Posts Tagged With: indie publishing

A Zombie sneak peek? Oh my!!!

Hello world! It has been WAY too frickin long since I’ve posted and I apologize for my lack of doing so, but it has been a crazy year! I hope everyone is faring well and enjoying their summer. Anyway, I thought while I am busy working on some fun new stuff for you guys to read, I might post a little tid-bit here; a sampler of sorts. Now, this is VIP stuff y’all, I tell you, because the short story I am revealing has not even been published yet! But it will be soon in the very much anticipated post-apocalyptic anthology called ‘Goin’ Extinct’ by the writers of WPaD (Writers, Poets, and Deviants.) Here is our Amazon author page so you can check out all of the other books (proceeds are donated to MS research, a very near and dear cause to me and my family.)

So without further ado, I give you a short story by none other than Jade M. Phillips herself (that would be me…clearly), and it is called Zoila’s Zombie. Mind you, this story is so new and so fresh that this version I am posting had not even been fully edited yet, so please be kind with the comma jokes. Ok. Here goes Nothin…

 

Zoila’s Zombie

by Jade M Phillips

“Hurry Up!” Zoila said, tugging on the chain to urge the zombie along. “The Morgue closes at sundown.” It stared at her blankly with blood-shot eyes. The Zombie’s face was decaying and a small sectiongirlwith arrow of its skin was hanging from its cheek showing the inside of its mouth and a very bad set of rotting teeth.

“Oh, don’t look at me like that! You want to eat, don’t you?”

The zombie moaned in response and began dragging its feet slowly across the dirt, stirring up dust. Zoila and the Zombie headed towards the morgue.

The mortician had been a good friend of Zoila’s parents before they died—before “The Turn”—and would kindly save dead bodies for Zoila’s Zombie to eat. “The Turn,” was what everyone called it, but in all actuality it was a devastating epidemic where an unknown—and very contagious virus—spread like wildfire across North and South America turning anyone infected into a Zombie within minutes. Zoila was one of the lucky few who had survived without contamination.

Arriving at the old brick morgue, Zoila kicked the wooden doors twice making them rattle on their hinges, her hands gripping tightly to the Zombie’s chain. There was a rusty, overhead sign that squeaked as it swayed it the hot breeze. It said: Why Morgue.

“You could say that again,” Zoila snarked as she read the sign.

“Why” was the unfortunate, and yet very fortunate, little town Zoila had grown up in. And it was quite ironic that Why, Arizona: population 116—which was now more like 16—was the only known civilization west of the Mississippi to survive the outbreak. Maybe it was because of the town’s desolation, or maybe it was for the fact that no one really ever knew that Why existed, but the town had survived regardless. Zoila wasn’t sure about the other half of the country, or any other country for that matter, because all communication had been lost.

Zoila’s zombie snarled in response to what sounded like a combination of twenty or so locks and dead bolts being unhinged and unlatched. The doors swung open.

“Zoila!” the big man chuckled.

“Hello Buddy.” Zoila smiled at her old friend. “You got anything for us today?”

The man placed his hands on his hips. “Well you are in luck, little lady. I picked up one just this morning.”

“Illness or famine?” she asked.

“Old age.”

“Cool.”

“C’mon in,” Buddy waved her into the musty building. Motes of dust glittered in the air in beams of sunlight slanting diagonally from the pitched plank roof. The particles stirred as Buddy’s large form strode through. He stopped in the center of the room and turned to look at Zoila. He bent down and lifted the latch to the cellar. Cellars are not common in the desert, but back in the olden days, morgues needed a cool, dark place to keep bodies preserved for a longer period of time. Zoila watched as Buddy opened the hatch and took a few steps forward. He grabbed her Zombie and roughly walked it over to the cellar and down the stairs. His head popped up a few moments later and climbed out and closed the hatch.

“So what’s new with you?” he asked Zoila.

“Nothin’ much. You know, hunting, surviving. That’s about it.”

“You?” She asked.

“Same here,” he admitted. “Now that the epidemic has come to a stop, so have the dead bodies. I’ve taken to the art of wrangling rattlesnakes. You wouldn’t know it by looking at them, but they serve quite a few purposes.”

Zoila could hear sounds of snarling and biting, like flesh being torn.

“It’s a wonder the survivors have let you keep it,” he said pointing to the cellar doors. “They’re afraid of getting infected.”

Zoila rolled her eyes. “Now how is that going to happen with an arm-less Zombie?”

Buddy shrugged and said, “It can still bite.” Zoila rolled her eyes again.

Since Zoila had been so intent on keeping the Zombie as a pet, the local Physician insisted that the arms be removed so it would be less of a threat to the community.

Buddy stepped closer, as though he had a secret to tell, his voice low and quiet. “You know, I heard a rumor,” he said.

“What is it?” Zoila asked back in a whisper.

“I heard that a group of captives escaped from the New World Militia and are headed this way.”

“Really?” After The Turn all forms of government had slipped through the cracks, leaving the few known survivors to fin for themselves. But it was rumored that a renegade soldier from the army had started a group called The New World Militia and was taking any found survivors captive for slavery or other purposes. But it was said that they were far to the East, beyond the reach of Why, Arizona.

“Where’d ya hear that?” Zoila asked as she screwed her foot into the ground.

“A traveler came through town just last night with stories of the outside world. It would appear there are a lot more survivors than originally thought.”

Zoila shrugged. “All the more reason for me to keep my Zombie.”

Buddy sighed and rubbed his fingers back over his bald head. “The others are scared of you, Zoila. They feel that you are a…threat. Because of your Zombie.”

