision. It rose higher than the cabin. Higher than the trees.

The noise of jet wash deafened me.

I looked frantically for the fire extinguisher. I couldn’t lose her after all we’ve been through.

Lisa rose on a pillar of flame against the blue black morning sky. Tears streamed down my face as she rose ever higher. At approximately two thousand feet, she trimmed her engine, and gained speed. Like a fiery arrow, she flashed across the morning sky until she faded out of sight.

I went to my knees, happy she didn’t explode, and dumbfounded by the sheer beauty of it all until I spilled coffee across my frozen wrist.

“This is Lisa Burton. Lisa to Writing Cabin, do you hear me?”

I keyed the radio. “I hear you. Are you alright?”

“I’m fabulous. You should see things from up here. It’s absolutely beautiful. I’ll try to bounce a signal off a satellite so you can stay with me.”

“Roger that. It looks like the repairs were a success.”

“Was there ever any doubt?”

“Yeah, a little.”

“Sometimes you have to launch anyway. Hey, you could use that for Yak Guy.”

“I’ll write the books around here. Better come home now.”

“No way. It’s weightless and beautiful up here. I’m making a couple of orbits while I have the chance. Since you write the books, why don’t you write the big launch scene just the way it looked this morning.”

“Roger that, and Lisa?”

“Yes?”

“Enjoy yourself. You’ve earned it.”

Note: Lisa Burton is the most capable robotic assistant I know. I couldn’t have written this short story without her. I’m now calling it The Last Flight of the Rocket Men. Writing it in first person from the viewpoint of the rocket man was a bit of a challenge, but it’s now a complete draft.

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Some days a diamond…

… Some days a rock. I had good intentions for yesterday and today. I got up early and tackled the feedback I received on my short story. This was the one where I dabbled in epistolary style.

The story wasn't quite right, and my volunteers were able to point out some things that really helped. I winced when I wrote it about using italics for the documents. Big chunks of italics are frowned upon, but it is the correct style.

I even have one chunk where there are old letters quoted inside a blog post. The correct style is italics for the blog post, and back to normal for the letters. I hated to do it, because I hoped the section breaks would be enough. They weren't and using the italics was the right thing to do.

There were some clarity issues as well, and I used many of the suggestions people threw at me. It's good now, and maybe some time in the fermenter will let me improve it. Short fiction is a side line, and I have no deadlines for finishing it.

Many thanks to my volunteers, and I'm happy to return the favor if you guys need it.

I'm still ruminating over sections of the Yak Guy Project. I need to touch up some of what I already have, including plants that will payoff later down the trail. I have a study guide on the table beside me and will do some research later today.

I managed to add about 1000 words to an old school science fiction story I've been working on. This is also short fiction, so I'm in no real hurry on it either.

Old What's Her Face said she needed to air me out yesterday, so we did date night early. We went and saw The Hateful Eight. I love Tarantino, but this one was just not that good. He never really has followed the rules, but some good editing could have left a half hour of film on the cutting room floor. I even told my wife that if I introduced an omnipotent narraror 3/4 of the way through a novel, the readers would crucify me. Maybe when I'm Tarantino, I can get away with this kind of thing. (Maybe not) The backstory at the end didn't really work for me either.

We consoled ourselves with pizza and beer at Old Chicago. (Well, I had beer. She doesn't drink.) When we got home, we decided to watch movies on cable.

We watched Pompei, with the actor who may, or may not, be playing John Snow when Game of Thrones returns this spring. It was mediocre, but had some cool special effects. We also watched The Judge with Robert Downey and Robert Duval. For me, it was the best movie of the day.

My takeaway was that I was invested in Downey and Duval, I cared what happened, and it had a wonderful reflection on fathers vs sons. There has to be a lesson there for writers.

Hateful Eight and The Judge both had wonderful actors and good performances. As a writer, I don't have that luxury. They both had great characters; that I can attempt. I love some special effects like in Pompei, and might be able to write some of that too. The place where I can up my game is to try for an emotional tug in the story.

I admit to being a little 'hit and miss' when it comes to the emotional pull. I know what I intend, but does the reader get it at the other end? Yes, some of the time. This is where the Muse could really help me elevate my game.

I didn't post last night, because we were spending time together. This Sunday morning post is intending to make up for that. I have some editing on The Playground in my sights for today. The good news is that tomorrow is a national holiday in the US. Maybe I'll be ready to add some words to The Yak Guy project.

So yesterday was a rock. Maybe tomorrow will be a diamond.

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Writing progress, and a request for help.

My wife has to work today, and I wound up with the house to myself. Yak Guy is stuck at a big transition point, but I hammered my way through it. It wound up taking about 1700 words, but he's at the place where I can move the story ahead. It's a good place to stop, because I need to think about the next section.

Yak Guy, Ted, finally met some people. He even met a girl he's infatuated with. I want him to react badly when he finds out she's slightly pregnant. Dealing with this is a large part of his journey. I also have to research her, because she is the Empress character from the tarot. I want to fit some of her lessons into the tale, but refuse to be handcuffed to all of it.

I suppose technically, Yak Guy is moving into Act II. This is always the toughest part for me. I'm usually pretty clear on the bookends, but the middle is like solving a puzzle. Add to that the idea that he has to meet the Major Arcana characters from the tarot, and this one is challenging. I hope it produces a worthwhile product.

I banged out a short story that I really like. Here's where I'm going to ask for help. My regulars know that I'm always trying something new. This is my first attempt at an epistolary style. This kind of story relies in part on documents, diaries, etc. I've always enjoyed that kind of story, and wanted to play with it myself.

There are a couple of spots where I have some doubts. I wonder if one or two of you might be willing to read it, and offer some critique. Those of you who are editors, or who have benefitted from actual editors would be most appreciated. I'm not looking for dozens of you, but even one might identify a problem I can't see.

Like I said, this is something new for me, and help would be appreciated. I already have email addresses for many of you, but won't force myself on you either. Did I mention that it's a short story, just over 5000 words.

I'm really enjoying writing short form stuff between novel sections. I never wanted to write two novels at once, but the short stuff seems to work as I hammer out the big project.

Later today, I'm going to look at another promotion of some kind. I've let my efforts languish, and sales have done the same. (Planetary Defense Command moved a few copies yesterday though. Thanks again Commander.)

I won't do another blog tour or anything too intensive, but maybe something to run in the background. Has anyone tried the Twitter ads yet? I have my doubts about them, but if you have something positive to say about them, I might try it.

Beyond that, I have some reading to do. I'm calling it a productive weekend. How did all of you fare?

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