So It Has Been Written! So Let It Be Done! My Novels are in Kindle Select (for now)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2014 by BradVance

Yeah, I had to do it.  Funny, while Amazon can take 12-36 hours to process other equally crucial updates to my books, the change to Select took less than an hour for all of them… Guess that action puts them in the top of the queue, eh?

Sales

This is my sales chart for the last month…yeah.  My best day in the last month was 30 sales.  (Red line = sales, green line = free, which is Colum #1, and blue line = borrows.)  And I’ve had 10 borrows already today, and it’s only 8 am Pacific.  So if last month’s #s hold up, in which people got about $1.50 a borrow, and I’d otherwise get $2.80 or thereabouts per sale, well, I need to have 2x the borrows than my average sales, to break even.  Cross your fingers for me!  Daddy needs a new pair of shoes!  And pants.  And a shirt.  And winter tires.  And a 90,000 mile service on the car.  And so on.

About to experiment with Kindle Unlimited…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2014 by BradVance

RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!  Jeff Borgzos will assimilate you!

But honestly, my novels aren’t selling anywhere but on Amazon, anyway.  So, I’m going to run an experiment by putting “Given the Circumstances,” “Apollo’s Curse,” “The Worst Best Luck,” and “A Little Too Broken” onto Amazon exclusively for the minimum 90 day Select period.  The reasoning is simple – with the Kindle Unlimited and KOLL plans, folks I know are making about $1.50 per borrow right now, and if I can get in on that, I’d be a damn fool not to.

Sam and Derek and Colum and Viggo and Luke and Slader will continue to be available everywhere, because they’re making as much bank (if not more!) on other sites than they are on the ‘zon.  But people just don’t buy my novels at Google Play, or ARE, or B&N, or Smashwords.  And nobody buys any of what little I have that isn’t banned for dirtiness on Apple LOL.

As long a term plan as I’m capable of!

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2014 by BradVance

Warrior cryWhich ain’t long :)  But here’s the deal.  I’m a damn fool if I don’t write another “Colum’s Viking Captivity” story soon.  I have WHOLE NOVELS out there that aren’t selling, at the same price, as well as Colum III.  And of course I did set up #4 at the end of #3, with Viggo and Colum preparing to go to war against the Franks.

When I was doing the first set of stories, I got the Great Courses on the Vikings, and this bit in the reading material really stood out as perfect for the next one:

This initial phase also saw a clash between Charlemagne and Danish King Guthfrith (r. c. 800–810; also Godfred; ON: Guthfrid), who was probably the king who controlled Hedeby and may have been responsible for the second phase of the construction of Danevirke, fortifications on Denmark’s southern borders on the Eider River. Guthfrith carried out a massive naval demonstration off Frisia and threatened Dorestad, Northern Europe’s premier market city and jewel of the Carolingian Empire’s economic system. No Frankish king could afford to see that city threatened.

In the words of Gandalf the White:  PREPARE FOR BATTLE!

So the plan is, finish the Rocky and Dex backstories, then take a break and do some HOT VIKING SEXIN’!  R&D are on hold while I nurse my pulled/torn muscle – I’m sleeping till the shockingly late hour of 5 or even 5:30 lately, which kills my writing mojo even if the pain didn’t.  And I need to reset my head from Rocky to Dex, anyway.  If this book takes (horrors!) the rest of the calendar year to finish, well, so be it.

Thinking out loud about Dex

Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2014 by BradVance

Nursing an injury so I’ve been offline the last few days.  Which is for the best, I think.  I was getting into go go go mode on Rocky and Dex, which worked while I was writing part 1 of Rocky’s backstory.  Now I need a quiet period, a reset before starting on Dex, for a few reasons.

Lemme tell you, I know jack shit about country music.  The contemporary top 40 kind, for sure.  I’ve never listened to it in my life.  And the thing with Dex is, he’s a guy who should have gone “alt-country” from the get-go, but that would leave me without a conflict in my story :) so he’s got to be drawn into doing highly commercial product to start.

