The Kindle Vella Experiment

Last year, Amazon launched a new web fiction platform geared toward episodic, serialized storytelling called Kindle Vella. This week, I have thrown my hat into the ring as a Vella author. However, rather then tell one serialized story, I decided to experiment with using it as an outlet for my short stories. Thus, I have launched a new anthology series called Millers Grove, based on an idea I’ve long had to compile my short stories into a Twilight Zone-ish anthology centered around a single small town.

I have so far published five episodes, with five more to come later this year based on interest and engagement. From what I have read, Vella is not likely to be a lucrative platform for the average writer, but at the very least it gives me the opportunity to release some of my content that may not otherwise fit into traditional formats while testing the viability of the platform. One complaint I have so far is that Amazon does not let you link Vella content to your Amazon author page, which is a big missed opportunity for cross-promotion with your other published work. It seems that Amazon wants to keep Vella as a self-contained ecosystem that its users never leave. I hope that is something they change one day.

If you feel inclined to give my anthology a look-see, I would be grateful for any reviews‚ÄĒor for thumbs up on individual stories that you may enjoy ūüôā. The first three episodes are free. Subsequent episodes are unlocked with tokens. If you are new to the platform, you can claim 200 free tokens. While Kindle Vella is designed to be read within the Kindle app on mobile devices, you can also read the stories in a web browser.

Here is the synopsis:

Nestled deep in the heart of the Pine Barrens, a spooky stretch of New Jersey wilderness made famous by the Jersey Devil, is the mysterious community of Millers Grove. On the surface it looks like any other small town, but something sinister lurks beneath the veneer, setting the stage for this multi-genre anthology series of tales exploring themes ranging from the wonder of the fantastical to the drama of the real world, from the horror of the supernatural to the mortal darkness within humanity.

I hope you’ll check it out!

My Latest Short Story: Marina

The next installment of my The Eyes of Mictlan Origins series is now available as a free ebook at Smashwords. Additional booksellers like Apple and B&N will have it soon. As with the other ebooks in the series, this short story is excerpted from my novel, The Eyes of Mictlan.

cover_marina

Marina strolls along eerily quiet streets in the foggy slums of Whitechapel, London. Jack the Ripper has just brutally murdered her friend and lover, the latest victim during a reign of terror that has forced many of Marina’s fellow prostitutes into hiding. Any woman walking the streets of Whitechapel alone in the middle of the night is practically begging to become his next victim‚ÄĒwhich is exactly what Marina is counting on, for she is no ordinary woman, and on this night she is the predator, not the prey.

Also Available

cover_dalton

Old West judge Dalton Freely awakes under a scorching desert sun in a pool of blood-soaked dirt, a noose around his neck, his arms bound behind his back. He turns his gaze upward to find the bodies of his wife and children hanging from a tree. Only then does he begin to recall the horror of the previous evening when a gang of outlaws murdered his family. On the verge of death himself, Dalton desperately drags his broken body back toward civilization, a single thought on his mind: revenge.

cover_xavier

Xavier is an ancient vampire who has wandered the world for over a thousand years in search of a talisman that will give him the power to rule the land of the dead. His quest has led him into the heart of the Aztec Empire as the right-hand man of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cort√©s. Now in the majestic capital city of Tenochtitlan, Xavier has finally discovered the talisman’s location, but to get his hands on it he must set in motion a chain of events that will lead to the destruction of the Aztec civilization.

And Coming Soon

Caesar: A senator of the Roman Empire discovers the monstrous nature of his friend and colleague.

Jeanette: A Depression-era speakeasy singer struggles to survive the hell of a tuberculosis sanatorium.

For more information on my novels and short stories, visit my author page.