“What the hell do they know?” Zoila stomped her foot. She could feel her face turning redder by the moment. Ever since her parents died, and her friends—and just about everyone she knew—she’d felt like an outsider, excluded and shunned. “They hide away in their crumbling little shacks they call homes all day long, barely communicating. Barely living!”

Buddy shrugged.

Zoila could feel her ears burning. “We could make something of this, Buddy. We could make a good life! We should all group together and go in search of other survivors, other people who are in the same situation as us. But nobody has the balls to do it! It makes me so…angry!”

“Now, Zoila,” Buddy soothed. Zoila was only thirteen years old, but she felt like she was more mature than the whole lot of yellow-bellied townspeople. She was the only one that would go out hunting, the only one that had any shred of courage—except maybe for Buddy.

“Don’t ‘Now Zoila’ me! You know I’m right! You do!”

Buddy sighed again and leaned down to open the hatch. The chomping noises had grown silent and Zoila assumed her pet had finished its meal. Buddy descended the steps to disappear under ground, only to appear seconds later with her Zombie. He awkwardly pulled it up and out, pushing it off to the side to moan and groan unceremoniously.

Zoila stared at it. She had an attachment to her pet, one that no one else but her would understand. It was like in keeping it, she could hold onto the past, a past in which she had a mom and a dad and everything was alright. It probably wouldn’t make sense to anyone else, but to Zoila, it was a comfort, a balm of some sorts.

“The town meeting is starting in ten minutes,” Buddy said. “We’d better get down there.”

Zoila grimaced. “You go ahead. I think I’m going to go hunting.” She reached back to touch the bow and arrows she had strapped onto her back.

Zoila remembered not so long ago, her father taking her out for target practice in the desert behind their house. They lived on three acres of land and at the time, there had been plenty of Jack Rabbits and Javelina to shoot. But that was before the turn.

“Okay,” Buddy said hesitantly. “But you be careful. Come on back before dark.”

“I will,” Zoila agreed. Buddy had been the one true friend she’d had since The Turn and he was turning into a sort of Father figure for her. She loved him dearly.

“Check in with me tomorrow?” he asked.

“Of course,” she replied.

And with that Buddy was off to the town square and Zoila was off into the desert.

***

Javelinas were hard to come by anymore, and they were a bitch to take down. The ugly, wild boars could smell you from a mile away—if the winds were just right—but fortunately for Zoila, they couldn’t see two feet in front of them. Zoila chained her zombie to a nearby tree and crept away further into the desert. She sucked a finger into her mouth and held it out to find the direction of the wind. It was blowing South. Perfect.

She followed the Javelina tracks, which looked like two large tear drops, imprinted from their cloven hooves. She climbed down into a dried-up creek bed and froze. There, behind a large mesquite tree were a small family of Javelinas. There were two of them, with babies. God, she hated when they had babies. But desperate times called for desperate measures.

Zoila slowly slid her bow from her back and an arrow to go with it. She notched the arrow and placed her hands just right, drawing the bow back and aiming directly at the biggest boar. She breathed, slowly, in and out, and then released. The arrow pelted through the air, narrowly missing the boar and ricocheted off the tree truck, just above its head.

“Shit.”

The Javelinas bolted away past a thicket of prickly-pear cactus and over a rocky ridge.

“Damn it.” Zoila dropped her arms, the bow dragging against the ground, and sighed. She was tired and didn’t feel like hunting anymore. She had some stored cans of vegetables back at her house and vided for French-cut green beans for dinner instead. Plus, she really wanted to know more about the rumors of other survivors and decided that a quick appearance at the town meeting wouldn’t be so bad after all.

After picking up her Zombie, it took only about twenty minutes to trudge back into town and through the desolate buildings, until they came to the old pueblo church. After years of blazing sunlight and rough desert weather, the orange adobe façade was fading and cracking. But the structure held true and sure, a safe haven from the scalding summer heat. Zoila tugged her pet along and came to the two wooden doors and stopped. One of them was cracked and she could hear voices clattering inside.

“She’s a menace to our society!” One of the townspeople yelled.

“One of these days that Zombie will bite somebody and then it’s all downhill from there!”

“Let the girl have her comfort.” Buddy’s voice rang through. “She’s the only child left among us and if that Zombie makes her feel safe, then so be it!”

Zoila smiled. Buddy had always had her back and she was glad for it. If it wasn’t for him, she’d have already packed up her things and left town.

“No!” The woman’s voice held a tone of anger and fright. “It isn’t safe! We must organize and intervention!”

A cacophony of voices shouted, seemingly agreeing.

“Yes! An intervention!”

Zoila’s heart began to pound within her chest. She knew they were talking about her. No! They would not take her Zombie from her. It was the only thing she had left.

“Tonight,” she heard the town’s leader say. “We will go to Zoila’s house and kill that Zombie.” Zoila flinched. She recognized the voice. It was the former Sherriff of Why, and he was always an asshole. She remembered going to school with his son—who was now long gone—and then realized that the old saying was true; the apple never fell far from the tree.

“Yes! Kill the freak of nature!”

“Here, here!” The voices raised together, angry and determined.

Zoila quickly tugged her Zombie’s chain and scurried off towards her home, dragging the moaning beast behind her. Within minutes, she had a bag packed with only the necessities; water, matches, canned green beans, and a picture of her and her mother. She gazed down at the picture just before heading out the door, and unwanted tears came streaming down her cheeks. Zoila looked just like her mother; dark brown hair—almost black—and round hazelnut eyes that pinched together at the corners. She was a quarter Cherokee Indian and the resemblance had been carried down through generations upon generations. Her mother smiled back at her from the glass mounted frame and Zoila tucked it away in her pack with a soft sob. She felt bad about leaving her friend Buddy, but she had to go. She had to protect herself. It was exactly what her father would’ve done.

