Monday, October 23, 2017

You Have My Permission

If you've been over to The Writing Spectacle lately, you may have seen that I have had writer's block.  Which is probably part of the reason why you haven't seen me here lately.  But that's beside the point.  I haven't been writing.  Which sucks.

Yesterday, I gave myself a good slapping around (mentally, of course).  Sort of a 'you are going to get up off your ass and write or so help me I will slap the holy crap out of you so you'd better think of something and I mean now' thing.  And I thought of something.  Then I smooshed out my cigarette, looked at Hubs and told him I was going to work. 

I saw down here and looked at where I'd left off on Early Grave.  And I still didn't know how to proceed.  Oh, I knew where I wanted to go.  And I had that idea of something I'd just bullied myself into coming up with.  But how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be?  No clue.  Which meant I was staring down the barrel of another day of not writing.

And I did not want to face myself after another one of those.

So I started writing.  I slapped down a bunch of filler crap to get me from point A to point B.  It's probably horrible.  I'll probably most likely kill it off in edits.  But it's there.  And it did its job.  It got me past the stall point and on to the next point.  I dashed that off, too.  It's sparse, but it's there.  I can fill it in later.

This morning, thinking about what happened the night before, I realized I had given myself permission to write crap.  If you know me, I'm a big proponent of giving yourself permission to write crap, so I'm not sure how I'd rescinded that permission somewhere along the way.  But I had.  For some reason or other, I was stalled because I talked myself into believing that the words going down on the page had to be 'not crappy'.  Derp.

Crap can be fixed.  Always.  Blank pages?  Can't do a damn thing with those.  Ever.

Last night was a total crap fest.  Yay!  And it was 1500 words more than I wrote the entire week before.  I'm embracing the crap, especially if it means I can turn out the pages and have something to edit later.  So what if the scene I wrote would be totally unbelievable from a law enforcement officer standpoint?  I can fix that.  So what if the characters are acting out of character?  I can fix that, too.  

Embrace the crap.

You have my permission.  ;o)

Monday, October 16, 2017

Sales in Other Countries

Oops.  Wrote this earlier and forgot to hit publish...

Someone in Australia has been reading my books.  One after the other.  (In the Kindle Unlimited program otherwise I'd  have no clue.) Yay!  Not sure how that happened, though.  I mean, I kind of have an idea.  The sales last month boosted my visibility.  Natch.  But how someone in Australia found Wish in One Hand exactly puzzles me. 

All my books are available everywhere Amazon is.  Since they're only available in English, it makes sense they'd sell into other English speaking nations.  It doesn't happen quite as often as I'd hope, though.  Sometimes I sell into the UK.  Every once in a while, I sell something in Canada, but it's rare.  (Which kind of baffles me, because both my editor and my cover artist are Canadian and Canada's like right up there. Our neighbors to the north. :waves:)  Even rarer, Australia. 

When I run a freebie, I see people from all over the world downloading, which is cool.  Here's how last month's freeie for WIOH broke out...

US - 649 downloads
UK - 36
Germany - 12
France - 2
Spain - 1
Italy - 0
Netherlands - 1
Japan - 0
India - 1
Brazil - 1
Mexico - 0
Australia - 18

But free downloads almost never equates into sales in those countries.  I can't remember the last time I actually had a sale or page reads in Germany.

And don't get me started on reviews.  I have reviews here.  I have a minor number of reviews in the UK.  Anywhere else?  Nada. 

Anyway, like I said, I'm not sure about how I get sales in other countries or how to get more of them.  I'm certainly happy to have them.

Do you read books from other countries?  I read a fun romance out of Australia the other day.  Sometimes I see a free book listed in the Kindle UK Facebook thing and I'll go to the US site and see if it's available here. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Why I'm Amazon Exclusive

All my books are available at Amazon.  And only at Amazon* or through Createspace (which is owned by Amazon). 

Why?

Well, there's the ease.  I'm lazy and Amazon makes everything easy for me.  One place to sell books, one place to market books, one place to check stats... you get the picture.  But that's not the only reason.

I've tried putting my books on other sites.  Know what happened?  Next to nothing.  I sold 12 books total in 2016 through other venues.  And by marketing through those other channels, I lost the ability to have my books in the Kindle Unlimited program.  Compared to the 12 books sold in 2016 through other venues, people read (and I got paid for) the equivalent of 182 books.  That's $9.47 elsewhere vs $382 in KU.  The math doesn't lie.

Know what else happened?  I got paid a fraction of what I would've made through Amazon on each book.  Other venues paid me an average of 79c per book.  Regular sales through Amazon on my $2.99 books is $2.04.  Even with the KU per page money dropping, I'm still averaging $1.98 per book this year (down 12c from last year's average).  I can't argue with the numbers.

But not everyone uses Amazon you say?  I have considered the people who don't use Amazon.  Really I have.  Right now, those people who bought the 12 books last year may not be able to access my other books.  (Well, they could if they used Kindle for PC or for Nook or for whatever device they have.)  I'm truly sorry about that.  And it makes me a little sad.  I want everyone to be able to read my books, however they want to read them.  Unfortunately, when I weigh their needs against the money I'd be losing, the answer is clear. 

