When I wrote the four books that make up the Herbert West Series, I intended them to work as stand-alone novels. And they do, sort of, but to fully appreciate the second through fourth books, it’s really helpful to have read the first one.
To complicate things, I also wrote and published four Supplements to the series, short stories that fit within or between the four books.
The first book of the series, The Friendship of Mortals, and all four Supplements, are available as free downloads. More information here.
From July 1st to 31st, Books 2, 3, and 4 of the series will be available at 50% off the regular prices, at the Smashwords store only, as part of the Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale.
For readers new to the series, here is the optimal order in which to read the books and supplements:
- Book 1, The Friendship of Mortals
- Supplement 1, The Nexus : a portal to the Herbert West Series
- Supplement 2, From the Annexe : an untold tale
- Book 2, Islands of the Gulf Volume 1, The Journey
- Book 3, Islands of the Gulf Volume 2, The Treasure
- Supplement 3, A Visit to Luxor
- Supplement 4, One of the Fourteen
- Book 4, Hunting the Phoenix.
In whatever order a reader may wish to read, it’s best to save Book 4, Hunting the Phoenix, for the end — well, because it’s the end.
Featured image courtesy of Pixabay, enhanced with Canva.
Once again, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker has crunched the numbers and shared them with indie authors.
Find the complete results here.
And get ready to go ebook bargain hunting. The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale starts July 1st!
Books 2, 3 and 4 of the Herbert West Series will be available at half price.
Reading an interesting post recently on the estimable Story Ape’s blog got me thinking about the relationship between fictitious characters and readers — main characters, known in some circles as “protagonists.”
Some characters are primarily vehicles by which a reader may experience the events of a story. The character is a type — an amateur sleuth, a woman seeking romance, a young person on a perilous quest. Their physical characteristics and personalities may be specified, but they’re actually elaborate costumes. Readers climb in and they’re there — solving the mystery, finding romance, or surviving the perils of the quest.
In other works of fiction, characters are equipped with complex personalities and backgrounds. Their needs and conflicts are not immediately evident. The reader must get to know them in order to discern their issues. It’s quite possible readers may not be able to identify with these characters; they may not even like them, but if the author has done the job right, the reader will find the character and his or her situation interesting enough to keep reading the book.
The “wearable” character is generally associated with plot-driven genre fiction; the “get to know” protagonist is more often typical of character-driven literary fiction. Readers have different expectations for these character types; getting acquainted with the character before you know what might happen to them requires some tolerance for uncertainty on the reader’s part. Writers of literary fiction must make their stories sufficiently alluring to keep readers hanging out with their characters.
I’m fairly sure authors don’t decide, as they begin writing a story or novel, which of these types of characters they will create for it. They usually do know whether they’re writing genre fiction or literary fiction. Characters evolve accordingly.
It doesn’t have to be an either/or. Really well-written works feature complex characters and compelling plots. Readers decide unconsciously whether to become a character and ride their rollercoaster, or to observe and ponder the character’s dilemmas.
The four novels of my Herbert West Series have five different narrators — six, actually, because Herbert West is quite a different person from Francis Dexter. Each of these people has his or her own style: Charles Milburn, diffident librarian; Andre Boudreau, amnesiac Acadian; Margaret Bellgarde, widow of the Great War; Herbert West, amoral scientist, who becomes Francis Dexter, wounded healer; Alma Halsey, disaffected journalist. And The Nexus, one of the short story supplements to the series, is narrated by eccentric professor and sometime occultist Professor Augustus Quarrington.
I’m thinking all these different narrators may be somewhat disconcerting for readers who expect more uniformity among books within a series. And I’m sure not all readers have found it easy to slip into these characters and share their lives. Over the course of the series, however, they have a good selection from which to choose.
The books include elements of different genres and of literary fiction. Some readers may find the fit a little uncomfortable. I am biased, of course, but I can honestly say no one who spends time with my characters will be harmed by the experience, and some may be entertained.
Featured image created with Canva using free pictures from Unsplash and Pixabay.
Have a close look at these two images and see if you can spot a significant difference between them.
OK, the title and the author’s name are a lighter colour in #1, but that isn’t it. No, it’s the typo in the subtitle. “A portal to the Herert West Series.” A typo on a cover image! A cover image designed by the author herself, i.e., moi.
I published this short story in September — six whole months ago — and didn’t notice that error until last night, when I ran across the cover image on some website. I was admiring how all the elements worked together, when I saw it. “Herert,” not “Herbert.” I messed up the name of the main character of my series. How bad is that?
