Free Chapters: Nuts, Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

When I returned, I found Titus still staring at the wall. He seemed frozen, like a permanent fixture resembling the table and bed on his either side. He said nothing when I pulled him to his feet, and did not resist when I laid him on the bed.

“What are you doing?” he said when I rolled him towards the inside.

“I want to sleep with you.”

“Absolutely not,” said Titus. “It’s bad enough I’ve ruined your life. I don’t—”

He tried to sit up, but I pushed down on his chest. “I don’t have my bear anymore, so you will have to suffice.”

“You did not need one last week,” he said.

“I had a friend last week. But since you’ve stopped speaking to me, you’re going to serve some function besides decorating my room. I don’t like cluster and I don’t want to be alone.”

When Titus said nothing, I climbed into bed and pulled the sheets over us. He was much broader than my teddy bear, but he smelled nice, like the sea and autumn air. I put my arms around him. It was close enough. At least Titus did not fidget.

“It’s not so bad here,” I said. “The other ghosts have gotten used to the place. You will too. Why not make some friends?”

“Who told you there were other ghosts?” said Titus.

“Brenda,” I said. “She’s another patient at the ward. She’s got her own version of you, a man named Darcia.”

“And you’ve seen this Darcia fellow?”

“No, but he’s her ghost so why would he appear to me?”

Titus turned so that we were face to face.

“Your ability is universal,” he said. “You can see all ghosts. Even if we vanish, you can still feel our presence.”

“Are you sure?” I said. “I can’t see Darcia, and I haven’t seen any new ghosts since you arrived.”

“But you’ve seen more than one at a time?”

“When I was younger, yes.”

“Then ask your friend if she has as well. If this Darcia is her only ghost, he may simply exist as an outlet for a lonely and desperate woman.”

“Possibly. Then again, she might say I’m the crazy one.”

Titus looked down at his hand as I slipped my fingers through his.

“It’s alright. I know I’m not. You are tangible. To me alone, but you exist, as did the others. But no one has ever verified my presence either, and look…” I put my other hand against his cheek. “See? It’s all there. I’m not crazy. I can see you, clear as day, and touch you…” I ran my hand down his arm. “Has anyone else seen you? Or touched you before we met?”

Titus said nothing. He took my hand in his and held it up to his mouth.

“Then we are at an impasse,” I said. “It’s alright. Regardless of who’s crazy, Brenda said we can’t leave. Apparently the hospital is cursed, and anyone who tries to escape dies.”

“Do you believe her?” said Titus.

“No, but just the same, there’s no harm in staying put and making friends. Who knows? If we do decide to leave, we might take some of them with us.

Titus paused for a moment. “Are you sorry?”

“For what? We’re free, aren’t we? At least in the nuthouse we have company. It’s better than living alone outside.”

The next morning, I found Titus on his back, staring at the ceiling.

“Good morning.”

Titus said nothing.

I got to my feet and dressed quickly. One of the orderlies would arrive by nine with my breakfast and pills.

As I slipped a dress over my head, a pair of hands pulled the fringes down and tied the ribbon behind my back.

“If you wish to go outside, I will come with you.”

“What brought about the sudden change?”

Titus picked up my hairbrush. “Since I cannot make you leave, I want to meet the people in this hospital, see for myself that they’re not dangerous. It is as you suggested, if we cannot leave, we might as well proceed to live as comfortable to us.”

The door rattled. I heard the jingle of keys before the door swung open. In came the orderly I saw in the courtyard: he towered over us, over six feet in height, and he couldn’t have been more than twenty-five in age. From the front he looked less like a human and more like something from a romance novel. His black hair matched perfectly in shade with his eyes and goatee, and his olive skin suggested tropical origins.

“Hello,” he said in perfect English. “So this is where they put you.”

He produced a clipboard and grinned in a way that suggested he intended to share an inside joke.

“Lucille Dane. Fifteen. Claims she can see ghosts.”

He scanned my person.

“You don’t look crazy to me.”

“I’m not,” I said, “But you’re not supposed to believe me.”

I held out my hand for the pills. The orderly chuckled.