The light was fading fast as Zoila and her mindless companion headed out south parallel to the setting sun, her pack and bow slung heavy over her back. She figured she could reach Sonoyta, Arizona by sunrise if she kept up her pace, and she knew that there would be refuge somewhere in the city. And if she made it that far, it would only be a few days before she was in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico, a place where she vacationed with her parents as a child.

Zoila heard the snap of a tree branch and froze. Her bow and arrow were in her hands before the thought even crossed her mind to do so. She aimed at the darkness, scanning the trees, the short chain to her Zombie strapped to her wrist. She could only make out the dim line of trees and cacti by the waning moonlight and squinted as her breath drew deep.

She spun and let off an arrow in the direction from where she heard the sound.

“Ouuwww,” a deep voice rung out and a thump to the ground had her hunching on her knees, another arrow knocked and ready.

“Shit! My leg!”

Zoila’s ears perked at the familiar tone. Could it be?

“Daddy?” The silence of the desert rang through her ears, her own voice echoing across the rocky terrain like she was in the center of a long tunnel. Zoila stayed perched like a statue, her Zombie nervously shuffling its feet against the dirt.

“Zoila?” the voice asked. She shot up to standing and her eyes darted around the darkness. “Zoila, is that you?”

“Daddy?” She replaced her weapon behind her back and shot off in the direction of the voice, dragging her Zombie behind her with stumbling feet. Zoila quickly reached into her bag and pulled out a pack of matches, striking one against the black strip. There, lit by the flame, and lying in a bushel of weeds, was Zoila’s father; scruffy and weather-beaten. An arrow stuck straight out from his thigh, his pants blossoming with blood.

“Oh no! Daddy!” She threw her Zombie’s chain over a tree branch and knelt down next to him, hugging him as tight as she ever could.

“IS that really you half pint?” His voice was strained and his eyes hooded.

“Yes Daddy! It’s me!” Zoila felt happy tears dampen her eyes.

He chuckled that same chuckle Zoila always remembered, deep and throaty. “I taught you well, half pint. Good aim, girl. Good aim.”

“Oh, Daddy. Are you alright? I’m so sorry.” The flame on Zoila’s match was descending to her fingers and she hissed as it began to burn and blew it out. Zoila heard her father rustle around and then a beam of light clicked on. He shone his flashlight down at his leg, highlighting the wound.

“It’s nothing, little one. Just a scratch.” Her dad grabbed the arrow, gritted his teeth, and yanked it out with a grunt. He ripped off the long sleeve of his red-flannel shirt and used it as a tourniquet, he tied it around his thigh and cinched it to cut off the flow of blood. “See? All better now,” he smiled and grabbed Zoila in for a hug, ruffling her matted hair with his fingers.

Zoila stared into her father’s eyes and followed them to her Zombie. “Zoila…” His voice was not quite angry but held an undertone of scolding. “Is that what I think it is?”

Zoila looked down at her feet and twisted her leg nervously. “Yeah.”

“What did I tell you?”

Zoila paused.

“Zoila…?”

“No Zombies. No matter what. But…but it’s—”

“No Zoila. Just no.” Through the dim haze of the flashlight, she could see the unease in her father’s eyes, a sadness, an anger. She wondered what all he had been put through while being held captive. It must’ve been horrible.

Her dad stood, favoring his uninjured leg and ran his filthy hand over his face. “How do the townsfolk feel about this? I’m surprised ol’ Sherrif Godfrey hasn’t gotten to it yet.”

Zoila cringed. “They were going to. Tonight. All of them. They were going to come to our house and…and…” Zoila could feel a burning bulge welling inside of her chest and traveling to her throat, making her eyes water. But she wasn’t going to cry. It was just the damned Palo Verde trees. Yes, that was it. The Palo Verde trees were in bloom and they always made her sniffly.

“Zoila, come on. Let’s get home. We can sort all of this mess out later.”

“But the townsfolk…they’ll be coming—”

“I’ll handle them. Don’t you worry.” Zoila wasn’t worried. Her dad had been the fire marshal before The Turn and people listened to him. They respected him. Plus, he was a very big man, and when he was pissed, people got scared. Really scared.

Zoila and her father wove their way through the desert, being careful to avoid the thickets of prickly pear and jumping cholla. They were home and either the townsfolk hadn’t come yet or they had and left, realizing she was gone.

Zoila’s father went to get a shower while Zoila chained her zombie in its regular spot next to the old brick fireplace and went to unpack her bag. After popping open a can of green beans and sitting on the sofa to read through one of her old comic books, her father came out washed and clean-shaven, with a fresh bandage on his leg. He smiled at her and she nearly cried again…or maybe it was the just allergies.

“Come here, half-pint,” he knelt down and held out his arms. She went running to him and melted into his strong hug. She could hear his heart beating in his chest—a sound she’d thought she would never hear again. “Let’s get you to bed my sweet girl. From the sound of it, you had a rough day.”

Zoila nodded and they went to her room. Without even changing her clothes, she collapsed into bed and nuzzled into her pillow. He pulled the covers up and tucked them in around her.

“Don’t let them take it, Daddy.”

“Take what?”

“My Zombie. Please…If they come, just please don’t let them take it.”

“I won’t half-pint. But listen, Zoila, honey. It’s not safe to have that…thing around. It’s not human anymore. It could hurt someone. It could hurt you. It’s not safe at all. You know that, right?”

