Free stuff, and some thoughts thereon

Let’s kick off tonight’s post with CRAZY CASH GIVEAWAYS!

Well, okay, that’s a lie.

However, I am giving away free stuff!

Specifically, I’m giving away a free short story for download, with the deliberately¬†unwieldy¬†title of ‘The Recent 86 Tram Disaster as Outlined in a Series of Ten Character Studies’. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and also a bit of metatextual musing on what a character study is and does – yes, I’m once again trying to be Italo Calvino, and as usual not doing a very good job of it. But what the heck – it’s free, right!

You can download the story at Smashwords if you’re after a Kindle or e-book version; I’m not 100% pleased with the way the Kindle version came out, because it’s indenting the first line of every paragraph for some reason, but I’m tinkering with it and it remains perfectly readable. If you prefer a PDF version, you can download a fine-tuned version directly from the Downloads page here at PODcom, which is better than the one SW produces. If you’re after a HTML, Word or text version, then it’s really time you started rethinking the way you read ebooks.

(And while you’re downloading this story, you of course can also grab ‘Watching the Fireworks’ and ‘The Descent’ for the same low price of nothing at all, if you haven’t already.)

This isn’t a new story, mind you. I wrote it about a year ago, put it up on my LJ to some praise and some criticism, and then left it gathering electron-dust on my hard drive until earlier this week. When I decided to add something to the free download portion of my portfolio, I had a look at this piece and decided it would be a good choice. It has some intricacies of voice, some reasonably good jokes and I don’t think there are any Oxford commas in it.

But like I said, not every reader was positive about it when I first posted it – a few thought the concept just didn’t work, while some others felt it needed polishing. (Don’t get me wrong, though – most of ’em dug it, or else I wouldn’t be trying to disseminate it further now.) When I pulled it out, I thought about whether to give it another redraft to make it really click – and then I didn’t do that. Because I like the immediacy of a finished piece, and don’t much like tinkering with multiple drafts of a story, especially a short story. In, out, done.

Plus, of course, it’s free.

And a lot of ebooks are free, and a lot of them are crap. And it’s hard not to wonder whether these two things are connected. The bar is set very low in the current market, both in terms of quality and of price. Is it any wonder that many writers don’t give their work the time and effort it needs, knowing that they’ll be selling it for 99 cents or even giving it away?

The new world of e-publishing gives everyone an opportunity to be heard – even those who don’t want to put any effort into being heard. That’s a strange situation, and hopefully an untenable one, because that ease of access doesn’t just let in the dreadful unwashed masses who want to press their grubbly little texts upon us worded gentry; there’s a lazy gravity to that ease that drags at a writer’s heels, tempting all of us down towards that low-set bar. Any lower and snakes would lose limbo dancing contests under it.

None of this incoherent rambling is meant to suggest that you shouldn’t download ’86 Tram’ and read it. OF COURSE YOU SHOULD. But it makes me realise that I get into a different mindset when writing for eventual sale – even if the work is only going for a dollar or two – and writing for free dissemination. And it’d be better for me – and you, and the great wide world of letters as a whole – if I stayed in that first mindset as much as possible. Even for the free stuff.

After all, you pay for those stories with time. And attention. And your sweet, sweet love.

Kind of an unfocused post tonight, I know. I’ve been distracted. Will try to lift my game next weekend.

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