Friday 15 March 2013

#FridayFlash - The Unsaid Warning

The young man shuffles into the work room wearing the familiar despondent look. He looks at the floor and fiddles with the cuffs of his frock coat. Delta looks him up and down while his attention is fixed on the rug. His fine clothes and tidy hair give him away as a visitor to the Underground City - it would take saving for several years before many of its inhabitants could even afford his boot laces.

"What can I do for you?" asks Delta, although she already knows why he is here. There is only one reason why anyone ever visits her.

"I was, er, told that you, ah, have abilities," replies the man. He will not meet her gaze, though she cannot decide if this is through embarrassment or shame.

"I do indeed, but it depends which of them you want. What brought you down to Limestone Alley?"

The young man finally looks up, and tears fill his brown eyes. Delta clucks and steers him to the reclining chair by the window. A gas lamp on the wall outside affords little light, and she lights fat pillar candles on the sill. The young man eyes the battered chair with suspicion, but she motions for him to sit.

"My price is a shilling," she says.

"So small a price!" says the young man.

"Then you accept. Excellent. I'll have to ask you to open your shirt a little."

She turns away and gathers her supplies while the young man removes his silk cravat and unbuttons his shirt. Even the skin of his chest bears the pale golden glow of one used to sunlight. Delta glances at her own hands, so white even in candlelight.

"This will sting a little," she says, turning back to perch on the stool beside the chair.

"Compared to the pain I feel now, it will be nothing."

He lies back and closes his eyes, but Delta notices his knuckles turn white as he grips the arms of the chair. She whispers a soothing lullaby, learned at her grandmother's knee when she lived with the coven, and sets to work.

The young man gasps the first time the needles touches him, and he bites his lip to keep from complaining. Delta's needle flashes back and forth, pulling the thread between her neat row of stitches. Moments later, the work is done, and she draws a sigil in the air above the young man's chest.

"Oh my!" The young man looks down at his flawless chest, and presses a hand to his breastbone. The haunted, faraway look has fled from his eyes, replaced by warmth and friendliness. His handsome face cracks open in a broad grin.

"I take it sir is pleased?"

"I am most impressed, my good woman!" He clambers out of the chair and does a jig across her narrow room.

"I am glad, sir." Delta tidies away her tools while the young man marvels at his reclaimed love of life.

"You are a true marvel, really you are. Next time I have my heart broken, I shall know where to come!" He presses a shiny shilling into her hand and skips out of the room before Delta can stop him.

She thinks of running after him, but the sound of his footsteps has faded by the time she reaches the door. Her warning dies on her lips and she sits in her chair by the small grate, pulling her knitting into her lap. She knows he will return when he realises that a mended heart will never break again - but nor will it love.

* * *

This is another of my stories set in the Underground City, the setting of my work in progress, The Necromancer's Apprentice. You can access the others here!

Sunday 10 March 2013

Read an Ebook Week - The Results

I'm not usually in favour of writers who post statistics, but I tried an experiment recently, and thought I'd blog about my results. I decided to make both The First Tale and Checkmate & Other Stories free for the duration of Smashwords' Read an Ebook Week, and I kept a tally of how well downloads went. After all, I don't get that many downloads via Smashwords, so I wondered if the combination of making the books free and taking advantage of a promotion might boost the numbers.

In total, 27 people downloaded The First Tale, while 27 people downloaded Checkmate & Other Stories - naturally, I have no way of knowing if the same twenty seven people downloaded both titles, as not all of the receipts featured both books. The promotion began on March 3rd and I didn't make them free until March 5th, but I don't think that made a massive amount of difference in the long run. Even within a couple of hours of making them free, I'd had more downloads than I have done in months, so that was a bonus. However, I did notice a flurry of downloads whenever I tweeted the link, although I have no way of knowing if it is a link on Twitter that impels people to download books, or the inclusion of the word 'free'.

But what next?

Hopefully, the people who downloaded the books will enjoy them. Entertaining readers is my prime goal when writing, so I hope they come back to leave reviews to help other readers decide whether or not they want to read them too. However, it's all too easy to ignore a downloaded book if it has been free, since there's no financial impulse to read what has been purchased. There's no guarantee that a download will equal a book read. After all, I made Dead Man's Hand available for free upon release for five days in September 2012 and had 86 free downloads - and gained a single review.

I'm of the school of thought that it's not unreasonable to want to make a living writing - you wouldn't expect to go to a craft fair and pick up a hand-knitted scarf for free, so why should a book be free when time and effort has gone into its production as much as it would a physical object? I hope that the downloads lead to further purchases down the road - after all, if I've entertained you with Checkmate, might I not also entertain you with The Necromancer's Apprentice? Amanda Palmer might blather on that artists shouldn't expect payment as a matter of course, but should rather make their work available for free in the belief that true supporters will donate, but I've had a donate option on my blog for a couple of years now and I am yet to see any donations. I must point out, I'm not asking you to do so now, merely making the point. Amanda Palmer can afford to follow such a route but independent writers at the start of their career just don't have the same fanbase.

Of course, I don't have any other titles on offer at the moment so it could be that whoever downloads the books never comes across anything of mine again, but I suppose I'd rather they were downloaded for free and enjoyed than passed over entirely. I just hope that those who downloaded them enjoy them.