Chapter 1—Ralph Roister-Doister Meets Zombies

November is National Novel Writers’ Month…better known as NaNoWriMo!

The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days…but this year, instead of writing one cohesive novel, my dad, brother, and I are writing 30ish scenes from different story ideas. Or as we like to call it, Thirty “First Chapters”. (Keep track of my progress on my profile here.)

Here’s what I wrote yesterday. Can you imagine the story that might follow it? What twists might be in store?


Chapter 1—Ralph Royster-Doyster Meets Zombies — Kimia Wood

Image from Pixabay

Ralph ran.

High school was bad enough – what with grades, and college applications, and girls that didn’t like you, and friends who were all trying to figure it out at the same time – but now things were chaos.

The Algebra 1 teacher – plus a bunch of freshmen – and charged into the cafeteria and started biting people. Mr. Morgan of the History department and Ms. Chambers of Social Studies had barricaded a bunch of students into the auditorium until the police could show up…but Ralph was not one of those students.

He’d just missed the closing of the doors, screamed while they piled chairs and tables on the other side, and then kept running as the crowd of bleeding, howling students charged down the hall.

His phone had been in his locker, so he couldn’t even call his mom to come pick him up…or to tell her to stay far away!

Ralph’s dad would be at the office, but that was all the way downtown…could he even get there without a car?

One or two of the crazies in the cafeteria had been strangers…just where was this coming from? How big was this? Would he be safe downtown? Or should he head into the suburbs, where there wouldn’t be so many people?

Ralph dropped to a seat on a curb, wheezing. So this was what came of joining the choir club, not the football team. He’d thought he would just avoid getting crushed by those crazy three-hundred-pound tackle-guys.

Apparently he was going to have a heart attack and die being chewed on by crazies.

A howl came up the street.

Ralph shivered and jumped up. Two white-eyed figures were stumbling up the street — the first one had blood streaming from a bite wound on her neck. The second had torn clothes, and no left arm.

Fighting the urge to hurl, Ralph got back to running.

The neighborhood around his high school was really nice. Some of these houses had wrought iron fences around them, and gates on the front doors and good alarms systems.

Finding a low curb that ran underneath one of the fences, he grabbed the top rung and levered himself up.

There was nothing for his feet to catch on. As he scrabbled at the vertical iron bars, more howls came from two different directions. He didn’t dare look for the freaky creatures who would be coming.

Ralph’s sneaker slid on the metal, then lodged between two bars. Great…now he was stuck half-way up a fence, and being hunted by crazy zombie-freaks!

“Thank goodness, man.”

Ralph twisted his head to look around, trying not to impale himself on the fence.

Grant (his lab partner in fourth period Chemistry) dashed up and grabbed his stuck foot.

“What are you doing here?” gasped Ralph.

“Great minds think alike, buddy. Inside the fence is better than outside.”

Grant grabbed both Ralph’s feet and shoved upward. Now with more leverage, Ralph could swing himself up until he was balanced on top of the fence.

He shoved one foot onto the support bar that topped the fence – then the other foot.

“Come on,” he said, putting one hand down. He tightened his grip on the ironwork. “Don’t get stabbed on the spikes, okay?”

Grant took his hand, grabbed the top of the fence with his other hand, and jumped.

Ralph hauled upward – Grant’s foot found the top support bar – and they both jumped clear on the inside of the fence.

As they rolled in the grass, groaning, a thunder of footsteps came up the sidewalk.

White-eyed crazies – at least five of them – pounded on the fence, moaning and howling. Their arms started to bleed as they shoved them through the rough metal bars…but they didn’t seem to notice at all. In fact, their blood hardly seemed to run —

“Let’s get out of here,” said Grant.

They both scrambled to their feet and headed for the house.

Ralph found it impossible to run, now – and it seemed Grant had the same problem. They staggered along in a half-jog, panting.

As they came to the front of the house, Ralph glanced up the driveway.

“Well, I feel stupid now,” he said. “The gate’s open.”

“Shoot,” said Grant. “You go close it while I try to alert the people at home.”

The last thing Ralph wanted to do was to near the street again…but with the gate standing open like that, the fence wasn’t doing much good. Besides, all the zombies seemed clustered where he and Grant had jumped the fence…so hopefully it wouldn’t be too dangerous.

He trotted down the driveway and grabbed the big rolling gate to push it closed.

It wouldn’t budge.

Breathing heavily, Ralph looked over the mechanism. Maybe there was a button to close it automatically? Maybe if he pushed a little harder…?

He braced his foot against a bar of the fence and shoved. Nothing happened. He shifted his leverage, readjusting his weight, and shoved again.

Nothing.

He ran to the other side of the gate. There didn’t seem to be any button or control box there, either.

And there were some staggering figures on the corner that looked like they might be zombies…and he sure didn’t want to attract their attention.

Ralph snuck back to the front door, staying low and moving as quickly as he could.

“It’s got an automatic mechanism,” he said as he came up to Grant. “And I can’t budge it.”

“Well, no one’s answering the door,” said Grant. “So we’ve got to do something.”

“If we can call my dad and tell him where we are, he can come get us,” said Ralph. “Let’s try to find a phone.”

“Yeah…so much for not having phones in class,” said Grant. “This is exactly why we should always have them on us.”

“I don’t think our teachers expected this to ever happen,” mumbled Ralph as they started walking around the house.

They found a side door — inside they could see a kitchen, but it was locked, and no one answered their pounding.

Along the back side of the house were steps that led to a second-story balcony. They climbed the steps and looked for a door that wasn’t locked.

The second door they tried opened into a bedroom. A four-poster bed with pink covers and curtains stood along one side, while a pink vanity covered with lacy, rhinestone-crusted little boxes stood opposite it.