No money, no books.  It's really as simple as that.  It's why I've only published two books this year instead of the 3 or 4 in my other publishing years.  Oh, I can still write books.  I have scads of them on my hard drive.  But until there is moolah in my bank account, I can't afford to edit them or put covers on them and make them available for people to read.

So, there it is.  I'm Amazon exclusive and now you know why.  Any questions?




(If you've downloaded my books from anyplace else in the past year or so, you've stolen them.  And you're part of the reason why I can't afford to publish more books. Shame on you.)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Be Vewwy Vewwy Quiet

I wrote words last night.  But I am trying to be vewwy vewwy quiet about it so I don't chase them all away.

Yeah, sometimes words are like bunnies.  No sudden moves.  No open acknowledgement of their existence.  Or they'll run away.

Hell, I don't even like to acknowledge that I have writer's block because with WB, it's the opposite.  I acknowledge it and it swarms all over me.  Bleh.  I have to ignore that shit so it'll go away.

I said yesterday that I might do something totally off the wall to get my writing jump started.  That wasn't the trick.  In fact, I spent all day yesterday trying to think of something off the wall to write and came up empty.

What worked?  I sat down here last night and read the last good bit of writing I had on Early Grave.  And I saw where I had glossed over something and then omitted something kind of important.  I reworked that last patch.  Then I deleted about a thousand words past that point and wrote a scene where the hero and the heroine argue.  And although he's kinda of right, she can't see it and it totally pisses her off, which makes her do something unwise which will lead to where I need the plot to be.  Tada.

:fingers crossed:

The reason I'm crossing my fingers is that I don't want this bunny to run away.  I need this bunny. 

So, be vewwy vewwy quiet.  K?

Friday, October 6, 2017

Being a Hermit and a Writer

I may have explained before that I am, for the most part, a hermit.  Not literally, of course.  I mean, I don't live in a cave or anything, and I do occasionally have contact with the outside world.  I have to shop and stuff, so there's a bit of social interaction there.  And I socialize on the internet.  And there's Hubs.

But yeah, other than that, I'm a hermit.  And with the world the way it is, my hermitude is getting worse.

That's neither here nor there, though.  What I want to talk about today is how being a hermit clashes with being a self-published writer. 

Two and a half years ago when I started the self-publishing thing, I was faced with some crucial decisions about how to proceed with the marketing portion of the business.  I was encouraged to attend conferences and book signings and stuff.  :shudder:  The thought of being in crowds makes me want to crawl into a hole and pull the rocks down over myself.  I did do some face-to-face, one-on-one stuff.  I went to the local libraries and introduced myself and donated books.  I went around to the places where I was known and told the people I knew about my book. 

Since then, the people I knew at the libraries have left and everyone I know already knows about my books.  :shrug:  And I can't make myself start the process all over again.  Get out in the world and meet more new people?  :shudder:

I've pulled back on my internet stuff, too.  I mean, I was already shrinking away because socializing is exhausting, but last year's election hoopdedoo helped shove me further back into my figurative cave.  For a while there, it seemed like I was unfriending people on a daily basis.  I ran away from Twitter because I couldn't scan through the feed without wanting to hurl. 

And I'm pretty sure my sales have suffered as a result.  Being a hermit and a writer is not a path I recommend for anyone who really wants to succeed at this self-publishing thing.  (For varying definitions of 'success'.)  However, I can't make myself step up to the social things I would need to do to whip up more sales.  I guess when it comes down to it, I value my hermitage more than sales. 

So, as my profile on FB says, 'Here I sit, hermit-like, in my cabin in the woods banging away at the keyboard and creating worlds.'  Feel free to grab a cup of coffee and join me.  Online.  From your own hermit-holes.  ;o)

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Self-Publishing Pros & Cons

I've probably done this before, but I think it's probably time again to list the Pros and the Cons of self-publishing.

Pros:
- No one tells me what to write.
- No one tells me what to publish.
- I don't have to worry about my editor 'changing houses'. 
- No agent necessary.
- I don't have to worry about my publisher closing its doors.
- I don't have to worry about my publisher making silly business decisions.
- I can set reasonable prices for my books so people like me can afford them.
- I set my own schedule.
- I don't have to worry about getting scammed by untrustworthy publishers.
- The market tells me whether I've made the right decision about what to write and what to publish.
- I never have to wonder whether someone will release the rights of my books to me.
- I don't have to give anyone a percentage of my earnings.
- I get to be a hermit and still sell books.


Cons:
- I have to worry about everything, from writing and editing to marketing to accounting to personnel.
- The market is hard to figure out.
- If I fuck up, it's all on me.
- Sometimes I make silly business decisions.
- I have to pay for editing and cover art myself.
- I'm the one who has to run around figuring out how to pay for all this.
- Sometimes being a hermit clashes with the goal of selling books.

Sometimes the Cons outweigh the Pros, but for the most part, the Pros win every time.  Of course, your mileage may vary.

Did I miss anything?  Feel free to add your own pros/cons in the comments.  =o)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Contacting Me

Reading a blog post this morning by the most wise Elizabeth Spann Craig brought something to my attention.  I never made it super easy for people to contact me through the blogs.