Zoila sighed, her father’s hand rubbing warmth into her cold arm. “Yes, Daddy. I know. But I was scared. I didn’t have you anymore, and mom…”

“I know half-pint. I know.” He leaned over and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. “But a Zombie can’t protect you. And I’m here now. I will protect you. I will keep you safe.”

Zoila nodded, her eyes feeling heavy from the long, hot day.

“You’ve got to let it go. It’s the right thing to do.”

Zoila sighed into her pillow and closed her eyes. She knew he was right. But she didn’t want to. That Zombie—aside from Buddy—had been her only companion since The Turn.

“But don’t you worry about it tonight,” her father said as he stood up. “Tonight I want you to have sweet dreams. We’ll worry about everything else tomorrow.”

“Okay, Daddy.”

He crossed the room and flicked off the lights. He started to close the door, but stopped. “I want you to know how proud I am of you. You may only be thirteen years old, Zoila, but you are the bravest person I know.”

Zoila smiled sleepily. She couldn’t have been any happier had the sky opened up and rained ice cream sundaes.

“I love you half-pint.”

“Love you too, Daddy.”

And with that, Zoila slept. She slept better than she ever had in her whole life.

***

Zoilla’s eyes fluttered open when she heard angry male voices and moaning and groaning, like that of her Zombie.

“This is a family matter. I will take care of it,” her father’s voice said, angry and raging.

There was a small stretch of silence before she heard the voice of the Sheriff. “Fine. But it needs to be done today.”

The sound of a slamming door resonated through the house, making Zoila jump. Zoila stayed planted in the bundle she’d made with her blankets and before long she heard the sound of her father’s footsteps.

“It’s time, Zoila,” he said from the doorway. She shifted uncomfortably under her blankets. “I’m going to go down to the morgue to finish it. I won’t be long.”

Zoila sat bolt upright. “I’m coming with you,” she said and pulled herself from the comfort of her bed, rubbing sleep from her eyes.

Her dad studied her face. “You should stay here, half-pint. You’ve been through enough. Seen enough.”

“No,” she barked. “I’m coming with you.”

Her father sighed and looked at her with sadness in his eyes. He nodded silently. She dressed quickly and met her father outside before the break of day. He had her zombie reined in tightly by its chains, the tired bags under his eyes, dark and dull like the purple shadows of the nearby mountains. They walked in silence towards the morgue, the only sound was the chirp of early morning birds greeting the impending desert sunrise.

“Daddy,” Zoila choked. “Do we have to do this?”

“Yes, Zoila,” he answered.

The old creaky door swung open and Buddy stood tall, looming in the doorway. Zoila followed her father into the musty building. “I’ll be waiting outside,” Buddy said before clapping her dad on the shoulder and disappearing through the door with a click. Zoila, her father, and her Zombie stood still in the flickering light of the kerosene lamp.

Zoila’s father turned to her and dropped to one knee, holding the undead creature tightly with one hand. “You need to let go, half pint. You have to let go of the past.”

In the pale light, she thought she saw a tear trickle down his cheek before he turned quickly away. She watched him stand and grab a rusty axe that lain on an old wooden table, slugging it over his shoulder. All of the hurt and anguish and loneliness that Zoila had felt over the past year came rushing back in a torrent of emotions.

“I’ll do it,” she announced, puffing up her chest with mock bravery. “Let me do it.”

Father studied her face for what seemed to be an eternity. His jaw was clenched. “Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Zoila stepped forward and took the axe from his hands. She hefted it up to rest on her shoulder, steadying herself in a ready position.

“Zoila—” her father began, but she cut him off abruptly.

“No. I’m the one who kept her all of this time when I shouldn’t have. It’s only fair that I do it.”zombie

Her father rubbed his hand over his face before exhaling loudly. He grabbed the Zombie awkwardly, the beast grumbling and hissing as it was lifted onto the wooden table. He laid the Zombie down flat and strapped its legs down, another long strap across its chest.

He turned to Zoila. “It’s not her anymore. She’s been dead a long time. You know that right?”

Zoila stared at her the decaying body of what used to be her mother, lying there on the table and nodded. She stood over the wriggling creature, its eyes locking on hers, and for a brief moment, Zoila thought she saw her mother inside gazing up at her only daughter. It was the same loving gaze that Zoila remembered so well. The pain of it was so intense, Zoila thought her knees might buckle, but she stood tall and hitched the axe up higher over her shoulder.

“Remember. You need to aim—”

“I know,” Zoila interjected. “Right between the eyes.”

“On the count of three,” her father said. “Ready?”

Zoila took a deep breath and nodded.

“One…”

The Zombie writhed and groaned, its eyes never leaving Zoila’s, pieces of decaying flesh hanging from its face.

“Two…”

Zoila gripped the wooden handle tighter, her fingers straining with the force.

“Three.”

Zoila brought the weapon up in an arcing motion, hefting her strength behind the movement. And just before the axe head made contact, splitting bone and spilling bloody gore across the table, she thought she heard her mother’s voice layered over the Zombie’s moaning.

“I love you Zoila. I love you.”

***

And there you have it. A fun little Zombie story to spice up your life. Thanks for reading and I hope to be posting more fun stuff soon!

-Jade

 

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Categories: Ramblings, Short Stories | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

Give a warm and bloody welcome to horror author, Mandy White!!!

Image of Mandy WhiteSo glad to have you here today Mandy! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

~ I’m a Canadian horror writer from Vancouver Island, British Columbia. I love the outdoors and prefer the wilderness to the city.