A New Short Story

The next installment of my The Eyes of Mictlan Origins series is now available as a free ebook at Smashwords. Additional booksellers like Apple and B&N will have it soon. As with the other ebooks in the series, this short story is excerpted from my novel, The Eyes of Mictlan, though this version has been slightly modified from what appears in the novel in order to make the narrative stand on its own.

cover_xavier

Xavier is an ancient vampire who has wandered the world for over a thousand years in search of a talisman that will give him the power to rule the land of the dead. His quest has led him into the heart of the Aztec Empire as the right-hand man of Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés. Now in the majestic capital city of Tenochtitlan, Xavier has finally discovered the talisman’s location, but to get his hands on it he must set in motion a chain of events that will lead to the destruction of the Aztec civilization.

Also Available

cover_dalton

Old West judge Dalton Freely awakes under a scorching desert sun in a pool of blood-soaked dirt, a noose around his neck, his arms bound behind his back. He turns his gaze upward to find the bodies of his wife and children hanging from a tree. Only then does he begin to recall the horror of the previous evening when a gang of outlaws murdered his family. On the verge of death himself, Dalton desperately drags his broken body back toward civilization, a single thought on his mind: revenge.

And Coming Soon

Marina: A White Chapel prostitute takes extreme measures after Jack the Ripper murders her friend.

Caesar: A senator of the Roman Empire discovers the monstrous nature of his friend and colleague.

Jeanette: A Depression-era speakeasy singer struggles to survive the hell of a tuberculosis sanatorium.

For more information on my novels and short stories, visit my author page.

Introducing My New “Origins” Series

I have a launched a new eBook series called The Eyes of Mictlan Origins, a collection of free short stories excerpted from my novel, The Eyes of Mictlan. All of the stories will be available as free eBooks from Smashwords and other booksellers.

I have also launched a new page on my author site dedicated to the series. The first story, Dalton, is available now. Read below for a synopsis.


cover_dalton

Old West judge Dalton awakes under a scorching desert sun in a pool of blood-soaked dirt, a noose around his neck, his arms bound behind his back. He turns his gaze upward to find the bodies of his wife and children hanging from a tree. Only then does he begin to recall the horror of the previous evening when a gang of outlaws murdered his family. On the verge of death himself, Dalton desperately drags his broken body back toward civilization, a single thought on his mind: revenge.

And coming soon. . .

Xavier: An ancient vampire manipulates events during the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

Marina: A White Chapel prostitute takes extreme measures after Jack the Ripper murders her friend.

Caesar: A senator of the Roman Empire discovers the monstrous nature of his friend and colleague.

Jeanette: A Depression-era speakeasy singer struggles to survive the hell of a tuberculosis sanatorium.


In related news, there is just over a week left to download my full novel, The Eyes of Mictlan, for free at Smashwords.  Just enter the code SFREE at checkout.

In closing, I promise to resume posting travel and photo stories with more consistency once this unprecedentedly busy summer is finally over. Stay tuned. And as always, thank you for reading!

A New Page and a New Trip

I haven’t been as active with this¬†blog lately because I’ve been busy with author related tasks, including launching a new home page dedicated solely to the novelist portion¬†of my online presence. You can view my new page here: michaelrappa.net.¬†There is also a link to the new page in this blog’s top menu called “My Author Page.”

My Author Page Banner

On the new page you can read my author bio and sample chapters, and order my books, including some upcoming free short stories. The new page also links back to this blog, as this is where I will post news and updates in addition to my usual travel stories and photos.

Speaking of travel, I am in the early stages of planning a road trip to Canada this summer, either in late June/early July or late August/early September. My original idea was to head up to Quebec City for a few days and then drive out to Nova Scotia, but after reading up on Cape Breton and seeing photos of its stunning beauty, I now want to organize my entire trip around that–driving the Cabot Trail and hiking in the Highlands National Park both sound amazing!

Cape Breton: What’s not to love?

So now I’m thinking I’ll save Quebec for another trip and just focus on the Nova Scotia area. I would like to visit all of the main points of interest in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, and Prince Edward Island.

Have any of you visited this region of Canada? How many days do you like to spend on each of the islands and what is your favorite time of the year to visit? Any travel advice would be much appreciated. ūüôā

As always, thank you for reading and I promise to resume my travel blogging very soon!