“Your pills are outside with your breakfast,” he said. “I’m Peter, by the way. It’s nice to meet you.”

I sat on my bed as he wheeled in a cart with a tray. He had toned arms, Peter, slender but well-defined. For a moment I wondered if his wife would not feel jealousy for him working in a hospital of shut-ins. Perhaps she did not care. Perhaps he did not have a wife.

As I ate, Peter watched from the chair by my desk. I purposely left the medicine where it sat, though neither this orderly nor the one before him seemed to care. The previous one had been a woman, a brunette with a a scowl for all but the door every time she entered my room. I got the feeling she didn’t want to be here, though the one time I tried to talk to her resulted in threats to report me to the doctor.

“Need a napkin?” said Peter, holding one up.

I shook my head and wiped my mouth on the back of my hand.

“You’ll get your dress dirty,” he said. “It’s a nice one. Bright, like the color of stars. You’re well dressed for someone locked in this place.”

“I’m new,” I said. “I will learn their habits soon enough.”

Titus said nothing during the exchange. His figure, slumped against the wall behind the bed, continued its inspection of the window. Several times I glanced at him, waiting for his verdict of the new orderly. When he remained useless, I finished my cereal.

“All finished?” said Peter. “That’s a good girl. Don’t change too much, alright? I’d rather not add another shabby, shaking patient to my route. It’s what that needle jockey wants; subjugation. She likes to rule while the rest of us toil for her benefit.”

I swallowed some milk. I hadn’t expected further conversation, much less bitterness from an orderly. The previous one just dropped off my food and left. She never made eye contact, and I suspected she feared either the patients or her boss.

“Why are you here?” I said. “If you don’t like the doctor, I mean.”

“My sister got me the job. She works here with her fiance. You’ve probably seen him, big guy, toned, goes by Ted? No? Well, it’s not so bad, save the doctor’s ridiculous rules about bedtimes and noise. Otherwise, I’d invite you to watch me rehearse with my band.”

“You play in a band?” The words sounded ridiculous coming out of my mouth, yet he sounded as if he wanted to talk. Perhaps he felt isolated from the pack; the lone orderly in a game of doubles.

“Bass,” said Peter. “It’s not glamorous, and I’d be kidding you if I said I had what it took to be a professional musician. Everybody needs a pastime, and there’s not much to do around here unless you count feeding the Corner Man.”

I said nothing.

“No pressure,” said Peter. “But if you’re up for breaking the rules, my band and I practice in the old warehouse across the street. Bring the other patients with you. It might be fun.”

I considered. He didn’t seem intimidating, Peter. Quite the opposite. He had an honest voice, kind of goofy, but no rumble and smolder. I thought of asking Titus for his opinion, then reminded myself he no longer spoke.

“Are you always this friendly?” I said. “I’ve never seen you before.”

“Yes you have,” said Peter.

We stared at each other. My chest deflated. How did he know?

“Yesterday, in the courtyard. I saw you behind me, looking up. I’ll be very disappointed if you weren’t looking at me. You seemed happy, and it’s hard for me not to notice a happy person in a sea of vacant stares. I saw you head this way after dinner, so I traded routes with my sister.”

He smiled and mentally, I noted the relationship between him and my previous orderly. Perhaps their parents raised them separately: what his sister lacked in personality Peter compensated for in abundance. He seemed more alive than anyone I had met, like he knew something I didn’t or had seen parts of the world I didn’t know existed. I thought about taking his offer to see his band, then reminded myself not to be forward. I should discuss this with Titus, when we were alone.

“Well, I best get going,” said Peter, getting to his feet. “Lots of other patients on this route, and the old bird will flip if I’m late with their medication.”

“Will you come by tomorrow?” I said.

“Of course. I didn’t trade shifts for nothing.”

As an unfamiliar thrill ran through my body, I caught sight of Titus, slumped against the wall behind the bed. He rained expressionless, though his eyes followed Peter out the door.

“What’s wrong?” I said when the door closed. I got the impression he found the man distasteful. Strange, Titus was not the possessive type. He normally took pleasure to people who showed interest in me.

“Are you planning to sneak out?”

“Of course not,” I said. “But you have to admit, it was nice of him to offer.”