I mean, I'm all over the place - blogs, Facebook, Twitter... But, ya know, I hadn't exactly linked everything all up.  So, to that end, there's a new page here at Outside the Box.  Look up there under the pretty picture and you'll see a 'Contact Me' button.  It has all the places I can be contacted linked for easy use.

Over at The Writing Spectacle, I put a link at the top of the right sidebar to the Contact Me page here.  Easy peasy.  At least I hope it is.

If you can think of other ways you might want to get a hold of me, let me know.  (I do have an Instagram thingie, but I can't use it because I'm a throwback with no suitable devices.)

The only other ways to contact me are phone numbers and snail mail addresses.  Umm, yah, not putting those on the internet for the world to see.  Sorry.  If you subscribe to my newsletter, my PO Box is listed on the bottom of that because they made me have a physical address before they'd allow me to send newsletter.  If you really need to send me something physical, use that.  Or contact me another way and we'll talk. 

I'm trying to be accessible to readers without leaving myself totally out there where the loonies can find me.  Know what I mean?

Anyway, I hope you won't be shy about contacting me - even if I may be shy about contacting you.  (Which means if you follow me on FB or Twitter or whatever, I won't be sending you messages out of the blue for any reason.  I respond to stuff, but I rarely initiate.)

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Rambling

My brain would not shut off last night.  This after a day of not getting it to turn on.  It happens.  More often than I'd like, frankly.  I did get the motor to crank over about 7:30pm and I wrote with wild abandon.  Then it was bed time.  And I went to bed because my hands were tired and I thought I'd written to a point where I could let it go for the night. 

Nope.  As soon as my head hit the pillow and I started to get comfortable, the brain was all like 'hey, what if this and this, and then this?'  I was screaming at it in my head to shut up shut up shut up.  Finally I distracted it with a song or two and fell asleep.

This morning, all of the things I was thinking are hiding.  Except one.  I wrote that down a second ago.  I hope to rebuild everything else at some point today.  Fat chance, I know, but I'll try.

Anyway, Early Grave rolled over the 50K mark last night and I'm creeping up to the climax, which is part of what my brain was tinkering with last night. 

It's like the cat.  She has all damn day to wash her fur.  Does she do it during the day?  Nooo.  She waits until we're in bed - either for a nap or for the night - and she goes to town, licking and slurping to beat the band.  Yep, that's my brain.  Ugh.

So, anyway, it's the 27th.  I'm still thinking I won't have this first draft done by the end of the month, but I should have it done shortly thereafter.  Fingers crossed.  I need more nights of wild writing abandon and less nights of meh. 

Okay, that's enough rambling out of me.  You got any rambling to let out?

Friday, September 22, 2017

Inspiration and Epiphanies

Jack London once said "You can't wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club." 

I totally get it. Sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike isn't productive.  And we all need to be productive to make this writing thing work.  (Hell, to make any venture work.)

My problem most of the time isn't a lack of inspiration - although there is that, too, from time to time.  It's a lack of gumption.  I expend energy writing or editing or marketing, and I need a freakin' nap.  Like a two week long nap.  And when I'm tired, it's harder for me to find the words. 

But like inspiration, I realize I need to go after gumption with a club.  I make myself sit down here and write.  Mostly, those times produce really crappy lame words.  But it's producing words.  Crappy words are still better than no words.  Crappy words can be fixed.

Sometimes, though, something clicks in my head and things fall into place.  An epiphany!  Who needs inspiration or gumption when you have an epiphany.  I had two of those last night.  The first one I had when I was sitting in the living room trying to work up the gumption to work.  It filled my gumption tank and I scurried in here to write about 2K words.  The second one struck after I'd already shut down the 'puter for the night and I forgot to write it down.  Lucky for me, just thinking about having the epiphany made it pop into my head and I wrote it down a couple minutes ago.  Things are falling into place.

Thinking about it now, I guess I got the first epiphany because I was strolling through the jungle of my mind with a club looking for gumption, and I flushed it out.  WHACK.  Brought that sucker down.  The other epiphany was sneakier, but I nailed it, too. 

So, I'm back to writing.  I had hoped to get this first edition done by the end of September.  I don't see that happening, but it's possible.  And if I miss that deadline, I'll be finished soon after.  It's all good. 



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Release Day Advertising and Numbers

Hey All. 

Here we are again with a break down of the things I did for the release of Wish Hits the Fan and how it's panned out so far. 

Starting last Thursday, I placed Wish in One Hand as free for 5 days (the max Amazon allows for) and both In Deep Wish and Up Wish Creek as 99c/.99p for 7 days (max for a Kindle Countdown Deal). 

I didn't set any advertising for Thursday, but I did kind of blitz Facebook and Twitter.  I ended up with 360 copies of WIOH out the door that day, and sold 25 copies of the other Once Upon a Djinn books. 

Friday, my first ads went up at Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Bargains and Author's Billboard.  235 copies of WIOH went out and I sold 11 copies of the others.

Saturday, more ads for PUFB and another ad at ebookdealsdaily.com.  82 copies of WIOH, 11 sales.

Sunday, no ads but additional FB and Twitter stuff.  50 copies of WIOH, and 9 sales.