2015 in Review

WordPress recently sent me an annual report for my blog. Here are some of the highlights:

These were my five most viewed posts of the year. Interestingly, almost all of them are over two years old, so I either have writing with staying power–or my most recent writing leaves something to be desired. ūüôā

  1. Gettin’ My Shining On at Congress Hall,¬†
  2. Dear Heidi, 
  3. My Trip to Peru, August 2012, 
  4. Dubrovnik: A Tour of King’s Landing (and other locations),¬†
  5. The Inca Trail Day 4: Arrival at Machu Picchu (My Trip to Peru, Part 7), 

I posted 61 new articles in 2015, the majority of which were posted between June and July. Hardly any articles were posted between January and May–lingering winter blues, perhaps? It may also be because I was busy during that time period trying to finalize my novel for publication. In any event, I’ll try to be more consistent this year.

Well, that’s it for 2015. Thank you to all of my loyal readers and I hope you have a happy New Year!

My Smashwords Interview

When you join Smashwords as an author, you can post an interview based on auto-generated questions to help your readers get to know you a little better. I thought it might be a good idea to post the interview here as well.

And don’t forget that there’s still time to enter my Amazon Giveaway to win a free copy of my novel.

Interview with Michael Rappa

Who are your favorite authors?
Stephen King, Frank Herbert, J. R. R. Tolkien, Richard Matheson, Edgar Allan Poe, George R.R. Martin, Douglas Adams

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Dune – Frank Herbert’s masterpiece is my all-time favorite novel. It has often been called science fiction’s answer to Tolkien’s Middle Earth books and for good reason. I’ve read the entire Dune series as well as most of Herbert’s standalone novels. I was fascinated as a child by his use of journal entries and quotes for chapter heads, as well as the glossary he included in Dune for his numerous invented words. He was a brilliant writer and a huge influence, not so much on my first novel, but much of my writing owes a great debt to Herbert.

The Shining – My favorite Stephen King novel and the greatest ghost story I’ve ever read. My next novel is going to be a haunted house story and to say that ‘The Shining’ is an influence is a major understatement.

1984 – George Orwell’s dystopian nightmare has proven to be eerily prescient. The ending still haunts me. Unfortunately, what he originally intended as a cautionary tale seems more often these days to be used as a “how-to” manual. One of the stories I’m working on is a Negative Utopian tale in the vein of 1984–I even named the main character George in tribute.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Hands down the funniest book ever written. Douglas Adams was a genius.

The Dark Tower – This Stephen King series was the biggest influence on my first novel. Its blending of horror, fantasy, western, and sci-elements while seamlessly jumping between our world and Mid-World was masterful. My favorite individual books in the series are ‘Wizard and Glass’ and ‘The Gunslinger.’

Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
It was probably Call of the Wild, which I read repeatedly as a child. Besides contributing to my lifelong love of dogs, it made me want to read more and to create stories of my own.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I wrote a haunted house story with a couple of my childhood friends. It was quite macabre for the minds of second graders, as I recall.

What’s the story behind your latest book?
I first put pen to paper (yes, pen and paper) back in 1997 when I wrote the first chapter and outlined the rest of the novel. The idea for the novel originally sprung from a text-based online role-playing game I was considering playing on AOL back in the days of dial-up modems (kids, ask your parents). As part of creating a character for the game, you were supposed to come up with a back story for your character. I never ended up playing the game, but I liked the character I created, so I decided to turn his story into a novel.

My original intention was to write it as an experimental serial novel, in which I would post a new chapter at regular intervals. In fact, the first chapter has been available online in one form or another since 1998. However, when I realized that there was enough material for a full-blown novel, I altered my plans. It took many years to complete‚ÄĒas any aspiring writer will tell you, one of the biggest obstacles to completing a novel is finding the time between your job, housework, and various other adult responsibilities‚ÄĒbut eventually (and with the help of a period of unemployment) I finished the first draft in early 2009. Subsequent drafts followed and I finally had a draft that I deemed worthy of submission in the winter of 2012.