“Maybe,” said Titus.

“Why don’t you like him? He’s more pleasant than that other girl. She keeps calling me ‘Lily.’”

“I don’t care what she calls you as long as she does her job. That man though…he’s might be dangerous.”

“Isn’t that a bit dramatic?”

“Is it?” said Titus. “There’s dry blood under his fingernails.”

…..

“They all do every once in a while,” said Brenda some two hours later. “Most orderlies assist with surgical treatments. We have very few nurses. Working here is not an ideal job, even given the generous pay.”

I looked at Titus. He didn’t seem convinced.

“So where is Darcia?” I said.

Brenda raised an eyebrow. “He’s right here,” she said, gesturing to her other side. “Can’t you see him?”

I looked at Titus. He shook his head.

“Has he made himself invisible?” I said.

“No, but he might have lowered his visibility.” Brenda turned to the empty space beside her. “It’s rude to play jokes on our friend, Darcia. Turn your opacity up right now.”

I waited with little anticipation. Despite Brenda’s repeated requests, nothing appeared in the lounge.I had hoped that in bringing Titus, he could confirm Darcia’s existence. Surely ghosts could see other ghosts.

“Like I said, she must be an actual patient,” said Titus. “There’s no one there.”

I tapped Brenda on the shoulder. “You never told me what you thought of Titus.”

She turned to look at the space next to me. Titus waved. Brenda furrowed her brows.

“I can’t see him,” she said. “Do you mind asking him to turn up his opacity too?”

Titus put his hands to his temples. His body began to glow, filling the room with a bright, white light. The lounge crew shied from our direction, and the cross-legged man in the corner stopped talking to his shadow long enough to scowl at us. Brenda stared ahead, her expression unchanging.

“Did he do it?” she said.

Titus and I exchanged glances. Brenda pushed past me, kneeling in front of the couch and face to face with Titus. She squinted.

“Oh I see,” she said. “Good-looking guy, for a faded, pasty outline. Taller than I expected. I thought he’d be your size and age. What do you think, Darcia?”

I waited for more. Titus surveyed her, scanning her face as she conversed with the space behind her.

“She’s bluffing,” said Titus. “She feels the need to acknowledge my existence in order prolong her delusions. You have yet to deny Darcia’s existence, so she feels she must do the same.”

“Are you sure?” I said.

“Of course,” said both of them at the same time.

“He looks twenty,” said Brenda.

“Ask her for the color of my eyes,” said Titus.

The bell on the wall sounded.

We stood in line in the cafeteria, waiting for lunch. The lounge crew shuffled in front of us, Willy lecturing about the proper etiquette of bidding in Spades. He stopped when he saw us.

“Ladies.” He nodded in our direction. “Darcia.”

Titus raised his eyebrows.

“You can see him?” I said.

“Of course,” said Willy. “We’re telepaths. We can sense more than cards from the other realm.”

“He also indulges Brenda,” whispered John. “He’s got a thing for her, ever since she started playing cards with us.”

I thought about Titus’ theory. Perhaps Brenda is the type to indulge others in hopes they will indulge her delusions.

“I don’t think we’ve met,” said Chris, extending a hand in our direction.

“Yes, we have,” I said.

“I mean the gentleman next to you,” said Chris. “I’m Chris. You look like you could use a towel.”

“Titus,” said Titus. Slowly, he extended his hand. The telepath attempted to shake it, but his hand fell through and he clutch at nothing.

“That’s a bit of a problem,” said Carol. “I’m Carol. Have you thought of wearing a glove? Might make you easier to spot.”

“What are you two blabbering about?” said Willy. “There’s no one there.”

“Yes there is,” said both Chris and Carol.

“No, there isn’t,” said John.

As they bickered about who was right and who was delusional, it dawned on me that the lounge crew may not be on the same psychic wavelength. Chris could see Titus, but not Darcia. Carol seems to see both. Willy is only conscious of Darcia, and John saw neither. The espers’ argument grew louder as they neared the front of the line. Titus said nothing, and Brenda exchanged words with the space next to her. Perhaps Willy’s control over the lounge crew was only artificial, and it was his personality rather than his powers that bound the others.