Monday, the final ad at PUFB began.  36 WIOH, 2 sales.

Tuesday, the last day of the PUFB ad.  2 sales.

Wrapped into all of that are the 3500 pages read through Kindle Unlimited. 

So, basically, I spent $28 on advertising and made a little over double that.  Which is about what one should expect from advertising dollars, I guess.  I'm hoping for some additional residual sales as people who picked up WIOH read it and buy the others, and as people who downloaded the books for KU, read pages and I get credit for those.  We'll see.

I also saw some activity for my other non-OUAD books.  The only book out of the nine that had no activity was Dying Embers, so that's something.  And I saw more activity from other countries - UK, CA, AU, and Japan, of all places.  :shrug:

It wasn't an explosion of sales for release day - I only moved 16 copies of WHTF - but I'm calling it a win.  Especially considering that prior to this, I'd only sold like 85 books total over the first 8 books this whole year.

Still not sure what's up next.  I really need to get back to work on finishing Early Grave.  And then edits for Sleeping Ugly.  And writing the next book in Dennis Haggarty's world.  First, though, I have to find a way to recharge my gumption hump. 

Okay, that's it.  Any questions?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Release Day is Finally Here!

When I first started writing the first genie book (Djinn-ocide... which would eventually become Wish Hits the Fan) back in September of 2009, I really had no idea where it would go.  I thought maybe I could make a series out of it someday and maybe it would land me an agent and a publishing contract.

LOL, well, we all know where that last part of the vision went, don't we?

I self-published Wish in One Hand in August of 2015.  A little over two years later, the fourth and final book in the Once Upon a Djinn series is available for the general public to read.  Yay!

I'm super stoked that all the books are together.  And I really I hope you all enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.

Here they are...

Wish in One Hand

In Deep Wish

Up Wish Creek

Wish Hits the Fan

Not quite sure what's up next.  I'm going to enjoy this for a little while, I think.  All four books together.  Finally.

Whew.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Punishment and Crime

Yesterday, Hubs was reading me news stories about the crime that's sprung up in the wake of the hurricanes.  Apparently, St. Martins/St. Maartens is like a freaking warzone after Irma.  Parts of FL have turned into a free-for-all.  Looting abounds. 

Seriously?  I mean, WTF is wrong with people?  Find an instance where people are beaten and battered and hit them again?  Kick them when they're down?  That's pretty low. And I find myself longing for the good old days when 'looters will be shot on sight' was a thing. 

I'm sure that was a major deterrent and kept many borderline criminals from committing that particular crime.  Unless you're profoundly stupid, getting shot for looting would stop you from looting.  Wouldn't it?

Nowadays, though, punishment is less deterring.  Looters will be arrested, spend a night in jail while awaiting bail, then be out again to loot some more.  It just doesn't have the same ring it to, does it?  Maybe, perhaps, down the road a piece, they'll spend some more nights in jail.  Big deal.  They get three hots and a cot in jail, TV, free education, etc., plus everything they can smuggle or barter or steal.  Sure, they lose their freedom for a while, but they don't seem to really give a shit about it.  They'll be out - sooner than expected with parole and junk - and then they can go back to their criminal enterprises.

Punishment for crime was also supposed to be about justice for the victim.  I'm not really feeling the justice - especially when I watch shows like The First 48 and see guys getting 8, 10, 12 years for murder.  Of which you know they'll only actually serve 50% if we're lucky.  How is that justice?  Someone is dead and the person that made them dead gets a light sentence.  Ugh.

Meanwhile, our jails/prisons are full.  And I hear people saying THAT's the reason why people get off so easily - because there isn't room for them in prison.   Umm... yah.  If prison was the deterrent it was supposed to be, there would be fewer people going to prison.  Although, it might be too late for that now.  It makes me crazy.

So, yeah, I'm in the 'looters should be shot' camp.  I'd bet that after you popped the first few, the next group thinking about looting would think twice.




Monday, September 11, 2017

Updates and News and Stuff

I got everything uploaded to Createspace and they approved my files last night.  The proof should be here Friday, which is release day for the ebook.  If the proof looks like it's supposed to, I'll approve it and it should be available for sale, at least on Createspace, Friday.  However, if there's anything wrong with the proof - like the time they put someone else's cover on my book - then the date will be pushed back.  But I don't foresee that happening.  :fingers crossed:

Remember, all of the other Once Upon a Djinn books will be either free or deeply discounted starting Thursday.  Wish Hits the Fan will be $2.99.  Which is not a budget buster.  And they're all available through Kindle Unlimited, so if you have a subscription there, you can get them for free through that. 

I'm really trying to push this release.  Please forgive me if you've heard all this before and are getting a little tired of my pimping.  If you've been around long enough, you'll know this happens here around release day.  I shout about my books here.  And on The Writing Spectacle.  And on FB.  (Sometimes on Twitter, but I haven't been very active there lately.)  It's a thing. 

There should be some advertising later this week and next.  Right now, it's just at Paranormal & Urban Fantasy Bargains and Authors' Billboard.  I got declined at one of the larger advertising venues, but I expected that.  I'll try to get some other stuff lined up, but right now, that's it for me. 