I’ve seen typos on other authors’ cover images or in their book listings, with a mixture of pity and contempt. “Look how that poor schmuck screwed up! Haste makes waste. Ha, ha!”
OK, it could have been worse; at least the typo isn’t in the actual title or the author’s name. And the font I used for the subtitle is called Sacramento, described as “a monoline, semi-connected script.” It’s pretty, but barely legible in thumbnails and other small images. At least I spelled everything correctly in the book’s listings in ebook stores. Maybe most people don’t bother to enlarge cover images and scrutinize them.
I have, of course, corrected the error and uploaded the corrected image to the relevant sites. But it takes a while for a change to trickle through the internet, and quite a few copies were downloaded before I found the mistake. Which means the flawed image is still out there, waiting to be noticed.
I did manage to find a couple of positives in this irritating little situation:
First, it’s a reminder to pay attention. Always double, triple and quadruple check the spelling of titles, subtitles, author names and any other text that appears on a cover. Whether it was designed by you, a friend or a professional designer — before you approve it, check, check, check!
Second, those error-bearing covers may become valuable rarities sought by collectors, sort of like postage stamps with a monarch’s head printed upside down. “Ah yes, the rare ‘Herert’ edition. Very few exist.” Well, maybe if I become posthumously famous. You never know.
A fourth, titled “One of the Fourteen,” will be available in the usual ebook stores on January 1st.
The plot in brief: Dr. Francis Dexter arrives in London intending to atone for wrongs committed by his former self, Herbert West. A chance meeting in a pub leads to disturbing revelations by a veteran of the Great War, and forces Dexter to relive a terrible journey in the black region between death and life.
The intention behind the Supplements was to fill in the corners of the main series and explore some of the plot points in more detail. Readers of the story that inspired my series — H.P Lovecraft’s “Herbert West, Reanimator” — may recall that West’s reanimated corpses were all flawed, due to lack of ‘freshness’ or to imperfections in the reanimating fluid. Disaster ensued. I used this premise in a more subtle way in my novels. The transformation from amoral scientist Herbert West to wounded healer and physician of last resort Francis Dexter is the underlying theme of all four novels.
“One of the Fourteen” is set in the autumn of 1936. Francis Dexter (formerly known as Herbert West) is living in London, England, volunteering his services at a charity clinic and cultivating a willingness to atone for the misdeeds committed by his earlier self. He is given an opportunity to do this, but it’s not a simple process and results in a harrowing inner journey.
Also in the next few days: look for price reductions on a few of the ebooks of the Herbert West Series, and wider availability of the first three Supplements — which, incidentally, will be priced at Free. Look for them in the B&N, Kobo, Apple and other ebook stores, and don’t hesitate to inform Amazon of the lower price.
Image designed by Audrey Driscoll, with Canva.
Proof that the left and right sides of the brain don’t always communicate…
A week or so later, I decided finally to change the url to the HW Series page on my blog. It used to be audreydriscoll.com/the-herbert-west-trilogy, because in the dim past, there were only three books. Thinking the middle one, Islands of the Gulf, was too long, I clove it in two and published it accordingly, thus turning the trilogy into a… tetralogy? Ugh. Quartet? Too pretentious. I settled for the rather mundane term “series.” But I didn’t think to change the term in the url linking to the page that has all the information about the series and where to aquire it. No one ever really looks at urls, do they? In blog posts I attach the link to text; someone clicking on that would never see the actual url.
Recently, though, it occurred to me that it was dumb to have misleading information floating around. It’s not a trilogy, so why suggest it is, even in an obscure bit of text such as a url? I changed it to: audreydriscoll.com/the-herbert-west-series. Self-congratulations all around. I even went back to old blog posts linked to that page and updated the link there. Take note: when you change the url for a page, WordPress doesn’t propagate the change through all the posts linked to that page.
But, of course, I had just invalidated the link I had added to my three new ebooks (the Supplements). To make matters worse, I didn’t pick up on this until after a considerable number of those ebooks had been downloaded by potential readers during a free promotion. Aaaaargh! Now I’m imagining annoyed readers clicking on the bad link, saying “Nuts to that!” when they get an error message, and thus missing out on the delights of reading the main series. All because I (the author and publisher) didn’t bother to change the url as soon as the trilogy became a series, or at least think to upload corrected versions of the ebooks before the free promo days.
I shall refrain from pointing out the obvious.
Well, no I won’t. Because maybe it isn’t all that obvious: Sweat the small stuff.