A white wardrobe stood near the bed – the sort of thing Ralph’s mom might call an “armoire.”

“There’s a phone,” said Ralph. “I’ll call my dad. We’d better find if there’s anybody else here and warn them.”

“Yeah – with that gate open, it won’t be long until they’re invaded,” said Grant, and headed for the door.

Ralph dialed his dad’s office…but no one answered. He called home…but no one answered there, either.

He tried his mom’s cell phone…but she was always forgetting to charge it, or leaving it in weird places, or sending it through the washing machine…

He dialed his dad’s cell phone. Dad’s cell number was only for emergencies, since he might be in a meeting or something –

No one answered that number, either.

Ralph swallowed. He twisted the handset in his hands for a moment. The calls were going through – so it wasn’t this phone, or the phone lines, that were bad.

He went to dial 9-1-1.

Shrill voices came down the hall. The bedroom door burst open, and Grant staggered into the room – followed by a grey-haired lady in a little black-and-white maid’s outfit.

Did people really still wear those things? Well, apparently so –

“Out!” shrilled the old maid, smacking Grant with a feather duster. “Youngsters! That’s the trouble with the world these days –”

“But there are crazies out there!” yelped Ralph. “Zombies and monsters! They tore up our school, and I can’t get a hold of my parents, and –”

“You’re no better than burglars,” snapped a young woman, also in a maid’s outfit, coming into the room. “You should be grateful I’m not calling the police on you.”

“I wish you would!” said Ralph. “In fact, I’m calling the police right now! We need help. In fact, you need to close your gate right now –!”

“Oh, we’ll close the gate. As soon as we march you ruffians off the premises.”

Whack! Grant got another blow from the feather duster.

“You’re crazy,” said Ralph. “You can’t be serious. There are man-eating, howling zombie-beasts out there, and you’re going to –”

The young maid flourished a short-handled broom and swung it.

“Ow,” wailed Ralph, cradling his ear.

“We might be safer out there, man,” panted Grant, ducking another swing from the feather duster and heading for the door to the balcony.

“Are you out of your mind?” cried Ralph, covering his head with his arms as he followed. “They’re biting people out there! One guy lost an arm. Mr. Hernandez was straight-up chewing that girl’s face off.”

Smack! The broom caught him across the shoulders, and he jumped with a yelp.

“Move faster, you little hooligan,” said the old maid.

Grant and Ralph ducked out onto the balcony and started toward the steps they came up – pursued by the two maids.

As they made their way down the steps, a moaning and banging came from the front of the house.

Grant and Ralph exchanged the curse word they knew – they howled as the two maids beaned them on the heads.

“They found their way through the gate,” whimpered Ralph.

“We have to get inside fast!” panted Grant.

“Nice try, little imps,” said the old maid. “I know your type. If it was up to me, I’d give you a –”

They never found out what she would give them. It was drowned out by the howling as a group of the crazies rounded the corner of the house and spotted them.

The crowd (herd? pack?) surged forward and up the steps.

Grant and Ralph spun around and charged up the stairs, taking the maids with them.

Everything was banging elbows, stomping feet, clawing, pounding from the broomstick, and the sharp, fiery pain of human teeth.

Ralph broke free of the tangle and ran. He yanked a door open and kept running.

He charged through the bedroom, down a hall, and into a closet. Someone (or something) was following him, clinging to him as his leg smarted – but he slammed the closet door on it until it let go.

Shaking in his hands, his legs, and everywhere, he twisted the doorknob and leaned backward to hold it closed.

Screams, thumps, and bangs came from outside. Maybe the two Maids from Hell were beating the tar out of the crazies. Maybe Grant had made it inside, and was looking for a hiding place, too.

Ralph remembered the auditorium. He remembered the door slammed in his face, and the rattle and crash of furniture piling up against him.

A weight fell against the closet door, and a howl shook the wood paneling and the cold metal knob under Ralph’s hands.

He choked on a swallow and braced himself against the doorframe…determined to let nothing in.

Nothing at all.

He had no way to measure time in the pitch blackness. Finally, the screams died down. Even the clomping of feet and moans died down.

Crashes sounded in the distance, and then those went away, as well. Sirens wailed on the edge of hearing.

Ralph’s leg throbbed, and his shoulders and arms ached. One wrist stung. He couldn’t stay here forever.

Easing the door open a crack, he snuck a peek at the corridor.

A patch of blood stained the carpet, but that was all.

Good thing the carpet was pink. Maybe it would clean up okay.

Ralph opened the door the rest of the way and tip-toed forward. Pain flared in his calf, and he crouched to examine it.

The light from the windows was a rosy purple. What time was it? Where was everyone?

He dragged his pant-leg up and twisted to see his leg.

Clear, bloody teeth marks showed in his calf – already swollen and red. He’d better get that cleaned and wrapped up.

There was another bite on his forearm. That one didn’t look as deep, but there was more blood because the attacker had scraped a bunch of skin off.

Ralph held his breath to fight the urge to puke, and limped down the hall, looking for a bathroom.

He found one a few doors down, and slipped inside.

It was empty of people, too – like the rest of the house – and he washed his wounds and wrapped them in some towels he found. He tied the towels down with ace bandages, then ventured out into the house again.

Coming to the bedroom, he looked around. The glass doors had been smashed, and the vanity had been knocked over. He went to the phone, but it had been ripped out of the wall.

He tip-toed onto the balcony to see if anyone was nearby.

For all the blood and…ick…around, there were no bodies.

Well, there was one figure in the yard below. It wore a torn maid’s dress, and wandered back and forth between a couple trees…moaning softly.