For that matter, though, I know jack shit about any top 40 songs.  I just don’t listen to that stuff, or watch The Voice or Idol or anything else that’s going to produce What Most People Want.  So I need to figure out A, who’s popular when Dex goes into the business, and B, who’s famous in country music but really sucks.  I know there are some good country artists out there, not just the alt-country ones, but of course with anything reaching the lowest common denominator, there’s a lot of crap.  And of course there’s a LOT of religion in country music, the Old Tyme Religion that still blames the gays for everything.  I had to laugh when I read this article, for instance:

http://www.examiner.com/article/carrie-underwood-tells-atheist-fans-if-you-don-t-like-it-change-the-channel

I mean, how many atheists are country music fans in the first place?

So the goal is, as always, to be accurate :) to not tag an artist who’s actually talented with the “hick brush.” But there are plenty of them, I’m sure, who are just as crass and bland and boring as Miley Cyrus or whatever.

A little breather before Dex’s backstory

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by BradVance

RockStarNo, not done with Rocky’s backstory yet (he’s still got to get in some teenage trouble, and set the pattern for his straight-guy obsession), but at this point, dramatically, it feels right to go to Dex’s childhood in Biloxi, Mississippi.  Yeah.  Think Rocky’s got it bad?

And there will be some High Fucking Drama here.  Because Dex is 17 in 2005, when Katrina hits the Gulf Coast… Oh yeah.  High drama.  No spoilers though :)

Norman is Born Again…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2014 by BradVance

Sexy man

I love this book.  Love it.  If I do say so myself!  Which I do, which I have to, to keep on keepin’ on.  When sales are shit and site traffic is low, and you ask yourself, what’s it all for?  How do I go on?  Why do I go on?  Because THIS IS THE SHIT!  Because I Rock!  You have to.  You have to be a crazy fucking megalomaniac to be a writer.  Or you’d just hang it up, any day.  Thank the FSM for my hardcore fans who are here every day (Hey Dan-O!).  This is for you!

 

Faith went home and shut herself in the little walk-in closet, and prayed on it.  Prayed for guidance on what to do next.

On one hand, there were the positives.  Norman’s schoolwork was still exemplary, but then, the public school curriculum was hardly challenging.  He was finally making friends and socializing with others.  He was being exposed to the musical education she’d always known in the back of her mind that he would need.  Just…not yet.  And not this way.

On the other hand.  That hair!  That attitude!  And she’d looked up the song he’d been playing, “Black Hole Sun.”  She’d read about the music video for it.  Special effects that made good decent people’s faces twist up horribly, as if there was something wrong inside them.  A tornado, or black hole, or whatever, that sucked them all up to their deaths, as if they deserved it.  A clean bright shiny world portrayed as a sort of hell for anyone who didn’t belong.

Faith had played the country music circuit, as part of an all-girl band in the 1950s and 60s.  She had drank and caroused and, yes, given in to lust.  But she had found Jesus Christ, her Redeemer, and she’d put all that behind her.  And she had no regrets.  Well, few.  But when she did, she always thought about what was most important.

What was most important for Norman, too, more important than his mind, his music, his friendships.  And that was his immortal soul, which was in jeopardy, right now, this minute.

And once she realized that, her next decision was easy.

 

Reverend McCoy shook his head as the three of them sat at the kitchen table, he and Faith on one side and Norman on the other.  As if Norman was on trial, even though the verdict of this hearing was pre-ordained.

“I knew this day would come.  The Devil has been waiting for you, son.  Fifteen years, he’s waited.  And now he’s found you.”

Norman had heard about the Devil all his life.  When someone erred, the Devil was involved; he was casually mentioned in conversation as if he wasn’t the next door neighbor, but lived no further than the house past that, a member of the community.

Now he wondered if there was such a person after all.  If the Devil was responsible for all bad things, how could he have anything to do with music, which was so obviously wonderful?  If the Devil had brought him to these discoveries, if this was the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge…

“You’re not to hang out with that black boy anymore,” the Reverend pronounced.

Norman’s fury rose.  “Why did you call him that?”

“What?” Norman, Sr. said, his eyes wide, hardly able to believe the back talk coming out of his own son.