I do NOT plan to take 18 years to publish my next novel. ūüôā

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I tried the traditional publishing route first, submitting queries to agents, but then I began to notice that more and more people were self-publishing and that the self-publishing industry was growing at an astronomical rate, with even established authors beginning to self-publish. I like the idea of maintaining full control over my property and earning higher royalties on each sale, not that I‚Äôm expecting to earn much (you don‚Äôt really make any money on a book unless it becomes a best-seller). It‚Äôs more about the work itself, getting it out there into the world, and self-publishing seemed like the best way for me to accomplish that. The traditional querying process did have its benefits, though‚ÄĒit helped me to hone the marketing of my book, specifically the synopsis I eventually used for the back cover‚ÄĒbut I am happy with my decision to go the indie route.

What is your writing process?
I tend to edit heavily as I’m writing. Conventional wisdom says you should plow through your first draft and then go back later to edit, but I guess I’m too obsessive to work that way. Consequently, it takes me longer to complete a first draft, but on the bright side my first draft is more complete and thus needs fewer revisions than the average first draft.

How do you approach cover design?
I designed the cover for my first novel myself. I am not even close to being an artist but I have enough Photoshop experience that I was able to make a cover that looks professional. I had first tried one of Amazon’s online cover templates, but these were too plain and I didn’t want my cover to look like everyone else’s, so I spent a lot of time getting the look I wanted. The front art includes a real photo of mine that I manipulated via Photoshop to depict a scene from the novel. For the back cover (of the paperback) I chose to use an author photo rather than create another image. For future novels I may continue to design them myself or explore the possibility of employing a professional.

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I’ve spent almost my entire life in New Jersey. I grew up in a small town in South Jersey that was essentially a suburb of Philadelphia, as did the character Sam in my first novel. Most of my stories take place in New Jersey. I’ve even created a fictional South Jersey town which I plan to weave into my stories in a sort of shared universe, a la Stephen King’s Derry and Castle Rock.

When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
I enjoy reading, traveling, photography, and cooking. I also play tennis and chess, and once every few years I pick up my saxophone. I spend most of my evenings feeding my TV/Film addiction, with the occasional video game mixed in.

What is your e-reading device of choice?
I own a Kindle but do most of my e-book reading via the kindle app on my phone. I still read physical books more frequently than e-books, especially for my favorite authors, whose books I like to collect.

To learn more, you can visit my Author Page at Smashwords.

A Novel Anniversary

cover3bTo celebrate the one-month anniversary of my novel’s publication, I have made the eBook version of The Eyes of Mictlan available for 99 cents this week at Amazon (regularly $2.99). The sale price, available in both the U.S. and¬†U.K., runs through Sunday, July 12th.

If you don’t own a Kindle you can still read The Eyes of Mictlan by installing Amazon’s free kindle reading software on your computer or mobile device. You also have the option of borrowing the book for free if you belong to Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited.

I also want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has read the book for your kind words; it means a lot to hear that you enjoyed it. When you have a few minutes, I would be most grateful if you could leave a review on Amazon and spread the word to your friends and followers. Thank you so much for your support!

Looking Back

As 2013 winds to a close, I thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the past year, during which this blog has come a long way: on this day last year I had three followers and only posted sporadically. As I began posting with more frequency (concentrating on my travel stories) my audience grew, which in turn inspired me to post even more frequently, and so on . . . it’s the circle of life. ūüėČ

This year has been very rewarding for me as a writer and I want to thank all of you for inspiring me to stick with it. I’ve never been much for resolutions, but if I were to make any, they would be to work harder on getting my novel published and to set aside more time for visiting the blogs of everyone who has visited mine.

In 2014 I will continue writing and sharing the journal from my recent trip to Mexico, and I am considering a trip to London this summer to see the Monty Python reunion (and build a trip of the UK around it). Until then, and in keeping with the tradition of year-end countdowns, here is a countdown of my own (or I should say count-up since I’m starting with #1). The following posts were my most popular of 2013 based on “likes.”