And let me just say THANK YOU to all of you who come here, whether you comment or not.  I really appreciate it.  You are my core people.  And I couldn't do this without you.  :hugs:

Now, back to your regularly scheduled lives.  I'll be back to talking about something other than this release eventually.  ;o)

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Paperback Cover

Good morning, Everyone! 

One of the last things I did last night before bed was to check my email and discover my brand new, totally awesome print cover for Wish Hits the Fan.  So pretty!

The ebook cover was super cool, but the print cover gives the full effect I was going for (that Jessica Allain of Enchanted Whispers Art made real for me).

Today, I'll build the paperback over at Createspace and go through that process - which will take a bit of time what with approving proofs that have to be shipped and all.  If everything goes well, this should be available by the end of the month at Createspace. 

In case you missed it, the ebook is available for pre-order now and will be on your Kindle on the 15th. 

I can't wait to get my proof copy.  Then I can put all the books next to each other and they'll be so pretty together. 

Once I have buy links, I'll add them to the Once Upon a Djinn page up there and probably post about it, too. 

So much to do so little time. 



Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Chicken. Head. Off.

It's pre-release week.  So, basically, I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  Not literally, of course, but in my head, that's about what it feels like. 

My last to-do list was a full page of little notebook paper.  Right now, all but two things have been crossed off.  I started a new to-do list - moved those two items and added two more.

I'd forgotten how much stuff has to be done around a release. 

Last night, I got WHTF formatted for print.  Then I went through all of the Once Upon a Djinn ebooks and adjusted the back matter so they all have WHTF info on them along with links.  Meanwhile, I found an error in the print copy of Up Wish Creek which needs to be corrected in case anyone should want to buy a print copy.  (Not likely, but still.)

I also firmed up and paid for some advertising last night.  And contacted my cover artist with a page count for WHTF so she can do the paperback cover. 

Today, I have to work on bookmarks, updating the back matter for all my other books, more advertising stuff, work on the Createspace stuff for WHTF...  Argh.

It'll all get done.  It has to.  And since there's no one else to do it but me, I guess I'd better quit ma bitchin' and get to work.

What are all y'all up to today?

Monday, September 4, 2017

WISH HITS THE FAN is Available for Pre-order!

Wish Hits the Fan is now available for pre-order! Yay!  And Whew!

I'm so excited to finally be able to make this available for all y'all.  I know it's been a long time coming - a year since Up Wish Creek came out - and I thank you all for your patience.  But it's finally going to be here.  On the 15th!

I would've put it in your hands today, but I wanted to set up marketing to surround the big day.  And sales for the other books.  And junk.

But it's done.  The Amazon pre-order email says something about 'estimated release date'.  If it isn't on your ereader on that day, it's nothing I've done, because I won't be messing with this sucker at all again.  (Well, unless after it's release someone comes to me with a typo to correct or something.)

I'd say that now I can relax, but today I have to format for the print release and get a page count over to my cover artist so she can build me a print cover.  Once I get that, I'll be getting that ready to release, too.  (Hopefully, not too much past the release of the ebook.  :fingers crossed:)

Then I can relax.  Except I have to finish Early Grave.  And then I have to edit Sleeping Ugly.  And then...

Never mind.  No rest for the writer.  Ain't it awesome?  =oD

Friday, September 1, 2017

A Snippet for Friday

Here's a snippet of Wish Hits the Fan for your Friday morning amusement...