The sun was setting behind the trees, and dusk was gathering under the leaves.

Ralph stepped backward into the house.

Someone was coming down the hallway.

Stomach twisting, Ralph knelt behind the bed – his injuries smarting as he did so.

Someone stumbled into the room – Grant.

Before Ralph could get his name to his lips, he saw the bite marks covering Grant’s arms…and the blood streaming from his missing ear.

Grant looked at him — his eyes were white and glassy and empty.

Grant snarled and lurched forward, arms out to grab.

Ralph snatched the first thing his hands found – it was the short-handled broom – and smacked Grant in the face.

Grant growled and lunged again.

Ralph jabbed him in the stomach, then in the mouth, then kicked him in the chest so that Grant sprawled backward onto the floor.

Ralph jumped onto the bed, then grabbed the top of the armoire. He couldn’t quite get on top of it – but his weight unbalanced it, and it started to tip.

As Grant was howling and trying to get up, Ralph leaped off the top of the armoire, falling onto the bed.

As he bounced gently on the overstuffed mattress, the armoire crashed onto the top of Grant.

Grant squirmed and growled, wiggling to try to get free.

Ralph got off the bed on the opposite side, and headed for the door to the hall.

There had to be a car here somewhere – and keys. Even if he hadn’t passed driver’s ed yet, he was in no condition to be walking the streets.

Why wasn’t he like the others? Why hadn’t his bites make him crazy?

Maybe he wasn’t injured badly enough? Maybe he would turn when he died? But all the zombie books said that when you got bit, you turned…either in about five minutes, or at least in a week or two.

He shivered. He didn’t want to end up like that. No one did.

But as long as he was still himself, and didn’t feel a hungering for human flesh or anything weird like that, he would try to stay alive.

As he crept through the darkened house, searching for the attached garage it surely had, he thought back to that morning, when his only worry was the Spanish test.

Which he’d probably missed by several hours.

So he was going to die and flunk Spanish. Great.


Chapter 1—Ralph Royster-Doyster Meets Zombies — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American Midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia Wood

Image courtesy of Author Kristen Lamb

I love free stuff. I can’t count the number of free ebooks I have on my computer, and I’m notorious for collecting free leftover food for our chickens.

But maybe enough is enough.

It all started when I read these posts from Kristen Lamb, who blogs about writing, the author business, and having a mentality to succeed. You should really read her posts to get the full impact of her arguments – “How Free is Poisoning the Internet and Killing the Creatives” and “Welcome to the Matrix: You Work For Free and There Is No Payday”, along with others, I’m sure – but here’s the gist…

Savvy Businessman Meets Idealistic Creative

She outlines how content providers (middlemen like Amazon, Apple, Huffington Post, and others) get content from the producers (authors write books and articles; performers give shows; singers produce songs) and offer that content to consumers (the mass public).

Consumers love entertainment, articles, music, etc. The businesses in the middle get paid by advertisers, so they offer a lot of content for Free.

Consumers love Free. I love free. Most of my news or research is found for free online. I love free music, and I love free books.

The sticky part comes in when the actual creators of the work need to be paid.

The Payment Model

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia Wood

Kitty death glare…

Mrs. Lamb says the modern market is operating on an outdated model. Used to be, young, inexperienced authors/actors/singers worked internships for little or nothing…to build bridges, get their name out, and hone their skills.

What makes Mrs. Lamb see red is asking experienced, professional, and high-quality producers to do the same thing.

The Huffington Post is her whipping boy, because they openly make millions from ad revenue, but don’t pay any of their contributors for the content they place on their site. (Smart business move for them…bad deal for the writers.)

Remember: I love free articles. But I agree that making authors feel like the site is doing them a favor by using their content (without paying them to use it) is under-handed.

The Vicious Cycle

Read Mrs. Lamb’s full posts…they’re long, but there are more examples in there:

  • Performers expected to do their show pro bono at a conference because someone famous is hosting.
  • Speakers invited to workshops, but not even offered enough money to cover traveling and food expenses (because she’s supposed to teleport there, I guess).
  • Authors down-rated in a review because their debut book isn’t free, even though they’re a new author (it’s in one of the comments, but I don’t remember where).

Mrs. Lamb’s solution is author organization: authors as a body saying, “Our work is worth something, or you wouldn’t be making such a killing with it. We’re done handing it out for free; we have kids to feed and college to pay for the same as you.”

If you liked it, you should have put a ring on it

Addicted to Free

Once these articles opened my eyes, I started seeing this in other places around us. Our culture really is addicted to free…from free healthcare to free rent to free food to free education.

But generalities are hard to grasp. Let me zoom in the lens.

  • “Kelly” (our foster kids’ mom) got free rent from the state. She and her kids never picked up their wrappers, never cleaned (I’m not sure they did laundry), and didn’t know how to cook. Every time her apartment got too roach-ridden, she would move…without warning the landlord, or even bothering to pack her stuff. It was mostly all hand-outs, anyway. She never paid for any of it, so she didn’t value it.
  • A recent customer at my day job took down forty bolts of fabric to look at. Five minutes before closing. At the manager’s subtle disbelief, the customer displayed no remorse, blamed the whole thing on her daughter, acted oblivious to all the work she was putting others to, and left with her purchase without so much as a “Sorry for making such a mess” or “I’ll help put these back”. The associates were left putting away fabric for ten minutes after closing time. The lady didn’t have to pick them up, so she didn’t care (or maybe didn’t even notice)…”Entitled” is the word someone used.

We’re so disconnected from where things come from, that we don’t value them. I’m super glad I don’t have to butcher my own chickens for my casserole, or fatten my own pig for my ham…but when we don’t pay for anything with our own, hard-earned money, we don’t value it so much.

