After reading a post on Story Empire about Amazon A+ content, I decided to create some images for that purpose. At the very least, I thought, it was a good reason to mess around with Canva. They have added a lot of elements recently, including free ones, so there’s more scope for different effects than when I first started using this graphic design tool.
This is the image I put together to represent The Friendship of Mortals, my first novel and Book 1 of the Herbert West Series.
Those of you who have read the book may know why I included some of these pictorial components. Those of you who haven’t read it may be sufficiently intrigued to do so!
The Herbert West Series began with an obsession-driven novel, The Friendship of Mortals. When that was finished, I didn’t want to say goodbye to the main character so wrote another really long book set in an entirely different location with different supporting characters. I decided that book was too long (230K words, as I recall), so chopped it in two, making an instant trilogy. But the story kept going in my mind, so I whisked the title character to yet another location and reunited him with two characters from the first book. Fine, except now it was no longer a trilogy. I thought “tetralogy” sounded lumpy and angular, and “quartet” was too musical, so I settled on “series.”
Except that suggests a procession of books with no intended conclusion, and my story has a definite conclusion at the end of the fourth book. True series have more uniformity: same genre, same point of view, similar challenges for the main character. Whereas mine started as a kind of horror story and evolved (some would say devolved) into a mere adventure with supernatural and symbolic overtones. And while the pov is always first person, there are 5 (or maybe 6) different narrators. Each one delivers their own experiences with the main character. His name changes at the end of the first book, but references to the previous name are frequent enough (I hope) that the series title isn’t confusing.
Then there’s the numbering. Books 2 and 3 of the series are also Volumes 1 and 2 of what was a single book (Islands of the Gulf) until the big chop.
Are you confused yet?
If not, consider also that the series has a two-book sequel of sorts (well, it will be two books once I publish the second one). And there’s a short story collection, half of which is “spin-off” stories from the series.
The about-to-be-published book (She Who Returns) will be the finale of this saga. Although it takes place half a century after the first book (The Friendship of Mortals), it revisits some of the places, characters, and situations of that book, as a kind of farewell gesture.
In retrospect, I should probably not have called the four books a “series.” Maybe something like “A Herbert West Book” applied to each one would have been enough. And I should have rigorously reduced the middle book and preserved the trilogy.
“Shoulda, woulda, coulda.” Too late now. The books–all 6 and soon to be 7–are what they are.
Seven stories from Audrey Driscoll’s Herbert West Series…
The Nexus A 101-year-old professor reminisces about about his most memorable—and dangerous—student, Herbert West.
Fox and Glove To win a bet with his friend Alma, librarian Charles Milburn needs information from a dead man. But first he has to convince Herbert West to help him obtain it.
From the Annexe As if a relationship with a part-time necromancer isn’t complicated enough, what if it were more than friendship?
A Visit to Luxor On a climb up a hill near Luxor, Egypt, Francis Dexter and Andre Boudreau encounter bandits and supernatural entities.
One of the Fourteen A chance meeting in a pub brings Dr. Francis Dexter into a perilous realm between life and death.
The Night Journey of Francis Dexter Determined to confess one of Herbert West’s worst crimes to the victim’s son, Francis Dexter is subjected to a terrible revenge.
The Final Deadline of A.G. Halsey Nearing the end of her life, newspaperwoman Alma Halsey struggles to figure out what really happened to her granddaughter in Luxor, Egypt, and to warn her of threats to her heart and soul.
…and seven tales of illusions, delusions, and mysteries on the edges of logic
Welcome to the Witch House As if moving into a dump of a haunted house isn’t bad enough, Frank Elwood discovers conceited math student Walter Gilman is already living there, for his own peculiar reasons.
The Deliverer of Delusions Miranda Castaigne gives up her romantic life with artistic ex-pats in Paris to discover the truth about her eccentric brother’s death in a New York City insane asylum.