“The black boy.  Why didn’t you just call him the boy?”

His father slammed his hand down on the table.  “That is enough.  What you need is a penance. And I know just the thing.”

 

The quiet in the megachurch was oppressive.  Norman’s father had shut the doors behind him and locked him in for the night.  He stood there with his bucket, his can of Comet, and his toothbrush.

“Scrubbing that altar clean should take seven nights,” the Reverend said.  “If you do it right.”  He nodded at his own wisdom at picking such a Biblical number.  “You serve the Lord for seven nights and I guarantee your soul will be cleansed, too, of all this…disobedience.”

He’d never been lonely in his life, until now.  Until he’d had a friend who’d been taken away from him, he’d never known what he was missing.

On the third night, he couldn’t take it anymore.  There was a window in the Reverend’s office that opened on the grounds, and the alarm system was off – the Reverend had feared that Norman would trigger it accidentally and bring the police.  And in this part of Georgia, even hardened criminals knew better than to rob a church.

It wasn’t far to Korey’s house, not that it would have mattered.  He was single-minded enough this night to walk a thousand miles.  He gathered up some pebbles and threw them at Korey’s window.

The window opened.  “What the fuck!” Korey said.  “Where the hell have you been?”

“Let me in, I’ll tell you all about it.”

But when the front door opened, it wasn’t Korey at the door.  Norman looked up at the tall figure of Barrett Springfield, in his robe.  “So you’re the little rocker, eh?”  He shook his head, hardly believing this little dude could possibly be the raging talent his own son had told him about.  Then he saw the fierce light in the boy’s eyes, and thought, well, maybe.

“Come on in,” he sighed.

Korey shocked him by racing down the stairs and hugging him.  “Dude!  What happened?”

Norman told him, leaving out the Reverend’s “black boy” reference.

Barrett laughed.  “And on the third day, the rock rolled away, and behold!  He is risen!”

Norman was shocked.  He’d never heard anyone make a joke about religion before.  “Oh, lighten up, Todd Flanders,” Barrett said, making a reference Norman wouldn’t get for years.  “Come on in the kitchen, you look like you could use a peanut butter and banana sandwich, am I right?”

As the two boys devoured their sandwiches, Barrett watched them.  “So,” he sighed. “What are you doing here tonight.”

“I…it’s stupid,” Norman blushed.  “But.  We were listening to a record the other day.  Sly and the Family Stone.  And we didn’t get to finish.  And I just, well, if this is the last time I ever get to hear a record, a real record, I wanted to…I wanted to hear the rest of it.”

Barrett shocked him by laughing at him.  “Well, hot damn.  That’s some heavy drama you got there, mister.  ‘The last time ever,’ like they’re gonna hang you tomorrow.  You’ve got the rest of your life, you know, and you’re how old now?”

“Fifteen.”

“Fifteen.  In three years you’ll be eighteen.  And then you know what?  You can do, whatever, the fuck, you want,” he said, emphasizing each beat by tapping out a little rhythm on the table.

Norman’s eyes widened.  It hadn’t occurred to him, that one day he’d be an adult.  And then he’d be able to do anything.  If he wanted to listen to sinful music, well, he could sin till the cows come home.  But three years!  To someone at the age of fifteen, you might as well say ten thousand years.

“So.  Let’s hear you play, little rocker.”  Barrett got up and walked out of the room, and the two boys followed him into the home studio.  Norman picked up a guitar, selected a pick from the bowl on the piano, and sat on the stool.  He tuned it by ear, then took a breath, and began to play.

Barrett’s eyes widened as Norman adeptly played the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood,” singing in a more than passable voice.  Not only did he play it without sheet music, which Barrett had expected in such a young performer, but he’d managed his own arrangement of the piece.

When he finished and looked up at Barrett, the seasoned musician nodded.  “You know what that song is about, right?”

“No, sir.”

“It’s about a man having an affair.  Which I guess is what you got caught having.  An affair with the Devil, isn’t that what they told you.”

“Yes, sir.”

