Quincy's Curse and Caleb's World

Posted on January 22, 2012 (Subscribe to Blog)

Just a few general things to report. The main thing is that I'm nearing completion of Quincy's Curse, a project that I started many moons ago and have been itching to finish. Even after being shelved for years, only half finished, it still reads nicely today and I've found it very easy to pick up and continue with. My target is 65,000 words and I've just reached 50,000, so not far to go now – just four or five more chapters at most. Here's a snippet from Chapter One where Quincy, new to the village of Ramshackle Bottom, meets Megan...

Megan shook his hand hard, and when she let go he gazed dumbly at it as if something had just stung him.
      After a while he lifted his brown eyes to her. "Pleased to meet you. But . . . I'm not used to having friends . . ."
      "We'll soon change that," Megan assured him. Then she shrugged. "That is, if you want to be friends."
      "You might not want to know me," Quincy said seriously. "I can bring bad luck. And good luck, too, but it's pretty random. If you hang around with me, you might find a gold coin but accidentally drop it in the river. Or you'll smash a priceless vase, like my aunt just did. Or . . . well, much worse can happen. That's how my parents died."
      Megan's eyes widened and her hand flew to her mouth. "How did it happen?"
      "One night," Quincy said softly, "when I was six months old, our house caught fire. My father was away at another village at the time. My mother was overtaken by smoke and never woke up. By the time the neighbors knew of the fire, the whole house was burning. One of the neighbors heard a baby crying – me – and rushed in to save me." Quincy spoke in a dull monotone, as if reciting the words from a well-memorized script.
      "That's awful!" Megan cried.
      "Two years later, my father died in a freak accident. It was a bad winter, and he left the house one morning and stood just outside under the eaves. Of all the places to stand, he picked the place where a large icicle was hanging."
      "It . . . it fell on him?" Megan whispered in horror.
      Quincy shook his head. "No, it missed. But it startled him so much he leapt back out of the way and slipped on an icy patch. He fell and banged his head."
      "And that killed him?"
      "No," Quincy said, shaking his head again. "He lay there a while, dazed. Then a hungry wolf came out of the woods and smelled the blood that was trickling from his head. It came over, and . . ."
      Megan clasped both hands to the sides of her face. "It ate him?"
      "What?" Quincy frowned. "No, no, nothing like that. It wanted to, but my father struggled to his feet and made it inside safely. Later that day, he told the neighbors all about his narrow escape, which is how I know all this today." He sighed and shrugged. "My father's story worried some of the villagers because we weren't used to having wolves stray so close to our homes. So a group of men went out and headed up to the woods beyond where I used to live to hunt down this wolf."
      Now Megan was confused. "So . . . how did . . . ?"
      "How did my father die?" Quincy sighed. "A stray bullet caught him. It was intended for the wolf, but it missed and kept on going. It missed all the trees, shot out of the forest, punched through the living room window, and got my father in the head."
      "Oh!"
      "When my father died, I went to live with my Aunt Josephine and Uncle Gilderoy. I was still just a toddler and it was hard for them to take me in with everything they had going on – both working and trying to make ends meet and all that – but they were good people and they tried. Life was hard for them. They suffered all sorts of bad fortune with me around – years and years of it. I was with them for eight years and they never once blamed me openly, but I think they saw me as a curse, the root of all their misfortune. My uncle worked the horses on a farm until he broke his ankle and suffered for months with gangrene. They eventually took his foot."
      Megan frowned. "The horses took his foot?"
      "No, the doctors did. Because of the gangrene. They couldn't save it."
      "What? Why would anyone want to save gangrene?"
      Quincy stared hard at her. "Are you trying to be funny?"
      "No! I'm just – I'm confused. You have a funny way of explaining things."
      There was a long moment of silence, during which Quincy frowned and Megan shifted uncomfortably.
      "Anyway," he eventually continued, "they died in a freak accident at the market when I was ten."
      Megan stared at him. "The doctors?"
      "No, my aunt and uncle!"
      "I'm so sorry," Megan gasped.

It's not intended as a comedy but I do go off on some tangents occasionally. This smacks of the Airplane! movies a little. Also, I think some Monty Python crept in during another scene. But while there are some light moments, there are also some dark, creepy scenes, like those with the Red-Legged Scissor-Man that I mentioned in my previous post.