The Ice Cream Truck from Hell Friends Will and Doof investigate a mysterious ice cream truck that cruises their town at night.
The Colour of Magic Things get weird when the tenant in Marc’s basement suite insists on painting her bedroom with a very special paint.
A Howling in the Woods When Doug’s son Todd keeps playing a recording he’d made in the woods, of a strange howling sound, Doug orders him out of the truck—and into those woods.
The Glamour Fifteen-year-old Ann, convinced she was switched at birth with the daughter of a wealthy family, sneaks into their home on the evening of a celebration.
The Blue Rose Deon the Fabricator’s obsession with creating a blue rose leads him to make a perilous journey to the Blasted Lands. His childhood friend Luna of the City Guard undertakes a search for him and learns hard truths about love and duty.
The pre-order price of $0.99 has been extended, but only for a short time!
Somewhere in the process of becoming an indie author, I discovered I enjoy messing around with images. I’m not talking about the photos of my garden I post on the blog. I hardly ever do any post-processing on those.
But ever since I found out about Canva, an easy-to-use graphic design tool, I’ve been creating images to represent my writings. Often, I complete one or more long before I finish writing the novel or story to which they belong. The image-designing process must use different parts of the brain than whatever it is that transforms ideas into words.
When I published four of the stories in Tales from the Annexe as separate ebooks in 2016, I made cover images for them, and I designed the cover image for the collection years before I needed it. More recently, while writing the the new stories that completed the set, I created an image for each of them as well. I didn’t need cover images for these stories, but I did need regular breaks from writing them.
My first idea was to include all these images in the book, but I didn’t want to swell the ebook’s file size to the point it incurred a hefty delivery fee. Moreover, not all e-readers display images in colour. I decided to feature them here on my blog instead.
Below are the images for the first seven stories, which are by-products, off-cuts, spinoffs, or supplements (I haven’t found a congenial word for this concept) to the four novels of my Herbert West Series.
They appear in “chronological” order, i.e., the first three happen during the time period covered by the first novel. The fourth, fifth, and sixth happen between Books 3 and 4 of the series. The last story of this group takes place decades later, following She Who Comes Forth, the novel that’s a kind of sequel to the series.
Available at a special pre-order price of $0.99 USD (or equivalent) from these Amazon outlets USUKCAAUDE
Self-published authors often see advice about pricing their books — not too cheap, not too expensive, as though there’s a Goldilocks price for an ebook. I’ve seen 2.99 to 4.99 recommended as ebook pricing “sweet spots.”
Authors sometimes wonder how potential buyers can be so reluctant to part with the few bucks they charge for their ebooks. It’s only $2.99! You can’t buy a cup of coffee for that. What’s the problem?
I suspect the amount of currency isn’t the real problem. The problem is that paying for a book commits one to reading it. Reading takes time. And time is priceless.
The real price of a book is the reader’s time.
We all know the process a potential book buyer goes through — Hmm, nice cover. Cool title. What’s it about? Sounds kinda interesting, but… Do I really want to read this? I already have 20 books waiting… Only 2.99. Well, maybe…someday.
“Someday,” meaning never. Another sale gets away.
Free books, on the other hand, are snapped up eagerly. Because they don’t involve a financial transaction, maybe they don’t register as time commitments? Some say free books are rarely read. But what about when the “price” is your email address? Are totally free books read more or less than those exchanged for contact info? Has anyone compared the two?
Recently, I read that a potential customer needs to be alerted to a product many times before they feel a need for it, as though an inherent resistance needs to be worn down. I don’t know about that — if a book’s cover, title, and description don’t appeal to me, repeated sights of it are irritating rather than inviting.
Maybe when a potential buyer is teetering on the brink, the sight of one more promo of the book creates the “Oh all right, I’ll buy it!” moment.
Advertising is a huge business, involving clever people with backgrounds in psychology and brain science. Some indie authors may decide to pay attention to these fields, but it’s unlikely that many have the resources to make practical use of such research.