What do you do when you are not writing?

~ When I’m not writing I can usually be found outdoors. I live a block from the beach so I spend a lot of time at the lake, fishing, swimming and boating. I also love to garden and spend most of my summer making my yard beautiful.

Most people would KILL to live near the beach (no pun intended. LOL!) Do you have a day job as well?

~ I quit my day job about eight years ago when a disability made me unable to do that job anymore. I looked for alternative ways to earn money. Six years ago I became a freelance writer and since then, writing has been my only job. I made the transition from content writer to novelist three years ago.

So when did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

~ I have enjoyed writing ever since I was a child, and always dreamed of being an author someday. When I reached the age of 40 I realized that ‘someday’ was never going to arrive unless I made it happen. I finished my first book in 2010. It was ‘The Jealousy Game’ – a short self-help book on dysfunctional relationships. It is my only non-fiction book.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

~ I don’t know if I chose it or it chose me. I’ve always been a fan of the macabre and an avid reader of horror books. It seemed natural that I would want to write the type of books I would be interested in reading.

Where do you get your ideas?

~ Ideas are everywhere. Everything I see on a daily basis is a potential story idea. Where most people might see a pretty flower garden, I’m imagining bodies buried underneath. I also get a lot of ideas from dreams. My novelette ‘The Immigrant’ is based on a dream I had almost twenty years ago. My first novel, ‘Avenging Annabelle’ is also based on an idea from a dream.

I hope those ideas let you get some sleep! 😀 Haha. Do you ever experience writer’s block?

~ Never. I have too many ongoing projects to ever get writer’s block. If I get stuck on one story, I put it aside and switch to another. I think the reason a lot of writers get blocked is they try to force something that isn’t there. It’s like trying to remember something that’s at the tip of your tongue but the harder you try, the more elusive it is. When you stop trying to remember and focus on something else, it pops into your head. For me, writing is just like that. Switch focus and the blocks disappear.

That’s great advice! Do you work with an outline, or just write?

~ I’m primarily a pantser. (write-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer) I find that most stories develop as I write, so outlining isn’t something I spend much time on. Sometimes I will write a rough outline if I know what’s going to happen in a story, so I don’t forget important details.

Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

~ Stephen King is one of my favorites. I also read a lot of Dean Koontz. The thing that I like most about Koontz’s work is the way he makes the implausible seem plausible. I think the book that stands out most in my memory from my childhood is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’.

Oooh I love ‘A Wrinkle in Time!’ Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

~ As an independent author, I had to learn as I went and made a few crucial mistakes in the beginning. The first was being too eager to publish and putting out an unpolished work riddled with typos. The second was not hiring an editor to polish that work and eliminate those typos. I fooled myself by thinking I could effectively edit my own work. The third mistake I made was thinking that a book’s cover didn’t matter. The first edition of The Jealousy Game has a hideous generic template cover. Avenging Annabelle’s first cover was a poorly done cover I made myself.

If you had to go back and do it all over, is there any aspect of your novel or getting it published that you would change?

~ There is one thing I would definitely change if I could: With my first books I focused entirely on publishing the print version rather than the ebook. I didn’t understand the value or importance of ebooks. Like many new authors, I thought that only ‘real’ books counted. As a result, I was very disappointed with my sales. (what sales?) The fact is, ebooks outsell paper books by a huge margin. It is also easy to make corrections in a digital version. Sure, you can correct a paperback edition just as quickly but once those typo-riddled paperbacks are out there, you can never take them back. Now, I always release the ebook first and follow with the paperback only after I am satisfied all the bugs have been worked out.

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

~ I don’t devote a lot of time to marketing. I’d rather be writing. I rely mostly on readers finding my books linked together on Amazon. The best marketing tool for a book is another book by the same author. I do a lot of networking through social media, particularly Facebook. I have met a lot of great people on Facebook and I’m incredibly grateful for all they have taught me. That, to me is far more valuable than any sales pitch I could come up with.

Have you written a book you love that you have not been able to get published?

~ I am an indie author and also an independent publisher so this has never been an issue. I have full control over every aspect of my publishing.

Can you tell us about your upcoming book?

~ My latest book, The Feeder, is a gruesome and bloody novel that straddles the line between thriller and horror. It is about an individual obsessed with avenging a murdered twin sister. It is not for the squeamish, as several readers have observed. There is a monumental twist right in the middle of the story that I guarantee you won’t see coming.

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

~ I interweave little details from my own life into almost all of my stories. It’s fun combining reality with imagination to create a realistic tale.

That is definitely a fun way to write! What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?

~ I think the chapter I had the most fun writing was ‘Bluie Louie’, the chapter in which my killer’s very first murder takes place. It begins innocently enough, with a visit to a sleazy ex-boyfriend to ask a few questions and ends with Louie dead in a pool of blood with his eyeballs carved out.

Oooooh, definitely gruesome! How did you come up with the title?

~ ‘The Feeder’ is the nickname of the serial killer in the book, named so because of the killer’s habit of feeding victims parts of themselves while they are still alive.

What project are you working on now?

~ Right now I am working on a series of charity anthologies for MS with WPaD, a group I have called Writers, Poets and Deviants. WPaD Publications is also my publishing label. Our next release will be a fantasy collection to be published July 1, 2013.

How fantastic! Will you have a new book coming out soon?

~ Aside from the three charity anthologies WPaD has planned for this year, (fantasy, post-apocalyptic and holiday, in that order) I also intend to resume work on ‘Phobia’, the novel I wrote in rough copy during last November’s NaNoWriMo. Phobia is about a reclusive woman who is afraid to leave her home due to agoraphobia and a host of other fears. When things start to get weird in her home she has to decide which is more frightening, the inside or the outside.