Let’s Go From Preaching to Meddling

Healthcare. I think my country’s healthcare is pretty good. At the very least, we can walk into the MRI clinic in my hometown and be served…without having to wait ten weeks like in Canada!

State-funded healthcare is just another example of how consumers have been programed to expect everything to be given to them. Even when co-pays or private clinics outside the system could help everyone seeking healthcare, we can’t imagine dipping into our own pockets for a doctor’s visit.

Living Generously

This whole issue lines up with some other things God has been teaching us recently.

A few weeks ago, our washing machine broke…and so did our dryer, the truck’s tire, and the furnace.

I started thinking, “I wonder how God’s going to provide the money for all this?”

After it was resolved, I realized, “He might have just said: You don’t need a washing machine right now.”

Let’s face it: I live a pretty cushy life. There’s a lot around here that I don’t exactly need.

But I’ve been given so much. How can I live in such a way that I hold it with an open hand?

I’m not talking about “Oh, I’m going to give X amount to charity now, because I read a sob story and feel bad about being well off.”

No. I mean a lifestyle change, an attitude change…a Holy Spirit-fueled change!

Generous on Whose Part?

So, yes, God wants us to “give what we’ve decided in our hearts, freely and without coercion” (Kimia’s paraphrase of 2 Cor. 9:7).

But He also said this part:

Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”

—1 Tim. 5: 17-18 (ESV)

The worker is worth his pay.

The definition of “slavery” is “working, under coercion, without getting paid.” Now, there are different ways of being paid:

  • You perform your songs because it’s fun, so the experience and just having an audience are the reward.
  • You send a copy of your book to a beta reader/critique reader in exchange for feedback. Helping you grow as a writer is how they repay you.
  • You believe in helping fatherless children, so you volunteer your time as a mentor. That’s supporting something you believe in.
  • You write because you love the act of writing, and you publish on Amazon because you want to order yourself copies and just hold that gorgeous baby in your hands.
  • You love your mother and help her with chores because she needs the help, and of course you would help her.

All these are perfectly valid and worthwhile elements. But notice that every single one of them is a decision you made about your work and your compensation.

You didn’t say anything about me and my books. That’s not something you have the right to decide.

Bringing It Full Circle

This all started with an article about writers. If you, or I, want to give our work away for free…more power to us.

What gets Kristen Lamb livid is the “entitlement” of others who act like they deserve our labor and our product for nothing.

Like Apple’s streaming service offering consumers three months of free songs (until the musicians stood up for each other and said, “Not with our paycheck, you’re not”).

Or like a website I recently ran across where readers can request a book in order to review it (all for free)…but authors pay a monthly subscription to host their books.

I get it – websites take money to host. And a review is kind of a compensation (though the government won’t let you “give” anything “in exchange for” a review). Before I read Mrs. Lamb’s blog posts, I probably wouldn’t have thought about it.

But now it occurs to me that this is exactly upside down to how it “should” be.

In Soviet Russia, authors pay for you to read books…

Recognize the Value We Provide

Entertainment is a valuable product…otherwise, people wouldn’t be so eager to consume it. There’s nothing wrong in letting the actual creators of this product enjoy the fruits of their labor (in the form of paychecks).

“Nothing wrong”? How about: “It’d be a good thing”!

(Obviously, if nobody wants to read Joe Someone’s book, that’s not our problem. We shouldn’t pay for t-shirts we don’t even own! But if everyone is crazy about Joe’s book, then we should totally pay Joe for his book – and not get it off that piracy site instead!)

Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia WoodNot only will paying for things benefit our attitude, but they might even lead to more content.

If authors and entertainers work their butts off but never get enough money to put food on the table, eventually some of them (if not most of them) will give up and do something else. Imagine a world without TV shows, movies, or new books and songs…

However, if we “vote with our money” on the stories and artists we like the most, that will encourage those creators to make even more content! Like a series of books? Writing the author an encouraging note never hurts…but monetary incentive wouldn’t be misplaced, either 🙂

Let the Change Affect Me

Well, all these elements started me on some hard decisions. To live more deliberately, and more generously, I’m going to consider some changes:

Towards Other People

  • If I like a song enough to look up the music video on YouTube…maybe I also like it enough to actually buy it from the actual artist? (Or even buy the whole CD?!?)
  • If I enjoy a free book and want to support the author, maybe I can do more than write a review…maybe I can buy one of their other books and read it, too?

Towards My Own Work

  • I work hard on my projects, and it shows in their quality. Even though I’m content for my writing to not be my main income, I don’t want to feed this vicious cycle.
  • Giving my work away for free trains people to crave FREE FREE FREE. It reinforces the whole paradigm we struggled with above. And I’m no longer convinced it gets more people to actually read my work.
  • It breaks my heart to charge for my work, because I know how much I love FREE and don’t want to be a hypocrite. But I also don’t want to be part of the further degradation of the market as a whole.
  • Besides, I think I personally have reached the point of Decreasing Marginal Returns with free ebooks. Used to be, I snapped them up left and right. Now, it’s no longer an automatic “Add to Cart”…probably because I’ve decided I should actually read them if I get them.
  • Finally…MY BOOKS ARE WORTH IT! The written word is a subjective product (unlike, say, a t-shirt), but I’ve gotten enough feedback from enough different people that it’s not just me talking…I’M A GOOD WRITER. And there’s no shame in charging money for my product!

And maybe, just maybe, charging money will make any reader who takes a chance on me value my books more than they otherwise would.

Maybe they’ll read them…and review them…and tell all their friends…and have fun in the worlds I’ve created.