Wish Hits the Fan
Chapter One

What in the name of Uncle Hank is it now?
I gazed around the dilapidated warehouse as if seeing it for the first time.  Cages hung from chains all around the open expanse.  They had been filled with genies for the most part.  Others held vampires and lycanthropes and members of a myriad of species across the supernatural realm.  Almost all of them were empty now, their prisoners set free by myself and my merry band of djinn allies.  The final few left occupied housed Efreet—sort of the anti-us, if you will—awaiting whatever punishment they deserved for being the heinous bastards they were. 
“Come on, Jo.”
Jo.  That was me.  Josephine Eugenia Mayweather to be more precise.  I guess I was kind of shell-shocked, waiting for the fact I was needed elsewhere to sink in.  Not much more than an hour had passed since my friends had kicked Efreet ass in this shitty New York City warehouse. And while they were at it, I got to battle my own father in a melodramatic kind of freakish family reunion.  My compatriots had won.  I’d won. 
It was over.
Over?  I’d have to allow myself a good chuckle later.  It wouldn’t be over until I was taking the big dirt nap.  And being a djinn meant few things were able to put me six feet under.
To prove the point of my worries being far from finished, here was a girl genie tugging at me like a child wanting to sit on Santa’s lap.  Except no joy could be found in either her expression or her words.  Not that Raye was the epitome of joy before we’d entered this place.  She was one of the broken I’d tried to fix who had ended up more broken than before. 
Why I ever considered I could maybe-sorta-kinda get a freakin’ break I’ll never understand.  Instead, I found myself being dragged back into the thick of things by a waif whose eyes were too large and too sad.  As she urged me toward the kerfluffle I heard growing beyond the shadows, I could tell we were headed for a group of cages I’d seen when I entered only a few short hours before.  I’d snuck inside to save my friends from the Efreet, so it wasn’t as if I’d had a boatload of time to check out the contents of those cages.  In fact, with all the intervening shit, I’d forgotten clean about them. 
Until Raye rushed up claiming some sort of things had been found at the back of the warehouse.  Maybe if I hadn’t been transformed into a mouse at the time, I would’ve sensed what those cages held.  I guess what Robert Burns wrote was true, the best laid plans of mice really do often go awry in some way or another. 
I mean, the original mouse plan had worked.  It got me inside undetected by everyone but my former dog.  Then we had defeated the Efreet.  And my friends were freed.  And I’d kept my ex-lover, Zeke, from going over to the shady side of the street, even if he did end up turning human in the process.  Plus, my dog was back to being my tall, blond Viking friend, Trygvyr. 
Now?  The after-victory party was iffy.  Some of the people we’d saved were pissed.  The biggest, baddest of the baddies had gotten away.  And something freaktastic was awaiting me in the dim recesses of the expanse strung all over with medieval cages designed to hold the strongest magical beings.  After all I’d been through, I would’ve preferred a nice, long nap somewhere warm and comfortable.  Instead, I had more bullshit to deal with.
I pushed past Raye after we reached the cages where my lawyer, Michael, and Hans the bodyguard had been held prisoner by the Efreet menace.  Across from those was the cage where the evil bastards had imprisoned my receptionist, Renee, while they visited unimaginable horrors upon her.  She’d been pretty bad off, but she’d recovered well.  The fact she’d retained her sanity was a miracle, but I could sense the scars she bore.  Not for the first time, I wished our in-house therapist hadn’t been psycho.  Even Mena, the traitorous bitch she was, would’ve been better than no one at all to help my friend through this. 
The sounds of Raye’s footsteps behind me reminded me maybe no therapy would’ve been better for her than the half-ass rehabilitation Mena had put her through.  When I’d discovered Raye amongst the refugees from Mayweather Antiquities the night Amun attacked my home, she’d been wrecked by years under the hands of an abusive Master.  The amount of time Raye had spent at our facilities without any progress in her welfare should’ve been a big clue Mena was a traitor. 
What a slap in the face.  I’d been fooled for too long, and I paid for my ignorance.  How many others had paid as well, I had no idea.  How many more would pay remained to be seen.
No matter how you sliced it, it sucked.
I stopped abruptly.  I could hear Raye bringing up the rear, but while I was deep in thought, I’d lost track of the sounds in front of me.  Silence may be golden in some cases, but right then it scared the shit out of me.
“Which way?” I asked the girl.
She pointed as she stopped beside me. 
“Lead on, McDuff.”
“Lay.  It’s ‘lay on, McDuff’.”
“I don’t care if it’s ‘lay off the McDonalds’.  You go, I’ll follow.”
She blushed and then took the lead again, this time at a slower pace than I wanted, but I had to deal with it.  The poor girl paused and cringed at a cage I remembered well.  It smelled of water and death.  Natalia, the Rusalka, had been imprisoned inside for longer than I wanted to imagine.  Now, she was off somewhere giving some of her own back to one Efreet in particular.  As horrible as the Efreet had been to her, I didn’t want to consider what my newfound watery friend’s gentle ministrations would entail. 
Well, maybe a little.  Payback is hell, or so they say.
When Raye stopped again, I knew we’d reached the place.  I’d been correct in my assumption.  These were the cages I hadn’t wanted to remember.  The ones I’d been horrified by when I first passed them… 
Dozens and dozens of cages hung suspended from the ceiling at varying levels. Within each, I could make out a single form. Some of the forms were still bipedal, but some were beasts. Or monsters. Or, in one case, a sick combination of man and monster. I think I screamed. All that came out was a shrill squeak I figured only dogs could hear.
“Why haven’t these people been released yet?” I shouted above my growing dread.
“Oy, love, no need to break the eardrums.  We’re right here.”