I’m intrigued! Are there certain characters you would like to go back to, or is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with?

~ I would like to do more work with Sammie, the main character of The Feeder. That’s something that will probably happen. I already have an idea for a sequel.

Can’t wait! What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?

~ The toughest criticism is the stuff that’s true. I learned about ‘show, don’t tell’ the hard way. The best compliment is when readers say they couldn’t put the book down.

Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Do I ever!

~ If writing is what you want to do, then do it. Just do it. No excuses.

~ Throw away any previous assumptions you might have had about publishing. The rules have changed. If you want to succeed in today’s publishing industry, then you need to learn the new rules.

~ Seek out people who are doing what you want to do, then watch what they are doing and LISTEN to the advice they offer.

~ Be smart. Don’t stumble blindly into publishing. RESEARCH! Failure to do the right research makes you easy prey for the many vulturous vanity presses that pose as ‘publishers’. If someone offers to publish your book, then asks for money, you are being scammed. If you are offered a publishing contract, seek professional advice before signing because not all contracts are alike. Find out what you are signing before you get stars in your eyes.

~ There is nothing wrong with striving for success, but be realistic with your expectations. Understand that royalty checks aren’t just going to start pouring in. Writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme – it is a slow, gradual process. It is quite possible to make a nice living from it but patience is key. The best way to sell a book is to write the next one. And the next.

Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?

~ I guess I’d just like to say thank you for reading. I am grateful to each and every one of you. If you find any of my stories offensive and disturbing, I hope it’s in a good way.

Thanks so much for being here today Mandy, and sharing with us your life as an author!

Go here to Mandy’s Amazon author page to check out all of her books!

And follow Mandy of facebook here.

And Mandy’s twitter handle is @MandyWrite

Readers! Don’t leave quite yet! I’ve just finished reading Mandy White’s new horror/thriller novel, The Feeder and I wrote an amazing 5 star review here. Check it out!

Categories: Meet the Author! Interviews with Awesome Indie Authors! | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HOW I SELF PUBLISHED WITH AMAZON’S KINDLE AND CREATE SPACE

Many people are turning to self publishing rather than the traditional publishing. I am not here to fight for one side or the other (I respect everyone’s choice to do what they think best), but I am going to explain in steps, how I self published with Amazon’s Kindle and Create Space.

You, like many people, may be trying to make that choice right now, and believe me I spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning over what I should do. And here’s the one and only reason I chose self-publishing over traditional. I’M IMPATIENT. Haha! There it is in a nutshell. There’s no big magical secret or right way or wrong way, it just comes down to time and patience (and of course being a good writer.) After LOTS of research, I came to the conclusion that it can, and in most cases, will take a VERY long time to even get accepted by an agent and then a publisher and it can be years before your book is available to buy. There also may be better financial benefits for self-pubs as opposed to traditional. But I will say it again, I am not here to get into the heated debate that lots of loyal indie authors and trad authors tend to get into.  I have never even submitted my manuscript to a literary agent or publisher (although I spent days upon days compiling lists of recommended ones so I could do just that.) A good site to do this at is Preditors and Editors, here http://pred-ed.com/.

Anyway back to the point. I chose self publishing, and I chose to do that with Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon’s Create Space. For you newbies out there, Kindle is the digital e-book version that people purchase on their kindle, and CreateSpace is the paperback version people can order and hold in their hands.

Now that brings us to another point. Kindle and CreateSpace are just one in MANY options. There’s Smashwords, which is highly recommend as well, for they distribute to lots of different e-readers and distributors like Barnes and Noble, Nook, Kobo, Sony, IPad,etc. There’s also LULU and Lightning Source which will distribute your hardback or paperback books. The list could go on and on. (Thus, many more sleepless nights trying to decide.)

BUT, alas I had decided, and I will discuss my journey thus far and the steps you need to take to get there.

STEP 1. Have a completed book. YES, it must be all the way finished and edited over and over to a squeaky clean! Do NOT try to edit it by yourself. That is just asking for a disaster. Even editors don’t edit their own books, because your mind becomes fickle, missing your own errors over and over. So make sure your book is at it’s best before you even think about submitting it to be published. Some authors go even as far as having beta readers. They will give you feedback on things that you may overlook in the whole scheme of your story, things that don’t make sense to them, things that may not flow right, missed plot opportunities, what they do and don’t like etc.

STEP 1a. If you are doing a paperback and/or hardback book, don’t forget your book blurb for the back cover, author bio, and author picture. I took a look at some of my favorite author’s blurbs (one’s in my same genre) to help me write my own. Keep it short and sweet (only a couple of paragraphs) but make it irresistible. Why would the reader want to pick up your book and read it? Make sure they really want to without giving away any secrets or the ending of your book. Create suspense. Don’t put too much into your author bio or make it too long to where the reader looses interest. I chose to go a little more fun and quirky with mine, as I’m targeting young adults and teens. You will want your editor to take a look at your blurb as well. Have a nice author pic taken professionally or by a friend that can use as camera. 😀

STEP 2. After editing is completed then you need to get your manuscript formatted into the proper files. There’s .epub for Nook, .mobi for kindle and PDF for paperback. Research where you will have your book published (nook, kindle, kobo, sony etc) and find out which formats you need to do so. For me, hiring a formatter for minimal cost was the best option. Some authors who are technically gifted -or brave, as I like to think they are- use Calibre or other formatting software to format their own. I tried to do it myself, and alas, it was more stress and not worth it for me. That’s your choice.