Will the Change Affect You?

This isn’t just about how much I love free stuff. This is about acknowledging the value of people’s time and labor.

This is about valuing one another…being grateful for what we have…and generously saying, “I don’t need all this.”

What hard decisions will you be led to? How can you “live generously” in a world driven by FREE?

Will you take a hard look at the costs of our culture…and dare to do something about your part of it? (Not someone else’s part – yours.)


Living Generously—Combating Our Addiction to Free — Kimia WoodKimia Wood was raised by an aspiring novelist, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, gaming, writing, hobby-farming…and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! (Yeah, I know…it’s still free.) You’ll also receive occasional updates on her latest reading and writing adventures.

Or visit the book page to see what cool new stuff she’s working on!

Author Newsletters–A Survey

Author Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

Blank stares do not equal book sales…

Marketing gurus will advise you to have an author newsletter. This keeps your fans engaged with your brand, updated on your latest works, and excited about your books.

Supposedly. But does it actually work?

I have no experience being a successful newsletter author. But I am a pretty experienced newsletter reader. So I thought I would go through the many newsletters I myself am subscribed to, and consider the elements of each.

What makes me more engaged with an author and their books? What turns me off? Well, fortunately I never delete my emails, because I was able to wade through several years’ worth of other authors’ newsletters, and draw some conclusions about my own habits.

This is obviously very personalized, but I think we can draw a couple broad lessons from this research:

TL;DR: Three Lessons to Keep in Mind

1) Giving away free stuff is an awesome pull to make people sign up, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to sales.

For years, I’ve been told that giving away a free book to people who sign up for your list is one of the best tricks in the business, and “the number one way to build your subscriber list”. But is this true?

I was pretty convicted by something Barb Drozdowich said in a recent #BookMarketingChat (on Twitter):


I know this is true, because it’s true of me. If you offer me free food, free t-shirt, free books, I’ll love it…but I get angry when people charge more that four or five dollars for an ebook. (Seriously…some people charge as much as ten dollars for an ebook novel. What insanity is that?!)

So, while you/we might get lots of “numbers” on our list with a strategy of bribery, are we attracting the clientele that will want to buy? Or do we have a strategy to convert the freebie-seekers into devoted, paying customers?

2) Personal rapport can make or break a brand.

Kristen Lamb can tell you that your “brand” is just how people view you and your product – or, the emotional reaction they have when they see your name.

McDonalds. Steven King. Doctor Strange.

I bet just those simple words communicate a lot, and you have some kind of emotional reaction to each one.

When you go on social media, your blog, your website, etc., people watch you. Maybe one day you snap at someone on Facebook…People see that. Even if you were stressed out that day, and aren’t normally rude like that, and the guy totally deserved it anyway – that single instance might form a large percentage of someone’s perception of you.

You’ll see below that I subscribed to some of these author lists because I “met” the author in some other context, liked who I perceived them to be, and wanted to give them that support (and stay in the loop about their projects).

For a couple other authors, their personality or their writing are so far from my cup of tea that I will never give them my business.

Not anybody’s fault, really. We just “aren’t made for each other.”

3) Connection is potential.

The ideal, of course, is a passionate fan who will buy all your books in hard copies (the better to treasure), tell all their friends about your books, and pounce on every newsletter hoping it contains good news about a new thing to read.

Compared to that, a lurker who sometimes, maybe opens the email and skims for pretty cover images isn’t that impressive.

But it’s a foot in the door.

You’ll notice that some of the authors below don’t send out consistent emails, or I wonder why I don’t unsubscribe because we really don’t have that much in common.

But as long as I’m still subscribed, we have a connection. It’s really depressing when only one or two people open your newsletters (and it’s your parents!) but at least there’s a chance.

Maybe one day they’ll be weeding through their inbox and say, “Oh, what is this? Maybe I’ll read it and find out…”

Or, even if an author’s normal genre isn’t for me, maybe they’ll branch out into [sci fi spy/murder mysteries with something-about-a-long-lost-brother] (fill in your own blank), and I’ll go hmmm…oooohh.

The EvidenceAuthor Newsletters–A Survey — Kimia Wood

In the following survey, I have included how I subscribed to the list, a brief summary of their brand and my relationship to them, and other details like where they host their email (hosting email on your official author domain is more professional than a free email address, just as having an official author website is more professional than just an Amazon Author Page, for example; another thing to keep in mind as we evaluate authors’ brands).

And now, if you really care to wade through the raw data…my case studies: Continue reading

Magnum, PI, Another Again

Lots of people Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia Woodhave talked about the repetitive, unimaginative products Hollywood has been offering us lately…and with much more analysis and detail than I could.

I just want to make a brief comment about a recent reboot that high-lights just how desperate and irrational this phobia of original concepts is.

Magnum, PI

Dad introduced us to this show as part of “pop culture” class. I also watched some episodes on my own, and enjoyed the mystery, the adventure, the detective work, and the charm of Tom Selleck.

Here’s the premise, in my own words:

Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran, now works as a private investigator in Hawaii. He ostensibly works for the reclusive author Robin Masters, whose estate he lives at, and has a strained relationship with Masters’ estate caretaker, Higgins.

Higgins is an older man, a veteran of the First World War, and a straight-laced counterpoint to Magnum’s Hawaiian-shirt-wearing energy.

There. Lots of room for plot, as episodes explored Magnum’s war experiences (his two best friends served alongside him), enjoyed the tropical setting, and pitted the mirthless, proper Higgins against Magnum’s fun-loving demeanor and eclectic working schedule.

The Reboot

CBS has brought the show back – well, as an updated, readjusted form of itself.

