Friday, November 27, 2015

Be thankful of all reviews (even negative ones) / Happenings In The Outhouse 27-Nov-2015

Yesterday, in the United States at least, was the annual Thanksgiving holiday for 2015.

A month or so ago, I got a nasty 2-star review on one of my books.  I don't read much into negative reviews--in fact, most of the time I skim through them and then move on with my life.  Every single book worth its salt has a negative review out there, no matter if it was published today, yesterday, last year, or over a hundred years ago.  To prove it, here is my bad review on Bram Stoker's "Dracula."

Be thankful for reviews, even if they are negative.  This particular 2-star review didn't have much to say, although near the end the reviewer said the reason why they didn't give it a 1-star was because they liked the characters.  I felt good about that one and disagreed with the rest of it.  No harm, no foul.

I am thankful for anyone who reviews my books, good, bad, or otherwise.  You are not going to resonate with everyone.  That's okay.  Be thankful there are people who do.

Oh, by the way, this particular reviewer who gave me a 2-star review didn't seem to like very many books.  When I looked at other books, most were 1 and 2-star reviews.  And, no, I will not provide a link to the review.  I've moved on with my life and am still writing.

I am just thankful for being able to do what I love to do.

As a final note, I have some exciting news next week.  Stay tuned . . .

Friday, November 20, 2015

Why I didn't set annual goals this year / Happenings In The Outhouse 20-Nov-2015

Around this time of year, many people set their goals for the upcoming year.

Not me--well, not me this year anyway.  Last month, I set my goals for the next 26 months.  This is the first of the twenty-six months.  It's been going well, even though I gave myself a little head start since I came up with the 26-month plan roughly a month ago.

In the month of October alone, I published three short stories.  In November so far, I've published four.  Two of these four are posted free on my website and this blog.

I am also roughly halfway through the first draft of the third novel in the Central Division Series at 33K words.

Now, back to the matter at hand: why didn't I set annual goals this year?

Because sometimes "stuff" happens.  Take this year for example.  It started out with a bang, and then BANG!  Brief medical hiatus.  Also, I wanted to experiment with something new.  I have LOTS of stories I want to tell and somehow looking ahead over the next 12 months is just too small of a window.

For example, I was waiting in line at the convenience store in town when I noticed a young man ahead of me with a big bottle of orange juice.  When I saw him go into the store before (he parked right in front so it wasn't too hard to notice) there was a young lady in the front passenger's seat.  Now, most people I see in the store here buy pop or snacks or, if they happen to buy juice they also buy something to eat, like pizza.  This young man did not.  Just the big bottle of orange juice.  Now, why would this seem so odd?  Why would he need the orange juice for?  Why, probably to mix with a drink, of course.  I can't assume so, but I am probably right.

The reason I mention this is because my imagination went into overdrive.  What if someone standing behind the young man received a premonition that something bad was going to happen?  That night, the questions surrounding this situation and story idea wouldn't leave, so I wrote them down.  Future story?  Time will tell . . .

In the end, with this experiment, I wanted to leave open the possibility of publishing new works as I think of them, if the idea is strong and my desire to write them is equally so.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

"The Things They Collected" - a (free) short story by Mark S. R. Peterson

(The following story is found in the If Walls Could Talk short story collection.  Please click on the link for all available retailers).

A short story written by Mark S. R. Peterson

            Tim can’t believe his luck.  He steps off the subway and there, lying along the concrete wall amidst a thin film of dirt, is a broken wrench.

            It’s a 3/8” open-end.  He has another 3/8” back at his apartment—that one is a combination-style, unbroken of course.  This one is broken right down the middle at a slight angle.  If it’s a twin of the other or a true open-end, he isn’t able to tell.

            He pockets the find and moves on through the weary, late evening crowd

            “Evening, Mr. Scudder,” the proprietor of the magazine kiosk says.  He tips his New England City Yankees baseball cap.  “Got your new Time and People.”  The kid who runs the kiosk—who isn’t really a kid, for he must be edging thirty—reaches under the counter, and ever-so gently lifts out a small stack of magazines.  “As requested, two each, one wrapped in cellophane.”

            Tim hands over his financial card, and thirty-two dollars and fifty-five cents are electronically transferred out of his bank account.

            “You know,” the kid says, “if you ever want an e-reader, I can get you a deal on one.  Then you wouldn’t have to carry around all these magazines.”