Like these two guys.
Images courtesy of Pixabay.
So many books…
You know how it is — you read an ebook, think it’s pretty good, wonder if there’s a sequel. In a day or two, other books and life in general overlay the memory. Weeks later, something reminds you of that book. Now, what was the title? The author? You try to find it in your e-reader and your computer. So many books… You pick one that looks interesting and start reading, the book you were looking for forgotten.
This shouldn’t happen to readers of the Herbert West Series, because now they have the option to acquire all four novels at once — the complete series.
I started writing the first book on November 7th, 2000. November 7th, 2016 is Herbert West’s 130th birthday. In honour of the occasion, I have published a “box set” of all four novels, with a bonus — Chapter 1 of the as yet untitled sequel to the series.
It’s in the works at Amazon and Smashwords, and will be widely available soon.
Complete information and links may be found here.
From ancient Arkham to the agony of the Great War, from Acadie to the islands of the West Coast, a brilliant but amoral physician is subjected to travails and entanglements, to become a source of healing — and of peril.
“Box set.” An unwieldy term, by any standard — two nouns that jostle along together without anything to link them into a meaningful concept. But, for some reason, that’s the term used to describe a set of books or music recordings with something in common (author, composer, performer, theme) issued together as a special edition.
“Boxed set” actually makes sense, referring to the fact that the separate works are contained in a box or slipcase especially designed for the collected edition. But it looks like “box set” is here to stay, for a number of excellent or dubious reasons.
Another term I’ve seen applied to collected editions is “bundle,” but that sounds blunt and indiscriminate. Does anyone really want books that come in bundles, like lumber? Or “omnibus,” which I’ve seen on single-volume print books containing a number of separate works? That sounds clumsy and menacing.
So box set it is.
The publishing trajectory that culminates in a box set goes like this: an author writes and publishes a novel. Then they write and publish another. And another, forming a trilogy, or even more novels, forming a series. Once the series is complete, the author goes on to create other novels or series. They gather a following (maybe), and eventually it makes sense to make the trilogy or series available as a set — a box set.
The box set may include a bonus of some sort, a story or two not otherwise available, or even the beginning of another novel. This is a good idea, because it may entice purchasers who already own the separately-published books. So might a new, striking cover image for the box set. Readers may not be able to resist the look of a spiffy new package to replace their dog-eared copies, and some new writing from an author they already like would be icing on the literary cake.
Ebooks are often sold as box sets (without an actual box, of course). A new, purpose-designed cover image is essential here. Taking the easy option of pasting reduced versions of the original covers together results in a muddled mess, not an eye-catching novelty.
Box sets may be something besides a collection of works by a single author. Several authors writing in a specific genre may contribute books from their backlists to form a set with a common theme — cozy mysteries or supernatural thrillers, for example. Box sets may also be created to support a charitable cause, in which case all or part of the proceeds go to that cause.
I have to admit, I always thought box sets (the physical kind) were a good idea that didn’t quite work. Anyone who really liked an author’s books would have them all anyway. Buying a box set for a friend would be a risk if they weren’t a fan and superfluous if they were. The only motive to buy a box set would be the spiffiness factor.
But here I am, about to publish a box set of the Herbert West Series. It will include all four novels, along with the first chapter of a new novel intended to be a sequel to the series. “Intended” because so far I’ve written only that first chapter. Putting it out there will give me incentive to write and publish the rest. That’s the idea, anyway.
The Herbert West Series Complete will make its appearance through Smashwords and Amazon, in ebook form only, on November 7th — Herbert West’s 130th birthday.
Image designed by Audrey Driscoll with Canva
Throughout October, the Greater Victoria Public Library (in Victoria, British Columbia) is making time and space available to authors who have contributed to its Emerging Local Authors Collection.
On Saturday, October 15th, I joined three other authors for a pleasant couple of hours at the Oak Bay Branch of GVPL to display copies of our books and meet members of the public.
About a dozen people stopped to chat, look at books, ask about publishing and cover design. Between visits by the public, the four of us had some lively conversations about writing, publishing, and cover design. One copy of one book was purchased by a library patron, and at the end of the allocated time, we authors exchanged copies of our books.
In exchange for The Friendship of Mortals, I received the following:
The Opera Singer by Keith M. Costain.
Hunter’s Daughter by Nowick Gray.
The Tangerine Tigress by Rian Everest.
It’s my intention — articulated right here for all to see — to read these books and write reviews here on the blog, and on Goodreads.