“There are only three people there,” said Chris.

“Four,” said Carol.

“Both of you are insane,” said Willy. “Your powers are giving out. You’re seeing kids that don’t exist. Keep it up and you’ll be no better off than the actual crazies in this place.”

“Look who’s talking,” said Chris. “You’ve been struggling to maintain control of your powers. Who tried to play the Ace of Spades twice last game?”

“That was Carol!”
“No it wasn’t!”

“SHUT UP!”

All four of them stopped at once. We turned to see the bandaged girl behind Brenda, her brows furrowed as she held on to a gaunt, vulture-like man with half a head of hair. He wobbled next to her, towering like an obelisk on wheels with arms like those of a gorilla. I would have thought him ready to pass out had his biceps not pulsed and tightened.

“Alice, Jeffrey…” said Brenda.

“No!”said the girl. “No more outbursts. You’re adults, not children. Yet you’re always fussing and disrupting Jeffrey with your ghosts and make believe.”

She rounded on us, but turned a foot too far to the right. While Alice lectured, I made a mental note that her voice rang clear despite her bandaged face; it seems only her eyes were damaged.

“And what about poor Jeffrey?” she said. “Do you ever think of him? The poor man can’t create. How is he supposed to play?”

“He can start by going to his room,” said Willy. The rest of the Lounge Crew apologies; Chris shuffled his feet, John turned to the food line and started loading his tray, but Willy threw his scarf over his shoulder and nodded towards the door.

“If you want silence, there’s a morgue on the seventh floor. Otherwise, be quiet and mind your own business.”

Alice let go of the old man. “You’re not one to talk, Mr. Pretend Esper. Always banging your hands on the table and acting like you control the lounge. It’s no wonder people don’t go there anymore.”

“They have no more right to the space than we do,” said Willy. “At least we’re not paint the walls with our own feces.”

Alice turned a shade pinker. “I do not paint my walls with feces. I paint pictures with brushes.”

“And other people’s blood,” said Willy.

“I do not!”

Suddenly, the vulture-like man threw up his hands.

“It’s gone. It’s gone.”

He clutched the side of his head, thrashing left and right. The other patients back away from the line. Brenda reached for his shoulder.

“Don’t touch me!”  

A loud slap echoed through the room. Willy stepped forward. Titus raised a hand.

“No,” I said. “He’s not dangerous.”

“He is out of control,” said Titus. “Something’s been lost, and he blames the lot of you.”

Alice managed to find the man’s shoulders again. “Shame on you, Willy,” she said. “Just wait until the doctor hears about this.”

She helped the man shuffled past us and placed a bowl of something on his tray.

“It’s alright,” said Brenda. “Alice’s a bit strange, and Jeffrey’s just temperamental. All music prodigies tend to be.”

When the other moved out of earshot, she added, “Jeffrey composes a new piece everyday. They’re unique, brilliant, and unlike anything you’ll ever hear on the piano. He would’ve been famous, if he didn’t also have dementia.”

My eyes followed the hunched man. He moved from the meatloaf to the silverware, taking a set for himself and another for Alice.

“Why is he here?” I said.

“Tantrums,” said Brenda. “Because he doesn’t know how to write music, he has no way to record the pieces before he forgets them. His sister found him smashing furniture one day after he had forgotten a particularly endearing piece. It took five men to restrain him, and the judge had him locked down when he started ranting about lost loves. They say the madness started when he lost his first love twenty-five years ago, though no one knows if it’s a girl or a song.”

The two made their way to a table in the back. Alice wobbled as she ate, splashing soup all over her white patient’s gown. Jeffrey handed her a napkin.

“Are they—?”

“No.They’re just friends. The creative types tend to stick together. Alice used to be an artist in New York until an accident left her blind. She still sculpts and paints, and well. She also claims she can tell colors apart by their smell.”

“That sounds more like a virtue than a vice,” I said.

“Not when she’s throwing them at you.”