            “No, I could never do that,” Tim says.  Inside his coat are three newspapers.  He slips the new magazines in next to them.  “I know it’s the wave of the future and all, but I just like to hold the real thing.  Besides, I wouldn’t want you to go out of business.”

            “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Mr. Scudder,” the kid says.  “I still get paid when I set up others on subscriptions.  Awful nice of you to think of me though.”  He motions to an enclosed case behind him.  “If you ever change your mind, I have plenty to choose from.”

            In the display are rows upon rows of e-readers, several smaller than the size of his hand.  They also come in a variety of colors, from drab black and white to hot pink and shiny chrome.

            “These can hold up to five hundred thousand books and magazines,” the kid says.  “And they say in about a year or so, there’ll be ones that can hold over a million.  Christ, no one can even read that many.”

            Tim is about to walk away when he sees a magazine next to the readers.  “What’s that?” he asks, pointing at it.  The cover is all black with white striking letters near the top that read The End.

            “Oh, that’s a new magazine that just came out,” the kid says.  “The premiere issue.  The e-version is available too, but everyone says you have to get the real thing.  Got a box of fifty just a few hours ago and I have only three left.”

            “Premiere issue, huh?  Never had a premiere issue of anything before.”  Tim rubs his chin.  “You have three left?”

            A lady wearing a purple shawl jogs up to the kiosk and asks for an issue of The End.

            “Evening, Mrs. Williams, here you go.”

            She shoves her financial card into the kid’s hand.  Once he scans it, she scurries away, holding the magazine tight against her chest.

            “Thanks, Mrs. Williams,” the kid says.  He turns back to Tim.  “Two, now.”

            Tim adjusts his coat and thinks about his own collection.  “I . . . I’ll have to think about it.  You can’t save them for me, can you?”

            This time, the kid’s smile fades.  “Sorry, Mr. Scudder,” he says.  “I can’t.”


*          *          *


            Tim’s apartment is three blocks from the kiosk.  He typically walks quite briskly when he has new pieces to add to his collection.  This time, however, his pace is more reserved, for every other person he meets is reading a copy of The End.

            Aside from the usual streetlight LEDs blazing the way, traffic overhead is unusually heavy.  The screaming whine of fusion engines gnaws at his mind.

            Trailing up behind him are three teens zooming back and forth on electric scooters.  One hops onto a nearby polymer bench and rides along the back of it.

            Once they pass by him, Tim steps up to his apartment complex.  A datapad lights up to an iridescent blue.

            Instead of placing his palm on it, he steps back, gazing in the direction of the magazine kiosk.

            “No, I’ll make room.”

            He comes off the step and freezes.  Next to the building is a line of old bottles.  But it’s not the bottles that draw his attention, it’s the deck of cards behind them.

            Well, if today isn’t my lucky day.

            A police cruiser zooms by directly overhead, red and blue strobes flashing madly.  A spotlight shines down onto nearby rooftops.

            Tim reaches down and plucks the deck out from behind the bottles.  He thumbs through them.  Fifty-two regulars and two jokers.

            “Perfect for my collection.”

            He walks back to the kiosk with such swiftness that the newspapers and magazines nearly bounce out of his pockets.  But as he rounds the corner, he stops.

            A FedEx postal cruiser hovers beside a nearby cafĂ©, the driver chatting excitedly with the chef.

            Typically, when kiosks are packed up for the night, there’s at least some trace of them left behind, like a torn magazine page or even a placard stating BE BACK IN 12 HOURS.  SORRY FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.  But in this case, there’s nothing.  It’s completely disappeared.

            A white-haired gentleman in a black fedora saunters on by, an issue of The End rolled up in his fists.

            “Excuse me, sir,” Tim says.  “Where did you get that?”

            “Kiosk down the way,” the man says, cocking a finger behind him.  “But he’s out.  I got the last one.”

            “Could I buy that from you?  I’ll pay triple what you paid for it,” Tim says, despite his lack of knowledge as to the original price.

            “No way!” the man exclaims, stuffing it inside his coat and hurrying away.

            “Quadruple, then.”

            “I said no!  Beat it!”


*          *          *


            He hits up seven other people on his way back to the apartment.  None are willing to give up their premiere issue of The End for any amount of money.

            His neighbor, Stephanie, is waiting inside for the hyperlift, black metallic briefcase in hand.