So what’s an author to do?
If the reader’s time is the real price, one answer may be to write books that go down easy — quick reads with lots of action and stripped-down prose. Fifty thousand words priced at 0.99 may be more appealing than 100K words at any price. Especially if a glance at the first few pages shows multi-syllabic words woven into long, elaborate sentences.
I should have written this post before I wrote my books.
Nevertheless, all those long books are available for FREE. Only until 11:59 p.m.Pacific Standard Timeon January 1st, 2020. And only at the Smashwords store. Click HERE.
In November 2000, I started writing the first novel of what would become the Herbert West Series. This November, I have set myself a goal to finish writing a collection of stories I intend to publish in 2020. Call it my own version of NaNoWriMo. So, I’ve scheduled posts for the next four weeks featuring each of the four books of the series. Oh, and November 7th was Herbert West’s 133rd birthday!
The final book in the series is Hunting the Phoenix.
Journalist Alma Halsey chases the story of a lifetime to Providence, Rhode Island and finds more than she expected – an old lover, Charles Milburn, and an old adversary, renegade physician Herbert West, living under the name Francis Dexter. Fire throws her into proximity with them both, rekindling romance and completing a great transformation.
In writing The Friendship of Mortals, I wasn’t sure what to do with Charles Milburn’s girlfriend, Alma. I sent her off to be an ambulance driver in the Great War, after which she became a journalist in Boston and New York City. To compensate, I decided she would be the narrator of Hunting the Phoenix, in which Herbert West/Francis Dexter’s story ends. Before that, Alma rediscovers her poetic talents as well as shocking things about Charles, Herbert, and herself. In this final book, the theme of alchemy as a symbol of transformation is evident, both in the titles of the five parts and in the narrative itself.
This scene is from the section titled “Calcination.” It’s followed by one of Alma’s poems.
I woke up so suddenly that the dream I was dreaming came
with me. I had to save my brother Danforth from taking off in his homemade
flying machine and falling to his death. To do that, I had to figure out the
plans for it that he’d left in his room. I had to read them aloud to the wind,
so the wind would know how to help him. There were so many papers! They kept
re-shuffling themselves as I scrabbled through them. I would catch a glimpse of
the drawing I needed – the machine drawn in blue ink and Dan’s neat block
capitals labelling the parts. My fingers grasped it as it flipped past, and I
began to slide it out from the other papers. But to my horror, the ink was
crumbling, shifting into other shapes that meant nothing. If I couldn’t
preserve it, I couldn’t read it, and Dan would die. I strained my eyes. “Aileron,”
I stammered. “Flange. Wing control lever. Strut.”
“Strut,” I muttered, coming awake. The word
hung in the air as the urgency of the dream faded, to be replaced with the
beginnings of relief. But instead of sliding back into sleep, I came fully
awake, slowly becoming aware that something was different. Something was wrong.
There was a smell of smoke. Sometimes Jim Priddy would light
a wood fire in one of the fireplaces, as a treat on a cold evening. But he hadn’t
done that tonight. “No damn wood left,” he’d said. Donna Maria burned
garbage in a metal drum in the back yard every few weeks. But never at night.
There was a flicker of orange light under my door. I thought
I heard people shouting, far away.
I scrambled out of bed and ran to the door. The doorknob was
warm and the floor was warm too, pleasantly warm to my feet. And smoke was
thick around me.
Panicked, I pulled open the door. As though they had been
waiting for my summons, flames leaped and rushed into my room from the inferno
of the stairwell. Closing the door was impossible. I jumped back, but not
quickly enough, heard an intense crackling and smelled my own hair burning.
Heat enveloped me. I beat at the flames with my hands and arms. Fire seared my
skin, pain shrieked through my body. The window! The window!
Rushing over to it, I fumbled with the catch. It was stuck.