Thomas Magnum is now a Hispanic veteran of Afghanistan. This is great. Hispanics can be good-looking, there’s no reason a Hispanic veteran wouldn’t live in Hawaii (and decide to be a PI), and the casting openly acknowledges that you can’t re-create Tom Selleck, so why try?

Just do your own thing, and do it well.

The bigger problem is that “Jonathan” Higgins has been turned into “Juliet” Higgins. As Laura Finch in WORLD Magazine put it, “I think we all know how that story ends.”

And that’s the problem.

This is “supposed” to be Magnum, PI. Part of the whole dynamic there is the conflict between Higgins and Magnum…the old man and the young man…the Brit and the American…the class act and the bend-the-rules…the suit and the Hawaiian shirt…the straight-faced professional and the emotionally-invested professional.

The bickering of two men who didn’t see eye-to-eye, and the grudging respect they gain for each other through long seasons of working together (and saving each other’s lives) was a profound and unique dynamic.

Now…there’s Magnum and Juliet.

As soon as it’s a man and a woman, you have sexual tension. That’s just how it works. A male and female can’t have the same platonic working relationship that two people of the same gender can.

The writer in WORLD already spelled it out. We can all smell where this story is heading. Even if the writers decide to toy with our expectations, and these two don’t get together, the fact that there’s this possibility turns all their interactions on their heads.

Now, a “grudging respect” might be “flirty bickering”. Juliet complaining about Magnum’s methods might be a romantic rebuttal, or an emotionally confused statement (she’s attracted, but doesn’t want to be, so it taints her professional decision-making…or vice versa) – rather than a plain statement about their different working mentalities.

(The new writers also want her to be a “strong female”, with MI6 experience and the skills to defend herself, thank you very much. Whatever, people.)

Another, Again…Except Not

Could a story about a man and a woman in antagonistic professional circumstances be compelling? Could the tale of how they bond over shared adventures and intrigue (both pulling their weight – in a masculine sense – ala Mr. Incredible and the kick-butt ElastaGirl) be entertaining and meaningful?

Sure. But it’s not the story of the original Magnum, PI.

I enjoyed the original. I enjoyed how Higgins and Magnum didn’t really like each other, thought the other one was much too ____, but still had each other’s backs in every sticky situation. It was a uniquely male dynamic, and refreshingly so.

In private, Magnum would troll Higgins, and Higgins would scold Magnum. But when bad stuff hit the fan, they put their personal relationship in the back seat, and worked together to win.

Turning one of these characters into a woman automatically makes the personal relationship a key issue. Women are much more “personal relationship” oriented than men are…and men forming relationships with women have a much harder time not making those relationships “personal” (think of the deep, innate urge to save the princess – even if she’s a jerk).

Even if Magnum and Juliet are both mature, rational adults, you can’t put a man and a woman in a room and not have tension. Further, they’re going to approach whatever problems they face from a male or a female perspective – regardless of whatever cultural, demographic, religious, philosophical, and experiential differences they might have with each other.

To pretend this new show is Magnum, PI, but to change this foundational element, is both disappointing and confusing.

I probably wouldn’t watch the new show either way, because we don’t have a television. (And my brother got more exercised about the gender-swap than I did.) But I really wanted to connect this new show to the issue I started with…the regurgitation of media.

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

What if, once upon a time, a writer had a new premise idea for a great TV show:

Tomas Colt is a Hispanic former SEAL turned private investigator, using his combat skills in the private sector. He lives on the estate of a reclusive author, and has a tense relationship with the estate’s caretaker Juliet, who doesn’t approve of his professional methods and standards.

Little does he suspect she is former MI6, and critiques his detecting and problem-solving techniques because of her own experience in the field…

Well? Why didn’t they do that?

Why did they say, “This is that exact same show you used to love, except with younger actors and good graphics…and also diversity”?

Instead of, “If you loved Magnum, PI, you’ll also love this new show that has some similar elements, but is exploring its own themes for a modern audience! Please tune in to Colt, PI!”

Why? Right when writing coaches and analysts around the internet are bemoaning the lack of originality and risk-taking in modern media…why would they take an old show, change one of its foundational tenants, and try to feed us the same old thing only more diverse?

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

I just watched a YouTube video about how the live-action Beauty and the Beast did the same thing…”fixed” non-existent problems of sexism and bigotry, and created new problems of character motivation, plot inconsistency, irrational bigotry, and emotional impact. (language cautions)

And in case you think I’m a cynic who just hates all female characters, try this YouTube video that explains we just want good female characters…and to not have the writers’ virtue-signaling meta-agenda shoved down our throats.

Sure, let’s make new stories. But let’s make new stories. And let’s be intentional about the dynamics, character motivations and interactions, and thematic assumptions that go into our stories.

Do your own thing…just do it well.


Header picture is from WORLD Magazine.

Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates of her latest reading and writing adventures.

Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory?

Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory?

I recently read a post talking about “Karpman’s drama triangle” – a theory that story characters arrange themselves into Hero, Victim, or Villain roles – and how this had a negative effect on stories and society. (It’s under Point 8.)

The post writer suggested making sure all characters had “agency” – or meaningful choice – within the story. This is important, as far as it goes…personal responsibility for actions is very important.

However, when I first heard her explain “Karpman’s drama triangle”, I said to myself, “Isn’t that exactly what we see in the Bible? Don’t stories follow this pattern so often because we’re resonating with the eternal story of creation?”

The Triangle of History

This triangle, as I understood it, talked about how someone would require rescuing, so someone else would rise to rescue him.

This is what we see in the Bible.Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory? — Kimia Wood

We are in trouble. Deep trouble. Classic damsel-in-distress type stuff.