He sighed.  “Well, you’ve got talent, no doubt.  But,” he got up, “I will be in a shitload of trouble if they find you here, you know.  Double shitload for being a black man, aiding and abetting a white boy getting out of his punishment.”

That didn’t make sense to Norman, but he let it slide.

“So.”  Barrett steepled his fingers together under his chin.  “You say you’ve got seven nights locked in there, eh?”

 

Korey gave him a leg up back into the church, then handed up the bag in which Barrett had packed some blank sheet music pages and a dozen sharp pencils…and an Audioslave t-shirt, several sizes too big for him, that Barrett had fished out of an enormous pile of record industry swag.

He scrubbed the altar with a vengeance, knowing his father would be back in the morning to check his work and make sure he was on schedule.  By the time he’d done another seventh of what Barrett had called his “Labor of Hercules,” (he made a note to look that up and see what he was talking about), it was one o’clock in the morning.  That left five hours before his father took him home to get ready for school.

His first song.  What would it be about?  He stared at the blank page, the flip side of the sheet music, where Barrett had told him to work out his lyrics.  “Write what you know,” the man had said.

What did he know about, what in the world did he know anything about other than…nothing.  Nothing but religion.  He sighed.  The words of so much Christian music were already ringing hollow for him.  They were so thin, so empty of deeper meaning.  Praise this, hallelujah that, the end.

When did he feel what they were feeling, what he used to feel when he heard that music?  When did the spirit take him?  He thought of Chris Cornell, of “Like a Stone,” of his idol, his obsession, his…savior.  He thought of the lyrics to that song, which he read over and over again, trying to unpack the meaning, trying to feel what Chris felt when he wrote it, trying to understand his soul so that when they met, Norman could say, I know what you’re singing about.

I feel the Rapture when I hear that song.  I’m taken up when I sing along.

His skin tingled.  That was it.  That was it!  He scribbled the words down.  He would write a song for Chris.  He would send it to Chris and he would love it.  Norman would be invited to join the band, to tour with them.  To be with Chris, all the time…

Of course it was a ridiculous, delusional, foolish adolescent dream.  And if we didn’t have them, what the fuck would we ever accomplish in this world?

 

That morning, he sat in the back of the class for the first time, so he could sleep.  He really didn’t give a shit if the bullies bullied or not.  Which was exactly the armor required against bullies.

But it wasn’t necessary – the word was out in school that he was doing penance.  All the other kids’ parents had been abuzz with it, the preacher’s son in trouble, cluck cluck around the dinner table, all of them alight with the gossip.

All of which automatically moved him in the Great Ledger of High School Status from the “dork” column in to the “cool kid” column.  Especially because Korey had made sure that the other kids knew why, that it was because he was a musician now, and he’d been caught playing “the Devil’s music.”  His status went from zero to hero, just like that.

He slouched in his chair, his hair spiked as much like Chris’s hair as he could make it, wearing jeans and his new Audioslave t-shirt, both of which he’d changed into behind the school dumpster, shoving his slacks and button down shirt into his backpack for the day.

He would sleep in his next class, the math class where he’d do the assignment on the board in five minutes and then be left alone by the teacher to do whatever he wanted.  Now he doodled in his notebook as his homeroom teacher called roll.  He was drawing eyes, Chris Cornell’s eyes, over and over, trying to get them right, trying to get their clear calm beauty on paper.

The kid next to him saw it and whispered.  “That’s awesome, man.”

“Thanks.”

“What’s your name?”

He opened his mouth.  Shut it again.  Who was Norman?  Preacher’s son.  What rhymed with Norman?  Normal.  Boring normal Norman.  Norman Rockwell, painter of the wholesome American life he was leaving behind as fast as he could.  He couldn’t go by Rockwell, that sounded so gay.

Then he remembered Barrett’s gently mocking name for him.  “Little rocker.”  He was.  He was a little rocker.  And in a moment, he shed his old skin, just like that.  Like the folks in church, he had it, the epiphany, the moment of grace.

And he was Born Again.

“Rocky.  My name’s Rocky.”