I'm expecting to finish the first draft by the end of January, which is certainly doable. There's no great hurry on this one, but I want to see it through before I write the final chapter of Caleb's World, which I kind of got stuck on and had to take a step back from. That won't take long at all once I figure it out. Then I'll have two complete novels, both around 65,000 words, ready to print and proof.

After that, I'm itching to start on Book 5 of Island of Fog. Much of the story is already written in my head. If only I could just lean forward, open my forehead, and let the thoughts tumble onto the page. Oh well, I suppose I'll just have to type the words as usual.

Did I mention that Whitt Brantley is representing the Fog series again? The Sundance Film Festival starts soon and so the next two weeks will be slow in terms of pitching the story to TV/film producers (because they'll all be away at the festival) so Whitt will be submitting my books to publishers instead. I still cling to the hope that one day they'll be snapped up and I'll become massively famous and rich. My books are, after all, already on the book shelf next to J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series at the Barnes & Noble store in Chattanooga...

Oh, and speaking of which: When you set up your books for print-on-demand publishing, you kind of have to offer a 50% discount and return option for book stores, otherwise they won't ever run the risk of buying them. So when I did a book signing at Barnes & Noble last year, and the regional manager bought 20 copies of the first three books, I was over the moon. But 60 books is a lot for a store to keep in stock; normally they keep only a couple of each for "unknowns." Anyway, I suppose it was inevitable that a bunch ended up being returned to Lightning Source, and thus back to me at my own cost. It's like I just bought 31 books at half the retail price (which is more that what I would normally pay) and also paid a fee for the privilege. Sigh. I'm not sure I like handling printed copies in this way.

But never mind. Keep moving forward, that's what I always say. Otherwise you end up moving backwards, sideways, or not at all. It's common sense, really.

Comment by RALPH CORDEROY on Monday, January 23, 2012...

Interesting to hear more about the mechanics of book selling but I donít quite understand the book return figures. A £10 jacket-price book costs you £3 to make and the bookshop take it off you for £5, the 50% discount mentioned. It doesnít sell so they later return it and get their £5 returned. The middleman, Lightning Source, charge a fee for the refund handling, which is how much youíre down on the deal compared to if the bookshop had never taken it in the first place. Have I got that right?

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Monday, January 23, 2012...

That's partly right, Ralph, but there are other considerations, and are you taking into account the fact that I HAVE to buy back the returned books (because Lightning Source can't un-print them) so I end up with a lot of books I don't necessarily need? For example:

Mountain of Whispers sells at $11.95 each retail, so 50% discount means a bookseller buys them at $5.98 each. If he bought 12 books, that would be $71.76, of which I would see $24.48 after LSI profit and print costs, etc. So far so good.

The bookseller then returns them and I have to buy them instead at the same price, $5.98 per book, total $71.76 PLUS a $24.00 return fee (which includes shipping). So I'm paying $95.76 for the returned books. If you take into the account the profit I made earlier, then I'm actually paying $71.28 out of pocket.

Now, if I had bought the books myself in the first place to replenish my stock, I would have paid $4.41 per book ($52.92) plus $1.50 handling and $10.70 shipping, total $65.12.

So in total I've paid $71.28 for returned books rather than $65.12 for new ones. Not a big difference when you number crunch like this, but like I said, I don't NEED these copies at all right now, so this feels like an extra $71.28 that I didn't want to fork out. And bear in mind this is just a comparison of the 12 Mountain of Whispers I received back. There were actually 31 books in all, so it's more like $140 I'm paying out of pocket.

My "complaint" is not buying back the books so much as having to handle books I don't need right now, and forking out when I'm not ready to.

Comment by ROGER ESCHBACHER on Tuesday, January 24, 2012...

Between this and the previous post, it sounds like you have a lot going on! I'm looking forward to your new books and glad to hear you're jonesing to get started on IOF #5 — good news for us fans of the series.

Also, very interesting to hear about what is obviously a downside to getting a pod title into a brick and mortar. With my marginally successful picture books, the publisher absorbed the return costs, and thank goodness for that! I can see how it would be irksome and costly to have to buy back your own books at a higher rate than you normally would pay. Thanks for sharing.

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