  1.  Photo of the Day: Overlooking Dubrovnik РA happy accident photo.
  2.  The Vintage Reel Award РMy acceptance of this award from my fellow blogger at The Vintage Postcard touches on some fond childhood memories.
  3.  The Inca Trail Day 3: Almost There (My Trip to Peru, Part 6) РThis was my favorite day of the Inca Trail hike as we passed by numerous remote Inca ruins that the average tourist will never see.
  4. ¬†Dubrovnik: A Tour of King’s Landing (and other locations)¬†– This is my most-viewed post by a wide, wide margin. Perhaps I should start tagging all of my posts with “Game of Thrones.” ūüôā
  5.  Eurotrip 2009 Part 2: Munich РRecounting my adventures in Munich, Germany, including stops in Dinkelsburg and Nordlingen.
  6.  The Inca Trail Day 2: Detour Through Hell (My Trip to Peru, Part 5) РAlthough this was the worst day of my trip to Peru (hiking up a mountain through freezing sleet), it is probably my favorite post because it represents some of the best storytelling of any of my travel writing.
  7.  My Trip to Peru, Part 2: Here and There РMy time in Cusco as well as excursions to Maras and the Inca ruins of Moray.
  8.  Photographs and Memories РThis poem is a tribute to my grandfather.
  9.  Eurotrip 2009 Part 4: Lucerne РThe beautiful city of Lucerne, Switzerland and breathtaking views from the top of Mount Pilatus.
  10.  Hiking the D&R Canal РPhotos from my hike along the D&R Canal in Princeton, NJ.

And here are ten of my most-viewed posts:

Well, that’s it for 2013. I wish all of you a Happy New Year. See in the blogosphere!

The Cat and I

I’m not a cat person, never have been, never will be. I prefer the warmth and emotion of a dog to the seemingly cold stare of a cat. My family have never been cat people; we always had dogs growing up. The last time I tried to pet a cat it dug its claws into my hand and wouldn’t let go, so I pretty much steer clear now. I don’t see a scenario where I would ever live with a cat, but a recent discussion brought me back to a brief time in my life when I did.

When I was a kid my grandparents lived on a farm in a small town called Meshoppen, nestled in the mountains of northern Pennsylvania, just off Route 6. On a side note: Route 6 is a beautifully scenic (occasionally scary) road that winds its way through the mountains, a highly recommended drive if you happen to be in the area (my wife and I detoured through there once on our way back from Niagara Falls, totally worth it).

During the summer our family would make the long drive from South Jersey for a visit. One year my parents dropped me off to stay by myself. They would return later in the summer to pick me up. I don’t recall how long I stayed, it likely was a shorter duration than I remember, but our fondest memories have a way of growing larger and grander as the years go by.

While I was there I had the time of my young life: wandering around the big farmhouse and exploring the grounds that featured a pond, wooded hills, and a barn where you could climb to the loft and swing down off a rope to land in the hay below. It was like one of those summers you read about in books.

One day my grandparents brought home a kitten and offered to let me name him. I called him Garfield, despite the fact that with his gray and white fur he looked nothing like the cartoon cat–I guess it was the only cat name I could think of. He took to me immediately and we were inseparable during my entire stay. He followed me all around and when I lay down he would climb on to my chest and sleep there, his body rising and falling in that funny, heavy way he had of breathing. Our friendship was the highlight of my summer.

When it was time to go back home, I was sad to leave Garfield behind but took comfort in knowing that I would see him again. However, not long after returning home I received the devastating news that Garfield had died. It turned out that his heavy breathing was a symptom of a medical problem, something that had afflicted him since birth. I can’t help but wonder if my disposition toward cats would be different now if I had spent more time with him, had watched him grow from a kitten to a cat, but it was not meant to be. Looking back, I am glad I was able to give him affection and companionship during his short life. He gave me so much more in return.

I’m not a cat person, but for one summer of my youth, I had a cat that I loved. I’ll never forget Garfield. He will always hold a special place in my heart.