We (humanity) were born into a perfect world…but then the Villain struck! Yep – us, again.

(I didn’t say “Satan”, because that gives him too much cred. The world didn’t break because Satan disobeyed God…the whole universe broke because Adam disobeyed God! Thanks, Great-Granddad…)

So here we are (each individual human being), playing the Villain role (taking up arms against God and hurting things wherever we go) and the Victim role (hurting ourselves at every turn, and totally helpless to fix ourselves).

There’s nothing we can do to change this state of affairs. Nada. Trust me, humans have been trying for thousands upon thousands of years. We can’t patch up our relationship with God, and we can’t free ourselves from our own evil desires…just like addiction.

The whole human race is addicted to badness.

Enter: the Hero! Jesus. Son of God. Totally awesome, Lawful Good, and kick-butt (can I say that?!).

He humbled Himself, went through the famous “Dark Night of the Soul“, all that classic Hero stuff…literally died. Was dead for three days.

Then? Happily ever after! Jesus kicked death in the face and came alive again!

With the “dragon” slain, the “prince” “rode up on his horse” and asked the “damsel” if she would marry him!

So…will you say “I do”?

It’s not just the overarching story of salvation, either.

God cares about individual widows, too. Check out Deuteronomy 14 (yes Deuteronomy):

God is telling Israel about tithing – giving a tenth of your grain, your fruit, your wine, your produce to God so you remember that He gave you everything.

Then God tells them, every three years pile the tithe food in the middle of the city and let the widows, orphans, and foreigners (with no land inheritance, family network, etc.) eat their fill from it (Deut. 14:28-29).

See? Yes, God cares about rescuing his Church (Bride)…but He also cares about the “helpless” widows and orphans – the “victims” of unavoidable tragedy who don’t have the resources to help themselves.

He cares, and that’s why He commands His people to act as “heroes” in His name, extending aid to those worse off than ourselves.

Want an example from the New Testament? How about James 1:27? James’ theme is that talking the talk is worthless unless you walk the walk. (You say you believe in God? Super. The demons believe the same thing – and have the sense to be afraid of Him! Js. 2:19.)

That’s why James points out that God wants us to act out the faith we say we have by: being a “hero” to the “helpless”…the weak, tired, and alone. The “victims” of this sin-scorched world. (The “villain” being: ourselves again.)

Back to the Psychologists

Karpman wasn’t talking about God, though. He was a psychologist, trying to explain human relationships and human behavior through “Science!”.

And he’s right about one thing. When human beings try to mimic the role of God (Hero), we mess even that up.

Karpman and his friends called it things like “encouraging dependency”, “ignoring their own problems by focusing on helping others”, “taking advantage of the rescuer”, “perpetuating the victim’s feelings of helplessness”, and other things.

All of which is trying to turn something organic (a relationship) into something algorithmic (turning human interactions into a series of equations – which they’re not).

I think the Bible says it all much more succinctly:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food…she took some and ate, and gave to her husband, and he ate. And the eyes of both were opened, and they saw that they were naked. (Gen. 3: 6-7)

There is none righteous – no, not one! No one understands…no one seeks for God! (Rom. 3: 10-11)

For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace which is ours in Christ Jesus! (see Rom. 3: 21-24)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth… (Rev. 21: 1)

Back to the Story Authors

Karpman Triange or Christian Allegory? — Kimia Wood

Image credit: destinypedia

I think I’ve figured out why I get all swoony over the Master Chief and Zavala (and Genos!). Because they are quintessential heroes – the definitive “good guys” – and in that way they mimic my own dear King Jesus.

So, I will proudly write stories about heroes rescuing…people who need rescuing. But I agree with the original poster that “character agency” is also very important.

After all, we got ourselves in this mess. No sneaky Devil forced us off the cliff of our own desires! We raced there all on our own, because we wanted what we couldn’t possibly have: to be God.

It also makes sense that Character Agency is important because God gave it to us! When a story denies characters agency, or denies them the reality of making bad choices or choices that matter, the story falls flat…because we instinctively know it doesn’t line up with our real experiences.

God doesn’t let us write the story, though. He is the Author of this interactive, choose-your-own-adventure we call “life”! We participate, but only within the bounds that He allows (Job 1:12, 2:6).

And this is where the sovereignty of God (fancy, church-word for “God’s the boss-man”) and free-will (not-so-fancy church-word for “we get a choice”) come together and hug and all the theologians go, “But I thought you two weren’t speaking to each other!”

Yes – God is totally in charge. AND – yes, each individual human being gets a choice in how their life will go.

How does that work? God hasn’t explained in detail…probably because our brains would explode if we tried to understand.

Just trust God that it works.

And keep trying to write stories and show how FULLY AWESOME He is…because that’s what it’s all about, m’kay?


Karpman Triangle or Christian Allegory? — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure Soldier, plus periodic updates on her latest reading and writing exploits!

“Save the Cat” by Blake Snyder

"Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder — Kimia Wood As Mr. Snyder says in his prologue, “Why do we need another book about writing?” Apparently even in 2005 when he first published Save the Cat, you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting an eager, helpful guru determined to instruct young writer hopefuls in his way to plot, write, and sell.

So what makes Save the Cat any different, and why has it taken the industry by storm to be required reading for newbies and professionals alike?

I decided it was time to buy it and find out. Continue reading

“The Collins Case” by Julie C. Gilbert

"The Collins Case" by Julie C. Gilbert — Kimia Wood — Christian Despite having a “Mystery/Thriller” cover and blurb, this book is actually a “Christian/Inspirational” story. If I had known better what to expect, and if the pacing had moved faster, I might have enjoyed this much more.