I eyed the artist as Brenda continued to explain. Like Brenda with Willy, Alice had a special friendship with the crooked musician; she was the only person Jeffrey permitted to touch him. The two had been friends since Alice was first committed. She had a habit of throwing paint balloons at her canvases. Since she couldn’t see, her aim suffered nine times out of ten, and some unfortunate object or animal became the target of her inspiration. To the frustration of her aged grandfather, she took up sculpting to compensate for her lack of two-dimensional output, and after stabbing her landlord by accident, Alice was removed from her studio apartment and placed in Dover Hill.

When everyone finished eating, the orderlies gave us our medication and escorted us out of the room. When afternoon came, they informed us we could spend an extra hour in the courtyard. They thought fresh air would benefit us all.

“It’s possible they’re bringing in a new patient,” said Titus. “We saw no one during our first hour.”

As we followed the short, squarish orderly down the stairs, I caught Titus looking over his shoulder. Brenda rushed in to join the rear, looking more disheveled than she did at lunch.

Our group wandered around the courtyard, admiring a new sculpture the doctor had purchased. It looked like a man, bent, hunched, its metal splattered with red, blue, and purple paint.

“Nice, right?” said Brenda. “Looks like something Alice might have made before she went blind. They say she had her own exhibit back in the day.”

“Do you think she can really smell colors?” I said. Brenda nodded, then went into a reverie about the first time she and Darcia met Alice. I got the impression she enjoyed indulging other people. She liked every patient in the hospital and she wanted them to like her as well.

“Colors cannot be smelled,” said Titus. “Likely the woman keeps her paint systematically organized. She may be a genius, but that doesn’t exclude her from being a charlatan.”

“Why don’t we ask her ourselves?”

Brenda paused. “Ask her what?”

“Alice,” I said. “Titus and I would like to speak with her.”

Brenda looked around. The artist was not in the courtyard.

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Author Stories: C. Gockel

Good morning everyone!

Apologies for the lack of updates. I am still writing, though I wish I had more time. One of my cases is gearing up for trial, so as the most junior grunt at my law firm, I’ve been doing a lot of this:


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I’m still hoping to release either Nuts or the sequel to my first book by the end of the year. I don’t want The Almshouse to be my only book. (One is the loneliest number you’ll ever know…) One of them is half done, but it needs thorough scrubbing. One of my copy editors is on it.

Anyway, to the purpose of this post. Some time ago, I decided to give urban fantasy a try and was surprised by how much I liked it. Specifically, I really liked C. Gockel’s

I Bring the Fire (A Loki Series)

Take a sweet young lady and mischievous Norse god, add a pinch of sarcasm, a hint of romance, and a whole lot of “why is this happening?” and you get the story of a young woman introducing a technically old-man to a new world.  (Seriously, go take a look. I strongly recommend this series, and I don’t have much time to read anymore.) I admit I’m a sucker for elegant prose, and C.Gockel has a beautiful style, so much so that I thought I should ask her if she has tips for us new authors. Lucky for me, she was happy to help!

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?

I started writing Star Trek AOS fanfiction in 2009. There simply wasn’t enough Spock/Uhura in the world, so I wrote my own “how they got together” story. And then I wrote a Sarek/Amanda story, a boy!Uhura/girl!Spock story, a Kirk/T’Pring story (they’re perfect for each other, can’t you tell?), and many more. At some point I started writing Darcy Lewis/Loki. As I wrote it, I started exploring Norse Mythology more and more and discovered that I found Marvel’s and Snorri’s interpretation of Loki unsatisfying. Snorri was a monk in Iceland in the 1100s. He was trying to convert Icelandic pagans to Christianity, and he shoehorned the Norse Gods into a Christian framework. Odin got to be God, Baldur got to be Jesus, and Loki got to be the devil. Marvel made Loki a bit more hapless than the devil, but they definitely made him evil. The more I researched, the more I realized the interpretations of Loki varied wildly across the pagan worshipping world. Even his ultimate evil deed, the slaying of Baldur, was not always attributed to him. Moreover, Baldur wasn’t interpreted as “good” throughout the pagan world. Loki in some of the tales was one of the creators of humans, was the guy you called when no one else could help you, and was worshipped right alongside Odin. He wasn’t evil, he was change and an agent of rejuvenation. I liked the idea of Loki not good or evil, but as chaos incarnate. We tend to think of chaos as “evil” sometimes, but chaos at its most fundamental is change. “Order” is stasis. These things aren’t good or bad unto themselves, the negatives tend to come about when they are out of balance.