Basil Hadresham had shunned his day-to-day business disguise to embrace his actual appearance.  This vision of Baz showed the toe-haired teen he’d once been, one who would happily steal your pocket watch after you gave him coins for a soda pop.  I would’ve appreciated the forty-something, tweed wearing Brit—the one who reminded me of the best friend’s dad in those boy-wizard movies— more right then than my Artful Dodger.  I needed comfort, goddamnitall.
“And they haven’t been released,” he said, “because we’re not sure if we have the means to deal with them all yet.”
I gazed at the cages within easy view.  Too many bizarre faces gazed back at me.  Their mouths were moving, but no sounds were coming out.
“We had to block the sound, love.” Basil answered my question before I could ask it.  “So we could think.”
I saw Trygvyr, my friend and former pet, walking toward us from between the hanging cages.  His long, white hair had been pulled severely back at his neck and tied with a strip of rawhide.  His eyes were twin black holes, where only anger escaped.  His wiry body showed a tautness born of rage, and I sure as hell didn’t want to be on the receiving end.  When he got within a dozen feet of us, I could hear him snarling like the dog he’d spent fifteen decades transformed into. 
He moved to brush past Raye and I.  Throwing aside any notion of personal safety, I snagged his arm on the way by.
“What gives?” I asked.
With his eyes locked on a space far ahead of us, he asked, “Efreet in the cages?”
“Last I checked.”
Power blossomed over him as if he was preparing to go nuclear.  “If you want any of them capable of speech any time soon, I suggest you get to them before I do.”
When he tried to free himself from my hold, I held his arm tighter than if I’d been glued to him.  “Whoa.  Hang on a second.  I’d enjoy kicking all of their asses as much as the next djinn, if not more, but we’ve got all the time in the world for ass kicking.”
Unless I missed my guess, Tryg was mere seconds from boiling over and saying those little words he’d spoken once before.  ‘I renounce the Rules’ had changed him into an Efreet then and, the way he was acting, they were sure to turn him into one again.
“Talk to me.”
He didn’t even face me.
“Major!”  I hated using the name I’d chosen to call the dog he’d been, but when the big furball had gotten too engrossed in rabbit chasing to pay attention to me, it always worked.
His dark eyes turned toward me, finally focusing on what was tangible and not the rage in his head.  “Yes, Mistress?”
I let out the breath I’d been holding so long my ribs hurt.  “Whew. So much better.  What the hell is wrong with you?”
Jerking his arm, he tried again to free himself, but I wasn’t letting him go until the steam stopped coming out his ears.  “The Efreet must be made to pay for their atrocities.”
“Not the way you were contemplating making them pay, bud.” 
All he did was blink at me like a freakin’ idiot.
“You were this close…” I held my index finger a millimeter from my thumb. “…to giving up being a genie.”
When he shook all over as if he still had long fur and it was wet, I could tell I’d finally made an impression. 
One hand scrubbed the side of his face while I maintained a death grip on the other arm.  “Odin’s hairy balls.”
“My thoughts exactly.”  I squeezed my hand and pulled him toward me. “Now, I’ll ask again, what the hell is wrong with you?” 
“Wrong with me?  How can you ask after seeing…?” His dark eyes narrowed and he speared me with a searching glare.  “You haven’t seen, have you?”
“When I first came into the warehouse, I had an inkling something was hinky.  Strange and scary and bewildering. But I was a mouse at the time.  Everything’s strange and scary when you’re so low on the food chain. I can’t say for sure whether any of those rodent impressions were real.”  I nudged my partner with an elbow.  “Baz was about to shed some light when you showed up all hell bent for leather.”
“The Efreet… These people they’ve imprisoned…”  Tryg’s words disappeared.
Basil’s hand dropped onto my shoulder.  “The things you saw as a mouse weren’t far from the reality.”
I tried hard to remember exactly what my then tiny brain had processed, but nothing made sense.  “I can only say for certain I couldn’t recognize any of the species.  Definitely no genies, but then again the Efreet captured and tormented more beings than the brethren, didn’t they?  So you can understand my not recognizing them. What are they?”
Both men acted like I’d fallen off the turnip truck.
“Back off.  I’m not exactly a world-wise genie here.”  I’d only been part of the Many since 1924, way less time than almost any of my friends.  “So, I’ll ask again because I really don’t have the answer. What are they?”
Trygvyr shook his head.  “My point, exactly.  We have no clue.  Precisely why we sent Raye to find you.  They aren’t any species any of us have encountered in all of our combined years on this earth.”
“I guess what Tryg is trying to say here, love, is we can’t identify the species because they aren’t one single species.  They’re… Well, they’re…”  He turned gray.
“Out with it already.”
Basil swallowed hard.  “The Efreet were, for lack of a better word, experimenting on these people, love.” 
Experimenting.  I let the word roll around in my head for a while.  Experimenting… Which means…
“Oh, holy fuck.”
“Our thoughts exactly, Mistress.”
The Efreet, or their deity in charge, Prometheus, are playing with living things?  I opened my mouth to give voice to those words, but the instant before they came out, my throat closed.  Like a bad case of anaphylaxis.  And I wasn’t allergic to peanuts or anything.
Basils held my hand while Trygvyr slapped my back.  As quickly as it came, the choking dissipated.  “Thanks,” I croaked.  “I guess my orders not to talk about certain crap remain in place.” 
The gods had forbidden me from repeating the things they’d told me.  I hadn’t realized I couldn’t talk about what I learned on my own, too, though.  Bastards.
Taking a deep breath, I told my friends to show me.  Except I didn’t want to see.  Hell, I didn’t want to know.  I could only hope my mouse brain had exaggerated what it had learned or my rodent imagination had been working overtime. Perhaps I’d read too many paranormal novels. 