Norman’s mind is expanded…and inspired…

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2014 by BradVance

chris-cornell-colour205…and who wouldn’t fall in love with this guy?  Looking at videos and photos of Chris Cornell all morning was my research, o boo hoo my life is so hard!

 

Norman couldn’t recall if he’d ever lied.  He didn’t think so.  But then, as the Reverend always said in church, sinning is about temptation.  And you can’t be tempted to sin if you don’t watch TV, or go to the movies, or listen to the radio, because they were all about sex, sex, sex.  The Reverend rarely talked about other kinds of temptation – he never admonished any of his significantly obese parishioners to resist the urge to overeat, he never admonished his business-owning parishioners not to cheat on their taxes.  No, it was sex that was the Reverend’s preoccupation.

So in a way, Norman didn’t really see the harm in the little white lie.  His grandmother told them all the time to her friends, after all.  “You look lovely in that dress,” she’d say to Miss June when she showed up in a bright peach sundress that made her look like, well, a giant peach.

“I’m going to Korey’s to study,” he said.  And it was true, wasn’t it?  He was studying his ears off listening to Barrett Springfield’s enormous record collection.

And Faith was so relieved that he had a friend that she didn’t question it.  She’d met Korey’s aunt, who was responsible for him while his father was out of town, touring with various bands as a drummer, or playing recording sessions in Memphis or Nashville or Detroit.  Aunt Marie was a devout Christian and a member in good standing of the Second Coming Ministry, and that was sufficient for Faith.

What she didn’t know, and Norman felt no need to tell her, was that Korey was a latchkey kid, living alone in his father’s house while he was away.  His aunt was a good Christian, and was responsible for him…should Social Services ever ask.  But she had given up on making surprise inspections on Saturday nights, only to find Korey doing the same thing every time – listening to music alone, or making music alone.  So she was, in truth, just as relieved as Faith was for Norman that the boy finally had a friend.

“You live here…alone?” Norman asked, disbelievingly.

Korey shrugged, as if it was no big deal.  “Mostly.  Dad’s gone a lot.  My aunt doesn’t want me underfoot, anyway, and she knows I’m fine here.  Not exactly a party animal, you know.”

Norman laughed.  “No, me neither.”

In a way he was lucky that Barrett Springfield’s collection was vinyl-only.  Korey had been raised to believe that the CD was an abomination in the eyes of the Lord, and subscribed to this tenet as ardently as his father.  What this meant for Norman was that his musical education could start at the beginning, since most contemporary music was no longer released on vinyl.

“We’ll begin with Genesis, so to speak,” Korey said, taking very seriously his responsibility for raising Norman’s musical knowledge properly.  “Not the band, mind you.”

“Are they a Christian band?  I’ve never heard of them.”

Korey snorted, then regretted it.  The kid had been living under a rock all his life, so every question would be a “dumb question” to start.

“No, they’re not.”  He reached for a Verve records collection of 1920s jazz.  “Before you get to rock and roll, you have to know jazz…”

 

“No, you don’t want that,” Korey admonished Norman some weeks later as he reached for a record.  “That’s disco.  Disco sucks.”

“No, it doesn’t,” Norman said, surprising both of them.  For a month now, he’d been a sponge, just soaking up everything indiscriminately.  He had the greatest musical gift of all, a naïveté of taste so complete that he had no prejudice against any form of music until he’d heard it.

“Dude.  You don’t like rap, you don’t like punk, you don’t like metal.  But you love disco.”

Norman nodded.  He did!  There were so many genres that just…hurt his ears.  He didn’t like being shouted at, he didn’t like the guitars that sounded like feedback or nails or chalkboard.  He liked the Beatles, he liked the Stones, even though they scared him a little.  (Korey had judiciously skipped over “Sympathy for the Devil.”)

What he’d really liked was R&B and soul and Motown and now, of course, he liked disco.  He loved “I Will Survive” and “I Love the Nightlife” and “Born To Be Alive” and “Hot Stuff.”  Korey had also skipped “Love to Love You, Baby,” if only because of how incredibly awkward it would be for two teenage boys to sit there together and listen to a woman have an orgasm.