2. Why mythological fantasy?

Well, myths are fantasy. Why urban fantasy is probably the better question. I think we live in an age of Chaos. Change is happening at lightening speed. We’re in the age of Loki, so I thought I modern times would be an appropriate setting for the series.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?

Before I released I Bring the Fire, I released a short story called Murphy’s Star. I released it only because my husband was nagging me about writing so much fanfiction. I think I made $30 my first month? After that it sold only sporadically.

I started writing I Bring the Fire also to keep my husband from nagging me … but also, by that point, fanfiction was becoming like a shoe that was too small. I couldn’t say what I needed to say within the scope of fanfic. When I released Wolves: I Bring the Fire Part I, I had a brief rush of sales, and then I sold about 1 or 2 a day. That remained the case until I went permafree with Part I.

I kept writing fanfiction until after In the Balance (the novella in between Chaos and Fates.) At that point, the allure of “living” in my own universes was too great.

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?

What a horrible question! Why not ask me which of my children I like more? If I’m honest though, I like Monsters a lot, and I like Warriors. Warriors is probably my least well-liked book, but I love the story arc, it’s all internal. Chaos’s incarnation goes from being resentful of his fate to embracing it, and realizing that he can use his power to save the human race from Odin’s repression.

5. Did you always know you were going to write a series? How did you plan it out and how long did the process take?

Yes, I knew I would always write a series. I expected it to be only 6 books though and it became 6, a novella, and three short stories. But I knew how it began, and I knew how it ended. The scenes at the end of Ragnarok with Amy, Bohdi, and Steve were in my head from the day one. It was energizing. When I felt like I couldn’t get through a part I could think, “Oh, that amazing climax is coming! I can’t wait to write it!” And I would write more.

6. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?

It depends. I try to be open minded to criticism if it is logical. You should really read your reviews, even the bad ones. I’ve had some technical issues that came out in reviews. Also, I’ve seen what my fans want more of. Obviously, you can’t please everyone. I can only be responsive to criticism if changing the story doesn’t contradict my central theme. Also, you occasionally get reviews that complain about things that simply did not happen in the book. You can only scratch your head at those and move on. I did have a troll when I began. It was very upsetting; it’s hard to understand how a person can put so much energy into trying to bring you down. But something you realize quickly; trolls have much more free time than you do. It’s best not to respond. Eventually, you’ll get more reviews that will cover up their hate, and, not surprisingly, hateful reviews get downgraded and marked as “not helpful” a lot.

I have to say, writing fanfic really helped me learn to deal with criticism. I got betas for my original fiction by being responsive to logical criticism. I also got some serious hate writing fanfiction. One of my stories in particular just made a group of people so angry. Someone wrote an online essay almost as long as the story saying how very wrong it was. I did try to respond … but then I realized, trying to respond was taking me away from writing, and despite the hate I also had a lot of people who were really enjoying the story. They were way more important than my “reputation” among a group of people who were never going to be happy unless I took the story down.

7. What other genres have you considered writing for besides Sci-Fi and Fantasy?

I might write a paranormal romance at some point, and possibly a YA coming of age story.

8. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?

Just start writing. Write things you enjoy, publish them, and solicit criticism. You can publish in a group like Critique Circle or start with friends. You need criticism. Criticism that makes you cry (or throw your computer against the wall.) It’s the only way to grow as a writer.

So there you have it! Thank you CG for sharing!

You can find C. Gockel’s fanfictions here: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/1959218/StarTrekFanWriter

And her books on Amazon, and other platforms:
http://www.amazon.com/Bring-Fire-Part-Wolves-ebook/dp/B008UUIGB2/
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-wolves/id655735120?mt=11
http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-c-gockel/1115457768?ean=2940044551565
http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/i-bring-the-fire-part-i-wolves

Also, here is Murphy’s Star, her very first original short story: http://www.amazon.com/Murphys-Star-ebook/dp/B006RCYQUA/

Author Stories: Darcy Coates

coveralmsh3This is the first entry of a new series: Author Stories. I got the idea to interview more experienced authors as a way of showing my affection for their books and to learn from their insights. These authors will all be picked based on merit, and no favors or payment were exchanged.  I thought new authors might be encouraged to persevere if they could see the exact steps it took for established authors to get where they are.