STEP 3. Cover design. Step 2 & 3 can be done simultaneously (sort of.) Let me explain. If you decide to hire a book cover designer, they can go ahead and start on your ebook cover. An ebook lacks the back cover and binding. Now for your paperback and/or hardback cover, you will need to have your manuscript PDF file completely formatted and finished, because the designer needs to know the exact page count before finishing your paperback cover. The page count WILL change as you change the formatting. The designer will also need to know a few other specs of your choosing, like book size, paper color, white, cream etc. I found these options through Amazon’s Create Space where I had my paperback done. Check these options thoroughly, because some are limited and will not allow you to distribute through libraries, expanded distribution, etc. Choose your options and hand them over to your designer along with the final page count of your paperback/hardback and leave the rest to them. Again, some authors choose to design their own covers and there is also an option on Createspace to design your own. Some of these are pretty general and generic but you may find something you like and may want to keep it simple.

STEP 4. Research pricing. If you price your book at $0.99 or $1.99 (these prices are pretty good for shorter stories) you will only get 35% profit from your sales. If you price your book at $2.99 and above you will get %70. I suggest perusing through Amazon and check out books that are similar to yours. Look at how they are pricing their books. There are many different theories on pricing. Some say that you will sell more at $0.99 but then you have look at what you will be getting. Pennies, really. BUT if you sell A LOT, that can add up rather quickly. Some say it is better to price your book a bit higher between 2.99  and 4.99 because it makes the reader actually think about their purchase. If they have to think about their purchase, your book is probably something they really want to read, therefore the chances of them liking it and leaving a good review or suggesting it to others is higher. If it’s $0.99 they may just buy it because its cheap, and therefore it may not be what they usually read and could end up causing a bad review from the buyer that reflects back onto your book. Some people say you should price higher because you want the quality of your book to be reflected in the price, if it is cheap will the buyer think your book is cheaply written as well?

STEP 5. Almost done! After you get back your formatted files and book cover files, you will submit these to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Createspace, or Smashwords and any other publisher you wish to go through. I can only speak for KDP and Createspace, as that is as far as I’ve gone thus far. You will have a nice long set-up process, to where you are asked to add your book title, files, contributors (editor, illustrator, etc.), your book description(blurb) and other details. Make sure there are NO errors here, as this will be the info that the consumers will see on Amazon, Barnes & Noble etc. After you upload your book files there will be an option for an online preview for kindle. Check this thoroughly to make sure the formatting is correct and everything is in place. There will also be a proof process for Createspace. I highly suggest ordering a proof of your paperback to be sent to your house that way you can make sure everything is how it should be.  You will then need to set up your distribution details, prices, etc. Don’t hit the publish button on the day you you’ve announced your release. Set your release date (for marketing purposes) a few weeks from publishing to make sure everything is ready. Even though I hit the publish button, I did not announce the release for a couple more weeks, as to make sure the paperback and ebook were both available. The paperback takes longer than the ebook. Once you hit the publish button, KDP will tell you it will be about 12-24 hours before your book is available. This is pretty accurate. You will then receive an email saying “Congratulations for publishing with KDP! Your book is now available here!” Yay for you! But wait! What about your paperback? After you hit the dreaded publish button on Createspace, they will tell you it will be about 5-7 days before it goes live. This, again, is pretty accurate. Mine was live in 5 days. But they won’t send you an e-mail. You just need to go to Amazon and search your book title and author name to see when it pops up. And because this is not an exact science and things change, errors are found, and goodness knows what else, that is why I suggest giving yourself an ample amount of time in between hitting the publish button and actually having your release date/book release party.

STEP 6. Write you next book! Yes that is the best piece of advice I can give you. You can market until you’re blue in the face and shout from the top of the walls “BUY MY BOOK!” but this will only give a temporary rise in sales. To keep the longevity of sales and to keep your name in people’s faces you need to keep writing.

Good luck to you in your self-publishing journey! I am still learning myself, and do not know everything, but please feel free to leave a comment and ask any questions or leave a suggestion of something I may have not covered. We, as humans, are continuously learning, and if there’s one thing I’ve gotten from self-publishing, it’s pay it forward. I’ve had many people answering my questions and helping me along the way and I’d love to pass on that knowledge to others.

Categories: Writing Tips | Tags: , , , , , , | 23 Comments

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? INDIE-PUBLISHING WITH CREATE SPACE AND KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING.

Throughout the whole writing and indie-publishing process of my first novel there was an ever-present question in the back of my mind…”How long?”  How long will it take me to write my novel? How long does it take for it to get edited? How long from the point of finishing my novel until it gets published? How long does it take Amazon to have my book live for sale? How long? How long? How long? I don’t know why this was so important to me or why I even cared except for the fact that I am a person that likes deadlines and guidelines and rules, etc. because it helps me to become that much more motivated. And it’s also very exciting to daydream about the day you will actually see YOUR book that YOU wrote FOR SALE and available to millions of people!

There is no rule book on how long it will take you to write your novel or how long it takes the big “ZON” (Amazon) to have your book ready for sale. As a first time published author, I wish there had been some sort of literature or something, anything that I could have refered back to through this whole alien, confusing and sometimes stressful experience. That is why I have documented my journey through self publishing from point A to Z to hopefully give some idea of a general time frame so it just might ease the nerves of my like-minded author buddies. That’s you!

FEBRUARY 2012- I started writing my novel and gave myself a goal to be finished by the end of October of 2012 and have my book for sale by December 25th.