He loved the beat, he loved the energy, the exuberance.  And though he shied from punk, well, he loved New Wave!  New Order and Depeche Mode and the Smiths…oh my God the Smiths.  It was like Morrissey knew him!

Then Korey decided it was time for Norman to watch some music videos.  They went into the living room, and Korey turned the big tube TV to MTV.  “Oh, this is lucky,” he said.  “Audioslave, Like a Stone, this is a good song.”

As Norman watched the video, his life changed.

It wasn’t just Chris Cornell’s amazing vocal range that hypnotized him.  It was his eyes.  A blue-green so clear and deep that you could see his soul through them.  The face of an angel to go with the eyes.  His bare arms, the flash of chest above his tank top.  The way he lifted his eyebrows and closed his eyes like a sad shrug of his face, the way he nodded his head, the way he walked, held the microphone, his shaggy spiky hair, his golden perfect skin, and worst of all, oh shit worst of all, a flash of a smile shown for just a moment as he looked at a band mate.

He’d seen it at school.  The ways girls squealed at sexy pop stars, as if transported to ecstasy by their very existence.  But this was different, he wasn’t a duckling imprinting on the first adult duck he saw.  Chris Cornell, he was amazing, he was awesome, he was…everything.  Heartbreakingly gorgeous wasn’t a word he would think to use.  Yet.

“Can we watch it again?”

Korey looked at his face.  Holy crap, he thought.  Norman Rockwell McCoy, Jr. is as gay as a goose. 

“No, man, it’s over.  It’ll be on again though.”

“When?”

“In a couple hours, maybe?”

“Do you have this album?”

“Uh, no.”

Norman nodded.  He would buy it himself.  It would be his first musical purchase.  He had no allowance, no income, but he would find a way.  There had to be a way, when you wanted something this bad.

“Do you have a guitar around here?”

Korey laughed.  “Do I!  My dad’s a fucking…sorry, freaking musician.”

“Can I see it?”

“Why, you wanna learn how to play the guitar now?”

“I already know how,” Norman said casually.  “I just want to play that song.”

“Shit, are you kidding?  You play the guitar and you’ve never told me all this time?”

He shrugged.  “It’s no big deal.  I’m not that good,” he said with the modesty drilled into him at home.

“I’ll be the judge of that,” Korey said.  “Come on, Barrett Springfield’s Musical Wonderland has another room for you to explore.”

 

Faith was lured upstairs by the unfamiliar sound.  This wasn’t a song she knew, wasn’t a song that was in the repertoire that Mrs. Jackson had assigned.  Was Norman writing songs already?  This seemed too complex, and…dark.

Norman was working hard to master the acoustic version of Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun.”  His obsession with Chris Cornell had two facets – the gay teenager’s desire to touch him, to possess him and be possessed by him, and the teenage musician’s desire to emulate his new idol in every way possible.

She opened the door, startling her grandson.  “What song is that?”

“It’s nothing,” he said.

“Did you write that?”

“No,” he answered truthfully.  He didn’t want to lie.  But he couldn’t tell the truth, when that would ruin everything.

“What’s it called?”

“ ‘Black Hole Sun.’  By Soundgarden.”

She frowned.  “What kind of music is it?”

He shrugged.  “It’s just a song.”

She looked at him again.  “What…did you wash your hair this morning?”

Norman flinched.  His mid-length hair, usually parted neatly on the side, was spiked up, tousled and messy, as much like Chris’ hair as he could make it with no hair product other than some conditioner he’d left glopped in it.

“Yeah.”

She looked at him, hard.  “What exactly are you doing at that boy’s house?”

“Just listening to music.”  And playing music, but he left that out.  There was a lot to leave out when he talked to his grandmother now.

“What kind of music?”

He looked her in the eye.  An anger came over him, surely fueled by an adolescent hormonal surge but caused by much, much more than that.  By a sense that he’d been betrayed, denied a whole world, all his life.  That all this wondrous stuff would have been denied him the rest of his life, too, if his family had their way.

“All kinds,” he said defiantly.  “Every kind of music in the world.”

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