When I was editing The Almshouse, I decided to check out the market for ghost stories and haunted house stories.

 

It was originally for market analysis purposes, but I got distracted by a pretty book: The Haunting of Gillespie House. 

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Isn’t this pretty?

I bought the book after reading the first two pages. It seemed different from the other books on the list, probably because the cover glowed blue. Most of the other covers (including my own) used colors with low saturation, resulting in a gloomy atmosphere rather than the feeling that something nefarious was happening in the back yard.

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Darcy’s profile picture

After reading the story, I ran into the author, Darcy Coatesin an online forum. She had written so many books, many of which are in the Top 20 of Amazon Bestsellers lists.

Last week, I asked Darcy if she could share her experience with new authors:

1. When did you start writing and when did you publish your first book? What inspired you to tell that story?
I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager. I started a lot of stories, but didn’t finish many! About two years ago I wrote my first ‘proper’ book, a novella called Ghost Camera. In Ghost Camera, two friends find a strange Polaroid camera that can capture spirits on film. I really enjoyed creating the story – it asks some questions that I’d find challenging to answer. If you had the ability to see what spirits live in your home, including the malevolent or angry ones, would you?

2. Why supernatural suspense/ thrillers?
I’ve always loved horror, especially ghosts and haunted houses. While my friends went to watch chick flicks at the theatre, I’d be buying tickets to Blair Witch Project or The Conjuring. I can’t explain why – it’s just a fundamental part of me, like the need to eat.

3. How did you get your first book off the ground? What was your first week like as an author?
I didn’t, and terrible! :)

It’s very, very difficult to find success with just one book out. Some supportive friends bought Ghost Camera during launch week, and I had a handful of organic sales which gave me the motivation to keep writing.

Following Ghost Camera, I published a series of short stories. But it wasn’t until I released my second novella, The Haunting of Gillespie House, that I began to earn an income from writing. Now that I have more novels and novellas available, Ghost Camera’s sales have also picked up.

(Blanche’s note: Up until this point, I had assumed Gillespie House was her first book. Silly me.)

4. What’s your favorite book so far that you’ve written?
Oooh, that’s tough! It’s like asking me to name my favourite child!

I had great fun with my latest release, The Haunting of Blackwood House. While it’s (as the name implies) a haunted house story, it also has a strong romance subplot and some humour.

5. How do you deal with criticism/low reviews/trolls?
Like death and taxes, one-star reviews are inevitable. The world holds a lot of people who won’t like your story, and eventually some of them will read it and leave a review.

It’s tough (especially the first ones), but the single best thing you can do is see if they hold any valid criticism, absorb the parts that are helpful and discard the rest, then get on and write the next story.

6. What other genres have you considered writing for?
I really enjoy writing other genres, even though the stories all contain horror elements. I’ll be publishing a series soon called Cymic Parasite Breach. It’s a sci-fi survival story that shows an alien invasion from the perspective of five unrelated women. I’ve also written gothic romance with the House of Shadows series, and a supernatural thriller with Dead Lake. That’s one of the things I love about horror – it blends with other genres amazingly well!

7. Any words of advice for new or aspiring authors out there?
I’m going to parrot advice you’ve probably heard a thousand times: read a lot and write a lot! Just like exercise will make you physically stronger, using your writing muscles will do more for you than a hundred How To Write guides.

And there you have it, ladies and gents: stories from Darcy Coates. Feel free to let me know if you have an author to recommend.

Lessons in Writing: Even More Ads

This is probably overdue, but here is another list of ads I placed for The Almshouse. Funny enough, I found a copy of my book on Overdrive, the online library. It disappeared shortly after.