Basil led me to the spot where I’d begun hearing Tryg snarl.  We passed through a thin veil of magic and the cacophony within damn near blew out my eardrums.  Screams and shrieks, cries and moans echoed all around me, along with a strange gurgling off to one side.  Someone was shouting for its mama, but in no voice that made sense as human. 
“What the?”  I wished a change in my ears to dampen the noise without blocking the people around me. “What is going on here?”
“More like what was going on before we hit the beaches, love.  What’s going on now is chaos wrapped in monstrosity layered with heartbreak.”
Everywhere I looked a cage, and every cage held some twisted thing my brain couldn’t quite deal with.  A male werewolf caught mid-shift snarled at me, pulling my attention to the left where a being sat weeping and brushing her leaves.  Part woman, part tree.  And not in a good, pretty way like the dryads you read about.  She had a branch coming out of the top of her head, for petesakes. 
Next to her, a being with a rabbit’s head and a lion’s body flapped its wings pitifully.  Something mooed at me from the other direction and I saw what could only have been a female minotaur, but no such thing existed.  A fish head sprouted from… Is that a badger?  It was as though someone had gotten a DNA-splicer for Christmas, and it also made julienne fries.
For one of the few times in my life, I was dumbstruck.  No way could this get any worse. And then I caught the feeling of a djinn nearby.  Only my sense of the brethren was tainted somehow.  “They didn’t.”
“They did.”
I pushed past Basil.  I could understand why Tryg had been out of his mind with anger.  All of this had already become too much for me, and I was betting I hadn’t even gotten to the worst parts yet. 
When I found the cage and peered inside, I mustered all of my willpower to keep my stomach contents where they belonged. 
“Hey, Jo.” 
The voice was vaguely familiar.  I knew this djinn, I just couldn’t place where or how.  Whoever he was, I wasn’t sure what they’d done to him, but he appeared to have wasted down to skin pulled taught over bones. 
“Guess I shouldn’t have walked out of the last meeting, eh?”
And then it hit me.  The poor pathetic thing gazing back at me was the beefy genie who’d once been called in to save my ass when it didn’t need saving.  Only he wasn’t beefy any longer.  The last time I’d seen him had been before he teleported away from the conference room at Mayweather Antiquities. 
I didn’t blame him for walking out on me then.  I’d called all the genies in residence together to figure out how to stop the Efreet.  He wanted a firm plan and a leader he could believe in.  Since I’d admitted I didn’t have a clue what the hell I was doing, and then confessed how it had been my own damn fault the Efreet had escaped to wreak havoc, Lyle’d had every right to beat feet out of there.  And it wasn’t long afterward I’d had to collapse the whole damn building to avoid getting captured by the very assholes I didn’t have a plan to defeat.
With a self-effacing grin I said, “I’m not sure things would’ve gone any better for you if you’d stayed.”
His eyes dropped toward his wasted self.  “What could be worse than this?”
“Dead is worse.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“We can’t fix dead.”
“Can you fix this?”
“Won’t find out until we’ve tried.”  I turned to Basil.  “Let him loose.”
To my surprise, Baz shook his head vehemently.  “We can’t.”
The tormented genie agreed.  “You can’t.”
Oh, holy shit.  I could see Baz exercising an abundance of caution.  He was usually awesome at balancing my sometimes need to rush in without checking the depth of the shithole I was about to face.  But having a prisoner, one who’d been tortured, want to remain in his prison?  The notion scared me stiff.  “What don’t I know?  What did they do to you?”
The being’s hands twisted in front of him, impotent to fight what had happened and was happening to him.  “I have no clue what they did.  They wished me frozen, then strapped me to a table.  I figured they were going to dissect me, for pity’s sake.  I almost wish they had.  It would’ve been better than this.”
A shudder broke over him so hard I feared it would snap all his fragile bones.
“When I woke up from whatever they did,” he continued, “six Efreet were laying around the table where I was strapped.  They were dead.  None of the others would come close to me.”
The idea of a genie who could kill Efreet without renouncing the Rules kind of intrigued me, but I stuffed my curiosity down deep.  Most of the Efreet certainly deserved to die for what they’d done, but I had a feeling anything I did to put any of them in the ground would harm me almost as much as them.  “Then how’d they get you back in here?  Why didn’t you kill them all and set yourself free?”
“You’d have to ask one of the other captives.”  He waved a hand outward.  “Not in those cages, though.  They are beyond rational thought. And if I were them, I wouldn’t want to remember anything I saw or heard in here.”
He paused for a moment.  I couldn’t tell if he was composing his thoughts or catching his breath.  He didn’t appear strong enough to stand around waxing eloquent on anything.
“I might’ve heard an Efreet wish me comatose,” he said.  “When I opened my eyes, I was back in here.  No one will come close enough to feed me, and my wishes don’t work right anymore.  Damn it, Jo.  I’m starving.  But I can’t leave.”
“We’ll find a way to get food to you while we figure out what the hell happened.”  I wasn’t sure how either thing was possible.  Maybe we could stand outside the cage and throw food through the bars.  “One last thing,” I said, being a shit mentioning it. “What is your name?”
 “Lyle.” His face fell.  And I felt like the heaping pile of excrement I was. “I shouldn’t have expected you to remember me, but I had hoped.”
“I remembered you.  It’s the name I lost.”  I wanted to reach out to the man, but fear kept all my appendages at my sides.  “I promise you this, Lyle.  I will never forget your name again.”



I'm still on track to have this ready for pre-order on the 5th and released on the 15th.  (Even if I did take yesterday off to go fishing.)  If you're interested, stop by Goodreads and 'want to read it'.  Oh, and my brand new postcards have shipped.  They look like this...

If I already have your address, chances are you'll be getting one.  If I don't and you want one, email me at besanderson at gmail dot com.

Anything I'm forgetting?  The coffee hasn't kicked in yet.