Slow Start

The story is ham-strung from the very beginning, where for the first chapter and a half, the only conflict is that Rachel Collins is unequally yoked – married to an unbeliever.

The scenes of the “happy little family” living their lives and unaware of the calamity awaiting them is a classic writer move to get readers to connect to the characters. Unfortunately, I had recently read the blurb and knew they got kidnapped – and I was aware of the author-ly tricks at work – and so was very un-invested.

If I was advising the author, I would suggest beginning with Mr. Collins coming home and discovering melted groceries on the counter, his wife’s car in the garage, her phone on the counter, and his family nowhere to be found. (This scene already exists, but is sapped of tension since we’ve already witnessed his family be snatched.) This kind of scenario is visceral enough to connect with readers without the lead-up…a lead-up that lost me before the plot even began. Continue reading

Apocalyptic Stories – How, What, and Who

Apocalyptic Stories – How, What, and Who — Kimia Wood

Published in connection with the Indie Author e-Con 2018. Find more here

When you enter “post-apocalyptic” into Amazon’s search bar, you get lots of things. 30,000 results, to be exact.

But hey, there’s always room for one more version of civilization’s death throes, right? What if you want to craft your own apocalypse tale? Where do you need to start?

When eating an elephant or an apocalypse, start with one bite at a time. Continue reading

Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt 2018—Stop #9

Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt 2018—Stop #9 — Kimia WoodTo celebrate independent Christian authors and the different genres in fiction with the Indie e-Con 2018, please join me in welcoming author Laurie Lucking to the blog!


Hi everyone! Thank you so much to Kimia Wood for hosting me today, and to Kendra E. Ardnek for organizing the 2018 Indie e-Con – I’m thrilled to be a part of it!

Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt Stop #9 — Kimia WoodI’m Laurie Lucking, and my writing journey really started with reading. I’ve always adored books, but after creative writing assignments in school went poorly, I decided I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. Instead, I continued reading voraciously and eventually went to law school. But after working as an attorney for several years, my husband and I had our first child, and I became a stay-at-home mom.

After a few months at home with our infant, I found myself in desperate need of a project. The thought “You could write a book” just wouldn’t go away, no matter how many times I reminded myself I wasn’t good at creative writing. So, glancing over my shoulder to make sure no one was watching, I dug out my laptop, opened a blank Word document, and wrote a scene. And LOVED it! Getting to write the story I wanted, at whatever pace I was comfortable with, was such a different experience from school, and soon I couldn’t type fast enough to spill out the characters and landscapes crowding my head.

After many months, those scenes became a young adult fantasy novel, complete with thousands of weasel words, tons of mid-scene point of view changes, and creative dialogue tags a-plenty. But I figured it might be publishable, considering I was a relatively intelligent person and had read a lot of books. (You have my permission to laugh all you want – believe me, I know better now!) I went through several re-writes as rejections trickled in with little nuggets of feedback, but eventually I determined it wasn’t meant to be. I set that manuscript aside with a heavy heart, but fortunately by then a new story was brewing.

Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt 2018—Stop #9 — Kimia WoodThis time around, I had more going for me. I had a wonderful critique group, was meeting monthly with a group of writers, and had attended several writing conferences. The new manuscript still needed many rounds of revisions, but my voice was starting to develop and I was breaking far less writing “rules” than before. But while I was continuing to write young adult fantasy, this story had a Christian thread to it, which I knew would limit my publishing options. Thankfully, I learned of a conference called Realm Makers, which is specifically geared toward Christian writers of speculative fiction. I was able to attend in July, 2016, and pitched my story to several agents and editors. One editor clearly connected with my story right away, and soon she was considering my full manuscript. In early 2017, I signed a contract with Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, a small publisher focusing on Christian and clean speculative fiction. And I couldn’t be happier! My debut novel, Common, released this past February, and in March I published a short story titled “Threshold” in the Mythical Doorways anthology put together by the Fellowship of Fantasy. I also have several other stories in the works, including at least two more books in my “Tales of the Mystics” series.

My author brand has become “Fantasy Adventure, Fairy Tale Romance,” which I think describes my writing very well. I love taking inspiration from fairy tales and other classic stories, and everything I write has a blend of fantasy and clean romance. If you want to know more, check out my website, www.laurielucking.com. Also, if you enjoy young adult fantasy and/or science fiction, make sure to stop by my group blog, www.landsuncharted.com. Thanks for reading!


Thank you for stopping by, Mrs. Laurie, and for reminding us all that we don’t start out knowing it all! (And it’s okay to learn as you go!) 😉

Guess what? I’m next on the scavenger trail! Find my post here, courtesy of Kyle Robert Shultz!

For the rest of the scavenger hunt, find the full list of participating blogs right here, or visit this link to start from the beginning!Indie e-Con Scavenger Hunt 2018—Stop #9 — Kimia Wood

Don’t forget to enter the Scavenger Hunt giveaway, where you could win:

Ace Carroway 2-Book Set
3 random ebooks from Indie e-Con authors
Cover Design by Alea Harper
Bookshelf Necklace donated by Rachel Rossano

(Please note that the Ace Carroway Paperbacks and the Bookshelf necklace are US only.)

“Kate’s Innocence” by Sarah Holman

"Kate's Innocence" by Sarah Holman — Kimia Wood — innocence Can Kate prove she didn’t bomb her college campus? Can FBI agent Patrick trust God to reveal the truth as he tries to clear Kate?

For this indie Christian book, I’m going to front-load all my complaints, and then focus on what I liked.

That way, it’s like struggling to remove the sticky wax-paper wrapper on a chocolate toffee, then getting to eat the toffee! (I’m sure lots of people compare my reviews to chocolate toffee…) Continue reading