OCTOBER 2012- A little less than nine months later my novel was finished. (Sort of. Haha!)

OCTOBER 2012- It was a week or so before Halloween when I sent my manuscript to my editor (I found someone local and it was nice to actually sit down with her and go over editing notes in person!) Some editors work very fast. Mine took about 5 weeks though. I went over my manuscript one last time and then handed it over. Then the editor did a first run-through and gave it back for corrections. Then I went through it again and handed it back with corrections made. The editor went over it for a last time and then I did again for a last time. (I think I probably went over it again a few more times! Editing is not very fun. LOL!) I HIGHLY recommend an editor if you are self-publishing or at least another set of trusted eyes. No one wants to read a book that makes them stop listening to the story and start focusing on errors. Although I am very good with grammar, spelling, and such, we still found many discrepancies, even in the last run-throughs!

NOVEMBER 2012- Still knee-deep in editing. Blah, LOL! Also working with the book cover designer, and the ones I worked with were FAST!

DECEMBER 2012- Editing is finished in the beginning of December! YAY! But not on schedule for publishing by the 25th yet. 😦 I would have been closer to hitting my goal had I not had a last-minute change of heart and added some things to my novel, which extended my time frame due to further editing/formatting/cover designing, etc. Don’t ever feel rushed! Your book needs to be the best it can be. So if you feel there are changes needed, just do it!

DECEMBER 30th, 2012- DONE! Edited: check.  Polished: check.  Formatted: check.  Cover design: check.

DECEMBER 31st, 2012, 8:30 p.m.- Submitted my novel to Create Space and Kindle Direct Publishing! Woo Hoo!

JANUARY 1st, 2013, 10:45 a.m.- I received an email saying “Congratulations for publishing on Kindle Direct Publishing!” or something along those lines. I checked and sure enough the kindle version of my book was available on Amazon! Happy New Year to me! BUT there was some funky stuff. It said, “MER by Jade M. Phillips, Marguerite Wainio, Juan Heinrich, Tatiana Vila.” Now… my book is titled MER, my name is Jade M. Phillips, but who are all these other people who apparently wrote the book along with me?! LOL!  I actually do know who they are. That is my editor, artist, and cover designer that I had put in as contributors during the KDP set-up process. And although I love them and they deserve credit, It gives off the impression that MER was written by a team rather than just one author, ME. Haha! Just a word of wisdom: Unless you want the description of your book to look the way I described it, I would recommend you ONLY put yourself, the author, as a contributor. But that’s up to you. SO, I went back into my KDP set-up and changed the contributors, then received the all-too-well-known “We have to review you book, blah blah blah, can take up to 12 hours, blah blah blah,” message.

Now for the Create Space submission. A message appeared on my dashboard saying that my paperback book would be available immediately on the Create Space estore, but it could take 5-7 days for it to be available on Amazon.

JANUARY 1st, 2013, 2:30 p.m.- I filled out my author bio and set up my Amazon author page, which is called Author Central (you can only do this after your book is live on Amazon.) Crazy, right? And at 2:45 I got an email saying that it would be a while before it was live. Then at 8:00 p.m. I get an email saying that my author page is live. It looks great, so I finish it up by adding pics, RSS feed from my blog, twitter, etc..

JANUARY 2nd, 8:00 a.m., 2013- Received an email congratulating me again for publishing with KDP and that my book is now available, AGAIN. Hahaha! I check it out and it now says “MER, by Jade M. Phillips.” Now that’s better. 🙂

JANUARY 5th, 10:00 a.m., 2013- It is has been five days since submitting my book to create space, and sure ’nuff, I check Amazon and there it is! My paperback available for sale! Yay! Whew! You will NOT get a notification from Create Space or Amazon when your paperback becomes available, so just do like the rest of us and check Amazon every day. LOL!

And THAT was the process. MY process. I’m sure it will vary from person to person, but hopefully this will give you an idea of what you’re up against!

To sum it up. It usually takes your kindle version less than 24 hours to become available on Amazon, and your Create Space paperback 5-7 days. Now don’t mark my words, as Amazon is always changing things and it could possibly change. But that is what I got from it.

A FEW WORDS OF WISDOM from my experience:

*When you set a goal of when you would like your book to be published, and I mean actually AVAILABLE for purchase on Amazon, make sure you are done writing your novel a few months before that deadline to allow time for editing, formatting, cover designs, and any changes that may pop up (and believe me, there will be changes!)

*Don’t stress! This is a meticulous and lengthy process. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time.

*Research. Check out other people’s experiences, suggestions and advice by googling any and every question you may have as you go along. Knowledge is power and it will definitely help you get the job done faster and more efficiently.

You will also learn little need-to-know tidbits that no one will just come out and tell you. Like, for example, did you know that your book cover HAS to be the absolute LAST thing you do? Because the cover designer needs an EXACT page count of your formatted manuscript in PDF for your create space paperback in order to format the cover to the right size. SO you must have your book formatted first before you can have your paperback cover! And in turn, to have your book formatted, it has to be in its final stage; edited and polished. NO MORE CHANGES! (Ah! That was the scariest part for me!) There is a chain of events that has to happen in a certain order, and because there is no hand-book of rules for indie publishing with KDP and Create Space you will only learn this by doing research and living through the process yourself.

*Good Luck to you all and I wish you the best!!! And feel free to comment here if you ever have any doubts and/or questions about the whole process or any advice to add. I’m no wizard on it, having only been through it once, but I might be able to help. 🙂

Thanks again for reading and may the power of words be with you!!!

xoxo- Jade

Categories: Indie Publishing, Writing Tips | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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