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1. Ereader News Today: Overall, I’d play this in third place out of all the services I’ve tried. Second in terms of number of books sold, and fourth in terms effectiveness; the ad did not pay for itself. However, this is still a fantastic service, and it did produce a good amount of sales (~60) for $30. The acceptance process took about 3 days, and the people at ENT are very easy to work with. I would strongly recommend those who haven’t tried this service yet to try, and for those who have series. Since I only have one book, it may have been my fault for trying to recoup costs off of one book.

2. Fire and Ice Blog Feature: This is a smaller company with nice people and good service. For $5, they feature your book, and just your book, for the day. Unfortunately, it didn’t do much for me, but that does NOT mean it won’t work well for you. I get the feeling romance might do better than thrillers with this blog. Just a hunch

3. Betty Book Freak: Betty is a sweet lady, but please keep in mind this is still a small business. If you’re looking for big results, apply with Robin Reads, Ereader News Today, or Bookbub. Here, my $8 resulted in 8 sales. Perhaps I’m in the wrong genre again; I’ve heard stories from Fantasy authors that it does work.

4.  NewFreeKindleBooks.com: This one was interesting, because they do accept discounted books, and the “free” pertains to author fees as well. The day the ad ran, I got 16 sales by noon. No other ads were running that day. By evening, I found 24 sales. My daily average is ~7 sales, so this is definitely out of my expect range. So either this is an undiscovered source of sales, or a group of readers out there suddenly decided to do their last-minute holiday shopping at once.

Lessons on Writing: Great Ads

It’s been two weeks of advertising, and book sales have been pretty good. A big thank you to everyone who has purchased one of my stories.

I wanted to make a post about the great promotional services out there. Without their help, I would not have been able to spread the word about my new book,  The Almshouse.

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(I also changed the cover.)

Here’s a list of tried and true advertising services for other authors out there:

Readers in the Know: (free) I have to say this guy is great. He put ads for my book on his website, facebook, and twitter. I will definitely continue using his service. I think I will purchase his gold promo package in December.

BookKitty on fiverr: ($5) I used her before and was happy to purchase again. She’s very professional and tries to do as much as she can for her customers.

Bknights on fiverr: (same $5) This man works miracles. Seriously, you cannot ask for a better ad. He’s very easy to communicate with, flexible in terms of dates, and his website is very well put together. With this and my own promotions and a couple of my friends sharing my posts on facebook and group text messages, my book was pushed from rank 49,000’s to #6,590. Also I got #9, #10, and #16 on the Top 100 Bestsellers lists for 3 categories. If you’re just starting out, or running low on funds, try Bknights. (Also, and this is a rumor, but it seems he gives refunds for the books he was not able to sell as well as he wanted)

Goodreads: (free) I found a group of people who will give one honest review each for a free copy of the book. I sent them each a PDF, so hopefully that will turn into something. I also found a person who runs a book feature blog. It’s free but you have to apply. It’s an up and starting blog, so I’ll let you know how it goes.

Asking for friends to help: (free) It’s funny. The years I spent as an artist, I built up a network of people. One of them has decided to take up promoting my book in exchange for some of my artwork. He was able to secure 6 sales in the last couple of hours. If anyone had a previous job before writing, I recommend falling back on the old network.

eBook Booster: ($25) Good people. They’re very professional, act quickly, and they really make sure all the work is done as promised. I will definitely use them again when I can figure out how the countdown deals work.

ENT: ($30) Received a cordial email from ENT today notifying me of the acceptance of my book. The processing was surprisingly quick. Will update this based on change and status.

Readfree.ly: (free) First thing’s first: the guy who owns this website is very nice. He got back to me within a day and I saw the ad go up the day after. That being said, my own sales did not benefit significantly from Readfree.ly, but it might be cause of my genre. I would definitely not hesitate to recommend the site to others. It’s free… there’s nothing to lose.

Readcheaply.com: (free for a limited time) I think they were responsible for my sudden increase in sales this past Wednesday. In my absentmindedness, I forgot to keep track of when this ad was supposed to kick in. But since it’s free for a limited time, I definitely recommend this service. They’re more likely than not responsible for the sudden +13 I saw from my usual daily sales.

Do you have a service you like? Feel free to share your experience.