No use. Break the glass! Grabbing a shoe from the floor, I pounded the glass
with the heel. A star of cracks appeared, but it held. Frantically, I pounded
harder. The glass shattered and my hand came down on a jagged shard. Hot blood
steamed in the icy air that blasted in, whirling snowflakes over my desk. The
shoe fell from my hand, teetered for a second on the outside ledge, was gone. I
grabbed a towel from the back of a chair, wrapped my bleeding hand in it and
thumped out the remaining shards from the frame.
Behind me flames capered, feeding joyously on the fresh air.
Time to go, Alma! Thought fragments whipped through my brain
like bullets. Bathrobe? No time. Coat? No time. Slippers? No time. Shoe gone. My notes? My
notes! They’re in several piles,
all over my desk. I start to gather them up.
Stupid Alma! Stupid!
But I’ve got to –
Go, you fool! Go!
The room is full of
fire. There’s no more room for me. Too late – the hem of my nightgown is on
fire. Monstrous pain screams up my legs. Clawing frantically at the garment, I
tear it off and scramble naked over the desk, scattering papers to the flames.
My hand catches on something solid and I clutch it as I push myself through the
window, feeling a long tear on my left thigh from an up-pointing glass
fragment. The house has teeth, it’s
fighting back. But it should bite the fire, not me!
Now I’m on the
edge, on the ledge, the very edge, a tiny balcony, just wide enough for me to
crouch on. I’m still burning; soon I’ll be a torch. There’s no fire escape. (“Oh,
there was a ladder once,” Donna Maria had said, “but it got rotten. I’ll
get Jim to make another one in the spring.” Yes, Maria, but I need it now). It’s a long way down, to black and white studded with faces looking
up. Their mouths move, yelling things I can’t hear. A siren wails and wails. I know, I know it’s burning! You don’t have
to make all that noise!
The fire is done
with my room. Now it’s coming for me. No more time, Alma.
I stand up. What a
Juliet I am! There’s no Romeo here and this isn’t a nightingale night.
Snowflakes swirl around me, turning orange from the flames. Or maybe they’re
sparks. Orange flowers in the air. The wind howls. The mouths below me howl.
The fire talks to itself, smacking its lips as it eats the house. I’m alone.
This is no place to be. I clutch my hands around the only thing I’m taking with
me – square, smooth, hard. Is that Charles down there? His face is like a
flesh-coloured flower. I can’t hear what he’s saying, but I see his lips
Closer to you soon,
The fire gives me
one last shove and I’m in the air, snowflakes all around me, swirling
themselves into a net, holding me up. So this is what it’s like inside the star globe! But where’s my
A long rush, a hard thud. Then nothing.
Once I built with wood, Stone, steel, bricks, cement– Heavy, straight, squared off and carefully measured. A life for a lifetime, solid and strong And all my own. My house of life.
I did not think it could be so easily destroyed, Corroded by resentment, Weakened by desires deferred, ambitions unrealized, Split by ambivalence And burned, burned, burned.
Rebuild now? I have no materials, My tools are gone to rust, Mud, air, the water of my tears, The sulfur of solitude, And the salt of sorrow.
These are my matter, But I have no formula, No vessel except myself. I need a catalyst. I need magic, a secret fire.
Is there a magician in this house of night?
What readers have said:
“… the culmination of the final book is exactly what it should be: tragic, but beautiful. I wish there was more, the story was brilliant.”
“I absolutely loved this series. Beautifully written and unpredictable. At times both heart pounding and heart breaking.”
“I really wish I could give ‘Hunting the Phoenix’ a 10 out of 5 but even my limited math knows that’s impossible. Suffice to say that this book, in fact the whole series, is as close to perfect as a story can get. It joins a relatively short list of books, including Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, that I consider to be exceptional, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants /more/.”
“A noteworthy aspect of this book is the author’s skill in evocative description. She really knows how to set a scene and create a mood; furthermore characters appear, take shape, and are molded in front of your very eyes.”