            “Any new additions to your collection, Tim?”

            He pats the sides of his coat.  “A new Time and People.  I even found a deck of playing cards outside.  With the jokers.”

            Her eyes grow wide.  “Oh, wow, you’re so lucky.  I don’t care for Time myself but I did pick up my People and Reader’s Digest.”  She glances around.  “And I picked up these.”  She opens her briefcase and shows him the very familiar black cover of The End.  “Premiere issue.  I got the last two.”

            “Can I buy one?” asks Tim.

            She slaps her briefcase shut, the sharp bang resonating throughout the hallway.  The hyperlift doors open.

            “Please,” he says, holding out his financial card.  “I don’t care how much.  Please.  His other hand is in an inside pocket, gripping the broken 3/8” wrench.

            She clears the combination display on the briefcase, and tucks it under her arm.

            He releases his grip on the wrench.  There must be thousands upon thousands of combinations to choose from, so his chances of gaining possession of the magazines now, even by nefarious means, are nil.

            “Sorry,” he says, stepping onto the hyperlift.  He pushes the button for the eleventh floor.  “Coming?”

            She edges into the far corner, keeping the briefcase as far away from him as possible.

            “Awful busy outside, huh?” he asks.


            “Outside.  Seems busier than usual.”

            “You don’t know?”

            He glances over at her.  She grips the briefcase with both arms now.  “Am I missing something?”

            The doors soon open.

            Stephanie bolts out down the hall.  She fumbles with her keypad, and as soon as the apartment door slides open she slips inside.

            Tim’s apartment is on the end—he actually rents two units in order to house his vast ever-growing collection.  He enters his code on the keypad, and the door slides open a few inches then stalls, hypergears whirling, growing higher and higher in pitch.  He gives it a hefty shove and it finally slides free, an avalanche of newspapers and magazines spilling out into the hallway.

            A stale sulfuric odor wafts out.  He breathes in and smiles.

            “I’m home.”


*          *          *


            Tim sits in his brown leather recliner, wedged amongst heaping mountains of newspapers and magazines.  He cleans out his coat pockets, laying the new additions on his lap.

            That’s when he spies something—a magazine with an ominous black cover—stuck between the two still wrapped in cellophane.

            “What did that boy do?”

            A note pasted on the front reads:


My compliments from years of business.



            Tim tosses the new Time and People onto one of the mounds, the top now starting to teeter, and opens The End.


*          *          *


            Butch Dice secures the breathing apparatus, completely engulfing his head.

            “How long has he been in there?” his assistant Cheryl asks.

            “The neighbor said she spoke to him about two weeks ago.  Remember when that weird magazine came out?  The End?  That was when.  He was asking about her copies of it, and looked to be real desperate.”

            “Did you ever read it?”

            “That magazine?  No.  My wife did.  She said it was the biggest waste.  All hype.  Made some rich guy even richer, that’s for sure.”  He points at the door.  “Ready?”

            He punches in the code given to them by the building manager.  The door starts to slide, ever-so slowly, the hypergears groaning.  When it finally opens, magazines and newspapers pour out into the hallway.  Inside, along the wall to their right, are six tall tool chests.  Stacked on top of these are several piles of playing cards, many touching the ceiling.

            They wade through the mess to where the officers found Mr. Tim Scudder crushed to death beneath layers of magazines, The End clutched tightly in his hands.

            “We’ll need eight dumpsters,” Butch says.

            “But he had two living units.”

            “Then we’ll need sixteen, just to be safe.”

            As Cheryl starts cleaning debris away from the door, she spies a broken wrench.  She picks it up.

            It’s a broken 3/8” open-end.  She pockets it.

            “That’ll go great with my collection.”

 (If you liked this story, be sure to check out the If Walls Could Talk short story collection.  Please click on the link for all available retailers).

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pricing advice for publishing on Google Play / Happenings In The Outhouse 11-Nov-2015

A quick one today, but worth noting if you're interested in publishing outside the Amazon world.

Google Play may not be a huge player in the ebook market, but they do have an opportunity to disrupt the current indie publishing system.

As of this publication, Google Play may not be allowing any more new writers to submit, but if you have, good for you.  If not, bookmark the Google Play Books Partner Center link and come back at a future time.

For whatever reason, when you put in a price on Google Play, they always discount it.  Unless the price listed is $.99, they will be discounted roughly 30%.

Here is a breakdown of the two price points I use, to give you an idea where to price if you want a specific price.

$2.99 - list the price at $3.94

$1.99 - list the price at $2.37

This should get you started.  For higher prices, play around with it.  The prices get updated rather quickly--something I wish the other ebook retailers would pay attention to.

Once again, if you want to explore ebook retailers outside of Amazon, give Google Play a try.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

"Martian Union" - a (free) short story by Mark S. R. Peterson

(The following story is found in the If Walls Could Talk short story collection.  Please click on the link for all available retailers).

A short story written by Mark S. R. Peterson

If it wasn’t for the stairs cut precisely into the stone floor, they never would’ve guessed there actually was once life on Mars.

Janice Ling descended, deep inside the cave, careful not to overextend herself as her oxygen level displayed two hours and twenty-one minutes left—if she started running and jumping like a few of her colleagues, she’d find the oxygen being rapidly depleted.

“Do you realize you’re the first woman to set foot on Mars?” Ken Eagle asked.

Of course, but only because Susan came down with a cold.

“I did,” she said.  Without turning around, she motioned on ahead.  “But we’re here to explore this cave, not reminisce about sexism.  Are you the first Indian?”

“I believe we prefer to be called Native Americans,” said Ken.  “And yes, I believe so.  What do you make of these stairs?”

She focused her light down onto the intricate stonework.  The walls and ceiling were similar to the coal mines back on Earth, with a definitive circular shape and size, the walls rough from dynamite blasts and hydraulic hammers.

“You’ll be remembered, you know,” said Ken.

Janice stopped.  “Without exact measurements, I’d say the stairs are cut at a ninety-degree angle.  However, standard width for stairs on Earth is around nine inches with about an eight-inch drop.  These are roughly half of that.”

“Martians may have been smaller.  If their species is similar to the one found by Roswell, they would be.”

“Makes it harder to walk on,” she said.  “How will I be remembered?”

“Because you’re the first woman.”

“That again?”  She continued to descend, waving her hand onward.  “If I will be, so will you.”

“Who’s the first woman in space?”

“Most will say Sally Ride, because the history records always remember those from the United States.  But the first was a Soviet cosmonaut named Valentina Tereshkova.”

Minutes later, the stairs abruptly ended.  The floor now resembled the rough walls.

“I wonder why they stopped?” asked Ken.  “Can’t be erosion.  Erosion would never be this precise.”

“Come on.  I think I see the bottom.”

They were careful not to step on any jagged edges, despite the layer of steel on the bottom of their boots.  When they soon set foot inside the oval-shaped room, they froze.  And stared.  Her heartbeat pounded hard in her ears and she struggled to maintain a regular breathing pattern.

Further proof that aliens do exist, especially at one time on Mars.  And, from the looks of it, it hasn’t been too long either.

In the center of the room was a rectangular-shaped stone block, like the tomb of an Egyptian king.  Along the sides were carvings of two hands—not the five-fingered hands of humans, mind you, but three-fingered ones—joining together.

Along the far wall was one word.  Written in English, oddly enough, in letters at least two-feet tall.

(If you liked this story, be sure to check out the If Walls Could Talk short story collection.  Please click on the link for all available retailers).

Friday, November 6, 2015

Head down, keep working / Happenings In The Outhouse 06-Nov-2015

Roughly a year from now, there will be another major election in this country.  And, if you're like me, you may already be sick of all the debates and political swindling--from both sides of the aisle.

For those working to improve their craft and carve a name for yourself in the universe, I strongly encourage you to keep your head down and keep working.

It's easy to get sucked into the battering back-and-forth from this blowhard and that moronic imbecile.  In my Facebook news feed, I see all kinds of political banter.

What do I do?

I ignore it.  It's hard to do, and there are times I really want to argue with someone.  I'll even start commenting . . . and then I delete it.

While growing up, I spent a lot of time out at my grandparents' cabin.  Now, it wasn't a fancy cabin on the lake.  This was a little shack in the woods.  It had no running water and the only bathroom was an outhouse--reminiscent of the name of this blog, huh?  I loved it.

Along the walls of the outhouse were little plaques with sayings.  One of them was:
"Never argue with a fool,
For others will not know which is which."
We all know people who will always hate those politicians on the other side of the aisle.  You'll never change them.
So why even try?
Just keep you head down.  And keep working.